Being the final Chronicle of Squirrel!Terror…
The second day of the Corn Pops war dawned just as rainy and cold as the first. I was up before dawn to hit the treadmill, and busy afterward, but I kept checking through my kitchen window. The main bulk of forces were still gathering, I guess, because all day long there was only one gull and one squirrel in the yard at any given time.
It wasn’t the same gull or the same squirrel all day. No, as soon as another gull drifted down and landed, the one on guard would take off. Nobody touched the Fruit of Crunchy Discord, which was still scattered glaring-yellow right where I usually dump some torn-up bread for the birds. The feathers had mostly blown away, but the seagull, erm, dooky was still spattered from hell to breakfast all over.
I was beginning to regret buying the goddamn Pops in the first place.
Anyway, the squirrel changing-of-the-guard was a little more complex. It involved a semi-chase and a lot of angry chittering. The exchanges went a little something like this:
“CHRIST DON’T SHOOT! JEEZ! I’M ON GUARD NEXT!”
“THE HELL YOU ARE, I’M HERE UNTIL FOUR!”
“NO, NEO SENT ME. I’M YOUR RELIEF.”
“DAMMIT, WHY DOESN’T SOMEONE TELL ME THESE THINGS?”
“LOOK, DON’T BLAME ME. THEY EXPECT YOU BACK AT HEADQUARTERS. HOW IS IT OUT HERE?”
“QUIET. TOO QUIET. HAVE FUN.”
The three bluejays observed a scrupulous distance from the Pops. They contented themselves with the birdfeeder, and Romeo!Jay seemed nervous. He kept glancing at whatever seagull was on guard, and would hop a little closer to Juliet. Mercutio!Jay, of course, kept up a running commentary. “WHAT THE HELL? YESTERDAY THEY WERE FIGHTING OVER IT, NOW THEY’RE JUST LOOKING AT IT. STUPID RODENTS AND RODENT-BIRDS. WE SHOULD GO GET SOME OF THOSE YELLOW THINGS. THEN AGAIN, IF SEAGULLS WILL EAT THEM–HEY JULIE, LOOK AT WHAT I CAN DO! LOOK AT THIS!”
You get the idea.
Late in the afternoon, the crows showed up. They evinced no interest in the Pops, they just settled in the plum tree and the pines (the same ones that featured in the Battle of the Pine Boughs) and set up a racket. Finally, the largest, Bartholomew!Crow, coasted in. He hopped around the yard and eyed everything, from the Pops to the gull on duty–a dirty gray bird with a mean glint in his eye–and the squirrel on guard, who hunched nervously near the plum tree and tried to look everywhere at once. He shook his head, cawed a few times, and the crows lifted off.
I was beginning to get a bad feeling over this, but the gull left at sundown.
The next day, I hit the treadmill before dawn again. I got the kids off to school and came home in the rain. I was halfway home from the bus stop when the crows started setting up a racket. “HEY! HEY LADY! YOU’RE MISSING THE FIGHT!”
I ran for home, tripped through the front door, almost fell into the coatrack, got the door closed and locked, and hurried for the window.
The crows weren’t wrong. It was 0815 hours, and the gulls had attacked in force. There was screeching, there was flapping, there were feathers flying. Oddly, none of the gulls were going after the Pops. They just ringed them, the Fruit of Crunchy Discord glowing a little as the sun broke briefly through crowds, and started pecking to determine who was going to get first crack. I stared, wondering if something else would happen–and wondering if I could go and get another cup of coffee to sip while I waited.
I should have grabbed a camera. The third and final battle of the Corn Pops War had begun.
0820 hours: Squirrel counterattack, supported by pinecone artillery from the pines to the north. The Forces of Gull, slightly nonplussed, moved back. They took wing, but thankfully did not crap all over the yard. The Corn Pops just sat there.
0900 hours: Uneasy calm. No sign of gulls or squirrels. Bluejays retreated to western pussywillow tree.
