Mercutio!Jay, My Hero

I really should mow the grass.

I say this because the herbiage is now long enough to give Squirrel!Neo plenty of cover as he goes about his business in my back yard. This grants him, as a Ninja Squirrel, a certain latitude of action. Like the peanut he tried to break my sunroom window with this morning…

…this may require a little explanation, actually.

I was on the treadmill, powering my way through the third of five miles. I call it the break mile, because once I’ve finished it I might as well finish out the whole bloody hour, right? Since I’m over halfway. It’s just one of those little tricks I use to keep myself running. Anyway, I was on the treadmill, with a box of tissues. Because the cold still has me in a grip–well, not quite of iron, perhaps just of lead. Something a bit softer, but still metallic.

It had just begun to rain, and I could see the bread scattered earlier this morning for the bluejays and crows slowly getting sodden. If the birds don’t get it the possums will, and don’t talk to me about the possums. I am bribing them in the hopes that they will be allies when the squirrels try to hack my house. (I’m not saying this keeps me up at night, okay? I’m just saying prudence is a virtue.) Remember the bread, all right? Trust me, it’s important.

So along comes Squirrel!Neo. He’s head-down in the grass, tail twitching as he buries something a few feet from the window directly in front of me. I swear I can see every hair on the fuzzy little bastard’s rear. What happened next surprised us both.

I sneezed. I grabbed for a tissue, since it was a wet one. (Between the sweating and the sneezing, it was a very damp morning in there.) And something hit the window.

A peanut.

An actual peanut. I think someone in the neighborhood actually feeds these beasts.

That son of a bitch squirrel threw a peanut at me. He sat straight up, from the tuft of grass he’d fled to, apparently in terror, after chucking the peanut to save his miserable life.

It startled me, so I swore. Loudly. And Squirrel!Neo chittered. At least, I think he did, I had my earbuds in but I saw his little chest and mouth moving. I don’t know squirreltongue, but I believe I can translate what he was saying.

“BITCH! I KNOW KUNG FU! FIRST TIME IT’S A PEANUT! NEXT TIME I KICK YOU IN THE HEAD!”

And you know, that actually upset me a little. Because I have done nothing to this squirrel other than laugh at the cats when he shows up. Maybe he thinks I’m laughing at him? I don’t know. But the injustice of the situation struck me quite strongly at the moment. So I did what anyone would have done.

I yelled back. (Those among you who are easily offended or have tender ears may wish to quit reading now, while you’re ahead.)

“MOTHERF!CKER!” I yelled. “DON’T YOU F!CKING THREATEN ME! WHO GAVE YOU THAT GODDAMN PEANUT?! YOU BREAK MY WINDOW THERE WILL BE HELL TO PAY!”

Now, I of course knew that a peanut, even flung by The One, would not break the window. And I didn’t give a good-glory-goddamn where he got that peanut from. But when I get to cursing, the most amazing things come out of my mouth, things that have only a tenuous connection to logic. I mean, I wish I could taunt like John Cleese, but this is the best I can do, so I commit, you know?

Squirrel!Neo fled to the tenuous purchase of a red wagon the kids left in the middle of the yard. As he did, I caught sight of something amazing falling from the arc of his beautiful jump.

Yes, friends and neighbors. I literally scared the shit out of Squirrel!Neo. He scampered off into the plum tree, probably feeling a few ounces lighter.

By this time I was torn between embarrassment, gratification, the urge to laugh like a hyena, the aching in my legs, the fact that I did not have enough breath for all the multitasking I was doing, and a coughing fit. I think I coughed and swore through the next three minutes, an amazing clot of phlegm working free inside my chest. (I will NOT tell you what happened to the clot. I have some couth.)

Another mile and a half passed by, and I had almost recovered when I saw the little fuzzy bastard again. He sauntered out, bold as you please, and started working on the soggy bread. (I told you to remember the bread.)

Well, of course, I watched him. It was a tense detente.

Squirrel!Neo was so busy stuffing his face, in fact, that he didn’t notice the bluejay. (I had originally cast this jay as Mercutio, I suppose that’s as good a name as any.) One of a pair who frequents my backyard and scares everyone else at the birdfeeder, this particular jay likes to hang out in the pussywillow tree and roundly curse everyone in sight, or the weather, or what have you. He’s also incredibly jealous of bread. He won’t eat it if he’s already full, but he’ll be damned if he’ll let anyone take a bit of it. The only exception are the crows, who just sort of laugh at him as he jumps up and down screeching.

Anyway. Mercutio!Jay was unamused by this turn of events. He did not do what he usually does, which is stand up there and yell.

No. Mercutio hopped off the branch, glided down, and proceeded to beat the living hell out of Squirrel!Neo all the way across the yard. Once he was sure he had the fuzzy bastard on the run, he started yelling. Again, I’m no good at bluejaytongue, but I shall endeavor to translate.

“SONOFABITCH THAT’S MY GODDAMN BREAD! YOU KNOW KUNG FU? YOU KNOW KUNG FU? WELL I’M GODDAMN MERCUTIO, MOTHERF!CKER, AND I’LL WHOMP YOUR FUZZY ASS IN IAMBIC PENTAMETER!”

