A porcupine woke me in the night, him and his one-note chatter, and I listened to him and thought about him, and then I got up and went outside to see if I could find him. He was in the middle of our parking area and quite unhappy to see me. When I shone my flashlight on him, he dropped his head and put an eye on me, and we had a kind of impromptu face off. He was puffed up and quilly, black with shades of white, and he held his chin at just above the gravel and didn’t move. Looking at him, I couldn’t get enough of his eye. It was tiny, yet bigger than the night, and all his living seemed to show there. When I leaned in for a closer look, he allowed it, if tensing a bit and working his quills.
“Any chance you ever feel as I feel sometimes?” I asked him, thumbing at my heart. “Or fret about death and the outrageous absence of all gods?”
He lowered his chin and inched away slightly, quills at the ready.
We were quiet then for a while, together there with the night’s faint hum, but then on a sudden I stomped my boot, and he flinched (jumped almost) and was off, heading out with his best porcupine dash. And because I had time and was curious, I followed. We went out the lane to the pasture fence, along the fence, around one corner, and then through thick brush into the woods and up Saddleback Mountain. I kept my light on him as best I could and followed close behind. He would pause occasionally and show me his eye, and then he would turn and waddle again into the darkness. I followed until he came to the service road that leads to the top of the mountain. He didn’t stop or even hesitate. He crossed directly over the road and kept going. I thought for a second about following but did not. It was 1:45. In the distance and faint through the trees was the light in our kitchen, and when I reached the pasture, the sheep stood up to watch me pass.