The Convalescence of Neo

It was one of the few times in my life when I wished I played some form of incredibly violent team sport. Not only could I have used, say, hockey armor or an American-football helmet, but I also could have used some backup.

After all, I was going into the garage.

When last we left him, Squirrel!Neo, stunned and possibly concussed (that’s a word, right?), was curled in a cat carrier in my garage. He had a bowl of shelled peanuts, a bowl of fresh water, and I’d made sure the cage door was locked. I spent a restless night, hoping I wouldn’t have to dispose of yet another rodent corpse come dawn. I was running out of room in the Squirl!Semetery. Though I wouldn’t put it past another one of the little bastards to rise from the grave again.

So, the following fresh warm morning, I got up, nervously checked out the websites of a few sporting goods stores, and thought of dealing with the questions I would encounter if I went in and bought a whole set of hockey pads, helmet, greaves, the works. Kevlar seemed like a good option. Plus, a few hockey sticks would be a good addition to my Sekrit Weapon cache. Bonus if I could roll them in tar and ground glass.

Look, I was just being careful, okay?

But in the end, I decided that one wounded squirrel in a cat carrier was probably not going to require me dressing up like a modern-day secutor. I mean, Neo was probably feeling a bit under the weather, although I doubted even at that moment that he would be harboring so much as a tiny shred of gratitude toward the big pink monkey who had gotten him out of the road and shelled his fucking peanuts. Probably, I thought, he’s sleeping.

That was my first mistake.

My car was in the garage, so I decided swinging a Sekrit Weapon around was not going to end well for anyone. Thus it was, that unarmed and foolish, I went where angels fear to tread. Miss B was clipped to the couch–no, I didn’t staple her or anything. I just put her on a leash that has the other end below one of the couch legs. It’s what we use to keep her from bolting over the pet fence and out the front door to catch, say, a tender, juicy UPS driver. Or a departing guest she likes too much to let leave. (Annie Wilkes has NOTHING on Miss B, let me tell you.)

Yeah, well, we’re working on Miss B’s impulse control. She’s getting better.

At least I had the presence of mind to put her on the leash and give her a Dingo bone (there is very little she won’t do for squeezy cheez or a Dingo bone; I like Cheetos so I figure we’re about even) and tell her to stay. She obeyed me for a full five seconds before going to the very end of the leash and giving me the Puppy So Sad You’re-Stepping-On-My-Tiny-Dreams Look.

I already felt like a jerk.

ANYWAY. So I bopped to the garage door, listened intently, and heard nothing. Which wasn’t at all unusual. But I figured if Neo was afoot in my garage, there would be Noise Of An Incredible Nature. All seemed quiet. Peaceful, even.

I twisted the knob and sallied forth into my carhaven. I left the door open behind me. I had some hazy idea of always leaving myself one avenue of escape. (It works out well in other areas of my life, okay? DON’T JUDGE.) Around the end of the car, thankful that the windows were rolled up, because all I needed was a squirrel in my car while I was driving down the street. (Remind me to tell you about how I had to have my windshield replaced one time.) I took a deep breath, looked down at the cat carrier…

…and froze.

The steel-grill door to the cat carrier hung ajar, its hinges squeaking just a tiny bit to add dramatic tension to the moment. You could almost hear the horror-movie music swell. The towels were shredded, the peanuts were gone, and the water had been violently upset.

I guess King Neo had recovered.

Now seriously, Friends and Neighbors, I want to ask you: How is it even goddamn possible for a squirrel to open a cat carrier door with a spring-lock FROM THE FUCKING INSIDE? HOW? Because I DO NOT KNOW. It is one of those grand life mysteries, like where the other half of a pair of socks goes or how wire hangers mate.

Madre de Dios,” I breathed. “Neo, goddammit–”

“BANZAI!” he screamed, leaping from a pile of boxed foreign editions. “I KNOW KUNG FUUUUUUUU!”

I flinched and screamed like a little girl, falling back against the car and barking my hip a good one. The car rocked on its springs, but Neo wasn’t aiming for me. He was aiming for the car’s roof, and he streaked across it like he was on wheels. Another leap, of effortless flying authority, and he vaulted from the hood…and barreled in through the door.

The open door. The door I had left open.

Into my house.

Into my goddamn kitchen.

In the distance, the barking began.

…To be continued

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