Saturday, February 18, 2012

A Proliferation of Porcupines

English: Photograph of two North American porc...Image via Wikipedia
I had just gotten out of the car, backpack and arms loaded down with books and miscellaneous school-related items, when I saw a shadow scoot across the ground in front of me. It was after dark, but the street light was bright enough for me to discern a basketball-size shadow with a little nubbin sticking out of one end and four legs. Then I noticed there were more of these NBA wannabees, maybe a dozen, multiplying so quickly, I couldn't keep up with their numbers. Suddenly, there were what I took for babies, hundreds of them, swarming around my feet like flocks of birds gathering to migrate south for the winter. Next, hundreds of infants swarmed behind the babies, and like Mary's lamb, everywhere I stepped, they were all sure to go.

Porcupines. Big ones, little ones, littler ones still, following me like geese in the film, Fly Away Home (1996). Sounds cute, you say? Well, I suppose it was, but cuteness wasn't going to solve the problem of getting into the house without a proliferation of porcupines clinging to my heels. Fortunately for me, dawn's early light intervened at that moment, accompanied by a full bladder and empty stomach. I didn't tell you? Shame on me. Yes, this was a dream from night before last in the wee, wee (no pun intended) hours of the morning.

Why was I dreaming about porcupines? I'm glad you asked. It all started with Freddy, a sweet little porcupine who lives under my barn, snitches apples from the tree next to the house, and has been growing increasingly comfortable having dogs and a person around. I won't use the word "tame" because he's still a wild animal, though one who's obviously nonplussed whenever the dogs and I go outside while he's gnawing away at lunch in the front yard. I speak to him, naturally, and he seems to respond to "Freddy" by looking my way.

Porcupines are supposed to be nocturnal, but this fellow's more of a day person who likes the warmth of the sun on his back. There have even been a few occasions I've discovered him lying in the flower bed, snuggled up against the house, right below my study window. The first time this happened, he had me worried because he hadn't moved in several hours and I thought, Oh, no, he's been sick, I didn't know, and now he's gone to the Happy Munching Ground in the sky. I got down on one knee, maybe an arm's length away, and gently called his name. He woke up, looked at me sleepily, and of course, said nothing, as is his way.

Now, why my dream has porcupines in such numbers is probably due to there having been another one in the yard lately, a big one, easily twice Freddy's size. He or perhaps, she -- I'm not getting close enough to find out -- lives in the forest behind the house and when the dogs and I go out at night with a flashlight, s/he looks at me as if to say, Do you mind, I'm eating here?! and ambles off into the bushes. I'm guessing Freddy's mentioned something about the quality of the menu and as with any good restaurant, the word gets around. Either that, or he's left his scent on the grass like a sign reading, Porcupines Welcome Here. The point is, now there are two -- well, actually, three. Last evening we had a new customer who took off before I had a chance to ask how they liked the service.

Jung or Dr. Freud would likely say my dream was a portrayal of how my unconscious views the coming months of board preparation, graduation, fourth year rotations, residency interviews, and the Match. I'm not going to argue; they know dreams better than me. But that doesn't change the fact, I'm honestly a bit worried. The last thing I want is to become so popular my best customer (Freddy) takes his patronage elsewhere simply because he doesn't like having to wait for a table. Porcupines are particular about these things, you know.

(GNU Free Documentation image via Wikipedia)

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