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You don’t expect to see a mouse outside in the middle of the afternoon.

I had lifted off the broken gate and placed it down on the grass to make it easier to repair the broken fence. After fiddling with the drill and cursing at nails, I saw the mouse. It had emerged from one of the holes in the laid-down gate and was snuffling around, up and down the pickets, as if both trapped and seeking shelter. It did not startle when I stopped to look, nor when I weeded nearby, nor flee even when I strimmed the newly-growning grass. Not obviously injured, not emaciated – if anything, plump enough to be pregnant – but not well.

It settled in a corner, camouflaged by the sun-bleached wood. I let it be.

Near sunset, I looked again, and saw what I expected to see: stillness, dead eyes.

I found some gloves and a scrap of cardboard and lifted it from the gate, ran a gloved fingertip across its fur, the most futile comfort. In the near corner of the garden I pulled out the weeds, clawed away enough of the earth to make a grave, and laid the mouse to rest.