On Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

Sebastian McDonald, C.P.
Sebastian McDonald, C.P.

Freddie and Winnie tried to prevent something they obviously found objectionable, but in doing so they themselves caused some objectionable results.

The background of this conundrum is an incident that took place several years ago in San Antonio, Texas. At the time the Passionists had a small community residence there. It was what could be called a “shotgun” house, that is, a long, narrow one story arrangement. It was an old frame house, without a foundation, resting on piles of stones situated at each of its four corners, and this provided open space beneath it for all manner of varmints to crawl in and find a habitat for themselves: squirrels, rabbits, mice, various kinds of birds, possibly a skunk or two. The house interior could accommodate three residents.

It sat on a corner formed by the convergence of two streets, occupying a small lot, front and back, with the rear of the house situated some thirty feet or so from the back property line, across the top of which ran a wire providing electricity to all the houses on the block, down to the very end of the street. It did the same for the homes on the neighboring street behind, whose property line abutted those on our street: the rear end of the properties of the two sets of properties converged with one another. It was a cozy arrangement, making for neighborliness, as did the property line with the next door neighbor on the side of our house, just far enough away from our house to allow for a narrow driveway to be inserted between us.

A bedroom was arranged in the very rear of the house, and I slept there, as best I could. That was where I became aware of a sordid affair being carried on, surreptitiously, around 2:00 am nightly, involving a squirrel, who scampered along the phone wire extending over the rear of our property, and that of our neighbors, to the end of the block. It soon became obvious, especially to Freddie and Winnie, that he was making his way to a rendezvous with a friend of his, at the far end of the block, on which our houses stood. Seated strategically in the backyard of the house next to us, some 12 or 15 feet distant from my bedroom, were Freddie and Winnie, two neighbor dogs sitting on their haunches, quite suspicious as to the intentions of this squirrel running nightly along the telephone wire, obviously for a nightly encounter. Freddie and Winnie were street smart, and so aware of a nefarious deed underway, facilitated by the wire crossing the rear of their property, as well as ours. And so, as soon as they caught sight of this squirrel running along the wire, they let loose a series of ear-piercing barks, designed to let the squirrel know they knew what he was up to, obviously hoping he would mend his ways, which unfortunately never happened.

But there was more to this scenario. The back yard of the house, on the street behind us, abutting the yard of Freddie and Winnie, and over which the same telephone wire ran, was the nesting roost for a flock of chickens, largely hens, but also one stalwart rooster. When this rooster was alerted by Freddie and Winnie, that the squirrel was en route to his destination, it began a sequence of indignant crowing that shattered the quiet of the night. Despite this fearful din, the determined squirrel was not deterred from his unfortunate intent but sustained this barrage of outrage, dead set on reaching his destination at the end of the wire.

The climax of this escapade occurred at the end of the wire where a Carmelite monastery stood, housing a number of friars, including an old Carmelite brother, whose main task seemed to be centered on the monastery bell tower situated on the property. It was an old-fashioned bell tower with its rope dangling to the ground. Apparently the din at our end of the phone wire was loud enough to awaken this old Carmelite, at the far end of the block, who would then stumble out of bed and go into the yard where the bell tower stood, grab the tower rope, and begin yanking it vigorously for a considerable period of time, sending peels of gonging sounds throughout the neighborhood, and rousing his fellow Carmelites to rise for prayer. By this time, however, the squirrel had happily reached his destination.

This combination of Freddie and Winnie, the rooster, and the Carmelite bell made sleeping difficult, understandably.   And it raises the not infrequent issue of choosing between one of two evils, with no other option available. For, on the one hand, to attempt deterring the squirrel from his evil ways, while praiseworthy, entailed a price to be paid that was hardly commendable: a sleepless night for a score of neighbors. But, on the other hand, allowing the squirrel to pursue an obviously scandalous affair would seem to be condoning evil, even while admittedly ensuring a good night’s sleep for the neighbors. So much of life is faced with the issue of dealing with the evils associated with the good we wish to do, and the prospect of never pulling off a completely happy ending. So perhaps, in the case at hand, Freddie and Winnie should be commended, despite the problems they caused.

Author: CPP

We are a community of laymen and laywomen who, with vowed Passionists, seek to share in the charism of St. Paul of the Cross through prayer, ongoing spiritual formation, and proclamation of the message of Christ Crucified.

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