Mrs. Curmudgeon handed me the phone. I recognized the voice. The woman on the line was indeed in an excellent mood. She was talking quickly. I interrupted mid sentence.
“Before you say anything further, I want to point out that the soil is frozen, the NSA bugs phones, and I don’t know who the hell you are.”
“…I was thinking about taxidermy, do you think that is over the top?”
For about five seconds my brain shut down. Then my skull did a reboot. I was surely imagining something more interesting than reality.
Time to verify.
“Um… this thing which you shot. Has it been assigned a social security number?”
“Calm down you freak. It was a fox.”
“Ahhh… yeah, sure. I was expecting a fox. Don’t know what other thing I could possibly have imagined.”
“It was the one that’s been raiding my chickens all summer, remember?” Immediately she launched into the story. Once I knew it was a chicken raiding fox I was happy to listen.
“First ‘Toasty’, then ‘Fluffy’, then ‘Grandma’.”
Is it a bad sign that I recognized some of the names of her chickens? I don’t remember the names of people. Sometimes fine people. Upstanding, considerate, fully realized human beings with whom I’ve worked and socialized for years and I’ll forget their name. It’s not that I dislike them. I just…. well I’ve got no excuse.
On the other hand if that bastard killed Toasty then he got what he deserved!
“…so all of your ideas hadn’t worked. Hey are you listening?”
I hadn’t been listening. Time to tune in again.
“Of course I was listening. Did you say that evil creature killed Toasty?! I liked Toasty.”
I’d given some advice about what to do when a fox starts attacking the henhouse. Even offered to loan some leghold traps. Some of my advice might be a little out there but…
“…and what the hell were you thinking telling me to get a ‘claymore’. I had to look that up you know. First of all you can’t just go to the hardware store for a land mine.” She was continuing. I was out of beer.
“…and what kind of freak suggests military arms against a fox?”
“But it was after Toasty.” I rationalized. Besides, it was a joke. Mostly…
“So I’ve been gunning for the fox all this time. It’s hard.”
She had my sympathies. A lot of people don’t realize the advantage a predator has over a person. If a fox had to commute to work for a day job maybe things would be fairer.
“About an hour ago I got a good look at him. He had a chicken in his mouth, just trotting across the lawn. I was in the kitchen.”
Instantly I visualized the layout of her kitchen, the orientation of the windows, position of the chicken coop. Angles, vectors, sight lines… It’s uncanny. I can’t remember my zip code but I recall the angle between her kitchen and the old birch tree near her chicken coop. The mind is a wondrous thing…
“…are you listening?” She paused.
I hadn’t been listening.
“Of course I’m listening. It was near the birch tree?”
“Exactly!” She continued “so I dropped my cereal, grabbed the rifle, spilled .22 ammo everywhere, went running out the door, lost a slipper…”
Oh man! What a story. I’ve been there. Shit always goes down wrong. I never get out the door in time for a clean shot. She’d been lucky.
“I didn’t get out of the door in time for a clean shot.” She continued.
Damn it! I could see the whole story in my mind. I felt a strange urge to bolt for the door and check my chicken coop.
“So I went tearing after it.” She was talking excitedly again.
“Into the woods? Without a slipper?” I was talking excitedly too.
“Yeah! I’d had it with that little bugger.”
Ohhh… violent retribution! My favorite! “So you tracked it?” I had to know.
“No, it just trotted like 50 feet out of view. Then it sat there. Like it didn’t have a care in the world.”
Why that arrogant little chicken slaying cretin!
“So I popped my head over the rise and he wasn’t running. I took careful aim.”
I held the phone closer. Stopped breathing. I’m pretty sure I even stopped thinking about sex and bacon. I was that focused!
“Got him right between the eyes!”
Hooray! Yes! I pumped my fist in the air and did a Curmudgeonly end zone dance.
“But now I’ve got to figure out what to do with it.” She continued…