Margaret rounds the corner into the kitchen and finds Angela, little blonde head tilted to the side, staring out the sliding glass doors. Her daughter’s curiosity was insatiable when it comes to animals. Even the occasional snake that managed to slither into their garden elicited a oohs and aahs from baby Angela. Now at age five, her interest in wildlife has only grown stronger.
“Where, darling?” Margaret asks as she approaches the door. She peeks over her daughter’s head and stops. A smear of red stains the glass, and on the other side, a bird lies, neck cranked unnaturally, on the sidewalk.
Swiftly, she covers Angela’s eyes and shifts her away from the door. “Stay here, honey. Don’t look.”
Outside, Margaret stoops over the poor bird. Its body twitches in its death throes, and a pang pierces Margaret’s heart. She grabs a rock, takes a deep breath, and smashes the birds head. The twitching stops, and a trail of blood leaks from beneath the rock. With a great sigh, she turns back to the house.
Angela stands in the doorway, mouth in a perfect little O.
“I told you not to look!” Margaret scolds, then admonishes herself. Her daughter is just a child, curious to a fault. She wraps her pudgy little hand in hers. “The bird was hurt. We couldn’t let him suffer, so mommy took away his pain.”
“Yes. We’ve put him out of his misery.”
The next morning, Margaret awakes to the whiz of cars passing on their early morning commute. The sun shines through the sheer curtains, filling the room with cool autumn light. She meanders into the kitchen, aching for coffee, and glances at the sliding glass doors. They are ajar. The smudge of bird blood has dried, and below, a new bloody smudge, thicker and more viscous, stains the glass. She crouches to better see. The bloody print is in the shape of a pudgy little hand.
“Weee! Stay still, critter!”
Margaret spins toward the sound of her daughter’s voice. “Angela? Where are you?”
She bounds down the hall to her daughter’s room and throws open the door. A sour, decaying stench whacks her in the face. The white carpet is sprayed pink with blood, and a bright red puddle forms at her daughter’s feet. Before the little girl lies a mangled raccoon, patches of fur ripped from raw skin, it's back legs a tangled mess of bone and flesh. Something she found on the side of the road! Margaret thinks. It hisses, thrashing weakly at Angela's leg. Gracefully, she side-steps its attack. The little girl lifts her ceramic piggy bank above her head--
--and slams it down on the raccoon, once, twice, three times, until the hissing stops and the room grows quiet.
Angela turns around, smiling at her mother. Flecks of blood drip down her cherub’s face, and she says, “See, mommy? I put it out of its misery.”