I figured out I wasn’t getting sick while running this morning, smelling incipient autumn and dodging fallen plums with wasps busily sampling the sweet, fermenting flesh. School is just around the corner, so one or two of my running routes will have to change. In summer I can circle a campus or two, but fall to spring they’re reserved for other uses. Autumn also means more rain, which means less dogs offleash during their morning walkies for Miss B to yearn after. (I am a cruel alpha, for not letting her offleash to PLAY and CAVORT and CHASE RANDOM CARS AND BICYCLISTS.)
Just after the plums, there was a long straightaway, and something blurred across the path. I marked it–squirrel, and a big one too–and almost tripped.
Because the little rodent’s tail was crooked, at exactly the angle Neo’s used to be. Is it a common thing? I don’t know. I almost, almost stopped to check if I was wearing shoes, but then B lunged for a wasp who had decided to keep pace with us and when I looked back, the squirrel had vanished.
How is it that I can feel…well, a little sad? It made me think of all the crazy escapades in the former Kingdom of Backyard. I don’t miss the old house–there were definitely things that needed fixing, and for the last six-seven years of my life there I was incredibly miserable–but…I do sometimes miss the jays in the morning, and sometimes I even miss Neo’s crazed chatter.
There’s Napoleon and Josephine, of course, though Napoleon is old and cranky and Josephine is now the Queen of Backyard Rodentia, thankyouverymuch. Beauregarde the Chivalrous has shown up every once in a while. There’s Horatio the Jay, who screams in sonnets, and a number of small sparrows and chickadees who Greek chorus out back all day long. There are the cats from next door, who the Mad Tortie sometimes allow to saunter through our front yard, and visits from the Amazing Hummingbird Daredevils. Even Young Horus the Hawk gets into the action, though he hasn’t hunted in the yard. I think he just roosts. There’s Willard and Phil and Miranda and Fred and George and Emphysema Joe and Norbert. So there’s no shortage of company or shenanigans in my “new” backyard.
It’s just…some days were so awful, so bleak, that a squirrel shenanigan (how does my spellcheck know the singular of “shenanigans”?) was the only thing to break the agony and make me forget the black hole for a few minutes. (A few minutes of screaming, terror, and shoelessness, but still.) And of course, sharing the stories with Readers helped me feel a little less of a useless sack of water and pain.
Maybe it’s Neo reincarnate. If that’s the case, the elementary school groundskeepers are in for a surprise or two.
Maybe I do miss the little punk, the One of Rodentia, He Who Knows Kung Fu. Maybe I just miss the brief moments when I felt like a human being again while anthropomorphizing him and his cohorts. Those moments shone all the more brightly because the darkness around them was so intense. Now that I’m not having a half-dozen panic attacks a day and struggling just to find reasons to survive, there are more bright spots.
Stories save our lives in many ways, over and over again, all the damn time.
At least if that crooked-tail rodent is a reincarnation, I’ll be wearing shoes every time I meet him. Of course, that’s no guarantee I won’t end up screaming, but one takes what one can get.