2 March 2013
Readers! Here is what I hope and pray will be the last installment of my rodent nightmares. Thank you so much, every one of you, for reading my story and for providing such encouraging feedback. I loved reading all the comments and I thank you for helping me cope with a really gross and disgusting domestic issue. Love to you all!
So the next day, I phoned Foster and asked him to drive by the trap on his way out of town for the next few days. I tried to forget about it, since I knew the squirrel would not be back.
“He’ll come back,” Artie said. “Why?”
“‘Cause he’s stupid.”
Foster texted a few hours later. Squirrel in the trap. I was excited, sure, but my plan was to act indifferent in the squirrel’s presence, as if I didn’t want him to know I was interested. Lynn is off on Tuesdays and was kind enough to take time away from scholarly pursuits to drive the family back over the bridge. This was last Tuesday, by the way, a gray and rainy day. Cold. I slouched in my seat like a teenager and watched the trees through the passenger side window.
“I’m afraid of heights, you know,” Lynn said, on the way over. “I’ll do it,” I said. “I did it before.”
“You said you were too short,” she said.“I am.”
“So how are you going to do it?”“I’m not,” I said. “You’re going to do it.”“Oh,” she said.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re afraid of heights or not, anyway. It’s terrifying either way.”
One thing about Lynn. She is more of an animal lover than she is afraid of heights. When she saw that wet, skinny, tired squirrel, she started banging away at the ladder, jamming it into the snow and grabbing a little block of wood to level the legs so she could make her way up there and save that stupid thing.
“Don’t scare him,” I said. “This squirrel is a genius.” “Hold the ladder.”
“Don’t worry,” I told her. “It’s much scarier than it looks.”
Lynn went up the ladder. The squirrel chattered and screeched and bit and chewed and gnawed and snarled. He just made the biggest fuss. But there was no way he was getting out this time.
“Oh, god, he’s all bloody,” Lynn said. “His teeth are dripping.”
Lynn managed to cut off all the zip ties but she couldn’t pull the trap out from the attachment. I went up and gave it a try, too, but no matter how hard we pulled, we couldn’t dislodge it.
“Maybe there’s another zip tie we didn’t cut,” Lynn said. “No, Rick told me that he put three up there.”
It’s terrifying to stand so high up with one arm over your head trying to pull a heavy metal cage off a house. The trap is literally resting on top of the gutter. Standing on top of the third to last rung, I could reach up and grab the bottom of the trap with my right hand while gripping the ladder with my left. Even though my heart was pounding really hard I did manage to notice that from this position, directly under the squirrel, I had an absolutely sublime view of his anus. I pulled on that trap as hard as I could but it wouldn’t budge.
“You’ve got to push up a little bit and then pull out,” Lynn shouted from below the clouds, miles and miles away.
Lynn went back up and tried again. Then she came back down. We conferred. Eventually we agreed that if we pulled hard enough the trap would come out, but who was to say that the weight of the trap wouldn’t bend our arm over backwards causing us to lose our balance on the ladder and send us headlong, the trap acting as kind of anchor, toward the frozen ground? It was too scary a prospect, and after three more tries, we called our friend Andy, who lives down the road.
“When you get that squirrel,” Artie had said to me the day before. “You call me. I’ll come over and shoot him right there in the trap.”
I did not call Artie. I mean, seriously? I’m no squirrel fan, believe it, but to shoot a squirrel while he’s bleeding from the mouth trying to chew his way out of a steel trap just seems, I don’t know — impolite. After all we’d been through together, it would have been anticlimactic.
Andy is a big tall man. He went up the ladder just as carefully as we did, though, and when he got to the top he couldn’t get the trap out, either.
“Wait a minute,” he said. “There’s one more zip tie up here. It’s on the bottom.”
Damn you, Rick. You said there were only three. We could’ve done it ourselves.
Lynn had already tied a piece of string to the handle, so Andy lowered the trap down to the ground and there he was, a wet and bloody, slightly dazed, fairly frantic squirrel. The tenants gathered around on the porch to marvel.
I couldn’t believe it. I tell you I just could not believe it.
“It is absolutely illegal to transport a wild animal in the car,” Andy said. “Yes,” I said.
“You’re just crazy if you do,” he said.
“Shoot it! Shoot it in the trap. I’ll shoot it,” Andy said.
“Shoot it,” the tenants said.
Why is everyone so horny to shoot a squirrel? I can’t understand it.
Lynn said, “Are we really going to put that thing in the car with all the kids and everything?”
I was still in my faraway happy place. “Mmm,” I said. “Yes.”
Andy went on and on yelling at us. If that thing gets free in the car you’ll get into an accident. If you get caught by the police you’ll go to jail. If you you go to jail, your children will be taken from you.
“What if he gets out?” Lynn said.
“He won’t get out,” I said.
“But what if he does?”
“Remember,” Artie said. “You have to go at least five miles out. Otherwise he’ll go right back home to where he lives.”
“Seriously, what if he gets out?” Lynn said.
“He won’t get out.”
I sat in the passenger seat with the trap on my lap. It’s a long thingamajig, so the squirrel part at the end of the trap rested on the dashboard. He tried several times more to escape, but the warmth of the car must have relaxed him because somewhere between 9G and River Road he settled down and stopped chewing on the cage. There was a car accident toward the light (“Put that thing down so the police don’t see it!”) so we had to take a right turn into Bard College. Which is really very scenic.
“He smells terrible,” Lynn said.
He did, too. Kind of like a cross between a wet dog and a bandaid. But I didn’t care.
“There’s another police car right there.”
I didn’t care. I looked at my squirrel and felt an indescribable peace. It was raining outside, certainly, but in my mind the world was sunshine and rainbows, and I had a wet, smelly squirrel sitting in a cage on my lap. It does not get any better than this.
We drove out of town past Bard College and Poet’s Walk and Migliorelli’s Farm. Across the bridge. There’s a lookout there with a stone wall facing out toward the Catskill mountains; beyond that is a little clearing leading to an expanse of grass that darkens to a forest of trees. I got out of the car and set the trap on the stone wall.
The squirrel was facing the wrong direction, so it took him a second to notice that I had opened the sliding door at the back of the trap, leaving nothing between him and a wide patch of snowy grass. Sky above him; earth below. When he came to his senses he ran through the opening and down a little hill, then up another one, then down again. From where I stood, it looked like he was skipping. I watched him disappear into the woods, nine miles from home. Then I went back to the car.
“Okay?” Lynn asked.