badger time

we saw the girls off on the coach this morning
a school trip to France
half past five, the sun a smeary yellow bloom,
waved, even though the windows were opaque
(‘think you’re free of them?’ the driver said, slamming the doors
‘think again; I’m bringing replacements by return’
we laughed, even though we didn’t understand what he meant)

Afterwards, back home,
Kath was settling in to do the work she hadn’t been able to do all that week
so I decided to take Lola for a walk

it was still super-early
the woods were held
in a cool blue mist
even the birds were stunned
one sharp, single chirrup from an oak
(hardly sounding like a bird at all
more like something whose batteries were out)

I followed my feet
wondering whether I might see something I wouldn’t normally see
a badger, maybe
I’d never seen a badger in the wild before
I knew there was a sett on the far side of the wood
so I drifted in that direction
until – there it was – half a dozen badger-sized
holes in the badger-worn ground

I stood and waited
still as a tree
stiller, in fact
still as a hunter
(Lola wasn’t impressed
she stared at me for guidance
then gave up and carried on with her own investigations)
I was sure that if I held my position
a badger would eventually make itself known
snouting-out of a hole
and, not sensing anything alarming
would see no harm in carrying on with whatever the hell it is
badgers do at this godforsaken hour

but as still and hunterly as I was
and as long and as patiently as I waited
nothing happened
nothing at all
no badgers
in or out or anywhere else
so I gave it up as a bad job and headed home

and for some reason
(maybe it was the early hour, maybe it was something else,
it’s difficult to say)
I was suddenly cold
cold in the way
cold gets me sometimes
crackling through the cavities of my long bones
drawing down my skin

it didn’t help that I’d started thinking about Time
Time as a Thing
spooling out behind me, infinitely
infinitely ahead, too
(and other directions, probably, if I knew anything about it, which I don’t)
which surely only leaves me
the smallest, most infinitely diminishing particle of Time
in which to see a badger

or anything else

how terrifying is that?

but then I thought about it from the badger’s point of view
I’m pretty sure badgers don’t waste any time
freaking themselves out thinking about Time
they couldn’t care less if Time was infinitely spooling or anything else
they have other, more pressing concerns
worms, maybe. roots. cows.
or whether that man and his dog are ever going to clear off.

anyway, I was warming up again
the mist was lifting

the girls were back on Wednesday

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