I’m telling you, the birdfeeder was too goddamn smart.
Maybe I should back up. Get some popcorn, chickadees, settle in, and let me tell you a tale of squirrelterror and loathing.
So our back yard looks like Narnia. There are some lovely old trees; one expects Mr Tumnus to come galloping along at any moment–and when I say old trees, I mean what the Selkie’s husband only half-jokingly refers to as “housesplitters.” You get the idea that when the development went in, they built around a lot of the greenery. They’re so tall, most of them don’t have branches until well above my roof. It’s beautiful, and they’ve been well-tended. So I only worry about them crushing the entire place once in a while.
The people who lived here before loved hanging flower baskets. I’m not fond of those myself, but I do have a huge windchime addiction. So I was happy to find hooks and doodads all over the outside to hang my pretties on. There’s also about thirty feet of yellow nylon rope with a ring in the end of it hanging from one straight-backed, venerable pine right in the middle of the yard. I glanced at it when I was looking through the house, and immediately ascertained that it wasn’t sturdy enough for a swing (look, these are things I think about) but I could probably hang a birdfeeder there, right? A windchime would probably spin right off the end of the hook in a windstorm, and as much as I like the music I’m not fond of them as projectiles, you know? (It’s beyond me why I didn’t think birdfeeders wouldn’t go right through a window. Funny, that…)
That led to me in the store, looking at bird feeders. I wanted something sturdy, maybe in cedar. I had half-settled on a gazebo-shaped one–She Was A Fool For Gazebos, put it on my tombstone–but then, I saw it.
Cast iron base and top. A durable plastic tube in the middle. SQUIRRELPROOF, the label said.
I considered this, my eyes widening. I imagined a backyard where the birds ate their fill and the squirrels scavenged elsewhere. I imagined Squirrel!Napoleon trying to get his tubby self into the feeder and couldn’t see how he could possibly do it unless he shimmied down thirty feet of nylon cord and managed to contort himself up like a Cirque du Soleil act. That clinched the deal, and I scooped the SQUIRRELPROOF 5000 (for this I had christened it, inside my wee head) up with the sort of swashbuckling grace one might expect from Errol Flynn. (All I needed was green tights and a dead deer.)
The lady at the checkout eyed me a little dubiously, maybe because I was actually chortling with glee. “It says SQUIRRELPROOF,” I announced, maybe not as quietly as I could have. “Isn’t that great?”
“Oh, ayuh,” she said, “if it works.”
This sobered me a little. “They’re tricky little bastards,” I allowed. “But we’ll see.”
Well, I’m glad she wished me luck, because I needed it.
I got home, filled up the SQUIRRELPROOF 5000 with fancy-schmancy birdseed to tempt the little feathered buggers into supping at my table, and hung it up on a special cast-iron hook depending from the yellow nylon rope. And I waited, and waited.
I waited two months.
Then another month.
It was then I realized something I probably should have cottoned to much earlier. The SQUIRRELPROOF 5000 was not merely squirrel-proof. It was also…
The little winged bastards could not figure out how to get in there. And so there was the fancy-schmancy birdseed, rotting, because even if something is squirrel- and bird-proof, nothing stops the winter rains around here. I found this out when I thought that’s a funny color for birdseed and realised that there were sprouts, and mold, and mycelium too, all inside this neat little terrarium I’d inadvertently created. Lo, I was the creator of a world.
It was a great damn science experiment, but it sucked at feeding birds.
I fumed about this for a day or so, mostly because it was raining so hard I didn’t want to venture outside and clean the damn thing. “SQUIRRELPROOF,” I muttered, while I hoovered and cooked. “And birdproof,” I snorted occasionally, while writing. “Can you believe it?” I would ask Miss B, and she would nod that indeed she believed it if I told her it was so, and did I really want that bit of breadcrust I was holding? Because if not, she could put it to good use.
I didn’t bother telling Odd Trundles. He was busy licking file cabinets and molesting my slippers. He does like to keep himself busy.
There was finally a break in the rain, but by then I had forgotten about cleaning out the SQUIRRELPROOF 5000–mostly because of houseguests and a regrettable incident involving Odd Trundles and some fish-oil capsules, oh my God, you just don’t know. Anyway.
I let the cat out one morning, and the dogs had just finished their breakfast and of course had to head out as well. (It goes in one end and out the other, I guess being a dog is a very short cycle…) I stumbled for the coffeemaker–dogs get fed first, always, world without end, amen, if only because I don’t want them underfoot while I’m trying to get some caffeine in me. I had just managed to get three shots of espresso and some cream into a cup (the IV was in the dishwasher, HA HA JUST KIDDING) when the most gawdawful racket I’d heard in a while rose in the back yard.
Barefoot (of course, this is how these things always go and besides, Odd Trundles had both molested and eaten my slippers, someone call Krafft-Ebing) I bolted out onto the deck…
…and then I saw him.
“VIVE LE SQUIRRRRRRRRRRRL!”
…to be continued