The “ghetto squirrel” was in top form preparing for the long Michigan winter ahead. In his mouth were three huge green balls. I watched as he scampered across the drive carefully gripping the orbs with his widespread lips and tong-like teeth.
Inappropriately named by my smartass son for his sleek black coat and wily ways, the squirrel was particularly rambunctious that day as he raced back and forth across the lawn hording walnuts unpeeled.
Who even has a walnut tree? For a moment I wondered but quickly I returned to my happy chore. We were heading to our cabin for three weeks—the record stay.
As we chucked bags and boxes into the car the ominous hood rat watched. A couple of times we even caught him lurking inside the garage; I brave move given all of the commotion.
I warned my husband. “Watch out! That’s the last thing we need while we are gone…a trapped squirrel wreaking havoc!”
While we thought the leaves would have begun to fall before we returned it had been unusually warm. Unloading our bags and passing through the garage I thought I detected a slight odor.
Garbage, I thought. The kids must have left some food around. Even though we have several comfortable rooms for “hanging out” our adult boys gravitate closer to the out-of-doors and often lounge in lawn chairs drinking beer in what has become the rudimentary foundations of a future “man cave.” Dismissing the smell as something that could wait, we turned in extra early without a care.
The next morning I had all but forgotten about the odd scent when I opened the door to leave for work.
“Damn it!” I cursed as a fly buzzed by my face toward the light.
And then it hit me. It had gotten worse…way worse. Holding the crux of my elbow up to cover my nose, I took a quick spin around the garage but found nothing. Having no choice but to leave for work, I pushed the button closing the door close behind me.
“The garage is rank!” I texted by husband, “I think that dreadful squirrel got in and died while we were gone!”
That night and the next we returned late too late to get involved. Vowing to get to the bottom of the stench, we’d pass through the odorous cave holding our noses.
Finally on the third evening, we dug in and our noses led us to a stack of tires. As I peered down the black doughnut rounds, I spied the pulsing white heart organ next to a dry pint of spiced Morgan. A packaged meat tray was being devoured by maggots. One can of hornet spray later Frankenstein’s organ was silenced. It was over.
Or so we thought. The next morning when I was once more slapped by a putrid hand. The heart has been obliterated but had begun to decay. That night I scrubbed until dark when I found that I’d inadvertently locked myself out. Which caused me to shout to my husband who was retired, on the uppermost floor.
“Kent! Kent Gleiss! I hollered. “Kent.”
After three tries Luis, the neighbor behind, peeped through the slats of the old fence line. I explained my plight and he offered his phone, but I couldn’t remember the number for the life of me. I looked up towards the glass sliding doors. The curtains were drawn and I could see the TV flashing which meant he’d never hear.
I gathered several sticks from the fire pit pile and began to hurl them up and over the balcony rail. Luis was amazed at my aim. On the third strike my husband peered out and waved to our neighbor.
“Nice evening!” He said straining to see.
“I’m locked out!” I cried holding my arm and motioning as if I was turning a key.
But before I was sure that my message transferred my husband disappeared. After several minutes Luis asked if I was going to build a fire to keep warm. For a brief moment I thought about sleeping in our fishing boat.
The next morning as I left for work the black squirrel ran across the drive and climbed up the birch tree when he stopped, did a little bob and weave, then stuck his head out and stared straight at me.