jayellebee's Blog

November 19, 2010

One Woman’s Folly

Filed under: Published Pieces — Joanne @ 6:26 pm

(I am excited to report this essay is included in West Winds Centennial, “A collection of stories, essays, and poems by the California Writers Club.”  The club has published only five anthologies in its one hundred year existence.  West Winds is available through Amazon, the ISBN is 978-0-9829584-0-7.)

  Every neighborhood has one, the quirky individual we all recognize but nobody knows by name.  The introvert tending crated specimen roses in a yard awash with knee-deep weeds.  The angular young man whose Birkenstocks carry him along the same path, year after year, walking with determination if not destination.  The frail lady bellowing expletives at her television through open windows in the heat of summer.

     I am at ease with these eccentrics.  I am one of them.  I am the graying woman with the black dog.

     My patient lab sits motionless except for her quivering nose, staring into the branches of an elegant oak.  Our heads, the dog’s and mine, are cocked at identical angles.  We ignore all that surrounds us.  Time is of no importance.  You scan the treetops as you pass, self-conscious at being drawn into our nonsense.

     My life and yours have much in common.  We both eat and sleep.  We do chores and receive mail.  We might even read the same books and share opinions.  Could the difference between us come down to imagination?  Possibly, I am the more willing of the two of us to indulge in whimsy.

     I like to imagine, for example, what my dog is thinking.  No small measure of personification enters into these musings.  Why, I wonder, are some things important to her and not others?  How does she decide whom to love and what to fear?  Does she make up her mind when to come and when to ignore my call?

     This mutt of mine is a rescue dog.  Having avoided death by mere hours, she trusts me to see to her needs.  Food, shelter, and hygiene are of no concern.  She invests her energy in more important pursuits.  Squirrels rank high on her list.

     Squirrels:  Cute little animals with fluffy tails and nimble fingers; acrobats performing high above speeding traffic on overhead wires; industrious workers sowing acorns in flower beds and planters.  Even the most casual observer is aware of these creatures.

     My fury friend gives me the opportunity to notice more.  The dog heeling on my left lives for her walks.  Each lap around our neighborhood is charged with anticipation.  She tugs at the leash as we approach favored areas.  How many squirrels will we see today?  Will we meet the one who doesn’t get away?

     My precious pet delights in dispatching ground squirrels into the trees.  Most are content to stare back at us from an elevated limb.  They recline on a branch or cling, legs-splayed-head-down-tail-up to the trunk, meditating.  But there are a special few who cannot afford the luxury of practicing yoga in the wild as they await our departure.  They have things to do, places to be.  I imagine these squirrels star in my dog’s dreams.

     With a limp leash dangling between the stealthy hunter and me, I witness a restless squirrel kept unwillingly aloft communicating his displeasure to the canine.  Miniature paws beat cadence on a branch.  “Go away,” he signals.  “Go away.  Go away.”

     The dog’s tilted head reveals a neat row of incisors punctuated with glistening fangs.  Not quite a smile.  More like an idling shredder.

     The captive flicks his tail at her like a matador’s cape.  “I’m not afraid of you.”

     “You should be,” she thinks. A dollop of drool escapes her lips.

     The squirrel’s bark-like vocalizations berate her.  “Shoo, shoo,” he shouts.

     “Not of your life,” is her telepathic message to him.

     The determined squirrel tries to outwit us.  He rounds the far side of the tree trunk and spirals down toward the ground.  My dog and I accept the challenge.  We run around the tree in the opposite direction, cutting off his escape.  Foiled, the squirrel feigns a dash for the safety of a higher perch, then bolts through the fork where the trunk divides in two.  We aren’t taken in and arrive in time to parry again.

     The desperate squirrel leaps from branch to wire, wire to roof top, roof top to fence.

     “Who do you think you are,” my pets asks, “Rocky the Flying Squirrel?”

     “Rocket J. Squirrel to you,” he counters.  “Catch me if you can.”

     We shadow every move, sprinting along sidewalks to keep pace.  The fugitive is joined by his comrade.  Bullwinkle, I presume.  Together they employ divide-and-conquer tactics.  We can’t follow them both.  Our attention fractures.  The squirrels disappear in opposite directions.

     We’ve lost another round but my companion is far from despondent.  She trots off, tail wagging, in search of her next worthy opponent.  The game goes on.

     Am I eccentric because I join my dog as she chases her dreams?  Perhaps.  But in a world overflowing with struggles, heartache, and despair, what’s wrong with brief flights of fantasy?  There will always be time enough for reality.  Tomorrow, I may order a specialty rose.  Or take a hike to nowhere.  I may even argue with the tube.  But if I do, I’ll keep my windows shut.  I’m not that crazy.



  1. Congratulations on your publication in the anthology! I read this essay there, and again here, and enjoyed it both times. You and Shadow seem absolutely normal; the squirrel, on the other hand, is questionable….


    Comment by Ann Damaschino — November 19, 2010 @ 9:23 pm | Reply

  2. A wonderful piece! Since Boomer’s not around to chase squirrels any more, Bob has to fill in, and he tore a muscle doing it. Congratulations on being published!

    Comment by Donna — November 20, 2010 @ 12:14 pm | Reply

  3. What a lovely, lyrical meandering of Shadow and her mistress. I am enchanted, Joanne.

    Comment by Jean G — November 25, 2010 @ 12:31 am | Reply

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