From Coffee to Flinger

I’ve switched back to the Moka pot for morning coffee; the Chemex, while pleasant, wasn’t doing enough. I suppose if I had two and poured the results of first brewing through the filter in the second it might, which would be a fun experiment but not one I’m going to try right now.

Of course, with all the caffeine I’ve ingested in my lifetime, my adrenal glands are probably the size of pinpricks. Yesterday I found out the tea I thought was herbal actually had green tea leaves in it, which explains why I was almost vibrating in place with an aching head after a couple cups.

Caffeine is a funny thing. I cut my coffee and black tea with heavy cream, but with green tea or herbal that won’t work. Consequently, there’s no buffer when I drink green tea, and I come down with giant flaming headaches most of the time I ingest it.

It’s a quiet, rainy morning. Miss B will like her morning walkies–she is an all-weather dog–but Boxnoggin is going to complain and high-step the entire way, shaking his wet paws mournfully and giving me reproachful looks. You’d think a dog born in Texas would be fine with our much more temperate weather, but all he does is complain it’s not hot enough, what’s with all this moss?

The stress nausea in the mornings is going down to a low grumble instead of a rollercoaster plunge every few moments. I might be adapting to the continuous stress, or all the housecleaning I’ve been doing lately has worked off any residual feeling and left me drained. Six of one, half a dozen of the other, I’ll just be glad to eat breakfast.

I keep telling myself none of this is normal, it’s absolutely reasonable to feel beside oneself, and that the reaction shows I’m in fact conscious and firing on all cylinders. It feels like I’ve been in training for this catastrophe my entire life. Maybe if the disaster ever rumbles into the distance I’ll find myself standing bruised and shaken by the tracks, able to return to some kind of normal functioning.


In the meantime, we’re having a little fun Chez Saintcrow. The Princess, bless her dear heart and quirky sense of humor, invested in a little thing that’s supposed to bring us hours of joy. Curious? So was I when the package arrived.

Look upon this work, ye mighty rodents, and DESPAIR.

That, my friends, is what’s known as a Yankee Flipper. It is battery-powered, a game-changer in our ongoing war (well, not quite a war, more like a fond wish or two) against the damn tree-rats in the habit of plundering our bird feeders. The birds have already found it, and their weight doesn’t trigger any motion–but when a squirrel tries to hop on and help themselves, the bottom part is supposed to spin like the dickens. (I’m sure you’ve all seen the gifs.)

I had my office window open almost all weekend, hoping to hear the thing go off. I am a little worried that it might fling one of the fuzzy little thieves against the house or the tree, which would mean I’d have to take the entire thing down. I don’t want to hurt the fluffy-tailed fauna, I just want them to let the birds have their meals in peace.

I know they’ve been trying to suss out what the hell, because every time Boxnoggin goes out his presence drives a scout–occasionally even Barda!Squirl, Wild Explorer of the Backyard–up the massive fir you can see the entire contraption hanging from. Should there be a dazed or flung squirrel, Boxnoggin stands ready. I don’t think he wants to schnorgle them like Trundles always did, though.

Even Miss B is nonplussed by this turn of events. She’ll eye the hanging feeder for a few moments, then look at me with her eyebrows up. She’s not moving as quickly as she used to these days, having become an elderly statesdog; I’m sure, though, she’ll temporarily rediscover her youth and springiness if there’s a chance to herd Boxnoggin and a tree-rat.

…honestly, I can’t wait. I’ll keep you all updated on the SquirrelFlinger as events warrant. So far it’s been one of the few good things about quarantine.

And now both dogs need their walk in the rain. Wish me luck, dear Reader. I have this feeling I’m going to need it.

Penultimate Turkey Day


So there I was, amid scurrying rats with an upside-down plastic penguin and a galloping heart, gasping for breath.

…maybe I should back up.

So, I was taking care of livestock for two separate out-of-town friends. This particular day I’d already whistled a bunch of goats into behaving and had a flock of geese very curious about me and whatever snacks I might be carrying. Then it was another half-hour in the car to get to my second livestock babysitting job, and I was about to face Turkey Boy once more.

It’s not that I dislike him. It’s just that I had a job to do, and he seemed very determined to interfere. And really, I was the source of fowl kibble, and it was in his best interests to leave me be while I filled the trough–but good luck explaining that to a puffed-up, very angry turkey just entering his first mating season.

