The Squirrel Catapult

Squirrel CatapultI used to think squirrels were cute. But when a bushy-tailed rodent scares the birds away from my feeder, rips the bottom out of my finch seed sack, and all but flips me the finger when I knock on the window to scare it away, said rodent is no longer cute. It is intolerable. And it is just asking for it. So after seeing some clips of squirrel catapults on YouTube, I thought I'd make one of my own. It's a modest affair, as is necessary given the limited space on my third-floor balcony. But while it hasn't produced the graceful, long-distance trajectory of some of the larger models--getting it to do so will require experimentation--I'm satisfied that it works fine. So far one squirrel that came here for sunflower seed has left in a way calculated to thoroughly astonish, and its ratty little mind is no doubt still trying to comprehend the experience. It was supremely gratifying to pull the  cord and watch the little monster go flipping butt-over-beady-eyeballs toward the snow. I have yet to acquaint more of the local squirrels with my contraption. The bushytail supply isn't likely to run short, and what's particularly nice about a squirrel catapult is that, coaxed by a handful of sunflower seeds in the basket, the ordnance loads itself.

Life with My Lapse

A few minutes ago, Lisa walked into the living room holding a loaf of my favorite bread, Brownberry Oat Nut, and asked me if I had intentionally put it in the cupboard instead of the refrigerator. Now, bread could conceivably go in the cupboard, but around here, it goes in the refrigerator. That's just how it is, and the presence of bread in less breadish habitats--the silverware drawer, for instance, or the dishwasher--attracts notice much as my spleen would if it were dangling from my shirt pocket. Judging from Lisa's grin, I could tell she thought I had experienced a momentary lapse. Of course I set her straight. There is nothing momentary about my lapse. I've had fifty-six years to cultivate it, and it has settled in about as permanently and comfortably as a lapse possibly can. Sometimes I resent the ease with which it has done so. It strikes me as arrogant. "You're pretty damn presumptuous for a lapse," I say to it. My lapse, being intangible, makes no reply. But I know what it's thinking: What would you do without me? What indeed? For all its inconveniences, my lapse nevertheless provides me with cheap entertainment, and in endless varieties too. Example: I knock on the door to Lisa's room, walk in, and smile at her.  She looks at me quizzically. "Yes?" Good question. "Yes?" in this case means, "Is there something you want?" and in fact there is. I just have forgotten what. Why did I come in here? My brain sets out in futile pursuit of an answer while the rest of me strives to look like something other than a poster child for early dementia. "How's your day going?" I ask. Lis looks at me curiously for a second, then goes back to working on her website. Silence is the better part of discretion, and Lis is a discrete woman. I slink out of the room. Example: On my drive home from church, the thought crosses my mind: Eggs. I need to get eggs. The D & W is located conveniently along the way. I pull into the parking lot and head inside toward the dairy department. Whoa, there's the beer section. Gotta have beer. I snag a six-pack of Mad Hatter IPA off the shelf. Okay now, back on task. What was I after? Oh yeah, eggs. And now that I think of it, bread. I'm almost out of Oat Nut. I'll just snatch a loaf. And while I'm at it, peanut butter. And there's summer sausage--that would be droolish. And a Coke Zero for Lisa. She loves Coke Zero. Hmmm, maybe I'd better grab a cart. I return home with three bags of groceries, feeling good. The mighty hunter has brought home the kill. I have beer. I have bread. I have ground beef, ham, split peas, chili beans, peanut butter, summer sausage, a big block of extra-sharp cheddar cheese (on sale for just six bucks), potatoes, onions, Coke Zero, assorted frozen vegetables, yogurt, popcorn, kimchee, mustard, milk, and two kinds of olives, black for Lisa and green for me. The next morning, Lis calls to me from the kitchen. "We're out of eggs," she says. Example: It has been a long day and I am really looking forward to spending some time with my saxophone. Have I mentioned that I like to practice my sax in my car out by the railroad tracks, where I can watch the trains go by? No? Well, now you know. So I head out the door of my apartment, music in hand, and halfway down the stairs, I realize that I forgot my cell phone. That will never do. I go back upstairs and grab it, then head back down. I'm nearly to my car when I remember: Nuts, I left that check I was going to deposit at the ATM on my desk.  Back up the three flights of stairs I tromp. Inside the apartment, Lis hears my key in the lock but says nothing, merely snickers. She knows this ritual from frequent repetition. Check in hand, I do a quick inventory to make sure I haven't forgotten anything else. Driver's license? Got it. Credit card? Yep. Brain? Seems to be in place. Down the stairs I go once again, and to the car, and now I am finally on the road. I pull up to the ATM, deposit my check, then drive the ten miles to my favorite spot by the tracks and park my car. Time at last for some serious sax practice. I am so looking forward to this. I reach into the back seat for . . . My horn. Where is my horn? Congratulations, lapse, you've scored again. This time has got to be worth at least twenty points. This, my friends, is life after fifty. For me, it has also been life after forty, and thirty, and twenty, and birth, but I'll just concern myself with fifty. My hair is graying and my splendid physique shows signs of wear, but my lapse is growing increasingly robust. That is good. We have had a long association, my lapse and I, and I am glad to see that at least one of us is thriving. I just wish it were me. Okay, enough of this nonsense. Time for me to get the rest of my day cracking. I have things to do. Now if I can just remember what they are. . . .