I woke up with the feeling that something bad was going to happen today. Maybe it's because it was Monday, the smelly kid on the bus day of the week; maybe it's because I stayed up too late reading stupid things on borrowed (stolen?) internets; maybe it's because I had Taco Bell for "dinner" last night. Regardless - although it's probably the last one - misfortune seemed a surety.
When I rolled out of bed, I felt like a contestant on Press Your Luck. No whammies, no whammies, no whammies...stop! As a kid I always cheered for the whammies, both because they reminded me of cartoon Gremlins and because I was already a consumer of human misery.
I got ready for work (no whammies), and aside from knocking my new glasses onto the floor, all went well. I was running late and didn't get to make my bed, but my OCD isn't the boss of me on days that aren't prime numbers.
I walked to work, trying to make the best of it. It was unseasonably warm that day; I wondered if there was an expression for it, like Native American winter. The sun shone serenely from behind some clouds (no whammies), and there was a gentle breeze. I smiled.
Then I heard a loud pop and a squirrel fell to the street beside me.
The whammies, cartoonish and red, poured out of the bushes in sunglasses and capes to run a lawnmower over my dreams of a happy day, giggling maniacally. I heard my seven year old self laughing at my twenty four year old self and I wanted to smack him.
I stared at the squirrel, as one must stare at a smoking mammal suddenly fallen from the sky. He was in the process of squirrel convulsions, little arms grabbing at his chest like the old guy on Sanford & Son.
"He's a goner," I thought, "dead before he even hit the ground. He's been forced to do this hideous pantomime by that harsh mistress, electricity."
I preemptively mourned the squirrel, and wondered what unisex bathroom nightmare of a day awaited me after this. However, wonder of all wonders, the squirrel rolled himself to his feet and laid/stood there, whatever the word is for four legged animals.
The squirrel's second chance on life was already running out, however, as I heard tires on the asphalt. looked up nd saw a ar racing down the narrow lanes of Mill St. I stood transfixed, hoping the car wouldn't crush the squirrel, but unwilling to jump into the street like an arboreal Secret Service agent. I thought it's not one of nature's miracles if you survive sudden death only to have even sudden-er death turn you into paste.
I couldn't look away.
The car saw the little guy at the last moment and drifted into the other lane to avoid him. I can't express how happy I was that the universe was finally working like Mr. Rogers told me it was supposed to. I shuddered at the alternative, which would be akin to the Little Engine That Could mustering up the determination to make it over the hill, only to be melted down on the other side to make flusher handles for gas station toilets.
Mr. Squirrel was still in the street, however, and the next car might not be as invested in his welfare - and the resultant lessons about determination - as I was. I had to get him out of the street. Despite growing up in a city, I knew that trying to grab a wild animal that's been injured is like looking down the barrel of a gun to see if it's loaded.
I saw some sizable branches nearby, courtesy of the recent ice storm, and I grabbed the longest one I could find. I looked both ways, and proceeded the short distance into the thoroughfare to do my duty.
Armed with my poking stick, I gently prodded the squirrel. For a moment the absurdity of what I was doing struck me, but I resolutely pushed it down into the same mental cellar where I keep most of middle school. I told the squirrel in what I assumed as a reassuring tone, "C'mon buddy, you gotta move."
I readied myself to use the stick in self-defense if he decided I was a threat, though I wasn't pumped about my chances. His little body was rigid, and I foresaw having to use the stick like a plow, his claws digging tiny furrows in the blacktop as I shuffleboarded him to safety.
Thankfully, it only took one more poke for him to slowly walk-hop towards the sidewalk.
The squirrel paused at the base of a tree and regarded me with an almost human expression of confusion, or perhaps gratitude - I'm not experienced with squirrel emotions, and their faces are tiny. He eyed me and my stick warily; the way things were going for him, I was likely to try and beat the shit out of him with it.
He seemed okay - I'm no squirrel doctor - so I left him like that.
As I walked away, I wondered if he was going to make it. He was electrocuted and fell two stories onto the pavement, which couldn't have been kind to his insides. I don't know whether he was the luckiest or unluckiest squirrel in the world, lacking sufficient data about whether there were any squirrels near Chernobyl.
The squirrel encounter changed me, however; I think in saving him, I saved myself.
My stride was proud as I entered work, and my noble manner cloaked me as a raiment. I took my coat off and handed it to Sancho Panza, my squire and faithful companion in all adventures; my will was firm, my resolution absolute, and Ice Branch gave me comfort as it rested weightily at my side.
My name is James David, and I am the Squirrel Poker.