The Patron Saint of Squirrels, or How a Blog Was Born

I guarantee, none of you had the morning I had!

Let’s set the scene:

5:10 am – first alarm, hit snooze

5:15 am – second alarm, hit snooze

5:20 am – third alarm, hit snooze, wrangle myself into a semi-upright position, turn on TV, watch weather

5:25 am – fourth alarm, dislodge dog and cats, get out of bed, mentally prepare myself to shower and start day.

At this point, it should be noted that I am, for all intents and purposes, unclothed (or what we call “nekkid” here in the South).  And I’m not wearing my glasses.  It’s not important at the moment, but it will figure into this story later.

So I’m standing at the kitchen sink, and I turned on the faucet, because I live in an old house and the hot water flows better to the shower if I start it in the sink.  I hear a small thump off to my right, but I don’t think anything of it, because I have two cats and a dog, all of which tend to make noise.  Then I hear a little more thumping, and the menagerie comes to attention, all staring intently at the pantry.

Now, I grew up in the country.  I am quite accustomed to having various rodents appear in places they should not, so at this point, I am not worried.

Quick head check – 2 cats, 1 dog, all present and accounted for.  Quickly I reach over and close the pantry door, grab my glasses, hunt for the flashlight and cautiously approach the pantry.  The thumping gets a little worse, with a little scrabbling thrown in.  Mice and rats don’t generally make this much noise.

Now I am worried.

And I’m still nekkid.

Open the pantry door just a squitch (and, yes, that is a word – I just made it up).  Click on flashlight.  Offer a brief prayer to St. Francis (“please be a rat, please be a rat, please be a rat”).  Shine flashlight into the terrified eyes of a very large squirrel crammed in the farthest, bottomest corner of the pantry.

St. Francis has failed me.

Close pantry door very quickly, utter some words which would go pretty far toward explaining why St. Francis doesn’t often listen to me.  Deep, cleansing breaths.  In through the nose, out through the mouth.  Silence the dog.  Make sure cats aren’t in the pantry with our new little friend.  Briefly consider leaving little Rocky in the pantry for a while and returning when he’s calmer.  Remember that I have food in there I’d like to eat and vintage baking dishes I’d like to remain unbroken, and, besides, there is a sizable power access hole drilled in one of the walls that leads right back into the kitchen, so he can just leave the pantry whenever he wants.

More deep, cleansing breaths.

I should note that, even though it feels like about seven hours, the elapsed time here is actually closer to about ten minutes.

Decide that rodent eviction should not be undertaken au naturel. Grab bathrobe.  Decide bathrobe is not enough protection.  Grab the t-shirt and pajama bottoms I had discarded sometime during the night in a fit of warmishness.

Formulate plan to remove rat-with-fluffy-tail.  First, locate cats.  Oh, wait, they haven’t moved from their vigil at the pantry door, where the pantry occupant is starting to get a leeeeeetle bit agitated due to the opening and closing of doors, the flashlights, and the barking of the dog.  Open window next to the stove – it has no screen.  Grab the cat most likely to attack the squirrel and/or follow it out the window, lock her in the dog’s crate.  This pleases neither cat nor dog.

Open pantry door quickly.  Squirrel springs free.  Use (appropriately red) bathrobe like a matador’s cape to “shoo” him to freedom.  Squirrel leaps to counter!  Runs toward stove!  Approaches window!  Jumps and lands on window blinds!

Jumps to the next (closed) window.

Jumps to the top of the refrigerator, leaps to the top of the bathroom door.  Rests.

Begin standoff.

At this point, the hilarity of the situation is beginning to set in.  I wonder just what a blind observer would make of this event – the yowling of the incarcerated cat, the fraidy-cat cat scrambling to get anywhere there isn’t squirrels and crazy ladies brandishing fuzzy bathrobes, the yipping of the dog (who seems to think I have engineered this for her entertainment), my own varied shrieks, gasps, and profanities.

So now I’m in a staring match with a glorified rat, angry, trying desperately not to give in to the giggles.  Who will win?  At this point, I doubt it will be me.

Turns out, I’m both right and wrong – rodent breaks the standoff, leaping into the bathroom. Using my shoulders as a springboard.  So I won the battle, but I’m afraid I’m going to lose the war.

Quickly back out of bathroom. Close door.  Realize we’re back where we started.

Time to reformulate the plan.

Briefly reconsider leaving the squirrel in there and calling my landlord.  Remember that my landlord and I are not on the best of terms right now (more info on that later, for those who didn’t hear the shrieking earlier this week) and decide that I am a grownup, a liberated woman, even, and that I can take care of this myself.  The rodent will not win.

