SquirrelThings Five, Redux

vinicon So there I was, at the back door, clutching the famous Sekrit Weapon and–

What? The Sekrit Weapon? Oh. It’s a golf club. They’re pretty good for home defense. I found this out during the Great Corn-Pops War. It’s far more maneuverable than the Shovel of Serious Business, and the bent part at the bottom is good for poking and lifting things you don’t want to touch. (Like roadkill. Or a sombrero left in one’s front yard. DON’T ASK.) I have learned my lesson: I will not willingly go near a squirrel unarmed. Even one that might be dead.

Miss B was curious, of course. If I was going outside, she wanted in on it too. However, I have also learned my lesson concerning her and squirrels-that-may-be-dead. So she had to stay inside, and the heat was such that I don’t think she minded much. Odd Trundles, of course, was still dozing in my office. The noise of SquirrelThings Five doing whatever it was they were doing had abated somewhat, and I think it functioned somewhat as white noise for him.

I checked a few times to make sure I was wearing shoes. I shook the Sekrit Weapon, assuring myself of its free play and that no part of it was going to come off. I crossed myself, muttered a prayer, told Miss B to sit her fuzzy ass down, and stepped outside.

From the deck I could see the Five–wait. The Four, for one of their number was still lying on his back at the foot of the pine, splayed out a little indecently, were still at their game. I couldn’t quite tell who was who, because the mating attempts seemed to have stopped, and now they were just chasing each other and losing bits of fur.

THING 1: YOU BASTARD!
THING 3: CHARGE! CHARGE!
THING 4: POOOOOOOOOOP!
THING 2: *singing* I’VE BEEN WORKING ON THE RAAAAAILROOOOOAD–

“This is a bad idea,” I muttered, and checked my shoes again. Still there. I swung the Sekrit Weapon a little, and edged down the deck stairs. From the landing, I could see the, um, victim, still splayed out. The poor fellow had landed on a rock, and was somewhat draped over it. Did squirrels get paralyzed? A paraplegic squirrel, perhaps? I was considering how to rig up a squirrelcart so a semi-paralyzed squirrel could get around–look, my brain, she runs away with me sometimes, especially under stress.

It’s why I write books.

ANYWAY. I could almost hear the wheels of the imaginary squirrelcart as I slid cautiously down the last set of stairs. This put me pretty close to the ring of rocks around the base of the fir, and I crouched at the foot of the stairs, just to take everything in.

Look, you take cover wherever you can in a situation like this. I’m just sayin’.

THING 2: *singing* AAAAAAALL THE LIVELONG DAAAAAAAY!
THING 4: SOOOOOOOPER POOOOOOOOP!
THING 3: YOU GONNA DIE! YOU GONNA DIE!
THING 1: ACK! JESUS! HELP! MEDIC!

The, uh, fur-fall seemed to have slacked off. They were still scratching and screaming above, and bits of bark were pattering down in random bursts. The squirrel on the ground just lay there.

I unfolded and crept closer, the Sekrit Weapon held before me, low and ready. (You can almost hear the Carmen Sandiego music, can’t you. I mean the music from the old PC game, when you ALMOST managed to catch her…Christ, I’m old.)

Now, I would like to mention that the concrete walkway there is tilted. The fir’s roots have lifted some parts of it, dropped others, and after a few years of living here I no longer trip on the seams. (Much.) That’s somewhat important. I had to step half off said walkway to extend the Sekrit Weapon and–gently, gently–prod the supine squirrel.

Honestly, I thought he was dead, and I was already thinking about where to bury the fallen warrior. (The rose garden’s getting a bit full.) Shovels were in the shed, I could prep a grave and take him there on one of said shovels–maybe by the mustard-and-ketchup bush. I didn’t know this little fellow, so the graveside service was going to have to be brief–

Well.

He wasn’t dead.

I repeat, he was not dead. He was just resting.

The Thing, whatever number he was, exploded into motion. He grabbed the end of the golf club, perhaps thinking it one of the combatants stills screeching and scrabbling above. Or he thought it was a branch. In any case, my combat reflexes are still quick, because I whipped said Sekrit Weapon up, hard.

And yet.

And yet the squirrel did not fly, for once.

No, the little bastard let go.

I ask you, my friends and Constant Readers, have you ever almost hit yourself in the face with a squirrel-wrangling golf club? I don’t recommend it.

