It was Brian and my first apartment in Louisville. It was an old house that had a visible lean to it and cracks in the walls, which made it hard to heat. It’s on Oak Street near Clay. Drive by sometime; you’ll know which one it is by the lean. I remember that the landlord had been doing some work on the roof.
Brian and I came home one day to see the cats, Pyewacket and Mystra, sitting in the dining room and staring intently at the utility closet door. I knew immediately that something was up. While both cats had their odd little ways, this was not normal behavior for them. So I walk in and open the closet door, and there’s Mr. Squirrel, sitting on the water heater, not looking at all amused. Apparently, he’s fallen and he can’t get out. Pity he didn’t have a little squirrel medic alert button.
So Bri and I bustle both cats into the bedroom and shut the door. Then I make a plan to help Mr. Squirrel get back outside. My master plan involves record albums–that’s vinyl to you young ‘uns–and the Door to Nowhere.
We live on the second floor of the leaning house. As you walk in the apartment you stand in the living room. Turn right and you go through the archway to the dining room, and then the little hallway of a kitchen. In the kitchen is the Door to Nowhere. A normal door with a window, that when opened looks on the backyard and a steep drop to the roof of the first floor apartment’s porch. I guess the converters left it as a make-do fire escape, which would work fine if you didn’t mind risking a broken leg or two.
My master plan involves getting Mr. Squirrel from the utility closet in the dining room to the Door to Nowhere. All I need to do is get him to where he can see the door and I know he’ll gladly take the opportunity to escape his utility closet hell. The one problem with my master plan is the archway to the living room. It has no door and I have nothing to block it with. I do not want a squirrel in my living room, nor do I want to chase a frightened squirrel for hours through my apartment. So I give the matter a couple minutes of thought and I come up with record albums.
Brian laughs at me as I construct a twelve inch barricade of vinyl across the archway between the dining room and living room. “That’s never going to work!” he says. I do it anyway. While I don’t have much knowledge of squirrels, I do know something of the behavior of rodents due to a slew of pet rats and mice over the course of my life. Your average rodent, while running on the ground in flight from something, is looking for a quick and easy escape. They will turn from most obstacles, even a barrier only twelve inches high.
The cats are still sequestered in the bedroom, Brian is still snickering at the vinyl barricade, and I open the closet door. Mr. Squirrel just sits on the water heater and stares at me. “Shoo,” I say. No reaction from Mr. Squirrel; he continues to regard me intently. He makes no noise, just stares at me as if he is calculating the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow, or wondering how I’d taste with a side of fava beans. His intense scrutiny is a bit unnerving, but I, experienced rodent wrangler, am unfazed. So I go and get the broom. “Shoo,” I say again as I brandish the broom at him.
Now here’s where my lack of squirrel knowledge comes into play. You see, at this time in my life I do not yet know that a squirrel, while not usually aggressive, will use a unique tactic when cornered.
Mr. Squirrel jumped straight at my head.
Only my quick duck saved me from a face-full of angry squirrel. By leaping at my head, Mr. Squirrel ended up going towards the direction of the living room, and landed facing all twelve inches of impenetrable record sleeve barricade. Brian stopped snickering as Mr. Squirrel veered away from my tiny, make-shift barrier as if it represented instant death. I almost missed the effectiveness of my master plan, as I was dancing around shouting “He jumped at my head! He jumped at my head!”
Mr. Squirrel ran around the dining room, mostly on the wall like an Indy car taking the turn, and looking just as fast. He was a vaguely squirrel shaped streak. He dashed into the kitchen. By the time we got there to look, he was long gone, out the Door to Nowhere.
So remember this, my friends. A fleeing rodent will tend to turn away from any barrier, no matter how laughable. And a cornered squirrel will jump at your head. So duck!