Anyway, I carried Shirley down to the coop, braced myself, and went around the side to prop her on a yellow rain bucket. I was greeted by the chickens, who had figured out my arrival meant food of one type or another and were very excited, and Goose Girl, whose honking started pretty much the moment I opened my friend’s back door to go down the coop hill.

And, of course, Turkey Boy strutted into the covered yard, gobbling once or twice and eyeing me with beady impatience.

Now, the day before had brought an unwelcome development or two. First, Turkey Boy had figured out that I had to remove the shovel from the egg room entrance as I retreated; he was bound and determined to keep my rearguard engaged, hoping to force a battle upon familiar ground. It’s no secret that the hardest maneuver to pull off is a fighting retreat, but so far I’d managed. And if the gods were willing and the two-foot plastic penguin could distract Turkey Boy for long enough, I could be in and out in short order, and retire safely.

I’d been doing some thinking, and instead of putting Shirley on a concrete stepping stone, I decided some altitude was necessary. (She is, after all, a flightless bird.) Fortunately there was a yellow rain bucket at the far end of the covered yard, so I propped her there, careful to point her beak away so she would appear to be eyeing the yard sidelong.

It seemed to work–Goose Girl and Turkey Boy took turns yelling at the interloper, while the chickens, almost unconcerned, watched me for any sign of scratch grain. I tossed in their daily ration and tried not to scream when I saw a flicker of tail and beady eye well across the yard. The rats were keeping a low profile, since Schrodinger Roy had followed me down the hill.

Roy’s an interesting case. He’s actually two smoke-grey cats who could be twins, or, like Olsen Twins, one cat vibrating so quickly he appears to be in two places at once. If I hadn’t been possessed of absolute proof, both photographic and direct, that they were a pair, I’d’ve thought my friend had a teleporting cat outside as well as in. (Long story.) Anyway, Schrodinger Roy does a great deal of ratting down at the coop, and I am sure pickings are quite good.

Anyway, I gathered the kibble, got the trusty shovel, and managed to get in the egg room and block the door as usual. I think the chickens had pecked an importunate rat to death, since I had to also use the shovel to get a rag of fur and bones out of the egg room and one of the fresh-laid eggs had been destroyed, poor thing.

Turkey Boy was gobbling loudly, letting everyone know that there was an observer he didn’t care for. And then, as I dumped the kibble and began loading the can with unsmashed hen fruit, a deadly quiet descended.

Uh-oh, I thought, but had to finish my work. It was another feat of agility and flexibility to gather the eggs while keeping the door blocked, and suddenly the shovel was almost wrenched out of my hand again.

Turkey Boy had decided on a surprise attack.

Once more, I retreated with shovel in one hand and a coffee can of eggs in the other. Once more, Turkey Boy threw himself at the egg room door, and I heard his claws scrape wood suspiciously near where my head would be.

Did I mention turkeys fly for short distances, since they like to roost above the forest floor? Yeah, I found that out.

I braced the egg room door and had to outright tell my fingers to turn loose of the shovel. Then there was tidying the small antechamber with the galvanized bins of kibble and scratch, as well as transferring the eggs to a plastic bag for carrying up the hill. When I was done, I closed the coop door with a sigh of relief, and almost jumped out of my skin as Schrodinger (or Roy, who can tell, although Roy is usually the more vocal of the two) mewed slightly to let me know backup had arrived.

“You missed the party,” I told him, sotto voce, and his tail flicked. Then I realized something that made my heart plummet into my guts with an almost audible splash.

It was, again, quiet. Too quiet.

I rounded the corner and hurried along the coop wall, reached the fence, and stopped, somewhat confused. At first I thought the damn turkey had exploded out of sheer spite, and then I thought he had melted like hot wax.

Apparently, Turkey Boy had figured out I wasn’t in the egg room to punish, so he chose the next best thing, the tuxedo-clad interloper. I’m not quite sure how it happened, but…

Apparently Goose Girl had been attempting to snake her neck through the fencing and get to Shirley. She might have succeeded, being a creature with no little cunning and quite a bit of persistence, if not for Turkey Boy catching sight of this and deciding, in truly male fashion, that he could do it better.

Especially if he stood on a goose.

“Oh shit,” I said, and Roy mewed again, taking off at an angle along the coop fence. Now, the cat was supremely unconcerned about Shirley or me. What he was really interested in was a rat, and I suppose he’d seen one.

