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The Inevitable

The chipmunk that lived in the downspout behind my back porch died last week. Tommy murdered it. Does that sound hyperbolic?  Do cats commit murder? If he had any intention of eating it, I would say he killed it, but eating wasn’t part of the plan. He offed it for sport. He dropped it on my bedroom floor and howled until someone (my wife, Susan) came to witness his kill. Chalk an outline, dispose of the corpse. I’d call this murder first-degree. Tommy’s been stalking that bugger for a month.

Susan was upset about the death. She said she wished we did something to prevent it. I say the chipmunk had it coming. Tommy caught it and brought it into the house twice before. Both times, my daughter found it running around, trying to escape, so she rescued it. How do I know Tommy brought it in? Roz doesn’t play with critters, she eats them. Roz would have shredded it. A few days before the murder, I saw Roz guarding the downspout, eyes glued to the opening. The chipmuck scampered through the garden behind her. After all these warnings, all these close calls, the chipmunk should have moved away from our house. That little guy had to know his days were numbered.

On Wednesday and Thursday, the skies above Gettysburg were filled with smoke. I could smell it when I left my house. I saw it in the dimness of the sun, the grayness of the sky. Wildfires burn in Canada pumping smoke into the northeastern United States. Millions of hectares (whatever those are) have burned in Canada, an area the size of Maryland. Yes, Maryland is a small state, but it still takes five hours to drive across. That’s a lot of trees.

I can’t remember the last year when wildfires weren’t a major news story. Recent years: California, Colorado, Australia, Canada. Year after year we watch in shock as neighborhoods burn to the ground and terrified senior citizens outlast the flames by hiding in their swimming pools. The swampy wooded area behind my house is bone dry. Do I need to worry about a wildfire consuming my neighborhood? Is it just a matter of time? I don’t own a pool.

Humans, like our chipmunk, have an enormous capacity to deny our inevitable fate.
I live with a distinct feeling we’re all marking time. Waiting for the hammer to drop. Overbuilt vacation cities line the outer banks of North Carolina awaiting the hurricane that will erase miles of coastline. Since it last erupted in 1980, people have built homes directly on the dried lava flow on Mount Saint Helens, ignoring the fact that it’s an active volcano. Throw in megacities San Francisco and Los Angeles with their long overdue earthquakes. And the population of the entire southwest continues to expand despite its drying rivers and aquifers. New Orleans, Miami, New York. These cities are all temporary, susceptible to storms and sea level rise.

Americans must be the most optimistic people alive.

Over the past month, everyone in my family has discussed the folly of a chipmunk setting up house under the hopeful gaze of two cats. There was only one way this could end. The only surprise is how long it took those cats to kill the chipmunk. Eventually, all the catastrophes listed above will occur. Some sooner, some later, but as we learned from Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, as soon as the ground dries, the rebuilding will start.

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Jeff Cann lives, works, and writes in Gettysburg Pennsylvania. His essays and stories have appeared in Like the Wind magazine, the Good Men Project, and other websites exploring mental health, running and culture. His two books, Fragments: a Memoir and Bad Ass - My Quest to Become a Back Woods Trail Runner (and other obsessive goals) can be purchased from Amazon.

Jeff is married with two adult children. When he isn’t working or writing, he can be found biking or running the roads and wooded trails surrounding Gettysburg, trudging to and from work with his Spotify playlist cranked to eleven, or reading novels and biographical essays. Additional essays and stories can be found at

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Rick Moyer
Rick Moyer
11 months ago

My Heritage makes me a Dutch Boy. We’re a stubborn folk. It often will be necessary to hit me with a brick (twice) just to get my attention. But, I will say this – just one disaster (natural or otherwise) & this naive, little Dutch Boy will be moving-not rebuilding – moving. Two brick strikes will not be required this time.

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