I must admit, I do like to embellish stories. It’s better for everybody because I have not lead a particularly adventurous life. But the story I’m about to tell you, in honor of the new year, 2016 – um, well it is absolutely true… 99% with just a dash of embellishment.
This particular story happened a while ago; my son Chris, who just turned 28, was about 14 when this happened. We lived in a nice little suburb on Cooper Mountain near Beaverton Oregon. The house was a seventies vintage split level nestled in a grove of very tall Douglas fir trees. The top level was bedrooms of course and the mid level encompassed the kitchen, dining and living room; but the bottom level well, that was my den… AKA, the family room, but with a wet bar, fireplace, computer desk and a very impressive “audiofile” stereo system; if I do say so myself. It is safe to say I spent a majority of my waking hours in that room.
Another part of this story that needs to be understood is that my lovely wife Suzanne, was and is, a nurse… and at the time of this story she happened to be working night shifts, which meant she was asleep in our bedroom at the top level of our home. Let me just say right now that it was very important, very very important, not to wake her unless there was a full blown, fire breathing emergency that involves a complete and total threat to life and property. So right about now you may have some small idea of what it is like to sleep with the person I sleep with… any given night we retire together, there is a point of no return when she is not to be disturbed, until the morning breaks anew; which also explains why I get the elbow for snoring and not her. Ok, I’m most likely in more trouble than I’ve ever been (up to this point) so just remember how good this story was as you weep over my unfortunate demise.
But back to the story. So even though this story happens during a cool, sunny day in March, it comes to mind each holiday because of a tradition I have. Every Christmas I make a point of watching the movie, Christmas Vacation. I simply think it is one of the funniest movies that was ever made and it speaks to me in ways that my wife will never understand; but many times she watches it with me; and she laughs while questioning why. This makes me happy; year in, and year out.
But again, back to the story. So it was a cool sunny day in March. Suzanne was sleeping upstairs as I plinked away at my computer in my den below. Chris was upstairs somewhere, but we’re both being respectfully quiet for mom, who needs her sleep. As I said, I was plinking away at my computer… I think I was trying to write lyrics to a song I was working on, but that’s not really important. It was a gorgeous day and I was plinking away… at some point the clicking of my keyboard was interrupted by the sound of something from coming from the fireplace (it wasn’t burning). It sounded like debris… things… falling into my fireplace. By the time I turned my head to look there was nothing to be seen or heard. So I actually thought to myself “what’s that sound?”. I turned back the brand new blinds my wife had just installed and looked up through the window to the tree tops above; was there some wind I was not aware of? As I looked up at the trees I could see no movement; just the tree tops motionless against the backdrop of a beautiful blue sky. I looked back at the fireplace… nothing… so I turned back to my computer and began plinking away again.
Also sleeping that afternoon were our two tabby cats and our miniature dachshund, Tazzy. The cats were happily lounging on the back edge of a futon couch right next to the fireplace and Tazzy was most likely curled up over the heat register in the entryway upstairs. Suddenly that sound happened again in the fireplace. I remember staring at it for a moment and then looking for the cats to react; but apparently the cats had a long night too, because they didn’t move a single muscle. I went over to the fireplace and looked up the flue… and then down at the log grate. It seemed really odd but there was no obvious clues… I went over to the window and looked up threw the brand new blinds, at the treetops again.
It was a “scratch your head” moment so that’s exactly what I did… I scratched my head, looked back at the fireplace and then went back to plinking at my computer again. Not a minute went by when it happened again; the sound of debris falling into the fireplace; but this time there was a lot more debris… this time there was no time for a head scratch. This time I looked over at the fireplace and I saw it. Debris coming down my chimney into the fireplace. For some unexplained reason I looked back up through the window at the treetops, thinking something must be different… but the rain of noise in the fireplace pulled my head back… soon the sparse debris thickened into a pungent grey cloud that bellowed forth through the fireplace screen. I nearly hurt my neck as I swiveled my chair into a defensive position… it was fight or flight time.
As the ash cloud wafted from the fireplace I saw something… like a shadow… free falling into the wood grate like a skydiver who’s parachute was left somewhere other than where it was needed most. A split second later his head and body appeared at the top of the fireplace screen… he looked left, and then right, and then we locked gaze; we both had no idea what the hell just happened… but now we were going to be forced to deal with it. He was a very large grey squirrel and he was about to be totally fucking freaked out in my personal den.
