By JEFF PICKELL
As rambunctious and well-meaning as she is, Darla the dog is not a good sentry.
Don’t get me wrong. She’s just a little froofy dog, a Bichon poodle who sleeps (“night night nappers” in Darla speak) in a blanket-covered cage near my Mom. I don’t expect her to chase off cat burglars. I don’t expect her to keep other dogs off our property. I don’t even expect her to not piddle on the carpet.
I do, however, expect her to work the morning patrol, the 6 a.m to 10 a.m. shift. The chipmunk beat, as I call it.
I don’t like chipmunks. Chipmunks are what alarm clocks would be if alarm clocks were furry, mobile and vindictive. Alarm clocks are obnoxious, but they are honorable about it. Before you go to sleep, you make arrangements with an alarm clock. It rouses you at an agreed upon hour, you smash it with a hammer, then you go back to sleep.
But have you ever tried to smash a chipmunk with a hammer? I have. Several times. It’s not easy. It also hasn’t done much for my already threadbare reputation to be spotted chasing a rodent down the street in my pajamas, shouting threats of bludgeoning death in the early morning hours.
If you’d suspend your judgment for another few inches of print space, I’ll explain. Chipmunks are sinister. They lie in wait outside my window with their ears perked, waiting for the sound of my breathing to hit that perfect pitch, the sign that I’ve achieved a most pleasurable level of sleeping comfort.
Then they let loose: chirp chirp chirp chirp chirp chirp chirp chirp. And wake me up. No matter how much window banging I do, no matter how much shouting, they don’t stop.
Some of you might say, “Jeff, you’re crazy. Chipmunks don’t make noises.”
To which I’d reply, “If it’s taken you this many of my columns to realize I’m crazy, then you’re crazy.”
After which, some of you might say, “Jeff, we’re not here. We’re hypothetical people. You made us up.”
And then I’d say, “Oh. Shut up. Jerks.”
You have to believe me. Chipmunks chirp. Look it up on the internet. If you don’t think chipmunks chirp, it’s probably because you have a dog who does his job and chases the little buggers off.
That’s how it was for me. I had no idea chipmunks made noise until after my childhood dog, Bridget, passed away. Bridget lived to the ripe old age of 15 (40 gajillion in dog years), and even in the blindness and deafness and screen-door-running-into-ness of her final days, the chipmunks lived in fear of her.
Bridget knew her duty. Every morning, at the crack of dawn, just after Mom got up, she would scratch at the door, waiting to be let out, eager to terrorize those flea-bitten varmints.
Darla, too, rises with Mom. She also scratches at the door. But it’s the wrong door. It’s my door. And when, in my sleepy daze, I open it up to shoo her away, she scampers between my legs, up onto my bed, and under my covers.
“Darla! What are you doing!” I implore her. “This isn’t time for night night nappers!”
Darla wags her nubbin of a tail and rolls around in the tangle of sheets and blankets.
“You just had a night night nappers!” I yell. “Now get out there and mertilate those chirping chipmunks! Kill, Darla! Kill! I demand horrifying mutilation and death!”
Darla snores. I snuggle next to her and try to get some sleep. The chipmunks begin chirping. Darla snores louder. I waver between hanging myself by my belt and making a turkey and salami sandwich. The sandwich always wins out. Salami is hard to come by in the afterlife, so I hear. Well, at least the afterlife I’m headed to.
The severe lack of sleep I get at my parents’ house has yielded one positive outcome, though. By the time I get back to Morenci on Sunday night I’m so dog-tired and sleep deprived that I pass out at 8 p.m., enjoying several wonderful hours of sleep.
That is, until around two in the morning, when the water heater in the next room comes alive with an immense whoosh and the clankclank clank clankaclankclank clonk clonk-ing begins.
No matter how many times I smash that darn thing with a hammer, it just won’t shut up.– March 8, 2006