Apartment 13 Vs. the Squirrel
You might think I'm about to do a Fiction Friday post a day early with a title like that, but the story you're about to read is all true. Although I really should do a Fiction Friday post at some point. Anyway. Last Wednesday my girlfriend, Marisa, and I had dinner with her brother for Restaurant Week at Empire Steakhouse in Manhattan (quick review: nice atmosphere, annoyingly over-attentive staff, great wine selection, mind-blowing fried calamari, good chocolate cake, and a "well done" hamburger that was so rare it could have jumped off the plate and done the Macarena). We got home at about 10:45pm, I stop by the door to take my boots off, and she goes into the kitchen to put her doggie bag in the fridge.
And then I hear her scream.
Marisa comes running out of the kitchen, telling me there's a squirrel in the kitchen. She damn near runs past me and out the door as she tells me I need to do something about it, but she warns me the squirrel is "the size of a cat."
I figure she's exaggerating because she's scared, and I have no idea what she wants me to do. I'm a city boy; the only creatures that have ever been in any of my houses are either invited guests or mice, who run away the minute I breathe. By the time I get into the kitchen with a bucket I'm thinking I can use to trap the little guy and escort him to the door, he's taken his egress through a hole around the pipe under the kitchen sink, a hole that was made because of some prior plumber work that never got patched up. So now we can hear him in the walls. Marisa is freaking out and is calling everyone from the super to a random friend to her parents, none of whom can do anything because it's almost 11. I barricade the cabinet doors under the sink so if and when our furry friend comes back, he can't get out the doors and into the apartment and we do the only thing we can do: go to bed.
The next morning Marisa sets off for work and let's me know when she hears from the landlord that they're trying to get animal control to come, and then she's going to get one of the other tenants in the complex, Gary, who works with walls and whatnot to come over and patch the hole. of course, it snowed like the damn dickens on Thursday and animal control takes the day off. While I'm waiting for them, all morning I can here the little bastard coming and going through the wall, into the cabinet, banging our pots and pans and shit around. Every now and then I bang on something and send him away. Eventually Gary walks over from his apartment next door and throws some sheet rock over most of the hole and spackles over what's left. I'm looking at this, thinking a squirrel can chew through that, but Gary assures me that it'll take him a day or two to do so, and by then animal control will have come to get rid of him.
Y'know, if he doesn't die in the walls and stink the joint up first. But it's okay, my concern was misplaced.
Just to backtrack a bit, all day as I'm listening to this thing bang around, I'm contemplating the absurd amount of noise it's making and starting to doubt Marisa a little, because I'm thinking there's no way a little squirrel can be making THAT much noise. And my fears felt confirmed when it took that son of a bitch less than four hours to chew through the sheet rock and get back into the cabinet. Luckily, I had barricaded it back up in time to keep him in there. I call Marisa at work as it's about 5pm now, she calls the landlord, who's big idea is to send Gary back over. Because this worked so well the first time. Meanwhile, just to be on the safe side, I close the bedroom and bathroom doors, so in case the squirrel gets out of the cabinet he doesn't have free reign of the house. When Gary, who really is a very nice older guy, shows back up I tell him what's going on, and he wants to take a look. I warn him the squirrel, if that's what it really is, is right there. He slowly cracks one of the cabinet doors open barely an inch before the door gets banged open from the inside and a blur shoots out the door, out of the kitchen, does a lap around the living room, runs back into the kitchen, jumps on top of one of the laundry baskets I had used as a barricade, stands up on its hind legs, and just looks at us. Sort of like this:
So it IS a squirrel. But not a tree squirrel. No, it's a ground squirrel. Which is basically a bigger, longer, fatter tree squirrel. This one was so big that, after it looked at us and we looked at it in one of the weirdest Mexican standoffs ever, it hopped off the laundry basket and went over to one of our recycling bins and looked inside it, still on it's hind legs. That's how tall this thing was. So I tell Gary not to startle it as I run to the front door, open it up, and then open the screen door. Then I tell Gary to scare it, so he tries to kick it, something I never would have done considering it wasn't at all showing the appropriate level of fear and I half-thought it was going to attack us. The squirrel jumps around him and saunters... yes, the motherfucker literally sauntered... out the front door and into the snow without so much as a "by your leave" or a "so long and thanks for all the fish."
We look into the cabinet, after I locked the door back up like I half-expected the squirrel to stroll back through the door and dropkick his jacket Mr. Belvedere-style and set up residence, and see that he was chewing and scratching through our paper towels and plastic bags, basically nesting. Gary says he doesn't have anything that can plug the hole up anymore securely than sheet rock would at the moment and leaves, promising to come back in the morning. Meanwhile, I empty the cabinet of everything, in case the squirrel finds its way back in, so it'll have nothing to play with and hopefully move along. He never did come back, and in the morning Gary came back with not one but two lays of steel wire mesh and two cement boards, plugging the hole up but good. It's been a week since, and no sign of our friend since.
I did Google him after I saw him, which is how I found out it was a ground squirrel. Interesting fact about ground squirrels. When they feel threatened, they start screeching loudly to warn other ground squirrels nearby. Which, since he never uttered a sound, comfortingly means he was a lone wolf. Or, less comfortingly, means he knew he could take us.
Either way, if he had screeched at us in our kitchen, I swear I would have grabbed my things and let him keep the apartment.