I looked over at our pretty sizeable two cats who were just inches away from something that should have struck them as a good sized meal… they seemed annoyed by the ash cloud but they weren’t moving… dam’it I hate cats… pretty much always. In the meantime there is this moment when you know something crazy just happened; but the next moments are going to be off the friggen charts; I realize now that I underestimated the whole situation in those few seconds. I should have just burst out the door, fleeing and screaming down the street but no… I proceeded to try… try and figure out how to herd a squirrel out of my den; without waking the dog, who would go crazy barking, waking my wife, and god forbid the cats. And just a side note; if Tazzy had got involved, there would have been barking, chasing, fleeing, barking, chasing, fleeing, and more barking until Suzanne came downstairs; which would have caused me to burst out the door, fleeing and screaming down the street…
So in my loudest and most gentle voice, I hollered, whispered “Chris?” I heard his door open above and his footsteps as he angled down the stairway to the lower level. By this time the squirrel has started to bolt around the room in vectors only impeded by my frantic presence… we were squaring off big time and no good could come from it. Chris had the total, appropriate response to what he saw when he entered the room. “Shit!” I totally understood and I didn’t make a big deal of his choice of words because let’s face it… that’s exactly what I was thinking at the time.
Being the adult in the room I shouted “whispered” to Chris, “…get the dog and the cats into a room and shut the door”. Why the hell I was worried about the cats still baffles me to this day but that’s pretty much what I said. Chris took care of the pets and then rejoined me in the den. I had managed to keep the rodent (yes, by now, in my mind, he was a rodent) in the den but he was in the process of… well how do I explain this… he was desperately, violently, trying to escape, over the top of my stereo, my computer and to space between the window and those brand new blinds that my wife had just installed. The sound as he flailed against each blade of the blinds, to the very top of the window frame caused Chris to ask me… “Isn’t that mom’s new blinds?” I just shook my head… “Well son, if you want to go grab that buck toothed animal by the back of the neck and tell him ‘bad boy’… be my guest”. So we just watched him.
Eventually he came back down and, again, crossed my computer and stereo to get to the floor. Chris and I tried to make a “man wall” which is a little like a moving gingerbread man thing that kids cut out of paper and then move side to side in front of you like some crazy wall, full of obvious holes. But for some reason it kind of worked because the little rodent bolted for the sliding glass door (yes I forgot to mention there was a sliding glass door to a patio and my hot tub; God I loved that room)… yes he bolted, at top speed, because he could see freedom… freedom just beyond the room… the patio… and the hot tub. But Boom! He hit the sliding glass door so hard, his ass nearly was the last thing that went through his mind. The poor thing (rodent) looked at us… and then it started to flow. He now had a bloody nose.
Now if I had the forethought and the chance, I would have made sure the sliding door was open for that little “rodent” before he made his dash but that just didn’t happen. So he proceeded to revisit his earlier course of running over my stereo, my computer and my wife’s brand new blinds… This time with blood flowing… like everywhere and on everything. As I looked in horror at my stereo and my computer, Chris looked at that animal flailing again up the space between the window and the blinds… “Crap, that’s mom’s new blinds” he said. I crept over to the sliding glass door and opened it up.
After much flailing and blood spray the poor frightened “rodent” finally came back down from the window and proceeded to be-smerch my electronics as he made his way to the floor again. Chris and I made the same gingerbread man wall again but this time it took significantly more effort as the “rodent” had clearly learned a thing or two in his utter panic… He looked at the two of us, shifting back and forth, like we might be actually plugging the 99% air space we were offering him… but he saw freedom once again… beyond the room… the patio… and the hot tub. He bolted for it; but just as he got to the threshold he stopped.. looked very hard left and right… and then proceeded slowly through the door to freedom.
Chris and I looked at each other and laughed in relief. I closed the sliding glass door and he let the pets back out. Suzanne still lay in a sleepy slumber upstairs and would not know of the story until the next day.
So everytime I watch Christmas Vacation I laugh in a crazy maniacal way when I hear the line “What’s that sound?”
And by the way; It took two hours to clean up all the blood.