Feathers flew. Goose Girl honked like a bagpipe in the squeezing arms of a murderous clown, and Turkey Boy attempted to climb her in order to reach Shirley, who floated serenely above the fray.

Or, she appeared to, because she was teetering on the rain barrel. Motion communicated through the fencing couldn’t tip over the small barrel, but Shirley, though large, is also hollow.

I am almost certain I teleported across the intervening space, because if I had moved in the usual manner I’m sure I would have punted a cat. I had the hazy idea that Shirley might be injured if she fell from that height, but also, the fencing was beginning to look a little like it might not hold up under Turkey Boy’s assault, and poor Goose Girl, stunned but not yet down for the count, still had her neck through it.

Things happened very quickly.

I got there just as Shirley toppled, grabbed her head–look, it was the only handle I could be sure of–and raised her aloft. Turkey Boy beat his wings, gobbling and making a noise I can only describe as a rattle, and Goose Girl began to curse him with the fervor of a Roman matron warning an entire temple about the approach of the Gauls. Chickens scattered, Roy leapt on a hole–just missing a long naked tail–and, true to form, I was swearing.

At the top of my lungs.

I finished by holding Shirley aloft like a war club and screaming, “GODDAMN YOU, [turkey name], THAT IS E-NOUGH!”

It was the same tone I’d take with a bus full of misbehaving third-graders, and while it didn’t dent Turkey Boy’s enthusiasm, it startled Goose Girl into retracting her head through the fence, clearly grasping this was a higher priority than getting the dumbass Meleagris off her back. Which was, frankly, all to the good. But if the damn fence came down, I was going to have to fight a pitched battle with the fucking turkey.

So that was how I came to be swearing at top volume, waving a plastic penguin at a turkey while rats fled a teleporting cat.

At least I was wearing shoes. (Small mercies.)

Goose Girl reared, spreading her snow-white wings, and I would have been lost in artistic appreciation if the situation hadn’t been so dire. Turkey Boy sailed backwards, since he had not–thank the gods–been clutching with his spurs, and he landed with a feathery oof that would have been funny if I hadn’t been so, well, out of sorts is the only way I can describe it.

I checked the fence, left Roy stalking around and waiting for some quiet to entice his prey back out, and hoped Goose Girl hadn’t been injured. (She’s fine, don’t worry.) I carried Shirley up the hill, cradling her somewhat tenderly, and I realized halfway that not only was I apologizing (aloud and repeatedly) to a plastic penguin…

…but I had dropped the eggs. Fortunately, I was able to scurry back downhill and grab the plastic bag without incident, since Turkey Boy had decided to nurse his grudges and look for scratch in the wider, fenced, but uncovered yard on the other side of the coop.

That was my second-to-last day of turkey wrangling. And you know what? I hadn’t cracked a single egg.

Goddamn turkey. But at least Shirley–and Goose Girl–were uninjured.

And I still had one more day of turkey wrangling to go.

Wrangling Turkey, Redux


Hey guys, you can get the first six chapters of my upcoming September release, Incorruptible, for free right here. Enjoy!

Well, I’m awake.1 The good thing about taking time off is that even a half-day lets me recharge. The bad thing? I get itchy, and resentful that recovery is taking so long, so I do silly things like go for a run, push myself, and get injured. Or read true crime for a few days straight and freak myself out.

So, when I left the story last week, I had resorted to bringing a two-foot plastic penguin to the coop. I propped Shirley on the concrete stepping-stones along one side of the coop, and Turkey Boy was so incensed at this new arrival he forgot all about me. I was able to fill chicken kibble and collect a few eggs unmolested, and was quite cheerful at the thought that the problem had been solved.

Now, a dog might be intelligent, but turkeys are downright crafty. Turkey Boy, despite being fine and feathered, could not stand the interloper at the coop even though she stood quietly outside the fence, turned in profile so she was regarding them mildly in the manner of another prey animal. Of course, distracting him was the whole point, but I’d forgotten about one thing.

Namely, the Goose Girl.

I’ve dealt with geese in flocks and singles, and they’re filthy but wonderful beasts. They’re stubborn, smart, bad-tempered, and sacred to Juno–what’s not to love? Plus, they can only pinch you with their beaks and have no spurs. They’re loud and nasty-tempered, but relatively harmless. Relatively.

And they have very long necks. But that comes later.

