The woodchuck shifted uncomfortably in her burrow. It was usually snug and cozy in there, but lately she had been scratching herself obsessively. She had made peace with the various parasites that roamed freely through her fur—she was, after all, just one cog in the great forest ecosystem where the circle of life was often represented by uncontrollable itching—but something about this invasive feeling was more draining than usual.
She cursed her lack of neck as she craned her head around as far as she could, but still could not see her hindquarters. With no reflective surfaces in the burrow, it was impossible to get a glimpse of what was going on back there. She’d once had a tiny compact with a mirror in it, but it had been accidentally left outside and smashed to bits when a raven pecked itself to death in a fight with another bird who looked exactly like him.
She knew she was going to need another set of beady eyes to help out here, so reluctantly, she texted Shirley. Her cousin was the biggest gossip in the meadow and would no doubt share this with everyone she met, but the itching was driving her crazy.
When Shirley arrived, she was already talking non-stop about a variety of subjects that held no interest to the woodchuck, such as drought and fires and climate change. She interrupted her cousin with a scolding hush, and explained the weird creepy crawly feeling she had on her haunches. Shirley sighed, for she knew her cousin was the most narcissistic groundhog in the field. “Turn over,” she ordered, and started searching through her fur.
“Holy Vampire Weekend,” Shirley murmured under her breath. “Well, honey, I hate to tell you this, but you are the host of some uninvited party guests. There are about a dozen ticks snacking on your backside.”
The woodchuck’s mouth opened in a silent scream. For a creature who lived in a dirt hole under a meadow next to a forest filled with deer, she had an unreasonable fear of ticks.
“Getthemoffame! Getthemoffame! Getthemoffame!” she shrieked, twirling and squirming in a frenzied dance of revulsion.
“Now, calm down, girlfriend,” Shirley soothed. “Eventually they will drink their fill of your blood and let go. Why don’t you just let them have their fun and leave them alone?”
“Shut your damn mouth and take these tweezers,” the woodchuck muttered between gritted teeth.
“How am I supposed to use tweezers to remove a tick when I don’t have opposable thumbs?”
Moments later, after the woodchuck had duct taped the tweezers to Shirley’s paw, a snarling tick was slowly eased out of her haunch. Shirley popped the gnarly insect into her mouth and bit it in half with a loud crunch.
“Oh my God, you’re eating them,” moaned the woodchuck.
“They’re very satisfying; they explode with a pop!” chuckled Shirley. “It’s like an amuse bush before dinner—you know, one of those little appetizers that has sticks and twigs in them? Only this one has ticks and twigs!” She collapsed into giggles, slapping her leg; Shirley thought Shirley was the funniest groundhog in the forest.
After the final insect had been removed, the woodchuck lay on the floor of the burrow, weak with blood loss and terror. “Ok, honey, you’re done. You can stop moaning now.”
Shirley took one more quick look at the rash on her prone cousin’s now tick-free backside and murmured, “That reminds me, I have to go to Target later.”
Just because the author of The Blind Woodchuck occasionally writes about real-life scenarios in no way means that she came home from a camping trip with an actual tick in her ass. Stay out of the woods—nature is terrible!