By DAVID JOHNSON
THERE’S A KNOCK on the door this afternoon.
My kindly Italian heritage neighbour, holding the continuously quivering palm-size poodle named Missy, is at the door and she says; “A marmot just crawled into the engine compartment of your car.”
Knowing full well that a fully grown marmot could shred this quivering black ball of a Missy, with half its fat tied behind its back, but could make quite a munch of the wires within the engine bay … I decide it’s hero time.
Avengers … Unite.
I get the car keys, open the hood, and quite right … this rather indignant looking indigenous Marmota genus creature with teeth, looks up at me from a position buried below in the lower half of the bay.
“Your gonna lose this one buddy … I have an active pre-frontal cortex on my side,” I say out loud.
The neighbour glances at me … and backs away from both of us … suddenly not sure just where the danger lies.
Missy barks once.
I deliver the most intimidating ole western movie “whoosh … off wid ya yer varmit” I could muster with waving arms, with mixed feelings as to whether this furry example of nature’s beauty should be hugged or shot.
He looked at me for a moment before he decided that his instinct to hide, was overriding his instinct to kill, and he buried himself deeper into the compartment. Now … I know when to stand back and realize what I’m seeing; in this case it’s a rodent larger than an obese cat, that honestly thinks that if it hides its head … it’s actually out of sight.
I almost reached in and swatted its behind to prove this, but was immediately provided with an image of the killer bunny in Monty Python’s Holy Grail, and decided I was no knight in shiny armour, but an urban 21st century baritone, with more interest in my Facebook profile than hand to hand combat skills and such actual flesh on fur battles were destined for those braver than I, so I backed away from the car and retrieved a sturdy rake leaning up at the side of the house.
I took a moment to scope out the variables with bringing what could be termed as a weapon into the situation. I definitely, absolutely had no desire to harm the little … guy … wait, I don’t even know if it’s a male or female. OK … first off, I decided that for the duration of our encounter, and due to a decided lack of sexting skills for over-sized rodents on my part … I had a boy on my hands here.
It really was a flip of the coin type decision.
Furthermore, I resolved and planned to use the pole end of the rake as a gentle nudging tool, with the aim to make residence in my engine bay a non option by annoyance and mild discomfort.
Appreciating the 24-hour news cycle, social media pervasiveness and the SPCA’s predilection towards publicizing their successes … but more importantly the firm belief that he has as much right to live in this world as I do … I hyper-focussed my intent behind one concept … eviction without harm.
Now suitably armed to the teeth and a declaration for combat, I initiated my attack. Using words and tone likely only decipherable by our ancestors from the agricultural revolution, I very gingerly poked at my prey with the butt end of the rake, until he decided that I knew more curse words than he did, and to show how impressed he was, he dropped onto the ground under the car.
I instantly dropped to my knees and growled like a police dog, and tentatively poked at him with the trusty pole clutched in my hands. His eyes flew open, and his tree-bark gnawing incisors gleaned in the sunlight. It was a standoff.
I suddenly realised that my wooden rake pole was not really a weapon in his eyes … but food.
I redoubled my efforts, and with a ‘You-git-the-hell-outa-that-thar” I wiggled, nudged and parried.
That must have been more than he could handle, as he turned around and flew across the driveway and straight under, and up into the engine compartment of the neighbour’s car …
you know. the one watching with Missy the killer poodle in her arms.
I sat back on my knees and pondered the moment.
That is not my car.
This is not my problem.
I could just walk away.
I could tell others of my triumph.
I could hang up my rake of death with pride.
I have defended…
“Oh, no,” I hear behind me.
Occasionally in life you’re met with a moment of decision, whether you should walk away from a challenge … when it’s not really yours to take on. Has apathy trained us … to just not care?
We all read the newspaper, or watch the television and we learn about all the things that we don’t have any direct control of, like wars in far away places, or the consequences of religious extremism.
We also learn of events we could actually do something about: If we truly wanted to, we could end homelessness in our home town … if we had the will. We could stop … well, at least … slow … the warming of our planet, by following thru on the choices we know we could make.
