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The Periwig Poacher Strikes Again

by Phillip Merrill about a year ago in fiction

A Hair Raising Tale

The Periwig Poacher Strikes Again

The sign reads H.G. Higglebottom Memorial Botanical Garden, but it is more like a nature preserve than a garden. The walls and peaked roof of the garden are massive plates of glass held together with cleverly engineered steel beams and rivets; they enclose an area densely packed with plant and animal life, the space roughly equal to three shovelball stadiums—room enough to spend an entire day stalking your quarry. The hot, damp air inside the structure combined with the thrill of the hunt brings a sweat to your face and neck. Crouching in the underbrush, you pause only long enough to wipe your face and take a quick pull from your canteen. Peering up into the lush canopy overhead you can see several species of exotic birds and boisterous primates, but the creature you seek neither climbs nor flies and prefers open spaces to trees and shrubbery. Concentrating on the ground beneath you as well as the branches and leaves and twigs surrounding you, you creep silently toward the open area that winds its way through the garden.

With a patience learned from many hunts (not all of them successful) you watch the clearing and wait, the sounds of life in the trees overhead and the brush around you combine with the sound of your own breathing and the pulse pounding in your head to create an anticipation that is exquisite and almost unbearable. After nearly an hour you decide to pull back and try a different location, but stop as you see your quarry round a bend and stroll down the path in your direction. Your breath catches in your throat as you gaze at this magnificent beast. Its nut-brown pelt is thick and lustrous, dazzling in the sunshine. Streamlined, it moves gracefully to sit only a few feet away in the shade of an enormous tree.

You plan your approach carefully. Because the periwig is the most desirable trophy in this eden-like preserve, it is also the most dangerous to poach. You retreat into the underbrush and circle back toward your quarry keeping the tree between you and the beast. At the base of the tree you remove your pack and take from it a coil of fishing line; at one end of the line is a fish hook at the other end, a cork. You secure the coil of fishing line in your mouth, careful to avoid the barbs of the fish hook and shimmy up the tree demonstrating as much facility for climbing as any of the monkeys with which you now share the canopy.

High in the tree you look down and see that the periwig is still there, resting—gently rising and falling as if with the breath of a heavy-set man taking a pleasant afternoon nap. Using your legs to brace yourself on a stout branch, you take the coil of fishing line from your mouth. With the cork in your left hand, you use your right hand to slowly play out the end of the line with the hook. Sweat drips from your face, but you are completely focused on the hook as it descends ever nearer your quarry. The hook is almost in position when an errant breeze causes it to bump against the periwig’s flank. You jerk the line back just as a meaty hand reaches up to swipe at the air as if at an annoying insect. You hold your breath as you wait for the beast to resume its nap. What a disaster it would be to embed the hook in a fleshy finger by mistake! You let your breath out slowly as you begin again to lower the hook, concentrating almost painfully on keeping it in position.

The sweet spot is in the center and toward the rear of the periwig. The hair is the thickest there making it the least sensitive area. In position now, you slowly pull back on the line until the hook catches in the periwig’s hide. You carefully test the tension making sure the hook is deep enough to grab the periwig without catching in the scalp. Satisfied, you take a deep breath and let out a triumphant “Whoop!” as you yank the line and the unsuspecting periwig into the air. You retrieve your trophy and as you scramble down the tree and away from the clearing you can hear an agitated, blustering voice say things like, “Now see here!” and “What’s all this then?” and “I never!”.

As you race through the exit you smile as you pass a large warning posted by the management of the garden. It reads:

Respected patrons of the H.G. Higglebottom Memorial Botanical Garden,

We regret to inform you that the ruffian often referred to as The Periwig Poacher has yet to be apprehended. No sane or respectable mind could fathom what attraction this nere-do-well has for the high quality hair pieces that he continues to target with his piratical pilfering. Rest assured that this sneak thief will be apprehended post haste. Until then, the management asks that guests of the garden leave their good toupees home or acquire a hat with a snug chin strap.

We apologize for any inconvenience.

Sincerely,

The Management.

fiction

Phillip Merrill

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Phillip Merrill
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