Why do these things always end up with me barefoot and screaming? It must be Fate or some shit. I have to tell you, though, it’s been so long I think I don’t remember what happened next.

HAHA JUST KIDDING. It’s burned into my tiny monkey brain like the sight of Sean Connery in Zardoz. Anyway. When last we saw Neo, the cats, and my champion herding Aussie, they were all in my sunroom. Neo had expressed his thankfulness for me saving his psychotic squirrel ass by screaming and invading my house, and the cats had taken a vote and decided that they were going to chase the little furry demon. To be fair, Tuxedo!Kitty wanted revenge for being kicked in the head, and Lemur!Cat just wanted to chase something small and snackable without a window in the way. Cranky Old Duck Cat just wanted to be sure nobody was going to eat his share of the kibble. And then, Miss B had gotten loose, and every circuit inside her doggy skull just fused together when she saw an opportunity to heeeeeerd something.

Let’s halt the action here for a second, just press the pause button, as it were, and see what everyone is doing.

Read the rest of this entry »

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“SHIT!” I screamed, as I skidded around the corner into my kitchen from the garage. “NO NO NO! NOOOOO!”

The squirrel wasn’t listening. The dog, attached to the couch, was barking hysterically.

When we last saw Neo, he had voiced his battlecry and flung himself into my unprotected house. This was a fine way for the goddamn rodent to repay me for not leaving him in the road to die. Gratitude may be a virtue, but I really am beginning to think it’s one this little asshole doesn’t possess.

Several thoughts flash through one’s head when one has inadvertently let a demonic tree-rat into one’s house. Let me see if I can list them in some kind of coherent order.

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It was one of the few times in my life when I wished I played some form of incredibly violent team sport. Not only could I have used, say, hockey armor or an American-football helmet, but I also could have used some backup.

After all, I was going into the garage.

When last we left him, Squirrel!Neo, stunned and possibly concussed (that’s a word, right?), was curled in a cat carrier in my garage. He had a bowl of shelled peanuts, a bowl of fresh water, and I’d made sure the cage door was locked. I spent a restless night, hoping I wouldn’t have to dispose of yet another rodent corpse come dawn. I was running out of room in the Squirl!Semetery. Though I wouldn’t put it past another one of the little bastards to rise from the grave again.

So, the following fresh warm morning, I got up, nervously checked out the websites of a few sporting goods stores, and thought of dealing with the questions I would encounter if I went in and bought a whole set of hockey pads, helmet, greaves, the works. Kevlar seemed like a good option. Plus, a few hockey sticks would be a good addition to my Sekrit Weapon cache. Bonus if I could roll them in tar and ground glass.

Look, I was just being careful, okay?

But in the end, I decided that one wounded squirrel in a cat carrier was probably not going to require me dressing up like a modern-day secutor. I mean, Neo was probably feeling a bit under the weather, although I doubted even at that moment that he would be harboring so much as a tiny shred of gratitude toward the big pink monkey who had gotten him out of the road and shelled his fucking peanuts. Probably, I thought, he’s sleeping.

That was my first mistake.

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lilithsaintcrow: (Default)
( Sep. 27th, 2011 09:59 am)

The combatants lay on the road under a curtain of rain. Lightning flashed again. The water coming from the sky was blood-warm, each quarter-sized drop sending up a puff of dust where it hit the tired, dry ground, a sheen of dust and oil soon floating on a thin scrim of rain.

When we left off, Jerkass Redtruck had decided cowardice was the better part of valor and peeled away from the scene of the crime. Miss B was still crashing around and barking hysterically, apparently having worked off her concussion. My M*A*S*H T-shirt was soon sticking to me, and my bare feet were soaked by the time I reached the road at the bottom of my driveway. I was still clutching the Sekrit Weapon, and my hair was starting to drip in my face. Holding my breath, I approached the two sodden lumps of fur.

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So there I was, in my driveway, waving a golf club and staring in openmouthed wonder.

When last we saw Squirrel!Neo, he had streaked between the fence and the garage after his little, um, psychotic break and the melee that followed. Behind him capered Steerpike!Squirrel, whose dastardly plan’s culmination had exceeded his wildest hopes. Miss B was shaking off her concussion, the jays were screaming, and the rest of the squirrels had taken refuge in my neighbor’s tall pine trees among the mourning doves, who immediately started gossiping softly about this turn of events. Worse than old ladies at a back fence, those doves. ANYWAY.

The day was still hot and sticky. Faraway thunder rumbled. Dark, stacked clouds were massing, but not nearly quickly enough. It was the kind of afternoon where people get drunk and angry, where it shades into an evening of more of the same and a night full of screams and punches.

In other words, it was showdown weather.

I managed to run through the house without tripping on anything, hit myself on the shins with my Sekrit Weapon, cleared the pet gate with a leap I am still proud of, whacked myself on the shins again, ran into my front door, twisted the knob, ran into it again (this was not my finest moment), finally figured out how to work my own goddamn door, piled out onto my front walk, and skidded to a stop, my jaw dropping.

Apparently I’d missed something while I was clocking myself on the head with my own front door; Neo had put two and two together and come up with Steerpike.

“YOU!” Squirrel!Neo bellowed. He’d lost a chunk of fur over his right shoulder, and blood striped his muzzle. But his crooked tail was high. “TRAITOR! THIEF! MONGREL! IMMA BEAT YO ASS!”

Steerpike!Squirrel grinned, panting. “BRING IT, OLD MAN. THERE’S A NEW KING IN TOWN.”

Well, those were fightin’ words. The duelists closed in a flurry of teeth and claws, and I was wondering if they both had rabies. I also had figured out I was barefoot, since I’d just been standing watching Miss B do her business. I also realized I was brandishing the Sekrit Weapon, and lowered the golf club somewhat sheepishly. I would have liked to wade in and give Steerpike a solid thump to his little rodent skull, but the chance of hitting Neo was too great. Plus, they were rolling all over my driveway.

Neo: Dead silence.

The sudden quiet was eerie. Steerpike’s only hope was his agility, and he kept dancing out of reach, darting in to smack or claw at Neo, who was like a damaged engine–terrible, but slow. Barking and crashing from the house behind me; Miss B had gotten over her head trauma, I guess, and found her way inside. I should have been hoping the pet gate would still be a deterrent. I should have been thinking about going back to close the front door, which was no doubt letting in a bunch of sticky air and nasty bugs. I should have been going to get the hose to separate the combatants–hey, it works for dogs, right?

Instead, I just stood, and stared, my shins throbbing. The incipient thunderstorm had just crept in front of the sun, eerie yellowgreen stormlight filling every crack and crevice with odd shadows. Steerpike twisted, meaning to hop away. I don’t know what he had planned, but it failed, because Neo jerk-twisted…and caught him.

In fact, Neo hit him so hard I heard the crunch at the top of the driveway, and they rolled out into the road.

In the distance, under a mutter of thunder, an engine growled.

…to be continued

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How was your weekend? I rearranged my dining room and went to a bouldering clinic at the Circuit. Incidentally, if you ever get a chance to take a clinic with Alex Johnson, do. She’s utterly delightful.

I’ve been putting off telling you what happened next in the Kingdom of Backyard, haven’t I. Well, that won’t make it any better. *sigh*

So. When last you saw Squirrel!Neo, he was being peppered with pinecones and various other materials. (I did not know squirrels could fling poo like monkeys. Well, lesson learned, but I’m not telling THAT story. I have some pride. Anyway.)

First, King Neo got mad. Then…he got paranoid.

You see, the bombardment only happened when he was alone, and only in the backyard. When the posse was with him, Neo was safe…but he was also nervous. Paranoia made him mean.

You can’t keep your position as King of the Backyard for very long if you start randomly screaming “BITCHIKNOWKUNGFU!” and jumping on whoever happens to be closest to you at the time. I mean, you can for a while–but that sort of behavior leads to rebellion sooner or later. (This is the reason dictatorships inevitably crumble. Trufax.)

And what, you may ask, was lean and reddish Steerpike!Squirrel doing all this time? Well, he was dancing attendance on Neo whenever the posse was around, and getting as close to the king as possible. Which meant he got jumped more often than not. Oddly, he didn’t seem to mind. In fact, he seemed almost to provoke the king into a rage, by dancing about and chittering, full of high spirits and cheer.

Neo, doughty warrior that he was, lasted about a week.

A bright afternoon came, one of the hot ones we had months ago. The air was so wet it felt like breathing through a towel. The weather would whipsaw back and forth, one day raining, the next steam-jungle-hot enough to drive you to drink, and then make you sorry you’d taken down anything but water. It was wet and miserable, and even Miss B, the most cheerful dog on earth, had her snappish moments. Getting her to go outside to pee was a chore. “ARE YOU KIDDING?” she would mutter, looking sidelong at me. “HAVE YOU BEEN OUT THERE? IT’S DISGUSTING, AND I’M WEARING A FUR COAT.”

And my muttered reply, “So help me, I am not having you pee on the rug. COME ON.”

So out we went. I leaned against the house, watching as Miss B slunk about in the shade, searching for The Perfect Spot. Now, I want you to remember that she’s lurking. Don’t forget that.

Juliet!Jay and Romeo!Jay were in the pussywillow tree, canoodling softly. Mourning doves were in the neighbor’s pines, exchanging comments on the weather and the old-man-pee smell of simmering juniper. Miss B slid around the corner of the house, seeking more shade.

And forth from the back corner, where the Headless Squirrel lay interred, came the posse, snapping their fingers. Neo was at their head, and he had relaxed slightly. Steerpike was capering alongside, and Neo kept giving him sidelong little glances.

Suspicious glances.

I wished I knew squirrelese. “That’s right,” I breathed. “Suspect him. Oh, suspect him.”

Steerpike kept capering. They moved out into the middle of the yard, tails twitching and noses lifted. I daresay there was even some sauntering going on. Steerpike, getting no reaction from Neo, turned his attention to a squirrel girl–oh, let’s call her Bettina–and they gamboled rather acrobatically. Bettina!Squirrel used to be Neo’s girl, but she had taken to avoiding him and hanging at the back of the posse. I didn’t blame her. He’d jumped her once, and only Steerpike’s intervention had avoided Severe Unpleasantness.

