Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Batman and the Squirrel's Lair

Day 1: 

Like Kevin McCallister or Ferris Bueler, my story begins with a sick day.

batman sammy sick day cat

sick day batman sammy quills and frills

Batman squirrel's lair sick day Quills and Frills

My day's activities consisted of moaning and sniffling in bed, pleading with my cat Batman to cuddle with me, and plotting ways to get more chocolate and chips into my room. When my roommates left, I scuttled downstairs for chips and candy, so no one could see how far I had fallen.

sick day Batman squirrel's lair Quills and Frills

running sammy sick day

I put myself in self-inflicted quarantine to conceal from the world the husk of a human I had become. When Bob asked to come help me, I turned him away to protect his health and his opinion of me. I had become a mouth-breathing monster.

I went to bed early that night, cocooned in a blanket of self-pity. I had no idea it would be the last time I felt safe in my home. 

Day 2:

I awoke to Batman experiencing an existential crisis.

batman cat looking left

batman puzzled cat

batman cat looks right

Batman appeared to be investigating a new hole in the wall, the size of a fist. I brushed aside my tissue hill and put on my detective face. I didn't remember hitting a wall, and Batman's tiny paws couldn't punch through plaster.

Batman cat on the desk staring at lair

There was no other explanation: something had burrowed into my room. 

I climbed up on the desk for closer inspection while Batman awaited orders below. The hole appeared to house an animal nest. Two and a half inches in diameter; just big enough to give a headstrong squirrel access to my living quarters.

It was time to put my detective face on.

For formality's sake, I called my landlord to inform him of the situation. I don't like going to the higher-ups when I can solve a case on my own, but no one likes a maverick detective who can't take orders. 

He promised roofers would be over within a week to rectify the situation. Typical bureaucracy. Too much time spent on paperwork and not enough on the streets. I didn't need any backup. I had Batman.

Batman cat chewing tail Quills and Frills

Batman cat scared chewing on tail

But then I realized--if roofers patched the hole, the creature wouldn't be able to escape. He would be trapped and his blood would be on my hands. I don't like vandals, but no one deserves to die like that.

I needed to make that hole in the wall an unpleasant place to live. I hoped that if the home seemed too hostile, he would find a new residence. Hopefully in a tree or my neighbor's roof.

I armed myself with tweezers, an oven mitt, tongs, and a plastic bag, and began to disassemble the nest. The suspect made no appearance. For all I knew, the hole had been there even before I moved in. I removed much of the bedding (which was mostly insulation) and returned to the hard-earned work of feeling sorry for myself.

Day 3: 

I awoke to the sound of scratching on the walls. After a moment of baffled horror, I remembered yesterday's mystery. 

scratch scratch sick day sammy Batman cat

Something did live in there, then. And considering how costly all that scratching sounded, the landlord would surely call for an execution. I had to get him out of there. Groggy and feverish, I resumed my task of eviction. 

sammy puts on oven mitt sick day

The vandal replaced all the bedding I had removed the day before. I plucked out the material piece by piece. Inside, I heard the foreboding shuffle of tiny paws.

I removed the last piece of insulation and gazed into the abyss.

Saruman tongs insulation Quills and Frills

And the abyss gazed back.

sammy scared Quills and Frills

tongs insulation in saruman's lair

This was too big for one girl and her cat.

Batman cat scared Quills and Frills

I was used to handling tough cases on my own, but in this instance I am not afraid to say I needed help. I had never seen eyes so empty and cruel.

Roomates? sammy calls downstairs scared

sammy scared scratch scratch

I was alone. My roommates had evacuated the infected house, and I was to face this beast with only Batman by my side.

Batman cat chewing on wire

I wondered what the squirrel was thinking. Was he angry? Scared? Had he ever been in love? I needed to know him before I could defeat him.

sammy holding batman cat chewing on wire

But the beast remained wrapped in mystery.

I lay awake in bed that night, listening to him construct his home. Up in his big tower. Watching and delighting in the destruction below. In that long night, I named him Saruman. 

Day 4: 

Saruman began tunneling through the walls.

sick day sammy can't sleep batman cat

Probably building a squirrel city. Probably planning a wild squirrel party to invite all his squirrel friends and maybe a raccoon or opossum. I needed to stop this madness before vagabonds and hoodlums started partying in my walls.

Last night's confrontation still echoed in my mind, but I had only a few days to evacuate him before the roofers sealed his fate.

Saruman was surely evil, but I still could not bring myself to let him die.