I went over backward, and the Unnumbered Thing (let’s call him Five, we might as well) howled his fury at resurrection. (Sort of like a naked Hugh Jackman.)

He was indeed just resting. Or stunned, or something. He didn’t head for the fir but for the back fence, a little gray streak still howling like a scruffy, clawed berserker.

Remember the tilted concrete walkway? The one I’d stepped off? Well, my asscheek met it. Hard. And yes, I say asscheek singular, because of the tilt. My teeth clicked together, I tasted blood, and that pratfall was the only reason the Sekrit Weapon didn’t take said teeth out.

Friendly fire, my darling friends, isn’t.

“SONOFABITCH!” I yelled, and other things. The golf club flew behind me and landed neatly on the deck with a clatter, missing windows, potted plants, and patio furniture as well as my teeth. Miss B began to bark, but she did not throw herself at the door, for once.

Small mercies.

The end result of this was a breathless, hot silence in the backyard. I looked up, my eyes watering from the pain, and saw four small squirrels hanging off the fir and looking at me, their beady little gazes glowing with something suspiciously like awe. Five, of course, made it to the back fence and vanished into the cedars, the little bastard. I haven’t seen him since, nor have there been any more fur-flying battles in my fir.

I’m not sure I could survive another one.

And that, my friends, is how a squirrel gave me a bruise on my ass and a headache that lasted for days. The only lesson I can draw from this teachable moment is to never, ever, EVER assume a squirrel is dead.

They are, only and ever, just fucking taking a breather before the main event.

SquirrelThings Five

squirrel icon The entire right side of my body aches today, from neck to ankle. The pain is centered in my right glute, and the reason for this is just exactly what you’d expect.

Yes. A goddamn squirrel.

…I’d better back up.

I was sitting in my office, minding my own business and writing a citywide conflagration, when the ruckus from outside became too large to ignore. The window was open, since it was a reasonably warm day, and for once both dogs were paying little attention to scrabbling and screeching from outside. They were, I think, both exhausted by the morning’s walkies. Since B was injured, even an amble around the block is an adventure that frays my nerves as well as hers, because she is so goddamn determined to stick her nose in everything to make up for being unable to run it’s a full-time job keeping the leash (and my legs) untangled. And Odd, well, his legs are short, his trundle is arduous, and anything above 60F is much too warm for his taste. (Poor little compromised-airway fellow.)

Anyway, they were both sprawled on the office floor, Odd with his head mostly under B’s skirts. I think it’s a holdover from his puppy days, when she could curl completely around him; now, of course, he’s far too big, and the only thing he can rest against her belly is his ginormous head. She suffers it, of course, as she suffers so much else. And the noise from outside just kept getting bigger.

THING 1: I DID NOT!
THING 2: YES YOU DID!
THING 3: YOU DID, YOU DID!
THING 5: POOP! POOP!
THING 1: I DIDN’T! I DIDN’T!
THING 5: RACECAR! I’M A RACECAR, YOU’RE A RACECAR!
THING 4: SLOW DOWN! IT WON’T HURT!

I had to swing my office chair around, craning my neck, to look out my window at the fir tree in the middle of the yard. Scratching and scrabbling came from up the trunk, so I had to get up and peer out my window.

It was (you’ve already guessed, I bet) squirrels.

THING 5: MRRRRRRROWP! MRRRRROWP!
THING 1: FINE! I DID IT! GO AWAY!
THING 3: YOU DID IT! YOU DID IT!
THING 5: BRRRRRRRP THPING ARGLEBARGLE!
THING 4: COME BACK! COME BACK, DAMMIT!
THING 2: OW! YOU ASSHOLE!

Not one. Not two. Not three or four.

Five. Five young squirrels. They were small, they were bouncy, they were the toddlers of squirreldom, and they were having a grand old time.

I glanced down to make sure I was wearing shoes, even though I was (relatively, I hoped) safe inside my own home. Fortunately, I was shod, and I looked out again, trying to discern what the little bastards were doing. After a little while, it seemed like Things 2, 3, and 4 were attempting to mate with Thing 1, Thing 1 might have been attempting to find a quiet moment to mate with Thing 4, and Thing 5 was simply running around and yelling various things.