Because no matter how badly Neo’s being gaslighted, I won’t have squirrel domestic violence in my yard. That’s why the Sekrit Weapon was near the sunroom door. Remember that, too.

So, the stage was set. I was a little uneasy, and I was watching Steerpike. Who was unconcerned, smiling and handsome, rolling in the sun with Bettina!Squirrel.

And then. Yes, you knew there had to be an “and then.”

We heard him before we saw him. Mercutio!Jay coasted in, tail fluttering, in fine feathered form, landing on the ground near a bank of lemon balm. “ON TOP OF OLD SMOOOOOOKEY, ALL COVERED WITH BIRDSEED–HEY EVERYONE! WHAT’S–AUUUGHT! JESUS CHRIST!”

It was the final straw. Neo’s nerves snapped. There was only a gray blur, silent and deadly.

Mercutio went into the bank of lemon balm, screeching bloody murder. Feathers flew. “FIRE! MURDER! THIEVES! SMOOOOOG!”

Juliet!Jay hopped down, peering curiously into the green bank. I opened my mouth to protest, but she was already yelling. “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU–ULP!”

Neo barreled out of the bank and hit her dead center.

And Romeo!Jay…well, he’d had enough, at that point. Nobody messes with Juliet while he’s around. A streak of blue-feathered brilliance screaming “BAAAAANZZZZAAAAAAI!” smashed into Neo, who was giving as good as he got. Rarely has there been such a display of kung-fu prowess in the Kingdom of Backyard.

You have to realize, this happened all within a few seconds. I was still inhaling to warn Julie when Miss B–remember her?–burst around the corner of the house, drawn by the ruckus. Every circuit in her little doggy brain fused. “HEEEEEEEERD IT!” she bellowed, and bolted across the yard.

All at once: Mercutio: “JESUS CHRIST!” Juliet: “AUGH!” Romeo: “JUUUUUULIE!” Neo was making THAT SOUND. Again. He was holding off three jays at once, including a maddened Romeo who didn’t give a shit about kung fu, he was going to get his hammer and beat some ass.

Now, I am possessed of no sense at all. Instead of going to get my Sekrit Weapon, I took off barefoot across the yard, my own “OH FOR CHRISSAKE CUT IT OUT–” drowned in the hubbub. The combatants, at that precise moment, noticed the impending canine tornado.

“HEEEEEERD IT!” Miss B bellowed again, and the yard exploded.

You know how in cartoons there will be a stampede, dust flying and the camera shaking, and Bugs Bunny in the middle with his shoulders hunched, his ears flapping a little bit as everyone pours past him? Yeah. That was me. Squirrels at my ankles, the jays suddenly remembering they could fly, and Miss B streaking by so fast the wind of her passing hit my shins. Neo, cut off from the juniper hedge, crazed and screaming, bolted for the gate on the far side of the garage. Steerpike lolloped afterward, high-pitched terrifying laughter bursting out of him and adding to the chaos, Bettina and the others had nipped through the fence for the safety of the neighbor’s pine trees, where the mourning doves were watching with bated breath and a great deal of interest.

Neo nipped between the gate and the garage wall. Steerpike ducked after him, still grinning. Miss B dug in, but was going too fast. She hit the gate with a yelp and a crash, backed up shaking her head, and turned in a circle a couple times, yapping with sheer joy and frustrated herding instinct.

Feathers drifted down. My ribs heaved even though I was standing still. I heard a deathly screech from the front yard.

This is not going to end well, I thought.

I ran for the back door, wrenched it open, scooped up my Sekrit Weapon, and booked through my house for the front door, leaving Miss B to sort herself out.

You see, like Romeo!Jay, I’d had bloody well enough.

…to be continued.

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Another predawn sighting of Phred the Coyote. The Bunny Brigade was taunting him, but they lost another one of their number. Ah, the circle of life.

Anyway, when last we met, I was telling you about the mysterious peppering of Squirrel!Neo with pinecones. I saw Steerpike!Squirrel slinking away afterward, but that wasn’t, so to speak, proof enough to convict. It was, however, enough to make me wonder and keep an eye out.

Picture this: a cloudy afternoon, the squirrels going about their business. You know how, in a group of people, a sudden silence will fall? (Hermes is among us, they used to say.) It’s kind of like that in the Kingdom of Backyard. There will be a crowd, and all of a sudden, everyone will disappear except for one lone squirrel. He’s got a crooked tail, and he’s a little bigger than Yon Average Yard Rodent. He glances around, sees that he is alone, and immediately is on high alert.

Because that’s when it strikes. A pinecone, a small rock, any type of ammunition. Always when he was alone, always from an unexpected direction. Other squirrels would show up and give him curious looks as he stood, shaking his fist and chittering angrily, or desperately trying to convince them to stay under cover.

The first stage was anger, of course. He’d be pelted, and would take out his aggression on the first thing he saw. Most of the time it was other squirrels. But this particular afternoon, he was bombed from the plum tree with something that looked suspiciously like an acorn. (I don’t know where the hell it came from, there’s not an oak tree for a few miles.) Neo hit the dirt, rolling, and just barely avoided getting hit in the head. He came up, furious and looking for the perpetrator…

…just as Romeo!Jay, his brother-in-arms, glided down to land near him and shoot the breeze. Romeo doesn’t talk much–he saves most of his words for Juliet!Jay, as we saw during the Corn Pops War. But he does like to hop around after Neo and his cadre, occasionally getting in a screechy joke that will make all of them laugh. I get the idea that with Mercutio!Jay around, Romeo doesn’t often get a word in edgewise, so he’s learned to make them count.

Neo went off.


“JESUS CHRIST!” Romeo!Jay screamed, taking off in an explosion of feathers. “WHAT THE HELL, YOU FURRY DUMBASS?”

Your Humble Narrator stood in the sunroom with a watering can–yes, I was watering my goddamn bonsai, that’s a whole ‘nother story–and a slack jaw, observing this.

All Squirrel!Neo’s considerable fury and frustration had boiled over. He leapt after Romeo!Jay, screaming like a banshee. Yes, he was making THAT SOUND, like a wineglass, Sam Kinison, and some steak caught in a possessed blender. Romeo, normally an easygoing guy (he used to be a little more wound up before Juliet noticed his existence, now he’s pretty damn calm for a jay), spread his wings, let out a warning screech, and pecked Neo.

On the head.

It was a perfect kung-fu peck (where the hell do all these animals learn their goddamn martial arts, I’d like to know), and it rang Neo’s chimes pretty good. Romeo hopped back. “WHAT THE HELL?” he squawked again. “HAVE YOU LOST YOUR TINY LITTLE MIND, DUMBASS? WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?”

Neo lay stunned on the grass for a moment before hopping up. “YOU FEATHERED BASTARD!” he screamed. “OH YOU FEATHERED FUCKING BASTARD, I’M GONNA–”


With that, he spread his wings again and took off, brushing over Neo’s head. The King of Backyard ducked as the jay buzzed him, and Romeo was gone over the house in a flash of blue feathers. The King shook his tiny little rodent fists and bayed furiously at the cloudy sky.

That’s when the other acorn pasted him right on the noggin as well. This one came from the plum tree too.

Behind Neo.

“Holy shit,” I breathed, looking down at Miss B. She cocked her head, wondering what in the yard was holding my attention so much. “Somebody’s gaslighting Neo.”

I got the canine equivalent of a shrug–she can’t see out into that part of the yard when she’s under the picnic table in the sunroom. (Don’t ask.) I looked up just in time to see Neo’s tail disappearing into the juniper hedge next to the plum tree as yet another acorn-shaped thing plowed into the ground behind him.

I waited.

Sure enough, after an interval, who should come sneaking down the plum tree but a certain reddish squirrel?

“You bastard,” I muttered. “Oh, I don’t like you.”

Steerpike!Squirrel glanced at the house as if he’d heard me. He flicked his lean reddish tail twice, smoothed the fur on his tiny head, and I could swear to God he smiled before vanishing into the hedge after the sorely-tried King of Backyard.

I had a sinking feeling things were about to get ugly.

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Predawn. The world is hushed and gray. A rabbit goes streaking across the field, but Miss B takes no notice. her ears are perked, she is expectant–

–and Phred the Coyote, low to the ground and moving deadly-silent, grabs the bunny neat as you please. A snap and a shake, Mr. Lapin didn’t even have time to scream.

Phred looked up with a mouthful of fur as we passed. I swear to God he said, “MRPHLE!” Which is, I guess, coyote-talk for “Ohai! Gotta go. Breakfast.” And he trotted off, vanishing into underbrush near a fence. Miss B kept looking up at me.

Seriously? she was saying. Really? Is that what you do when you catch one? REALLY?

I sense trouble in our future.

Anyway. Today I want to take you back a few months. There was trouble in the land of Backyard, but it started very small.


WHEN LAST WE SAW Squirrel!Neo, he was the victorious general of the Corn Pops War. He was Big Man on Campus. He swaggered. He had all the babes. But there was another squirrel in the wings, a little reddish thing with a gleam in his nasty rodent eyes. He was lean and hungry, and such squirrels are dangerous.

It was subtle, at first. Steerpike!Squirrel (for so he was named, this lean hungry one) was in the background, watching as Neo swaggered. Then he moved forward, and for a while, there were no better friends than the victorious general and the whip-thin youngster. There were babes aplenty (and apparently it was mating season, DO NOT ASK FOR THAT STORY, just trust me) and Steerpike!Squirrel was always on hand to fetch and carry.

But there was one disturbing incident.

Your humble narrator was washing dishes one fine, partly-sunny afternoon (it does happen) and gazing reflectively out the kitchen window. Squirrel!Neo pranced past, alone for once, a lone gray squirrel with a crooked tail, veteran of many wars, the very Squirrel Revivified. He lashed that crooked tail, paused to admire the bank of fragrant rosemary swarming with busy bees…

…and the pinecone smacked right into his head.

Neo tumbled, his warrior reflexes a little rusty but still good. Two more pinecones plowed into the ground around him as he rolled. “ARTILLERY!” he yelled. “GET DOWN GET DOWN, WHERE’S THE GODDAMN PLATOON, GET THE TANK KILLER BRIGADE!”

