117_box_348x490_originalAutumn will always be associated with death. It’s the way the leaves turn red, then brown, then fall. It’s the colder winds, the longer nights. It’s the onset of winter. Look at the holidays: Samhain, All Saint’s Day, El Dia de Muertos, P’chum Ben, Famadihana, my birthday. I dreamt last night that I had an L-shaped gash on my thumb, from the tip down the knuckle, and that I could peel back my fingerprint to reveal what was underneath. And instead of flesh and muscle, there was instead what looked like the inside of a rotting, hollow branch. Thick cords of dark organic sludge, white spots of what I assumed to be mold. Something out of a Quay Brothers film. This is the inside of my body, I thought, I dreamt.

Nowadays, roadkill is more abundant. Sometimes there’s nothing left but a rusty streak that stretches from the blacktop and up onto the sidewalk, but more often, smaller carcasses line the gutters and the medians: raccoons, possums, the occasional fox. Whenever we pass one, Matthew coos, Poor thing. I no longer point out dead cats.

On the highways, deer obstruct the shoulders with their thick, dun bodies. Apparently, deer collision cause about 200 human fatalities a year. It’s unlikely that the deer walk away from these incidents unscathed. The carcasses of whitetail deer can be collected, if the gatherer files a claim with the regional game commission for a permit number. Without a permit, the gatherer is required to butcher the deer himself, rather than taking it to an official deer processing center. Delawareans donate more than 20,000 pounds of venison to charitable organizations statewide.

Hunting season has come again.

The landowner in Diary of a Chambermaid asks his son, who has been hunting, Aren’t animals more beautiful alive than dead? His son replies, Hunting… is hunting. The son then teaches his father how to hunt butterflies. As the father shoots one off of its flower, the son asks, I thought you liked butterflies? and the father replies, I do. I rather I’d have missed.

A few years before she died, Matthew’s cat, Gwinny, hunted butterflies in his backyard garden. He watched her, of course; she was 13 years old—elderly for a cat—so she never caught one, but her eyes grew wide and wild at their fluttering. She couldn’t meow, but instead squeaked, at times imploring them to come within reach of her paws, of her fangs. When Matthew moved from there, he gave the house a thorough cleaning.  In the living room, as he was vacuuming, he pulled back a curtain to discover a pile of butterfly corpses, a mass grave years in the making. There were a few intact specimens, dried and discolored, but most of them were in pieces: a wing flake; a torso; some dry, crisp antennae. Monarchs waylaid on their migratory path. Dismembered swallowtails.

Perhaps Matthew yelled at Gwinny. Perhaps he was secretly proud. Either way, I imagine her response would have been a single squeak: What did you expect? It was their season.

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