Today a rogue squirrel took up secret residence in my room, peed on my computer while it sat on my bed, and held out for about four hours holed up under the bed until the special forces of the New York City Police department defenestrated him with a noose, hurling him out my fourth floor window to an almost certain death.
I am a peace-loving person. I am not afraid of animals, in fact, quite the opposite, and would never wish them any harm. Those of you whom I'm close with even know that I am something of a lifelong rodent peace activist. How did it come to this?
Let me begin by reassuring you that I do not live in the forest. I love the outdoors, I grew up in a forest, but at the moment I live in a nice apartment in Brooklyn, New York, four stories above the street. We don't have mice. We only sometimes have bugs fly in through the windows, but usually they fly right out again.
I do, however, live a few blocks away from a lovely park, and this evening I had plans to go for a quick run around this park before meeting up with my friend Brian, whom I haven't seen in ages. I feel like our plans have often fallen through because of me, and I was looking forward to not only seeing him, but getting there on time. So I finished up the emailing I had been doing for the past hour or so and put my computer on my bed. "Why do I bother closing my computer?" I remember thinking. "I guess it keeps the dust off the keyboard, saves the screen life, looks nicer flat than upright..." I hypothesized in my head as I closed the computer flat and left for my run.
When I got back, all seemed normal. My roommate Suvi was home from a walk, the house was still. I turned on the shower and on a whim went to fetch a wrinkled shirt so it could steam flat in the bathroom while I showered. My room looked and smelled so peaceful, my newly folded laundry waiting in the corner for me to put it away into drawers, the freshly washed sheets light green in the evening light, my laptop sitting quietly asleep on top of those soft, fresh sheets...with a yellow puddle on top of it.
Yes, a yellow puddle sitting on top of my laptop, the white Apple logo glowing helplessly white up through the amber. "Suvi, the ceiling leaked! Right onto my computer!" I cried, all too quickly realizing that there was no sign of leakage on the ceiling above the laptop. I moved the computer and saw the puddle had seeped to the sheets. It smelled. Something smelled. I remembered in a flash:
Yesterday Suvi had witnessed a squirrel fall off the roof past my bedroom window, slamming hard into the fire escape there with a thump. When we went to go check it out, he had shocked us by leaping up onto the sill of the other window, a wild look in his eyes and a desperate energy in his gait. I had screamed. He had jumped back out the window, slipping and managing to grip onto the sill with his two little front paws. Beneath him it was a shear four story drop to cold hard pavement. He had pulled his head up. I screamed. He had lowered again and then did another desperate pullup. "I don't know how to help you!" I screamed in surprise. The little paws had tried to slide hand over hand back towards the other window, and then suddenly, they were gone. "Nooooo!" I had cried out. I closed the window. I reopened the window and looked to the ground below, terrified of what I might see, terrified of the murderer I might have become. There was nothing but a serene expanse of grey pavement. I felt an unresolved sense of relief, and closed the window again until I went to sleep that night.
This morning, I will admit, I had woken up to the sound of scratching beneath my bed. But it has been a long time since I feared the monsters under there, and my neighbors on the other side of the wall also sometimes make scratching and squeaking noises that really aren't that polite for me to talk about here. So I had fallen back to sleep and woken up and gone about my day, never suspecting that the squirrel had returned...to seek his revenge? to confess his tragic love? to set up a squirrel condominium complex in the suitcases and backpacks under my bed? Only destiny can tell us now.
Only destiny call tell us now because events unfolded as they did. Upon discovering the pee and putting the pieces of the last two days together, Suvi and I opened the windows wide, planning to scare a squirrel back out from whence he had come. We pushed some suitcases under the bed around and heard him scuffle. There was a madness to his scuffle, the kind that I had always imagined a rabid squirrel might have if it ran into my bedroom. I did what any sane person would do. I called home.
