Saturday, June 22, 2013

Kingdom of the Squirrel:Chapter 1

Chapter 1
His name was Dog-tormentor-mumbledy-mumbledy-cat-baiter where the mumbledies are standing in for things that are virtuous and admired in the squirrel world--as are dog tormenting and cat baiting--but cannot be translated into the English tongue without novel-length prose.  Suffice it to say it was a good, long name and that he was much respected within his community and among his peers.
Dog-tormentor had a good mate who, although it was not known to him, was about five minutes pregnant. Had he known this chapter might take a different direction, and, indeed, it might not be written at all.  Tragedy is the bard’s surest muse.
In any case, DT--let’s cut his noble name there for sake of brevity--had just buried an acorn in the flowerbed of a yard belonging to Charlie.  Charlie was a Brittany Spaniel with an Irish temperament.  He loved to lay in the cool grass in a puddle of sunshine so as to maintain the perfect temperature.  While he dug a few holes and jumped the occasional fence, he had few other vices and was general a quite pleasant dog. He guarded his territory with admirable virtue from the dangers of mailmen, people walking down the sidewalk, and, of course, squirrels.
His pleasantness, to his dismay, made him an attractive target for DT.  DT wanted to show off for his mate (who we will call BFR for Birdfeeder-robber, though she had a long and respected name herself) who had found an acorn.  He thought he would impress her by burying it in a yard underneath Charlie’s very nose.
And that he did do. Charlie, having reached a glorious equilibrium upon the cool grass in a puddle of sunshine, never stirred.  Actually, that’s not quite true.  If it were, you would be staring a blank sheet of paper wondering why.  No, Charlie didn’t stir until Mischief yowled.
Mischief was a cat, a well-named one at that.  DT took great pleasure in baiting Mischief, but he had not noticed Mischief in the yard that day.
Exactly as Mischief had planned.  Mischief not only resented DT’s constant baiting, but she also had a taste for squirrel brains and suspected that DT’s would be most tasty indeed.
DT had buried the acorn and was making his way back to BFR when he found his way blocked and himself facing Mischief who was only two feet away.
BFR had been watching her mate from the side, but didn’t see Mischief until a split second before DT did.
“Look out!” she screamed.
It was not much of a warning, but it was enough to get DT’s adrenaline flowing.
Mischief pounced and would’ve landed directly on top of DT had not this surge of adrenaline given him quickness to just jumped out of the way.  
Missing him caused Mischief to yowl in frustration.
Mischief’s yowling started Charlie from blissful slumber.  Charlie, angry and resentful from being disturbed from restful slumber, was immediately alert and saw his old nemesis, DT. He took to the chase.
DT had earned his name honestly, but he had always taken care to torment dogs and bait cats separately.  Doing both at the same time added a new dynamic to his predicament.
DT had initially darted toward Charlie it hope that Charlie would provide a deterrent to Mischief, not thinking that Charlie would be alert and awake.  As Charlie was alert, DT darted in another direction, the direction of a tree that was inside the yard.  He made the tree easily enough and went quickly beyond the reach of both Charlie and Mischief.  The could not get him, but he was also trapped.  That is, trapped except for the electric line that laced its way between the limbs of the tree.
DT could have simply waited these two out. He’d done it before.  The cat had no patience at all.  The dog had patience enough, but he was easily distracted.  DT need only wait until the mailman came by; or some people walked down the sidewalk with a baby stroller; or any number of another things for Charlie’s atterntion to be drawn away for just a moment.
But DT wanted to show off for BFR. With the combined euphoria of mating and narrowly missing death by dog and cat, DT wanted to add another hyphen to his name: Transformer-jumper.
DT shinnied out onto one of the thin limbs that came into contact with the electric line.
“Be careful,” BFR called out.  “Just wait until they are distracted.”
DT paid no mind.  He crawled onto the electric line.
“Don’t worry about me, Sweetie,” he said.  “It’s a piece of cake from here. I’ve done it dozens of times.”
This last wasn’t actually true.  He’d seen it done dozens of times.  He’d watch his hero Tranformer-jumper-mumbledy-car-dodger-mumbley-attic-dweller (who we wall call TJ) do it dozens of times.
TJ had always promised to tell DT the secret, but he never had, and then he’d disappeared.  He’d disappeared about the same time a grease spot had appeared in the middle of the street, but this is a digression.
There was a reason that “tranformer-jumper” was a fairly rare name segment among squirrells.  There is an art to the thing that is not understood, but approached on faith.  Discernment of the full mystery requires both doing it right and doing it wrong, and doing it wrong pretty well precludes talking about it afterwards.  DT’s friend had done it correctly and had stuck to his method, but, and I can’t repeat this enough, had not shared it.
DT hurried down the line, came to the point where it connected to the transformer, and jumped.
He did it wrong.
The scene is best left undescribed except for the bitter weeping of his mate.
Beth’s father was a good, kind man and loved Beth very much though she had not taken her first breath yet.  Upon learning that he was going to be a father, he had taken out a largish life insurance policy on himself, which, as we shall see, turned out to be a good thing.
Beth’s father and mother were greeted by Charlie barking and Mischief begging to be fed even though she had just eat squirrell-brain asado. They immediately noted that the electricity was off.
Had they been there, they would have heard a loud pop from their transformer and would’ve know that the problem this time was not with the neolithic breaker box in their wet, dark, scary basement.
Beth’s father had spent considerable time trying to keep from paying an electrician to actually fix the neolithic breaker box.  He had put patches in here, patches in there.  Each time he’d fixed the problem--or delayed fixing the problem depending upon your point of view--and, in his mind at least, impressed his wife.  Had followed the squirrel practice of naming, he would hyphenated an “electrician” into his name.
As the following moments will tell, this was not actually justified.
As poor luck would have it, Beth’s father was standing in a puddle that had come into contact with something he had not properly grounded and touching something he should not have touched at the exact moment the power company restored power.
Less than an hour after DT passed from the scene, Beth’s father did as well, in near enough the same way.
We shall leave this scene to the weeping of Beth’s mother and put no finer point on it than that, but lest anyone should worry, the EMTs arrived before Mischief could sate her hunger yet again.

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