The Square Peg - A Sad Day in the Neighborhood. The Tragedy of Darryl the Dodger.
© S. Bradley Stoner
It finally warmed up enough this morning so I could wear my shorts to take my daily walk. I prefer wearing shorts for my walks. I just don’t look good in sweats and, frankly, wearing jeans or pants kind of sucks for walking. Too restrictive. I like roominess in my walking apparel. It keeps me from chafing and allows that cool morning breeze to freely circulate. I’ve thought about wearing a kilt, but people down here would just stare and wonder about me, even though I’m of Scottish heritage... even have official papers from the Clan. I don’t think Texans quite get that, and I’m darn sure the neighborhood wouldn’t. I get enough stares when I practice outside with my claymore (that’s a Scottish sword for those who don’t know).
Anyway, there I was, happily ditty-bopping along, when I heard footsteps hurrying to catch me. I was afraid to look. I thought maybe Bingo Bob had taken up doing constitutionals (for all you youngsters... Google it). I picked up the pace a little. I figured with two miles to go, I could probably lose whoever was trying to gain on me. Like I said once before, I like solitude when I’m walking. I’m kind of an antisocial walker.
“Hey! Wait up!” It was Duncan Donutz, my retired cop friend.
I slowed my pace a little, allowing him to catch up. “Hi Duncan, how’s it going?”
“Not bad,” Duncan huffed, “Doc said I needed to take up walking and lose a little weight.”
“Too many donuts?” I asked.
“Shut up,” Duncan retorted. “How was your cruise? Nice tan, by the way,” he added looking admiringly at my brown legs, face, and arms.
“Not bad... actually we had a great time.”
“Looks like it,” he said, still admiring my brownness, making me just a little nervous. “It was chilly here while you were gone. Couldn’t wear shorts and tees,” he grumbled.
“That would account for those pasty legs,” I quipped.
“Shut up,” he said again. I get that a lot.
“So, what’s new in the neighborhood?”
“Not much. Oh, Paula Pettingzoo is on the warpath.”
“What has her ticked? Somebody smack that yappy dog of hers?”
“Worse, somebody hit Darryl. Squashed him flatter than flat.”
Now, you have to understand our neighborhood. We have critters... bunnies, cats that no one claims, birds, lizards... it’s a Texas thing. Darryl, aka Darryl the Dodger, is... or rather was a squirrel, well known to every driver in the area. He has/had a tendency to be crossing the street in front of you, then suddenly doubling back, barely missing your tires. He was pretty good at it too. Occasionally we’d hear the squeal of tires as someone traveling a bit fast and unfamiliar with old Darryl brakes hard to miss him.
“Wow,” I said, “so somebody finally hit old Darryl. Too bad. Bet they feel rotten about it.”
Duncan shook his head. “I doubt it. Paula claims she saw the deed. She says the driver a a big pickup truck seemed to be aiming for poor Darryl, gunned the engine, hit him dead on, and sped off. She reports it as an ‘on purpose’ dirty deed.”
“Sounds like a clear case of Sciuruscide,” I agreed. “I’ll bet she is on the warpath.”
“Sciuruscide... squirrel murder. Sciurus is the squirrel genus.”
“Whatever,” Duncan said. “Anyway, she’s been badgering me to ID the truck and driver. Won’t leave me alone. It’s nuts. It was just a squirrel, for crying out loud. I’m not even sure the guy meant to do it, but you know Paula.”
Yep, I knew Paula. The police had quit taking her calls. Every time a cat got hit, every time she found a dead bird in the roadway, she used to call them until the cops finally told her she was getting to be a nuisance and to just call city services and have them pick up the dead critters. That was about the time she started calling Duncan, demanding that he investigate the death of any critter in the area.
“Why don’t you just tell her you’re not Ace Ventura?” I asked.
“Ace Ventura... you know from the movie Ace Ventura, Pet Detective.”
Duncan stared at me blankly.
“Geez... you’ve got to get out more.”
“Probably,” Duncan said. “I don’t know what to do... no matter what I tell her, she won’t quit bugging me.”
“Maybe you should tell her to call Joe Kenda... according to the ads on the Discovery Channel, he’s solved almost 400 murders. Maybe he could help her.”
“You watch way too much TV,” Duncan said.
“Actually I don’t, I just happen to remember ads that are catchy. That guy has some catchy ads.”
“Whatever. Any other ideas?”
“You know... you’re a pain it the ass sometimes.”
“Hey, she isn’t bugging me.”
“Give her time... she doesn’t know you’re back.”
“Heck, she didn’t know I was gone... unless you told her.”
Duncan gave me a sour look. About that time we rounded the corner and there stood Paula.
“Aw geez,” Duncan whined.
I broke into a trot, taking the gravel path under the power line right-of-way. “Left turn, Clyde,” I said, hooking a finger to indicate Duncan should follow. He did. I saw the confused look on his face.
“Another movie?” he asked between gasps.
“You really have to get out more, Duncan.”