A Squirrel’s Classic Blunder

Eighty-plus degrees. Terrible humidity. I cannot believe this is September, and it doesn’t matter anyway, since the book is eating my head. Sometimes the shift from recalcitrant huge book-thing I have to drag with my teeth to galloping bronco pulling me along in the dust as I frantically try to stay upright is extraordinarily abrupt.

So, I only have a few moments, and I should record this extraordinary thing in the annals of SquirrelTerror.

I did mow the lawn this weekend–no, that was not the extraordinary thing, jeez, I know I don’t do it as much as I should, but I’m busy, all right? (Defensiveness, another symptom of approaching deadline.) ANYWAY. I was waiting to see what Squirrel!Neo would think of this, but ever since I hacked the grass into something resembling a reasonable suburban lawn there was no sight of him.

Until this morning.

The quiet did terrible things to my nerves, so I was almost relieved this morning to see the fuzzy little jerk up in the pussywillow tree, clinging in a fork and surveying the shorn grass. He stayed there so long I almost felt guilty for mowing, I imagined him thinking about the nuts he must have hidden and how the grass probably wouldn’t provide a safe cover for them now. I even imagined him bemoaning a natural disaster that had descended on his little patch, stunned by the seeming capriciousness. What does a squirrel know of the weekend and the various exigencies of lawn care?

Yes. I felt sorry for the little bugger.

I shouldn’t have.

He perched in the pussywillow for a good half hour while I ran, and I was even getting to the point where I imagined him sending me little reproachful glances from his beady little rodent eyes as he slid back and forth, checking the sight lines and contingencies. He looked utterly hangdog. I even thought–I am completely serious–that when I was done with five miles I’d go out and scatter some bread for him.

That was when Mercutio!Jay showed up.

He glided in to land on his usual branch, silently–maybe he was uneasy, maybe he was thinking about something else–and with enviable power and authority, as befit the master of the backyard.

And Squirrel!Neo sprang.

Barely had Mercutio!Jay landed before Squirrel!Neo, the doughty warrior who had lain in wait for so long, hit Mercutio’s favorite branch like a ton of bricks. The branch whipped back and forth, Mercutio!Jay was thrown.

But Squirrel!Neo had committed a classic blunder. The first is never get into a land war in Asia, and we all know what the second is. Apparently, Squirrel!Neo had this great plan, except he forgot one tiny detail.

Bluejays can fly. Or, more precisely, Neo forgot that jays fly…

…and squirrels, so far, do not.

Mercutio!Jay started shrieking and flapping, and I swear I saw a flash of triumph on Squirrel!Neo’s fuzzy snout before he realized he was falling. He flurried desperately, and now we get to the extraordinary thing.

He scrabbled, sliding down a long thin whippy branch, and he almost made it. I gasped, Mercutio!Jay was still screaming as he settled back on his favorite perch (I am not sure, but I think he was yelling “JESUS CHRIST! WHAT THE F!CK, YOU KUNG-FU WISEASS? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?”), and Squirrel!Neo clutched desperately…

…and fell. He hit a metal bench set under the fence, then did this amazing flip off the bench and landed on the lawn, braced on all fours. His tail switched once, twice, and I could hear the theme music swelling.

Mercutio!Jay hopped from foot to foot. I could swear he was doing the Carlton. His beak moved, and again, I am not up on my bluejaytongue, but I believe he was taunting little Neo.

The closest translation I can offer is: “YEAH! WHO KNOWS KUNG FU NOW, YOU FUZZY-ARSED MORON! WHO KNOWS YOUR KUNG-FU NOW? BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!”

Squirrel!Neo’s lips moved.

I could swear he said “Sonofabitch,” before he scampered for the plum tree and disappeared.

This does not bode well.

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