HAPLESS MALES (WE REVISIT #22)

MISTER CARTON WINS A BATTLE

Victory! Okay, it was only one battle but it was the first he’d won. When the apples got ripe the war would really heat up.

He allowed himself his temporary satisfaction. He spied, watching the squirrel do the math, calculate distance, angle of trajectory, how much weight the twig would sustain, the force of gravity: a multitude of equations from a variety of perches, the banister, the camellia, a twig overhead, and each time the answer was, can’t do it. Can’t get at the bird seed in the bird feeder.

Would his enemy give up? Could it? The squirrel had two settings, High Rev and Halt. There was no setting for Broody Melancholy. Now it was clambering branch to branch, wrapping its furry self around one branch after another, nibbling on something. The bark? That would instigate an immediate resumption of warfare.

How exhausting! Mr. Carton was ready to raise a white flag.

He grabbed his binoculars. The squirrel wasn’t nibbling the bark. With tongue (presumably) at warp-speed it was lapping up the white patches of wooly aphids colonizing the apple tree. One little sugar shack after another disappeared.   The squirrel was doing the tree, and Mr. Carton, a big favor. Mr. Carton had been planning on using a jet of water to eradicate the aphids but there was the drought and the fact of Mr. Carton’s procrastination.

What a lovely resolution to all the bitterness and conflict! Bitterness was not the state of soul in which he intended to live. But he wasn’t kidding himself. When the apples got ripe there would be war.

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