Thursday, December 09, 2004

Chase a squirrel in circles

This isn't actually a fun thing to do in DC, but my uproarious friend Kaelan's constant squirrel stories have me in a nostalgic mood.

I went to college in New Haven, and I think that the squirrels there were possessed by the spirits of megalomaniac aliens - perhaps the Martians that the Scientologists are always going on about. Or perhaps they were the victims of a Rats of Nimh-type IQ-expanding experiment conducted by deranged eighth-year med students in a secret laboratory beneath Beinecke Library. Whatever the reason, those squirrels were Jabba the Hut-ly fat, neck-jerkingly hyperactive, more ambitious than our MBA denizens, and fearless in that special way belonging to the totally insane.

My first introduction to the surreal world of Yale Squirrels came the first day of freshman year when, bright-eyed, I ventured out across Old Campus. A squirrel on the lawn was resting on his fat haunches, maniacally nibbling at something red in his fat paws. I noticed pieces of shiny silver paper scattered around him, and then a broken blister-pack of - could it be? - yep, cold medication gel-caps.

Now, these gel-caps contain active ingredients that have been calibrated for a human being with a weight averaging maybe 150 pounds. A squirrel, no matter how pudgy, is lucky to hit 2 pounds. A colossal overdose that would put any of Courtney Love's bloodcurdling pharmacological binges to shame was surely in the cards, and my sixteen-year-old heart swelled with tender concern for this hapless child of the Animal Kingdom. How could I save him from himself? "Drop that!" I exclaimed, and stepped towards the squirrel, waving my arms.

He blinked haughtily at me, and when it became clear I wasn't going to leave him alone, he trotted to the nearest tree, red capsule still lodged firmly in his mouth. He only went up about three feet, and when I came closer, he ran in circles around the tree trunk. Still anxious to preserve the greedy rodent's life, I continued to chase him, (running much faster since my circles had a wider radius), squawking, and flailing my arms. The squirrel continued running in lazy circles, until I became so dizzy that I fell over onto the grass, panting with my loss of wind and dignity, at which time he climbed down again and calmly continued to nibble at his gel-cap. By this time I'd collected quite a crowd, many of whom were snickering at my complete and utter squirrel annihilation.

It was a good scene-setter for the next four years. My roommate Anna and I were devoted dining-hall thieves, and it was a rare dinner we wouldn't return from with a tall stack of cookies or a few boxes of cereal. We were also fresh-air fiends; we kept the windows open well into the dead of winter. As a result, our living room became a sort of squirrel watering hole. Sometimes only the signs of squirrel presence would be there: some muddy pawprints, a cookie half-eaten and a small pile of napkin shreds confetti'd on the ground. Sometimes we'd notice their bristly tails as they scurried out the window. But often, if they were in an obstreporous mood, they wouldn't heed our home-coming one bit. I'd open the door to see a gigantic squirrel sitting on our table, his massive belly spilling over his ankles, holding up a cookie half his size with his paws, and peering at me over it. He'd just stare, and chew, and take another bite. Sometimes the squirrel would achieve a particularly unnerving effect by staying motionless except for his beady little eyes, which he'd roll furiously around in their sockets.

At some point I decided that the only way to fight lunacy was with lunacy. When I came home to a squirrel guest, I'd jump up and down, stamp, scream in tongues, wave my books in strange circles through the air, and shoot rubber bands at them. Usually this had the desired effect of actually shocking the little bastards, but once it worked too well. The squirrel must have been so alarmed by my fiendish behavior that he forgot that he came in by the window, and instead darted for the door. Unfortunately, since I was standing in front of the doorway, this meant that he collided with my foot, then actually ran all the way up my jeans leg, up my jacket, and launched himself off my shoulder for freedom. The sensation of tiny squirrel toes clambering all the way up my body is not one I'm going to forget, ever.

To be honest, I enjoyed the drama. One of my assignments in English class was to write a parody of a famous poem, so I chose to skewer Yeat's "The Wild Swans at Coole" with my own "The Squirrels at Yale."

And I must admit that I got off pretty easily, when it comes to Yale squirrels. I have a dear friend who arrived at her dorm room after a two-week vacation to discover that a female squirrel had developed an affinity for her bedroom. This affinity was so great, in fact, that this squirrel, who happened to be pregnant, had chosen to give birth to a squalling litter of a dozen tiny, bloody, finger-sized babies - along with afterbirth and a pile of assorted nesting fluff - right in the center of my friend's pillow.


Blogger John Holt said...


You got the first belly laugh of the day!! This is GREAT!, and only adding to my conviction that squirrels are inherantly evil. (beady eyes = no soul)

I mean, this is DC....perhaps we should start a nonprofit based on our squirrel experiences? Liberals Against Squirrels? Redneck Squirrel Haters? We'll have to brainstorm. Protesting squirrels on the White House Lawn could be fun.


6:57 AM  
Blogger Sarah Smile said...

A squirrel protest? That's awesome! Now I have two great reasons to fly to DC.

11:58 AM  
Blogger Desert Island Boy said...

Ah, the drunken squirrel! I don't think I've been treated to that sight yet!

I do recall some of those critters nearly getting trapped in my bicycle spokes as I rode through campus (this was at Maryland), and my friend Greg has this story of a squirrel that was doing a suicide drill on a three lane highway. (That's when you run from baseline to first marker, back to baseline, over to second marker, back to baseline, over to third marker, back to..., it's the fibonacci sequence of athletics)

This however, takes the cake!

More like sparks fell on Alabama....

8:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

==A squirrel protest? That's awesome! Now I have two great reasons to fly to DC.==

You should see the squirrels around the Lincoln Memorial. They are well trained by the Vets & Tourists. Just make a sucking noise,tttttt, you'll get their attention. Works with ground hogs, chimpmucks, pikas, marmots , and even rats.

8:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Help me Dude, I'm lost.

I was searching for Elvis and somehow ended up in your blog, but you know I'm sure I saw Elvis in the supermarket yesterday.

No honest really, he was right there in front of me, next to the steaks singing "Love me Tender".

He said to me (his lip was only slightly curled) "Boy, you need to get yourself a shiny, new plasmatv to go with that blue suede sofa of yours.

But Elvis said I, In the Ghetto nobody has a plasma tv .

Dude I'm All Shook Up said Elvis. I think I'll have me another cheeseburger then I'm gonna go home and ask Michael Jackson to come round and watch that waaaay cool surfing scene in Apocalypse Now on my new plasma tv .

And then he just walked out of the supermarket singing. . .

"You give me love and consolation,
You give me strength to carry on "

Strange day or what? :-)

11:34 AM  

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