I look out my window to see who is at the seed pile today.
A black squirrel with snow on his nose is shelling sunflower seeds at warp speed. Suddenly he turns and scampers toward the poplar tree—only he stops after the first scamp and with all his fur on edge, he listens.
Something is holding him there, between seed pile and tree—as though he is dreaming and finds it hard to move. I see a glaze in the air around him and a yellow claw from Death’s brown cloak descending…
His eyes are shooting sideways rays as he waits for the unknown to enter his line of sight and name itself. He seems unwilling to turn his head and appear to be looking over his shoulder (like a woman walking down a deserted street at night).
I look around on his behalf—
there is nothing there.
He throws himself at the trunk of the poplar and hangs for a moment— like a child who has wrapped himself around a parent, with improbable strength, and is refusing to get on the school bus.
I watch him curl up on a branch and hide beneath his tail—all the while listening, quivering, watching, waiting….
There is no one else in the yard. Not dove, not dog, nor chickadee.
It makes me wonder if he’s tuned into realms unseen by my human eyes, and if maybe a troll hasn’t come thrumping round the corner from the back of the yard?
And is standing right before me, brandishing a stick—or an entire tree trunk for that matter—and is stealing sunflower seeds and spitting the shells at the poor squirrel, who is using his ratty tail as a shield?
What trollish obscenities might he be spewing beyond the radar of my human ears?
Whatever he may be doing or spewing, this troll is completely disturbing the peace of the yard.
I should do something.
I believe I can almost see him, almost hear him now….
Dare I holler out the window?
What should I say?
“Be gone you troll! You are scaring the birds and freaking out the little black squirrel!”
A woman walks by with her dog.
I’ve lost my nerve and now I’ll never know his thrumping reply.
From The Seedpile
by Robin Skelhorn