I woke up with Sam Phillips in my head, and got dragged under the deck.
…maybe I should explain.
So I rolled out of bed humming that very lovely, lyrical song, slithered into running togs, and prepared Boxnoggin for the morning ritual. Every single blessed day he requires certain observances, from the ceremonial pets and crooning right before I open the bedroom door (mostly to give the cat time to amble downstairs so she is not harassed by his big yappy self) to the rearrangement of chairs under the dining-room table so he can go under it to reach the sliding glass door.
He could go around the table, sure. It’s perfectly physically possible and he is more than capable, but it is not his routine and our Lord van der Sploot is a dog of habit above all else. I don’t even question why he wants to go under the goddamn table anymore. It’s not worth it.
Anyway, I stepped into a pair of unlaced trainers, got him buckled into his harness–because he can’t be trusted even in a fenced yard, for reasons of anxiety or exuberance–and opened the door. Apparently that was my first mistake.
I heard the scutter-scuffling, of course. Didn’t pay much attention, because yon Kingdom of Backyard is full of such sounds on spring mornings. Boxnoggin stood upon the threshold, peering out into the day, which is another habit. I think he wants to make sure it isn’t raining, or register his displeasure if there is some kind of water falling from the sky. You’d think he’d be used to it by now, having lived in the Pacific Northwest for how many years?
But I digress.
There I was, rubbing at my eyes with one hand, the other securely wrapped with leash, waiting for the damn dog to make up his mind and come outside for his morning unloading. One might presume the pressure in his bladder would give him some impetus toward timeliness, but alas, my dear Reader, one would be utterly wrong. And that scuffing sound was growing closer.
Claws. On bark.
Rip Van Rodent appeared on the trunk of the fir nearest the deck. Now, I say nearest the deck but it is in fact the only tree adjacent that structure, rubbing up against the railings in damp weather and granting a mere centimeter or two of space during dry. He peered through the railing slats, yawning, and wouldn’t you know I felt the need to yawn as well? (Goddamn social cues.)
“Oh, Jesus,” I said, while my lungs and jaw were cooperating to make me look like a dork. “Why don’t you just–“
Boxnoggin saw Rip, and sashayed forth from the door at a high rate of speed. In fact, dear old Box damn near teleported through, reaching the end of the leash and, coincidentally, my arm. It did not quite dislocate my shoulder, but I did breathe a term of Language Unbecoming, which will surprise exactly no-one who has met me for any length of time.
Rip Van Rodent clearly grasped that the dog was not given full freedom to pursue his inclinations, for the fluff-tailed menace took his time ambling up the fir-trunk until he reached the top of the railing. There he paused, looking over one meaty shoulder–the somnolent critter is rather hefty–and I could swear to the gods he dropped a cheeky wink, finishing his yawn, before scrabbling upward around the trunk, vanishing from sight.
This did not please Boxnoggin. In fact, a dim realization was working its way through ol’ Box’s thick skull. Clearly he was stopped by his leash and harness from going further in that particular direction, and just as clearly he could not climb the tree–he had attempted to do so from the deck once, and the results made an impression even upon his normally forgetful self.
So he cast about for options. Lo and be-sold, his gaze lighted upon the stairs.
In short order he had pranced down said steps in a nearly silent, businesslike streak of fury, and set off for the fir. Once he arrived at its base, however, he was at somewhat of a loss to determine what next, for the squirrel was Long Gone. Ergo, Lord van der Sploot did the only thing his terrier half could think of, which was to go nose-down and search out his prey that way. By all indications he found a veritable highway of scent leading under the deck, where Rip Van Rodent (his “van” is capitalized, for Reasons) was apparently engaged in burying (or disinterring) shenanigans for quite some time this fine cool spring morn.
But you haven’t forgotten the leash, dear Reader. I know you haven’t. And if you are wondering what I was doing during this moderate-speed chase, I can tell you.
The speed of the chase was Moderate instead of Extremely High because I was hanging onto the other end of said leash for dear life, staggering down the damp stairs hoping not to slip and tumble, and ended up being dragged under the deck as all sixty-plus pounds of dim, lovable, absolutely unhinged Boxnoggin attempted to find any ghost, no matter how faded, of that sleepy little arboreal menace. I narrowly avoided clocking myself on several parts of the lumber underside, and while I was not shoeless I was definitely producing blue words at a rate and volume approximating three-quarters of a scream, only muffled by lack of caffeine and the desire to keep neighbors from waking up to a cavalcade of cussing on a Tuesday.
But I did not let go of the damn leash. Which I’m reasonably proud of.
Having searched all under the goddamn deck for any sign of Rip Van Rodent, Boxnoggin proceeded along the side of the house at (again) moderate-to-high speed, and while I pleaded with him not to crush a columbine that has sprung up despite almost being killed by last summer’s heat dome he merrily proceeded to do so, then lift his leg and pee all over it, since he had belatedly realized his bladder was packed with an entire overnight cargo and the sudden morning activity made it rather imperative to lighten the load.
With that done, he was amenable to returning inside. I got the door closed and his harness off, while he shivered with glee and anticipation of a breakfast he has since ignored. Naturally, I must fill his bowl and set it down right after we come back inside or there will be heck to pay, in full Miette fashion, but he will not actually eat anything in said bowl until I have my own brekkie.
But as I was working my trainers off and attempting to restore bloodflow to my near-dislocated arm, I happened to glance out the sliding glass door. And there, sitting on the railing right next to the fir, Rip Van Rodent had reappeared. The little bastard yawned again, twitched his tail, and was by all indications just waiting for me to notice his presence, for he gave a leap of surpassing grace and authority to the fir trunk again, and was in no time lost to sight.
Don’t ask me, I don’t even know. Apparently this squirrel has awakened from a slumber centuries (or a single winter) long with the desire to taunt a creature whose head is bigger than his own body, and only pain (my pain, that is) and hilarity (once I’ve calmed down from what-the-hell) will result.
I can’t wait. But now I need breakfast, and to brace myself for whatever damn-thing-else will ensue once we have to leave for walkies…
See you around.