Dad vs. the Squirrel

Submitted for Contest #48 in response to: Write a story that features a protagonist with an archnemesis.... view prompt

64 comments

Submitted on 06/28/2020

Categories: General


It was the first time Dad hadn’t worked in 59 years. He didn’t want to retire but the doctor encouraged him to at least only work part-time and find some relaxing hobbies, for his blood pressure’s sake. He already exercised. He walked around the block every morning. So I made a few other suggestions.

           Meditation? “That is for California hippies.”

           Journaling? “That’s for wimps with mommy-issues.”

           Yoga? “People aren’t meant to be able to kiss their own ass.” 

           My father was an engineer. He had worked since he was in high school and still carried his slide ruler on his belt. How about gardening I suggested. “Hmm” he said thoughtfully. “I’ll try it.”

           So the next day we went to the hardware store, the same one we went to when I was a kid, the same mechanical horse still stood out front. It even smelled the same, like fertilizer and fresh plastic pool toys. Dad pulled a blueprint for his garden out of his pocket. He measured what parts of the yard got just the right amount of sun using roots and algorithms, then outlined the square footage to know precisely how much supplies he needed. He pulled out his old leather wallet with duct tape on the seam, held together by an elastic band. We bought seed, compost, mulch, a spade and a rubber kneepad for dad’s bad knees.

The next morning dad tilled the hard earth. He spent hours getting the soil just right, mixing the compost, checking the pH with litmus paper. Then he dug up the rows and sectioned off four parts with wooden markers. They were labeled ‘lettuce,’ ‘beans,’ ‘beets,’ and ‘tomatoes,’ all good companion plants with plenty of space

           Everyday Dad was up before the sun feeding the seedlings just the right amount of fertilizer. He measured it out in his beaker to be sure not to over or under feed. He tested the soil weekly.

           After two weeks we saw some little sprouts peeking through the earth. Dad beamed. He talked to the plants from his rocking chair and watched over them like a doting father. Then one day he noticed a cute little tomato, about the size of a golf ball. Dad dusted him every day, stroking its smooth skin. He loved watching his little baby grow, he called it his ‘pomme d’ amour.’

           One morning when Dad went to check on his tomato, he caught a squirrel holding it in his hairy little hands. Dad had planned on pulling the tomato off that day and enjoying it with some mayonnaise and salt. But now the tree rat had taken off with it. It bounded up onto the fence and stopped, looking at Dad as it sunk its teeth into poor little pomme d’ amour, flicking its tail mockingly. Dad released a string of obscenities I hadn’t heard since the night I snuck out of the house as a teenager. To make matters worse, we found the tomato the next morning in the grass with only a small bite taken out, as if it wasn’t even good enough for him. Dad picked it up and looked at it lovingly, shaking his head. This time it was personal.

           Dad came out armed with a sprinkler the next day. He had done some research, if he kept the sprinkler running it should deter the squirrels. So he set up the sprinkler to go back and forth and back and forth across the yard and directly over his garden. He sat at the kitchen table eating his fat-free bran muffin, and within minutes the squirrel returned, only now he had a friend. They ran under the sprinkler like children, as if Dad had put it out there just for them. At one point the new friend actually rode the sprinkler back and forth, drinking the water as it sprayed him in the face. Dad was beside himself.

            We went back to the hardware store, they recommended fencing in the garden. So we left with rolls of chicken wire. Dad spent the next two days clipping and securing the fence, intertwining the metal corners. It was impenetrable, nothing was getting through it. And nothing did, but they did get under it. Now the green beans had been stripped off the bush. The squirrel was still sitting on the fence, flicking his tail, eating a green bean as he watched my father check the fencing. Dad was so angry he got the hose and began trying to spray the varmint off the fence like a carnival game. The fuzzy rat ran up the tree, green bean in hand, and watched as my father continued to try and spray him, managing only to drench himself as the water rained back down on him. I swear I heard the squirrel laughing.

