Dusk, and a small shape comes into the yard. I blink and frown and narrow my eyes. It’s urgent and gliding on leggy pins; fluid and nervy and rolling like a ball beside palls of sow thistle, bramble and burdock. Whatever this is, it keeps jagged company.
Then a surge of recognition. A hedgehog.
We don’t see hedgehogs here. Perhaps there are some in the village, but years go by without the merest contact. Sometimes there are skins like bladders burst on the tarmac. I stop the car to speir at them, but their eyes (when they have them) are dry and parchy; their legs adrift and socketless. There’s nothing in these broken shapes to reveal a true nature; just pats of bake-meat for the mice to gnaw.
Even I can remember the hedgehog in her heyday. We found them on the smithy road and up beyond the kirk. My father recalls them in a tide; it was their absence that was notable in those days. And his father could hardly imagine the farm without the trail of urchins at every dykeback.
So it’s come to this; a small, half-forgotten loner on the edge of darkness.