I stopped, holding a pasta pot that needed scrubbing, and stared openmouthed. Squirrel!Neo kept rolling, got his feet underneath him, and scrabbled for the fence. He vanished into the juniper hedge, and I cocked my head. “Huh.”

A few moments later, as I was rinsing the gleaming pasta pot, who should appear but Steerpike!Squirrel, slithering from the pine trees and cutting across the corner of the yard. He moved low and slow, glancing around to make certain he wasn’t being witnessed.

“Huh,” I repeated, and even though I was inside the house, perhaps he heard me. He halted and glanced over his shoulder, staring at the kitchen window with disconcerting directness. A flash of crimson far back in his pupils, and he was up the fence in a flash, and gone.

I suspected worse was to come.

I was right.

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So the kids are back in school. Which means I’m getting up at 5AM again, but instead of running on the treadmill, I’ve taken to running outside.

In the dark. With the dog. Which is pretty much how you’d think it would be. If I could fit the dog on the treadmill for my long runs I would, but on that path lies madness. Best just to get out the door, take my lumps, and haul ass through rain and whatnot.

Predawn. Mist rising off the athletic fields at the middle and elementary schools. Miss B trots along beside me, unsure just what we’re doing at this Godforsaken hour, but she’s got her backpack on and it’s obviously time to work, so she’s down for it. (There’s none of this “I don’t want to get up” bullshit from Miss B, oh no. The instant I stir in the morning it’s a cold wet nose to the face and a “SOHAPPYTOSEEYOU, MISSEDYOUSOMUCH, WHATWEDOINGNOW?”)

Nobody out except us and a few people driving to work, and the morning bicycle-riders. (CRAZY. You couldn’t pay me to do that. To each their own insanity, though, right?) The only sounds are my breathing, the jingle of Miss B’s collar, the pounding of my feet. The usual dogs on our route don’t know what to make of us this early; it will take time for them to realize we’re just out running and they can relax.

So, it’s fairly tranquil. Except for (you knew there had to be an “except for”, didn’t you?) the killer bunnies.

You see, someone’s pet rabbits escaped. And, as rabbits will do, they went feral and started breeding. They’re not a neighborhood plague–not quite, not yet. But they’re fluffy and cottontailed, and very fast.

Miss B would loooove to catch herself some rabbit. Mind you, she probably wouldn’t have the faintest idea what to do if she actually did get one. It’s one of the Great Unfulfilled Desires of her life, kind of like Catching A SUV or Fitting Underneath The Alpha’s Bed, or even Getting Her Nose Up The UPS Guy’s Bottom. She’s a herding dog, so she sees something bolt and every circuit in her head fuses. She takes off, dead silent, and the only thing stopping her is the leash tied around my waist. Now, she’s about forty pounds of dog, and I’m *mumblemumble* pounds of human, so those are fun times. Let’s just say that the leash is slip-knotted for a reason, and that I know how to drop my center of gravity and keep going.

Yet another lesson I am very grateful to bellydancing for.

Anyway, when I had the bright idea of running outside before dawn, I hadn’t thought about the fact that right before sunup is when the little vorpel bunnies were going to be out and active. So half of our morning run takes place around an elementary school playing field that is, coincidentally, Grand Bunny Central. It’s like an obstacle course, and also sharpens my night vision. I can tell I’m about to become very adept at bracing myself right before Miss B lunges after Peter Cottontail, who pauses to give her the finger before laughing, sticking his bum in the air, and taking off at warp fifteen.

But I don’t mind. Because of Phred.

So this morning we hit Grand Bunny Central, we’re about a mile and a half in, things are warmed up and going nicely. Miss B starts acting a little funny. I can’t quite tell what she’s getting the scent of, but apparently it is FANTASTIC. If her tail wasn’t naturally docked, it would be wagging itself right off her rump. In any event, she’s trying to wag so hard her back end is skipping around, which usually means she’s seen another dog and wants to make friends. I don’t know how she can run an 11.5-minute mile while her back end is doing the Funky Chicken, but some mysteries are not meant for mortals to solve.

There’s a tawny-gray flash out of the corner of my eye, there and gone. Miss B is almost hysterical with joy. Something is in the neighborhood, running roughly parallel to us. It veers away through a passage between two houses, and I forget about it. Maybe a stray, maybe a cat, who knows? It was too big to be a bunny, that’s all I could tell.

We make the hard left turn into the park near the elementary school, and Miss B is unwontedly eager. Still, we haven’t hit the three-mile mark, which is when she usually calms down. So we’re going along, and all of a sudden there’s that tawny-gray flash again. Four legs, running low. It stops, ears perked high, and Miss B pleads to be allowed to go make friends.

ME: Huh, that’s odd. It’s canine…pretty small to be shaped like that, though, wonder what breed–


ME: And that’s a strange color, too–HOLY SHIT GET IN THE CAR IT’S A COYOTE!



PHRED THE COYOTE: Chillax, you guys are scaring the rabbits!

Yep, you read that right. A coyote. In the middle of the neighborhood. He probably comes down from the hills to hunt wabbit. I don’t know if Miss B has ever seen a coyote before. She certainly wanted to make Phred’s acquaintance, in a big, big way. No barking, but that back of the throat ohpleaseohplease whine she uses when she just wants to play with another dog. And me, grimly running onward–Miss B and I, we could probably take anything short of a pack of hyenas, but she is looking like she’d be no help. Plus, if Phred is going to put a dent in the rabbit population, he’s welcome to go about his business.

See, I love crows and coyotes and seagulls. I love the omnivorous trash animals, the ones that creep around the corner and do Nature’s dirty cleanup work. They’re usually smart as hell and interesting to boot. So as long as Phred keeps to his bidness, we’ll keep to ours.

He just better not come a few streets over and start messing with cats instead of bunnies. Because then, shit will get real. I will sic Neo on him.

Speaking of Neo…but that’s tomorrow’s story.

See you then!

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It’s a bright sunny day. Which means two things: spring is here, and after I take the kids to the dentist (boo!) I can take them to the park (yay!). The Princess is excited about staying home from school and sleeping in, while the Prince is downcast because he will miss his friends. I am cautiously waiting to see if the mercury will reach 70F today, which will be a cause for celebration–or, more likely, just a mowing of the lawns. For lo, the herbiage around my humble abode doth need a clipping. If only to make the approaches more visible so the squirrels can’t sneak up.

Though really, I think the squirrels have decided Miss B is too much trouble, since there is internal strife in Squirrelandia. Yes, Neo’s throne…is in danger.

Now, Squirrel!Neo’s leadership was much in evidence during the Corn Pops War, and all through the wet, mostly-warmish winter we had. Despite that, there must have been grumbles of discontent–war heroes can’t live on their laurels forever. The little rodents were pretty active this winter, because the temperatures didn’t plunge nearly as much as they had in winters past, but the fact that it was, well, you know, winter meant that there wasn’t much in the way of calories to fuel that activity. The proportion of idiots in my neighborhood who actually feed the blasted animals seems to be constant, but there still wasn’t enough food to go round.

Squirrel!Neo savaged local birdfeeders, ravaged bulb plantings, and led his people all through the dismal winter, but now it’s spring and there’s a fresh crop of young squirrels looking to get a piece of the alpha squirrel action. Or something. Chief among them is a wiry reddish-coated lad I’ve named Steerpike!Squirrel, for his habit of pawing his way delicately along my back fence as if he’s tiptapping over Gormenghast roofs. He moves with much deliberation, this kitchen-boy-turned-wannabe-squirrel-dictator.

Anyway, this little guy has pounced on Neo and gotten smacked down more than once. Neo looks unconcerned–or, you know, as Ruler of Squirrelandia he has bigger problems. Steerpike!Squirrel doesn’t seem to be a Brutus, since he and Neo aren’t friends–he’s more a Cassius, a lean and hungry type.

Such squirrels are dangerous.

Miss B doesn’t like Steerpike!Squirrel either. Instead of the way she watches Neo–ears perked, body tense, grinning happily, just aching for him to come down and play so she can HEEEEERD him–with Neo, she narrows her eyes and sits, never keeping her back to him. And should he be in the yard when she goes out to do her business there is no HEEEEERD-ing. There is a low snaking motion of her head, and she bolts right for him, teeth bared.

I think she sees Neo as a playmate, and Steerpike as potential food. Or, you know, vermin.

Anyway, Squirrelandia is feeling the tension these days. The food situation has eased up, but the rodents are still restless. Whenever Neo appears, doing his squirrel-business, I can usually look and find Steerpike in some shadowed corner. Watching. Waiting.

This does not bode well.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

lilithsaintcrow: (Default)
( Apr. 6th, 2011 09:29 am)

Got the end of a kidnap attempt, a messy bloody death, a visit to Wilde the Sorcerer, and the tracing of a shipment of Prussian capacitors to write. This morning was interval training and a multiple-mile walk with Miss B. I think I tired her out. The only drawback is that I can’t nap like she does.

But I have a story to tell you first. Yes, Miss B met Neo the other day. As luck would have it, this was the first Squirrel-and-B interaction I had the pleasure of witnessing, and it just had to be the Terminator ninja death squirrel.

Picture this, a cloudy day, Miss B snoot-deep in backyard grass, Yours Truly leaning against the sunroom wall watching, yawning and holding an afternoon cuppa. It’s a tranquil scene.

From the clouds of blossoms on the plum tree, Neo sallied forth, crooked tail held high. Nobody had informed him of the Glorious Advent.

“Oh, Christ on a cracker NO–” I began. The last thing I wanted was my dog kicked in the head. That would get things off on the wrong foot. Plus, Tuxedo Kitty was never the same after his head trauma. I started forward, tea sloshing, Miss B turned to see what I was looking at…

..and froze, ears perked so far they almost started from her head, one paw lifted, barely even breathing.

How Neo missed an exponentially-bigger animal covered in russet fur staring at him as her haunches slowly sank in preparation, I’ll never know. He sauntered away from the tree, chittering a little as he encountered a small pile of grass clippings. Maybe he thought it was a fine place to bury a spring nut or two. Maybe he was so used to the calm in the back yard he literally didn’t notice. Maybe he was simply overconfident.

