Even as a child of five, I knew when I had outstayed my welcome. My mother was having coffee in the dining room with a neighbour. She had shoed my younger brother and I outside so they could talk in peace. There would have to be a good reason before we would be allowed back in.
As we stepped out into the yard the reason was there, right at our feet. It wasn’t what the cat had dragged in, but what the dog had dragged in. Skippy spent his days hunting ground hogs. It didn’t matter that they had three holes with connecting tunnels. Skippy would proudly appear almost every day with one in his mouth.
My dad was just as proud announcing at meal time that he had buried a ground hog. “Alan, change the subject,” my mother would quickly say. Making one more dead ground hog remark, my dad would then drop the subject.
Mom inside, no dad in sight, ground hog. It weighed far more than the barn kittens, was much stiller, but too heavy to carry. I couldn’t tie my shoes, but I could wind a rope around and around and around the ground hog. We entered the kitchen, paused at the dining room door and then marched around the table. The rope was over my shoulder, one end clutched tightly in two hands, the ground hog bouncing behind at our heels.
“Get that thing out of here,” stopped me from circling the table a second time. Instead we left the way we’d come, the march changing to a run. And the neighbour there that day? She became my mother-in-law.