           The next day he tried putting chili powder on the plants but they didn’t seem to mind that either. Dad was running out of ideas. It was man vs. beast. It wasn’t revenge he was after, it was the reckoning.


           The next morning I returned.

           “Dad you in here? Dad?” I looked out the kitchen window. He was sitting in his rocking chair overlooking his garden, a pistol in one hand a beer in the other.

           “Dad, what the hell are you doing?”

           “The furry bastard is driving me nuts,” Dad said.

           “I can see that. I’m pretty sure this isn’t what the doctor had in mind for your blood pressure. And you drink now? It’s only 10 a.m.” I lectured.

           “It’s just a sipper to steady the hand,” he explained.

           “Where did you get a gun anyway?”

           “It’s not a real gun, it’s a potato gun.”

           “What the heck is a potato gun?”

           “It shoots out bits of potato at high speeds to injure and scare the squirrels away. I got it from the neighbor. He used it to give the squirrel in his yard some serious brain damage,” he explained hopefully.

           “Dad that sounds horribly inhumane.”

           “You should see the monstrosities he’s got set up over there, hooks and claws meant to grab the little bastards by the necks and sever their feet. It’s like a torture chamber. They are getting into his attic. Tearing up his insolation. They are in his walls. They are ruining his house for God’s sake,” he said exasperated.

           “Ok, ok. Calm down...I’m worried about you Dad,” I said as I got up to leave.

           Just then the squirrel appeared on the fence doing his usual acrobatics. Dad stumbled to his feet and shot. The potato piece hit the fence and ricocheted back towards him as the squirrel lunged up into the tree like the next Ninja Warrior.

           “Dad reload! Reload!” I yelled.

           “Now look what you did. You ruined my concentration,” Dad said angrily scrambling to pick up rocks as he began hurling them up into the tree.

           “You’re gonna break the neighbor’s window! Maybe you just need more target practice. I’m leaving.”

           Dad put the gun in his pant waist, next to his slide ruler, the look of defeat in his eyes.

           That night I stayed up late thinking of ways to help Dad. I could get him a rat terrier to chase the things away. He hated dogs though, we never had any pets growing up. The only thing he hated more than dogs, were cats. A cat would be good at stalking and killing prey though.

           So the next day I went to the animal shelter and took a chance. If he didn’t want it I would keep it, it was worth a shot. I went to Dads with a basket of blankets, cat toys, food, a litter box, and a new grey cat. It wasn’t a kitten so he already knew how to use a litter box.

           “What the hell is that?” Dad asked looking at the basket.

           “It’s a gift,” I said. He opened it.

           “No way,” he said.

            “Oh Dad just try it, I read they’re good at keeping rodents away from your garden, and he’s already litter box trained. All you have to do is feed him. You’ve been here all alone since Mom died, you need a friend.”

           The cat looked up at him and started to cleanse its nether regions on the kitchen table. “See he likes you,” I said.

           “Fine. He gets one day. But tomorrow you’re taking it away if I change my mind,” he bargained

           “Deal,” I said.

           

The next morning I eagerly went to see how their first night together went.

           “Dad you home?” I looked out the window. Dad was sitting in his rocking chair as usual, the cat was sitting next to him eating from a can of tuna.           

           “Wellll, what’s happening out here?” I asked excitedly coming out the back door.

           “Abby, you wouldn’t believe it! This damn cat already caught that squirrel. He left the thing on the back door for me this morning. Like a gift, it’s like he knew.”

           A decapitated bloody squirrel lay in front of both of them, the cat cleansed its face with his paw.

           “That’s great Dad! Should we give the thing a proper burial? It only seems fitting to give him a formidable good-bye,” I said.

           “Hell with the damn thing,” he said as he threw the headless corpse over the fence into the woods.

           “Let it serve as a warning for all his friends,” Dad said as he reached down to pat the cats head.  "Good boy."