I started subtle, tapping on the walls to wake him up and annoy him a bit. Scuffling within, and a squirrel--surely Saruman--hopped onto a branch from my windowsill. Did this mean I had won? Had he recognized my altruistic motives? Or (more likely) had he left his lair to quench his bloodthirst?

I took advantage of the unexpected time by sabotaging his base. I frantically pulled insulation from the hole. Leaves, plastic wrapping, receipts--society's carnage fell from his lair in terrible reminder of this squirrel's nefarious potential.

I tapped along the wall once more to test for any signs of life within. I wanted to go deeper, take out the whole nest.

But Saruman was not so easily disposed of.

Saruman squirrel lair Quills and Frills

He lurched from the wall and leered at me. There was no trace of fear or curiosity or mercy in those eyes. Just a hollow gaze that promised retribution. He maintained eye contact until I looked away, defeated.

Bob, a civilian with the guts of a private detective, arrived with some soup despite my warnings for him to keep away. I asked him for ideas, but like Batman, he had no answers. He didn't recognize the severity of the problem, either, and kept talking about topics such as "my day at work," "have you been drinking fluids?" "when's the last time you took your temperature?" and, the longest diversion: "did you like the soup?" 

sammy and bob talking scared

I met his questions with stoic silence. I knew there was a solution to this infestation. But time was running out.

The scratching continued into the night.

Day 5 10:45 AM: 

Saruman adopted a new strategy of throwing insulation out of the hole. I added sunglasses to my protective gear.

Batman succumbed to the diversion tactic immediately, and continued to attack the insulation with all the verve of a hungry velociraptor. Just like Saruman knew would happen.

batman cat chasing insulation

He disarmed my only ally by targeting her weakness: a passion for eating things that could kill her.

sammy oven mitt and batman cat wrestle

sammy and batman cat scared

His cruel and merciless tactics unnerved me. He observed us and learned from us. I did not doubt he would soon learn how to break us.

2:15 PM: 

SARUMAN BREACHED THE WALL! He entered the bedroom in an act of war. 

Saruman squirrel races around room

He was everywhere.

Saruman squirrel blurred

I frantically armed myself with the oven mitt and tongs, with no clear idea how I would capture Saruman safely. 

Batman, rather than help, experienced a number of conflicting emotions--excitement, terror, bloodlust, confusion.

batman cat confused

batman cat scared of saruman

Eventually the tug-of-war between terror and bloodlust became too confusing, and she army-crawled her way under my desk.

batman cat crawls under desk

Where she promptly forgot the threat and proceeded to eat a plastic bag.

batman cat sees plastic bag

sammy pulls batman cat away from bag

sammy pulls batman cat while saruman blurs past

batman cat terror

batman cat scratches up desk in fear

Eventually Saruman retreated, but Batman and I had been shaken to our core. We were never safe. He always watched.

Sammy? What are you doing in the closet? You haven't answered my calls all day. Shh... I'm listening for squirrels. sammy scared in closet bob confused

Day 5

Roofers arrived at noon. I donned an additional sweatshirt for armor as they secured the ladder and hoisted up their tools.

sammy scared climbs on desk

Saruman was ready for me this time. He burst from the hole in a cloud of pink insulation.

Saruman squirrel bursts out of lair of insulation

On instinct I stepped back and into nothingness. I grabbed for purchase, got a lamp instead, and knocked off the lamp, vanity mirror, graded exams, and my dignity.

sammy falls off of desk

Saruman squirrel evil look Quills and Frills

Batman cat checks on Sammy

Hours passed. The roofers left after patching some water damage in our roof, but the hole had not been touched. Bob visited again to see if my health had improved.

Oh hey, you're up! You feel any better? I just came back to grab my... Sammy scared bob questions

Sammy scared Bob confused

Sammy scared Bob grabs basketball

Sammy all alone with Batman cat and Saruman squirrel

And shortly left.

Day 8 and beyond: 

The roofers repaired all the water damage on the roof, but left without touching Saruman's lair. I called my landlord, but he didn't remember anything about a squirrel. "You were sick," he said, "maybe it's not actually an animal's nest, just water damage after all." 

I've since returned to work. My fever broke, and my health continues to improve. I hear the scratching in my room still, and it follows me into my dreams. Batman and I sleep in shifts. We have since ceased our attacks lest he enter the room again, but we know he lives there still, listening and waiting. 

I do not mention Saruman to my friends anymore. When I enter the room, my eyes skim past the hole. But still I stand, guarding the gate to evil with the silent vigil of the Night's Watch. Do not weep for me; I have chosen this path.

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