Hiking through the State Forest in the very early spring, when there were still patches of foot-deep snow in shady areas, like the mysterious hemlock forest, I came upon a scene that squeezed my heart – a mother raccoon with her legs and body still wrapped around three young ones, all of them frozen to death sometime during the winter, and now revealed in a stream bed where the ice was just turning to rivulets. The kits looked peaceful, as if they were nursing, and I was reminded of when my father, who served in Korea one winter, told a young me that freezing to death in the snow was an easy way to go, certainly much better than getting shot.
Later that spring my daughter’s preschool class hatched five baby chicks, and at the end of the semester she volunteered that our family might be willing to adopt them, since we had a barn. By the fall we had five young chickens. Very late one night in November I heard a terrible squawking out in the barn. Guessing what it might be, but not knowing which varmint, I unlocked my twenty-two and marched out in slippers. When I flipped on the light I saw that two large raccoons had slaughtered the chicken named Lucy, and were teaming up to get the others, who had retreated behind a roll of chicken wire. Their eyes gleaming in the yellow light, the raccoons stared at me with defiance, so I shot them both, and felt no guilt. To the contrary, I felt like I had protected my children.
Werner Low lives in Cambridge, MA. His stories and poems have appeared in a couple dozen publications, including a previous edition of Sleet. A new novel, “Don’t Worry, Dandelo,” is looking for an agent, a publisher, or just a friendly face. For more info, or to read more stories or novel excerpts, please visit www.WernerLow.com.