27 February 2013
I sped toward the bridge. “Got one,” was what the text message said. Got one. I had to read it over and over to believe it.
On the bridge, another text came in. “The squirrel is freaking out,” he said.
I bore down on the gas. At the house, I looked up toward the chimney and wept. For there, pacing back and forth in the middle section between two trap doors, WAS A LIVE SQUIRREL. Thank you Jesus Christ my lord and personal savior. Thank you Artie, thank you Rick. Thank you for a robust and willful five-year-old boy child. Thank you for not helping Lynn figure out that I ate the rest of the mint-chip ice cream, and thank you for that last clean Huggie I had to defile on a long car trip to Rhode Island two weeks ago when it took forty-five minutes to get the kids to fall asleep and we didn’t want to stop the car. Squirrel, I bless thee. I will dress you in calico and lace. I will feed you fine chocolates by the hearth. Oh, squirrel, squirrel, my beautiful, sexy squirrel….
I grabbed the ladder and leveled it in the snow. Shook it a few times to make sure it was secure. Just like Rick did. Felt in my back pocket for those wire nippers to cut the zip ties that held the attachment in place. Then I looked up and got a little freaked. Eighteen feet is serious.
‘You won’t die,” Artie said. “It’ll hurt, though.”
I knocked on the tenant’s door and asked him, oh college student my college student, to stand by the ladder. He looked irritated and bored. But he did come outside and stand at the base of the ladder while I made the slow, terrifying ascent.
Readers, I am not going to lie. Since the birth of my girl babies I have not exactly been on the career path of a swimsuit model and I confess that my girth may have contributed somewhat to the groan and creak of the ladder which in turn brought to the squirrel a newfound sense of terror. He began tearing desperately at the trap door all the while making a chattering sound so loud and foreign and weird that I got freaked out and went back down the ladder to regroup where, to my shock and horror, to my utter disbelief and unadulterated outrage, the squirrel pulled back the trap door and RAN BACK INTO THE ATTIC.
That did not just happen, I said. That squirrel did not just figure out how to open a one-way trap door.
Can I go now, my tenant said. I have a lot of homework to do, really.
It occurred to me that this squirrel problem is the biggest thing going on in my life right now. I mean honestly there is just nothing else happening. And yet at the same time my squirrel problem doesn’t make a particle of difference to my tenant. How can two people standing on the same coordinates occupy such different spaces in the universe? I felt like crying. The squirrel was gone. He was never, ever, going to go back into that trap again. He would chew his way out, and Lynn and I would go broke, and I would be whispering fargen bastiges from the asylum and our children would grow up to become physicians who work for a pharmaceutical company.
Aw Jesus Christ, said Artie. You got the trap upside down. The one way door is supposed to be facing down, not up. Down. Down.
“You mean,” I said, sobbing softly, “he doesn’t walk over the door and it snaps up behind him?”
“No,” Artie said. “He’s gotta push on the door with his head. It passes over his back as he pushes through. It falls down behind him, it doesn’t spring up. You got it so he can climb up to the top of the door and push it back down again.”
Okay, I admit, I made a mistake. But I checked the thing a thousand times before Rick put it up, and I don’t see how that squirrel got back through even if it was put on the wrong way.
“They push through with their heads,” Artie said. “They use their nose to squeeze through.”
“Aw Jesus Christ,” I said.
“You gotta get up there and turn that thing over,” Artie said.
From the car, I could hear Lucy crying. Dammit.
My tenant came out with another tenant. They were smoking on the back porch. Homework my ass.
I called Emily, who works nearby. She actually did quite a lot of work for us in the kitchen and bathroom back in the day, and her workshop is down the street.
“I can’t catch you if you fall,” Emily said. “I tore my rotator cuff.”
Let me just add that when I phoned Emily a few weeks ago she didn’t even say hello when answering my call.
“I don’t do squirrels,” was all she said. Then she told me this story about how she tried to catch some squirrels for a client a few years back and the babies got separated from their mother and the mother actually ended up dying in her arms. That’s what she said. A mother squirrel died in her arms (must have been a huge one). As you might imagine, Emily is very pro-squirrel. Apparently she has a whole family of them living in her attic. She leaves food for them outside in her yard so they don’t chew her electrical wires, and she loves them, and she names them.
“Amy, this thing you’re doing,” she said. “It’s over your head. You can’t do it yourself. You need a professional.”
I made Emily stand by the ladder anyway. Ahma cut this shit down, says me to me, hoping that ebonics would get me up the ladder again. Ahma cut this shit down and flip it over and catch me a squirrel if it’s the last thing I do on this ugly, gray, snow-trodden earth.
Except when I got as far as I could go without having a heart attack, I couldn’t reach. The trap rests on top of the gutter. I would have had to stand on the top rung, and even then, I’d have to bend backwards around the gutter…
I went back down. My heart was beating so fast. So fast! I slumped into the snow.
“Hold me, Emily,” I said.
“I can’t,” she said. “I tore my rotator cuff.”
I got back in the car. There is a Japanese restaurant on Broadway. I went to the restaurant and brought the babies in and ordered a sapporo. I don’t think it was even 11:30 in the morning. I called Rick.
“I put it on how you told me!”
“Don’t yell at me,” I said.
“Well I can’t come back now,” he said. “I got a million things to do. I’m in the middle of a job. I can’t just drop everything.”
“Fine,” I said. “I’ll call someone else to do it.”
“Nobody else can do it. You won’t find anyone else who can do that.”
(Don’t you just love how every contractor in the world is the only contractor in the world who can do a particular job that only your contractor in the world can do?)
I went back to my beer and my twins. I was starting to feel pretty good, too. This warm foamy sensation was making its way over the back of my head and one of the babies had an udon noodle hanging from her ear and suddenly the whole thing seemed terribly ridiculous. I mean honestly. The squirrel went back in the house. The squirrel went back in the house!
“Maybe we really should just sell the place,” I said to the waitress, who doesn’t speak a single word of English.
As I was paying the bill I got a text from Rick. “I turned the trap over,” he said. “It’s all done.”