The Elusive Chipmunk
(A short tale of mystery and intrigue with cute animals and the element of surprise - sort of.)
One of the advantages of living in the woods on a private dirt lane one half mile from the nearest county road is that my cats have the freedom and safety to come and go as they please through their kitty door. One of the disadvantages of this same scenario is that during their nocturnal hunting jaunts, the cats bring into the house all manner of terrified and squealing rodents. Often I'm awakened by some poor hapless creature's attempts to escape from these fierce felines. Sometimes the mouse (or mole, squirrel, rabbit) temporarily gets away and hides under some piece of furniture or appliance that the cats cannot fit beneath or reach a paw behind. A kitty vigil is then set up until the rodent tries to come out again.
Late one night I awoke to a commotion that sounded like one of the cats caught a chipmunk. "Oh, no!" I thought groggily, but then fell quickly back to sleep. While grudgingly tolerant of the cats' hunting natures, if I were awake I would have tried to rescue the chipmunk as I have several other animals in the past. The next morning I expected to find a dead chipmunk. Thankfully, I didn't. The cats, however, had set up posts in the kitchen in front of a cabinet next to the stove.
Soon I started to hear a high-pitched chirp at irregular intervals at this spot. I pulled out the stove. I looked under it, inside it, all around it. I pulled out the cabinet, all of its contents, and did likewise. I could find no chipmunk. Neither could the cats who eagerly joined in the search.
Yet the chirping noise continued. It awoke me at night. It awoke me in the morning. I could hear it in spite of the pillow crammed over my head while trying to sleep. It was driving me crazy!
And the cats kept investigating the area near the stove and cabinet. Where could the creature be hiding? This drama went on for at least 3 weeks. The animal had apparently moved in. So I named it "Chippy" and greeted its chirps whenever I came home - just like I greeted the cats and dog.
Sympathizing with what sounded like distress calls, I pulled apart the stove and cabinet two more times. I still found nothing. I even borrowed a benign trap, but I caught no "Chippy". The chirps kept up and the quality of my sleep went down. If I got up for a bathroom run in the middle of the night, I started to scream at it to "Shut Up!" Tired, annoyed and frustrated, I began to suspect that maybe it was not an elusive (and apparently invisible) chipmunk after all. What could it be? It had turned into a random background noise that I could not quite block out.
One day when I was looking for something in the kitchen junk drawer, I noticed an empty box for a battery operated smoke detector - the very same smoke detector lying on top of the cabinet next to the stove! Instantly I knew the answer to my auditory dilemma! I turned to the Chirping Cabinet and picked up the smoke detector. It chirped in my hand. The battery was weak! Feeling a little silly and very amused, but elated to find the source of the offending sound, I quickly removed the old battery.
Welcomed silence followed. My peaceful country life was restored. At least, I thought, until the cats brought home their next noisy victim. I prayed it wouldn't be a chipmunk.
P.S. I never did find out what the cats where looking for by the stove.
© This original short story belongs to ME - any submission to Readers Digest should credit the tale to ME and earn ME the fame and fortune!! BWAA-HA-HA!!
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