One afternoon, when I was eleven years old, my neighbour gave me a dead squirrel in a cardboard box.

He’d found it in his garden and thought I might like to have it.

I don’t really know why.

He was a bit of an eccentric chap.

I guess he thought a dead squirrel would be something a kid would like to see.

I didn’t quite know what to make of it.

I sat on the wall at the end of the driveway, with the dead squirrel in the cardboard box balancing on my knees.

I didn’t really want to look at the dead squirrel, it felt wrong somehow, disrespectful. I kept looking at it anyway. I wondered how it had died and hoped its death had been peaceful.

“What’s in that box?”, I looked up to find one of the neighbourhood kids standing in front of me.

I felt embarrassed. Dead squirrels weren’t cool, surely. He’d think I was really weird.

I replied, “It’s nothing. It’s just a box”.

“Well, why were you looking in it then?”, he asked.

“I just was, there’s nothing in it, honest.”

He moved towards me. I held the box tighter.

He was on his tip-toes now. He was just about tall enough to peer over the top of the box.

“Holy-shit! You’ve got a squirrel in there! Is it dead? Wait til I tell everyone! This is awesome!”

I stared at him, wondered if he was joking. Why would he think the dead squirrel was so interesting? It was just a dead squirrel.

More kids gathered round.

“Let me look at the dead squirrel!”

“No, me!”

“Move over, I can’t see it”.

“How long has it been dead? Does it still have its head?”

They pushed and shoved and fought for a prime view.

I remained sitting on the wall, clasping the cardboard box, confused by all the fuss.

And that’s the thing.

It was just a dead squirrel to me.

Nothing to shout about.

Something to hide.

And yet the other kids thought it was really interesting,

and wanted to know more.

I was surprised.


As an adult, I see lots of people around me, sitting on their own wall and holding a dead squirrel in a cardboard box.

Only the dead squirrel is in their head.

And it’s not actually a dead squirrel,

but their newest business plan,

or their talent for singing.

Or the volunteer work they do at the local care home,

Or the book they self-published.

Nothing to shout about.

Something to hide.

That’s what they believe.

And yet I think it’s really interesting,

and want to know more.

And they are surprised.