It’s a damn good thing I’d just finished my five miles. Because I barely had the wherewithal to hit the stop button. I stood there laughing so hard I cried, blowing my nose twice, coughing and sweating and sneezing. I actually got a vicious side-stitch from the whole deal, but here’s the best part.

Remember that peanut? The one Neo chucked at me? Well, after he chased the One across the yard, Mercutio!Jay flew back, still swearing at top volume, and picked up the peanut. That forced him to shut up. Still, he eyed me for a few seconds while in front of the window.

Then I swear to God, he winked and flew off.

And you know…he left the bread.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

Beastly cold

I have a terrible cold. My largest ambition is going to the grocery store to get DayQuil (I’m not completely out of those little orange capsules of DOOM, thank God), milk, and coffee. (Because I used the last of the coffee this morning OMGBBQLLAMA CRISIS AVERTED…) The common cold is actually rather an interesting little thing, when you consider how long it’s been with us, how successful it is, and how ubiquitous too. (This could, of course, be only the fever talking.)

So today is for pottering about and letting the next bit of the story cook. The book broke free last night–that’s the point in a work where I can feel it taking its own shape, where the setup has been done and now it’s just a matter of seeing where the dominoes fall. It’s much more comfortable than the first long slog after the freshness of the idea has worn off and the last long slog where it becomes the latest iteration of the Book That Will Not Die Stab It Quick.

Of squirrels I have only one more thing to report: Squirrel!Neo is the unchallenged master of our yard. Yesterday I was reduced to hysterical laughter as the youngest and silliest of our cats–the one so long and lean and big-eyed we call him the Lemur Cat–threw himself at my writing window to get at Squirrel!Neo. (There is still a little noseprint there.) I will swear to my dying day that Squirrel!Neo, calmly hopping about in the yard with his tail flicking unnecessarily but very aesthetically every few bounds, shot Lemur Cat the finger. He didn’t even flinch when Lemur Cat hit the window, either. He just flipped him off, as if to say “Bitch, I know kung fu.”

The funny thing is that Lemur Cat staggered back from the window and across the living room, where he somewhat drunkenly but very viciously attacked the mild-mannered, inoffensive little scratching post I spray with catnip oil every now and again. (Head trauma in felines is fun to watch.)

When he had taught that sorry inanimate object its place, he tore around the room twice, leaping from THE CHAIR to the couch and knocking various things over. Then he calmly sauntered back to my writing window (the window that even now bears a noseprint), hopped up, and settled down on his haunches, staring unblinking at Squirrel!Neo, who was digging around in the lavender under my window like he owned the place and was going to take a nosegay back to the Squirrel!Oracle.

I laughed so hard I coughed and choked. Which produced (or moved around) an incredible amount of phlegm. So I lunged for the tissues, desperate to avoid spraying my laptop with contagion, and almost fell out of my chair. Almost. Lemur Cat shot me a filthy look, but I did not fall over. And I was actually rather pleased about that, even though that would have made the story much, much funnier. I wasn’t sure whether or not to count that as a victory over Squirrel!Neo.

In the end, I think I’d best call it a tie between me and that fuzzy little bastard. But it’s Squirrel!Neo 3, cats 0; or cats .5 if I let them claim me not falling and cracking my fool head open.

I can’t decide if that makes me the referee or the scorekeeper. Further bulletins as events warrant…

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Squirrel!Matrix

Okay, so I now know why that one day was so quiet.

The squirrels were training their Neo.

Yesterday I was on the treadmill. It was the last five minutes of a five-mile run and, true to form, I had a side stitch and a serious case of wanting to be just about anywhere than where I was. I kept running, because, well, what the hell, it was the last five minutes and I knew I’d feel Victorious and Vindicated and all sorts of other words when I was done.

Then it happened. Well, not it, but the precondition for the utterly ridiculous I am about to relate occurred.

I saw a squirrel.

He was a big one, too, and he sauntered out into the middle of the yard in a few graceful, authoritative leaps. My earbuds were in, so I couldn’t tell if he was chittering. I do know he was scanning my yard like he expected an army to appear at any moment.

No army appeared. However…one of my cats did. The sweet, stupid tuxedo kitty, who I adore. Of all three, he’s most my cat. He thinks he’s a hunter, too, and sometimes leaves birds (and when we had the field out back, often mice) on my front step. Of course, he totally ruins the effect by being scared of them once he’s killed them–when I pick them up he runs and hides.

So anyway, he was going to get himself a squirrel snack. What I was thinking was, You idiot, that could have rabies! What came out, since I was running and couldn’t get any breath, was a version of “MMMmmmmrph AAAARGHNOOOOOOOO!”

That was when it happened, and I realized this was the Morpheus!Squirrel’s saviour. This was The One. (This probably makes my cats Agents.)

Anyway, the squirrel watched the cat bounding for him, and I could swear there was a moment of kung-fu pose before the cat leapt, all graceful authority, tail held out and claws most probably unsheathed. It was beautiful. It was flat-out gorgeous.

