Thursday, January 1, 2015

ONLY TO ME: Installment 5

Natural Selections: The night I thought I was the only guy in the world with a live squirrel on my head


We had this cat Buddie, she was sweet and loving, and quick to snuggle at the slightest hint you might stay put but she was also an efficient killing machine. Indoors pampered pet, outdoors a feline Kubla Kahn.  We also had flying squirrels nesting in the attic.  The house we were renting had been vacant for some time and the squirrels had made a secure home, that is, until Buzz-saw Buddie moved in.


One evening, about dusk, while out on the deck with beer in hand resting my head against the back of an Adirondack chair, I noticed a tiny squirrel had scrambled out of the gable vent and lept from the peak of the house. It glided, as the flying variety does, to a nearby branch. Magnificent! What a wonderful happenstance, thought I, to be positioned just so. For a moment I marveled at my innate connectedness with nature. After a celebratory sip or two another squirrel did the same. By the time I finished the beer several had achieved the apparent routine activity.  It was a good show.  A nature program right there in my backyard. The only difference being the lack of commercials forced a decision to forsake natures rich pageantry for a much needed pee break but I began to notice that the jumps altho seemingly automatic and effortless on the squirrel's part were actually fraught with terror.  They were landing just a few feet above and to the left of my head so I became aware of how little control they had over their flight path. Knobby little hands moved in quick independent, circles that varied in speed and radius, furry little arms massaged the airflow to gain a bit more left then right then left again.  I soon thought their inner dialog might go something like ' No-nnnnoo-NOOOOOO-NNNNNoooo... WHUMP, then once safe, the equivalent of a squirrel... WHEW.


My bloated bladder brought me back to the moment but before I could move another one scampered to the peak, launched with the same precision as the others, but landed short of the favored branch and flopped to the ground.  I knew too well that flying squirrels, while agile upon branch and in mid air, are dangerously cumbersome on a grassy lawn in need of a mow.


Then I remembered the principal at Buddie’s Rodent Removal Service was on call and outdoors.


I raced to the deck rail in time to see the familiar tortoise shell/calico blur that was Buddie in attack mode.  I yelled in an attempt to distract the robot like programing now in play but by the time the sound reached her all systems were locked on target. I must have distracted her tho because she had stopped and was frantically searching for her prey.  


Flying squirrels have an odd defensive display when in close proximity to a predator or at least this one did. It capered about before a now, seemingly, bemused feline and displayed a completely ludicrous tactic. It was sort of a slow motion dance that rose up on hind legs then leapt upward and forward onto front feet to wag a tail in a jerky fashion then bare hind claws at its oppressor.  I don't know if cats have a sense of humor but I remember a distinct impression that the Killer Queen was amused.


I moved a big, stupid, human foot between her and her prey in the hopes that the squirrel would take advantage of a moments hesitation, stop with the odd death dance, and scurry away to safety to the nearby wood.  


But it did the oddest thing, it scampered up along my pant leg, darted over my sweatshirt, and screeched to a halt atop my head. I hunched my shoulders to block any option the squirrel might have to gain refuge within said sweatshirt. I was now standing with a panicked Flying squirrel for a chapeau in the middle of our backyard with not a clue as to what to do.  


Looking back I am proud not to have freak out with a spastic, heebie-jeebie like shudder to rid myself of the the dirty bit of nature that had huddled atop my brow.   However, it occurred to me that Robocat would soon realize where the stupid thing had got to.  My mind was bereft of options but one odd thought presented itself: surely I must be the only guy on the planet, at this moment, with a squirrel on my head (We will return to that topic later).


Blood-thirsty Buddie was befuddled.  She darted around the grass at imagined squirrel locations until I whimpered with pain as the rodent dug into my scalp. Her eyes shot straight up.  I grimaced as the needle sharp claws fought for purchase. The squirrel peaked over my left brow then my right, back left, quick fake right, then back again left.  Later I imagined that queenie noticed a glint of moonlight as it flashed off the the squirrel's eye. Regardless of how she deduced the location she T, O, R, E her way up my body. There are few substances better suited to a cat's claws than flesh, a couch maybe, curtains certainly, tree bark of course, but they pale in comparison to my pale underbelly.


