Romeo and Juliet's tragic flaw was impetuousness - the tendency to act before thinking things through. Mine will probably be procrastination.

Last year my neighbor cut down a tree in his front yard and told me I was welcome to the wood if I wanted to haul it away, which I did. He'd cut the trunk and branches into three to five-foot lengths. When I'd finished piling them onto our driveway, it looked like a beaver had built a dam.

This year over Thanksgiving weekend I finally got around to cutting and splitting it. As I was gassing up my saw, a pine squirrel popped out of the pile. He made eye contact with me and began to speak. He sounded like one of those toys that squeeks when you squeeze it. Each time he spoke, his tail jerked forward over his head.

I don't speak fluent squirrel, but I think this is what he said: "Pardon me, sir, but you're not thinking about cutting any of these logs, are you?"

Then he scampered back into the depths of the wood pile. I'd suspected that this squirrel may have claimed the wood pile as his own because I'd seen him sitting on top of it a number of times. Now in the past this squirrel would have been history. All the cats we've ever had have been hunters, but the one we have now is content to eat and sleep. He seldom ventures past his basket on the back porch.

I revved up my saw and started cutting the wood into lengths that would easily fit into our wood stove. When I had a pretty good pile, I turned off my saw and got the splitter going. The squirrel made another appearance. This time he wasn't as cordial: "Squeek! Squeek, squeek, squeek!" Translation: "Are you out of your @#$% mind?" Then he scampered off the pile and up a nearby tree, letting fly a line of squirrel expletives the whole way.

I haven't seen him since I cut up his condo. Perhaps he's moved under our house and has started chewing on the wiring. Who knows what kind of karma is at work.

Procrastination also played a key role in an indelible memory from last spring. Throughout the year, I had thrown yard debris into my junk hauling trailer in the carport. It sat there filled to the brim for months. In late spring last year I finally got around to making a dump run.

When I arrived, I started pulling branches out. Down near the bottom of the pile was a large branch with a bird nest in the middle of it. It was occupied. Two bald heads bobbing, beaks pointed skyward. There were more, I was pretty sure, but I didn't peel away any more of their cover. I carefully extracted the nest, laid it on the front seat of my pickup, and drove back to Gearhart.

When I backed the trailer into the carport, Mama Bird came flying in and landed on the trailer. She immediately jumped inside it, screaming hysterically.

I went out to the shop and found a wooden box about the size of a shoe box. I nailed it to the carport wall about seven feet off the floor. Then I carefully set the nest and its occupants inside it. I figured Mom would never find them, but I thought it was worth a try. Within 20 minutes, she was sitting on the nest as if nothing had happened.

Anyway, back to the notion of procrastination being my tragic flaw. What might that final act of procrastination look like? I was on the back ridge recently and saw what I'm pretty sure were bear droppings, so this isn't too far-fetched ... There's a pile of debris that has accumulated over the years in one of the storage spaces beside our shop. For years I've threatened to clean it out, but I keep putting it off. It's a frosty Saturday morning in the middle of winter. I start pulling out the junk and tossing it out onto the yard. I see what looks like a dusty black rug. I grab it and realize it's attached. The monster turns its huge head toward me and starts snorting steam into the cold winter air. He stands up on his back legs showing me two front paws the size of dinner plates. Claws fully exposed.

I can't finish the story. Too much blood and gore for a family newspaper. You'll have to wait for the video.

Mark Mizell is an English teacher at Seaside High School. His column runs the first Thursday of each month in The Daily Astorian.


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