It was approximately the twentieth spruce cone, the one that whizzed into the back of my folding chair, where I sat reading, that made it impossible to ignore the squirrel thirty or so feet above me. The cones were dropping closer and faster.
In a kind of rodent blitzkrieg, they hit the plywood table behind me with sudden cracks, boomed off my twenty-five year old Coleman stove, skittered of the old lantern, snapped against the cement blocks around the fire pit, hit the log bench and the poplar side table just to my right. Most of them hit the rain-softened ground but from that height they still thudded. I began to count them, but because I was, at the same time, rereading Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking” I lost count and gave up.
I thought of moving my chair but didn’t out of curiosity of being hit. I was wearing a Vancouver Canucks cap which for some obscure reason may have gave me confidence, unwarranted of course, but confidence non-the-less.
I wondered if this was the same squirrel I had tormented–that would be his reading–two years ago by greasing the metal pole that held up the bird feeder. I amused myself by watching him, if it was him, attempt the climb. After the fourth leap, leg-spin, and slide to the ground he sat on his haunches, looked at his front feet like a fielder who just missed a pop-fly, licked off a bit of the oil, and scampered away confused, and, I thought, humiliated. The bird seed was safe…for awhile.
“Payback time my friend,” says the squirrel.
It had to be over a couple hundred cones before he moved on. It was only luck and my cap that saved me from a dead hit. Bedsides the back of my chair, one ricocheted and hit my thigh without consequence.
But squirrels do squirrel things. And autumn, if not here, is on the way and the cones are ready at the tops of spruce. In a while Red-squirrel will be on the ground carrying, stashing and carrying again to his secret place under the cabin. The whole squirrel operation shows foresight, industry, and not a small amount of domesticity. I must take note.