Driving to work along my usual rural stretch of road, a kangaroo was lying in the middle of my side of the road. It was clearly alive, head and upper torso upright. Not a youngling, not an adult, maybe an older adolescent.
Cars going the other way slowed down to rubberneck/drive carefully. I don't know much about kangaroos, but I do know that they don't stay near traffic for the fun of it.
I brought my car to a stop, hazards on and began calling WIRES. A car going the other way also stopped, so we had brought traffic to a standstill. At 8.15-ish for a quiet rural road, traffic banked up surprisingly quickly. I barely noticed/ it didn't matter.
The lady going the other way who had stopped, got out. I was still on hold to WIRES and I got out of my car too. The kangaroo panicked as we approached. It started scrabbling along the bitumen with its hands, making inarticulate little cries, trying helplessly to get away, but it couldn't move its lower torso, legs or tail. Its elbows had already had all the skin scraped off and they were bleeding.
The other lady knew how to read the situation. She pulled the kangaroo gently and unresistingly by its tail to the side of the road.
A highway patrol officer pulled over. She said she'd come up this very stretch of road just seconds before, and the kangaroo hadn't been there. So it had been just freshly hit. She said: "and the driver didn't stop." For whatever reason, I hadn't expected to hear the condemnation in her voice that I completely agreed with.
I wanted to call WIRES again, but both, the lady who pulled kangaroo to the side and the police officer, knew that the kangaroo's lower half had been hurt too badly. Either its spine, legs or tail. "A broken arm wouldn't have stopped it getting away, otherwise." The police officer said the only thing to do was to shoot it.
I hadn't expected to hear that, didn't want to hear it.
The kangaroo lay quietly on the side of the road - where the bitumen disintegrated into dirt and scrubby grass stems. It was a he. His eyes were big, shiny and dark. He was breathing in little pants.
It was a cool morning, with clouds low and grey. The grass in the fields was emerald green - a combination of spring and recent rains. We stood and stared at him helplessly. Tears were rolling down my cheeks. The police officer understood; she said she'd managed to avoid doing what she now had to do, for 10 years.
Traffic going the opposite way was moving slowly, probably staring curiously. The police officer said she'd never seen so much traffic on this quiet road. She asked us to stand to the side, told us not to look.
I looked. The police officer's hands were steady. It wasn't loud. Slightly louder than a pop; not a bang. The kangaroo shuddered. I told myself its spirit was free of pain.
More tears. The police officer (god bless her) asked if I was ok. I said yes, automatically. She said she wasn't. I wish I'd asked her name; she is a brave and compassionate soul.
There were tremors along the kangaroo's body. Even though the shot had been clean, and its eyes were unseeing. There were enough tremors, the police officer thought she would have to do a second shot. But she checked its neck and it was gone; released.
We went to our respective cars; the police officer and I exchanged a wave before we each drove in opposite directions. I then bawled my eyes out in big, hiccuping sobs in the quiet privacy of the car.
Lots of tears. Lots of sadness. And lots more tears. His body was gone by the afternoon. I think this was the further kindness of the police officer.
Rest in peace, Kangaroo.
I wrote this story about a year ago. It seems right to share it here and now.
Song of the Moon
The night sky is a dark-blue ocean, quiet, deep and still in reflection. The full moon lights up the clouds in soft, luminous grey, to resemble ocean sands, frozen mid-arrangement by wind and waves.
If the gods spoke, they would speak of this gold. This other-worldly light which whispers, awakens those sides of ourselves we cannot understand. This moonlight which bathes the familiar in an unfamiliar silk of white gold, which hints at ancient knowledges to make the heart beat with instinctive, wordless understanding… where wisdom enters shyly, silently, and steals away before dawn.
The lands below are open – cleared for farming, their souls open to the sky. Further away, trees stand close as did their ancestors. By the road, gum trees are scattered ghostly sentinels.
From the grasses, animal spirits arise – shapes of kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, possums and emus – making translucent communion to the earth-world. They move and graze gently, drenched in the light of the gods.
A car roars in the distance – loud, coarse and unnaturally fast as it picks out the road in blinding unfriendly light, shredding its way through the fields of liquid moon. The animal spirits withdraw into the grasses until the car is swallowed by distance, and silence returns.
An earth kangaroo limps along the road, broken and keening; it has been hit by the car. It moves towards the kangaroo spirits, who receive it gravely. The earth kangaroo is cradled and held by the spirits in wordless language of light; it is made safe, and its hurts are given to the earth until its own spirit rises.
In the morning, under the bluest sky, beside grasses of golden-green, the body of a kangaroo lies slumped on the side of the road. Its spirit has joined its ancestors in the ancient moon-gold of night.