Donald Hall on Eagle Pond

Donald Hall at The American Scholar:

Old houses are full of holes. Creatures sneak into the living room. A summer ago, a garter snake entered and slithered across my living room. I stepped on its head and threw it outside. The same year, I discovered a visitor who became my favorite for persistence. A chipmunk took up residence and remained on the first floor for two or three months. Every day I would hear chirping, at first sounding like an electronic signal. Then the chipmunk came into sight, pausing with its paws tucked or folded before it, I suppose sustained by my cat’s kibble and water. As for my cat, she stared at it intently, fascinated. My housekeeper, Carole, bought a tiny Havahart trap and baited it with whatever we imagined was a chipmunk treat. Every morning the bait was gone, but so was the chipmunk. One morning the creature skittered from the kitchen into the toolshed, where the door showed a wide space at its bottom, and never appeared again. I felt abandoned. When autumn descended into winter, I walked into the cluttered dining room, never used in old age, and smelled something rotten in a box of unsorted snapshots. Under a layer of pictures I found the small body of our chipmunk. It had not escaped after all. With a paper towel I picked it up, rigid and almost weightless, and threw it from the door as far as I could. Next morning when I opened the door to pick up the newspaper, half of his small mummified corpse lay beside the door.

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