Maury and I and Maury’s friend Gwen (Jennifer) were besporting ourselves at the pool at Maury’s uncle Red’s country place. More specifically, Gwen was swimming laps (in spite of being two martinis to the better), I was swimming a bit and standing a bit, and Maury was sitting in a deck chair, fully clad, on his third martini.

“You should come in!” Gwen shouted at Maury. “It’s fun! Exercise does a body good!”

“I am of the conviction,” Maury said, “that one’s heart has only so many beats in a lifetime. Raising one’s heart rate therefore shorten’s one’s life.”

“I think I’ve pointed out the error in that reasoning before,” I said. “For instance, because I exercise, my resting heart rate is about 20 beats per minute slower than it used to be when I didn’t exercise. While I’m exercising, it averages about 80 beats per minute faster than my resting heart rate used to be, or 100 beats faster than my resting rate. But I only exercise six hours a week. So one twenty-eighth of my time is spent exercising each week. That means my average heart rate is… let’s see, a difference of 100 averaged out over 28, just about three and a half… my average heart rate is about sixteen and a half beats per minute slower than it would be if I didn’t exercise. Sixteen and a half times how many minutes are there in a lifetime?”

“Alright, I get the point,” Maury said. “I nonetheless find this option more refreshing. And I’m less likely to drown.”

“Except your sorrows.”

“May they be few.”

Just then, Maury’s uncle Red strode out. “Lady and gentlemen, I would like to point out that the sky is darkening and there will soon be lightning.”

I pulled myself up out of the pool. Gwen protested: “But that’s why I’m in the pool! I’m lightening myself up!” Funny how the skinny ones always complain about their weight.

“You could end up blackened,” Red said, “like catfish. C’mon in, food’s a-fixing.”

We retreated obligingly. I headed to my room to change. As I opened the door I heard a sudden scuffling noise, and I noticed the corner of the carpet turned up. But a first scan of the room showed no animate forms.


I knelt down and looked lower. I found what I sought beneath the bedside table: a critter that looked like a gopher, but click-dragged to rather larger size. A groundhog. It was cowering and looking at me nervously.

I shouted into the hall. “Red! There’s a groundhog in my room!”

Red came around the corner. “Oh fer… gracious mercy… He was in here yesterday. It’s like Groundhog Day.” Maury and Gwen appeared behind him.

“Well, we aren’t all that far from Wiarton,” I observed.

Gwen peeked down. “And he does look a bit like Bill Murray. I wonder what he’s after in here.”

“Some marmot-lade, perhaps?” Maury said. (Groundhogs are a kind of marmot.)

“Maybe it’s looking for some wood to chuck,” I said. (Woodchuck is another name for a groundhog.)

“Well,” Red said, “he can chuck all the wood that a woodchuck chucks… outside. And hog the ground there too. Hand me that broom. And open that door.” He gestured to the door to the outside that my room – actually a converted covered porch – featured. I went over and opened it. Maury handed Red the broom, and then grabbed a golf putter that was leaning against the wall.

Red looked at Maury. “What are you doing with that? We’re trying to chase the poor thing out, not beat it to putty. I have all the ground hog I need in the kitchen. Oh, no vegans here, right? Because I’m making something I saw on Epic Meal Time.”

“I’m just trying to help encourage it to go to ground,” Maury said.

“Well, let’s line up and make a path to the door for it. Coooome on, little guy… get the hell outa here.” A little encouragement and some sweeping under the bed eventually resulted in our little friend making a break for it through the open door, which we swiftly closed.

“I wonder where it will go,” Gwen said.

“Oh, it has plenty of room out there,” Red said. “This used to be a farm. I’ve sold off most of the turf, but I still hogged enough of the ground for myself. Just as long as it stays away from my car.”

“Have you seen Red’s car?” Maury said. “It’s in the barn. It’s a brilliant red Barchetta.”

“Bugatti,” Red corrected him. “It’s a real rush to drive.”

“You don’t need to worry about him stealing your car,” Gwen said. “He’s not Mr. Toad.”

I, meanwhile, was standing there sounding out the various names of the beastie. “Grrroundhoooggg… round and rumbling… Wood! chuck! short and sharp… Marrrmota monax… murmuring up to a crack, like lightning in reverse…”

The heavens obliged at that moment with a crack of a lightning bolt not so far away and the following rolling rumble.

“Poor thing,” Gwen said, looking out towards the groundhog’s path of retreat. “What if the lightning zaps him?”

“It’s OK,” Maury said. “He’s a natural ground.”

4 responses to “groundhog

  1. And speaking of marmots, help save the endangered Vancouver Island Marmot! There are only about 300 in the wild, though this is way up from the mere 25 of 10 years ago.
    And check out the big stone statue of Wiarton Willie – a friend of mine carved it.

  2. I wondered about the non-word ‘besporting’, and whether it was meant to be ‘disporting’ or ‘bespotting’. Looking it up, I found that it has a small and undistinguished currency: see
    which offers examples, but no definition because there isn’t one.

    And does your friend really have a Bugatti? The only model produced since the war, the Veyron, costs about US$2.4 million for the base model (there is a more expensive version) and an estimated $300,000 a year to run. Pre-war Bugattis are all highly prized classics and fetch even more.

    • This is a fictionalized version of something that actually happened this past weekend. The real cast of characters involved in the groundhog incident (which did not actually follow on a thunderstorm, and occurred when I went into my room not to change but to get some tea) were people associated with the Literary Review of Canada, and there was no linguistic chit-chat surrounding the exit of the critter (a broom and a gold club were present, though). This note and the previous one are sprinkled with references to the Rush song “Red Barchetta.” I decided that Bugatti was closest to Barchetta. I know that they’re outlandishly expensive. But this is fiction, and Maury’s uncle Red can be as rich as I want him to be.

      I sometimes recount things that actually happened to actual people I know, such as my wife. I don’t include real people in my fictional narratives, though, and when I talk about real people it’s much less of a dialogue-driven cute story, more of a “someone mentioned” kind of thing.

  3. Thanks for the clarification. I think I’m a bit too literal-minded to dig these ludic sallies. Will shut up now.

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