“SHIT!” I screamed, as I skidded around the corner into my kitchen from the garage. “NO NO NO! NOOOOO!”
The squirrel wasn’t listening. The dog, attached to the couch, was barking hysterically.
When we last saw Neo, he had voiced his battlecry and flung himself into my unprotected house. This was a fine way for the goddamn rodent to repay me for not leaving him in the road to die. Gratitude may be a virtue, but I really am beginning to think it’s one this little asshole doesn’t possess.
Several thoughts flash through one’s head when one has inadvertently let a demonic tree-rat into one’s house. Let me see if I can list them in some kind of coherent order.
1. OH JESUS CHRIST SQUIRREL RABIES AUGH!!!
2. None of this would have happened if I’d left him outside like a less goddamn charitable person would have.
3. A FUCKING SQUIRREL IN MY HOUSE!
4. How am I going to clean this up? Will bleach get squirrel out of the linoleum?
5. AUGH! SQUIRREL! WILD ANIMAL CRAWLING WITH FILTHDISEASENASTY IN MY KITCHEN!
6. I am really questioning my own intelligence at this point.
7. HOW DID HE GET OUT OF THAT FUCKING CAT CARRIER?
8. Thank God the dog is tied up–wait.
9. AND MY DOG IS TIED UP AND CAN’T DEFEND HERSELF AUGH!
10. The cats! OMG the cats!
11. HE KICKED ONE CAT IN THE HEAD, WHAT IS HE GOING TO DO TO THE OTHERS?
…you get the idea.
I found out I was carrying an axe handle, and put on the brakes in the middle of my kitchen, barely aware I was screaming obscenities.
What? The axe handle? They’re cheap, they make good weapons, and you can prop them near doors. I like having reasonable weapons in each room, and something within arm’s length at any moment. I AM PARANOID, OKAY? DON’T JUDGE. The axe handle had been right by the garage door. I’d picked it up by the wrong end, but it can still be a bludgeon. At least it wasn’t the Sekrit Weapon. And I just couldn’t throw it, because with my luck it would go straight through a window, and explaining that to anyone who came to fix it would just not…wait, where was I?
Oh yeah. Middle of the kitchen, jerked up short like a dog on a chain, the chunk of wood in my left hand dangling once my arm dropped. The obscenities cut off midstream, I choked on something that sounded suspiciously like “–damn hamsterf!cking crazyass rodent!” and froze.
An uneasy silence fell.
The cats, you see, had come to investigate the ruckus. Sweet dumb Tuxedo Kitty, who had been kicked in the head by Neo lo these many ages ago, Lemur!Cat, and Cranky Old Duck Cat. He’s our oldest, he’s cranky, and if you surprise him he actually quacks. Like a duck. (Look, all my animals are strange. I can’t help myself, I pick up the rejects and the outcasts. This explains not only the Duck Cat, the Stupid Tuxedo, and Miss B, but also my dating life. ANYWAY.)
Cranky Old Duck Cat, his oddly-shaped ears flat against his head, crouched and examined this New Thing In The House. He regarded it exactly the way he regarded Miss B when I brought her home. “WHAT IS THIS THING?” he grumble-quacked. “IT LOOKS SNACK-SIZED. PROBABLY TOO MUCH TROUBLE, THOUGH. WHAT THE HELL HAVE YOU DONE NOW, MONKEY?”
Tuxedo Kitty, eyes wide and tail twitching, was near the dining-room table. “I THINK I REMEMBER YOU,” he was saying. “I’M ALMOST SURE I DO. HANG ON.”
Lemur!Cat, huge, long, and lean, with a face that looks like a tree lemur’s (cat’s eyes are HUGE, OMG) and all the mental horsepower of a fat wet rock, stood chewing air and regarding this intruder with a gleam in his eye I’d seen a few times before. It was the gleam I saw, accompanied by the throaty pleaseohplease noises he was making now, right before he launched himself at the sunroom window to try to get at the birds at the feeder hanging outside.
