Squirrel!Showdown Weather

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

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Squirrel!Terror, Melee Edition

How was your weekend? I rearranged my dining room and went to a bouldering clinic at the Circuit. Incidentally, if you ever get a chance to take a clinic with Alex Johnson, do. She’s utterly delightful.

I’ve been putting off telling you what happened next in the Kingdom of Backyard, haven’t I. Well, that won’t make it any better. *sigh*

So. When last you saw Squirrel!Neo, he was being peppered with pinecones and various other materials. (I did not know squirrels could fling poo like monkeys. Well, lesson learned, but I’m not telling THAT story. I have some pride. Anyway.)

First, King Neo got mad. Then…he got paranoid.

You see, the bombardment only happened when he was alone, and only in the backyard. When the posse was with him, Neo was safe…but he was also nervous. Paranoia made him mean.

You can’t keep your position as King of the Backyard for very long if you start randomly screaming “BITCHIKNOWKUNGFU!” and jumping on whoever happens to be closest to you at the time. I mean, you can for a while–but that sort of behavior leads to rebellion sooner or later. (This is the reason dictatorships inevitably crumble. Trufax.)

And what, you may ask, was lean and reddish Steerpike!Squirrel doing all this time? Well, he was dancing attendance on Neo whenever the posse was around, and getting as close to the king as possible. Which meant he got jumped more often than not. Oddly, he didn’t seem to mind. In fact, he seemed almost to provoke the king into a rage, by dancing about and chittering, full of high spirits and cheer.

Neo, doughty warrior that he was, lasted about a week.

A bright afternoon came, one of the hot ones we had months ago. The air was so wet it felt like breathing through a towel. The weather would whipsaw back and forth, one day raining, the next steam-jungle-hot enough to drive you to drink, and then make you sorry you’d taken down anything but water. It was wet and miserable, and even Miss B, the most cheerful dog on earth, had her snappish moments. Getting her to go outside to pee was a chore. “ARE YOU KIDDING?” she would mutter, looking sidelong at me. “HAVE YOU BEEN OUT THERE? IT’S DISGUSTING, AND I’M WEARING A FUR COAT.”

And my muttered reply, “So help me, I am not having you pee on the rug. COME ON.”

So out we went. I leaned against the house, watching as Miss B slunk about in the shade, searching for The Perfect Spot. Now, I want you to remember that she’s lurking. Don’t forget that.

Juliet!Jay and Romeo!Jay were in the pussywillow tree, canoodling softly. Mourning doves were in the neighbor’s pines, exchanging comments on the weather and the old-man-pee smell of simmering juniper. Miss B slid around the corner of the house, seeking more shade.

And forth from the back corner, where the Headless Squirrel lay interred, came the posse, snapping their fingers. Neo was at their head, and he had relaxed slightly. Steerpike was capering alongside, and Neo kept giving him sidelong little glances.

Suspicious glances.

I wished I knew squirrelese. “That’s right,” I breathed. “Suspect him. Oh, suspect him.”

Steerpike kept capering. They moved out into the middle of the yard, tails twitching and noses lifted. I daresay there was even some sauntering going on. Steerpike, getting no reaction from Neo, turned his attention to a squirrel girl–oh, let’s call her Bettina–and they gamboled rather acrobatically. Bettina!Squirrel used to be Neo’s girl, but she had taken to avoiding him and hanging at the back of the posse. I didn’t blame her. He’d jumped her once, and only Steerpike’s intervention had avoided Severe Unpleasantness.

Because no matter how badly Neo’s being gaslighted, I won’t have squirrel domestic violence in my yard. That’s why the Sekrit Weapon was near the sunroom door. Remember that, too.

So, the stage was set. I was a little uneasy, and I was watching Steerpike. Who was unconcerned, smiling and handsome, rolling in the sun with Bettina!Squirrel.

And then. Yes, you knew there had to be an “and then.”

We heard him before we saw him. Mercutio!Jay coasted in, tail fluttering, in fine feathered form, landing on the ground near a bank of lemon balm. “ON TOP OF OLD SMOOOOOOKEY, ALL COVERED WITH BIRDSEED–HEY EVERYONE! WHAT’S–AUUUGHT! JESUS CHRIST!”

It was the final straw. Neo’s nerves snapped. There was only a gray blur, silent and deadly.

Mercutio went into the bank of lemon balm, screeching bloody murder. Feathers flew. “FIRE! MURDER! THIEVES! SMOOOOOG!”

Juliet!Jay hopped down, peering curiously into the green bank. I opened my mouth to protest, but she was already yelling. “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU–ULP!”

Neo barreled out of the bank and hit her dead center.

