Cooked Squirrel, Anyone?

Noelle and I walked this afternoon instead of working out. Sunlight reflected relentlessly off of the muddy brown river, which still runs high and dark from Tuesday’s downpour and subsequent snowmelt from the top of the Blacks.

“Oh God, I hate it when a man doesn’t know what he wants,” she expounds. “It’s like, you know deep down part of them wants to be with you, but in some irrational twist they begin to associate all the shit they can’t figure out about their own lives with YOU, and YOUR PRESENCE, and oh God…” she goes on.

I’ll admit, it’s comforting to get a little sympathy, at least.

At home, the sun’s warmth huddled in the cabin all morning so I did not have to build a fire right away. Cramps as shattering as earthquakes sent me straight to bed, where I finally relaxed a little with the pain and enjoyed a mid-afternoon nap. I rarely let myself do this, so whenever I do it just feels so right.

Within twenty minutes I was woken up by a loud, persistent clawing noise. In a moment of clarity I recognized it as the work of a squirrel and guessed that one must be poking around the porch awning downstairs. I fell back asleep for another hour. Little did I know, that the poor animal had fallen down the stovepipe and was trapped in the woodstove…

As the sun set I settled into writing work and prepared to lay a fire in the woodstove. When I opened the cold, metal door on the Waterford a chunk of the rope seal fell to the floor. Surprised, I scooped it up with a clump of ashes and dusted it back into the stove. At that point, I noticed that the ashes in the stove did not look ordinary. In fact, kneeling down with my face just inches from the open door (and feeling a little like Hantzel and Gretel), I saw that the ashes were completely compressed and perfectly, eerily flattened. This would not be how last night’s coals had settled and I knew it. This was not the work of a naturally burnt log. Had someone been in the house, cleaned out the stove, and left?

Mystery unsolved, I stacked two logs down, crumpled paper, and lay kindling down. I struck the match and watched the fired ignited. After about thirty seconds I added several large sticks, then noticed that my indoor woodpile had gotten low. In a totally uncharacteristic move, I knowingly left the woodstove door wide open with a fire going as I left the cabin to gather more logs.

When I returned, all was normal but for the sounds of a squirrel again, only this time it was much louder. I turned my back to the fire to gaze out the window, in search of the obnoxious animal, and heard a pounce-clump-patter on the floor behind me.

Lo and behold, as I jumped around, I was face-to-face was a charcoal black squirrel that had actually leapt out of the woodstove. We squared off. Immediately, I thought, RABIES and backed up a little. He squirmed, darted under the kitchen table, then in an enormous leap, moved past me and halfway across the living room. He dove into the bathroom and put his now black-capped paws up on the edge of the bathtub, as if to contemplate his odds of fitting through yet another narrow, round, man-made hole.

I leapt for the bathroom door, trying to trap him and buy myself time but I was too slow and he made it halfway up the stairs before we both froze. My mind was racing with images of chewed clothing, human bedding turned into nests, sleepless nights of taunting by rapidly reproducing, obnoxious squirrel families who would take over my cabin.

The squirrel leapt into a hole between two stair planks and I heard crumpling, but could no longer see the animal. I dove for the glass door leading out to the porch and swung it open, then pounded up the steps loudly to scare the animal out of whatever hiding place it had found below. Peaking over the railing of the loft I saw him frantically circling the living room below. I ran back down, and just as I moved to block off the rest of the house, he discovered the open door and in two gigantic bounds had bounced off a white oak tree and back into the forest.

Clearly, his eyesight had not been singed. The house did not smell of burnt hair. He had no visible flesh wounds. But “oh the stories he’ll tell his buddies tonight,” my dad said over the phone.

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