Do you start composting, do you reach out to a homeless person … do you go out of your way at all … or do you just pick up the remote and change the channel? Are we THAT pre programmed … because of wars, famine and planet and community wide homelessness … that because we can’t change the world, we can’t change anything at all, in our world?
Have we taught ourselves to believe that if we can’t get around to fixing the environment … that we shouldn’t be bothered to deal with the marmots in our life?
I think of this as I consider the marmot under her car. I feel the guilt of my programming, telling me to walk away … it’s not my problem. I think of moments in my own past when other people walked away from my problems, rather than just give a moment of themselves … a moment of their time.
Today, I will not walk away.
Today I will care.
Today the marmot, tomorrow world hunger …
Ok, maybe not, but today I can make a small difference … to someone.
I re-adjust my grip on my wooden sword that is more grass tool than weapon, and leap to this maiden’s defense.
This is one person who today … today … needs ME.
I dive under her car and carefully and gently stick the pole end of the rake up into the engine bay. Down he jumps landing two feet from my face. The next decision is his … he has the higher ground. Thankfully, he spins on his fat and takes off in the other direction.
We watched from where we were, as he zigged and zagged across the further neighbour’s lawn and dived under a bush. Missy picked this moment to let out a single “yap,” obviously trying to steal victory from me. This isn’t your moment, Missy, today I am YOUR hero.
We watched him for a moment, the chivalrous knight bent on changing the world, the maiden in distress, Missy happy to be trapped in her arms, as I felt the success of battle. I turned, stood the rake up against the house, walked up the sidewalk to the house, and just managed to open the screen door when I heard behind me … “he’s back under your car.”
I stared at my front door, wondering not just how fast he must have sprinted to get back there so quickly, but also what was with MY car, that attracted wildlife today? Without looking ahead, I stoically returned to the rake, placed my palm on the pole and slowly wrapped my fingers around it.
Bruce Lee would have been proud, and possibly afraid.
This four-legged Marmota was trying to make a fool of my decision to actually follow thru, to do that little task for someone, to help them thru their day. And now … HE’S BACK UNDER MY CAR. NOT GOING TO HAPPEN … NOT TODAY.
I walked past the maiden and Missy without looking at them.
“Oh my,” she said as she backed away, shielding Missy’s view from the bloody onslaught to occur.
I didn’t actually look under the car to again face my foe; I didn’t need to. I knew where my enemy lay … and TODAY … today … I will smote his ruin down the mountainside … or at least make him run away.
With the expertise of a seasoned warrior, I launched, reacted, blocked, parried and gently poked.
After this latest attack, he must have finally realized he had taken on the wrong car and he scampered across the quiet street and stood there by the front door of a neighbour’s house, watching to see if I was going to lob a hand grenade or call in an arial bombardment.
Satisfied that he would survive this encounter after all, he sat back on his haunches and cleaned himself like a cat. At that moment, the neighbour from the house he chose for his personal hygiene moment, opens the door with her elderly mother, ready for their afternoon outing.
Grandma takes one look at the marmot and quietly says “shoo.”
Well, that must have been the Freddy Kruger moment for him, because he turned and sped across the lawns down the street, past the stop sign and off into the afternoon sun, as if she had invoked the Marmot consuming demon incantation itself.
I sheepishly leaned the rake against the house. Grandmothers have the real power.
The rake is still poised against the house, by the door in case the marmot … or some other world issue … might crop up, requiring its use. Missy is safe inside where she belongs, and somewhere there is a marmot sitting around his family’s dinner table saying, “You’ll never guess what happened to me today.”
I will retire tonight remembering that it really wasn’t that hard … to reach out … to make something better; famine, homelessness, climate change and even wars, all can be solved with the same intent needed to evict a marmot. A decision and a mindset to succeed.
In the end, nothing is unfixable … with a good rake.
David Johnson is a Kamloops resident, community volunteer and self described maven of all things Canadian.