Come now, don’t any of you baby boomers remember having
your childhood feet x-rayed at the shoe store? It was right about
the time we were being stuffed with megadoses of penicillin no
matter what the wheezy etiology, and ducking for cover under
one-armed elementary school desks in mock nuclear bomb attacks.
What a generation.
Look at us. Childhoods spent overloaded with antibiotics and
wearing radioactive shoes during choreographed, holocaustal
Forgive me, my fellow Marchers. That had little to do with this
week’s column, but we’re all entitled to a kind of pre-flight
checklist, getting up for the game, if you will. I ask only the same
privileges granted in the traditional warm-up of any home run
hitter: splutter a mouthful of chaw into the batter’s box, tap the
mud from my cleats, and hike up the hardware in my underware,
lest I get beaned in the software.
Okay, here comes the pitch. Let’s take a cut at it and talk about
My urban friends may never have to face this horror. It’s not
that squirrels don’t take up residence in the city, but they tend to
avoid the interiors of fifth floor walk-ups, preferring the safety and
sumptuous litter of parks, avenue trash cans and fast-food
Here in the Vermont hills, however, there is no demilitarized
zone for critters, and if you live here long enough, you’ll have to
deal with this scenario: Squirrels, raccoons, foxes, groundhogs,
skunks and chipmunks all roaming freely outside the house, on the
porch, in the eaves, through the gardens, and all using the compost
for an all-night combo jungle gym/diner. To be sure, when our
dog is out there, the timeworn ritual ensues. He chases ‘em. They
True, they can be a nuisance, but they’ve the same claim to their
link in the food chain that we have, and we usually enjoy and
respect our mutually exclusive cohabitation. They’re out there.
We’re in here. Or, from a critter’s-eye view: they’re in there, we’re
But, this Thursday past, the rules changed and all bets were off.
We took off the gloves, lowered the veils, dropped our guard,
stormed the Bastille, and hit ‘em where they live...when a squirrel
came into the bedroom.
There are reasons why you don’t see squirrels being sold in pet
shops or living in bedrooms....
When a squirrel is outside on your porch hanging from a
birdfeeder and consuming six dollars worth of sunflower seeds in
as many minutes, it’s a harmless and hungry little prankster. Just
doing its job.
But, when you are naked, half-asleep and can’t see a thing
without your glasses and it runs across your headboard without
warning, it becomes an incarnate nightmare. It’s a dark, bobbing,
eeking, blurry gremlin, a Beelzebubbian mercenary surely sent into
your house to slaughter you and your pets, then drag any sleeping
child off to a treetop lair and raise it as the first New England
So, I did the normal thing. Heart racing, I jumped out of bed,
grabbed everything in the room that wasn’t nailed down, and threw
it into the hall. In the grip of the Fight Or Flight Syndrome, this
somehow made sense to me. If the Devil had come to play in my
ballpark, I was going to level the playing field.
This action attracted my housemate, who naturally enough
came to investigate when she looked down the hall and saw her
nightgowns flying through space.
It also cleared a path for the squirrel, who chose that moment
to exit the bedroom through the legs of my approaching Sweetie
and leap over the heap of lingerie, disappearing down the cellar
Now, if you recorded all the eeking sounds made by all
creatures great and small in all of history and hit the playback
button, you’d hear the “EEK!” that shot from the lungs of said
Sweetie. She complimented this sound with a twist of body
English I can only describe as looking like someone who’d just
attempted to lift herself off the floor by lifting herself off the
She may have then mumble-shrieked some kind of apology, but
I was too busy springing into my instinctive but ridiculous offense,
grabbing a sponge mop and running naked down the stairs, the
dog hot on my heels.
There’s something at once comically futile and terrifying about
trying to catch a wild thing that will always run faster than you can
catch it, and whose behavior alternates between a hasty retreat and
a cavalry charge. (You may insert your own pre- and post-marital
It’s like trying to chase down Superman when he was a
runamok toddler and streaking through the house in one of those
babyroller bumpercars. You know what I mean. Those sit ‘n scoot
rolling walkers that turn your precious new ambulator into a
household pinball. They’re in the same category as the
springloaded bungee doorway pogo-seats, but that’s another March.
Right now I have about a hundred words to cut to the chase,
and here went nineteen of them.
Suffice to say the dog snarled and pounced, I lunged and
sponged, Sweetie sent periodic “eeks!” downstairs from a safe
distance, and the squirrel left the house unscathed two days later
after suffering through an elaborate series of diversions made up of
bedspread barricades and a sponge mop handle bait-stick.
Squirrels belong high & outside.
This pitch was low and inside, and barely cleared the fence.
My feet are radiantly pooped, I’ve got a super-infection sniffle,
and any minute now they may drop the big one.
But, why walk when you can home run....?
Copyright 1997 B. Elwin Sherman. www.toolkitinparadise.com All rights reserved.
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