A Squirrel of a Time: A Stephellaneous Life through a Squirrelticular Lens (Part 2)

So I believe Part 1 left off with mere Attempted Squirrelicide. Today, dear readers. Oh, today we get right into the thick of it. Attempted is for weenies. We’re talkin’ full-on Squirrelicide now. Don’t even bother hiring a detective, because I’m about to confess.

Squirrelicide in the First Degree

I was sixteen or seventeen when I went on my first hunting foray. (I may as well go ahead and tell you it was also my only hunting foray. Consider that a preview on how things went.) I didn’t care about hunting, but being out in the woods early on a weekend morning sounded lovely. So, even though I thought camouflage was stupid (still do – suck it), I donned someone’s spare camo and tagged along with my boyfriend. He wanted to go squirrel hunting, and he wanted me to go with him.

Sure, let’s do this thing.

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We get out into the woods, and he’s being all manly protector and shit. I’m walking along the well-trodden path when Mr. Boy Scout practically unhinges his arm to stop me in my tracks.

Snake. There was a snake. Not a venomous snake, mind you, which he himself acknowledged. No matter, his girlfriend’s life dignity was at stake.

So he murdered the snake.

And I cried.

That was sign number one that we should have turned back.

About halfway through our trek, we come across a deer stand. He told me what it was and who it belonged to. I pointed to the knee-high mound of food and asked what it was. “That’s deer feed,” he said, “to lure the deer.” I’m sure you can guess my reply: “Are you fucking serious? That hillbilly dickwad motherfucker LURES them here?” I even quoted My Cousin Vinny. The part about the happy little deer putting it’s little deer lips to the cool water to drink, and:

BAM

Oh yeah. Then he explained the stench I was smelling came from the deer musk/urine sprayed all around the place to lure them and mask the scent of humans.

I was livid. And though he was highly amused,

That was sign number two that we should have turned back.

But we didn’t turn back. The rest of the trek was pleasant enough. Enjoying the cool autumn weather. The trees. The chirping of the birds. Learning to recognize animal tracks and hiding spots. It was a pretty cool morning, aside from the murder and mayhem.

We finally settled into a thick copse of trees, squatted down with our weapons and listened. Watched. Observed. Felt. So far, so good. I was cool with all of that, and was pretty good at spotting shit, too.

I had done some target practice a week or so prior – but it didn’t take much. I was actually really fucking good at it. I remember he was strangely proud of that – at least he wasn’t one of those weirdos who get jealous about that sort of thing.

So yeah, when I finally spotted a squirrel I deemed close enough, I didn’t even say anything – I just went for it. I was using this little .22, and I think I was too far away. (At least that’s what I was told in attempts to comfort me afterward.) After I shot, the squirrel fell from the limb he was on.

And we never found him.

We searched for hours, because I was insistent and at least mildly hysterical. But we never found him. I cried. Nay, I fucking sobbed. He was beside himself, first laughing and then desperate to calm me down. He swore the shot would have spread, and the squirrel was probably fine or we would have gone straight to him. But I was inconsolable; all that could be done was to leave and let me put it behind me.

But I never really did. Put it behind me, I mean. Though I was done crying by the time we emerged from the woods, I’ve never forgotten that day. And I’ve never believed that squirrel came out unscathed. He either died that day or ended up in hospice care.

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I never forgave myself, and I never went hunting again.

The Three Stooges: A Shot at Redemption Ends in Triple Squirrelicide

That next summer – same boyfriend – he brought three baby squirrels home. The tree they were living in had been cut down, and the mother abandoned them. So he brought them to me. By now, he knew damn well what a bleeding heart I was. I was ecstatic! But I also had no idea how to take care of tiny baby squirrels.

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Y’all…they looked just like this.

I thought I did the right thing. I really did. I took them to a veterinarian. (I mean, I also used the Internet. What, Alta Vista at the time? Dogpile? But there wasn’t much information available.) The veterinarian sold me some kitten milk and an eye-dropper feeder (and a bottle for when they got bigger) and told me to keep them warm. Feed them every two to three hours, he said, and keep them warm with a rice sock heated in the microwave.

I was so careful with those little things. I had them tucked into a small box, with a fluffy towel and the rice sock. I always held it against tender spots of my skin first to make sure I wouldn’t burn the Three Stooges. That’s what I named them: Larry, Curly and Moe. And I fed them carefully and regularly.

