I count their lifeless shells: shiny black, dead beetles scatter widely on the asphalt street amongst fallen leaves and twigs, a crushed white cigarette butt and one perfect tulip tree flower.
I lean in close to admire the tulip flower’s creamy white petals painted with dreamsicle orange, its fully erect fat pistil and slender long white stamen, all set like jewels on a tricorn of pale green leaves. Then, with a cautious toe, I prod an inert beetle; he’s dead.
Walking on, I puzzle over what might account for so many tiny deaths overnight. Or is there any such thing as a tiny death?
Question: are all deaths equal?
* * * * * * * * * *
I slow my pace to look for the subtle coloration of trillium in the dense foliage alongside a driveway further down the street. I spot two, both yellow.
One flops over, bent with a broken stem. I’m not surprised, trillium are fragile. But the other one stands erect, its broad, mottled leaves spread like a miniature umbrella.
I wonder if the new residents have noticed the trillium growing on their property; and do they know about the woman who committed suicide in their house?
I doubt it. The house has changed hands more than once since the woman’s death and besides, it happened such a long time ago.
* * * * * * * * * *
Back on Wendover Circle, I notice a single beetle still feebly moving. I stop to observe his slow, painful journey…where? He seems to be trying to circumnavigate a twig.
While I watch, his delicate back legs struggle and fail to find purchase in the pitted asphalt. He flails and stops.
Should I help him? How? I hesitate, then, gently edge him on to a soft new green leaf and lay him in the loamy green shade of my neighbor’s wild flower garden. Will he survive and perhaps even thrive in his new home, or have I only prolonged his death throes? I can’t know the answer to that question.
Is there any such thing as a tiny death, or are all deaths equal? I can’t know the answer to that question either.