Nearly a year ago I asserted that today’s teenagers were not “fair dinkum.” I would like to correct that sweeping generalization. Let me say that about fifty percent of teenagers today ARE fair dinkum and the other half – well, let’s just say they aren’t going to win any humanitarian, philanthropist, “good Samaritan” awards any time soon. REPROBATES!!! Perhaps that’s a little strong (then again, perhaps NOT – DEGENERATES).

Let me attempt to explain how I came to this amended conclusion. Ironically, it was prompted by two separate incidents from the very same day. Let’s see – good first, then bad? Or bad, then good? Hmmm. The bad is probably more amusing…

As I mentioned the other day, William’s wee (SO tiny) little dog Zeke had gone missing. Everyone was very concerned, particularly because he was not wearing his collar, and if someone took him in they wouldn’t necessarily think to search for a microchip. Moreover, if you weren’t looking closely you could step right on him (oooooh!), not to mention the threat of cars and trucks and SUV’s of death AND cougars (we DO have cougars here – don’t laugh – and Zeke would be a perfect, bite-sized hors d’oeuvre for a big cat like that). Therefore, many flyers were distributed and posted and so forth. As luck would have it, a teenager (guess YOURSELF whether this individual is a wretched troublemaker or not) found itsy-bitsy Zeke (he really is a diminutive, miniscule, teeny lil’ pooch – I’m myopic and if I weren’t wearing my glasses he’d probably be almost invisible) after he’d wandered clear down past Geneva Road. He’d been out all night; he was freezing and terrified, as well as filthy and wet. This teenager bathed him, tried to get him to eat, and attempted to comfort the little nipper. Fortuitously, this individual attends the same school as Sarah and William, so they saw one of the posters and called Shirleen immediately. ALL LAUDS AND HONOURS TO THIS TEENAGER AND ALL ACCOMPLICES THEREOF.

As for the OTHER half, I SPIT ON YOU! I BLOW MY NOSE IN YOUR GENERAL DIRECTION (Well, I am at the moment beset by allergies, so I must blow my nose in SOMEONE’S direction – why not in the general – nay, PRECISE – direction of good-for-nothing rascals)!!! Here’s the bottom line: I was trying to rescue a bird from the wood stove chimney, and I almost had a BIG FAT ACCIDENT – not my usual little smidgen of a mishap, but a SERIOUS CONCRETE CALAMITY.

See, the bird was in the chimney. I’d wondered why my Kitten Children were paying unusually close attention to the wood stove (Fiona stands up on the stove behind the chimney when it rains as though it were the most scintillating phenomenon in the world, but it was NOT raining), and then I heard wings beating. I opened the flue and removed some of the lining bricks from the inside of the stove thinking that if I could get the bird INSIDE the stove that I could get it into a box and then outside. But the bird didn’t listen to my knocking and beckoning and such. I realized that I’d have to get on the roof to get a better view from above of what was happening. Besides, that chimney is completely overgrown with grapevines, which probably caused the befuddled entry of the wayward bird down the chimney in the first place. I collected my tools: leather work gloves, medical gloves, a container of suet, a flashlight, a ladder and a pitchfork. I put on my sunglasses and a germ-barrier mask (oh, the things to which you have access because of cancer patients…) – you know – because of the avian flu (NOT “flue,” like where the bird was stuck or “flew,” no doubt what the bird wished it had done) and I was ready to go. I quickly recognized that I needed some extra height to get to the roof using the ladder I’d found, so I set up on the front porch. This may sound ill-advised, imprudent, a tad reckless, and – oh – to call a spade a spade – REALLY, REALLY STUPID. But I thought I could get away with it. I donned the gloves (medical gloves on the inside, naturally), and first put my other supplies on the roof. Then I attempted to climb up myself. This involved some tricky maneuvering past the rain gutter, as I had to perch the ladder dangerously close to the porch edge in order to avoid the overhang. Just when I though I’d figured it out – I had one hand ON the roof, the other grasping one of the big bolts that runs through the rain gutter (very secure, thankfully), the ladder started to teeter – and I don’t mean wobble just a bit – I mean it was lurching – and not TOWARDS the house, but OFF THE PORCH. I managed to glance down and saw that one of the legs of the ladder had somehow become wedged up on the bottom of the porch railing, and I was basically trying to re-balance it (or CATCH it, even) with one foot (the other I’d taken off to boost myself up). I was, in essence, hanging from the roof. I, at this point, intoned a little mantra of a quickly repeated curse word (appropriate for the occasion, I might argue). It was something along the lines of, “Oh, blankity blankity blankity blankity blankity blankity blankity blankity blankity blankity blankity blankity.” I also said, “Help me, Help me,” but I admit I was too embarrassed to, in fact, scream for assistance, so it was more of a timorous little, “Hey – help me? Help me – I could fall and injure myself MIGHTELY, but I wouldn’t want to trouble anyone too much with MY insignificant problems.”