The preparation only took a few seconds, but it was long stretched-out nightmare time for me. You know those dreams where you’re running, but everything’s made of lead and you just can’t move fast enough? Yeah. Like that.

Still deadly silent, Miss B bolted.

“Watch out!” I yelled, hot tea slopping in my cup. “HE KICKS PEOPLE IN THE HEAD!”

Now, I was prepared for a short sharp flurry and a howling Miss B. She’s up on her rabies shots, though–it had been less than a week since her last jab.

I fully admit I underestimated my dog.

“HEEEEERD IT!” she bellowed in midstride, and was across the yard in an eyeblink.

“WHAT TH–EEEEEEEEE!” Neo started Making That Sound again. He bolted for the plum tree, but Miss B cut him off.

I watched my new mini Aussie herd the Terminator death ninja squirrel across my hard, harrying and nipping, turning on a dime, anticipating, and generally treating him like a flock of sheep. Now, squirrels are generally very nimble little critters, and Neo doubly so. But Miss B had her nose down, and she cut him off every. Single. Time. Grass flew. Neo stopped making That Noise. I suppose he thought he was running for his life and needed the oxygen. Back and forth they went–Miss B got him turned around near the fence, he feinted, she took the bait, he reversed–but so did she, with sweet natural grace, nipping at his crooked tail for good measure.

I stood there, mouth ajar, tea pouring out of my dangling cup. It was actually the boiling-hot tea splashing through my pants that restored me to some kind of sanity. “B—-!” I used her full name and my You Are My Child voice. She skidded to a stop, head up, eying me.

Neo darted for the shelter of the plum tree. Miss B quivered with anticipation. “No,” I said, “let the fuzzy little bastard rest. You’ve had your fun.”

She chuffed and trotted back to me, head high, her hindquarters wriggling with delight. “I HERDED IT! IT WAS A QUICK LITTLE BASTARD TOO! DID YOU SEE ME HERD IT? IS THAT MY NEW JOB?”

“Just be careful,” I told her, snorting for breath through the laughter. “That’s no ordinary squirrel. Plus he’s probably going to bring backup.”

Blossom-laden branches shook violently. Squirrel!Neo was invisible, but I could certainly hear him. “WHAT THE…WHAT WAS THAT? WHAT IS THAT? THE MONKEY’S TALKING TO IT! THERE’S SOMETHING IN THE YARD! FIRE! FLOOD! ANARCHY! IT NEARLY GOT ME!”

That did me in. I leaned against the house and fair wheezed with laughter. My stomach hurt and I had to blow my nose by the time I was done. Miss B, of course, kept one eye on me and one eye on the plum tree, waiting for Round Two.

This is gonna be good.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

It’s Fish of April! Here’s the obligatory prank. There, now we’ve gotten that out of the way.

It’s a Friday and I’m flying low, so…under the cut, the long-awaited picture of Miss B, plus a squirreltastic treat. (ETA: Plus, the Evil League of Evil Writers totally made me cry this morning.)

Read the rest of this entry » )

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

Being the final Chronicle of Squirrel!Terror

The second day of the Corn Pops war dawned just as rainy and cold as the first. I was up before dawn to hit the treadmill, and busy afterward, but I kept checking through my kitchen window. The main bulk of forces were still gathering, I guess, because all day long there was only one gull and one squirrel in the yard at any given time.

It wasn’t the same gull or the same squirrel all day. No, as soon as another gull drifted down and landed, the one on guard would take off. Nobody touched the Fruit of Crunchy Discord, which was still scattered glaring-yellow right where I usually dump some torn-up bread for the birds. The feathers had mostly blown away, but the seagull, erm, dooky was still spattered from hell to breakfast all over.

I was beginning to regret buying the goddamn Pops in the first place.

Anyway, the squirrel changing-of-the-guard was a little more complex. It involved a semi-chase and a lot of angry chittering. The exchanges went a little something like this:







The three bluejays observed a scrupulous distance from the Pops. They contented themselves with the birdfeeder, and Romeo!Jay seemed nervous. He kept glancing at whatever seagull was on guard, and would hop a little closer to Juliet. Mercutio!Jay, of course, kept up a running commentary. “WHAT THE HELL? YESTERDAY THEY WERE FIGHTING OVER IT, NOW THEY’RE JUST LOOKING AT IT. STUPID RODENTS AND RODENT-BIRDS. WE SHOULD GO GET SOME OF THOSE YELLOW THINGS. THEN AGAIN, IF SEAGULLS WILL EAT THEM–HEY JULIE, LOOK AT WHAT I CAN DO! LOOK AT THIS!”

You get the idea.

Late in the afternoon, the crows showed up. They evinced no interest in the Pops, they just settled in the plum tree and the pines (the same ones that featured in the Battle of the Pine Boughs) and set up a racket. Finally, the largest, Bartholomew!Crow, coasted in. He hopped around the yard and eyed everything, from the Pops to the gull on duty–a dirty gray bird with a mean glint in his eye–and the squirrel on guard, who hunched nervously near the plum tree and tried to look everywhere at once. He shook his head, cawed a few times, and the crows lifted off.

I was beginning to get a bad feeling over this, but the gull left at sundown.

The next day, I hit the treadmill before dawn again. I got the kids off to school and came home in the rain. I was halfway home from the bus stop when the crows started setting up a racket. “HEY! HEY LADY! YOU’RE MISSING THE FIGHT!”

I ran for home, tripped through the front door, almost fell into the coatrack, got the door closed and locked, and hurried for the window.

The crows weren’t wrong. It was 0815 hours, and the gulls had attacked in force. There was screeching, there was flapping, there were feathers flying. Oddly, none of the gulls were going after the Pops. They just ringed them, the Fruit of Crunchy Discord glowing a little as the sun broke briefly through crowds, and started pecking to determine who was going to get first crack. I stared, wondering if something else would happen–and wondering if I could go and get another cup of coffee to sip while I waited.

I should have grabbed a camera. The third and final battle of the Corn Pops War had begun.

0820 hours: Squirrel counterattack, supported by pinecone artillery from the pines to the north. The Forces of Gull, slightly nonplussed, moved back. They took wing, but thankfully did not crap all over the yard. The Corn Pops just sat there.

0900 hours: Uneasy calm. No sign of gulls or squirrels. Bluejays retreated to western pussywillow tree.

0945 hours: Squirrels moved out in force from southern hedge and western plum tree. The half-dozen from Day One of the War returned, battle-scarred veterans, supported by artillery and reinforcements–two or three younger squirrels. Wiser than the Forces of Gull, the young ones descended on the Fruit of Crunchy Discord and began stuffing their faces and hauling it off. They were running it toward the juniper hedge, and Observer had mad thoughts of trying to explain to the neighbors why there were Corn Pops in their yard. Observer decided discretion was the better part of valor, and fetched the Sekrit Weapon. (See following transmissions.)

1013: Forces of Gull counterattacked, scattering the Young Squirrel Logistical Brigade. All hell broke loose. Artillery everywhere. Feathers flying. Bluejays entranced. Mercutio!Jay hopping up and down on pussywillow branches: “OMIGOD! OMIGOD! DO YOU SEE THAT? HIT HIM AGAIN–OH CRAP, THAT’S GONNA LEAVE A MARK! PECK AT HIM, YOU BASTARD, YOU’VE GOT A BEAK, USE IT–JESUS CHRIST, THEY DO KNOW KUNG FU! ARE YOU SEEING THIS SHIT? WHERE’S THE MONKEY?! THE MONKEY SHOULD SEE THIS!”

1100: Observer had to leave for climbing. Forces of Gull driven off at great cost; Squirrel Brigade tending to wounded and working frantically to reload ammunition and get the logistical pipeline up again.

1313: Observer returned through heavy rain. Battlefield drenched, soggy feathers and No-Longer-Crunchy Discord scattered instead of in a rough pile. No sign of Forces of Gull. One weary squirrel propped against plum tree, crooked tail drooping, black eyes scanning.

1330: All quiet. Furious rain. Crooked-tail squirrel still watching. Crows in northern pines rustling and watching. Observer took a break for snack and to move Sekrit Weapon to (inside) northern sunroom door. Civilian chickadees and blackbirds at feeder, nervous but hungry.

1400: Rain tapering off. Battlefield soaked.

1408: Observer pauses while loading dishwasher. Eerie silence.

1411: Observer yells “HOLY CRAP!” Forces of Gull attack in overwhelming force. Battlefield full of feathers, Forces of Gull making ungodly racket. Bluejays in western pussywillow, struck silent (for once) by ferocity of attack. No sign of crooked-tail squirrel on watch.

1413: The 101st Fighting Squirrel Legion (Neo’s Fist) attacks with all available reinforcements. Pinecone artillery firing over open sights. Shouts, screams, chittering. The Champion of Gull crouches over biggest pile of No-Longer-Crunchy Discord, uttering high-pitched squeals.

1414: Challenge is answered by crooked-tail squirrel (codename: NEO), who lets out THAT SOUND and hurls himself into battle.

1414-1418: Crooked-tail squirrel proves he does, indeed, know kung fu. Champion of Gull faintly discomfited. Flying roundhouse kicks. Amazing leaps and bounds. THAT SOUND still being made.

1418-1421: Champion of Gull pulls out his own kung fu. Feathers explode. Champion of Gull seems to have forgotten he is flight-capable. 101st and Forces of Gull both draw back, as their champions are dueling. Observer grabs Sekrit Weapon and heads for (outer) sunroom door. OBSERVER’S NOTE: You see, I’d made up my mind whose side I was on. The squirrels were the underdogs, dammit. And the gulls had crapped all over my yard.

1421: Observer reaches sunroom door. Rain begins again, though there is a break in clouds and sunshine. Crooked-Tail Squirrel Champion (codename: NEO) receives peck to head that leaves him stunned. Observer yells “OH HELL NO” and tears open sunroom door.

1422: Sunshine continues over soaked battlefield. Female jay (codename: JULIET) appears, diving toward Champion of Gull. Squirrel Champion (NEO) lying on Corn Pops, stunned. Observer using language not fit to be repeated. (“THAT’S MY GODDAMN SQUIRREL! YOU MOTHERF!CKING SEAGULL, YOU ARE GODDAMN F!CKINGWELL GOING DOWN!”

