Acorn. We named him Acorn at the suggestion of a friend who has no skin in the game, no consequences (except for me calling him out here because I can) because he lives 300 miles away. I was watering the garden, thinking about essay topics and the trouble with slugs and how they sleepily suck the life out of my plants. I turned and spied his little bandit mask, dark eyes. He was bashful, creeping tentatively as if the ground beneath his paws was shifting. I said, “Hey, little fella. Whatcha doin’?”—and as I say to any animal in need, especially our blind cat Scout when she loses her bearings and gets scared, “You’re ok. You’re ok.”
My husband pulled up in the driveway, parallel to the baby raccoon’s position, scaring the bejesus out of him. We found Acorn minutes later, a measly four feet up a silver maple tree, huddled in a crook. We talked to him and gave him Triscuits. He tucked his head under his belly and fell asleep.
The next day, we found Acorn in the neighbor’s backyard, barely walking but alert. We fed him cat food from a fork as he stuffed himself in a small evergreen bush. Eventually, he succumbed to temptation and climbed down from the tangled branches, stuffed his head into a lump of chicken feast. He perked up, held the can in his paws.
It has been two days since we fed Acorn. Last night, a wailing storm burst down on our house and I pictured Acorn out in the rain, listening for our voices and scratching the ground for chicken feast. I can’t think about him without feeling loss, but I can’t continue to prowl around my dead neighbor’s house, looking for a raccoon toddler that belongs to the wild.
I know this ache: it is the part of me who was supposed to have children, who would have been doting after grandbabies by now. How I wish I didn’t know his name.