Enter the reprobates (to, I think, faint strains of Send in the Clowns). The bus for one of the junior high schools picks ups and drops off right next door. Just as I was perilously dangling and wobbling and swearing and whatnot, the school bus showed up and the students began to de-bus (you “de-plane” – therefore one should “de-bus,” yes?). They casually walked away from the vehicle in little groups, this way and that, hither and thither, having deep conversations along the lines of (please imagine the droll accent I would use to recount their banter if we were face to face):

I can’t BELIEVE she said that! And then he goes, “I broke up with YOU.” I about PEED MY PANTS. AND did you see that she copied my new outfit – she always copies me – it is so LAME. And she looks like such a POSER! But he is such a HOTTY!

So help me, not ONE of the little cliques even gave me a sideways glance! Shirleen said later, “But they are raised to stay away from crazy people who frighten them.” She thought the swearing might have scared them, too. But I must answer to both counts: THEY GO TO JUNIOR HIGH. As though they don’t hear CUSSING in JUNIOR HIGH. And as though JUNIOR HIGH is not the most FRIGHTENING PLACE IN THE WORLD. Are they really going to be daunted by an unsteadily suspended “Lady” – they would all call me Ma’am – that’s if they had manners – but I just KNOW they would call me “Ma’am” because I’m “old.” I am, as it happens, evidently unworthy of their slightest attention. I honestly think the ladder could have toppled off the porch, I could have fallen TO the porch and then “KERBANG, KERBANG, KERBANG” down the cement stairs (more math – as I’m a scientist – “kerplunk” + “bang” = “KERBANG” – which is a necessary term for HARD smash ups) and not a single little neophyte would have batted an eyelash.

I did, somehow, manage to steady the ladder with my foot and pull it off the porch railing. Then I proceeded to climb up onto the roof (after all that I was GOING TO DO IT NO MATTER WHAT). I assaulted the vines with the pitchfork and my bare (okay, gloved) hands. I had to throw one nest off the roof (it was right next to the chimney – it had to be done). Then, I took off the work gloves, opened the suet, and hurled it off the roof as a peace offering to the poor creatures whose beloved homes I had to destroy (you were wondering why I needed medical gloves – were you not? Suet is greasy, GREASY, so I used and then discarded those gloves to open the package). Work gloves back on, I yanked and whacked and pulled and pushed until the chimney was free of vines. I did leave a HUGE overhang of branches that I just pushed off the roof edge with the pitchfork (we later chopped the top off) because I didn’t want to disturb the nests down inside any more than necessary. When the chimney was clear, I took the flashlight – which, ironically, worked PERFECTLY on the ground and suddenly was exceptionally DIM and tried to see where my bird friend was caught. I thought perhaps I caught a glimpse of it on a small ledge that’s must above the stove chimney, but I couldn’t be sure. So then I started talking down the chimney – you know, the things you say to rescue wildlife – “Little birdie – GO DOWN! Little birdie – GO DOWN IN THE STOVE SO WE CAN RESCUE YOU!!!” The disembodied voice wafting from the stove apparently scared the hell out of Shirleen, who’d come over after picking up Zeke from his rescue champions. She came to see WHAT ON EARTH was happening on the roof. This was, indeed, providential, as I called down the chimney for her assistance (in holding the ladder) when I was finished de-vining.

So, as I’ve CLEARLY proven, some teenagers are fair dinkum, and some are VILE, DESPICABLE REPROBATES. Hmmm. Perhaps this is a good metaphor for ALL humanity; half fair dinkum (lauds and honours to YOU – and you know who you are), and the other half consists of base and debauched, slimy gobs of putrescent pond scum on legs. Now I am a scientist AND a philosopher.

In the end, don’t you think we’ve all learned something? I’ve learned, with a deep and abiding conviction, THAT DAMN BIRD IS STILL IN THE CHIMNEY. All my beseeching, imploring and Morse code tapping (ha – didn’t really do that – people these days don’t know the simplest Morse Code, our avian friends shouldn’t be expected to do any better) was for naught. I currently am devising a plan wherein I climb onto the roof again (with ASSISTANCE, I promise), give the bird one more verbal request to kindly move down into the stove (if it’s not dead already – how poignant!), and if it does not or cannot move, I thought I could knock it off the ledge with one of William’s Airzookas (the “fun gun”).