Sunday, April 18, 2010

The squirrel on Malcolm’s deck

Malcolm stared down his enemy – steely eyed versus beady eyed. Squirrel remained the essence of defiance. He held his six inch long body (not including tail) in the stance of an ancient warrior. Proud. Defiant. Victorious.

Malcolm’s quest for the last six weeks: rid his garden, his haven of peace, of this vermin. Not only was his presence a constant irritant, but this creature had managed to eat every ounce of premium bird food that was supposed to attract rare and unusual species to the feeder. Now only the starlings and mourning doves were willing to co-exist with the squirrel. Even the cat was annoyed but she wasn’t willing to get involved.

His main opposition in this task was his five year old daughter, Beth, who inexplicably loved the beast. Instead she insisted on calling him Mr. Fuzzers and was ready to adopt him as a little brother. “Oh! Mr. Fuzzers. I love him. He’s funny. He hangs upside down.” She looked at Malcolm. “Are you going to build a home for Mr. Fuzzers?”

Given her affection, Beth’s reaction was not good when Malcolm answered, “No honey, that animal is just a rat with a good haircut and better PR.” She hadn’t understood what he meant, but she was deeply offended.

To date Malcolm’s attempts at extermination were less than successful. The cayenne pepper recommended by his mother simply seemed to serve as seasoning. The bonemeal invited the neighbour dogs to roll around on the ground under the feeder. The slingshot only managed to anger his wife, Maureen, and injure his crusty old neighbour. After that particular incident Maureen had ordered him to “Make peace with the damn squirrel.” That directive fell on deaf ears. Maureen had resigned herself to the fact she was married to an idiot and hoped he wouldn’t cause any permanent damage or be arrested.

Malcolm’s battle scars included 27 distinct mosquito bites (earned while stalking Mr. Fuzzers with the sling shot) and a wasp sting on each ankle. Squirrel was not going anywhere. Malcolm felt mocked but was not willing to give up either.

Something drastic was needed. Poison was illegal – and he wasn’t willing sacrifice Beth in the name of squirrel eradication. Malcolm turned to the internet for advice. It was during a late night of research online when Malcolm was convinced he had discovered the ultimate defense. The “Deluxe Squirrel Guard” would protect the feeder. No food and Squirrel would move out.

One tiny engineering issue stood in Malcolm’s way. The guard was actually designed to attach to the bottom of a feeder mounted on a pole. Malcolm’s feeder hung from the tree. Logic was not going to stand in Malcolm’s way. There had to be work around. He placed the order.

In the week that followed the arrival of the “Deluxe Squirrel Guard”, Malcolm spent hours tinkering in his garage forcing his jerry-rigged contraption to balance. In the end it still teetered like a drunken freshman, but Malcolm was satisfied.

He carefully hung the feeder with the guard on the tree. It looked like a pagoda shaded by a crooked Frisbee. Malcolm decided his hammock with a glass of ice tea would be the perfect place to take in his expected mass arrival of song birds.

No sooner had Malcolm departed the yard and Squirrel arrived for his afternoon feast. Squirrel contemplated the situation for just a moment and immediately scrambled up the tree, positioned himself upside down from a nearby branch and swung himself forward with the stealth and grace of a season trapeze artist. On his first try he grabbed the feeder by the “Deluxe Squirrel Guard” and brought the entire thing closer to his hungry mouth.

Squirrel was in this position of pure gastronomical delight when Malcolm re-entered the yard. Malcolm let out a high pitch shriek a little in the way Beth did each time she saw a spider. Malcolm’s reaction was swift and stupid. He dropped his perfectly chilled glass of ice tea and lunged towards Squirrel, arms extended. He fully intended to grab Squirrel by the neck and strangle every last breath out of him.

Thankfully for Mr. Fuzzers – and probably Malcolm as well – squirrels are faster than humans (unless humans are in cars). Sensing the end of his days, Squirrel made a jump for it. He let go of the feeder and twisted his body in mid air to safely escape up the tree.

The bird feeder, with the circular “Deluxe Squirrel Guard”, also twisted in air and was catapulted forward at maximum speed in the opposite direction from Squirrel. It took the exact trajectory necessary to smack Malcolm square in the forehead.

The force knocked Malcolm backwards, lifted him slightly in the air and landed him firmly on his ass. With the wind completely knocked out of him, he didn’t immediately feel the pain or the trickle of blood down his face. It was his dazed state and not a conscious attempt to terrify his family that led him inside in his current condition.

Unfortunately, Beth was the first one to see Malcolm, and it was her blood curdling scream that alerted Malcolm that something was wrong. Maureen immediately came running and stopped dead in her tracks.

“Good God, what happened?”
Malcolm finally noticed the blood all over his hands and gingerly touched the cut on his forehead from whence a steady stream was causing blood to streak down his face.

“That squirrel literally tried to kill me,” he calmly answered.

After assuring Beth that her father was not going to die, Maureen gently led Malcolm to sit down and allow her to clean him up. Once she was able to determine that he would neither bleed to death nor need stitches, she moved on to trying to mend his spirit.

Maureen turned to Beth. “Sweetie, it’s time to give daddy his surprise.”

Beth ran out of the room and when she returned she approached her father cautiously, still wary of his previous appearance. She dropped a large shopping bag marked “Julian’s Garden’s” at Malcolm’s feet.

Malcolm was afraid to look in the bag but he reached in and pulled out a large rectangular wooden box and a bag of peanuts. Confused covered his face.

“It’s a feeder for Mr. Fuzzers,” Beth explained before Malcolm could ask.

The confusion left Malcolm’s face. This was just cruel.

“If we feed the squirrel on the ground, he won’t bother with the bird feeder,” Maureen explained. “I found it on the internet on the same site where you found that stupid squirrel guard.”

Malcolm was about to protest, but he we too tired to fight it. Too defeated. “Ok,” he turned to Beth. “Ok, you pick the spot for it.”

It was 2 weeks later when Malcolm was enjoying the peace of lying in his hammock. Beth was cuddled in to him. Together they watched for their visitors and recorded them. Three sparrows were picking their way in the feeder. The occasional gold finch stopped by for a feed. Squirrel was reluctantly sharing his peanuts with a chipmunk. Malcolm had no idea chipmunks even lived in his neighbourhood.

1 comment:

  1. Great story Etta! I especially liked the use of metaphor in "teetered like a drunken freshman" and one doesn't find the term ass quite enough in stories these days!