"Don't go near it Emily," my mom said. "You haven't seen it and it might not be a squirrel, it might be a raccoon. And it could have rabies." She's a nurse, so I sometimes trust her, but she's also my mom, so I often don't take her advice until it's too late. Still, her doubts in my abilities to save myself from this beast gave me pause, and Suvi and I conferred for a few moments about the costs and benefits of getting bitten by a possibly rabid squirrel on a Sunday night in Brooklyn. We decided to ask the superintendent in our building for help.
Suvi stood guard by the door while I went downstairs to find the super. He opened the door in his pajamas, holding a wooden spoon. "A what?" he said in his characteristically relaxed tone. "Yeah that's crazy, girl. I never heard of that happening before. I got some stuff on the stove so...you be fine." The door closed, and I decided to just call animal control. They would know how to evacuate the squirrel without harming him. "Just do as we say, and nobody gets hurt." Isn't that the animal control mantra? Or at least somebody's mantra?
After speaking with the operator, I discovered that animal control doesn't work weekends in New York, and likely wouldn't be working Monday or Tuesday of this week either. Which brings to mind the story of the tiger that was found in some New Yorker's bathroom, and leaves me less surprised than when I first heard that story. Probably, the guy found the tiger in his bathroom one day, called animal control, and was still waiting for them to arrive the day the tiger finally ate him. But back to the thing that peed on my computer.
The operator told me the only thing to do was to call 9-1-1. For my non USA friends out there, that's the emergencies-only number here in the States. The one you call when your life or someone else's life is in danger. It seemed a bit, well, ostentatious to call them about a loose-bladdered rodent. Nevertheless, I followed the operator's instructions, just hoping to avoid a situation where anybody got hurt.
A few hours later two cops showed up in our apartment, along with one of Suvi's friends who just happened to be walking down the street and decided to stop in. Little did any of them know what they were walking into. "Good God girls, why don't you get an air conditioner?" the guy cop huffed as they reached the fourth floor and thumped into our home. I've never had houseguests wearing bullet proof vests before, so the temperature had never seemed like that much of a problem. Now I know.
Those two went into my bedroom and shut the door, which is a glass door with a shade on it that Suvi and I had raised while on squirrel-watch earlier in the evening. I decided it might be time to call Brian and tell him I would probably be late for our drink. The phone rang, rang, rang as behind the bedroom door the female cop went under the bed with a broomstick and the guy stood outside the door with his arms crossed. Ring, ring, the phone continued as something big happened in my room and the cop ran out, pulling the door closed behind her. "Hello..." Brian's voice sounded in my ear. In the other ear I heard the noise from the apartment: "He's in there," the cop shivered. "And he's a big one. We gotta wait til the guys get here with the loop." "Hello?" Brian waited.
I explained to Brian that I wasn't making up an excuse, but a squirrel had peed on my computer and the cops were here and we were waiting for a guy with a loop. "Okay..." he said. I think he was trying to be understanding. "I'll call you when I'm leaving the apartment, it'll just be a little later than I thought," I apologized. "You're still coming? You're not bailing?" he said, surprised.
For the next hour or so we waited for the guys with the loop to get here. The cops stood around sweating, making themselves at home, inquiring about our lack of a television and wondering how smart we were, based on the large quantity of books in our apartment. "This one of those movies you gotta read?" the guy asked, picking up a DVD with a foreign-looking title. This is the lull point in the story, so I'll skip ahead to the part where the buzzer rang and two huge guys tromped into our apartment. Big black boots, huge beefy arms, buzz cut hair and the words "emergency special services unit " stamped in white across the scapulae of their black shirts. One carried a black shield with a window, the kind that will protect you from a nuclear blast or worse. The other carried the dreaded loop -- a retractable noose at the end of a long pole.