It was, however, doomed.

Neo!Squirrel jumped at the last second, did an amazing flip, and I swear to God he kicked my cat in the head.

No. Seriously. He kicked my cat in the head.

In the head.

My kitty landed in a heap, Squirrel!Neo chittered and zoomed away. He leapt five feet up, caught the trunk of the plum tree, and fricking vanished. Vanished. I hit the stop button–by this point, all five miles had been achieved and I was having visions of a dead cat to deal with–ripped my earbuds out, almost ran into the sunroom’s glass door, and got outside just in time to see my tuxedo kitty zoom under the fence, tail held low and ears back.

I don’t blame him. He was kicked in the head.

I stood there, sweating and cursing, and the phone rang inside the house. For a moment I seriously thought it was Squirrel!Neo calling with a declaration of war.

It was a telemarketer. Thank God. (And this is the only time you’ll probably hear me say THAT.)

My tuxedo kitty seems none the worse for wear, just a bit shaken and embarrassed. He came back in after lunch and spent a long time grooming himself and beating up on the other two cats. (To assure himself of his masculinity, I guess.) It was with no little trepidation that I climbed on the treadmill this morning.

Halfway through my run, Squirrel!Neo sauntered out into the yard. He spent a long time pretending to dig, but then he hopped up on one of the patio chairs and eyed me directly for a disconcertingly long time as I ran and tried to ignore him. Beady little eyes, big fluffy tail, and kung fu. Jesus.

I can’t wait to see what’s next. I just hope that fuzzy little bastard doesn’t think I’m after his girlfriend. And I also hope he can’t get his paws on any weapons

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Squirrel Wars

Those of you on my Twitter feed may (or may not) have been amused by my Ninja!Squirrel reportage. Basically, this all started one morning while on the treadmill, sweating out a five-mile run, I saw a death-defying Terminator ninja squirrel.

I’m not kidding. The little rodent leapt (or was otherwise propelled) off a two-story roof, tumbled through tree branches, hit my back fence, somersaulted in midair, hit the ground, bounced (TWICE! Bounced TWICE, I tell you!) and lay there for a moment.

I was thinking it was a dead squirrel when the little fur-bearing Terminator hopped up on its back legs and glared at me. Of course, I was also (breathlessly) laughing at the time. While running, I might add. Developed a hell of a side stitch, too.

Ninja!Squirrel glared at me, I repeat, as if I had been the author of his downfall. His beady little eyes, I tell you, were alight with what I can only call hellfire.

Since that moment I have paid closer attention to the squirrels in my back yard. Of course, I can’t bloody tell if Ninja!Squirrel is among the ones who gleefully frolic while I run on the treadmill, providing me with distraction and Twitter-food. Those fuzzy little things all look the same to me. Seriously, I can’t distinguish one squirrel from another.

But things…have grown odd.

Yesterday, as I ran, I began to notice something strange. There appeared to be two groups of bushy-tailed Rodentia in my back yard, and they were at what appeared to be war or an extended squirrel dance number. There were leaps, chases, aerial maneuvers, and out-and-out clawings and bitings. The longer I ran, the more interested I became in trying to figure out just what the holy hell was happening–and this was while three bluejays and a crow were playing “chicken” over some scattered bread, while two of my cats watched from the sunroom window and made throaty little ohpleaseohPLEASE warbles at me.

Of course, my fancy got the better of me. I began to think up a squirrel Romeo and Juliet.

Two clan Rodentias, both alike in infamy,
in my fair backyard, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny
where rodent blood makes rodent claws unclean…

I cast one of the jays as Mercutio, and the crow, of course, as the Prince. I was trying to figure out if one of the cats could conceivably be Tybalt or if that was Just Too Much and I would have to have Tybalt be, say, a weasel? Or something? When my run ended and I hopped off the treadmill for my chin-ups and the rest of my day.

Now comes the creepy part.

Same time this morning, I climbed on the treadmill. About ten minutes in I noticed a growing sense of unease that had nothing to do with how fast I was running or how unhappy my breakfast was with being shaken so. After fifteen I was perplexed, and after twenty I began to be actively unsettled.

There were robins in the back yard, and little birds I call chickadees since they’re striped. The jays were back, shrieking at everything that offended them. A trio from the local crow murder investigated hopefully for some bread, and several of the neighbors’ cats wound through on their appointed rounds, all studiously ignoring each other. So far, so good.

But no squirrels. Not a single blasted furry little tree-rat to be found. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Zero.

I wonder if SquirRomeo killed his lady love’s cousin last night. Or if Ninja!Squirrel has succeeded in enforcing his grip over the clans and is planning an assault on my garage. Or if they are hidden, as only ninjas can hide–I mean, duh, that’s why they’re ninjas–and the pirate squirrels haven’t hit the port yet.

I wonder, it would seem, entirely too much. And yet, I am anticipating tomorrow’s morning run with breathless excitement.

Further bulletins as events warrant.

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