Last weekend, Janet and I spoke on a panel at the Ocean Park branch of the Santa Monica Public Library, Our subject was "Murder is Where You Find It." The panel of authors was made up of Alice Zogg, Lida Sideris, Janet and me; moderated by Carole Sojka. It was a great crowd and Karen from the SMPL was a great hostess to all of us.
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Thursday, March 10, 2016
Thursday, February 4, 2016
In case you're bored at work or just bored...
here's a short story I wrote some years ago:
The Hole Story
by Will Zeilinger
Why did I set my alarm clock? It was Saturday and I was a firm believer that these evil devices have caused of a lot of heart attacks in this world. Now I was awake and unconsciously fished around under the bed with my foot until I felt my old flip-flops, now molded to the shape of each foot from countless other Saturdays. I plodded through the kitchen scooping up my eyeglasses from the countertop and went out onto the patio, or as my lovely wife loves to call it, "our lanai.”
As usual I stood and scanned the backyard though I preferred to call it “surveying the estate.” I checked the fig, orange, and apple trees, the pomegranate bush and the lawn. Our backyard hadn't seen a drop of rain in months and I'd always had a problem with turning on the tap and dumping expensive water onto the ground.
My mind traveled back to my father standing at the service station filling up the old Rambler. I'd sit in the passenger seat listening to the gasoline pump go “ding, ding, ding.” That's what I hear when I water the lawn. As a result, our adobe soil is as hard as the concrete sidewalk.
This morning something was different. I noticed something sinister near the base of the fig tree, a small dark mound of freshly turned earth had appeared. I took a cautious step toward it when a furry little head with eyes the size of small raisins popped up, wiggled its nose and just as quickly disappeared.
What the…? A gopher? At least I think it was. I ran to the mound and peered inside. Too late. It had made good on its escape.
I stood there and eyed this curious development. Mind you, I've spent hundreds of dollars on tillers and topsoil, and not ended up with soil as fine as this critter created.
My first instinct was to flush it out. I ran for the hose, shoved the pistol-grip nozzle into the hole and squeezed the handle as a maniacal laugh came from somewhere deep inside me.
To my surprise, the earth swallowed the water like a bottomless pit and caused me to wonder if someone's fountain in Shanghai suddenly came to life.
I went to “Plan B” or the pile of football-sized stones beside the house. In a previous life they lined a small pond that once existed on the very spot of the incursion. I dropped one on the hole, stomping on it twice for good measure.
Ahh – peace. The kingdom was safe.
My loving wife praised me and showered me with kisses, the victorious slayer of unknown creatures.
The next morning, a new mound had appeared near the hole I had sealed. No water this time. Another stone-and again peace. But in my heart I knew it wasn't over.
Friends yielded no solutions or magical incantations, just a lot of sympathy.
That left “Plan C”, the Internet. Within minutes, I found an authoritative answer from the State Department of Fish and Game web site. The critter was a Pocket Gopher, Thomomys bottae, to be exact, and they eat just about anything that grows, especially plant roots.
Oh my gosh! Our Fig tree, Apple tree, Orange tree and Pomegranate bush would soon be part of the gopher salad bar.
Deemed non-game animals by the State of California, I could deal with them in any legal manner of my choosing; traps, gas, poison or harassment.
Some different ideas were suggested by well-meaning cybersouls that included: ultrasonic transmitters, Gopher Purge plant, chewing gum, urine or an eight-inch long device powered by four batteries which vibrated when inserted into the gopher's tunnel opening. (I know - that's what it sounded like to me too!) I opted for harassment.
Whenever a new hole was detected I dug it out. Another hole, more gravel, more tamping and stomping.
My wife pointed out that this corner of our yard looked like a diorama on World War I trench warfare techniques. She was right.
“You're really enjoying this aren't you?”
After three weeks of battle, I was a seasoned veteran of the gopher wars.
“Yes, I think I do.”
At this, she pleaded with me to call a professional, but the smell of battle lingered in my nostrils. And so, with shovel in hand, I fought on.
In an effort to maintain tranquility on the home front, and encourage the grass to reappear, I filled all the craters and trenches with gravel and smoothed the soil as best I could. Afterward, I set out the lawn sprinkler and watered the area well.
The next morning, I discovered another hole, but this one was left open. I trudged through the mud, poured gravel into it and closed it with dirt. I set out the sprinkler again for a couple of hours. The soil was now no longer damp. It was soaked! Another open hole appeared that afternoon. More gravel, more dirt, more tamping. It seemed the critter did not like wet dirt. Damp was O.K., but wet – not so much. Maybe it was trying to dry out the tunnel! Thus began a campaign of saturation watering.
The following morning I again put the little sprinkler when out of the corner of my eye - movement. Upon closer examination I saw a furry critter with a short, rat-like tail. The soaking wet gopher was attempting to dig a new burrow into the hard, dry adobe soil a few feet away. I ran toward it, slapping the shovel on the ground. It scurried under the back fence, which led to... the alley! By the time I got into the alley, it was gone. Peace had returned to the estate.
“Next time I’ll be ready.”
I stood with arms folded and stared across the battlefield that was once a corner of my backyard.
My dear wife asked, “Is there going to be a next time?”
“You never know.”