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Chipmunks Care Nothing For Rules

The view from my desk drawer

Because I am busy and important, not not at all because I am lazy, I’m going to post some old travel stories I’ve written over the years. I say stories, but they were really just emails home. If I remove the opening and closing salutations no-one will be the wiser, and since I am the boss of this blog, that’s what I shall do. If you have read the stories before, I hope you’ll enjoy reading them again. If you are new, then read each story three or four times and you’ll start to get a sense of what it’s like to be my friend: endless repetition of the same stories is sort of my trademark move. You’ll love it.

This story is from the summer of 2007. I was studying for my MA at the Bread Loaf School of English, in Vermont.

My summer session at Bread Loaf is almost over, and I am working on my final paper for my Robert Frost class. It is due on Monday by 5 pm, so my weekend thus far has largely consisted of swimming in the river, doing laundry, a modest amount of work on my paper, attending a dance, going on a fruitless very late-night moose hunt, getting up and waiting outside the inn for my chronically tardy friend Jason to turn up, going with Jason to a superb breakfast of bloody marys and lobster omelette that more than made up for his chronic tardiness, coming back to have a wee nap, and waking up at 12.20 pm to find a chipmunk in my bedside drawer. My room is very small, on the third floor of an 1880s building, and has, like all the rooms, a sizeable gap between the bottom of the door and the floor. Chipmunk-sizeable, as it turns out. For the past few days one particular chipmunk has been climbing up the fire escape and entering our hall through the door just outside my room. Until this morning, I hadn’t found any evidence that my room was on his hit-list. I guess he was getting to me. I suppose I should have expecting it. His crimes have been escalating. He had started off with little darts into and out of the rooms. Then he happened upon some chocolate – some bright spark thought it would be generous to break up a bar of milk chocolate and leave it on a paper plate on the hall table. The day he discovered it, I came out of the shower just in time to see him leap off the table and nip under the door into my Russian neighbour’s room. She wasn’t home, so I enlisted the help of another neighbour, Megan, to lure the chipmunk out. We placed a piece of chocolate on the sill of the window out to the fire escape, and then watched, slack-jawed, as he sprinted out of the room and grabbed the chocolate, which was about a quarter of his size. Instead of continuing through the window to the outside world, where I was under the impression chipmunks lived, he turned and staggered off down the hall with the chocolate, dropping it and coming back for it and weaving about under its heft, like a drunk who just won a meat tray in a pub raffle. ‘What did we just do?’ I asked Megan as he careened round the corner at the end of the hall on two legs, his trophy held aloft. Now it’s very much like living with a 200-gram junkie in our midst. He will do anything for a fix. He skittles into whichever room he pleases, rootles through your stuff until he finds something good to eat, scoffs it on the spot it or lugs it out, and leaves a parting turd-shaped gesture, or a little wee. One girl taped a piece of cardboard over the gap under her door, so he chewed through it, climbed her bookshelf and ate three Reese’s Mini Peanut Butter Cups. Last night he went on a fully-fledged rampage: stealing Hershey’s kisses, running around and mooning people and crapping in their beds. Late Sunday morning not being the quietest time around here, I had earplugs in while I was napping today, so I didn’t hear the intruder enter. I was sleeping on my side, facing the bedside table, the drawer of which was halfway open, because, well, who can ever be bothered closing a drawer after they open it? Not me. I’m only going to need to open it again later, probably. I heard something rustle and opened my eyes. I’d like to think he hadn’t noticed me until that point, but I think he had. In fact he must have run over me to get onto the desk. His little head popped up from where he was trying to open a rewrapped apricot bar that I had half eaten about three weeks ago before I lapsed into diabetic shock from all the sugar. ‘Fuck off,’ I said to the chipmunk. He glared at me with bulging sugar-buzzed eyes and gave me a look that unmistakably said, ‘You fuck off. You weren’t going to eat it. Why can’t I have it? You are a mean, mean girl.’ With that, he leapt out of the drawer and hurtled back under the door. I haven’t seen him since. Later I made a sign that says ‘NO CHIPMUNKS ALLOWED’, and because he might be illiterate I drew a picture of a fat chipmunk in a red circle with a diagonal line through it. It’s taped it to the bottom of my door. I threw the apricot bar away, and I felt a bit bad. But I have some dark chocolate with espresso beans in it, so if I see him again I will offer him some. Then I will trap him in a gumboot and take him to rehab.
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