A few days after stay-at-home orders began, Angela Hansberger, a restaurant writer in Atlanta, received a package in the mail from her Uncle Ed in Ohio. Ed owned a bowling alley and had a lot of spare time since the pandemic began; he used that time to make Hansberger a squirrel-sized picnic table.
But instead of hanging it from a tree as instructed, Hansberger set up the table on her porch with a few walnuts scattered on top. Almost immediately, a chipmunk sat down and began to eat. He came back the next day, and the day after that. Hansberger, who also had a lot of quarantine-induced spare time, began making tiny, chipmunk-sized accoutrements for the table: a tablecloth and a vase of flowers. After a bit of Googling about chipmunk food, she started to vary the menu. The chipmunk appreciated it: he began leaving her tips the form of leaves and bits of flowers he’d found elsewhere in the neighborhood.
And thus a beautiful restaurant relationship began. Hansberger named the chipmunk Thelonious Munk. (He may have given her a name, too, but she doesn’t know what it is.) The meals grew more elaborate: sushi, pizza (both New York and Detroit styles), salad, tacos. She built a sushi bar for the sushi, a tiny beer hall to go with the pretzels, and finally, with the help of her husband, a chipmunk-sized bar, complete with a bowl of peanuts and tiny bottles of booze.
Bringing a little joy to others is the secret sauce that quells my pandemic anxiety. Messages from strangers who found my munk via social media keep me going. A recent human-sized take-out order from a local restaurant included a small container labeled “Thelonious.” Inside were hazelnuts, carrot curls, and wee chanterelles, a gift from the kitchen.
This may be the best thing I have read all week. I’m not sure if it gives me more faith in humanity, but it’s lovely to know that friendship can exist between a human and a chipmunk.