Monday, September 14, 2009

Home Invader? Bandit? Or Just too friendly?

Before I get on with today's tale, I'd like to impart some Breaking News! Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, who you may remember from PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, was the free-style disco champion of the whole of Derbyshire for a dozen years. Because "Gentlemen do not Conga". Don't believe me? Below is the proof, in this video by Mitchell & Webb:

Now on with today's blog, about a weird little incident:

My favorite writing place is in my second-story bedroom, sitting cross-legged on my bed with my laptop. It's close to a window to the back yard, with nice fresh air and plenty of light this time of year. In winter, it's like a connection with the rest of the world.

You can see in this photo the ceiling is vaulted and the upper window is half-circular, over a 60 inch wide main window. And notice, the distance from lower window to roof is at least four feet. There are no outside ledges.

Our cats, such as Jinx, shown here, have also always loved this window, where they can look down on the back yard, and when it's open, sit in the breeze and chase birds in their imaginations. After replacing the screen four times over the years, I've gotten lax, knowing it would have fresh kitty claw marks in no time. It really needs to be done badly, but it's become just one more thing to fix someday.

The big weeping white pine outside the window has grown taller than the house, and now and then Jinx is more than usually interested in it because a huge, fat brown squirrel roams up the tree and onto the roof, where I can hear him scampering. I'm guessing it's the feast of pine nuts that has made him so big and chubby. He's often down on the deck or roaming around on the beams where we hang plants, and he and Jinx eye each other with wary interest. He must weigh several pounds and is probably half again the size of a normal squirrel. (This pic isn't my squirrel, who seems to be hiding from me now. But he looks a lot like mine. And note the paws.)

Yesterday I was hard at work polishing a manuscript when I heard that familiar sound of a cat clawing on the screen, and I yelled at Jinx. But I looked up and she wasn't there. Then I heard the noise again so I got up to look, and spotted a new snag in the screen.

As I stood at the window, close up, suddenly this little gray paw reached out right in front of my eyes. "Why, you little rascal!" I said, and the paw withdrew and vanished. Remember the squirrel in ICE AGE? That's what it looked like.

And yes, the tear in the screen was just a little bit bigger.

I went outside and I've looked and looked at that tree, and can't see how he did it. There is one branch almost close enough, since most are too distant, but it's very skinny. And he could only have done it if he weighs enough to bend the branch down. Even at that, he must have a really long reach. The little critter was trying to trapeze his way to my window!

Does he want to get into the house? Is he just curious? Or is he getting a bit too friendly? Maybe hearing my voice scared him off. He often just watches me when I'm out on the deck, but other times he's skittered away when he heard me coming out the door. I hope he doesn't ever really latch onto the screen because I don't know how he'd get down without about a 15 foot fall.

Back when I was a kid, we lived in Olney, Illinois, the Home of the White Squirrel, and we had a squirrel that would actually come in the house for a treat, until one day she was freaked by a noise and ran across my baby sister to get out. We never saw her again. So I've always been partial to squirrels. But I really don't want them in my house. I know too much about the critters, you see, and they can be as bad as coons when trapped inside.

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I write write write. Sometimes I travel. Then I write some more. And I have a great family who understand that I write write write.