1423: Champion of Gull takes wing briefly, engages JULIET. JULIET is flung back. Silent male bluejay (codename: ROMEO) lets out massive scream. Forces of Gull move in for kill.

1424: Loudmouth male bluejay (codename: MERCUTIO) yells: “JESUS CHRIST ROMEO BUDDY WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING? ATTACK! ATTACK!” Jay ROMEO engages Champion of Gull. Feathers fly.

1424: Help unlooked-for arrives. Crow reinforcements (codename: BARTHOLOMEW and his entire Legion Corvidae) descend upon Forces of Gull. JULIET stunned, flutters to her feet. ROMEO kicking living shit out of Champion of Gull. Fire! Flood! DOGS AND CATS LIVING TOGETHER! ANARCHY!

And that, dear friends, is how I ended up outside, brandishing a golf club and screaming imprecations, while Romeo!Jay beat the everliving hell out of that big fat white gull. Bartholomew and his Legion made short work of the rest of the Forces of Gull, and the 101st (Neo’s Fist) went to town with the artillery. The Forces of Gull decided they’d had enough and lifted off, dumping another load of lightening-for-takeoff, and once again, miraculously, I was not spattered with gull poop.

I believe I have used up a lifetime’s supply of luck in that regard.

Anyway, in less time than it takes to write it, the Legion had chased the Forces of Gull away. Neo sat up, shaking his little head, and glared around him. The Champion of Gull was last seen winging furiously away over the apartment complex, screaming in terror. Romeo!Jay returned and coasted down to land near Juliet, who had made it to an azalea near the fence. He pecked at her once or twice, reassuring himself she was all right, and they spent a few minutes in a low-toned conversation that needs no translation. (Juliet: “Why did you do that?” Romeo: “You mean you don’t know? I…” Juliet: “Shut up and kiss me.”)

Neo hunkered over the Corn Pops, his eyes gleaming madly. My yard looked like a war zone.

Mercutio!Jay hopped up to the scattered Pops, sunlight gilding every feather as rain kissed my arms and hair. “JESUS, MAN, YOU REALLY DON’T KNOW WHEN TO QUIT, DO YOU.” He bobbed his head. “I CAN TOTES RESPECT THAT. SO WHAT ARE THESE THINGS, ANYWAY?”

Neo, his sides heaving, managed a shrug. “DUNNO,” he chittered. “THEY TASTE ALL RIGHT, BUT THEY GIVE ME THE RUNS.”

I lowered the golf club. Looked back over my shoulder. A rainbow had appeared, arching in the sky as the clouds covered the sun again and the rain intensified. My spectacles were spotted with drops and my feet were suddenly cold.

I realized, once more, that I’d charged shoeless into the fray. My heart was pounding. Romeo and Juliet took off and settled in the plum tree; as soon as Romeo landed he scooted as close to Julie as he could, and started smoothing her feathers with his beak.

I took a step backward.

Mercutio and Neo both looked at me sideways. Mercutio bobbed his head, grabbed a Corn Pop, and swallowed it. “THESE THINGS ARE NASTY,” he commented. “HEY, MONKEY, WHERE’S THE BREAD? YOU USUALLY HAVE BREAD OUT. I COULD USE A SNACK AFTER ALL THAT.”

Neo stared for a few moments. Then, deliberately, I swear to you, he nodded. He chittered a little. My squirreltongue could use some work, but I think here’s what he said:


I retreated in a hurry. Closed the sunroom door, changed my socks, cleaned my spectacles off. At 2:40 (that’s 1440 hours, if you’re wondering) I made myself a cup of tea and looked out the window.

The crows were back, pecking at the Pops. The Squirrel Logistical Brigade was out in full force too, stuffing themselves and carrying Pops off toward the hedge. Their supervisor, a crooked-tailed champion, oversaw this, stopping every once in a while to pick at the Pops himself. Mercutio!Jay hopped among them, loudly complaining that the monkey hadn’t brought out the bread.

And so, lo, peace is restored to the Kingdom of Backyard. For the forces of Bluejay and Squirrel hath reached a tenuous agreement, and the Peacekeeping Forces of Bartholomew Corvidae hath turned the tide of battle. Derring-do hath been accomplished, fair maiden hath been rescued and won, mighty feats of arms hath been performed, and love and brotherhood reign supreme. For Interspecies Harmony hath yea verily been restored, and the annals of Squirrel!Terror now reacheth their end.

Unless, of course, some damn thing else happens…

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

Gather close, my children, and let me tell you the tale of the three-day Battle of the Corn Pops, wherein Squirrel!Neo the mighty met his match, a bluejay found romance, and the hordes of Gull were beaten back! Yes, it was a terrible fight that raged from dawn to dusk, and dawn to dusk, and dawn to dusk again, while the mighty-thewed combatants struggled no less with their own exhaustion than with each other.

It all started with a Little Prince and a Fair Princess, and a box of Corn Pops.

I usually buy one box of “fun” cereal and one box of “healthy” cereal. They can eat as much as they want of the fun cereal, but once it’s gone the healthy cereal has to be eaten before I’ll buy another box of sugar-drenched marketing. I am Best Mum Ever while the fun cereal abounds, but not so much when they have to eat Cheerios or MiniWheats or something. Most of the time I let them come to the store with me and pick the fun cereal. But sometimes I am thrown back on my own resources to find a box of something that fits their exacting standards.

A while ago, I chose Corn Pops. But apparently the Pops were not fun enough. I had a bowl, and they didn’t set me on fire. I figured that was because I’m not ten anymore. But the kids evinced no interest in the pure sugar, which is unheard-of. After asking them three or four times if they were ever going to eat the damn Pops, I got the bright idea of dumping them in the backyard where I usually scatter bread for the birds. (Yes, I armed myself with the Sandal of DOOM before doing so. No, nothing worth mentioning happened.)

For two days the Pops sat outside, and I was beginning to think eating a bowl of them had been a bad idea. It’s like cockroaches and Twinkies–if the roaches won’t even eat that (admittedly very tasty) plastic spongecake, no way on earth I’m gonna. Little did I know that it wasn’t the Pops, per se, that made everything so quiet.

It was the gathering of forces, the logistics of warfare, that provided the false lull.

I was washing dishes when I saw the first wave. Four squirrels appeared, converging on the Pops. They started stuffing themselves as fast as they possibly could, and I actually felt good about that. You know how I feel about feeding squirrels, but I was just so glad someone would eat the damn things and I wouldn’t have to rake up a soggy mess.

But then.

I was actually rinsing my frying pan when the seagulls appeared.

They descended, birds of white death. Seriously. Have you ever looked at a seagull compared to a squirrel, even a big fat crooked-tail ninja Terminator squirrel? I mean, I don’t know about where you live, gentle Reader, but here we have garbage dumps, the river, and some seriously hulking seagulls. And they are nasty. They’re the kind of birds who will knock you down to steal your French fries. (Long story, another day.) They’re not as vicious as swans or as smart as geese, but their roaming-in-flocks thing added to their sheer weight means that the four squirrels on the ground were, to put it kindly, obliterated.

The squirrels fled, chittering. Neo was not among them, yet. They scampered away. One tiny gray fluffball did his best to stand his ground, but the seagulls just laughed and pecked at him, flapping their wings until they’d herded him to the juniper hedge.

I am not ashamed to admit I laughed. Loudly, up to my elbows in soapy water. I was not too happy about a sudden influx of gulls–they’re all right, I have a soft spot in my heart for omnivorous trash animals, you should see my dating history, but they’re messy. I stood there laughing so hard I could barely breathe.

Until, that is, the squirrels massed for counterattack.

“AT ‘EM, BOYS! SHOW ‘EM YOUR KUNG FU! YAH!” Squirrel!Neo led the charge, crooked tail held proudly, swearing like a drill sergeant. I would add “guns blazing” here, except he had no guns. He had only his Matrix training to protect him. It was a glorious charge, him and about five of his fuzzy little brethren. Yes, there were half a dozen squirrels in my yard, and they charged like the Light Brigade. Into the valley of seagull death rode the, um, six or so.

Alas, their heroism came to naught. Or to put it more succinctly, Neo got spanked.

I saw one fat white gull laughing as he flapped, harrying poor doomed Squirrel!Neo, the One of Rodentia, toward the plum tree. The squirrels would regroup and attack, and the gulls would fence up each time, pecking and flapping, dwarfing their rodent opponents. Juliet!Jay showed up halfway through, and sat on the fence watching with much interest. Mercutio and Romeo, however, stayed in the pussywillow tree, and I’m sure Mercutio!Jay was commenting, though I could barely hear him over the ruckus.


I think I saw Romeo’s beak move, too. “DUDE,” he remarked, “YOU ARE NOT MAKING THIS ANY EASIER.”

Mercutio kept laughing. Juliet was completely silent, transfixed.

Now, my fear of Squirrel!Neo is a healthy fear. I have a great respect for what that little bastard’s capable of. But this was…well…

It was unfair.

I have this thing for the underdog. Mess with me, fine. I’m a big girl, I can handle it. But pick on someone half your size around me? No way, no day. A sizable proportion of the trouble I’ve ever gotten into has been me on my Rocinante, in my busted-ass tin armor, taking on a giant for the sake of the Little Guy. Besides, I felt kind of guilty. I had, after all, scattered the Fruit of Crunchy Discord in my own backyard. And the gallantry of the squirrels was kind of…moving.


I dropped the plate I was rinsing. I didn’t stop to pick up the Sandal of DOOM. No, instead I grabbed one of the Little Prince’s foam-wrapped baseball bats. That kid will not have a Louisville Slugger as long as we live anywhere there’s glass to be broken, because if he has a ball a window will sooner or later get the full impact. (THIS is why I only buy wiffle balls.) It’s not even his fault, really–I’ve seen balls curve to hit the house when he kicks them. They have it in for him.

Anyway. So I was out the back door, howling like a banshee, waving my bright purple marshal’s baton. I was not, at this point, screaming obscenities. Instead, I yelled, “HANG ON, NEO! THE CAVALRY’S COMING! IT’S MY FAULT! JUST HOLD ON!”

