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Stumbling across one of these little bastards nibbling away at the phlox in my garden last evening, I have every red-in-tooth-and-claw sympathy for this poem:


Gassing the woodchucks didn’t turn out right.
The knockout bomb from the Feed and Grain Exchange
was featured as merciful, quick at the bone
and the case we had against them was airtight,
both exits shoehorned shut with puddingstone,
but they had a sub-sub-basement out of range.Next morning they turned up again, no worse
for the cyanide than we for our cigarettes
and state-store Scotch, all of us up to scratch.
They brought down the marigolds as a matter of course
and then took over the vegetable patch
nipping the broccoli shoots, beheading the carrots.

The food from our mouths, I said, righteously thrillingbr>
to the feel of the .22, the bullets’ neat noses.
I, a lapsed pacifist fallen from grace
puffed with Darwinian pieties for killing,
now drew a bead on the little woodchuck’s face.
He died down in the everbearing roses.

Ten minutes later I dropped the mother.  She
flipflopped in the air and fell, her needle teeth
still hooked in a leaf of early Swiss chard.
Another baby next. O one-two-three
the murderer inside me rose up hard,
the hawkeye killer came on stage forthwith.

There’s one chuck left. Old wily fellow, he keeps
me cocked and ready day after day after day.
All night I hunt his humped-up form.  I dream
I sight along the barrel in my sleep.
If only they’d all consented to die unseen
gassed underground the quiet Nazi way.


–Maxine Kumin

Alas, I had neither gas bomb nor pellet gun, but only a stick.  I chased the furry little cuss about a bit, for some reason imitating a bear, until he got to his bolt hole under the fence and scarpered.  I’ve seen the signs for some time now, various carefully-selected plants razed to the level of about two feet or so.  I was puzzled at first – the damage was too high to be caused by rabbits, and I couldn’t see any sign of deer getting in.  Now, alas, I have all the evidence I need. 

 When we were visiting the Mothe up in Maine, I came this close to sneaking Dad’s old BB gun into our luggage for the return trip.  It was only a last second vision of the trouble Mrs. R would cause about it upon eventual discovery that stopped me from carrying through.  I wish now that I had been of firmer resolve.  How on earth I’m going to fortify the garden against these pests with anything short of a ten-foot-deep moat full of piranhas is beyond me at the moment.

Yes, this evening Mrs. R and I attended a performance of “Jerry Springer: The Opera”.

Well, now.

The “plot”, in case you’re interested, is that Jerry, after hosting a typical program of abject misfits, is gunned down by his warm-up guy because WUG has just been fired for letting the show’s crowds get too rowdy.  Jerry wakes up in hell, where Satan demands that he host a “show” in which he, Jerry, should attempt to reconcile Satan, God, Jesus, Mary and Adam & Eve.  When they’re all out on stage, a typical Jerry-style fight breaks out, which only Jerry, having realized What He Had Done In His Life, could resolve.  And would you like to know what the moral is in the end (I hope you’re sitting down)?  There is no Good or Bad, only Choices! And if everyone chooses to respect everyone else’s Choices, we can all live in Harmony!

Dayum is that deep!  Or, as one of the choruses of the show might put it, f*ckity, f*ckity, f*ck is that f*ckity deep!

Once we had said goodnight to our hosts, Mrs. R asked me if I had been offended.  “Not really,” I replied, “The truth is that the whole business was so utterly infantile that the question of offensiveness almost didn’t apply.”  I suppose that everyone involved thought that they were being wicked clever with their potty-mouths, their cross-dressing and their mockery.  But as I said in my previous post on the subject, so does a 3-year old.

As I sat down to think about it all, however, some recollection kept tugging at my brain, some parallel of evil employing childishness.  Then suddenly I remembered: In C.S. Lewis’s Perelandra, the hero Ransom must face up against the Devil (in possession of the body of Ransom’s arch-enemy Weston).  Weston torments Ransom in part with a seemingly never-ending series of mindless children’s tricks.

Well, Ransom had to endure days upon end of ceaseless vigilance.  Fortunately, I only had to listen to it for a couple hours, and even then, the fate of the world did not hinge upon my paying attention.

(Oh, btw, for what it’s worth, the “music” was a load of fetid dingo’s kidneys.)

Needless to say, I did not clap, even though most of the rest of the audience did so rayther enthusiastically.  As someone remarked of a particularly foolish horse-buyer in one of the Irish R.M. stories, “Faith, he’s aisy plaised!” 



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August 2008