From the Department of Varmits and Road Safety

If you drive over a hedgehog, can it puncture your tyre?

I was looking out the window this morning, thinking how busy roads have an apocalyptic feel in the wee hours, four lanes and no cars, just the wind and the dark. You half-expect a zombie to slouch by.

Anyway, there was a fog down, not much of one, but a few wisps, and that got me thinking of Cambridge. The day we left, oh, I must’ve been about twelve. We were headed for Aberdeen, and we left before dawn to get a jump on the driving. It was a foggy day, just like today, and the hedgehogs were out in force, dozens of them crossing the road. My father had to go at a crawl to keep from squashing any, and I wondered…if you drive over a hedgehog, can it puncture your tyre?

I never learned to drive, so I still don’t know. I’d imagine not. Their quills are quite soft, and a tyre is quite sturdy. But maybe one could work its way in, slowly let your air out….

It’s been a busy month, this. I’ve been writing two books at once. My brain has a hard limit, when it comes to spitting out words, and that limit is four thousand per day. Anything further, and I’m on about roadkill, which reminds me of the worst roadkill I ever saw. It was a dog, but just half of one, and that half was alive. It was squashed flat where it was bisected, and stuck to the tarmac, and its flatness had sealed it, I guess. Kept its organs in. Its front paws were still going, trying to move it along. It saw me and yipped, then it lay down and whined. Its eyes drooped but didn’t close. Its back legs were twenty feet up the road.

Anyway, I looked at this dog, and I thought about killing it. But it was big, about my size, and it didn’t seem to be in pain. I thought it wiser to let it spend its last moments thinking help had arrived than to frighten it trying to crush its head. I doubt I even could have. I was wearing jellybean shoes. (Anyone remember those from the eighties, sort of…plastic mesh ballet slippers? Every little girl had a pair.)

About a year after that, some guy died on the field behind my school. He rode his snowmobile into the fence. Everyone said his head came off, but when we went down to look at his blood, there wasn’t enough for that. That was a bad roadkill too, though. The guy was only twenty.

Jesus fuck. How’d I get there from hedgehogs?

Like I said. Four thousand words. Hard limit.

…the universe is only hospitable to life during a brief period in its infancy. We’re just toys for a baby reality, to be outgrown and forgotten.

Do hedgehogs bite?