My colleague, Mike, is furious. Mike is 58 and really overweight. When he fumes, his tummy jiggles up and down. And boy, is he liberal with the f.. word. In North America, guys lace their sentences with interesting terms directly related to female reproductive organs, reproduction, and natural selection. And food – after your intestines have completely processed and ejected it from your tail end.
Mike has an advanced degree in trajectory & ballistics. Worked as a payload specialist on the Mars Viking missions at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. If you have a near earth object bearing down on earth, he’ll tell you exactly how far from earth it’ll fly by. Very interesting guy. (But then, who isn’t?)
I couldn’t stand his huffing and puffing and finally, at the lunch table, I had to ask what was bugging him.
“Got a f….g groundhog unner my shack, Spunky. Fat f…..g sunavagun. Made this big f….g hole in the ground, right under.”
A shack, by the way, is like an outhouse. Normally located at the far corner of the backyard, next to the fence, under the phone wires. In there, you stow your gardening tools, lawn mower, winter tires, fertilizers, paints and other knick knacks you don’t want to have, lying around the house. Interesting DVDs go in there too, sometimes, so children can’t get to them. If you’re a serial killing psychopath, it’s a nice place to store severed heads. And if you’re a teenager bringing your girlfriend home, you’ll find that the space behind the shack, where the grass is a wee bit taller, meets your ..um…needs quite nicely, even though the blades of grass might tickle you there a bit.
“How did he manage to get through your fence?”
Exasperation. This time at my ignorance. “The f…ers actually make two holes. First they go vertically down around 4/5 feet, then they go horizontal for a distance of their choosin’, normally around five or six feet, enough to get across your fence. And then up again on the other side. Smart m…f….ers.”
“Is there no way to catch him, flush him out or something? A bear trap maybe? Better still, drop a couple of firecrackers down the hole?”
He looks at me like I need a straight-jacket. “A bear trap! Firecrackers! Hey, Pierrette,” he hollers at the counter girl,” Did you hear what Spunky just said. You’re a piece of work, I tell ya, Spunky!” He guffaws, his tummy breaking into the samba. “Look, I don’t wanna kill ‘im. Groundhogs are harmless. Louise, me ol’ lady, thinks they’re plump and cute, like. She’s named this one Mike.”
“Then, why does Mike bother you so much, Mike?”
“He’s a pain in the ass, that’s why. Craps all over the shack, f’Christ’s sakes.”
“Cackle, cackle,” that was Thelma, from Material Handling & Robotics. Thelma does not actually change expression or laugh, giggle, grin, chuckle, or even snicker. She always has that seen-it-all look. So, when she finds something funny, instead of actually laughing, she finds it easier to just say,’Snicker, snicker’ or ‘giggle, giggle’ with a dead-pan stare.
I persist, “But surely, Mike, there must be some way to get rid of the blighter.”
“Last weekend, I placed a huge rock over the hole, blockin’ it completely. The m….f….er was watchin’ me from a distance, across the Shackletons’ fence. He was weavin’ his head from side to side. Like, ‘Oh yeah? That’s it? Think that’ll stop me, butthead? Watch this!’ Then the sumbitch digs his long claws into the earth and wirrrr, he’s disappeared below. Soon he pops up through ‘nother f….in’ hole. Jesus!”
“Maybe you could bore him to death with that stale groundhog tongue twister. How much ground can a groundhog grind if a groundhog could grind ground.”
‘But then again, he could be brought in and trained, to welcome in the summer, fall and winter too.” (In Canada, ‘Groundhog Day’ is the day when the first groundhog is sited above ground, after winter, anywhere across the country. This year it was first spotted in Stony Mountain, Manitoba. It signifies the onset of spring).
(The last two above were suggestions from around the table).
“Sniggle, sniggle”, Thelma again and that’s a cross between a snicker and a giggle.
“Come on, guys, get real. Mike here has a problem, OK? Mike, listen, try some Chilean red wine on him. Leave it in a bowl, next to his hole,” Jerry is always ready with advice, though he normally likes to restrict it to sex. There must be some underlying link between aerospace engineering and sex. Like Howard Hughes and the Jane Russell bra.
A week after Jerry’s advice sank in, I bumped into Mike on his way out after work. There was this spring in his gait. “Did you try the wine on Mike, Mike?” I fell in line with his waddling figure.
“Oh yeah, oh yeah, boy oh boy. Did it f….in’ work! Hah!”
I’d have left it there, had I not met Louise at the grocery the next day.
“Hi, Louise, how’s it goin’? How’s Mike?”
At that, Louise burst into tears. “He’s been so strange since the past week, Spunky. Disappears into his precious little shack, days at a time. And comes out drunk. I don’t know what to do.”
“Did you hear him say anything at all, while in there?” concern writ large, on my face.
“Yes”, she paused, ” Last night I went and put my ear to the wall of the shack while he was in there. All I heard was- Gluggle Gluggle. Hey, leave the last one for me, Groundeepoo.”