I realized I hadn’t even put shoes on as soon as I slipped in the wet grass, my socks immediately soaked. I saved myself with an amazing sideways lunge, and I almost punted a seagull. (He was probably one of the rear echelon troops, or a quartermaster. Maybe a cook.) For the record, this was the point where I started screaming obscenities. Something like, “OH FOR F!CK’S SAKE, YOU BASTARDS, I’M NOT EVEN WEARING SHOES, IMMA GONNA KILL YOU ALL!”

By now, the desired effect was achieved. The seagulls, while they had no trouble dealing with Neo and his plucky bunch of outcasts, did not know what to make of a crazy shoeless woman, spattering dish soap and suds everywhere, waving a kid’s baseball bat. They shrieked. Total confusion reigned. The chain of command broke down. The plump white attackers scattered, and they did what every seagull does when frightened: they lightened for takeoff.

Fortunately, I was out of the blast zone. But their parting artillery shots got most of the squirrels and a liberal portion of my yard. The gulls fled, and I stood there, my sides heaving, still waving the bat. The squirrels were all frozen. A fine misty rain drifted over the battlefield.

Mercutio!Jay hopped up and down on his branch. “JESUS CHRIST, LADY! YOU SCARED ME! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING? THOSE SQUIRRELS TRIED TO KILL YOU! ARE YOU INSANE?” Juliet bobbed along the fence, free of her stasis. Romeo looked ever-so-faintly disgruntled.

But Squirrel!Neo, showered in seagull poo, looked wearily sidelong at me. I could swear I saw a gleam of defiant respect in his beady little black eyes. The squirrels limped away, probably to hit the showers, and the jays came gliding down to pick over the battlefield and sample the crunchy discord. Feathers and seagull droppings were everywhere. It looked a scene of unspeakable carnage–but at least none of the Flying Brigade had pooped on the Corn Pops.

Or on me.

I beat a hasty retreat inside, changed my socks, and checked the back window frequently. The Corn Pops sat, soaking in the rain. The feathers blew around. The battlefield was empty all through the night.

The next day, the battle took a turn for the bizarre.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

I felt okay until about noon yesterday, when WHOMP! This damn virus descended on me. I’m producing all sorts of phlegm in varied rainbow colors. I’m sure I’m spreading the contagion over everything in my vicinity. I was tired and waspish yesterday, as my writing partner found out. (Sorry about that, kiddo.)

Anyway, there’s very little to report. I sent off a short story and am editing Something Sekrit. I do have Very Good News, but I can’t announce it until everything’s all wrapped. Plus, I still have to write about the squirrels, the gulls, and the CornPops war. I have to wait until I can breathe, because just thinking about it makes me laugh.

I did manage to get out and purchase a “squirrel-proof” birdfeeder. It has a sort of wire cage around the tube holding the seed, and when a squirrel gets on it the cage slides down, barring it from getting any noms. (Almost like this guy, but more decorative.) We’ll see how this works out. If all else fails, it should at least be hysterically funny. I kind of dread one of the little rodents getting a paw caught in it or something, though. Because let’s face it, these squirrels would be the ones to do so. Especially Neo. He’s having some bad luck lately.

ANYWAY, while I was purchasing this wondrous object, I also picked up twenty pounds of birdseed. (What? I like to be prepared. It was on SALE.) Then I turned around…and saw it.


Can you believe that? I’ll say it again.


People pay money for this.

I stood there in the Fred Meyer aisle for at least twenty long-ticking seconds, dumbstruck and staring. Three shelves of squirrel food. I cannot believe people feed these fuzzy little cat-kicking ninjas. There was a wide array, from corncobs to corncob-shaped hanging loaves of seeds and nuts, to sawdust-looking cornmeal things that are probably the Metamucil of the squirrel world. There was tons of it.

“No way,” I finally breathed.

At this point, I have to admit, I did think about buying some of the pressed seed loaves and hanging them up in the plum tree. Why? Aw, just for the lulz, maybe.

No, not for giggles. I’ll be honest. Jesus, don’t look at me like that.

AS A BRIBE, OKAY? As a kickback to the little fuzzy commandos so they won’t break my windows with peanuts or anything. But then I thought, you know, you start paying the squirrel mafia off and sooner or later they’ll start squeezing you for more.

“Oh hell no,” I muttered. Well, maybe not muttered. Maybe sort of said out loud. “No way. I’m not being held hostage by a bunch of rodents.”

I should mention that there was a lady in a red jacket at the other end of the aisle, looking at hummingbird feeders. She gave me a startled look and trundled her cart away maybe a little more quickly than was necessary.

I left the squirrel food where it was, shaking my head. All the way through the store I kept having one recurring vision–of nattily-dressed squirrel mobsters doing James Cagney sneers. “Eh, here, you see. We don’t like dat boid feedah. We like the ones that are real easy-like. But if ya wanna keep that one, sport, all you gotta do is hang up some Metamucil. We likes it, see?”

…yeah, I amuse myself all the time like this. It’s what makes me unfit for a great deal of normal life, I guess.

So. The new feeder is hanging up. The cats are agog, especially sweet dumb Tuxedo!Kitty, who crouches inside on the windowsill and keeps warbling his throaty little “ohpleaseohplease” song as the birds discover new munchables. No squirrel has attempted it yet. But I’m waiting. And as I sit here, looking out my window onto my front yard, I can see a couple bushy-tailed ninjas frolicking. They stop jumping around every once in a while to shoot me filthy looks through the window.

I have the sandal of DOOM right next to me. Let the games begin.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

So I was hoping that my third attempt to bury a squirrel would be, so to speak, the charm.

The first time, the squirrel wasn’t dead. The second time, it was indisputably dead, being headless. The third time…

Okay. Let me start closer to the beginning. I thought it would be a great idea to scatter the pumpkin seeds from our jack o’lanterns over the grave. It did occur to me that pumpkin seeds are Squirrel Food, so I had some hazy idea of propitiating the squirrel gods and making an offering to keep the little headless bastard down. (You will notice that I am putting absolutely nothing past these fuzzy little ninjas.) Plus I figured it might be good for the bluejays and other little critters as well, since things were getting chilly.

I prepared myself with the Sandal of Doom and wandered out in broad midafternoon daylight, a huge metal Ikea bowl full of pumpkin guts covered with foil propped against my hip. The coast appeared clear.

Halfway across the yard, however, it became clear that things were not well at the gravesite. I’d buried the Headless One pretty deep…but apparently not deep enough. I stood stock-still, caught midstride, as I contemplated the disturbed dirt.

“Well, f!ck,” I breathed, disgusted, and caught sight of the Mad Siamese Cat. This is the early cat that every morning attacks the wooden wall behind the huge dustbin I can see through the burned-out hole in my fence. He–I’m assuming it’s a he, I haven’t gone close enough to check–flings himself at the wood like it’s personally insulted him. After a few bodyblows, he jumps up and digs his claws in, gets to the top of the wooden wall, yowls, and then flings himself off into space. The hedge means I can’t see where he lands, but I’m sure it’s spectacular. Every morning he does this.

I don’t even know.

Anyway, the Mad Siamese was sauntering along the top of my fence, placing each paw gracefully. He leapt down near one of the blueberry bushes, stalked over to the back corner, and proceeded to flop himself down on the disturbed grave and start rolling in what seemed to be a brand of feline ecstasy.

“What the…” My jaw dropped. I could not even form words.

He rolled some more, then he jumped up, circled a couple times like he was going to lay down, lifted his haunches in the air, and started digging. Clods of wet dirt flew, and I gathered my wits.

“What the hell?” I yelled. “You’re DISTURBING THE DEAD, you f!cking crazyass feline! What’s WRONG with you?”

I must have scared him. Because he leapt–I am not kidding–at least four feet straight up and twisted, landed hard, staring at me with wide, crazed blue eyes. His tail was the size of a raccoon’s, and a stripe of fur on his back stood straight up. He actually growled, too. I’m not up on my Mad Siamese, but I am fairly sure it translated out to: “BITCH I WAS HAVING FUN! WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?”

Now, I hadn’t gone through burying this squirrel twice to be scared off by an insane, inbred chunk of cat. “Oh, please,” I said, shaking the sandal in my left fist. “I’ve faced down a zombie squirrel, a punkass cat like you is no trouble. I’ll kick your ass, cat. Leave the dead in peace, willya?”

Mad Siamese took off to my left, yowling, heading for the juniper hedge. I felt good about that for all of about two seconds, because Juliet!Jay appeared out of nowhere, sailing after him with a gleam in her eye and business in every wingflap. I didn’t think it was possible for a silent bird to chase an exponentially-bigger cat off, but Juliet was motivated. Plus, I’m sure my shaking of the sandal had something to do with it.

So I had to get out the shovel once more, because little bits of the Headless Squirrel were sticking up through the dirt. He really looked a bit worse for wear, poor thing, and I got him buried a little deeper and tamped down the dirt pretty hard. Juliet!Jay returned and watched from the fence. She was close enough that I could see every feather, and she examined the proceedings with bright-eyed interest.

“It’s not Neo,” I finally said, whapping the dirt with the shovel to pack it nice and hard. “Seriously. I’ve seen that little crooked-tailed bastard running around. You should stick to Romeo!Jay, you know. He’s a badass, and he’s the strong silent type. You’ll like that. Hell, I’d like that. You’re lucky. Just consider it, okay? He really likes you.”

I just want to register that I was reburying a headless squirrel and giving love advice to a lady bluejay in the middle of the afternoon, while a sandal dangled from my left wrist and a big bowl of pumpkin guts stood off to the side.

You cannot make this shit up. Anyway.

“HEY! HEY GUYS! WHATCHA DOING?” Mercutio!Jay showed up, sailing across the yard and landing on the fence. He immediately started bitching because I wasn’t spreading any bread. I swear to God Juliet rolled her eyes. I actually dropped the shovel, the goddamn loudmouth scared me so bad. “SERIOUSLY, WHERE’S THE BREAD? YOU’RE USUALLY SPREADING BREAD. I’M HUNGRY. HEY, THE BIRDFEEDER’S NICE AND ALL, BUT WHERE’S MY BREAD? AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING? WHAT IS THAT IN THE SHINY THING? IS IT BREAD?”