Larry died first. First and fast. Almost right away, really. God, I was a wreck. I opened up the little box in the middle of the night, for a nighttime feeding and to re-warm the sock. And he was curled up there, lifeless. I was heartbroken. The boyfriend took care of burying him for me. I insisted Larry be buried.

Moe was next. He lasted a couple of weeks before giving up. He stopped eating, I think. I do remember calling the vet on his account. And he told me that all I could do was keep them warm and feed them regularly. Oh yeah, and I was also wiping them with a warm damp cloth to help them pass waste.

But it wasn’t enough. Moe didn’t make it. But I knew for certain Curly was solid. He made it several weeks. And he even got big enough to ride around in my breast pocket.

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This is neither my breast, nor my pocket, nor my squirrel. But they suffice.

It just wasn’t to be. And I was absolutely shattered when I came home from work one day, and the boyfriend told me Curly had died. I know now that I should have sought the advice of another vet. But at the time, I trusted that particular one. He took care of the boyfriend’s dog, so he was like their family vet. But I know now that poor Curly was most certainly malnourished. He wasn’t large, not even fully juvenile. He was still a baby. But he had certainly graduated beyond the basic nutrition found in kitten milk.

I was devastated. And when the boyfriend found yet more baby squirrels some time later, he had the presence of mind to call me first. And I asked him to please not bring them home. I couldn’t go through it again.

So uhm. Yeah. That one wasn’t funny. My bad. But it did result in yet more squirrel funerals. It strikes me that I have a disproportionate amount of squirrel funerals in my life, as compared to…ahem…normal people.

And I can add Serial Squirrel Murderer and Stooge Slaughterer to my rap sheet. Oh hell, I got a rap sheet? Holla!

Additional Squirrellaneous Encounters

Far more recently (that shit happened when I was a teenager, remember?), I tried befriending my squirrels. The ones that live here. In my trees. And I love watching them play and roughhouse with each other. So I tried to befriend them.

Last year (that was last year wasn’t it?), I visited The Peanut Depot while I was checking out Birmingham, Alabama.

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Seriously, if y’all are ever in Birmingham, you need to hit up the Peanut Depot. (And what the fuck is the matter with you if you’re grown and American and haven’t been to Birmingham? That’s an important city, and you need to go. You been told.)

Aaaanywho, I bought an assload of peanuts. The guy behind the counter flirted with me. I know, because I don’t get flirted with, and homeboy didn’t even try to hide it. But he also wanted to know just what the hell I was gonna do with all those peanuts. I bought a 2 lb. burlap sack of each kind (regular, salted and Cajun). And, he was right. What the fuck was I thinking?

Once I got home and realized the error of my ways – I mean what on earth was I gonna do with sixteen zillion peanuts? I tried to share them at work, but who wants peanuts? Though, I did keep a small nutsack of my own in my drawer. (Hehehe, this woman told me about her nutsack at work. I totally should have called mine that. If you haven’t made her acquaintance, you should. She’s delightful.)

So, I hatched a plot to befriend my squirrels. First I laid peanuts around the trees in the front, like little Easter eggs. It didn’t take long for them to find ’em. I’d peer out my window at them, watching one chow down and the other stuff his furry little cheeks and haul ass up the tree. Probably plotting to use them as soggy, nutty projectiles. No matter.

After a few days of this, I began sprinkling them in the yard. And then leading a path to the porch. I spied the two regulars munching on the porch a couple times. But this didn’t last. Oh no.

Because those fucking bastard assholes tore up my yard!

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This is not my yard, but it’s exactly what it was like after those ingrates tore the shit out of it. They took my peanuts and they mocked me with them. Tearing up the yard and burying them for winter!

I told those motherfuckers I had enough peanuts to last a lifetime of winters. But nooooooooo, they had to dig! And you wanna know how I found out? Hmm? I couldn’t see the holes because of the copious amounts of pinestraw. But I was out there one day, feeding the sons of bitches and twisted my ankle in a squirrelhole!

So, like the Soup Nazi, I shouted (seriously, I shouted) NO PEANUTS FOR YOU! (I’m sure my neighbors find me positively delightful.) Then I called them bastards. No good dirty rotten scoundrels. I shook my fists at them up in the trees. They didn’t dare mock me, not til I went inside. But never again would I spoil those little bastards. Now they’ll have to be content with munching on acorns and my roof. Assholes.