0945 hours: Squirrels moved out in force from southern hedge and western plum tree. The half-dozen from Day One of the War returned, battle-scarred veterans, supported by artillery and reinforcements–two or three younger squirrels. Wiser than the Forces of Gull, the young ones descended on the Fruit of Crunchy Discord and began stuffing their faces and hauling it off. They were running it toward the juniper hedge, and Observer had mad thoughts of trying to explain to the neighbors why there were Corn Pops in their yard. Observer decided discretion was the better part of valor, and fetched the Sekrit Weapon. (See following transmissions.)
1013: Forces of Gull counterattacked, scattering the Young Squirrel Logistical Brigade. All hell broke loose. Artillery everywhere. Feathers flying. Bluejays entranced. Mercutio!Jay hopping up and down on pussywillow branches: “OMIGOD! OMIGOD! DO YOU SEE THAT? HIT HIM AGAIN–OH CRAP, THAT’S GONNA LEAVE A MARK! PECK AT HIM, YOU BASTARD, YOU’VE GOT A BEAK, USE IT–JESUS CHRIST, THEY DO KNOW KUNG FU! ARE YOU SEEING THIS SHIT? WHERE’S THE MONKEY?! THE MONKEY SHOULD SEE THIS!”
1100: Observer had to leave for climbing. Forces of Gull driven off at great cost; Squirrel Brigade tending to wounded and working frantically to reload ammunition and get the logistical pipeline up again.
1313: Observer returned through heavy rain. Battlefield drenched, soggy feathers and No-Longer-Crunchy Discord scattered instead of in a rough pile. No sign of Forces of Gull. One weary squirrel propped against plum tree, crooked tail drooping, black eyes scanning.
1330: All quiet. Furious rain. Crooked-tail squirrel still watching. Crows in northern pines rustling and watching. Observer took a break for snack and to move Sekrit Weapon to (inside) northern sunroom door. Civilian chickadees and blackbirds at feeder, nervous but hungry.
1400: Rain tapering off. Battlefield soaked.
1408: Observer pauses while loading dishwasher. Eerie silence.
1411: Observer yells “HOLY CRAP!” Forces of Gull attack in overwhelming force. Battlefield full of feathers, Forces of Gull making ungodly racket. Bluejays in western pussywillow, struck silent (for once) by ferocity of attack. No sign of crooked-tail squirrel on watch.
1413: The 101st Fighting Squirrel Legion (Neo’s Fist) attacks with all available reinforcements. Pinecone artillery firing over open sights. Shouts, screams, chittering. The Champion of Gull crouches over biggest pile of No-Longer-Crunchy Discord, uttering high-pitched squeals.
1414: Challenge is answered by crooked-tail squirrel (codename: NEO), who lets out THAT SOUND and hurls himself into battle.
1418-1421: Champion of Gull pulls out his own kung fu. Feathers explode. Champion of Gull seems to have forgotten he is flight-capable. 101st and Forces of Gull both draw back, as their champions are dueling. Observer grabs Sekrit Weapon and heads for (outer) sunroom door. OBSERVER’S NOTE: You see, I’d made up my mind whose side I was on. The squirrels were the underdogs, dammit. And the gulls had crapped all over my yard.
1421: Observer reaches sunroom door. Rain begins again, though there is a break in clouds and sunshine. Crooked-Tail Squirrel Champion (codename: NEO) receives peck to head that leaves him stunned. Observer yells “OH HELL NO” and tears open sunroom door.
1422: Sunshine continues over soaked battlefield. Female jay (codename: JULIET) appears, diving toward Champion of Gull. Squirrel Champion (NEO) lying on Corn Pops, stunned. Observer using language not fit to be repeated. (“THAT’S MY GODDAMN SQUIRREL! YOU MOTHERF!CKING SEAGULL, YOU ARE GODDAMN F!CKINGWELL GOING DOWN!”
1423: Champion of Gull takes wing briefly, engages JULIET. JULIET is flung back. Silent male bluejay (codename: ROMEO) lets out massive scream. Forces of Gull move in for kill.
1424: Loudmouth male bluejay (codename: MERCUTIO) yells: “JESUS CHRIST ROMEO BUDDY WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING? ATTACK! ATTACK!” Jay ROMEO engages Champion of Gull. Feathers fly.
