So there I was, at the back door, clutching the famous Sekrit Weapon and–
What? The Sekrit Weapon? Oh. It’s a golf club. They’re pretty good for home defense. I found this out during the Great Corn-Pops War. It’s far more maneuverable than the Shovel of Serious Business, and the bent part at the bottom is good for poking and lifting things you don’t want to touch. (Like roadkill. Or a sombrero left in one’s front yard. DON’T ASK.) I have learned my lesson: I will not willingly go near a squirrel unarmed. Even one that might be dead.
Miss B was curious, of course. If I was going outside, she wanted in on it too. However, I have also learned my lesson concerning her and squirrels-that-may-be-dead. So she had to stay inside, and the heat was such that I don’t think she minded much. Odd Trundles, of course, was still dozing in my office. The noise of SquirrelThings Five doing whatever it was they were doing had abated somewhat, and I think it functioned somewhat as white noise for him.
I checked a few times to make sure I was wearing shoes. I shook the Sekrit Weapon, assuring myself of its free play and that no part of it was going to come off. I crossed myself, muttered a prayer, told Miss B to sit her fuzzy ass down, and stepped outside.
From the deck I could see the Five–wait. The Four, for one of their number was still lying on his back at the foot of the pine, splayed out a little indecently, were still at their game. I couldn’t quite tell who was who, because the mating attempts seemed to have stopped, and now they were just chasing each other and losing bits of fur.
THING 1: YOU BASTARD!
THING 3: CHARGE! CHARGE!
THING 4: POOOOOOOOOOP!
THING 2: *singing* I’VE BEEN WORKING ON THE RAAAAAILROOOOOAD–
“This is a bad idea,” I muttered, and checked my shoes again. Still there. I swung the Sekrit Weapon a little, and edged down the deck stairs. From the landing, I could see the, um, victim, still splayed out. The poor fellow had landed on a rock, and was somewhat draped over it. Did squirrels get paralyzed? A paraplegic squirrel, perhaps? I was considering how to rig up a squirrelcart so a semi-paralyzed squirrel could get around–look, my brain, she runs away with me sometimes, especially under stress.
It’s why I write books.
ANYWAY. I could almost hear the wheels of the imaginary squirrelcart as I slid cautiously down the last set of stairs. This put me pretty close to the ring of rocks around the base of the fir, and I crouched at the foot of the stairs, just to take everything in.
Look, you take cover wherever you can in a situation like this. I’m just sayin’.
THING 2: *singing* AAAAAAALL THE LIVELONG DAAAAAAAY!
THING 4: SOOOOOOOPER POOOOOOOOP!
THING 3: YOU GONNA DIE! YOU GONNA DIE!
THING 1: ACK! JESUS! HELP! MEDIC!
The, uh, fur-fall seemed to have slacked off. They were still scratching and screaming above, and bits of bark were pattering down in random bursts. The squirrel on the ground just lay there.
I unfolded and crept closer, the Sekrit Weapon held before me, low and ready. (You can almost hear the Carmen Sandiego music, can’t you. I mean the music from the old PC game, when you ALMOST managed to catch her…Christ, I’m old.)
Now, I would like to mention that the concrete walkway there is tilted. The fir’s roots have lifted some parts of it, dropped others, and after a few years of living here I no longer trip on the seams. (Much.) That’s somewhat important. I had to step half off said walkway to extend the Sekrit Weapon and–gently, gently–prod the supine squirrel.
Honestly, I thought he was dead, and I was already thinking about where to bury the fallen warrior. (The rose garden’s getting a bit full.) Shovels were in the shed, I could prep a grave and take him there on one of said shovels–maybe by the mustard-and-ketchup bush. I didn’t know this little fellow, so the graveside service was going to have to be brief–
He wasn’t dead.
I repeat, he was not dead. He was just resting.
The Thing, whatever number he was, exploded into motion. He grabbed the end of the golf club, perhaps thinking it one of the combatants stills screeching and scrabbling above. Or he thought it was a branch. In any case, my combat reflexes are still quick, because I whipped said Sekrit Weapon up, hard.
And yet the squirrel did not fly, for once.
No, the little bastard let go.
I ask you, my friends and Constant Readers, have you ever almost hit yourself in the face with a squirrel-wrangling golf club? I don’t recommend it.
I went over backward, and the Unnumbered Thing (let’s call him Five, we might as well) howled his fury at resurrection. (Sort of like a naked Hugh Jackman.)
He was indeed just resting. Or stunned, or something. He didn’t head for the fir but for the back fence, a little gray streak still howling like a scruffy, clawed berserker.
Remember the tilted concrete walkway? The one I’d stepped off? Well, my asscheek met it. Hard. And yes, I say asscheek singular, because of the tilt. My teeth clicked together, I tasted blood, and that pratfall was the only reason the Sekrit Weapon didn’t take said teeth out.
Friendly fire, my darling friends, isn’t.
“SONOFABITCH!” I yelled, and other things. The golf club flew behind me and landed neatly on the deck with a clatter, missing windows, potted plants, and patio furniture as well as my teeth. Miss B began to bark, but she did not throw herself at the door, for once.
The end result of this was a breathless, hot silence in the backyard. I looked up, my eyes watering from the pain, and saw four small squirrels hanging off the fir and looking at me, their beady little gazes glowing with something suspiciously like awe. Five, of course, made it to the back fence and vanished into the cedars, the little bastard. I haven’t seen him since, nor have there been any more fur-flying battles in my fir.
I’m not sure I could survive another one.
And that, my friends, is how a squirrel gave me a bruise on my ass and a headache that lasted for days. The only lesson I can draw from this teachable moment is to never, ever, EVER assume a squirrel is dead.
They are, only and ever, just fucking taking a breather before the main event.