Arrogant as a surgeon, surly as a bus driver, aggressive as a junior lawyer, he lands at my feet while I fork my sadly-neglected garden.
He cares nothing for me, nor for any danger I might pose, since he knows full well that I am no threat to him at all.
He’s been watching from a distance as I fork, dig, separate weed from clod. He knows my sole purpose is to take out every last bulb of this beautiful, pungent, delicious yet invasive wild garlic. He knows I’m harmless, though the same can’t be said for the Hound of Satan and so we set up a delicate balance. I’m happy enough with my new, tiny, murderous companion, at least for now.
Get gone, Hound of Satan, lest you feel my wrath! And stop trampling the garlic!
He hops up to my foot and nabs a tiny grub unearthed by my fork. How did he do that? How did he see that? This robin has the eyes of a hawk.
I move slowly so as not to startle this bird, but he doesn’t care. When I stumble on a tuffet, he hops himself sideways a flap or two like a small red crow on a freshly-dug motorway, casual as the Great Blondin winking at Niagara.
I become the bird. He trains me not to worry about sudden movements because he knows I mean him no evil, though the same could not be said for his intentions towards insects, larvae and worms. As I continue to dig and to sift, my murderous visitor gorges himself on earthworms, leatherjackets and centipedes, none of which I noticed writhing in my freshly-turned earth but all on the menu of this little predator.
He batters a worm against a rock until it submits, then disappears with it into the lovely magnolia tree that flowers twice a year, but where is all this earth-meat going? He can’t be eating these things. Is he bringing them to a nest full of voracious mini-killers? I can conclude nothing else.
Eventually, I grow tired of culling this garlic field and begin to clear out a rockery, but of course I’m conflicted. Should I dig out all the dandelions, thus depriving the pollinators of food? I can’t do it, but I turn to my flexible principles for consolation and I compromise. I’ll remove some that are in the way and I’ll leave the rest for the bees.
The micro-murderer turns up and it’s clear from his body language that he cares nothing for the bees. It’s clear that he’d happily eat a bee if he caught one. It’s clear that he’d eat me given half a chance or drag me to a nest filled with his clamorous murderous offspring. A killer’s children who will end up just like their father and come to a bad end.
As I hack away at the overgrown, weed-infested rockery, my little killer friend abandons all pretence and launches straight in between my hands, grabbing the grubs I thought were pebbles, battering them into submission and disappearing into the magnolia tree before returning for more slaughter.
It’s carnage. It’s horrible and it’s nature.
Luckily, no Vegans were present to witness the horror.