THING 5: GILBERT! SULLIVAN! HAMILTON!
THING 4: DON’T MAKE ME COME OVER THERE!
THING 3: LOOK WHAT I CAN DO!
THING 1: STOP BREATHING ON ME!
THING 2: NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!

Ah, youth. Ah, exuberance.

I watched for a few moments, wearing what I am sure was an expression of complete mystification, then glanced back at the dogs. Who were still blissfully oblivious. It seemed a little unnatural, but the noise had started to gradually, maybe they’d simply adjusted to it as it rose.

I settled back in my chair and began to look at maps for roads out of the city I was burning. Research, that perennial writer’s–

The noise went up to eleven. I actually spoke out loud, I was so taken aback. “What the ever-loving fuck?” I stood up again, turning to the window.

My friends, there was gray fluff, majestically floating down from the seventy-plus-year-old fir tree.

It was fur. Actual fur was flying.

Squirrel fur.

Flying.

I don’t know what happened to turn the tree into Squirrel Thunderdome. I do know that they were suddenly serious about their battle, whatever it was, and there was an unholy screech. I had arrived, it seems, just in time to see a meteor plunge to earth.

Well, it was a squirrel. A tiny squirrel. It fell out of the fir tree and hit the ring of rocks at the bottom. And it lay there, supine, while the battle continued raging overhead.

“Oh, fuck,” I breathed. I could tell, sure as shooting, that this boded no good.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Badonkadonkus Felinum

My backpack's got jets.
My backpack’s got jets. Wicky wicky.

I had occasion to take this picture of Madame A yesterday. She bears little resemblance to the scrawny baby her rescuers found. Now she is a queen, and baby, well.

Baby got back.

I half suspect she was a dog in a past life, because her furry belly is not a trap. Despite having pitons for claws, she does not take blood after you give her tummy rubs. In fact, she throws herself on her back and demands Miss B give her belly-nosings every time we go downstairs. She would be on my heels, like Miss B, all damn day–if not for the fact that Odd Trundles is also at my heels all day, and he is far too Loud and Obnoxious for her taste.

One of these days, she’s just going to smack Odd in the face when he wiggles up demanding at top volume that she play with him, and from then she will rule him unmercifully. (At least, that’s what the Mad Tortie does.) Until that day, though, she heads for the stairs whenever she suspects he’s awake.

Anyway, here is our calico wonder. If you listen closely you can hear her purring.

Mad Tortie Nap

I'm still using it!
I’m still using it!

If you look carefully, you can find a Mad Tortie under the lavender. No, she’s not dead. She’s just resting. Basking in the sunshine is heavy work, after all. Emphysema Joe is to the left, offscreen, humming a little Dead to keep her company while he tends the green. She doesn’t even twitch when Norbert yells at Moxie for digging in the compost. (“GET OUT OF THERE, YOU’LL CATCH A COLD!” “I AM THE SQUIWWEH WHO HAUNTH THE NIGHT, I HAVE ANTIBODIETH!” You can imagine.)

I may have, after taking this picture, crept up to make sure she was still breathing.

She was. She blinked at me, breathed a small kitty “leeme loooooone, Mum,” and went back to sleep.

I almost envy her.

Compost SquirrelTerror

Really Odd Trundles wishes to inform you all that it is RAINING, and he does not like getting his paws wet in order to Do His Business outside. He further wishes to inform you that Mum is very busy and will not throw the bestest toy for him another ten times, and that his breakfast was not satisfactory because it is now gone. He is a dog of discriminating taste and many talents, and the least we could do is give him an eternal, infinite brekkie.

Clearly I am the cruelest puppy-mommy in the whole UNIVERSE, and he told me so in ten solid minutes of groaning and sighing before settling with his face on the heater, basking and snoring.

Poor Trundles. He does not understand that Mum has to stare at the glowing screen and do weird tiptap things with her monkey paws in order to assure his supply of kibble. The monkey paws are, in his humble opinion, for giving him ear-skritches and feeding him lots of treats. CLEARLY I am falling down on my duties, but he will magnanimously allow me to make it up to him with the aforesaid infinite breakfast and many skritches. After, of course, he finishes broiling his face on the heater.

Every so often he actually licks the heater’s surface. (It’s one of those portable heated-oil thingummies.) I am deadly afraid he’ll burn himself, but he hasn’t yet. The little weirdo must, despite all appearances, have some sense of self-preservation. Faint and fading, but there it is.