I dumped the pumpkin guts over the grave. “Shut up,” I told Mercutio!Jay, who fluttered a bit and didn’t screech. “Here lieth the Headless Squirrel, who is not Squirrel!Neo. Let’s hope he stays buried, because this is really getting–”


I let out a girly little half-scream and jumped out of my skin. For lo, Squirrel!Neo had returned.

He barreled along the fence from the plum tree, making that Sam-Kinnison-in-a-blender SOUND.

“JESUS CHRIST!” Mercutio!Jay yelled. I bent, grabbed the shovel, and started backing up, trying to shake the sandal free just in case. I only succeeded in dumping the wadded-up tinfoil out, because I’d forgotten I was carrying the bowl. I didn’t realize I was yelling too. I won’t write what I was yelling, I’ll just say it was obscene and leave it at that. (I think I used the F-bomb as every part of speech in the time it took Neo to get to the pussywillow tree.)

Juliet, however, held her ground. She drew herself up, and fire sparked in her little black eyes.

“WHERE THE HELL WERE YOU?” she screamed, and took off for him. She hit him good, too, and he actually fell off the fence, through a blueberry bush, and bounced. He quit making THAT SOUND, probably because he was dazed.

I didn’t blame him.

I was backing up, hopping down from the railroad ties, bowl in one hand, shovel in the other, sandal flapping, my jaw dropping. Juliet, however, was just picking up steam. “I THOUGHT YOU WERE DEAD! I WAS F!CKING MOURNING YOUR FUZZY ASS, WHERE THE HELL WERE YOU?”

Squirrel!Neo, however doughty he may be, was no match for a pissed-off lady jay. He gained his feet and chittered, but she was having none of it. She zoomed down on him in a furious burst of blue feathers, and spanked him all the way back to the juniper hedge. He vanished into the hedge and she spent another few minutes flying back and forth and yelling at the top of her lungs.


Mercutio!Jay had settled on the fence again. We both watched her in wonderment.

Finally, she’d finished, and she coasted back across the yard and settled on the fence, right where she was when the whole thing started. She gave me a baleful glance, and I raised both the shovel and the bowl, trying for a “hey man I’m harmless” stance. She glanced at Romeo, who actually hopped back nervously.

I cleared my throat. “Yeah. Uh. Okay.” I took a couple steps backward. “I’ll, just. Yeah. Go in and get some bread for you.”

She made a little chittering noise. “SEE THAT YOU DO, MONKEY. JUST SEE THAT YOU DO.”

Seriously, would you mess with her after all that?

So far the grave has stayed unmolested. All three jays have shown up like clockwork for bread every day, and I think Juliet might be taking my advice. Neo doesn’t seem too heartbroken.

He has other problems. Like CornPops.

But more about that later…

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

When we last left our doughty heroine (that would be Yours Truly), she had just encountered a zombie squirrel and left her shovel behind in her haste to achieve shelter. It took a couple days before I was brave enough to go out and fetch the damn shovel, and when I did…things got interesting.

So I finished my morning run, took a shower, made sure I was caffeinated, checked the weather–cloudy, but no rain–and armed myself. With what, you might ask? Well, I had to have a hand free to grab the shovel. So it had to fit in one hand, and since I’d had such luck with a shoe during the last run-in, well…I took a Birkenstock sandal. I figured I could swing it by the strap like a flail or fling it.

Yes, I spent some time thinking about this. Shut up.

Anyway, I was in a nice warm jacket, my heart beating a little quickly, maybe, but all in all I felt reasonably prepared. I opened my sunroom door and stepped out into the morning…

…and almost onto a headless squirrel.

“JESUS CHRIST!” I screamed, and retreated hastily. The body was tucked up against the door, and I’d been so busy scanning for live squirrels I’d overlooked it. I stood there, my heart pounding, and stared through the glass.

Yep. It was a headless squirrel all right. Dead, or at least reasonably dead. Its little paws were pulled up, and since it was splayed on its back I could definitely tell it was a he. The edges of its, erm, neck, were all ragged. Something had chewed the head clean off.

After a few seconds I mastered myself and locked the sunroom door, then went out through the back garage door. First, though, I peered in all directions, and I watched where I stepped. I approached the sorry little headless corpse with all due caution.

Yes, I will admit it. I was afraid it would come back to life.

“Well, jeeeeeez,” I finally said, staring down. “Guess I’m gonna have to bury this one too.”

I edged across the yard, trying to look everywhere at once. This time I had sneakers on, which was a vast improvement. The shovel was wet and jammed up against the fence (I guess I’d really flung it, wow), and the open grave was forlorn, a rain-softened hole. I grabbed the shovel and immediately felt better about the situation. I was all the way across the yard again, looking at the corpse, when I realized I would need both hands to bury him.

This was a pickle. How was I going to keep my weapon while I buried this motherf!cker?

I ended up looping the strap of the sandal over my wrist, sort of an anti-squirrel quickdraw. I eased the shovel blade under the teensy body with an unsettling sensation of deja-vu, lifted it up, and wondered once again what the hell could have bitten the head off a squirrel.

Just then came a tiny mew! I almost jumped out of my skin, because I hadn’t noticed the cat in the rosemary bush. The bush is huge, and on the infrequent occasions my cats go outside in the rain they crouch underneath it, in a little bower. But this wasn’t one of my cats, oh no. My darlings had retreated inside once the rains started. No, this was a tiny fluffy gray thing that usually comes through the yard at about nine AM every morning, pausing at a particular clump of lemon balm, then sitting on a bench under the sunroom window for about five minutes before stopping at the rosemary and sauntering away under the fence. She’s the late cat–the early cat is a half-crazed half-Siamese who attacks the fence behind the apartments’ dumpster every morning. (I can’t make this shit up, I swear.) ANYWAY. Sweet little gray cat cocked her head and mewed again while I struggled to get my heartrate under control.

“You scared me!” I finally said, and I swear to God she grinned. She looked very, very proud. “Did you do this?”

She hopped out from under the rosemary, tail held high, and stropped my legs while I stood there with a dead squirrel on a shovel.

“Well, gee.” I searched for words. “Thanks. I’m, uh. Just gonna bury him now. Unless you want some, you know, some more.”

What the hell else could I say?

The sweet little gray kitty followed me across the damp grass. I eased the corpse into the grave and gingerly tossed a shovelful of wet dirt over it, then jumped back. I almost tripped over the cat, who gave me a WTF, monkey? look. “Don’t look at me like that,” I snapped. “You weren’t here the last time. I swear to God the last time–”

There was a flicker of motion, a flash of blue, and I choked back another scream. I figured I got another two days’ worth of cardio right there. But it was only Juliet!Jay, settling on the fence in the shelter of a tangle of blackberry vines, cocking her head and looking very interested in the proceedings.

You scared the shit out of me, too,” I told her grimly, and edged back toward the grave. I got another shovelful of dirt, and I think it was then that Juliet!Jay realized what was in the hole.

She started screaming. I started shoveling furiously. I wanted to get the goddamn thing buried before anything else happened. Juliet screeched and fluttered, and she finally took wing, zoomed past me, and disappeared over the house. I heard her screaming for a while, fading into the distance.

I looked at the cat, my jaw suspiciously loose and a fresh load of dirt on my shovel. The cat looked back at me.

I licked dry lips. “What do you suppose that was all about? I mean, this ain’t Neo, Neo’s got a crooked tail. Besides, if you killed him, I wouldn’t bury him. I’d f!cking cremate him, you know. He deserves to go to Valhalla, the little fuzzy bastard.”

Then I felt bad for standing at the Nameless Squirrel’s grave and cussing. I heard something else, too.

A faint, distinct cough.

I looked up. The guy on his apartment balcony stepped back in a hurry, a cloud of cigarette smoke trailing him.

Well, great. What could I say now? He’d seen me talking to a cat and burying a squirrel. There was no explanation I could give anyone for this. I finished filling in the grave, tamped it down as respectfully as I could, and cleared my throat a little. Dude was still up there smoking, I could smell it.

“Well, here lies the nameless, headless squirrel.” Maybe I said it a little louder than I had to. Just, well, you know, if I was going to be crazy, I was going to commit, you know? There is no point in doing shit like this halfway. “I, uh. I hope he wasn’t a zombie. Because you ate his brains. Or whatever made him headless did.” I looked down at the gray kitty, who sat with her ears perked far forward, watching this monkey ritual of burying good food with much interest. “May he rest in peace and not come back. And, uh, may his friends not come looking for you. You don’t want that, cat. Trust me. Dude’s friends know kung fu.”

I backed away, stepped down from the railroad ties, and the gray kitty did an honor guard on me all the way back to the garage door. I was still trying to look everywhere at once, shovel in one hand and sandal in the other. I could feel eyes on me.

Before I went in, I turned and took one last look at the grave. The guy on his balcony smoking was now obscured by the pussywillow tree, and I didn’t really want to see him anyway. I let out a breath.

The blackberry bushes behind the fence twitched, and for the thousandth time that morning, I jumped and gave a choked little girly scream.

Squirrel!Neo emerged from the vines, bracing himself on the fence. He looked a lot better than the last time I’d seen him. I shook the sandal, nervously, assuring myself of free play, and then realized I didn’t have a free hand to open the door with. Thankfully, I’d left it ajar, so I backed into the garage.

The last thing I saw was the gray kitty sauntering back toward the grave. Squirrel!Neo sat on the fence, watching her approach. You could almost see a tumbleweed skip across the yard between them.

Okay, I’ll admit it. I chickened out. I slammed the door, locked it, dropped the shovel, and ran pell-mell for the sunroom and a view of whatever was gonna go down.

By the time I got there, though, they’d both vanished. It took another day before I saw them again. And so far, the headless squirrel has stayed buried…

Well. Mostly.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

lilithsaintcrow: (Default)
( Nov. 4th, 2010 04:22 pm)

So there I was. In the rain. Digging a grave.

