the true stories
Sometimes I found remarkable people living on the Trail. I remember one nice lady who was an authoress. I had to go around the back of her place with my registered items and parcels to where she had constructed a small studio just for writing. It was an ideal set-up and I enjoyed going back there to peek into the writers world. If I had to set up such a place, it would have been very similar.
Today I Googled Bobby and found that she has fifty-five titles under her quill to date. She was and is no amateur. She once gave me a signed copy of a Harlequin Romance she had just written. It was my first and last such book to read and it was hotter than a two dollar pistol. The whole thing put me into a lusty state of mind and I never looked at middle-aged women the same after that. No Sir.
One Spring morning around this time I was coming down a long street on my route that undulated up and down with the landscape. There were Italian plum trees, cherry trees and every yard had flowers coming up. The birds were busy feeding newborns and the sap was rising in everything rooted in the ground. Down in one of these declivities, I heard it.
A strange sound to which I could not find a source. My mind raced through all sounds known to me since birth and nothing fit. Nothing came close. I was perplexed. An auditory riddle of the seventh magnitude. It took a moment of standing still to get a directional fix. This done, I set about trying to get a visual.
I found myself in front of a gray stucco house. The house was in good repair and I enjoyed the daily delivery at that address due to the well-kept lawn and pretty flower beds. There was a porch with several concrete stairs and to the right of that a large window with a deep sill. The ledge was generous and dressed in stone.
Above this window was another smaller one for the next floor up. It was constructed in the same manner. These openings were the main showpiece of the front of the building and the first to catch the gaze of a passer by. The mystery sound seemed to emanating from this quarter. I looked in vain.
I am stubborn. I rolled a smoke, adjusted my satchels and started a thorough scan of the entire front wall of the house from my vantage on the sidewalk. I knew the sound was animal in origin but beyond that nothing in my recollection could help to identify it. The only other piece of information I had at my disposal was the fact that the animal, whatever it was, was not happy, was not angry, but it was dangerous.
A lady of middle-age was coming down the sidewalk from the opposite direction and I stepped into the yard to give way for her. She was well-coiffed and dressed in a light red sweater with a big broach in the shape of a hummingbird. She had a nice gray skirt and little brown clogs. Her hair was chestnut-brown and had little streaks of silver.
She greeted me and asked what I was looking for. Then she heard it. A sound I won't even try to describe. If Shakespeare was alive I would pay him twenty dollars to do it for me. Now we both stood in the sunny Spring morning straining to see the invisible maker of the noise.
After a thorough search with four eyes, we found it. A gray squirrel was standing on the gray granite window ledge of the big window. I pointed it out to the woman, quite proud of my hunter's skills. We both looked intently at the creature, which appeared to be stricken with some malady. It stood swaying from side to side on all fours and one could see its chest heaving as if laboring for breath.
In another moment we both realized that this was not the source of the sound. The lady proved to be as stubborn as I am and we started scanning the wall anew. In unison, we moved another step into the yard. The sound was maddening and defied all attempts to locate it. It echoed and drifted on the breeze from every direction at once.
About this time, the poor sick squirrel staggered a few steps along the window ledge, heading west. It paused for a moment as if trying to locate the source of the damnéd sound as well. Suddenly it bolted. As if struck by a rock, it sprang onto the wall and raced up to the second story level just to the left of the second window.
“Ah-ha,” the lady said and pointed.
Now I saw it for the first time. All the pieces of the puzzle fell into place and there was an instant of satisfaction at having solved a mystery. There, clinging to the wall was a doe squirrel perfectly camouflaged by the gray stucco. It was her emitting the alien sounds.
She was spreadeagled and larger by half than her suitor. She clung like a barnacle to the vertical wall and tilted her head back to an impossible angle. Her tail was going like a like a feather-duster in the hands of obsessive/compulsive cocaine addict.
The buck was on her in a heartbeat. The little fellow grabbed her in such a roguish manner, the lady and I both gasped and moved up a few steps closer. It was riveting and lasted longer than you would have thought. Romeo backed up a step and shaking like a leaf in a gale, he turned head down and crawled back to the window like a drunk looking for a place to be sick in.
I coughed. The lady blew her nose. Neither of us took our eyes away for a second. Time had ceased and we no longer knew what day it was nor did we care. The buck convulsed and shook on his ledge while the doe presently began to make her magic song. She hadn't moved a millimeter. The buck crab-walked out to the wall again, drew a profound breath and covered the distance to his goal in an unsettling hurry. He was really playing rough this time.
I had seen a female squirrel moving her babies to a new nest a year before. She had been surprised by a strange male. She moved three babies and all the nest material sixty feet away to a new tree. She ferried the young one at a time as gentle as a breeze. In between trips she found time to take a chunk of fur the size of a silver dollar out of the stubborn male. By the time she was done moving, he was polka dotted. When the last little one was tucked away she went after the male and kicked his behind all the way down the street until my eye couldn't make out their shapes.
This doe was completely passive. Knowing what she was capable of if riled made the drama all the more poignant. I decided to wait and see. The rascal was biting her now and acting like a locomotive. The hummingbird lady was gripping my arm and I felt her nails digging in a bit. Just as I was debating whether or not to intervene, the buck uncoupled and sought his ledge like a quivering aimless derelict seeking a doorway to sleep in.
The doe began to chant in earnest now. It was the soundtrack of insanity and it was impossible to ignore or to endure. The buck panted and shook. He tried to ignore the renewed call of the wild. to no avail. In a zombie state he wobbled along the ledge, clearly against his will. I think both the lady and I pitied the fool at this juncture. But against all logic, the tart wanted more.
Our pity evaporated the instant he climbed aboard for the third time. He seemed to draw demonic strength from the ether and he grabbed her so violently that the two of us humans winced from our vantage in the middle of the tulip beds. I was thinking that the poor girl was greedy, yes but that didn't give him a right to behave like the gentry. I won't venture to record the ladies thoughts at this point as she didn't make them known nor did I ask.
The doe began to slowly but surely crawl up the wall while still in tandem with the brute. The buck seemed to come out of it malarial delirium. It turned its head and saw its ledge getting farther away. He gave a final bite and slid like shadow down to his perch. He nearly lost his grip on the stucco twice and sprawled flat on the ledge once he reached it.
We looked back up to the doe who had made good headway and was up to the eaves and only a few feet away from the inviting branches of a cedar. The woman caught her breath and I heaved a heavy sigh. She released her grip on my arm and we straightened our clothes a bit as we stepped over the flower bed back to the sidewalk. Time started up again.
“My Lord,” she said. “I have never seen anything like that. I had no idea.”
Her voice was soft and her neck and cheeks were flushed red as if trying to match her sweater. She dug in her purse and gave us each a few Tic-Tacs.
“I have been all over the world ma'am,” I said. “And I have never even heard anything like it.”
We bid each other adieu. I dug into my pocket for my tobacco. My hands were sweating and I wanted a smoke. I needed an omelet.
Copyright © 2019 by Michael A. Hawes. All Rights Reserved.
Michael Hawes was born in Texas, raised in Louisiana and lives in British Columbia.