They stormed into my bedroom, dropping the shade on the door so that we five outside in the living room could barely make out what was going on in there. Furniture screeched across the floor, boots thumped, scratching terror fled around the room. "He's there!" "Get 'im in the bag!" "There went his tail!" was interrupted by surreal giggling as they chased and danced this crazy squirrel around my bedroom. A screech of wood against wood and suddenly we saw him, a flash of black past the door. Another squelch and he appeared for a second between the glass and the shade, scratching at the glass and looking at us frantically. I think I saw him catch my eye. "Why?" he seemed to ask. "I don't know," I mouthed back sadly and suddenly he was gone and the shade slapped back into place. "He's in the bag!" came the shout, and then the sound of a bag being thrown across the room "He got away again!" and then another incredulous laugh, "You can't make this shit up."
As the chase heated up behind the door, I suddenly remembered an antique lamp given to my by my grandmother, who had managed to save this lamp through the depths of World War II as the rest of Germany was being bombed to bits. It was sitting on my bedroom desk, in the very middle of the desperate fray. A new panic set it, amplifying my guilt, my fear, my compassion, my need for one, just one valuable thing to not get broken, peed on, trapped or crushed this week. At this moment a quiet, very pleasant memory of a lovely day at the beach with my family yesterday tapped me on the shoulder but I pushed it away. A squirrel's life was in danger! A piece of history was on the brink! Desperate times called for desperate over-dramatization.
Suddenly squeals pealed from behind the bedroom door, squeals like those of an asthmatic pig with very small vocal cords. "Almost got him!" Through the shade I saw a box go flying across the room.
"The lamp!" I burst through the door. "Got 'im!" "Throw him out!" The man with the loop rushed across the room towards the window, the black squirrel squealing and gripped in his loop. "NO, please no!" I cried. "We won't hurt the lamp, lady," the other guy said. "No not that! Don't throw him just put him on the fire escape!" I cried, but it was too late. The squirrel was gone. The loop was empty but for some wirey squirrel hair.
"Get an air conditioner, you won't have these problems," one said as he pushed out of the room. "Yeah, and screens," the other said over his shoulder on the way out. And with that, like quiet after a raging storm, everyone was gone.
The room was a shambles, covered in flung laundry, black mats of spiney squirrel hair, and my mind spun silently. "Clean up the mess, clean up the mess," it intoned. "Maybe it carried hantavirus, maybe it carried hantavirus," a deeper corner of my psyche said to me. I had recently been taught the protocol for clearing a campsite of hanta virus agents by a 14-year-old boy scout from Chile, where hantavirus actually exists, so I set about cleaning my room according to scout protocol. "Just do as we say, and nobody gets hurt," the thought ran through my head and I felt tears well up. "Baloney," I thought.
We swept away the debris. We sprayed the ground. We hung any food items that might attract hanta mice onto the ceiling (fortunately, I didn't have any food items in my room). I thought about the squirrel, and if I had done something wrong.
Maybe I'm oversensitive. Maybe this is another one of those things that happens to other people all the time and just doesn't happen to me. I couldn't say. I do know that when the door buzzed a few minutes later I joked to Suvi, "It's the squirrel! He left something!" As I pushed the door button I half hoped "It's Brian! Or any of the other people I want to spend time with!" Instead, it was two different young police officers.
"We heard about your crazy squirrel situation and just wanted to come check up on you that all's clear," one said. "It was our call to take but we let the other guys take it because we were busy on the other side of the precinct."
"Busy catching squirrels?" Suvi asked in her perfectly mischievous tone.
"Nah, we were barbequeing," laughed one of the officers.
"You all are okay though?" the other one asked.
"Yeah, thanks, that's nice. More okay than the squirrel, for sure," I said.
The officers looked at each other and blinked.
"You kiddin?" the one said back to me. "He's totally fine. You gotta watch more of your Discovery channel. Those things can fall whole buildings. You seen the thing about the snake that can fall thousands of feet and flatten itself and just slither away? That squirrel is fine."
I haven't checked, and it's not just because it's dark outside.
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