Let’s see. Aside from that? I’ve already talked about how the squirrels laid siege to the Veggie Patch. I’m certain, now, that it’s in retaliation for me cutting off the peanut supply line. It’s all starting to come together now.

I’ve had lovely encounters with the mountain squirrels of Washington, Montana, Wyoming…they liked to climb on me and check my pockets. You know what? That does it! Fuck these local squirrels. I’m moving! I know, I know…it’s only a matter of time before even the mountain squirrels turn on me.

It’s time for me to bust out the water hose and tear some ass up.

Oh my gosh, this is how it all began. Mr. Smith’s struggles were real. I see it all so clearly now. I’ll fight them in your honor, Mr. Smith! I’ll take no prisoners!

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Take No Prisoners! (This photo makes me craugh. (Cry + Laugh = Craugh, remember? Gah!) But it’s too perfect!) (Also, double parenthesis bitch!)

The End. Or has it only just begun?

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My Neighbor Queen Elizabeth

Have I told y’all I’m royalty? I hope not, because it’s bullshit. But. Have I told you that I grew up on a manor? Well, that’s also kinda bullshit. But! I did grow up across the street from Queen Elizabeth. Fact. And we had conversations on the regular. Also fact.

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Okay, but fo’ real, yo. I grew up on the South Side. That’s another fact, bitches. And Queen Elizabeth was my homegirl. Put that in your factpipe and smoke it. (Please don’t smoke Queen Elizabeth. That would be weird. And grody. And also kinda cannibalistic. And probably racist. And you know who likes cannibalistic racists? Nobody.)

SOUTH SIDE REPRESENT

I should probably stop vomiting crazy at you and get to the point, hm? Fine. Fuddy duddy. (Warning: I may have over-caffeinated just prior to writing this post. And since my coworkers already consider me the resident loony, I thought I’d take out my hyper on you instead of them.) (You’re welcome.) (Say thank you, damnit. It’s impolite to be ungrateful around the crazies.) (Why isn’t it ingrateful? I mean it’s “ingrate” not “ungrate,” hello.)

And now, boys and girls, for a rare happy tale from childhood. Grab your milk and cookies and gather round. Or your bong and soda. I’ll take the bong and cookies for $200, Alex. Anyway. Gather round, peoplleaneous.

Where was I? Oh yeah, I grew up on the South Side, in the ghetto. That’s not really relevant, except to give you a feel for the place. And our landlord was a total slum lord piece of shit. But this post isn’t about him, even though he was a giant walking turd. (Did you picture it? I hope you did, cuz that’s some funny shit. Literally.) The little ramshackle two-bedroom single family rental was situated immediately behind a nursing home/assisted living facility, “Southside Manor” or some shit. (See? I fucking told you I lived on the manor. Or at least manor-adjacent.)

There was this tiny strip of wannabe road stretching between our ditch and theirs. (Seriously, it was a sad little road. Kids flying into ditches when cars tried to go both directions at once. That may be an exaggeration. But only because kids don’t have wings. Unless they chug Redbull. Yeah.)

After school, we’d go outside. I didn’t do very well outside. I was a total bookwormy homebody. I just wanted to hide in some quiet corner and read. But when mom was home, she didn’t like having us inside. Underfoot. Talking. Needing. Being. The sister would fairly readily find something to occupy her time. As for me? I’d just kinda…stand there…bored and confused and wanting to go back inside and hide. Being, admittedly, really sad and also kinda pathetic. Shifting my weight from one foot to the other. Looking around. Totally out-of-place and not really knowing how to be a kid. Like, at all. (Unless I was making the sister eat a worm or something. That was kidlike. And disgusting. And fun. Ooo new word: fungusting! Except that sounds like you’re trying to suck fungus up a dirtbuster. Whatever. Let’s see you do better. Hmph.)

It was on a day such as this that I met Queen Elizabeth. There I was, shifting my weight back and forth, this side of the ditch. Just kinda staring. At nothing. At everything. At the road. At my crush’s house – is Mario home yet? At the nursing home. And here she came. Little did I know I was about to become a princess and marry a handsome prince who would whisk me away from every…wait. That’s definitely not true. Where was I?

All Hail the Queen!

