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The wake
saxifrage flower
I once attended a wake for a squirrel.

It lay stretched out, paws and feet peacefully crossed in death, its eyes closed. They say that the dead look like they're sleeping, but that's just a conceit for the living's peace of mind. The squirrel had moved on and made no pretence for our sakes.

I don't know who it was, or how it had died. I had stumbled across the wake before I'd even realised it, death sliding motionlessly into my life. The mourners yelled at me, having scattered to a distance that was unusually close for most encounters with squirrels. I was intruding.

I said a few words for the deceased. It was the least I could do out of respect. I apologised to the funereal party and continued on after a final look at the dead squirrel. The three mourners collected around the body, silent again.

I passed the next day. Frost dusted its fur. The mourners were gone. I couldn't bring myself to call to have the body collected and disposed of as so much trash. I might have thought to bury it, but I honestly hadn't until now.

Besides, squirrels don't bury their dead; it's not their way.