I have a new friend. He’s hilarious and, if I may say, quite handsome. His office is close enough to mine that our acquaintance has blossomed friendly in a just a short amount of time. We’re very much alike, my new friend and I. (I’m not implying that I think I’m handsome, but he does stare a bit, and I blush.) I don’t think he’ll mind if I talk about him behind his back. Although to be fair, I doubt he’d be able to tell one way or another. I don’t think he can read.
My new friend is a hairy woodpecker. Not to suggest that he’s unkempt. Like I said, he’s a fine-looking fellow. Well, here, see for yourself . It’s a stock photo of one of his cousins. If I lean far enough out the window to snap a proper picture of my friend in the actual feather, I risk falling twenty-five feet onto my head. Some might suggest that it could only improve my appeal. Piss on the lot of you.
At any rate, ‘hairy woodpecker’ is his species, just as ‘suburban housewife’ is mine. But our labels never do us justice, do they? My friend wouldn’t give his name. He’s a bit coy like that. I call him Hugh, because I’ve run across two people in my life named Hugh and they both made me smile. So now it’s two men and a woodpecker.
Hugh’s tree is just to the left of my office window. It’s enormous – sixty feet high – and quite dead. The builders killed it when they graded the lot and I’m up to the molars with ripe words for them. They don’t want to lend a hand or a few dollars (well, a bunch of them) to ensure that it doesn’t fall on my house. But that’s another, and very boring, story.
Hugh’s taken to pounding holes about halfway up the trunk, more or less right next to my office window. I may be flattering myself, but I think it was to get my attention. He may look ordinary, but he’s got an eagle’s soul. I can just tell. His camouflage is pretty spiffy. It took me ages to find him that first time.
I’m quite sensitive to rhythmic tapping. I hate it, in fact. I can’t stand clocks to the extent I gave away a lovely wood and brass hall piece that was a wedding present because I thought it would drive me mad to have it chock-clocking away in the foyer. I moved it three times and I could hear it from anywhere I was once the house went still. Then it annoyed me to have it hanging there, sullen and wrong for all but two minutes each day, after I’d silenced it. It looks fine at my sister’s.
So, I didn’t like Hugh at first. I don’t think he liked me either. I’m rather bigger and scarier than his usual audience of squirrels and butterflies. The first few times I bent to the window, he bounced across the bark to the far side of the tree to where I couldn’t see him, and wouldn’t come back until I’d gotten well situated behind my desk. But we got used to each other and I see there is common ground. He doesn’t flinch anymore when I go to the window. Now we just stare at each other, his shiny little black eyes boldly glittering into mine. I think the seam in his beak stretching back into his little bird-cheeks looks like a smile, so I return the grin and he cocks his head. I must look better sideways.
He clacks away at his oak and I bang away on my keyboard. He beats his head against solid wood, literally, as I do it metaphorically. He probably gets bugs and mites for his efforts. I get the correct words to explain myself or my characters. We both devour the fruits of our jackhammering, although what he gives back for his successes, I don’t want to know. Me, I write stuff down.
Just today I got the words to put to bed a bastard of a problem. I just wanted to say it right – thoroughly and clearly. The satisfaction was a feast. The kind you need to undo your waistband for and doze off in a comfy chair afterwards.
I’ll be hungry again tomorrow and I’ll have other things to answer for and there’s always chapter thirteen to finish, but for now, I just hope Hugh got a fat grub. I can hear him out there. But he won’t tell me. He never tells me anything.