At this point in the narrative I need to switch the point of view to that of my wife's.  She had come out onto the deck to announce dinner was ready and found my writhing figure at the edge of a single bulb's range. My back was to her so I seemed hunched over and appeared to clutch at my chest. At first she thought I had to pee but soon panic set in, due to a recent EKG to determine my hearts status, I was fine as it turned out, just lay off the jalapeƱos I was told, but her thoughts sprang to a heart attack.


“Are you alright?” she demanded.


Well, there was an attack in progress and it was in the proximity of my chest but not of the cardiac variety, no, it was begot by a crazed, carnivor.  I shouted through clenched teeth not to call 911 as Sherman the Cat burned her way first left then right across the southern portion of my stomach and seared her way up my chest. So what the hell was the stupid squirrel doing all this time? It was holding fast to my thinning hair, riding out the tussle below.  I managed a reprieve by somehow locking my arms around the frantic feline, she was probably tired as I although not bleeding profusely as my pain receptors were reporting, and, by the way, I still needed a pee;  I began to admire the stamina of my bladder.  (See visual aid)



I had to find a way to get the damned squirrel off my head but how?  I noticed a sapling nearby and started a mummy like slog toward it in the hope that numb-nuts above would leap away. Soon I could feel the leaves on my head but the squirrel wouldn’t budge.  I started bouncing a bit with emphasis on the upstroke in an attempt to launch the riveted rodent or at least give it a clue as to an escape route but it continued to peer over my forehead as queenie clutched firmly to my shredded chest. I could just make out a tiny wiggling nose at the top of my vision, first left of my nose then right then zip over to my ear then back again, left right, zip-peer, zip-peer.  Buddie had locked on and with renewed vigor began to match the squirrel's movements but her movements were more lunge-shred, lunge-shred. I could only guess as to what was left of my upper body.  Every squirrel zip was matched by a cat lunge until I had had enough.  I screamed, leapt upward, flapped my arms wildly and flogged at my head in a spastic, heebie-jeebie like manner.


My wife said I may have cleared three feet.


I don't know what happened to the squirrel AND I don't really care.  I recovered my wits in time to see Queenie at full gallop toward the house. My sweatshirt was a bit tattered yet no wounds beneath proved deep enough to warrant stitches nor, I am happy to report, were my pant legs drenched from lack of control during my ordeal.    


Now, I told that story to tell this one...


After some daubing of ointment, dinner, and a soothing beer or two, my wife called her parents to tell of the crazy night just had.  Her mother, Shirley, listened closely as she always did then  began to tell the following story.


Her husband Ron, brought the kitchen garbage out as per usual to the metal can just outside the detached garage, lifted the lid, plopped a bag in then jumped back as a young squirrel leapt from behind the can and charged toward him. The tiny squirrel was not part of the drill.  They faced off for a moment but when it began to snap its jaws and clicked its prominent incisors in a tiny but menacing manner he bolted for the house. He slamming and fastening the screen door just in time to thwart a manic leap by the addled squirrel as it THUMPED against the door. (see visual aid)



The thing has gone rabid he thought.


Shirley heard the thump and was startled to see a furry, snapping thing plastered, legs agape, on her back door screen. “Get that thing off of there," she said. "Yes, but how," replied Ron. They  conferred and hatched a plan where she would stand fast and keep the thing's attention while Ron took a broom, snuck out the front, crept along the driveway leading to the backyard, surprise the enemy, and whack it away.


The plan failed.


Halfway along the side of their moderate sized Cape style house the now frenzied fuzzy thing rounded the back corner and was snapping and snarling and closing fast on Ron's position. He tossed the broom aside and made a frantic retreat. Safe behind the safety of the front screen door where the now familiar to Shirley, THUMP had once again ensconced the the now almost certain to be rabid, furry thing at the front of the house.


They began to feel trapped.


Just then Neighbor Bill was seen walking home from his job at a nearby factory and heard their cries for help. Bill, a quiet, gentle man, slow to speak, then little to say, but very pleasant, was a bit hard of hearing.  He placed a cupped hand to ear and turned down their front walk.  Ron and Shirley simultaneously shouted various alarmed and confused warnings at Bill resulting in a more confused would be rescuer.  