OK, OK, let me back up. This was about a week or so ago, the day after Squirrel!Neo and Juliet!Jay had their little interaction and Mercutio!Jay entirely lost his shit. Anyway, for some reason I hadn’t had coffee with my oatmeal that morning, I was just going to deal with caffeination after I ran some ungodly number of miles. Just…remember that the series of events I am about to relate happened while I was completely uncaffeinated.

So. Kids were off to school, it was raining, I went out to put my freshly-charged IPod on the treadmill before I changed into my running togs. I yawned, glanced out into the back yard…and paused. And stared.

There was a dead squirrel in my back yard. He lay on his back, little paws curled up, soaking in the rain and covered with what looked like mud. I couldn’t tell at that distance. I just saw his white chest and his little spattered belly, and he was so, so still.

“Oh, Christ Jesus,” I actually breathed. “Neo!

I considered just doing my morning run and then dealing with the, ahem, crime scene. But then I thought of running six miles and staring at a dead rodent, and it just didn’t seem appetizing.

So I went to fetch a shovel.

This was the straight-edge shovel I bought when we needed to scrape moss off the roof ages ago. It’s practically new, and it’s a Serious Effing Shovel. Red and black and heavy-reinforced enough to be deadly in the right hands. You could seriously whap someone with this shovel and then use it to dig a grave in rocky soil. I believe in quality.

So there I was, in the rain, near where the compost pile used to be. I was half-soaked by the time I had a decent hole. I didn’t want the cats digging him up, or the possums, or anything. The little peanut-flinging cat-kicking bluejay-ambushing bastard was annoying, true. But he had also provided me with priceless amusement and (more importantly) several blog posts. I wanted him buried decently, at least.

I trudged across the wet, ankle-high grass (look, okay, I mowed this past week, all right? Don’t look at me like that.). My yard shoes were soaked, my socks were wet, the persistent rain was working its way through my hoodie, and my spectacles were already spattered with rain. But I was determined to Do The Right Thing. I approached the dead rodent with all due reverence, and gently worked the shovel underneath his supine form.

He was heavier than I thought he’d be. Dead weight, I thought, and I immediately felt bad, because I snickered. I tried to observe a proper gravitas as I carried him across the yard. My yard shoes are more like clogs, so I was shuffling through very wet grass and squelching a bit, which sort of defeated the gravitas. But I tried. I even kept my head up despite the rain smacking my spectacles. I figured a good show was the least I could give, right?

It took some doing to slide him gently into the hole.

I didn’t want to just fling him in, all right? I also didn’t want him to land all cockeyed and have me out there with the shovel trying to arrange him for his eternal rest. I am many things to many people, but a rodent undertaker is just not in my job description. He was sopping wet and covered with something that looked like mud and dried blood, and his fur was all rucked up already. His tail was a wet draggle. I just, I don’t know. I wanted him to be comfy in his little squirrel grave, all right? Don’t judge.

So I slid him gently off the shovel bed, and thank God he landed kindly. The bottom of the hole was very, very wet–I dig a good grave, thankyouverymuch. I believe in quality work. I took a nice big shovelful of wet, rocky dirt, steeled myself, and sprinkled it in the hole over the poor, wet, draggled little corpse.

I swear to God I heard thunder crackle. The next thing I knew, I was screaming “JESUS CHRIST!”

Because Squirrel!Neo? Had shot up into a crouch. His little black eyes snapped open, and he filled his teensy lungs. He began to produce a sound I can only describe as a squirrel’s imitation of Sam Kinison in a blender. It almost drowned out my scream.

This is the point at which I will kindly ask you to remember that I had not even had any coffee that morning.

So there I was. In the rain. The squirrel was screaming at me, I was screaming, I stumbled back and lost one of my clogs. My sock squelched in mud, and Squirrel!Neo hopped up to the edge of his grave and KEPT. MAKING. THAT SOUND. He moved quick, too, for a little bugger who had just been singing with the choir eternal. Once he’d gained the lip of his own grave, he actually bounded at me.

His eyes were on fire. His coat was shedding water and mud in rivers. I was out of my mind with fear.

I threw the shovel.

Yes, friends and neighbors, I threw a shovel half as tall as I am at a tiny revivified rodent. But that’s not the worst part. Oh, no. Are you ready for the worst?

I missed.

The shovel sailed over Neo’s head. It hit the corner between my and my neighbor’s fence with a clang that probably woke all the other dead wildlife in a mile radius. I should remind you that the squirrel was still making THAT NOISE and I hadn’t run out of air yet, so I was making a high-pitched squeal like a girl in a horror movie.

Hey, I’ll admit it. I’m not proud.

I kept backing up, wet sock flopping, spectacles now drenched, and Squirrel!Neo bounded forward twice more. Mud flew. Now, it was a scene of utmost tension, and I’m not sure I heard him right. But I think what he was saying went something like this:


At this point I’d run out of “Jesus Christ” and the horror-movie squeal, so I was cussing back. I tripped and went down–on my ass, thank you, and since I lost a lot of weight it hurt, and my teeth clicked together hard. Plus my pajamas–oh yeah, did I forget to mention that? I had not even changed out of my sleeping gear–now had mud and grass stain on them. And my spectacles were wet, goddammit.


Yeah, something like that. Squirrel!Neo bounded forward again. It was like the little bastard didn’t even need to breathe, because he was making THAT NOISE again, while he was cussing me out. I yelled something about zombie-f!cking-oatmeal-squirrels, grabbed my other shoe–my only remaining weapon other than my devastating ironic wit–and flung it at him.

This time, my dears, Li’l Lili Oakley didn’t miss. I nailed him with my yard shoe. He made an ulp! sound that would’ve been funny if I hadn’t immediately felt mortified. Yes. You read that right.

I felt guilty over hitting him with my shoe.

At least it stunned him into silence. He went ass over teakettle, fetched up on the edge of his own grave, stood up, shook himself like a golden retriever coming up out of the water, and dashed to my left. He made it to the juniper hedge and vanished.

Which left me in the rain, on my ass, shoeless, half-blind, calling down the wrath of God onto zombie Frankenstein ninja squirrels and their progeny yea unto the seventh generation. (Who knows? I’m a witch, it might stick.) I finally collected enough of my wits to stand up, shut my fool mouth, collect my shoes, and retreat inside to peel off my muddy clothes, wash my spectacles, and take my morning run. Oh yes, my dears. I ran six miles after that little episode, and I didn’t feel a single one of them because of all the adrenaline soaking through my nervous system.

But I sat down and had a cup of coffee first. My hands shook. I kept scanning the backyard nervously, and the rain intensified all that afternoon.

I left the goddamn shovel out there for a couple days, but I couldn’t leave it forever. The day I went out to get it, well.

Things got interesting.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

What is that huge yellow fiery thing in the sky? It’s November, for heaven’s sake, we’re not supposed to see it! It burns! Augh!

…yeah, the sunlight’s making me a little silly today. It’s warm and the wind is up, whistling and calling my name as well as pawing through the windchimes. I did managed to get the lawn mowed, and was bombarded by pinecones. I think it was just the wind pulling them off the trees. I’m fairly sure it’s not Squirrel!Neo.

He’s got other problems.

So I promised I’d write what happened after the Battle of the Pine Boughs. To do that I’m going to have to take you back a week or so, to a gray rainy morning, dawn just coming up–I was on the treadmill early, and not happy about that. By the time I’d gone a couple miles it was light gray instead of pitch black outside, and the little woodland creatures were beginning to show up. Chief among them was Squirrel!Neo, and he had his eye on a lovely little lady bluejay–

Wait. I should tell you about Juliet!Jay. She’s a sweet little thing, and both Romeo!Jay and Mercutio!Jay appear to dance attendance on her. She’s not a hussy, she rarely shows up with both guys. When she does, they seem to want to outdo each other. Mercutio, of course, makes a godawful racket, screeching and “showing” her the bird feeder at least twenty times per visit. Romeo just sidles up and gives her longing looks while they’re both pecking at the bread I’ve scattered. I can’t tell who she likes better, although when she does show up with just one of them, it’s Romeo. At least, I think it’s not Mercutio, because he’s not screaming his tiny little head off.

Anyway, okay. So there’s Squirrel!Neo, and he’s acting kind of strange. Well, stranger than usual. He’s hopping once or twice, digging a bit, then looking coyly over his shoulder. After a while, I see a flash in the blueberry bushes–they’re turning lovely colors this year, really–and I realize Juliet is perched there, watching him intently. He keeps giving these sneaky little looks, and after a little while, she flies down to investigate.

Now came one of the strangest interspecies dances I’ve ever seen. Neo would dig a little, glance back at her, and hop away. Juliet would hop shyly up to the location, peck a little bit, and cock her head as if to say, nothing here, what’s wrong with you?

Each time, Neo stood a little bit closer to her. Then he led her to one of his favourite nut-burying hummocks, and dug. Hopped away, but not nearly as far as before. Juliet sidled, pecked a bit, and came up with something she apparently found very tasty and agreeable. She pecked for a little while, tilting her head back between bites to make everything slide down easy. Neo sidled closer and closer, and I was about to yell or something to warn her, because, well. Who knew what the fuzzy little bastard had planned? I popped my earbuds out and got ready to make a sudden noise, the pounding of my feet on the treadmill all but forgotten as I watched him get closer and closer. I didn’t even realize I was sweating, I was so absorbed.

I swear I saw one of Squirrel!Neo’s tiny little paws reaching out, as if he wanted to touch. Just the edge of her wing, maybe, some of her pretty plumage.

I think Juliet would’ve let him, too. But just then, Mercutio showed up, a ball of blue feathered outrage. Since I had my earbuds pulled out, I heard him clear as day in the dawn hush.


Juliet took wing, Squirrel!Neo scampered up into the plum tree, and Mercutio chased him from there into the juniper hedge, screaming Elizabethan bird-insults. (I swear I heard “mealymouth peasant” and “crude cockerel” in there somewhere.) Then Mercutio spent about ten minutes roaming my backyard, yelling at everything, even perching on the birdfeeder and chewing me out. Maybe I was supposed to be Juliet’s duenna or something, I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bluejay that angry.

He was pretty incoherent, and Julie had vanished. I didn’t see her for a couple days after that, despite keeping my eyes peeled on the treadmill every single morning.

A couple days later, I found a body in the yard.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.



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