Last week, I started my holidays early. I had banked some time off for the end of the year so that I could have at least five days to write while Ken was still at work. I’m writing a second novel, and my plan was to get Chapters 16 to 20 finished before January. It’s been going well, despite the constant interruptions which are mostly me surfing the internet and going Christmas shopping. But I decided that I needed to be more disciplined, so on Wednesday, I sat down at 9:00 am to hammer out Chapter 18.
The house, as always, was extremely quiet. We live in a small town, and the house itself is not only on a large property, but it’s set well back from the road. I normally don’t worry about being alone here, since I have Titus, who’s very loud and intimidating when he needs to be. I also have, to a lesser extent, Raven, who is neither loud nor intimidating, but she WILL react to strange noises by lifting up her head and then placing it back down again. Recently though, there has been a spate of car break-ins, and someone outside of town had their house robbed. Plus, three weeks ago, Ken was away at a conference in Montreal, leaving me by myself for three nights, which would have been OK except that on the first night, I had a terrible nightmare about being attacked by intruders, and it set me on edge for the rest of the week.
But it was broad daylight, and I shouldn’t have had anything to worry about. It was around 11:00 am and I was about three quarters of the way through the chapter and feeling pretty good about where it was going, when suddenly, I heard the sound of something being knocked over in the back of the house. My office is in the front of the house, so I stopped typing and listened intently for a minute. I heard another sound, like a shuffling of some kind. I started to get a little panicky, but I calmed myself down by telling myself it was only Titus. He likes to sleep on the couch in the family room; he probably got up to stretch and knocked something off the coffee table.
I got up from my chair, and made my way to the kitchen. Sure enough, there was Titus, wagging his tail. He walked over to the courtyard door, and I said, “What have you been up to, buddy?” just as something else fell in the family room. I froze. I could hear movement, and the sound of the ornaments in the window being knocked down. There was someone back there.
You know that feeling of utter terror that you used to get when you were little and lying in bed, imagining that there was something in your closet? Or as an adult, when you almost have a car accident? That was me in that moment, as I listened to the sounds of someone moving around my house. I was wearing my housecoat and slippers, waiting until I’d finished writing to get dressed. Now, I felt really vulnerable. Titus didn’t seem to be bothered by the noise, which was unusual, but I turned away from him and took a step forward. The floor creaked under my slipper and I stopped, contemplating whether I should continue on bare-footed. I decided against it in case I had to flee the house—there was a lot of snow, and the last thing I needed was frostbite on top of everything else.
I moved quietly into the kitchen. The noises continued in the back, as if someone was rummaging around, tossing things aside that weren’t worth stealing. I reached out and silently slid the largest knife we had out of the butcher block. Then I went to the door of the kitchen and peeked around the corner, knife held out before me, almost faint with fear.
“Holy F*CK!!” I screamed. There, on the window ledge of the back room, was a huge, black squirrel. It took one look at me and tried to climb the wall, then it fell back down, hit the floor, and ran towards me.
I let loose another string of excellent swear words, including references to mothers, lady parts, and things that a squirrel might do to itself, as I grabbed the baby gate we use to keep Titus out of the kitchen and shoved it against the entrance to the room. The squirrel stopped, ran back to the window, and leapt up onto the window sill with one swift jump, making me realize that the baby gate, which was only about 2 feet off the ground, was virtually useless as a means of keeping the squirrel from attacking me. It didn’t seem too bothered by the knife either, so I put it down.
I was in an absolute panic—at the sound of the baby gate, Titus had come running and was now barking his head off and trying to get past the gate into the back room. And as satisfying as that might have been, the last thing I wanted was a massacre on my hands. Titus OR the squirrel—it could have gone either way at this point, the squirrel was so freaked out. Finally it ran out of the family room and into the back room where it ran around in circles and tried to climb up the back patio door.
I stayed behind the baby gate for a minute, thinking and silently swearing to myself, then I climbed over the gate carefully, keeping the squirrel in clear view. It was more concerned with the back door, and it occurred to me that it was probably just as scared as I was. So I opened the kitchen door and held the screen wide.
“Here, squirrel,” I shouted, trying to get its attention. “Here, Mr. Squirrel—the nice door is open. Come on, let’s go!” It just stopped and stared at me, like there was no way it was coming near me, even if I was holding the door open. I patted my leg, hoping to convince it that I was gentle and kind. No dice. Finally, I went outside (thank god I’d kept the slippers on—there’s an advantage to being the Queen of Worst Case Scenarios), and held the screen door from the outside where it couldn’t see me. Within about ten seconds, the damned thing shot through the family room, straight out the door, and up the nearest tree, where it sat chittering at me like a small demon.
I ran back into the house, slammed the screen door shut and screamed, “F*CK YOU, TREE RAT!!”
Then I did what any normal person would do—I called Ken:
Ken: What’s up? Why are you hyperventilating? Is this a “sexy call”?
Me: I just pulled a knife on a tree rat.
Me: I thought it was a burglar.
Ken: You pulled a knife on a burglar??!!
Me: No, a squirrel. There was a squirrel in the house. Oh my god, I’m dying here. I was so scared. How the f*ck did it get in the house?!
Ken: Probably came in through that old chimney in the back room. Check it and see.
Me: No f*cking way! What if there’s another one? I can only do this once!
Ken: I can’t believe Titus didn’t freak out when it was running around the family room.
Titus (from kitchen): I THOUGHT IT WAS THE CAT!!
I spent the rest of the day watching out the window, as the squirrel ran around the yard. It looked like it was plotting another foray into the house, so when Ken came home, I demanded that HE check the old chimney. He got up on the back of the couch and opened the door to the cupboard where the chimney opening was. “Wow,” he said. “Looks like that squirrel had to push through a nest of leaves and sticks to get in here.” And then I was like, “Oh my god, this is reverse Narnia!”
1) Instead of a small child hiding in a wardrobe and crawling through coats from a big house into a magical snowy land, a small squirrel from a snowy land hides in a chimney and crawls through leaves into a magical big house.
2) Instead of a small child meeting a giant squirrel wearing a waistcoat, a small squirrel meets a giant woman wearing a housecoat. (Ken says it was actually a beaver, but I’m ignoring him because that doesn’t fit the narrative. Also, “giant beaver”. Snort.)
3) Instead of meeting a talking lion, the squirrel meets a talking dog. Is the dog god? Only time will tell.
Yesterday, I looked outside, and the squirrel was sitting on an old tree stump, staring at the house. And last night, I was half-asleep when Titus wagged his tail, and I jumped out of bed, thinking it was the squirrel back to attack me. Anybody know where I can find a White Witch?
*You might have noticed I’m posting a day early. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, and it’s a busy time for mydangblog and the gang, so have yourself a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Thanks to all my wonderful followers—let’s hope 2018 is like this:
2016: It can’t get any worse.
2017: Hold my beer.
2018: B*tch, sit back down. We can work this out.