The squirrel too became aware of Bills presence and charged. Bill froze. Shirley and Ron yelped.


And for the second time that evening a squirrel did a very curious thing: like its brethren in the previous story it scampered up a man, this time his name was Bill.


The young squirrel made haste to the top of Bills head. Bill dropped his lunch pail but held onto the jacked he had slung over a forearm, shrunk up his shoulders as I had, and clutched his arms to his chest. Looking down the little squirrel must have seen the crossed arms and coat as an inviting and restful place, and it must have been very tired from its busy days menacing.  The tiny little squirrel scurried down Bill’s arm, nosed its way into the folds, and fell fast asleep.


Bill softened his stance and gazed out at Shirley and Ron who each returned dumbfounded gaped mouthed facades. Then the quiet and gentle man of few words cut across their lawn to his own where he sat for some time on his front step with a sleeping baby, squirrel coiled up and cozy in his coat.  
 


 



ONLY TO ME: Installment 4

Alfa Turkey: An ordinary day at work turns into front row center for an age old ritual.


I worked as an art director for a pretty long stretch, I mention this to locate the story in an office atmosphere; a carpeted, cubicle culture, with artificial light and softly whirring computers. I had one of the few windows to nature but don't get excited, It was maybe 14 inches wide and 5 feet or so high. Odd? Yes. It faced north so no sunlight could stream in but it did allow a swath of technicolor into an otherwise drab interior. The other odd thing was that part of the building was about four feet below grade so the window gave a low point of view to the uncubicled world outside.


The space had been vacant for years so we were the first humans to occupy the area for some time. That may have contributed to the ease at which the local Turkey brood strolled past my window and among the grounds and parking lot although, in my experience, turkeys strolled wherever the hell they felt like until one of them got spooked and they would blast away in a flurry of feathers and squawks.


At that time I fancied myself to be a Jr. naturalist and with spring in the air I knew it was mating time for turkeys.  I had been watching the daily pageant for several days and found it difficult not to take advantage of the perfect blind I found myself in, at times no more than 24 inches away. The brick wall and double thick tinted glass blocked all sound and movement within. It was a stunning view.


My feeble studies did not prepare me for the vicious attack one bold bird launched at my odd window one day. A turkey, lets call him Fred, had stopped mid stroll, he was about 8 feet away at the time and had just noticed, I suspect to him, a most perfect rival in the reflective quality of my of my odd window-mirror. Fred slowly rose to full height then gave it one more skootch, i suspect, to give emphasis to his superior bulk. I found myself standing and skootching as well.  Fred paused, he seemed to be comprehending that his reflective rival had just matched his bulky display. If he did notice he did not dawdle for he launched at the window a ferocious attack with such bone cracking speed that I nearly soiled myself. Take it from me if anyone could convince the head Turkey that no single human could withstand such an onslaught Turkeydom would reign supreme.  The initial blitz was a crazed combination of battering wings that clacked against the glass, combined with scalpel sharp clawed feet that slashed here and there,  and a staccato barrage of precise, pulverizing, pecks with such terrifying speed that an accurate count would be impossible, all this while slowly rising as if gravity had just looked the other way. I was frozen with fear.  If the glass had not proved sufficient I would have surely been mauled to a raw hamburger like consistency. Fred too had stopped and backed up a bit. With a weary eye he took careful assessment of this most worthy opponent (see visual aid)



I had recovered enough to note I was several feet from the window where I cowered next to a file cabinet, clutching my coat and emanating soft cooing sounds.   Fred was once again looking with what I took as dismay and I began to imagine his thoughts a such: “Damn this turkey is good, I gave him my best beak-beak, beak-beak, claw-claw-claw-claw, wing bat- wing-bat combos several times and even mixed them up and he matched my every move... he even managed to match me beck for beak, peck after peck after peck, time and time again....Damn".  


Undaunted at first, Fred gave it a few more goes. Quite a crowd had gathered on my side of the blind but he must have eventually decided to end it at a draw and with one last menacing glare moved on and, I suspect, secretly hoped that this most worthy adversary would never try to step out of that odd shaped cave again.