A Walk in Spring

Twitch loved spring. Winter was okay, but it was when the sun was warmer and the days longer that he reveled in getting out and stretching his legs.

He was single, a problem he’d remedy before too long. There were always willing females this time of year. Spring fever infected everyone. Twitch wasn’t as young as he used to be, but he could still pour on the charm when it came to the women.

At the end of the sidewalk, Twitch paused. Every year the streets got busier and more dangerous. His family told stories about the early days. Tales that had been passed down of a time when accidents were rare and the season of spring was carefree.

Things were different now. Winter air smelled like exhaust fumes and death. When the warmer seasons came, a veil seemed to lift from the world. Unfortunately, spring also made it easy to be careless.

It was the middle of the day, and to get anywhere meant having to cross one of the busier roads in town. “I can do this,” he thought, mentally preparing himself for the run across. “Don’t stop, don’t trip, don’t think — just go.” He waited for his right moment then shot across the pavement. The lull in traffic was just enough for him to get safely across.

Twitch got well away from the street before stopping to catch his breath. Not only was he getting older, but he’d put on some extra weight during the winter. He’d noticed recently that running was harder, and he’d planned to try to lose some of his winter weight and get back into shape.

Twitch stopped abruptly as he turned to continue on his journey. His eye caught a crumpled form a few yards from where he stood. Cold, familiar fear filled him. “Please let it be someone I don’t know,” he prayed. Twitch knew he could ignore it, could just go on and forget he’d seen it. No one cared any more. Bodies in the street were normal. Eventually someone would come along and clean them up, but as a society, they’d become desensitized. For many in his community, seeing a dead body was just another part of life.

His cousin Rob had been one of the worst. “It’s their own damn fault,” Rob had said. “Survival of the fittest. If they can’t hack it, then they’re not going to survive.” Rob had prided himself on being quick and wily, but in the end, he’d succumbed to the same carelessness. He’d been shot in the head by a bloodthirsty sadist.

Twitch couldn’t stop caring, and though he wanted to run and pretend he’d seen nothing, he had to know who it was. As he got closer, he recognized the corpse’s coat.

“Oh, Frankie. Not you, man.” Twitch’s stomach dropped. Frankie had been Twitch’s neighbor. They’d been talking all winter about spring fever weekend, how they were going to spruce up and have their choice of the ladies.

“This is our year, Twitchy,” he’d said more than once. “We’re going to play the field and we’re going to come out on top.”

But now, Frankie was gone. Spring fever had gotten to him. He’d been careless. His limp body was twisted and his neck sat at an odd angle. At least his eyes were closed. Twitch hated the silent warning that the open eyes of the dead seemed to convey.

There was nothing he could do for Frankie but leave him there. With a heavy heart, Twitch turned from his friend and continued on his way. The warm air felt cooler, and the sky seemed darker. “Damn this world,” he thought. “Damn what we’ve become. Damn this season for making us forget.”

But he knew he couldn’t blame it on spring. It came every year, same as the year before, and they knew to prepare, to make an extra effort to keep their wits about them. Nice weather and nice tail were no reason to be careless.

It was better to keep to the quiet streets where the danger was of a lesser degree. Safe havens were everywhere, but you had to watch out. Not everyone was as friendly as Twitch. He was always willing to share a haven, but some of the others were more territorial.

The smell of grilled food hit made Twitch’s nose twitch. It was one of the best parts about spring. People were ready to bring out the barbecue and cook outside. The scent was close, and just being in the vicinity was worth the trip.

Twitch continued on, nodding at some kids playing tag and smiling at a few females he passed. He stopped in at a vacant haven and had a bite to eat. He tried his best to enjoy the day, but Frankie and all the other ones who’d died haunted him. He felt nervous. A few others stopped in at the haven. A couple of them stayed, but most left, wanting solitude.

Finally it was time for Twitch to head home. He was tired and had lost the optimism he’d had that morning. All he wanted to do was curl up in his own bed. The lure of his comfortable home beckoned him, and he picked up his pace. The sooner he could sleep, the better.

Twitch realized his mistake a second too late. Though the streets were quiet, they weren’t completely desolate. The roaring of the car broke through his fatigue just in time for Twitch to feel the tire on top of him, the weight of the car crushing his bones. He could hear a snap, and suddenly, he could barely breathe.

Twitch thought of Frankie and Rob. He wondered if there was a heaven and if he was going to get to see them again. Somewhere perfect, he wouldn’t have to be careful and worry about the dangers of the world. Where there was no pain, no change in seasons. Maybe he was going where it would always be spring time.

Twitch’s last thought was that he’d be nothing more than another dead squirrel on the road, just like Frankie.

Then his little furry body took its last breath and died.