From Chicken Soup for the Father & Daughter Soul

The Adventure

True fortitude of understanding consists in not suffering what we do know, to be disturbed by what we do not know.

William Paley

“What’s his location?”

My father’s face was a mask of concentration as he pressed the cordless phone to his good ear. He jumped up from the couch and ran to the window, ripping aside the curtains. “I see him!”

What in the world? I had arrived moments earlier only to step into what seemed to be a crisis.

“Dick, don’t let him out of your sight.” Dad put down the phone. I heard him mutter, “I’m getting the gun.”

A gun? I followed him down the hall. He stood in front of the midnight blue Fort Knox safe and pulled out a shiny pellet gun. He aimed it at the wall, staring down the barrel.


He put his finger to his lips. “Stay in here.”

I raced to the kitchen. Mom stood in front of the sink casually peeling potatoes.


She smiled and put her fingers to her lips.

“Mom, Dad has a gun!”

“I know, Honey,” she said, stripping a long, curling peel into the sink.

Dad had just recovered from a heart attack. He was in good health again, but he lived life as if he has nine to spare—and he was on about number seven at this point.

When he was a boy, he leaped from bridges into lumbering trucks carrying sweet watermelons. As a teen, he threw bullets into the fire and dove for cover when they exploded and ricocheted through the night air. He left home at sixteen and fought in the Korean War. He didn’t stop then. Just last spring we rushed him to the hospital after he fell twelve feet with a chainsaw in his hands. A branch broke and crashed into the ladder, and Dad landed on his back. His arms were stiff to keep the chainsaw from splitting him in two. His back fractured in four places.

Now he was chasing a prowler with a pellet gun, still angry at the thieves who had recently tiptoed through the night and stole forty years’ worth of tools.

Phhhhht. One shot.

I rushed to the garage door, pulling it open with a whoosh.

My father knelt on the cold, concrete floor, the gun aimed to the sky. “I got him.” He grabbed the phone out of his hip pocket and punched the numbers. “Dick, it’s over. Why don’t you come over? We’ll hang him in the garage.”

Oh, no! The pellet gun would have only injured him. I ran into the house. “Mom, you need to call someone!”

“Did he get him?” she asked.

“Yes. Now he’s going to hang him in the garage!”

“Good. He’s done a lot of damage in the neighborhood.”

I struggled to find the right words, wondering when my parents had lost their minds. Dad walked in. His face was somber. “Do you want to see him, Suz?”


“Shame I had to shoot him.”

I was speechless.

“Karen, put on some coffee. Dick’s coming over. Jo might be coming, too. I’m going to call the neighbors down the street.”

A hanging party? I felt sick. I sat down across from my father. “Dad, I know retirement has been an adjustment, but this is taking things too far.”

Dad looked up, a confused look on his face.

“You can’t take the law into your own hands. This is really over the edge.”

My mother stuck the mixer in a bowl. A small smudge of icing flew out of the bowl and landed on her lip, where she promptly licked it off. “What are you talking about?”

“Dad is stalking someone with a pellet gun and now he’s hanging him? Dad, it’s only tools. It’s not worth your life.” I stopped in mid-sentence as my dad chuckled, then broke out into outright hee-haws.

Mom bit her lip, unable to keep the grin from her face.

By now Dad was laughing so hard he could hardly stand. He weakly waved me into the garage. I cringed at the sight I was about to see.

He flipped on the light and pointed to the corner of the garage. “Lookee there.”

I strained to look but saw only shadows.

“He’s kind of small. You have to get closer.”

I peered into the corner. Nothing. My father put his arm around my shoulder and pulled me closer. A tiny bird with black and yellow markings on his belly hung limp, his tiny beak stuck into a crack in the wood.

“The yellow-bellied sapsucker,” my father said, gently picking up the small creature. “He’s beautiful, isn’t he? We tried to entice him with birdseed. We tried to trap him so we could set him free elsewhere. But this was our last resort. The little guy has destroyed half the trees on the block.” He pointed outside the garage door. “See there?” I stepped into the fading sunlight. Dad pointed to the deep holes burrowed down the ailing tree.

“So this is your prowler?” I asked sheepishly.

“That bird has been driving Dick crazy. That little bird wasn’t going to be satisfied until he ruined every pine tree on the street. Dick’s seventy-five, you know. He can’t be chasing birds all day.”

I didn’t think it was a good time to remind Dad that he was seventy.

As we walked inside, Dad started laughing again. “Mom, she thought I was stalking a prowler with a pellet gun.” His laughter, complete with a snort, filled the kitchen.

I blushed at my foolishness. I was fully prepared to ask my father’s forgiveness for misjudging him, so I followed him down the hall. I stood by as he put his pellet gun in the safe and shut it with a click.

“Hey, Mom,” he called out, “hold dinner for me. I’m going on the roof with the chainsaw. I saw some limbs that needed a bit of a trim.”

I sank onto the bed and put my head in my hands. The adventure of the yellow-bellied sapsucker was over, but I had a feeling another was just about to begin.

Suzanne Eller

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