A Matter of Perspective

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Twin Brother Mark scurried down the hallway and bolted into our bedroom screaming over and over, “Dad’s really mad! Hide!”

Quickly I thought about all the stuff I’d done that Saturday and realized nothing would’ve caused Dad to stomp down the hallway yelling like he was. Still, just to be safe, I hid in the closet next to Mark.

With heart pounding in my chest, I listened to Dad storming past our room and held my breath. What happened next made me realize … our Dad wasn’t smart after all.

This story is all about perspective. For example, after reading the last sentence above, some may take the point of view that growing up back on Flamingo, I believed my dad was dumb. On the contrary, being only seven at the time, I thought my parents were extremely smart.

The fact that, while hiding in our closet, I realized my dad wasn’t smart had to do with my perspective at the moment — a perspective that really wasn’t of my own making. It had come directly from Dad himself.

He had said many times, “If you can’t think of any other word to say except a cuss word, it only proves you’re not very smart.” The way Dad was cussing as he passed our room made him sound not very smart at all.

During those seven years we spent growing up on Flamingo, my archnemesis was none other than Down the Street Bully Brad. But I wasn’t the only one in our house who had an archnemesis. Dad had one too.

Dad’s archnemesis — or I should say archnemeses — were a good bit smaller than Bully Brad, but just as persistent when taunting and causing trouble.

Squirrels. My dad really disliked squirrels. And one was currently clawing its way inside the gutter over our back porch deck directly above where Dad sat to relax after a hard day of work.

“Where is it?” was the next thing I heard Dad yelling. And then, “Where’s my gun!?”

No, Dad didn’t have a real gun. He was searching for our BB rifle Santa had given us last Christmas, and two weeks later Mom and Dad had taken away. Seems it’s okay for Dad to shoot at squirrels, but we kids can’t.

When we were caught, our parents called us reckless, and our Santa BB rifle was taken away. When Dad was shooting at squirrels, he wasn’t irresponsible. He was all business. He was scaring them away from nesting in the gutters. Guess it was a matter of perspective.

For fifty years, I’d forgotten about Dad’s war on gutter-nesting squirrels. That is until last weekend when it became the source of this story.

Walking up the outside steps to the deck, I spotted a squirrel popping out the end of our gutter. It paused for a moment, looked right at me as if it was taunting, “I’m building a nest in your gutters and there’s nothing you can do about it!” Then it scurried up and over the peak of the roof surely on his way to collect more nesting materials.

The gauntlet had been thrown down, and just like Dad, the war between man and squirrel was once again on!

Unlike Dad, I don’t own a BB rifle, so I made a quick trip to our local hardware store for supplies to put an end to my unwanted house guest.

After returning home with my eradication supplies, I needed to make sure the squirrel was still out gathering nesting materials and not currently in the gutter over our deck. I poured a glass of tea, set up a chair at one corner of the deck, and sat down to enjoy the rare sunny warm day in the middle of winter. I didn’t have long to wait.

With a mouth full of twigs, Mr. Squirrel bounded down the roof, pausing just long enough to give me another stink eye before disappearing into the gutter once more.

Dad was right. Squirrels are a nuisance — just a rat with a long fuzzy tail. They build nests in your gutters that eventually clog downspouts or, even worse, slip under the shingles and build a nest inside the attic. I had to get rid of them any way possible!

Who won the war? Did I rid our gutters of Mr. Squirrel by way of a newly acquired BB rifle from the hardware store? Or did something unexpected occur to change my entire perspective on our visitor with the fuzzy gray tail?

Return here next week, Dear Reader, to find out what happened. I assure you, it’s an ending that is once in a lifetime. But then again, that would be a matter of your perspective, now wouldn’t it?

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001.]