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64 comments

Beth Moore
22:31 Jul 08, 2020

Oh, did this one strike a chord! I was terrorized by the darned things in our old house. They were in the attic, in the walls, some got inside. They chewed a hole in my bathroom wall. And I tried everything, including a live catch cage. The little suckers played on it. So I got a bb gun. I loved watching them do a back flip when I hit them. We gave up the house about a year ago and moved into an apartment. Now when I hear footsteps overhead, I know it is the little rug rats upstairs!

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Sarah Greenwood
00:29 Jul 09, 2020

Thanks Beth! Lol back flips. I’m so glad you enjoyed it.

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Sarah Kerr
22:12 Jul 01, 2020

Hilarious! The story ran smoothly and the characters were very realistic. Love how you made the rivalry something so common in everyday life. It makes the story that much more relatable. :)

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Sarah Greenwood
01:54 Jul 02, 2020

Hey sarah thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment.

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Monica Chaddick
18:20 Jul 11, 2020

I really enjoyed your story. You were very descriptive and I could definitely relate to the frustration. We had that same problem as the neighbor, with them getting into the attic and what all.

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Sarah Greenwood
18:44 Jul 11, 2020

Ha thanks Monica. I think everyone can relate to those little buggers.

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Dylan Heath
21:35 Jul 10, 2020

Great story. The funniest, cutest story I've ever read involving decapitation.

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Sarah Greenwood
23:05 Jul 10, 2020

Lol thanks Dylan

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Laura Clark
20:44 Jul 08, 2020

This is hilarious! I loved the idea of a squirrel as a nemesis and the dad was just a great character. Really enjoyed reading this- thanks for sharing it! If you have time, feel free to check out some of mine.

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Sarah Greenwood
21:47 Jul 08, 2020

Thank you so much I’m glad you enjoyed it. And yes I’ll be over there shortly to read yours👍🏼

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My Name
18:27 Jul 08, 2020

Amazingly hilarious! Your story caught my eye from its title alone. My grandfather can relate to this on so many levels. Hahaha! Great job!

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Sarah Greenwood
19:40 Jul 08, 2020

Thank you I’m so glad you liked it. And grandpa too

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D. Jaymz
05:19 Jul 08, 2020

Your words flowed into a realistic story with Dad as a well-developed character and Abby as a good counter to the duo. I loved the dialogue, humorous, and distinct to make each character identifiable. Well done.

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Sarah Greenwood
11:53 Jul 08, 2020

Thank you so much D r. I’m so glad you liked it!

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Cheri Jalbert
04:09 Jul 08, 2020

LOVED reading this! Laughed my butt off. The flow of this story was so smooth and easy to read. You did a great job bringing your characters to life. Funny all the way to the end.

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Sarah Greenwood
11:53 Jul 08, 2020

Thank you Cheri! I’m so glad you liked it

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Courtney Stuart
21:27 Jul 07, 2020

hey, this was such a cool story! your characters and the relationship they had with each other were all very well-developed, and overall, your writing was very seamless and easy to read! the dialogue was great too! good job! :D

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Sarah Greenwood
22:59 Jul 07, 2020

Thanks Courtney ! Glad you enjoyed it

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Leya Newi
18:23 Jul 07, 2020

This was so funny, and and the characters were realistic. My only notes are that some of your sentences are wordy or you missed a comma/apostrophe and that you never named the new cat! I know it’s a minor detail but I’m super curious to know.

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Jt Burnett ii
15:28 Jul 07, 2020

Good morning, Ms. Greenwood. Thank you for sharing “Dad vs. the Squirrel.” It is an engaging and entertaining story. Frustrations with wildlife eating homegrown vegetables adds a lot of verisimilitude. A simple man with a simple garden has a simple problem. The simplicity of the problem vexes the new gardener since he is used to dealing with complex mathematics. Have you considered telling the story without the daughter as the narrator? It might elevate the tension if the reader got to see the conflict from the protagonist’s point of view...

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Sarah Greenwood
15:39 Jul 07, 2020

Thank you so much JT for your thoughtful reply. That’s a lot to think about and I will take all of it into consideration and try some editing. Thank you again

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Joseph Varkis
14:03 Jul 06, 2020

Had a good laugh reading this one. Especially the part about selecting hobbies. Well done!