He still hasn’t grasped the nature of the barrier that bonks him on the nose each time. (Look, he had some problems growing up, okay?)
Lemur!Cat’s haunches went up. He crouched, and Neo, his tail twitching, stood at the edge of the rug. I cleared my throat, nervously, and nobody moved. “Okay,” I said, quietly. “Let’s just all calm down and think about–”
“I KNOW KUNG FUUUUUUUUU!” Neo took the only route of escape left, through the almost-closed glass door into the sunroom. I leave it open a bit so the cats can get out to their kibble and litterboxes, but closed enough so Miss B can’t get her fat ass through it. (She has a distressing fondness for Catbox Roca.) I bolted for the door, to shut it before the cats got through. If he was in the sunroom I could go out through the garage and open the outer sunroom door, and he could get out into his kingdom once again.
I’m pretty fast, especially when spurred by adrenaline. However, I am no match for three cats. Lemur!Cat had sprung, and Tuxedo!Kitty, not wanting to be left behind, took off after him like a rocket. Crab!Kitty, dimly understanding everyone was running for the Room What’s Got The Kibble, let out a yowl and sprang forth to get his fair share.
“CHRIST NO NOT THE PLANTS!” I yelled.
Right before I ran into the sunroom door. I’m just goddamn lucky the chunk of wood in my left fist didn’t shatter some glass and add to the fun.
Cursing, rubbing my nose, I wrenched the sunroom door open.
My plan at that point was to get through into the sunroom, close the door behind me, and open up the door to the backyard, then figure out how to get the goddamn squirrel out. The cats would probably chase him into the wild green yonder, and once Neo had some room to maneuver, I was a bit more sanguine about the end of this little episode not involving bloodshed, broken glass, and yowling. It was the best I could come up with. It was even a cunning plan.
Unfortunately, the goddamn animals had other ideas.
Neo leapt for the high ground–the picnic table where I keep the jungle of houseplants I am nursing to health, or someone moved and I can’t just throw them away, or I found them shivering on a streetcorner and just had to take them in. (SHUT UP.) Lemur!Kitty was right behind him, and the desperate battle was accompanied by my despairing cry and CrankyOldDuck!Cat quacking “ALL YOU KIDS STAY AWAY FROM MAH KIBBLE!” and Tuxedo!Kitty’s yelling “I REMEMBER! I REMEMBER! YOU KICKED ME IN THE HEAD!” And Neo making THAT SOUND again, in between warcries involving “GONDOR NEEDS NO KUNG FUUUUUU!” and “FIGHT YOU AAAAAAAALLLL!”
I was still kind-of-thinking at this point. I wrenched the door to the outdoors open, trying not to break it with the axe handle, heard a terracotta pot shatter, and realized far too late that the dog was too quiet and I’d left the other sunroom door open.
From the depths of the house came help unlooked-for.
“HEEEEEEEERD IT!” she bellowed. “MUSTER THE ROHIRRIM! CALL UP THE DEAD! HEEEEEEERD IT!” She hit the doorway in a flurry of fur and baying. “I AM NO MAN!”
The quiet I’d noticed earlier? That had been her worming out of her collar. When a dog is motivated, I guess, miracles happen.
Three things that were not miraculous happened at once.
“JESUS CHRIST!” I yelled.
“THE DOG! THE DOG!” the cats screamed in unison.
And, of course, “KUNG FUUUUUUUUU!” Neo.
I now pause to inform you that Aussies, champion herding dogs that they are, consider things like a heavy-duty picnic table that weighs as much as I do not as a “deterrent” to rounding up and herding three cats and a squirrel. Nope. No, definitely not a “deterrent.” More like “enjoyable but not very complex challenge.”
I could only stand still…and watch.
…To be continued! Also, don’t forget the giveaway over at the Deadline Dames–there’s still time to win a copy of Angel Town.