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A Squirrel in Hand

Is worth a king-sized candy bar in the Baker neighborhood.

When I first moved into my house, there were three purchases I intended to make immediately. I wanted a barbecue, on which I could quickly determine what foods can be grilled. What's cooking tonight, Adam? Glad you asked: macaroni and cheese, Hot Pockets and flan. The second buy would be a porch swing, on which I could sit and watch the revolving door of Mexican day laborers going in and out of the apartment building across the street. Finally, I planned to get a birdbath. But after settling into the house, I realized I didn't have nearly enough money left to pay for these necessities. So I made compromises. In the absence of a barbecue, I now experiment nightly with what food items I can make explode in the microwave. Instead of a porch swing from which I can watch the Mexican day laborers, I've hired a day laborer. And though Octavio's lap does not have the fluidity of motion of a swing, his gentle caresses of my hair on these autumn nights more than make up for it. And instead of a pricey birdbath, I purchased a bird feeder.

I'm sorry, did I say bird feeder? What I meant to say was a rabid-fucking-magnet-for-rat-faced-little-fuckers. Squirrels.

And the purchase started out with such promise. I bounded home from SuperTarget, avian thoughts fluttering uncontrollably in my mind like a bird slamming itself into a window over and over again in a futile attempt to escape, mashing itself into that window until it's nothing more than a mangled, bloody heap of feathers, beaks and broken dreams. I hung the bird feeder near the garage and waited. And waited. Made sure there was water in Octavio's dish, then waited some more. But no birds came. Each day I would return home, and there would be my bird feeder, swaying in the breeze, holding the same amount of feed as when I'd left that morning.

"Hey, that's a really pretty sculpture you hung in the back yard," said Monty, my roommate. "Too bad it doesn't attract birds."

"Go fuck yourself, Monty," I replied. "Your rent just went up another hundred bucks."

And then one day, I came home from work and there were birds. My, how there were birds! Sparrows of every shape and size, a Cassin's Finch (identifiable by its red head), either a Gilded or a Northern Flicker, and some little guy I couldn't identify in time, but which may have been a tiny woodpecker judging from the way he was hammering away at the base of a small tree.

The next day I came home and found that the crows had arrived. A whole murder of them, cocky and black, intimidating the hell out of any birds not in their clan. I'm not bigoted against crows -- I knew plenty of good crows growing up -- but let's face it, when crows move into an area, it's ruined. No other type of bird is going to come. So I sprayed the crows with a hose. But they didn't leave. They just dried off and then ate every last ounce of birdseed.

I waited several days before refilling the feeder so the crows would stop thinking of it as a place where they could get a free meal. And it worked: When I finally restocked it, a bonanza of avian friends flocked to the feeder. But then the squirrels came. The incursion started with just one, an arrogant fella, and I watched as several sparrows were scared off by the awkward leaping of this pest from the roof to the feeder. I'd never been one of those guys who have a pellet or air gun for shooting at squirrels; those young men go on to play lacrosse, then beat their wives, in that order. But I wanted this squirrel gone, so I picked up a pile of wood chips and began hurling them at him. The first few whizzed over his head. Then I leaned back and really fired one, and it hit the squirrel right in his fat little body. He didn't fall off the feeder, but he was stunned. And when he retained his senses, he begin hissing slowly, then suddenly faster, in a way that I can only describe as purely evil, and he puffed up his fur and looked right at me with unbridled seething rage. I ran inside and watched through the window as this squirrel and a dozen others -- no doubt summoned through creepy squirrel telepathy -- knocked the bird feeder to the ground and devoured the feed.

I haven't refilled my bird feeder again, because I don't know what do from here. But that will soon be solved. Halloween is nigh, and when I hand out candy, I will also make this offer to trick-or-treaters: Make this problem disappear, and you will receive a king-sized candy bar. I don't want to know how you do it, I don't want to know when you do it. I just want the squirrels gone. I've seen the way the neighborhood kids behave toward animals on nearby streets; they're clearly the miscreants for the job, and they obviously like candy. So if they scratch my back, I'll prolong the child-obesity epidemic.

If that doesn't work, I suppose I'll bring the squirrel issue to Octavio's attention. He's really quite handy.

 
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