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The past week, mostly I’ve been composing a string orchestra piece, proofreading and correcting an anthem, listening to new pieces, and writing liner notes. Mostly that’s what I’ve been doing, but every hour or so I’ve been staring out the window, staring at a second groundhog. He arrived two days after I live-trapped #1. Maybe he was there all along; I don’t know.

All our animals—pets, wild, doesn’t matter—have German names, it’s just something we do. Our newest cat is Steffi and over the years, every red-tail hawk is Wotan, every sharp-shinned is Hunding, and every groundhog is Gottlob. I call all groundhogs “he,” but this one… yeah, this one’s a he, I think. Maybe it’s the husband of #1, maybe it’s the mother and #1 was a child. It’s bigger and cockier, that’s for sure. He doesn’t run off like #1 when I walk into the yard, but jogs a few steps, waits, looks over his shoulder, then saunters off, a Cagney who tugs at his lapel and grins, cuffing the air on the chin and smiling before ducking into a hole. Tough guy.

The other one stayed farther back, was content with acorns from the pin oak. This one comes closer to the house. I went out back when I saw movement once and he scampered out of the fenced-in section of the garden, over the three-foot rabbit fence, quick as a boxer skipping rope.

This time I looked out and the calico, one of the neighborhood cats we haven’t gotten around to naming, was sitting calmly in the middle of the yard, looking intently at a place behind the raspberries. Usually she’s stalking the squirrels, but now she’s just sitting in the grass, considering. That’s new. It took me a few seconds to realize that’s she’s looking where the trap is. I couldn’t see it from the house; I’d moved it to three feet away from the remaining hole I thought was today’s favorite. I had covered up all the holes except that one. Gottlob can push the bricks aside in seconds or dig under them if he wants, but I was looking for any advantage. I added more apple cores to the trap: one outside with acorns, one just inside, and the rest, with the three-day-old carrot, in the back, past the trip-plate.

The cat’s looking right at that spot. I walked back, rounded the peonies and rose bush, back to the raspberries, the calico looking at me now, and there, there was the trap. And this year’s Gottlob #2 looked at me from inside it, a cold stare, unrepentant. #1’s teeth chattered when I went to the trap. #2 just stared.

Enjoy the woods, Gottlob. You’ve got a few weeks, still, before you’ll want to stay in for the winter, time enough to dig a good hole. I’ve got cabbage coming up, for sauerkraut. And I’ve got liner notes and a string orchestra piece to finish.

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