So there I was, in my driveway, waving a golf club and staring in openmouthed wonder.
When last we saw Squirrel!Neo, he had streaked between the fence and the garage after his little, um, psychotic break and the melee that followed. Behind him capered Steerpike!Squirrel, whose dastardly plan’s culmination had exceeded his wildest hopes. Miss B was shaking off her concussion, the jays were screaming, and the rest of the squirrels had taken refuge in my neighbor’s tall pine trees among the mourning doves, who immediately started gossiping softly about this turn of events. Worse than old ladies at a back fence, those doves. ANYWAY.
The day was still hot and sticky. Faraway thunder rumbled. Dark, stacked clouds were massing, but not nearly quickly enough. It was the kind of afternoon where people get drunk and angry, where it shades into an evening of more of the same and a night full of screams and punches.
In other words, it was showdown weather.
I managed to run through the house without tripping on anything, hit myself on the shins with my Sekrit Weapon, cleared the pet gate with a leap I am still proud of, whacked myself on the shins again, ran into my front door, twisted the knob, ran into it again (this was not my finest moment), finally figured out how to work my own goddamn door, piled out onto my front walk, and skidded to a stop, my jaw dropping.
Apparently I’d missed something while I was clocking myself on the head with my own front door; Neo had put two and two together and come up with Steerpike.
“YOU!” Squirrel!Neo bellowed. He’d lost a chunk of fur over his right shoulder, and blood striped his muzzle. But his crooked tail was high. “TRAITOR! THIEF! MONGREL! IMMA BEAT YO ASS!”
Steerpike!Squirrel grinned, panting. “BRING IT, OLD MAN. THERE’S A NEW KING IN TOWN.”
Well, those were fightin’ words. The duelists closed in a flurry of teeth and claws, and I was wondering if they both had rabies. I also had figured out I was barefoot, since I’d just been standing watching Miss B do her business. I also realized I was brandishing the Sekrit Weapon, and lowered the golf club somewhat sheepishly. I would have liked to wade in and give Steerpike a solid thump to his little rodent skull, but the chance of hitting Neo was too great. Plus, they were rolling all over my driveway.
Neo: THAT SOUND
Steerpike: “HAHAHAHA, YOU CAN’T CATCH ME, YOU CAN’T–” Bam. “DIDN’T HURT! YOU’RE TOO WEAK!”
Neo: THAT SOUND
Steerpike: “AND I’M GONNA LIKE BEING BETTINA’S SQUIRRELMAN, YOU KNOW.” Whap. Thud. Tearing noise.
Neo: Dead silence.
The sudden quiet was eerie. Steerpike’s only hope was his agility, and he kept dancing out of reach, darting in to smack or claw at Neo, who was like a damaged engine–terrible, but slow. Barking and crashing from the house behind me; Miss B had gotten over her head trauma, I guess, and found her way inside. I should have been hoping the pet gate would still be a deterrent. I should have been thinking about going back to close the front door, which was no doubt letting in a bunch of sticky air and nasty bugs. I should have been going to get the hose to separate the combatants–hey, it works for dogs, right?
Instead, I just stood, and stared, my shins throbbing. The incipient thunderstorm had just crept in front of the sun, eerie yellowgreen stormlight filling every crack and crevice with odd shadows. Steerpike twisted, meaning to hop away. I don’t know what he had planned, but it failed, because Neo jerk-twisted…and caught him.
In fact, Neo hit him so hard I heard the crunch at the top of the driveway, and they rolled out into the road.
In the distance, under a mutter of thunder, an engine growled.
…to be continued