Rats and Bleeding Hearts

The peas are well up, the lilacs are blooming, and the bleeding hearts are dripping their flowers over drifts of violets. I found today to my surprise that apple blossoms have a powerful, sweet scent. How did I not know that, after all these years in the garden?

While planting those bleeding hearts a few weeks ago I pulled up, in my bare hand, the dry skull of a rat. I knew it was a rat skull because I had put a dying rat under the shade of the rose of sharon last fall, after we found the screaming thing in the back yard, hurt and terrified and dying. I wondered then whether there was anything I could do for it, other than get it away from the dogs and keep it out of the sun. I considered all the grisly ways I could help it into the great beyond, but in the end could do nothing but give it shade and let it be. And so now when I look at the bleeding hearts I also remember a dying rat, and how it made me feel like a coward. There are hellebores and daffodils and hostas in that bed, too, and I like it very much.

The dogs may have been responsible for the rat, or it may have been the feral neighborhood cats. At Noah’s suggestion we put in a little fish pond this spring, and stocked it with four little feeder fish from the pet store. They did well and grew madly for a few weeks, and I could see them jumping after food as I looked out the second floor bathroom window. And then one day three of them were gone, and today the last one went. The neighbor over the back fence says there is a heron that has eaten her neighbor’s fish, and I suppose it could have also been a raccoon. But I see those cats in my backyard, walking the fence tops, and I blame them for it all, the fish, the rat, all of it.

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