I love animals. I really do. If it were up to me I would have a cottage full of books, and a huge house filled with pets including: dogs, a giant sting ray, a sea turtle, an elephant, a few raccoons, a few pigs, and too many more to keep listing. There are four animals that if I never saw in person again it’d be too soon. They are: cats, flies, geese, and squirrels. I’m a dog person with a cat allergy, but I’ve been known to drunkenly bond with a kitten or two before (as long as some type of anti-allergy dosage was taken). Flies are disgusting. They land and feast on the unclean things the planet can offer and then land on your arm to leave countless germs spreading all over you. Someone once told me that on a countdown of grossest animals flies were in the number one spot. Geese are just evil. They leave pounds of feces on every possible inch of cement path that encircles a park with a pond.  Every time I’m brave enough to walk past a gaggle of them at the local park they bark and beeline for me. It’s the only time you’ll see me run outside of an emergency situation or when food isn’t the end result.

Squirrels on the other hand are cute. They have chubby cheeks and endearing statistics, like the one I heard once that a squirrel will only find 70% of the nuts it buries for the winter, leaving 30% hidden somewhere unbeknownst to anyone, including themselves. I can relate to that fact. Human Elizabeth is gullible, and if I were a squirrel I would uncover a pile of nuts and ask one of my fellow squirrels, “are these my nuts or yours?” In this situation everyone around, except me, know those nuts are mine, but the other squirrel, he would say they were his nuts and I would eventually starve to death believing that all the nuts I uncovered that day belonged to other squirrels. Squirrels are just as acrobatic as the people you see preforming circus or street acts. They can fly. I know it’s called jumping, but when they do it from branch to branch, it could be flying. They also can scurry up a tree, position themselves on a branch and stare you down as pass by, daring you to even think of coming closer before they leap onto your face and shred you to pieces. I’ve had many a stare down with squirrels – getting in or out of the car at work, at the park, and at my parent’s old house. A high school friend of mine had a show down with a squirrel carrying a full sized eggroll in its mouth across a path at her college. A friend of friend once had a squirrel get caught in their wall and force its way through the chimney walls shooting like Santa out into the fireplace wreaking havoc in the living room. (Please note: Santa does come down the chimney; however instead of leaving shreds of sofa and scratches on the hardwood floors, he leaves love, half eaten cookies, and presents.)

Much like rats and mice, anything a squirrel can get its head through it can eventually fit through (so I’ve heard). Although, I believe that unlike rats and mice, it is because a squirrel is a wiry beast that will shred, gnaw, and finagle its way inside. Last Saturday confirmed my theory I have about squirrels being relatively dumb and determined. Like most places of business, my job has a busy season where everyone is required to put in some overtime. Fortunately for me, I am blessed with “time and a half”, and that for every certain amount of hours I work I am rewarded with an extra Personal Time Off day. Clearly the places I’ve previously worked didn’t know what the words overtime or paid day off meant, since I’ve heard rumors that these two things are commonly known to most of America’s work force. In a weird way I’m also blessed to have a co-worker less enthused about working longer hours for more money than me which means I get to pick up the slack when this co-worker doesn’t feel like helping. Don’t read me wrong, that is not sarcasm, I am genuinely ecstatic to pick up the slack especially when it means some extra hours here and there. Momma needs a new car, but first she needs to pay her credit card bills.

This past Saturday I was working some overtime. My boss had left for the day leaving me, my music, and a fellow employee alone in the four story house I call an office. After cranking up some jamming tunes and working my butt off I was able to finish up my project in a little over an hour. Overtime is nice, but I worked two jobs this particular Saturday and hadn’t packed any extra snacks. Home was calling my name to the tune of dinner. Being the polite person I try to be, I went to the other side of the house to say goodbye to Jordan. He too had his music playing; only he has the decency to wear headphones. I waved, catching his attention and told him I was getting ready to head out when I heard this noise – it was something akin to a person fighting for their life, and people moving furniture in the condo upstairs. I asked Jordan who else was there, to which he replied, “no one”. I heard it again, except this time it sounded like it was coming from the end of the hall. I had just come from there since to get to Jordan’s desk from my office one would have to enter the hall, make a left, then a right, and voila, Jordan’s right there. After hearing it for a third time I had decided it came from the vent at the end of hall.

Me being the person I am, made Jordan leave his cozy desk and come to confirm that there was a noise. Jordan stood from his desk shaking his head at me, and we walked toward the vent… silence. Not a bump, a squeak, not even a faint thud was to be heard.  “Squirrel?!” I asked the vent, while Jordan only shook his head and began chuckling. “Shhh” I indicated with my finger, when THUD followed rapidly by a clawing noise erupted from the vent. Now Jordan, who eats tofu and has been a vegetarian since forever, just looks at me. It’s Saturday, no one else will be here until Monday. The temperature has been decreasing steadily for days and it’s not like either of us were qualified or planning to get the squirrel out. “I’ll text Montego and have him come save it.”

Montego texts me that he’ll save the squirrel, and knowing that someone else will do what neither of us can do is enough for me to leave work for the day with Jordan to continue his work with his headphones deeply embedded in his ears. On my way back to my office, I leaned in to the vent and very politely told the squirrel, “Don’t worry. Someone will save you Monday, just please don’t die and don’t eat Jordan,” and with a triple thud, double clawing combination I took to mean, “Thank you. I’ll do my best to live and I won’t eat your coworker” I left.

After a lovely weekend filled with painting, backsplash, and family I returned to work on Monday morning anxious to see Montego. Usually he doesn’t come in until later in the day, but for some reason when I went to the main building he was there in the hall as per usual. I asked him if he had saved the sneaky bastard squirrel. To my relief he said, “Sí mi amiga.” I went back to my routine of getting documents signed, getting people their copies, checking the mail, and working in a superfluous trip upstairs just to justify the brownie I packed as a snack. About twenty minutes later I returned to my building and to my desk only to realize I never put my lunch in the fridge when I had first gotten into work. Upon opening the door to the hallway my nose is bombarded by this borderline sweet, overwhelmingly repulsive smell. Barely making it to the fridge without throwing up, I shove my sandwich on the bottom shelf, hold my breath and return to my desk. Immediately I had the urge to text Montego that he is a dirty liar, but I fight it and planned on nailing him with a snowball later in the day instead. With the weekend, the cold temperatures and the squirrel stupidly getting himself trapped, he didn’t make it to be saved. Instead, he died, on the second floor of my building, in the vent that pours air into the hallway and into the only bathroom near my office; which is why squirrels are cute in photos and video clips, but not in real life, certainly not in a house or office building, and certainly not while decomposing near the bath and lunch rooms.

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