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Sarah Greenwood
00:24 Jul 07, 2020

Thanks Joseph and thank you for taking the time to comment. I appreciate it !

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P. Jean
14:01 Jul 06, 2020

Loved it! Just desserts, I say! Nice writing!

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Sarah Greenwood
00:24 Jul 07, 2020

Thank you and thanks for taking the time to comment. I appreciate it !

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Kirby Povilaitis
18:13 Jul 01, 2020

Hahah I LOVE this!! It's such a great take on the prompt!! And you really have a talent for writing dialogue - it brings the characters to life!

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Sarah Greenwood
18:58 Jul 01, 2020

Thank you so much Kirby. Your comments made my day. Thanks for reading and your thoughtful comments

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Skyler Woods
08:27 Jun 30, 2020

Hilarious story! It reminded me of the scene in the movie, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. It's the scene where the squirrel was hiding in the Christmas tree! There was a slight mistake in one of your sentences. In the sentence where it says "Dad put the gun in his pant waist," you wrote the words "Put The" twice. But other than that, I think the story is a comic masterpiece. It had perfect comic timing! I can feel the Dad's utter disdain toward the squirrel. I could feel the daughter's concern for her father's sanity. You executed th...

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Sarah Greenwood
13:52 Jun 30, 2020

Wow thank you so much Skyler. I’m so glad you liked it. I will go edit that line too. Thanks again !

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Dobby's Sock
05:30 Jun 30, 2020

I genuinely liked the story. It had such an appropriately regular pace. I love it when a story seems like it has been researched but this one seemed like it was written from personal experience. Those make the best stories in my opinion. :)

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Sarah Greenwood
14:04 Jun 30, 2020

Thank you for taking the time to read and respond. I really appreciate your feedback. And yes that is a true story lol

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Dobby's Sock
14:06 Jun 30, 2020

You're always welcome Sarah :)

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Corey Melin
22:55 Jun 29, 2020

Superb story! Like reading Peter Squirrel, but a sad ending. :) Kept you reading to the end to find out what happens. The way a story should go.

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Sarah Greenwood
23:02 Jun 29, 2020

Thanks so much for reading and your thoughtful reply! I’m so glad you enjoyed it

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Corey Melin
23:24 Jun 29, 2020

I should say as I was reading that I was thinking of Peter Rabbit the majority of the time just in case you wondered why I said such a thing.

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Sarah Greenwood
20:18 Jun 30, 2020

Nope I knew exactly why you meant lol

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Steve Stigler
21:05 Jun 29, 2020

This is so weird, because I was working on my own squirrel story for this week. Very fun - thanks!

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Sarah Greenwood
21:29 Jun 29, 2020

Don’t steal my squirrel thunder Steve lol 🐿

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Steve Stigler
18:21 Jun 30, 2020

No promises - this story is really stuck in my head. I might be able to play around with it, but even if others see a story about possums or raccoons, YOU will know it's really about squirrels, haha!

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Praveen Jagwani
04:21 Jun 29, 2020

I enjoyed the story immensely, like a Moby Dick parody. You have an eye for the small details like Dad's wallet. Such details make it easy to visualize the story. I even enjoyed the gory end. Minor issues with sentence construction but that is easily fixed. Like the sentence where you introduce the squirrel, I thought the tomato was caught red-handed. That's funny too in a way :) Look forward to reading more of your stories.

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Sarah Greenwood
10:40 Jun 29, 2020

Thanks for reading and taking the time to reply Praveen. I always look forward to your comments because they are so helpful to me.

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Khadija S.
00:52 Jun 29, 2020

This is hilarious! The title was perfect, and while macabre, and a bit sad ( for the squirrel ), I'm glad of the happy ending!

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Sarah Greenwood
01:54 Jun 29, 2020

Thanks so much for reading and taking time to comment Khadijah 👍🏼 Happy ending unless you’re the squirrel ha 🐿

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