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Smell the Coffee: Cotton tale

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I walked into the kitchen last Sunday morning to find one of my daughter's friends staring out the kitchen window, head tilted. She was squinting up into a big oak tree that towers over my porch.

"Did it really snow last night?" she asked.

"It's in the 80s," I said.

She pointed.

"Then what's that?"

It appeared to be snow. A big puff of it, stretched long across a branch. She pointed to another nearby branch that was similarly fluffy and white.

But I knew better. It wasn't snow. It was evidence.

Proof of how very wrong I could be.

I'll explain.

I have this chair. Once upon a time, it was a pretty chair, covered in a classy sort of tapestry fabric. It was overstuffed, with a matching ottoman, but it attracted the attentions of a claw-sharpening cat who so thoroughly ribboned the sides that it came to look as if it were wearing a Hawaiian grass skirt. But since the chair was still so comfortable, I relocated it to the basement, where its next misfortune was to be located directly beneath a pipe. Which broke. Thoroughly soaking the chair.

So this is how the chair came to be in my back yard, where it had been dragged into a sunny spot to dry. Except while there in the sun, the chair's wonderful overstuffedness was discovered by three rather enthusiastic pet rabbits that have the run of our yard.

Unfortunately, only two rabbits at a time were capable of comfortably fitting on the seat of the chair. Rabbits are great appreciators of such indulgences but are not fond of sharing. Granted, they may appear to be docile creatures who can be easily manipulated with S'mores-flavored Pop-Tarts, but in reality, they are hostile beasts who will repeatedly fling each other from hula chairs with increasing brutality.

It was during such flinging that a small hole came to be torn in the back of the chair, and because of this hole, the rabbits discovered a new game.

Emptying the chair of its stuffing.

When I first discovered their game, there were only a few small puffs of white drifting about. I was busy with other chores and didn't dream they could, or would, do much damage to the chair beyond a few mouthfuls of stuffing.

I was so very wrong.

When I returned several hours later, I found the rabbits having the time of their lives, working in concert with each other to drain and distribute. The chair looked deflated. And my yard looked bizarre. It appeared as if an ocean of pillows had been slaughtered and the remains dragged about in some morbid sort of display. That so much stuffing had come from the back of a single chair seemed impossible.

By the time I made this discovery, it was starting to get dark. I'd been racing around the entire day and was thoroughly exhausted. The last thing I felt like doing was walking about in the dark, collecting massive amounts of white fluff (and mosquito bites). I decided I could put it off until morning. I mean, what could possibly happen with the stuffing beyond what had already been done?

This question was answered by the many squirrels that discovered -- with much glee, I imagine -- vast quantities of nestworthy fluff strewn across the grass. Sometime during the evening and early-morning hours, they had carried it up into most every tree in my yard.

In the meantime, it appeared the rabbits spent the night filling a good many of their holes (I suspect the moon's surface has fewer craters than my yard) with bits of stuffing, something that I expect will be beneficial to dog ankles.

As I stood on my porch, looking out at the wreckage, a chipmunk raced past, a tuft of white chaw sprouting from its mouth. I watched as it raced to carry off the few puffs that remained, which it tucked into a variety of low crevices. Between cinderblocks. Between the screened sections of my porch. Among the many stones in my garden wall.

My yard appears to have been prepped by woodland creatures as a setting for a low-budget winter movie.

And considering there's no easy way to retrieve all that fluff, it's a setting I suspect I'll be seeing for a very long time.

Reach Karin Fuller at karinfuller@gmail.com.


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