The last apples of summer had fallen just before the storm came and laid down its fleece, bringing the hardness of the arctic white to the canal -- I'm not one of those who finds winter's peace a welcomed comfort -- nor in that judgement could I find myself scarcely alone, for at least one other shared my displeasure, forced to look for a nearby loan of a residence to hold up in through all the cold and hardness that would hold for awhile; the ducks could not swim there and neither could he, so he took refuge within my woodpile. Fattened and slick, he'd sit there and look; propped up on his hinds he had sat, sniffing about with his file tail stuck out, I had seen him -- my tenant muskrat. My first reaction was to cringe at this rat, until I realized whom I was dealing with here. He burrowed the snow like an otter that noon for the apples that he knew were near, and then I sat a big red one out there for him and stood by in the window to wait for him to go for it, but I soon found out careless abandon was not a muskrat trait. I could imagine him sitting within some crevice, peering out from the woodpile inn, watching that big red apple just sit there and deciding several times to begin outward to nab it, but with a false start each time -- but next day, it was gone, and I imagined him munching away on that lunch and the tree that would grow there before long. The night after New Year's, as I lay asleep, a ruckous broke out in the front yard, but when I looked out from my half-opened lids, I imagined seeing my find tenant guard. Yet with morning and with the light as I turned after securing my latch, all across the snow-cover were patches of blood and all about multitudinous dog tracks! A fresh layer of snow soon blanketed the scene of my tenant's demise, the savage act of some itinerate hound whom my guest happened to meet by surprise -- all I ever found was a little black nose with some whiskers afixed yet to each side, and a part of a tail (and a few inner parts which a neighborhood cat liked when he tried). When Spring returns and the canal is not hard and the ducks and the geese and the crane return to the current as they are wont, still the nights cannot be the same, for the prowling sub will not mark its course through the waters to the boathouse, and I will be the sadder and more alone for the loss -- but I thought muskrats were much more sly. My inheritance woodpile is dwindling away as I curse the wintery blowing blast -- not that it stays as long as it does, but comes at all -- not soon enough will it pass. 1985 Continue