Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship by Tom Ryan is published by William Morrow. It tells the story of my adventures with Atticus M. Finch, a little dog of some distinction. You can also find our column in the NorthCountry News.

Monday, May 03, 2010

The Local Flirt

This is our local flirt. I call her the She-Munk.

Look closely, you'll see her. I say ‘her’ but she may be a he; I'm just too polite to ask. When I go outside she thinks nothing of me and just hangs out. But once Atticus shows up she skitters away like a little school girl giggling out loud. I say 'giggling' because it's obviously a game to her. She's not really afraid of Atticus; I think she just likes to be chased. Once he turns his back on her she pops up again. He looks her way and she's gone again. A simple game of playing hard to get.

This afternoon there was a nice breeze so Atticus and I sat out back for a bit. He and the She-Munk played hide and seek - although Atti is always the one doing the seeking. (I'm going to have to talk to him about that.) It was so nice out I left the back door open when we came back in to my writing room and sat down at my desk. Atticus curled up on his blanket and it was only a minute or so before he fell asleep. A few minutes passed. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I see the She-Munk creeping across the kitchen floor. She gets to the writing room and peers around the corner.

She looks up at me as if to say, "Hey, how's it going?" Then she turns her gaze to Atticus. She's interested in him and wants to make sure he's really asleep. She watches him intently, but calmly for a good thirty seconds. Meanwhile I'm cussing because the camera is in the other room. Atticus lets out a slight snort in his sleep and she jumps up and runs back into the kitchen. A minute later, realizing she's not being chased, she comes back and sits in the doorway and cleans herself. She could care less about me; she's just wants to look presentable once Atti wakes up. (Ah, the story of my life...) She literally sits in the doorway for five minutes until Amelia shows up at the suet feeder hanging on the back door.

I know it's Amelia (and not another bird) because she's taken the wrong turn and is stuck in the house once again. I can't see her but I can hear her frustration. Amelia's beating wings are like an alarm and the little She-Munk skedaddles through the kitchen and into the backyard.

Meanwhile Atticus, now awake, comes with me while I rescue Amelia...once again. He sits in front of the day bed and watches as she flaps her wings in exasperation. I gently place a waste paper basket over her and push it flat against the window. I slide a piece of cardboard over it and carry Amelia outside. Atticus follows. When I slide the cardboard off the top of the waste paper basket she doesn't fly out in a hurry like she did the first couple of times. This, after all, has become old hat for both of us. I decide to sit down and let Atticus look in on Amelia. She looks up at him and both remain calm as their eyes meet. I suggest to Amelia that she may want to invest in a GPS. Looking at Atti she's thinking more of a seeing eye dog. Eventually she takes off and flies back to the dead tree she lives in.

Meanwhile the She-Munk has been watching from the grass. I'm thinking she's a little jealous of Amelia and Atticus and when he doesn't notice her after a while she stands up and says, "Woo Hoo! Big boy, come and get me!” (At least that's what I think she was saying.) Atti gives chase and she giggles all the way to the safety of the cracks in the rock wall. After a few minutes of looking for her and finding only the echo of her taunting giggles he gives up and comes and sits by me again. Then the She-Munk can't help herself so she climbs the tiniest tree right next to us and does a pole dance. I remind Atticus to be ‘gentle’ and he sits next to me watching her just two feet away.

Bored by not being chased she eventually climbs all the way up the little tree until it bends down like you see in cartoons and she lands softly on a rock and giggles before going home.

At her departure Atti looks at me as if to say, “Dames!” I simply shrug and say, “Yep, dames!”

And to think some people actually worry that I have a boring life now that I’m not watching Newburyport politics any longer.


cinnibell said...

I love that your She-Munk giggles, Atticus flirts (or "return-flirts"), and that Amelia has you trained. :-)

Kathy . . . and all the critters in the Byfield Purple House!

Thomas F. Ryan said...

Yes, Kathy, I'm one lucky guy. Now I understand a bit how Beatrix Potter felt.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tom and Atticus (or maybe Atticus and Tom)
I look forward to your posts more than eating. I'm always hoping to see you two on a trail but have yet to have the good fortune; maybe the wait it is the fun. So true about the peak obsession yet I give many the positive credit of at least racking up something good. Sure, maybe they don't 'get it' right now but they are laying a foundation to ponder and that's more than can be said for most.
I used to live in NBPT went to high school there and continue to wander the area by being in Hampton. Hope to see you in the woods one day.
Love that dog.

Cheri said...

I "caught" one of these by accident once. The "she-munk" had crawled into a canvas backpack I had laying around outside and had started to chew it's way out because it couldn't figure out how to get back out. They are very curious creatures!

Sherry said...

After moving to Maine from Newburyport, Dad took great pleasure in the "wild" life around us. He would look forward to seeing the same little red squirrel raiding the bird feeder most every morning. Thanks for sharing Atticus and your adventures.

Sheila said...

An extraordinarily beautiful piece Tom. Never stop writing for us please!

Colleen said...

I bought my 86 year old Dad a bird and squirrel/chipmunk feeder for Christmas this year to hang in the tree beside their sunroom window. The best gift ever!! My Mom and Dad spend hours watching the antics of all the creatures and enjoying telling me all the tricks they can do. Thanks for posting your creatures' antics too.