By Julia Klatt Singer
Ours looked out upon the apple tree I loved to climb, and near it, the birdfeeder my father had built specially to feed the birds and not the squirrels. He mounted it on a post, making sure it was just far enough away from the tree so that no squirrel, no matter how wily, could make the jump to it. Built the base just large enough it would be impossible to climb over. Put in Plexiglas at an angle to hold to seeds and left the narrowest of openings to make sure only bird beaks could reach inside.
But somehow there was a squirrel who managed to get himself on the ledge of it, his paw slipping in under the glass and seeds, seeds, seeds were his reward.
I didn’t understand why this irked my father so much. The way I saw it, he was living outside all winter, living in trees, trying to stay alive like the rest of us. And didn’t we have easy? Sitting at the big blue table, the light above it warming up the room, the window that let us see outside but kept us in?
So when my dad took the screen out that fall, he placed three plastic darts on the windowsill. Now let me tell you about my dad. He grew up near Wrigley Field in Chicago and his lifelong dream was to wear a Cubs uniform. He not only loved the game, he loved his losing team. He practiced throwing the ball and catching it many long summer nights on his north-side street. He practiced his signature too—after he died we found a whole shoebox of index cards that he had written his name on, Mickey Klatt. So he had a good arm. The fall prior he had thrown a baseball at a wild turkey that was clucking around in the empty lot a half block away from our house. And he came so close to hitting it, the bird got on his wings for a few seconds all a-fluster.
So yes, I knew if this squirrel decided to dine when we were, it wasn’t going to go well. I know I pleaded with my dad not to throw the dart. I prayed when he opened the window the squirrel would scurry. But of course he didn’t. Instead my dad had plenty of time to set his aim. And of course my dad hit him, right in the hind quarter.
I cried. The poor thing had been hit with a four-inch orange plastic dart. It didn’t deserve to die. And miraculously, it didn’t die. Instead it had that orange dart sticking out of it hind leg like a second tail. And of course everyone in the neighborhood knew who put that dart there. We would see him darting around with it for years.
My father put the other darts back in the basement.
And he moved to the seat in front of the window, his back, now always, to it.