This past Saturday Mike and I were in the game room both reading quietly. It was fairly early in the morning, 9 or 10-ish I think. We were both absorbed in our respective stories so it took a little while to realize we were hearing a sound: an intermittent but insistent tapping. We weren’t sure where it was coming from. I opened the blinds to the backyard but we still couldn’t see anything. So we shrugged it off and returned to reading.
Then Mike saw the culprit: a flicker! It was clinging to the side of the house that our back yard faces and drilling away with mad abandon.
This house is owned by an older gentleman by the name of Jim. He introduced himself from across the fence when we first moved in. He gave us helpful tips like “This is a good neighborhood, there aren’t too many Mexicans” in that casual racist way that makes you inwardly cringe but you just excuse because the speaker is so goddamned old. He’s a veteran, though I forget for which war (1812? I dunno). From the moment he was out of earshot I called him “Toothless Jim”. I probably don’t have to explain that nickname. I live in constant fear that one day I will call him “Toothless Jim” to his toothless face.
He loves to work on his garden. On hot summer days, he terrifyingly transforms into “Shirtless Jim”. Probably don’t have to explain that one either.
So back to this past Saturday. The flicker is pounding away doing its woodpecker thing. A hole is already well in-progress. There’s another flicker watching from the rooftop. “Awww,” Mike and I say to each other.
Then it occurs to us that if it was our house the bird was tunneling into, it probably wouldn’t be so cute. Since it was possible that Toothless Jim didn’t actually know it was happening (I don’t know how good his hearing is), Mike went over to give him the heads up. Turns out Toothless Jim wasn’t home but our conscience was assuaged for the moment, so we went back to “aww”ing at the bird for a little bit before returning to reading.
Then we went out for many many hours. Upon our return home, Mike saw that Toothless Jim had discovered the problem for himself. Jim’s solution? He nailed up a plank of wood. Not just any plank though, like you might run down and pick up at Home Depot. This was stained and actually looked quite nice. You know, for a wood plank. In my head, I’ve decided that Jim saw the flicker and in some kind of wartime flashback he went all Captain Willard on an end table and salvaged the scraps.
So you’d think that’s the end of the story, right?
Well the next morning we got up and sure enough, there was that tapping sound again. The flicker, seemingly thwarted by the wood plank (kind of an unusual thought for a woodpecker, but maybe they don’t like mahogany), simply moved three inches to the left and was making a brand new hole. And this sucker was big. Very nearly big enough for Mr. and Mrs. Flicker to move in.
We had another big day ahead of us however, so didn’t linger. Once again we were out until evening. And when we got home I saw the greatest thing ever.
The new hole had been covered. But not by another piece of wood or anything so mundane. Oh no.
Is that a..? No, it can’t be.
Toothless Jim has chosen to cover this not insignificant bird-sized hole with a cute cat picture. I would’ve loved to be part of that thought process.
“Damned woodpeckers, peckin’ my wood! I gotta cover this sumbitch, but how? I already destroyed m’best bit o’ furniture for the last hole! What else I got in here? Weather stripping? Not enough. Blanket? Still too cold. T-shirt? Best keep it so I can pull it off next month, the neighbors love that. Wait, what’s this? A newspaper-thin 10×10 cute cat picture? Perfect.”
Why, out of everything else available in the entire world, was this his first, best choice? Did he further rationalize it by the idea that, being a bird, the flicker would be afraid of the cat in the picture and thus stay away? Why did he even have this in the first place? Had he stored it in a box that said “Second line of defense against flickers?”
But you know? I haven’t seen the flicker since. Hmm.