The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The marmots, the rabbit, and that little field mouse I chopped in half when I tried to catch it with one of my wife's better salad bowls

By Antonios Maltezos

We’ve had a rabbit visiting our backyard all summer long. He showed up last summer as well, but his visits then had been more spaced out, sporadic. No other family members, just the one rabbit. Unlike the freaky marmots of past years who’d crammed in under our shed like a bunch of immigrants trying to get by in the new country by splitting the rent, this guy seems to be alone. And I don’t even know if it’s a guy or a gal. My girls think it’s a she, but then they’re girls, so it’s only natural. Me, I call him a he, as in he’s back again, or stay away from the rabbit because he’ll bite you’re fingers off. We had the same problem with our budgie, Lemonade. Poor bastard was so confused in the end. And I wasn’t being racist, either, when I said the marmots of past years had crammed in under our shed like a bunch of immigrants. I was thinking of my parents beginnings in Montreal. Seems like every relative I have of that generation lived with my parents at one time or other. It’s the thing to do if you’re an immigrant. Only natural. As a small boy, I remember my father taking us kids out for a drive through his old neighborhood, telling me to look up when we arrived at the apartment they’d rented on Hutchinson Street. That window. That window. Hard as I try, all I can remember of that car ride are the rectangular red bricks, and the miserable expression on my father’s face.

It wasn’t until the great flooding of my shed, and the great marmot exodus over to my neighbor’s shed, that the rabbit started coming around. S’cuse me... one last word about the marmots. Don’t be fooled if you see only one at the outset. They employ scouts who’ll dig away from the main hole, or whatever you call it, staking out any new territory until they’re satisfied it’s safe to colonize. Then the rest of them come, uncles, aunts, cousins. You wake up one morning thinking it’d be nice to have your coffee out on the deck surrounded by that peaceful, outdoorsy kind of solitude, when you’re confronted, instead, by twelve or fifteen of them sitting up on their hind legs watching you, studying your habits, flinching in unison when you lift a butt cheek off the deck chair, their little noses reaching for your scent as they pass sonic messages to each other. It’s just a fart. It’s just a fart. YOU try fetching the rake from the shed under these circumstances. When they were at their peak numbers in our backyard, I wouldn’t even consider approaching the tin shed without first tossing a couple rocks against its side. Not that I don’t think I could take a marmot in a scrap, but I am nearing that age where one good scare could be the end of me. Plus, they’re diggers, so they must have strong claws for scratching the lower legs of we humans. Forgetaboutit! I blocked their exits with old patio stones, shoved a hose under the shed, and let the water run for half a day -- two days in a row. I’m thinking they retreated to my neighbor’s shed, and then started digging towards someone else’s yard. Good riddance!

So now we have a rabbit renting some space near the end of our yard, and that’s fine by me, even if he’s paying his rent with little brown marbles. So long as he/she keeps coming around, I know my shed must be free of marmots. It’s only natural. You can’t have two digging species living in the same yard. Trust me. I’m getting to know rabbits pretty good, and I’m already a bit of an expert on the marmots, even wrote a couple silly pieces about them, completely fortified by the subtle truths (nuances) I’d observed over the course of the last few years.

For example: You cannot stare down a marmot, or a bunny rabbit for that matter. The only way to get their attention is by throwing stuff; toys left out overnight, clothespins, or crouching and sneaking up on them ‘til you’re about five feet away. But then they exit, scurry down a hole or hop away under the fence, and you’re left feeling used. Wild creatures are impossible to catch.

Speaking of rabbit turds, I’ve heard they bring field mice. Is that true? And that these field mice running through your grass all summer long eating the rabbit turds get cold come fall/winter time. Uncanny creatures, field mice, they learn the sound of your patio doors opening and closing… so I’ve heard, and when it gets too cold outside, they hide by the patio door waiting for one of your children to leave it slightly open. Is that true, as well? I’ve also heard that two people with brooms are just as useless as one with a broom.

And that the best way to skin a bunny rabbit is by hanging it from a doorknob.

Ah, the circle of life. Sigh.

Blame the marmots!


Blogger Tricia Dower said...

You better not be skinning Thumper!

Love the immigrant analogy, Tony, and the peek into your father's life.

I don't think I've ever seen a marmot in real life. It's BC's official animal and apparently endangered. I can see why with the hose and all.

Great post. Thanks.

Sat Aug 18, 02:01:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

Hey, Tricia! The title kinda obscures your name, so if you're not really Tricia, that's okay. I thank you for stopping by just the same.

Sat Aug 18, 06:22:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger MelBell said...

Yes, marmots are endangered. In fact I've been a supporter of their recovery efforts for a number of years now out in BC. I had no idea there were so many of them in Montreal.

Sun Aug 19, 06:49:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

Crap! Am I in trouble? Okay, prepare yourself then, Melbel. According to out city people, there are so many marmots around here, the city has to lend out its cages to homeowners. They just don't have the people to set the cages and then come around checking them. We asked them what they would do with the marmots once they were caught and we'd advised. According to them, the marmots would be euthanized, compost -- no relocation for these buggers. We asked if there was something else we could do instead to make our property an uncomfortable place for them to colonize. Our backyard has always been a sanctuary for the children, and they were genuinely frightened to venture outside once the marmots started multiplying, and I mean multiplying. It was the city that recommended we flood the spaces they'd burrowed under the shed. This wouldn't hurt them since our shed was an obvious outpost. Lots of clues leading us and the city to believe this. They simply backtracked(underground) out of our yard. Never came back. And I was joking about skinning the rabbit. He/she can stay as long as he/she wants. Peace and long life to all our little marmot friends.

Sun Aug 19, 08:00:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Steve Gajadhar said...

Ottawa is crawling with marmots. I like to think of them as big gophers, which are truly a prairie epidemic. And bunnies too! Now I want to go read Watership Down again.

Tue Aug 21, 02:08:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Andrew said...

You should really write a novel set in your yard. Yards are such a North American guy thing. Loved the post!

Sat Aug 25, 09:10:00 am GMT-4  

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