Monday, March 14, 2005

Uzbekistan! Squirrels!

After perhaps the best yoga session I've ever endured -- just five of us in a dark screening room at the Chaplin-A&M-Henson lot -- L and I went up the street to Uzbekistan for lunch. What a revelation! I veered away from grilled sturgeon at the last minute and ordered home-smoked salmon instead. L, who's from Russia, pronounced it the best she's had in years. Lobio, a salad of tender kidney beans, thin-sliced white onions, walnuts, and dill, was equally good -- addictive, even -- and the Eggplant Samarkand surprised us both. Imagine an insalata caprese in which pale green, lightly grilled eggplant slices are interleaved with sliced tomatoes in place of mozzarella, the whole surmounted by millions of bits of chopped raw garlic and dill and parsley. You can't imagine. Don't bother. Skip it. I won't go on about the spiced cream cheese or the freshly baked bread -- I'll only say it resembled a bagel with a floor on it -- and I won't even mention L's disappointing lamb dumplings. I will devote a moment to a rapturous description of the most impressively varied pickles platter I've ever seen whisk past me, and then pay brief homage to the Fred Flintstone monument of roast lamb leg that made a momentary stop at our table en route to its doggy bag future.

But what I really want to write about here is squirrels. Not all squirrels, just my squirrel.

Is he really mine? Of course not. Who has a squirrel? A ferret, maybe. But this character is no ferret. I used to think he (or she -- let's be fair) was a rat. That was before I'd actually witnessed the devastation he'd wrought. Let us recap. I leave home for two weeks. While I enjoy glorious unseasonable sunshine in Oregon, rainstorms of biblical proportions afflict my hometown. At some point in that wet fortnight, this ... critter clambers from my roof and into the vent above the stove and drops -- whoosh -- six feet or more. At the bottom of the chute, he/she/it -- let us call this animal Clarence, shall we? -- lands on a grimy, dusty, bug-flecked rectangle of window screen and keeps falling, taking the grime and the dust and the dead bugs down with him, now freefalling through space, and bang! onto the griddle, where everything explodes in a flurry of filth and wet fur.

Fortunately, I am not cooking when he makes his entrance. Else it might look like a scene from the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers featuring Fat Freddy's Cat. (Catbert's evil ancestor, for those of you who never knew the FFFB or FFFBFFFC but keep an eye on modern comics.)

So he falls, he lands, he scores. He gathers his wits about him, our enterprising interloper, brushes himself off, and commences an inspection. He charts the terra incognita of my kitchen. Like Lewis and Clark, who chopped down trees and robbed Native Americans while mapping their way across this great continent of ours, Clarence knocks plants and glasses and antique milk and Pepsi bottles off the broad kitchen windowsill, doubtless twitching his glossy tail as he goes. He pees and poops as he goes too. Everywhere he goes. A very thorough fellow, that Clarence.

He soon tires of the kitchen and makes his way into the living room. There, he has a moment of discovery that rivals Lewis and Clark's own momentous arrival at the Pacific. But instead of rounding a bend and seeing the glorious blue ocean stretched out before him, he hops onto the coffee table and comes upon a broad, deep bowl filled with nuts. After years of struggling with foul acorns and the occasional grub, Clarence has chanced upon an absolute jackpot. He falls to feasting, cracking open first an almond, then a walnut, next a filbert, now a brazil nut, back to the almonds ... and eventually, regretfully, little by little, he slows down. His tiny midsection is swollen almost beyond recognition. So he pops a whole hazelnut into one cheek and starts to plan. In fact, he starts to squirrel away his new trove, nut by nut.

The fruits of his labors were not immediately apparent upon my return. What was clear was that he had climbed the dracaenas and toppled the tallest of them; scampered all over my desk and printer, leaving grimy footprints and nastier pellets around my office; and finally chewed a massive fucking hole in one of the living room windows. It was through this that he escaped. Yes, Clarence repaid my hospitality with a pile of wood chips and a ruined windowframe.

So how did I know Clarence was not a rat? When it rains it pours, and when vermin invade, they bring friends. Throw a party -- you'll see. In my case, a column of ants commandeered half the house, ferrying crumbs and grains of sugar from the kitchen all the way through the dining and living rooms to the front door. I suspect rival ant gangs put down their pincers to make the most of my deserted house. One of them -- either the Backyard Thorax Boys or the Frontyard Hill Gang -- set up a command and control center in the split leaf philodendron, a sort of winter palace for their fat and happy queen. I only discovered this unlikely ant nexus when I finally accepted that yes, I'd have to clean up the wreckage of the windowframe. Just about to start that process, I picked up the plant and ants swarmed up my hand. Recognition dawned slowly but dawn it did, and I hastened to the backyard, plant and ants in hand, to irrigate the pot and possibly flush the visitors back to their habitual outdoor haunts.

As I stood there, training a hose on the potting mix, a walnut bobbed to the surface. Then another. Then another. They were rotten and moldy, but they were clear evidence of a squirrel's paw. I was a little relived to discover that it had not been a rat, but rather a cute and fluffy squirrel that had trashed the place. Less Bubonic, somehow.

Fast-forward a few weeks. I still haven't fixed the window because I've been waiting for the weather to improve and ... well, for one really good reason. Any one. You got one? I mean, why bother? Controlled entropy is the byword of my house, though my mom prefers to invoke Tobacco Road, and a little thing like a ruined window frame is hardly enough to change my slide. But a fresh series of visits from Clarence just might do the trick.

And so. Three days ago, I came home to find small piles of dirt beside all the pots in the living room. And within each of those pots sat the remains of walnuts that had grown moldy and inedible since their interment some weeks ago. Clarence had returned via the hole in the window! So adept a camouflageur was he that he'd hidden nuts in all the potted plants, and I hadn't even noticed. But I noticed his return visit. More pellets. More dirt. He was driving me nuts.

So I boarded up the window and swept the living room yet again. Now I'm hoping Clarence or Clarissa has moved on to more outdoorsy pursuits. For my part, no nuts will darken my coffee table again -- it's just too risky. If I wanted a pet, I'd get sea monkeys. Or an ant farm.

So now, I have just one question. Does anyone out there know a good window person?

1 comment:

Olivier said...

"For my part, no nuts will darken my coffee table again -- it's just too risky."

Ok, I just lost it there! LMAO!