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The Animal

I'm on an evening jog in the mountains.


As I come around the far corner of the lake, I see a young man and woman, squatting on the path. The man is cradling the woman's shoulders as she sobs uncontrollably. She is clutching her phone to her chest. Maybe she received news of a dead family member, I thought, or cancer.

I slow down and pause my podcast. I ask the bleach-haired partner, is there anything I can do to help?

No, he says, his lips pressed into a thin line with maybe the hint of a smile. We just saw a dead animal. His eyes stay locked with mine.

A few feet down the trail lay a gopher, curled into the fetal position just like her, dead on the ground.

Oh, I respond, at a loss for words. Take care, I finally find. I jog on.