One hot, bright morning2 I set Shirley down in a slightly different spot, changing it up to keep Turkey Boy interested. I wasn’t sure whether his gobbling was akin to Tormund seeing Brienne for the first time or a string of raging obscenities, so I nipped into the egg room to perform my tasks at high speed and ignore the rats at the same time.

What? The rats? Don’t ask, just know that when you have chickens, you’ve got rodents, too. The scratch grain takes care of that.

Anyway, I had just gathered most of the henfruit when the entrance to the coop yard darkened. I glanced in that direction and saw a familiar snood poking through, but I got the shovel-head over the opening in time.

Which just meant, really, that Turkey Boy finally had something within reach to vent his feelings upon, and he appeared to need it.

In short, he flung himself at the shovel-head blocking the entrance so hard he almost ripped the handle out of my fingers, and I may have let out a Graham Chapman-worthy “Jesus CHRIST.” It was a trick of both stretching and agility to get the remaining henfruit into the kibble can, and if a rat had come along then it would have found me seriously distracted. Thankfully, one did not, but I was faced with a quandary.

You see, I had the kibble can in my left hand, loaded with eggs. I had the shovel-head blocking the entrance to the coop-yard, the handle clasped firmly in my right, and the door was behind me.

Quite a bit behind me, as a matter of fact. Now, the coop is basically a medium-sized shed, but that’s still a lot of territory to cover when one is being pursued by a maddened, spur-crazy Meleagris.

I had no choice but to conduct a fighting retreat. The threat of the shovel kept Turkey Boy mostly at bay, and I managed to get the door flung closed and braced with the bucket of oyster shell.3

He hit the door twice, not bothering to gobble. Turkey Boy meant business, and he had discerned that Shirley’s presence might mean that I was sneaking about, gathering eggs, and daring to feed him and his cohort.

That, apparently, could not be borne.

It occurred to me that I could place Shirley on some stacked wood or a yellow rain barrel, and the novelty of altitude might overcome Turkey Boy’s native cunning for a short while. Of course, it occurred to me standing in a dark antechamber amid cans of chicken feed, while the eggs in the kibble can rattled a bit. Whether they were settling from my recent burst of motion or my hands were shaking, I shall leave you to imagine as pleases you.

So I loaded the eggs in plastic bags for transport to the house–where they would be washed, dried, and put in cartons for anyone I could unload them onto4–and closed up the coop annex, then came around the corner to collect Shirley.

I rounded said corner, in fact, just in time to see Goose Girl stretching her neck through the fencing, determined to get her beak close to this new interloper. I whisked Shirley into a saving embrace and sighed, while Goose Girl retracted her sinuous neck and honked a few mad words at me. She visibly realized my presence outside the annex meant the trough inside was full of kibble, though, and hurried away to take advantage of that before her midmorning bath.5

Turkey Boy, however, had scurried through the tiny coop-yard door once more, and came at the fence meaning business. The thought that I was either going to have to fend him off with a plastic bag of eggs or Shirley herself crossed my mind in a flash, and I dropped my center of gravity slightly, prepared for whatever may come.

But Turkey Boy stopped short of the fence, knowing from other attempts that it would resist his foul (ha ha) plans. He regarded me sideways with one beady little eye, wings held down, not stomping or gobbling, his tail fan-high and his snood turning crimson at its tip.

He wasn’t angry, that posture said. Rather, he was thinking.

“Uh-oh,” I told Shirley on our way up the hill. “Maybe we should get you some tinfoil armor.”

I forgot about the suggestion almost as soon as it was made, but it might have been better if I hadn’t. Because the next day, the goddamn turkey used a goose as a tool.

To be continued…

Wrangling Turkey

Thunderstorms swept through at about 3am today, which meant the dogs were off and on my bed, shaking and pressing close to me before overheating, hopping down, and padding into the loo to sprawl on the tile and cool off.

Which means I’ve been up since three, and am on my second jolt of coffee. I could have had a bit of a lie-in if I wasn’t wrangling all sorts of livestock for friends on vacation.

Speaking of which, I have decided I dislike turkeys, but I’ve also found out how to whistle a small herd of goats into behaving properly. (At least, for a while.) Imagine my surprise when I found out goats prefer Ennio Morricone spaghetti western music to any other.

…yeah, it’s been that kind of week. The turkey1, though. My gods.

