For a long time, I have wished for magical elves to appear at my home or construction project and tackle some of those gnarly carpentry jobs I have put on hold. Okay, plumbing, heating, drywall and even roofing would be nice but I’ve never run across a reference to elves doing that kind of work. It’s probably against their union rules or even their culture. Magical elves are born and raised carpenters.

Growing up, and that would not be very far up, they are constantly told they will be attending trade school after graduating from high school and there will be no discussion as to going to college, joining the military or, God forbid, taking a gap year. Furthermore, it’s understood that they will study carpentry. Sure, it can be framing, fine woodworking or, yes, toymaking but don’t even think about welding or mechanics. Elves don’t do that. Sometimes sprites or fairies do that but not elves. Only goblins involve themselves with diesel mechanics but they never fix anything; they tend to get into the works and confuse the issues, just for amusement.

Anyway, it would be nice to arrive at the jobsite one morning and see elves had finished trimming out the room on which I had been working. Of course, their work would have to be superior to mine or what’s the point of magical elves helping you out? I mean it wouldn’t be so magical if you had to put in a few shifts touching up all their mistakes and shoddy craftsmanship.

Worse yet, you may have to tear out what they did and start over. Then there’s the issue of who pays for the materials. Is it on my account? How much do they allow for waste? Also, who authorizes special-case purchases where they have to send out for special fasteners or a new saw blade? That discussion, however, is beyond the scope of this particular column.

What I want to say is that a crew of sub-standard elves would be much more preferable on a jobsite than who showed up last week: carpenter squirrels.

My wife came into the kitchen for her morning coffee to find that a grey squirrel was still busy “adjusting” the trim on our dining room windows. That would be on the inside of the house. He would run up the side of the window and take a nip at the trim, typically removing a two-inch splinter, and then run to another window as if he was trying to get out. The squirrel managed to hit six different windows at random spots apparently without any formal plans or even sketches. Worst carpenter ever.

We went into battle mode. My wife set up a perimeter defense and I went in armed with a broom to “guide” the little wood butcher to the now-open door. He darted up the curtains. I swished him down with the broom along with the curtains, the rod and some hardware. He jumped up on the shelf by the window and hid behind one of the potted plants. Three thrusts with the broom brought him running toward the door but not before knocking one of the plants to the floor. Two more plants followed after being disentangled from the broom. He jumped on the table and paperwork went flying. I stumbled and knocked things off the counter.

My wife was shouting, “He’s in the corner.” I was cursing. The squirrel lunged at me, breaking a dinner plate. I parried with the broom and a counterattack. He retreated, headed for the door and suddenly stopped three feet short.

With the finesse of a Bobby Hall slap shot, I sent the squirrel flying through the center of the doorway goalposts. He hit the ground running and continued up the nearest tree, hopefully to make a note never to enter the house again by whatever portal he entered, which my wife and I are still trying to find.

We surveyed the damage. It was hard to tell if it was the squirrel or the effort to evict him that caused more damage. It looked like the morning after our last New Year’s Eve party but without the confetti, empty bottles and passed-out guests.

We went out to breakfast, hoping for qualified elves to materialize and fix everything, but we ended up cleaning up the mess on our own. This is when we discovered we have … wait for it: carpenter ants.