A story, THE FLICK, about animal trapping from an antechinus point of view.
No good story should need a preamble or explanation but animal trapping is such an unusual activity that I am going to give you some background anyway. I was teaching a group of 16 long-term unemployed, plant identification, bush tucker, outdoor guiding and bushcraft skills. We did one night of animal trapping. In the morning after setting 34 traps we found, among other creatures, a lactating antechinus (marsupial mouse). I tipped her into a clear plastic bag for a closer look. One of the more callous present tried to flick the little furry on the nose. I was outraged at this cruel betrayel of trust. Later that day I sat down at the keyboard and wrote the following story. Warning there are two four letter words. You can exit by clicking the BACK button now.
I noticed the nights got long and colder. The cold's OK. Sometimes I have to snuggle up somewhere warm and have a really long sleep. Long nights means plenty of time for hunting. I like to eat, and the hunting's good here. If it moves, it's mine. A pounce, the death bite and mmmm juice, blood and meat. The best place to be is here, and the best time to be here is now.
The nights started getting shorter, a little bit each day. I saw more of the males. They had awful fights. They like to visit now and I like it when they stay all day. They are real rascals. After the first few times I knew exactly what was going to happen. I didn't mind, something told me it was good. After fourteen sleepless days I was tired, and sore and I wished they would go away.
One really crook-looking one died while he was visiting. I pushed him out of the nest. He was nearly twice as big as me. I decided not to eat him, but later when there were dozens of them lying about dead I had a nibble. He was sickly and tasteless. I prefer worms.
All the males were dead. I was amazed. It was a time of plenty, and just us girls on holiday. Half of my tummy had no fur on it and I counted 8 nipples where there were none before. I thought something special was going to happen and I curled up and out my babies came. So small, So incredibly small, Each little red wriggler crawled to a nipple, opened it's tiny mouth and clamped on. There was no shifting them. It was good. It was a nice feeling. I had a whole lot of babies to look after.
They wanted to be with me, even when I hunted. They were a bit like ticks buried in my skin. But I didn't want to scratch them off. They were quiet when I hunted, but I could feel them move sometimes. When I sleep they move around but never let go.
They're getting arms and legs now, and hair. They are so big. I can hardly walk with my eight babies hanging on. It's not good for them to be dragged through the mud, over rocks and sliding down the bark.
I promise them that I will come back. I leave them in the nest, a tree hollow fitted with leaves. Wow, hunting is so easy now. I feel so light. Insects everywhere.
I'm caught. My God I can't get out. A metal box and no way out. I feel too sick to eat. I hide under a metal flap and worry about my children. I promised. They know I'm late. Will they think I have left them for good? If there is anything I could do I would do it. If I had my life over again I would never have come to this place. God, please look after my babies.
The sun is up. It's been up for ages now. I am in this box of death, surrounded by my own crap. If there was anything I could do.............
There is a great crashing of bushes, like a big mob of foxes fighting. I have never seen these things before, they are huge. They look through the cracks in my prison. I feel their warm, hungry breath. It will be death soon but I am brave and strong for my babies.
The box is shaken. I fall out into a bag. The sun is so bright. It burns my eyes.
There are lots of them. I am a killer, but I'm sick with fear. They look, and some turn away. Some look and smile. The arrogance of it displaces my fear and makes me angry, I try to look tough, look brave but mostly look for a way out.
I am trapped, death is very near and I am scared. Actually I am terrified. But I must live for my babies. I am being squeezed. So much power. I can't move to get away. I am out of the bag and I smell my beloved bush home again. Am I closer to freedom or closer to death?
I pull with all my strength, but my tail is caught. I can tell some of them want to kill me.
Others look kind. I am almost paralysed with fear but the thought of my tiny babies waiting for me to get home keeps me strong. I tremble with fear waiting for the death bite. I wet myself, I shit myself, I am ashamed.
I cannot believe my luck. These huge creatures take me to a tree, it's my tree, and let me go. In the stunning brightness and with legs powered with fear and survival I run up to my home. My babies are there and they quickly find me. I think my heartbeat will never slacken. I am too scared to be grateful. This is home, my babies are all well and I think we're going to make it.
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