Growing up in a suburb of Kalamazoo, Michigan, the only wildlife I had to deal with was the rowdy family that lived on the curve at the end of our street. We had two mice in our home in my entire childhood, and our cat was more afraid of them than we were. After I moved away, I heard stories of coyotes encroaching on Lexington Avenue, but I found it a pretty big stretch to believe that coyotes only managed to run off with the most disliked of family pets.
When I married The Big Guy and moved to the country, I understood that we were going to have to deal with the occasional mouse. We would probably have a few raccoons in the yard, he told me. Maybe a possum or two. Wild turkeys roaming free across our driveway. I think I handled it all with aplomb, although the hubcap-size snapping turtle at the back door left me fairly rattled for a few days.
Squirrels in my kitchen were an entirely different matter. Okay, I used to think squirrels were adorable little critters; now, however, I realize that a squirrel is just a rat with delusions of grandeur.
The first one showed up on a muggy summer night when The Big Guy was working late. I heard a noise in the kitchen and watched my beagle go into High Alert – she shot out of the room with her tail between her legs and hid behind me as though pursued by a two-ton monster. I tiptoed toward the kitchen and flicked the light switch, expecting Godzilla but seeing what looked like an oversized mouse with a pretty tail.
It sat on my table and blinked at me in an offended sort of way. I had an absurd urge to apologize for disturbing it. Then reality set in. There was a wild animal in my home, it was late at night, and I was wearing only the skimpiest of summer nighties that left lots and lots of exposed skin for Merle the Squirrel to nibble. I imagined all kinds of dreaded squirrel diseases ravaging my body.
My first impulse was to leave the house, get into my car and drive to my big sister’s house in Kalamazoo. But that involved crossing the back yard in the dark, and I was more afraid of the possible raccoons and possums than of the squirrel.
The Big Guy’s hunting boots were beside the door. I stepped into them to protect my bare toes and grabbed the hockey stick that he always left behind the door. I grabbed it because it had a long handle, and the only other long-handled item I could think of was the broom that was in the room with the squirrel. I also grabbed Zeke the cat, who gave me an annoyed prrrrt at being awakened.
Armed with a cat and a hockey stick, I went back to my kitchen with some vague idea of tossing Zeke into the arena and using the hockey stick to defend myself if he failed me. Zeke, unfortunately, wasn’t fully on board with that plan.
“Get ‘im,” I urged, aiming him at the intruder. He yowled, twisted in mid-air, and promptly climbed my body like a human scratching post. The squirrel vanished under the china cabinet.
It was at that moment that The Big Guy made his appearance. He didn’t say a word as his eyes swept up and down my body, taking in the barely-there nightie, hunting boots and hockey stick. I watched the smile spread slowly across his face as he carefully set down his lunchbox and hung his keys on the hook. His voice was husky when he spoke.
“Aw, Honey,” he rasped. “You dressed up for me?”
By the time I convinced him that I was dressed for self defense and not some weird sexual role-playing, the dog had gathered her courage and was barking and scratching at the china cabinet. “Don’t let it get away,” The Big Guy ordered. He hustled into his office. I expected him to return with a net or a trap or something reasonable. Something that a normal person might use to combat a squirrel invasion.
The gun was unexpected.
I had no way of knowing that it fired BBs, not actual bullets. All I knew was that my previously sane husband was standing in the kitchen doorway with what looked like a hunting rifle. It made an ominous ssschk-sschuck sound as he pumped up the air pressure.
“In the kitchen?” I demanded. “Really?”
“Like you were doing better with the hockey stick?”
The BBs started pinging off the walls. I prayed for my Grandmother’s Depression Glass in the china cabinet and then started praying for myself as a crazed look came into The Big Guy’s eyes. It was like Buck Fever had settled in over a two-pound rodent. I eyed the keys on the hook and wondered what scared me more: the squirrel, the possible raccoons between me and the car, or The Big Guy.
Then it was over. He used the dustpan to take the corpse outside and then came back in with an entirely different kind of craziness in his eyes. He pried the hockey stick out of my grasp and pulled me close. “The outfit is still working for me,” he whispered.
Apparently, squirrels aren’t the only ones with delusions.