And Romeo!Jay…well, he’d had enough, at that point. Nobody messes with Juliet while he’s around. A streak of blue-feathered brilliance screaming “BAAAAANZZZZAAAAAAI!” smashed into Neo, who was giving as good as he got. Rarely has there been such a display of kung-fu prowess in the Kingdom of Backyard.

You have to realize, this happened all within a few seconds. I was still inhaling to warn Julie when Miss B–remember her?–burst around the corner of the house, drawn by the ruckus. Every circuit in her little doggy brain fused. “HEEEEEEEERD IT!” she bellowed, and bolted across the yard.

All at once: Mercutio: “JESUS CHRIST!” Juliet: “AUGH!” Romeo: “JUUUUUULIE!” Neo was making THAT SOUND. Again. He was holding off three jays at once, including a maddened Romeo who didn’t give a shit about kung fu, he was going to get his hammer and beat some ass.

Now, I am possessed of no sense at all. Instead of going to get my Sekrit Weapon, I took off barefoot across the yard, my own “OH FOR CHRISSAKE CUT IT OUT–” drowned in the hubbub. The combatants, at that precise moment, noticed the impending canine tornado.

“HEEEEEERD IT!” Miss B bellowed again, and the yard exploded.

You know how in cartoons there will be a stampede, dust flying and the camera shaking, and Bugs Bunny in the middle with his shoulders hunched, his ears flapping a little bit as everyone pours past him? Yeah. That was me. Squirrels at my ankles, the jays suddenly remembering they could fly, and Miss B streaking by so fast the wind of her passing hit my shins. Neo, cut off from the juniper hedge, crazed and screaming, bolted for the gate on the far side of the garage. Steerpike lolloped afterward, high-pitched terrifying laughter bursting out of him and adding to the chaos, Bettina and the others had nipped through the fence for the safety of the neighbor’s pine trees, where the mourning doves were watching with bated breath and a great deal of interest.

Neo nipped between the gate and the garage wall. Steerpike ducked after him, still grinning. Miss B dug in, but was going too fast. She hit the gate with a yelp and a crash, backed up shaking her head, and turned in a circle a couple times, yapping with sheer joy and frustrated herding instinct.

Feathers drifted down. My ribs heaved even though I was standing still. I heard a deathly screech from the front yard.

This is not going to end well, I thought.

I ran for the back door, wrenched it open, scooped up my Sekrit Weapon, and booked through my house for the front door, leaving Miss B to sort herself out.

You see, like Romeo!Jay, I’d had bloody well enough.

…to be continued.

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Follies Animaux

Three miles on the track with Miss B. this morning. There were a couple other dogs, so of course she went mad. She wants to be friendly sooooo badly, but her manners are atrocious. We’re working on it.

Also, my darling 40-pound dog tried to kill me this morning. The track is at the local middle school, and they were testing and repairing the sprinklers for summer. When some of the sprinklers turned on near us, she headed for the safest place around–right between my feet. While I was running. I didn’t break anything, but it was damn close. I haven’t made an amazing leap like that since…well, ballet, really, or my last barfight. Of course, since the leash is wrapped around my waist, she came with me. it was an interesting fifteen seconds or so.

Also in the Cat and Dog Follies this morning: Tuxedo Kitty is in another bolt-and-bounce phase, which means Miss B. views him as a magical food-producing machine she can’t get too close to, but must watch carefully in case the jackpot occurs.The kibble isn’t even chewed when he horks it up–just moistened a bit. Miss B. thinks this is a glorious snack. Tuxedo Kitty goes right back to the bowl after every hork. It’s a Circle of Life I just don’t need to be involved in. Though I have found that catnip spray will disrupt Tuxedo Kitty from staggering back to the bowl.

You read that right. I got my cat high to stop his binge-and-purge. Hey, whatever works.

Also, I found out that Miss B. will never starve. Not as long as the squirrels keep burying peanuts in the backyard. It’s like she’s a peanut-hunting machine. The squirrels are less amused than I am.

Time to load up on choco donettes and head back into the wilds of the copyedits. Submerging in 3…2…1…

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Neo & Miss B

Got the end of a kidnap attempt, a messy bloody death, a visit to Wilde the Sorcerer, and the tracing of a shipment of Prussian capacitors to write. This morning was interval training and a multiple-mile walk with Miss B. I think I tired her out. The only drawback is that I can’t nap like she does.

But I have a story to tell you first. Yes, Miss B met Neo the other day. As luck would have it, this was the first Squirrel-and-B interaction I had the pleasure of witnessing, and it just had to be the Terminator ninja death squirrel.

Picture this, a cloudy day, Miss B snoot-deep in backyard grass, Yours Truly leaning against the sunroom wall watching, yawning and holding an afternoon cuppa. It’s a tranquil scene.

