So there I was, being dragged a pee-soaked dog, my hand nearly broken because the leash was wrapped around it twice, staggering southward towards what was certainly a tragedy but would only become even weirder if I got involved.
At least I wasn’t shoeless (yet), which is how these things most often end up.
However, my quandary paled in comparison to Rip Van Rodent’s. The lazy little arboreal menace was not sleepy now, no sir. In fact, I would wager he was WIDE AWAKE, for finding oneself under a hawk’s claws upon a sunny summer afternoon will light a fire beneath even the most unrepentantly indolent critter. I still wasn’t sure if I was screaming or if the squirrel was, but one thing was for sure–Boxnoggin had found both his sea legs (so to speak) and his voice.
For the dog was making more than enough noise to cover both that horrified shrieking (honestly, I cannot tell if it was me or Rip, even after a few days’ worth of thinking about things) and the sound of buffeting wings as Not-Tony Hawk attempted to get what he thought was an easy, slothful snack off the ground.
Maybe it was the adrenaline, maybe it was the sudden sonic assault. In any case, Rip Van Rodent’s pride had gone before a helluva fall, and he appeared both panicked and grimly determined. I still don’t know how he avoided being murdered on the first stoop or carried skyward; I can only think a flinch of the sort prey creatures often perform is responsible for the former and sheer dumb good luck for the latter.
I want to take a moment here to fully soak in the situation. There’s a hawk just going about its hawklike business, grabbing something from the corner deli. There’s a usually torpid squirrel whose hubris had been fed to gargantuan proportions, learning that eluding sixty-plus pounds of canine strapped to a resisting human is altogether not the same thing as dealing with a hungry, well-practiced bird of prey. Coming from the northern end of the yard, at the end of a leash and straining every muscle, is said sixty-plus pounds, urine-dripping, drooling, and emitting Hound of the Baskerville howls to boot. And finally, there’s your humble narrator, holding onto the leash for dear life and attempting to dig her heels in somewhere near the Venerable Fir.
The thing that flashed through my head was, I kid you not, I am going to have to think of something once Boxnoggin gets to that bird.
And then, my beloveds, there was a literal bolt from the blue.
Longtime readers (especially on Mastodon) will remember The Jerry Situation during a particular hot, smokey summer evening, in which there was a downed crow in our backyard, I thought I was hallucinating big-band music, and I wished for full protective hockey gear despite the weather. Carl (the reigning crow matriarch) and Sandra (the young juvenile male sticking around to help her with the young ones) often accompany Box and me on morning walkies if we get out the door in time, gravely escorting us to the edge of their murder’s territory–and occasionally taunting the dog, because they’re corvids and that’s good clean fun.
Poor Jerry is…well, he’s kind of special, for a crow. There are always a few family members around to help keep him out of trouble, and he had more than the usual difficulties getting back to flying while his tail was…Christ, whatever had happened to it, I certainly don’t know. (He’s no Bartholomew of the Legion Corvidae, 501st, Neo’s Fist, that’s for sure.) Jerry’s tail is no longer fucked-up, but he still has the pale patch on his side. Which was, at the particular moment I’m telling you about now, very nearly a streak upon the air as he plummeted from heaven.
Backup, in other words, had arrived.
Crows don’t like hawks–though they do not hate them nearly as much as they do owls, which is a whole ‘nother story–and if you remember, they had been setting up a racket warning all and sundry one was in the neighborhood as Box and I sashayed outside. Apparently Not-Tony Hawk’s presence was known unto Carl, Sandra, and the gang, but Jerry was first on the scene. And boy howdy, but that particular corvid makes up for his rather dim intelligence by pure enthusiasm.
“OH NO,” I screamed, and I am 100% certain that particular yell was mine, because it pierced Boxnoggin’s baying and made recognizable words. Plus it was exactly what I was thinking–if Jerry got injured again I was going to have to set up another crow condo in the backyard and deal with Carl and Sandra (not to mention the others) getting snitty with me while I nursed the poor little weirdo back to some variety of health. This fresh fear acted as a tonic, I surmise, because I finally got my heels dug in, my center of gravity dropped, and hauled on the leash like a demented Ahab getting a grip upon a certain white whale.
The leash snapped taut. Boxnoggin was yanked to an unceremonious halt with an ulp! noise that might’ve been funny under other circumstances. At the same moment, Jerry–yes, Jerry the simple, Jerry the weirdo, Jerry of “FUCK YOU JERRY!” fame–began absolutely beating the shit out of Not-Tony Hawk.