Moxie the squirrel, however, does not seem to. She was in the compost heap again yesterday, and there was a brief but glorious second where Miss B thought she had finally achieved her life’s dream (again) of catching one of the little rodents. (This time, for once, I believe Miss B had plans for what to do afterwards.) There was an explosion of decaying matter, Moxie went flying (screaming “FWEEDOM!” and something about “HAUNTH THE NIGHTHTHTHTHHHHP!”) and Miss B got half-stuck in the bin. I had to drag her out and try to brush her off, all while she twisted and moaned in my grip, a blackened banana peel caught on her rump, while Moxie sprawled dazed under the lilacs still chittering something about “GET DANGEROUTH!”

I did not let go of Miss B’s ruff until Moxie had gathered afresh some of her, well, moxie. Once Moxie was staggering for the fence I let B go, and she bolted straight for the punch-drunk arboreal rodent.

Who gathered herself enough to scream “FWEEDOM!” again, and by that point Odd Trundles had noticed something was going on. As I struggled to get banana peels and other crap off a wriggling Miss B, he had begun scuttling across the yard. Though he is only capable of short bursts at top speed, once he has achieved it, momentum provides him with a great deal of force. He was not barking, for once, he was too excited at the prospect of NEWFRIEND*snortwhistle*NEWFRIENDNEWFRIEND!!! to utter a single sound. (Plus, he was probably out of breath in a big way by the time he had achieved full steam.)

So, I let go of Miss B just as Odd appeared in my peripheral vision as a cream-and-brown blur.

Of course I yelled “OH FUCK NO–” It wouldn’t be a squirrel story if I didn’t.

Anyway, Moxie made it to the noble laurel at the corner of the fence and began climbing for her life. Miss B probably planned to levitate after her, and was gaining speed. Odd Trundles, having veered just slightly to account for Moxie’s flight path…

…crashed headlong into that corner of the fence, bounced off, picked himself up, and tried to throw himself at it again. I believe he thought some insidious monster mimicking a fence-pole overgrown with laurel branches had eaten his new friend, whom he was now desperate to save. Miss B leapt, I screamed another cavalcade of obscenities, and Odd staggered backward in a semicircle. His high-pointed ass struck the fence near the apple tree and he jumped, thinking it was an attack, and in his dazed condition he reverted to default: Bark, and hightail it toward the safest place in the world.

I.e., right between my ankles. At least B didn’t land on him (again). She hit the ground, levitated again, Moxie began screaming words I hesitate to repeat (though I believe “nutfucker” is not purely a squirrel term) and B, balked twice and full of compost, decided the only thing she could do was take off on a running tour of the yard. (I should mention: I WAS WEARING ACTUAL SHOES. HALLELUJAH.)

Miss B, bless her tiny doggie brain, is capable of amazing speed, but that didn’t worry me. What did worry me was the imminent arrival of sixty pounds of terrified bulldog at my ankles. I barely had time to throw a foot out and drop into the most beautiful demi-plie in second I’ve done in years.

So it was that Odd Trundles sped right between my ankles, dig his nails in, and created a furrow all the way to the compost bin, which he crashed into the front of and consequently almost broke the plank holding the pile back. (There is a definite dent there.)

I took advantage of Odd’s being stunned to coax him toward the stairs, while Miss B ran in circles yapping. Finally, to finish everything off, she zoomed to her favorite denning site behind a rhododendron and began digging frantically. I believe at that point she had forgotten about Moxie, who I am sure had reached the safety of her Sooper-Sekrit Arboreal Rat Lair and was nursing her shattered nerves.

So it was that I had to give Odd a muscle relaxer (head trauma is bad for his spine) and pet and make much of him. I did not let Miss B in until I brushed all the gunk (and fresh dirt from her denning) away. Thank every god there is that an Aussie’s coat is wash-and-wear; all sorts of things just dry up and flake off. I am sure there are bits of compost all over the house by now, though. And the two of them are relatively quiet this morning. I believe yesterday’s fun and games, when added to a five kilometer run for Miss B and the intense excitement of houseguests screaming the names of landmark court cases (teenagers studying for an AP Gov final), require much napping to speed recovery.

And that, my darling chickadees, is how a bulldog and an Australian shepherd team up with a squirrel to turn my compost pile so I don’t have to.