To be read in the manner of a Jack Webb voiceover.
4:30 p.m. Thing 2 and I sit at the table in the kitchen garden, drinking afternoon coffees. We admire the vegetables. We pick all of the ripe cherry tomatoes, a few crookneck squash, a few ichiban eggplants. We speak in breathless, excited tones about the Big Boy tomatoes ripening on the vine next to us. We are blithely unaware of the coming disaster.
7:10 p.m. I stroll through the garden, enjoying the cool of the evening. I stop again to admire the tomatoes. Family tradition, handed down from my grandfather, demands that the success or failure of each year’s garden be measured by a single metric: Will there be ripe tomatoes on the 4th of July? I gently cup a tomato in my hand to gauge its heft and firmness. I decide it is The One, but that it needs a few more days on the vine before picking.
7:20 p.m. I finish my patrol of the grounds, but some instinct for trouble draws me back to the tomato bed. I discover the mutilated remains of Big Boy lying next to the vine. His stem has been snapped, and his skin flayed. The exposed nearly-ripe flesh is an unimaginable horror. I think back to past gardens. This is clearly the work of a serial killer - a psychopathic squirrel that has struck here before. The MO is always the same: a single swift bite into the heart of a tomato, the remorseless disregard for the mostly-uneaten young tomato left to rot on the ground, the callow fleeing to the treetops. He (the squirrel) has an escalating taste for killing now. He likes it, and he’ll be back to kill again and again. Unless I stop him first.