Oh yes, there I am: standing on the edge of the ditch, facing the road and the back of the nursing home. And here she came. There were no trumpets, no royal cavalcade, no retinue. She was quite demure and down to earth. And she was beautiful. This plump woman in her late forties (that’s the best estimate I can give, looking back now) with warm brown skin and billowing skirts. But what she wore better than anything was that huge, friendly smile. She grinned and waved, waved and grinned, free hand tugging at her skirts.

“Hey, y’all! I’m not supposed to talk to strangers. So what’s your names?,” she called. The sister came rushing over, looking between me and our new friend. None of us crossing the street.

We volleyed our names across, and she volleyed back:

“Well, I am Queen Elizabeth, and you suppose ta bow.”

I can still feel the grin spreading across my face. “You mean, THE Queen Elizabeth? Of England?”

“Yes, the Queen Elizabeth. I had to sell my castle, but that’s okay!”

“It’s nice to meet you, Queen Elizabeth!” I bowed and smacked my sister on the arm, whispering furiously for her to bow, too. “But she’s NOT a queen…is she?” To which I replied, “Of course she is.” “How do you know?,” my sister asked.

“Because she said so.”

Queen Elizabeth was so tickled when we bowed. She even did that thing where you hold a hand over your mouth to giggle. Then she told us she wasn’t allowed to cross the street, but honey she had that royal wave down pat. So we stood there, on opposite sides of the road..of life..and waved regally to each other and taking turns bowing and curtsying.

After a short while, one of her guards (an orderly) would come out and take her by the elbow. “Now, Queen Elizabeth, you know you ain’t supposed to be out here.” And Queen Elizabeth would say something about having to greet her subjects. I don’t remember much about the orderlies, except they seemed nice. Frustrated but friendly. We’d wave goodbye, with the royal wave of course.

And suddenly, I found myself looking forward to the first few minutes outside after school. I wanted needed to see Queen Elizabeth. She would ask about my day, and I would ask about hers. Sometimes she would complain that people weren’t letting the Queen eat what she wanted or watch what she wanted.

“But Queens are supposed to make the rules,” she’d lament.

And sometimes I would complain, too, about someone making fun of me at school. And she would say nice things to me, that I was pretty or sweet or smart.

“Stay in school,” she’d admonish. “Be a good girl.”

She was always smiling. Always. Those pearly whites exposed in a giant happy grin.

One day we said something at the same time, and I laughed and called over: “Pinch, poke, you owe me a coke!” Oh my goodness, that threw her into a tizzy. “What?! What happened?! Oh no. Oh no.” So I explained to her what the little saying meant and told her I wasn’t serious. She was quite perplexed, so I tried really hard to convince her that it was just in fun. It didn’t really mean anything. But the next day, out she came, holding her skirt in one hand and a can of Cherry Coke in the other. She couldn’t even wave; that’s how important it was.

“Queens always keep their promises! But…I’m sorry I couldn’t get two. They wouldn’t let me get two. But y’all can share!”

Boy, did I feel guilty. I tried to protest, but she started getting upset. So I knew her feelings would be hurt if I didn’t accept.

None of us was supposed to cross the street. And I knew mom wouldn’t approve of me talking to the woman at all – I always worried about her catching us. But Queen Elizabeth wouldn’t dare consider breaking the rules, so I darted across the street for the soda. “Now Queen Elizabeth doesn’t owe you anymore!” Oh, that grin. How infectious it was. I remember she touched my hand. Just a fleeting touch, perhaps accidental, perhaps not. But I remember.  (And I also don’t remember saying “pinch poke, you owe me a coke” after that. I didn’t want anyone feeling obligated. It made me sad that Queen Elizabeth might have thought she was in trouble.)

I loved her, best I could. I loved her. And I thought about her a lot.

One day, Queen Elizabeth stopped coming outside. I started to worry, and I tried to explain to mom that I needed to check on Queen Elizabeth. She had unkind words to say about a woman she’d never met. Because of the color of her skin. Because of her mental illness. I begged. I pleaded. Please let me check on her. Or maybe you can check on her for me! But my pleas fell on deaf ears. I don’t know if they’d put my friend on lockdown so she’d stop going outside, but I imagined the worst.

I missed Queen Elizabeth so much. And I cried and mourned her absence for a long time. More than anything, I hope she knew she was loved. Truly loved. I’ll never forget her. And I wish I could fashion her a crown and tell her,

You may not be the Queen Elizabeth, but you’ll always be my Queen Elizabeth. And I hope that was enough.