We’ve all seen that point in a movie where the plucky underdog starts dancing around, peppering their big, lumbering opponent with mighty blows, right? It was like that. I swear to the gods, if there hadn’t been so much noise (including my own yowls of despair) we might have heard boss music. Because Jerry was kung-fu fighting, his kicks were goddamn fast as lightening–and you know it was, while not exactly a little bit frightening, certainly thought-provoking.
In short, Jerry spanked that hawk. They tumbled into a bank of lemon balm, and as they did a few more bolts descended from the blue, blue sky. There was Carl, sleek and buxom; there was Sandra, who is no longer as lean as he once was and had a businesslike gleam in his eye that day. A couple others–Nasty and Simone, I haven’t had time to tell you lot about them–put in an appearance, and what had started out for Not-Tony as a trip to the corner store ended up with a five-on-one in the lemon balm alley.
I stood, jaw hanging and Boxnoggin still straining at the end of the leash, watching this display with wonder. In short order Not-Tony decided a bag of Rip Van crisps and a forty weren’t worth it, used his wings and claws to good effect, and managed to get some air. Once he was able to clear the fence (buzzing the clematis on the way, I really should trim that shit) he could get a little more height, and he vanished along the side of the house, pursued with great enthusiasm (in Jerry’s case), deadly efficiency (in Carl and Sandra’s), and bright-eyed interest (in Nasty and Simone’s).
Yes, yes, I hear you. What about Rip Van Rodent? I’m getting to that, keep your collective hats on, jeez.
So sudden was the air strike that Rip was just as stunned as Your Humble Narrator. Yes, the squirrel was still alive. No, he did not appear wounded, though at that distance I could not tell. But, my friends and (digital) neighbors, here’s the kicker.
The damn squirrel was luckier than he had any right to be, and maybe he knew it. In any case, the danger had retreated for the moment, and instinct had him in her merciless grip. What does a squirrel do in an unfamiliar, uncomfortable, or simply unappetizing situation? That’s right.
He runs for the nearest tree. Which just happened to be the Venerable Fir.
Which I was standing right next to.
And which, in order to reach, he had to run past a slavering, barking Boxnoggin driven into an ecstasy of excitement by the last few seconds–not even minutes, for it takes far longer to tell you the tale than it did to happen.
Rip Van Rodent was, in fact, hearty and hale enough–or simply adrenaline-soaked enough–to stagger-bolt straight under my poor piss-soaked dog on his way to the Venerable. Upon later reflection I realized he didn’t want to run for the fir near the compost heap, which was the direction the battle’s frontline had audibly moved in. Nor did he want to run for the lilacs, because there were boulders, garden boxes, a giant rosemary, and a statue of Kuan Yin in the way.
No, now that I think about it, the Venerable was the only choice. And if he had to run under a urine-splattered beast to get there, it was a price Rip Van Rodent was willing to pay.
Anyway, he darted under Boxnoggin, zoomed past me so close I near felt the wind of his passing, and scrabbled up the trunk with lightning speed. For once, the little bastard didn’t look sleepy at all.
What did Box think of this, you might ask? Well, he performed a stiff-legged jump like a cat finding a snake or cucumber on the kitchen floor, nearly colliding with me. I staggered back, my ankle turned on a hummock, and I saved myself from a pratfall only by dint of cussing like a sailor finding out shore leave’s canceled.
My beloveds, I painted the air blue with Language Unbecoming, and to top it all off, one of my untied sneakers was left behind. So I ended up half-shoeless but definitely screaming, which is entirely–but entirely–par for the course.
The rest of the afternoon was relatively quiet. Boxnoggin got a session with the hose to clean off his little accident, which he enjoyed–he hates baths but will chase a sprinkler-stream or a hose-blast all damn day and half the night if you’ll let him–and his harness is none the worse for wear. The corvids are back on guard duty; for the time being, I will still be yelling the traditional “fuck you, Jerry” every time I see that little weirdo, but it will be in a highly affectionate tone henceforth, like greeting an old drinking buddy with a hearty hey you, motherfucker!
And no, I have not seen Not-Tony Hawk again. The only remaining evidence of his trip to the corner is a single feather left upon the backyard grass.
But really, what of Rip Van Rodent, I hear you ask somewhat anxiously? Oh, don’t fear for him, gentle Readers. I think he’s okay–I’ve glimpsed him upon the back fence, attending to squirrel business. I suppose it’s too much to hope that he was chastened by the entire experience, though, because he’s back to taunting Boxnoggin…
…but that’s (say it with me) a whole ‘nother blog post.
…until some-damn-thing else happens…