From the clouds of blossoms on the plum tree, Neo sallied forth, crooked tail held high. Nobody had informed him of the Glorious Advent.

“Oh, Christ on a cracker NO–” I began. The last thing I wanted was my dog kicked in the head. That would get things off on the wrong foot. Plus, Tuxedo Kitty was never the same after his head trauma. I started forward, tea sloshing, Miss B turned to see what I was looking at…

..and froze, ears perked so far they almost started from her head, one paw lifted, barely even breathing.

How Neo missed an exponentially-bigger animal covered in russet fur staring at him as her haunches slowly sank in preparation, I’ll never know. He sauntered away from the tree, chittering a little as he encountered a small pile of grass clippings. Maybe he thought it was a fine place to bury a spring nut or two. Maybe he was so used to the calm in the back yard he literally didn’t notice. Maybe he was simply overconfident.

The preparation only took a few seconds, but it was long stretched-out nightmare time for me. You know those dreams where you’re running, but everything’s made of lead and you just can’t move fast enough? Yeah. Like that.

Still deadly silent, Miss B bolted.

“Watch out!” I yelled, hot tea slopping in my cup. “HE KICKS PEOPLE IN THE HEAD!”

Now, I was prepared for a short sharp flurry and a howling Miss B. She’s up on her rabies shots, though–it had been less than a week since her last jab.

I fully admit I underestimated my dog.

“HEEEEERD IT!” she bellowed in midstride, and was across the yard in an eyeblink.

“WHAT TH–EEEEEEEEE!” Neo started Making That Sound again. He bolted for the plum tree, but Miss B cut him off.

I watched my new mini Aussie herd the Terminator death ninja squirrel across my hard, harrying and nipping, turning on a dime, anticipating, and generally treating him like a flock of sheep. Now, squirrels are generally very nimble little critters, and Neo doubly so. But Miss B had her nose down, and she cut him off every. Single. Time. Grass flew. Neo stopped making That Noise. I suppose he thought he was running for his life and needed the oxygen. Back and forth they went–Miss B got him turned around near the fence, he feinted, she took the bait, he reversed–but so did she, with sweet natural grace, nipping at his crooked tail for good measure.

I stood there, mouth ajar, tea pouring out of my dangling cup. It was actually the boiling-hot tea splashing through my pants that restored me to some kind of sanity. “B—-!” I used her full name and my You Are My Child voice. She skidded to a stop, head up, eying me.

Neo darted for the shelter of the plum tree. Miss B quivered with anticipation. “No,” I said, “let the fuzzy little bastard rest. You’ve had your fun.”

She chuffed and trotted back to me, head high, her hindquarters wriggling with delight. “I HERDED IT! IT WAS A QUICK LITTLE BASTARD TOO! DID YOU SEE ME HERD IT? IS THAT MY NEW JOB?”

“Just be careful,” I told her, snorting for breath through the laughter. “That’s no ordinary squirrel. Plus he’s probably going to bring backup.”

Blossom-laden branches shook violently. Squirrel!Neo was invisible, but I could certainly hear him. “WHAT THE…WHAT WAS THAT? WHAT IS THAT? THE MONKEY’S TALKING TO IT! THERE’S SOMETHING IN THE YARD! FIRE! FLOOD! ANARCHY! IT NEARLY GOT ME!”

That did me in. I leaned against the house and fair wheezed with laughter. My stomach hurt and I had to blow my nose by the time I was done. Miss B, of course, kept one eye on me and one eye on the plum tree, waiting for Round Two.

This is gonna be good.

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Bloody Introductions

My morning started with a banana and a three-mile run at the low end of my pre-injury pace. This was made easier by the fact that I have finally kicked the flu’s ass and sent it howling. Which meant I could breathe, always a plus.

Then it was time to wash the dried blood out of my hair. Now, starting a Monday morning with dry claret spattering one is de rigeur for my characters, not so much for me (anymore), so this may require a little explanation.

Read the rest of this entry »

Long Night Is Over

Well, Miss B.’s first night went about as well as could be expected. She was spayed and uprooted yesterday, so it took her a while to settle in, and there was some Intestinal Distress. That was to be expected, and was prepared for, but I suspect neither of us got much sleep. She’s still not wanting a lot of food, though she’ll take the treat that gets stuffed inside the little rubber chew toy.

I am happy to report that even under such stress as this, Miss B. is a sweet, loving, kind, and very smart dog. She doesn’t nip or bark; she gets excited and jumps a bit but quits immediately when given a firm “no.” She adores the kids, is cautious of the cats–I noticed in her initial paperwork that she came from a home with both cats and little ones, which was a factor in my agreeing to take her.

So. There will be a writing post up later today, but for now…I am sitting here, typing, with a calm dog next to my chair. It just does not get any better than this.

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