12 August 2003

Squirrel 1, Grad Student 0

Late last week I went into my kitchen for a glass of OJ and saw that my floor was strewn with unwrapped pieces of chocolate knocked from my pantry shelf. Panic set in. Visions of mice, even rats. (I like mice and rats in the abstract. Mrs. Frisby, Stuart Little, Nichodemus, and Templeton are among my favorite rodents ever. I just don't want them in my kitchen.) I promptly summoned my boyfriend to take me to his place for the evening. Yes, I remember the part in Little Town on the Prairie when Pa's hair is partially removed by a mouse. I didn't want to be bald for the beginning of the school year so it seemed like a good idea to sleep elsewhere.

The following morning featured frantic calls to my landlord, who promised to send an exterminator but also filled my head with visions of traps, rodents with broken backs, and desperate squeakings in the night. I don't want them in my kitchen, but I don't want them dead either. But, all this worry turned out to be unfounded. For that morning I noticed a hole in my window screen that hadn't been there previously. And sitting smugly on the window sill, on the inside that is, was a fat gray squirrel. It eyed me curiously before leaping down onto my pantry shelves, securing a piece of Toblerone chocolate raspberry, and disappearing back out the hole in the screen.

I was relieved, to say the least. Squirrels seem a lot more harmless than mice or rats. And this one could be kept on the outside, right? I patched the screen and disinfected the entire kitchen (having to throw away plenty of food the squirrel had raided: cheetos, tortilla chips, goldfish crackers, packets of cocoa, a bag of flour).

Squirrel chewed a new hole in the screen.

This time I heard him knocking around in there and rushed in screaming like a banshee. Squirrel darted out the window, leaving a somewhat smaller mess in his wake. I shut the window.

Squirrel chewed a hole in the screen of the other window and made off with parts of a rum-filled chocolate bar. Two things are certain here: one, this squirrel is a stubborn little bastard, and two, he has a monumental sweet tooth. I shut both windows, but with the heat and humidity and the wiring in my building being too ancient for air conditioning, the kitchen quickly became unbearably hot. My solution was to open the windows, repatch the screens, and sit quietly in the other room doing dissertation reading, with one ear pricked for kitchen sounds.

This time all I needed was a slight rustling to leap up and bound into the kitchen yelling. Squirrel didn't even make it in the window that time. Ah, victory. Ten minutes later I beaned him in the head with an oven mitt. The evening was calm, quiet, and squirrel-less.

I went to bed last night leaving the windows open only a crack. I was awakened this morning at around 6 to the sound of something crashing in the kitchen. Yes, not only can Squirrel chew through screens, apparently he can push the windows open enough to actually get in under them. He was in the process of chewing through one of my amaryllis bulbs when I burst in, sticky with sleep, to hurl the salt shaker at him. I missed. He leapt out the window, and I am back where I started, with a messy kitchen and closed windows.

My landlord has promised to have the miscreant trapped and removed. Removed to where, exactly, I don't know. But in the mean time I am off to purchase yet more screen patches and perhaps one of those thingies you plug in that emits high-frequency sound to repel rodents. Squirrel might be winning right now, but as John Paul Jones would say, "I have not yet begun to fight."


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