Having only had six of them, Edward realizes he is hardly an expert on summer. But this particular summer, being the hottest he has lived through in his short time here on earth, must surely have been one for the record books. The owls have told him that indeed it is so and known as they are for their wisdom, who is he, mere youngster that he is, to doubt them?
He does know that his walks have not exactly been pleasant at any time of the day for many weeks now. In fact, so unpleasant have they been, he has ceased to request them, preferring instead to play ball with the lady down the hallways of the cool and comfortable house. Although usually loathe to complain, he has even, on occasion, been rather expressive of his ennui by indulging in a few whinges and sighs - a few longing stares out the window, a few vociferous over-reactions to the neighbourhood squirrels.
But he is blessed with an unflagging optimism, and so has continued to bound out of the door early each morning, expecting the weather to have come to its senses and changed back to the crispness of autumn - hoping for wind and longing for cold. And he has been decidedly disappointed every morning for weeks.
So it was with a general lack of enthusiasm that he led the way out into the back garden on a still hot afternoon just this past week. He joined his friend, Apple, in poking around the old climbing rose bush, trudging through the ivy that lines the side fence, and sniffing the birdbath to check for any evidence of his nocturnal nemesis, the bandit raccoon. Fairly routine stuff, really.
Then, just as he heard Apple push open the back door to return to the house, he saw it. That most infuriating rogue of the garden.
The cockiest, sassiest, most impossible to catch pests of all time.
The dreaded chipmunk.
Without warning, it sprang from the ivy and ran like light towards the house, looking left and right so fast it appeared simultaneous. Then it scooted straight up the downspout at the end of the cottage.
The nerve of the thing! And right under Edward’s very nose.
Edward froze for a millisecond, then tore after the creature with all the force he could muster, sliding into the downspout like home base, and cramming his furry white face as far up the spout as he felt it was prudent to go.
And there, tail spinning like a top, he waited.
He heard the back door close. He knew the lady thought he had followed his friend back inside the cool house. She would imagine he was back in his spot underneath the piano, or perhaps curled up in his favourite red chair.
She wouldn’t feel the need to search for him yet.
So he was on his own, on the job, waiting patiently by the downspout, determined to never again allow that blasted striped chipmunk to freely scamper along in the bright light of day.
At least not in His Garden.
Edward burrowed his tummy down even deeper into the bed of old leaves at the base of the pipe, to give himself a better view. Every now and then he smacked the downspout with his paw, sending a strange hollow thud reverberating through the back rooms of the cottage and, he hoped, relaying clear signals to the wretched rascal trapped up inside that this time he’d been pushed too far. Lost in her own work, the lady paid no attention to the odd bangings and thumps. But later in the afternoon, she missed him. Edward could hear her, faintly, going from room to room, calling his name.
What a conundrum he now faced.
It was cool in the house. There were treats in there, too.
It was past time for his nap.
He heard the lady call his name once again.
He began to think.
Surely, this chipmunk had learned its lesson. Surely, surely, the thing would never return to this garden. In fact, Edward reasoned, it might be better to let the chap live. After all, in surviving such an ordeal, it could perhaps spread the word throughout the community of chipmunks, so that all would know of Edward’s fervent commitment to their permanent banishment from his particular corner of the earth.
Yes, that would be the best, the wisest, move by far.
He was satisfied.
His work here was done.
So it was, when the lady opened the door to the garden, her worried gaze was met by the bounding white dog, covered with the leaves of last season, paws muddy, fur mussed, with his furry face cracked open by the world’s happiest grin. It was a grin that remained fixed on that sunshiny face all the long day, even during the depths of his afternoon nap, which he justifiably felt was well and truly earned.
Everybody needs meaningful work to be happy.
And Edward was. Happy.
“A mind always employed is always happy.
This is the true secret, the grand recipe, for felicity.”