1424: Help unlooked-for arrives. Crow reinforcements (codename: BARTHOLOMEW and his entire Legion Corvidae) descend upon Forces of Gull. JULIET stunned, flutters to her feet. ROMEO kicking living shit out of Champion of Gull. Fire! Flood! DOGS AND CATS LIVING TOGETHER! ANARCHY!
And that, dear friends, is how I ended up outside, brandishing a golf club and screaming imprecations, while Romeo!Jay beat the everliving hell out of that big fat white gull. Bartholomew and his Legion made short work of the rest of the Forces of Gull, and the 101st (Neo’s Fist) went to town with the artillery. The Forces of Gull decided they’d had enough and lifted off, dumping another load of lightening-for-takeoff, and once again, miraculously, I was not spattered with gull poop.
I believe I have used up a lifetime’s supply of luck in that regard.
Anyway, in less time than it takes to write it, the Legion had chased the Forces of Gull away. Neo sat up, shaking his little head, and glared around him. The Champion of Gull was last seen winging furiously away over the apartment complex, screaming in terror. Romeo!Jay returned and coasted down to land near Juliet, who had made it to an azalea near the fence. He pecked at her once or twice, reassuring himself she was all right, and they spent a few minutes in a low-toned conversation that needs no translation. (Juliet: “Why did you do that?” Romeo: “You mean you don’t know? I…” Juliet: “Shut up and kiss me.”)
Neo hunkered over the Corn Pops, his eyes gleaming madly. My yard looked like a war zone.
Mercutio!Jay hopped up to the scattered Pops, sunlight gilding every feather as rain kissed my arms and hair. “JESUS, MAN, YOU REALLY DON’T KNOW WHEN TO QUIT, DO YOU.” He bobbed his head. “I CAN TOTES RESPECT THAT. SO WHAT ARE THESE THINGS, ANYWAY?”
Neo, his sides heaving, managed a shrug. “DUNNO,” he chittered. “THEY TASTE ALL RIGHT, BUT THEY GIVE ME THE RUNS.”
I lowered the golf club. Looked back over my shoulder. A rainbow had appeared, arching in the sky as the clouds covered the sun again and the rain intensified. My spectacles were spotted with drops and my feet were suddenly cold.
I realized, once more, that I’d charged shoeless into the fray. My heart was pounding. Romeo and Juliet took off and settled in the plum tree; as soon as Romeo landed he scooted as close to Julie as he could, and started smoothing her feathers with his beak.
I took a step backward.
Mercutio and Neo both looked at me sideways. Mercutio bobbed his head, grabbed a Corn Pop, and swallowed it. “THESE THINGS ARE NASTY,” he commented. “HEY, MONKEY, WHERE’S THE BREAD? YOU USUALLY HAVE BREAD OUT. I COULD USE A SNACK AFTER ALL THAT.”
Neo stared for a few moments. Then, deliberately, I swear to you, he nodded. He chittered a little. My squirreltongue could use some work, but I think here’s what he said:
“THAT’LL DO, MONKEY. THAT’LL DO.”
I retreated in a hurry. Closed the sunroom door, changed my socks, cleaned my spectacles off. At 2:40 (that’s 1440 hours, if you’re wondering) I made myself a cup of tea and looked out the window.
The crows were back, pecking at the Pops. The Squirrel Logistical Brigade was out in full force too, stuffing themselves and carrying Pops off toward the hedge. Their supervisor, a crooked-tailed champion, oversaw this, stopping every once in a while to pick at the Pops himself. Mercutio!Jay hopped among them, loudly complaining that the monkey hadn’t brought out the bread.
And so, lo, peace is restored to the Kingdom of Backyard. For the forces of Bluejay and Squirrel hath reached a tenuous agreement, and the Peacekeeping Forces of Bartholomew Corvidae hath turned the tide of battle. Derring-do hath been accomplished, fair maiden hath been rescued and won, mighty feats of arms hath been performed, and love and brotherhood reign supreme. For Interspecies Harmony hath yea verily been restored, and the annals of Squirrel!Terror now reacheth their end.
Unless, of course, some damn thing else happens…