It wasn’t so bad when he was younger, but said fowl has just arrived at two years old and autumn is the beginning of mating season. So, he’s feeling his oats (such as they are) and while he’s happy to be hand-fed by his regular human, he decided after a few days of my visiting the coop (to take care of him, the geese, and the chickens) that he was called upon to defend the egg room from my depredations.

Said depredations included putting chicken kibble in the trough and collecting eggs. For some reason, the newly adult turkey was unwilling to countenance that, so he came at me in the close confines of said egg room.

Now, he had been getting a little aggressive even with his usual human, so she’d warned me to arm myself. Which is why I had the shovel.

Regular readers will note that it was not the Serious Bizness Shovel featured in SquirrelTerror, but a similar shovel used for coop cleanup and scraping. In short, the Coop Shovel is a serious bit of business in its own right, and he got the back of it when he flew at me in the egg room, his spurs out.

The fellow got cursed and whomped for his pains, and herded out through the door with said backside of said shovel. Now, please note I did not strike even close to hard enough to harm him in any fashion, I just wanted to get him down out of the air and hustled out of the egg room.

But it was a defeat, and like Napoleon, this turkey did not take defeat well.

As a result, I’ve had to think one step ahead of this goddamn fowl for about two weeks now. At first menacing with the shovel in his general direction was enough, but then he figured out I didn’t want to hurt him (because it would make his human sad) and started getting frisky again. I finally arrived at changing up the sequence of feeding at the coop in order to throw him off, but he solved that problem by lurking in the egg room for as much as ten minutes at a time, laying in wait.

That was when I brought in Shirley.

Back when my writing partner owned the bookstore, I would often cruise the Archie McPhee catalogue and find things the place couldn’t do without. Like Clara, the big rubber vulture, or a whole cavalcade of sock monkey merchandise (long story, don’t ask).

Anyway, one of my most amazing finds was a two-foot-tall plastic penguin. I figured her size and strange coloring would keep the turkey’s interest–and ire–for a while, and that would mean I could get the kibble down in peace.

Shirley in her natural habitat. She came to live with me when the store closed.

And it worked. Sort of. For a while.

But then… the turkey got wise.

To be continued…

Body Detente

So I wrote out the end of the Battle of the Rhodies yesterday…and WordPress promptly ate it. No amount of weeping or digging through caches would find it. Autosave isn’t a selling point if it doesn’t work.

Suffice to say the entire thing went through Dame Barda!Squirl losing a bit of her tail fluff, Boxnoggin falling on Miss B not once but twice in the process of chasing her, and me having to hold a squirming B in my lap while I picked out bits of squirrel hair flossing her front teeth. And, true to form, I was barefoot, screaming, and uncaffeinated. (Yesterday’s post was a lot funnier, but after losing 900+ words of squirrelterror, I’m just not in the mood.)

I ask you, have you ever picked wiry rodent hair out of your dog’s teeth while she grins, well pleased with herself, and tries to wriggle away? It’s one of the gods’ little joys in life, apparently1

Anyway, that set the tone for the entire day. I managed to get seven Poison Prince scenes revised, so at least there was that. As soon as I get that book off to the editor, I swear I’m going to spend a weekend doing nothing but staring at the walls–just like last weekend, I guess. I’m in a pattern of burning myself down to wire and then re-wrapping my insulation, over and over again.2

It gets the books done, though, so I can’t complain. At least, I can’t complain much.

Today is all revisions, all the time, with only short breaks for a run, a shower, and the constant need to feed and coddle this body of mine. Said body has carried me, mostly uncomplaining, for a number of years now, and though I didn’t treat it well in my youth, I’m slowly beginning to approach a detente with it. My frustration at having to stop working to fill it with fuel or dump excess waste is sharp and total, but rarely lasts long.

I’m getting to the point where I resent anything taking me away from the work. Except the kids or the dogs, they get a pass. Otherwise, I’d rather write than eat, sleep, or any number of other things humans are forced to do at regular intervals.

Ah well. Sooner or later I’ll shed this coil like a butterfly, and perhaps there will be books where I’m going next. If not, then by the gods, I’ll make them.

Over and out.

Intermission, Poor Rhodies

I’ll continue the Battle of the Rhodies tomorrow; suffice to say this is a part of the bush in question. The flowers are beautiful, and so bright. The little valley in the greenery you can see at the top of the photo is where Barda hit. Poor thing, she tumbled all the way through; there is a lone tuft of squirrel hair buried in branches near the middle of the clutching branches.

