Leah Rogin-Roper: Chapter 9: Alex

Fall '10 TOC

            It is a town where the citizens are used to wildlife.  The hairless fox keeps the cat population down, bears have been known to drag particularly delicious smelling dumpsters down Main Street, deer are considered rodents.  But there is something beguiling about the twins.  They are very young, not Bambi young, but less than a year.  They are wide-eyed and pleasant looking.  For some reason, they have taken up residence in the center of Ski Town Square, the group of condos and shops at the base of the mountain.  They have gotten quite tame, are a source of delight for the tourists, some of whom have never seen a deer before. Even the jaded locals take pride in their presence. 
            They are often seen strolling the bike path, stopping below the balcony of Thunder Run, being pelted with carrots by tourist children.  There is some quality in them, that furry big-eyed flubsiness, that makes them beloved in the community.  Although they have become unhealthily tame, accustomed to crossing the road with no regard for traffic and approaching people so closely that they give the appearance of wanting to be petted, they have also starred on the front page of the paper several times and probably are responsible for at least one tourist family’s presence this busy spring season.   
            Mona’s face loses its bitterness when she smiles.  The hard angles disappear and it is possible to think she is lovely.  She looks at Alexander’s square shoulders and feels relaxed for a moment.  She is glad that he is driving.  Something in his face makes her want to follow him home.  She moves her stare back out the window and her face settles back into its hard lines. 
            I remember that familial connection of warmth occurring only once with my father, briefly.  This connection came about when we got our first family pet.  Well, we did already have a cat, and that is how this story begins.  We had a cat, Snoopy, who mostly lived outside.  She was a mouser and she did not care much for us or for being petted.  She was like my father, I think now; she had a job to do and was fine with us being there as long as we did not stand in her way.  We left food in the garage for her, which occasionally she would deign to eat.  She left offerings on the doorstep for us that we stepped in on our way out of the house.
            This day was a green, red, yellow, blue fall morning, with low lying mists hanging off the lakes.  I see myself stretching and peering outside, hearing a strange squalling sound.  I see Snoopy, with a baby squirrel in her mouth, depositing its still panting form on the doorstep.  As I stare down at the tiny form with disgust and that sadness that other furry large-eyed babies can arouse in us, she disappears and returns with another miniature squirrel.  This one is already a carcass.  I cannot scream at Snoopy, she looks as proud as if she has laid down an offering of twenty dogs on the doorstep.  Cats do not understand anger, anyway.  They treat anger with contempt, an emotion they have mastered.
            Instead I follow her, to see where these babies are coming from.  She glares at me, but continues on her mission, climbing up a small tree where a nest sits in the fork of the branch.  Down she comes with another baby.  This one has not yet been pierced by her teeth.  I wrestle it away from her mouth, sickened by the massacre she is committing.  She growls at me, low in her throat.  I don’t care, I scream at her; It’s wrong, Snoopy, you shouldn’t kill these little babies.  The squirrel in my hand is just changing from pink to brown.  It is just leaving the realm of disgusting and entering the arena of cute. 
            I run back to the house and take the squirrel inside.  I leave whatever squirrels are remaining to the mercies of Snoopy.  Sometimes one is all you can save. 
            When my father comes home I tell him about the scene.  He chuckles and says that squirrels are rodents and that Snoopy knows her job.  I show him the one I saved, for whom I have already constructed a shoe-box home.  My younger brother is delighted with our new pet.  We have named him Felix.
            “Well, now,” my father examines the squirrel looking through the rims of his glasses.  “It looks like Felix is a flying squirrel.”
            “Can he really fly, Dad?” 
            “No, son.  It’s more of a gliding downwards.”
            As odd as it may sound, Felix aroused more parental instinct than I had ever seen in my father.  Our family was united in an act of love, caring for Felix, the flying squirrel.  My father brought home a miniature bottle that he said he had gotten from the biology lab.  Every night we all three sat around and fed Felix.  He seemed very content and was growing at an amazing rate. 
            The tenderness I saw in my father as he fed that tiny squirrel was a new quality to me.  I had never seen my father behave this way and it delighted me.  Rather than gruffly eating dinner and locking himself in his study, after dinner we took at least an hour of feeding and playing with Felix, enjoying our family’s newfound togetherness. 
            When Felix started to fly, our family time took on an entirely new dimension.  It was thrilling, the way he would scurry up bookshelves and soar down across the room.  I actually heard my father giggle, I swear to God, it was the first and only time I have heard such a sound come out of his mouth.  Felix was a wonderful pet.  We kept him in a large birdcage my father had provided and I remember his presence as the highlight of my childhood.  At school during the day, I would imagine Felix soaring through the house. 
            These situations never end well.  Maybe Felix could have escaped and mysteriously returned to the wild.  Maybe Snoopy could have gotten in the house and finished the extermination she started.  Maybe Felix could have realized he was a wild thing and bitten my little brother’s thumb, resulting in an endless series of rabies shots and the testing of Felix through the removal of his head.
             I think any of these options would have been less tragic then the day I came home to find Felix drowned in the toilet.        
            My father went back to his study in the evenings.

:: TOC ::

Not Enough Night
Not Enough Night
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