I assumed it was dead, although the smell was still fresh. (One final fuck you to the world, that stink.) I didn't go over to investigate; I'm not a serial killer in the developmental stage. Plus, what would I have done if it hadn't been? Played the good samaritan and stepped on its head? Put my hands around its smelly throat and suffocated it, looked into its eyes as the breath left its lungs for the last time? Driven over it with my bicycle, its black and white body hemorrhaging beneath my freshly-pumped-up tires? If it wasn't dead already, it almost certainly would be soon without my helping it along, as naps in the middle of the road are not generally conducive to recovery. Not to mention that the blur of fur and flesh had that particularly savage appearance common to deaths from high speed collisions between automobile and beast that are unlikely to result in anything other than someone's phone call to the dead animal removal service.
Sadly, a dead skunk is not a particularly uncommon occurrence (although they're mostly right to trust in their invincibility: nobody wants that funk caught in their grill). What caught my eye was the hawk standing guard over the body. A few feet away in the middle of the road, majestic and lovely, there it stood. As I rode by, it opened its wings slightly as if to fly away, but it must have determined (correctly) that I wasn't a threat. Settling its feathers, it resumed its vigil.
Maybe it was going to go in for a little skunk meat after I had gone, vulture-style. Maybe it had put the word out in Hawksville that there was going to be a party and he was politely waiting for guests. (Why is it a he now? I sometimes realize the extent of my patriarchal indoctrination in these moments of automatic male gender assignment in the absence of any gender indicators. I am not an ornithologist; it could very well have been a she.)
So anyway, despite the probability of that poor dead (or dying) skunk being lunch, I like to think that they were pals and that the hawk was protecting her friend as his/her skunk-spirit left his/her skunk-body, that she was mourning another senseless death caused by the human infringement on the animal world. Hawks just seem to have that sort of philosophical nature.
And then I was past them. The hawk was still standing there as I looked back. For all I know, she's standing there still.
Moral #1: One day you'll be dead, and someone will be standing over you, either to eat you or mourn you. Remember that death is imminent, and live your life accordingly.
Moral #2: Look both ways before you cross the street.