But that’s another story. Have a lovely weekend, my darlings.

Battle of the Rhodies, Part I

Seems like May has one or two nasty surprises left for me, but by the goddamn power of Greyskull and caffeine, I shall prevail.

If you’re looking for the newest book, check out the Harmony page. You’ll find an updated listing of where to buy it. I also have a surprise coming in June, so that’ll be nice.

It’s a cloudy morning and I have to get out before the sun burns off the marine layer. Getting heatstruck robs me of several days’ worth of working time, and the dogs aren’t fond of too much sun either. Oh sure, they’ll bask–but Boxnoggin has such a slick dark coat, he soaks up heat like a sponge. B’s undercoat traps air and keeps her relatively cool, but still, it can only do so much.

Anyway, I am lingering to tell you about something that happened this morning. And yes, it involves an arboreal rodent.

Picture your lovely Narrator, pre-caffeinated and blinking, taking the dogs out for their post-sleep unloading of bladder, bowels, and any other passage that requires it. They rocketed down the stairs into the yard, I stayed on the deck and tried to achieve consciousness through the fog that is Before Coffee. I heard a faint scratching but ignored it, all my attention on the fuzzy little assholes choosing just the perfect spot to evacuate.

It wasn’t until Boxnoggin paused in the middle of the yard, one paw lifted (he is a very catlike dog) and stared up at the deck that a vague unease penetrated my usual morning stupor. I thought he was looking at me for direction, and beckoned him to come up the damn stairs for breakfast.

Then I realized he wasn’t looking at me. Well, he kind of was, but mostly, he was looking past me, and up. And up, and up.

I heard that faint skritch-skritch again, and turned with the slowness of a woman suspecting a nightmare.

There, perched upon my roof, was a squirrel. She was a big bitch too–I say bitch partly with admiration, for reasons you, dear Reader, will soon discover and partly because it’s technically correct1.

She had her head turned sideways, watching me with a prey animal’s peripheral vision, and I stared for a few seconds, my brain struggling to catch up. Finally, I gathered my wits, and said, “Good morning.”

Look, I was perfectly polite, especially considering my history with the Knights of the Nut Trees. Unfortunately, I think Lady Barda–for so I have christened this fine dame–was a bit startled at being greeted directly, because she took off across the roof to my left with a scrabble of claws and a flick of her tail.

If that had been the entire interaction, we both would have considered ourselves lucky. But Boxnoggin chose that moment to burst into frenzied motion, barking and heading up the deck stairs in a flurry of fur, nails, furiously wagging tail, and INCREDIBLE NOISE.

I think that may be why Big Barda decided the wide open acres of the roof would not provide safety. She’d probably dropped there from one of the firs and was looking for a snack in the gutters–they hide everything in there, the little fuzzy bastards–but she had neglected Rule One of assassinations and squirrel antics:


She didn’t have many options–vertical gutterslides, but those are hidden from the roof itself; the chimney, but that’s a dead end unless she wants to end up in my fireplace (Christ please no); the apple tree, but that’s a big leap even for a flying rodent. And then there was what I realized in retrospect was the only choice.

The rhododendrons.

There are some in front, of course, but she was on the roof’s reverse slope, so artillery and the front bushes were safe from her depredations. The two in the back, however, were a long but not impossible leap, and have the added benefit of leaves and flowers to provide cover. When you’re startled in the middle of a wide expanse, of course you start running for the treeline.

So she did. She hopped the gutter and pushed off from its far lip, sailed like Supergirl in a graceful arc, and crashed into the biggest of the rhododendrons with an explosion of twig-snapping and flower-shaking.

Squirrel!Barda made the jump, which was great.

Unfortunately, the noise alerted not just Boxnoggin, who turned himself inside out reversing course to scrabble down the stairs he’d just climbed, but also Miss B, who was across the yard and had just finished her morning wee.

In other words, B was feeling considerably lighter, and the noise had warned her of an intruder. She clearly didn’t know whether it was fire, flood, or invasion, but her elderly self was certain, in one blinding instant, that she had been called upon to ride to Gondor.

And all I could manage was a faint, “Oh Christ no…” as Boxnoggin reached the foot of the stairs and took the hard right towards the rhodies. B’s haunches rose, and she took off like a bullet.

It still might have turned out all right, if not for one small problem.

Barda is a very large squirrel, and that much mass at that much velocity was too much for her chosen landing-branch to take.