I heard from my neighbor today about the day the dogs got out. She didn't know how it happened, but she said her grandson Joseph was upset about it and wanted to try to catch them. She told him to leave them alone. It bothered me to think that she didn't help when she could have. As bad as that was the fact that she saw Esther out of her pen for hours and didn't act on that either. Even if she didn't want to get involved with the chickens herself, her kids would have gladly rescued Esther without fear of harm to themselves.
Since I now had some information on Esther's end, the dreaded mental image of her appeared in my mind, an image of her being attacked and killed by a raccoon or a dog while wandering around lost. Somehow I had been able to dismiss the episode when I could think of it as a mysterious disappearance with no details, but that small piece of reality changed everything. I went into the field behind the chicken house and searched again, calling and calling, hoping to undo what had been done. I believed there was a possibility that it could all be changed, that I would find her hiding under a bush or in the tall grass, that I would be telling the story of of her amazing survival to all my friends. I thought I heard her moving or clucking several times and turned toward the sound, seeing nothing. Gradually the futility of my search seeped into my consciousness, and though I continued to stagger through the tangled weeds I knew she was gone.
Coming back to the house I started to cry the tears that didn't happen before. I had not ceased to care, as I thought, but just postponed my response to her death. Every little living thing has worth and I couldn't deny Esther her small mourning period after all.