Briefly reconsider leaving the squirrel in there for all eternity.  I work in a building with no fewer than 97 toilets and 97 bathtubs and 2 Jacuzzis (Jaccuzzi’s?  Jacuzzies?).  I can shower at work.  My best friends live down the street, so I can pee there when I’m not at work.  I grew up in the country, so I have no problem peeing outside in the middle of the night.  I’ll just wait for him to expire, wait a few weeks for the smell to go away, and sweep up his little bones.  Yeah, this is doable, this could work!

Briefly consider poppin’ a cap in his ass, but realize that high-velocity 9mm lead projectiles vs. a three-pound rodent would leave way too much of a mess.  Besides, there just would be too many questions.  Besides, the cap with which to pop is in the other room, and unloaded.

But my favorite hairbrush is in there, and my Dean and Deluca cookbook, and my cell phone!

Trap the squirrel!

Find box.  Realize box is too small.  Do I spy a milk crate?  Better!  Do I spy a sofa pillow big enough to cover said milk crate?  Check.  Find yellow latex cleaning gloves – what exactly I think these are going to protect me from, I do not know, but it just seems like a good idea.

More deep, fortifying breaths.  Another brief prayer to St. Francis, recanting my earlier statement that he had failed me.

Sloooooooowly creep into bathroom, crate and pillow in tow.  Find squirrel perched on top of mirror, which is now tilting precariously on its little nail.  Squirrel spots me, takes flying leap to the exposed CFL spiral bulb hanging from the ceiling.  Worry about the bulb breaking and spewing poisonous mercury gas all over the house.  Squirrel discovers what we human types usually figure out at a pretty early age: most things that glow are kinda hot.

Of course, since I was still in the doorway, fixing the door so that it was closed but easily bumpable, I was not in the position to catch the little bugger in my convenient milk crate when he let go of the light bulb.  I could only watch helplessly as he sprang to the back of the toilet, crawled behind the toilet, and propelled himself under the bathroom sink.

So I start clearing the under-sink area (note to self – there’s a lot of crap under the sink that I probably don’t even need any more).  Squirrel is now once again crammed in the farthest, bottomest corner.  I decide that provoking the squirrel is not going to do either one of us any good.

I wait.  My adrenaline level is pretty high, so while I recognize the future laughs I’m going to get out of this story, I’m really mostly mad.  I leave the bathroom for a while, remembering to fix the door behind me, and decide to focus less on how I’m going to get the little interloper into the crate and skip ahead to how I’m going to get him out of the house after the fact.

I arranged doors and doorways for easy access to the outdoors with what I’m sure will be a wiggling, potentially dangerous squirrel bomb, just waiting to attach himself to my face and give me rabies or distemper or something horribly disfiguring and I’ll start foaming at the mouth, I’ll have to go to the hospital and get 15 shots in my belly and people will talk about me when I walk down the street and . . .

OK, reality check.  This is not a crisis.  I will not let the squirrel win.  I am stronger than the squirrel.  I have had enough.

Re-approach the bathroom.  Arrange door perfectly.  Squirrel is once again perched on the mirror above the sink.  I set the crate on the vanity, grab a towel, wrap it around my arms and fearlessly (ha!) guide the squirrel into the crate, slam the pillow on, and run backwards out of the bathroom and backwards out of the kitchen, miraculously not tripping over the very excited dog.

Right about the time I realize I’m going to have to stand on one foot and use the other foot to open the front door (not a problem), I also realize that the open handles on a milk crate are plenty big enough to permit safe passage of a squirrel (a problem).

In a feat of acrobatics not seen since Beijing in the summer of 2008 ever in the history of the world, I draped the aforementioned towel in front of the little rodent’s nose peeking ever so inquisitively out of the crate handle, reaffirmed my hold on the pillow, nudged the door open with one foot, kicked the screen door open, and pitched crate, pillow, towel, and squirrel bomb onto the front porch.  And squealed.

You’d think it was over, wouldn’t you?  Not.

Squirrel extricates himself from his trappings, looks around, and takes off for the kitchen window I foolishly had forgotten to close.

“Not on my porch!” says the dog, who leaps out the screen door, charges the squirrel, and chases it over the porch wall.

Saved by the doggie!

Note: elapsed time 16 hours 57 minutes.  And I (barely) wasn’t even late to work

So how did the little intruder intrude, you may ask?  Well, I have some theories, but that’s a story for another day.

And the patron saint of squirrels, along with all animals, is St. Francis of Assissi

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