One recent evening, Scott was teaching a workshop and didn’t get home until about ten. After kissing me hello and shedding his computer bag, he poured himself a drink and headed over to the sofa, untucking his shirt, getting ready to relax.
“Before you get too comfortable,” I said in a tone that was part beseeching, part apologetic,“there’s something I need you to take care of outside.”
He stopped and looked at me. “There’s something dead in the backyard, isn’t there?”
The man knows me so well.
The “something dead” was a squirrel, located (ironically enough) right underneath the St. Francis shrine on the side fence. I’d noticed it earlier that day, when I was out watering flowers with Matthew; not wanting to get too close, I’d peered at it from a very safe distance. It was difficult, at several feet removed, to tell whether this squirrel was whole or partial, but the tail was unmistakable. Through great artfulness and strategy, I managed to get Matthew out of the yard before he noticed it, but it had been looming in my mind all day.
It’s not that I was mourning the little critter. Beatrix Potter notwithstanding, I don’t have a particular fondness for squirrels, who seem inordinately fond of our yard. We have a very tall palm tree, and the squirrels love to nest high in the dead hanging fronds; it’s basically like a luxury penthouse for rodents. Occasionally they climb down, chasing each other around the fence and eating my yellow rosebuds (this.is.war.) and just generally being a pain in the bum. I see all this from my kitchen window, which looks right out onto the tree.
Once, in fact, I was standing at the sink when I saw two squirrels venture out from the fronds and move partway down the trunk, where they stopped. One of them then proceeded to move towards the other in a way that left no doubt as to his intentions. I immediately threw open the backdoor with a great clatter, scaring them away. It’s not like I relish the role of rodent morality police, but I’ll be darned if I’m going to just stand by and allow more squirrels to come into being. In fact, when I’ve seen the local homeless tabby cat look with alert longing at the squirrels as they scamper down the trunk, I’ll admit that my usual pacifism is tempered by the thought, Well, that would be a nice way to keep the population down.
But when confronted with evidence of the cat’s success at the base of the palm tree, I quailed. (Actually, maybe it wasn’t the cat’s doing. Maybe the squirrel simply fell. Or was he pushed?)
At any rate, this unfortunately meant that I had to keep the boys out of the backyard all day, reneging on my prior suggestion that we do an afternoon sprinkler party. Call me a wuss, but I didn’t want them to be confronted with such stark evidence of the circle of life. And there was no way I was going to pick it up myself.
Because you know what? Over the course of my life I have gone to live alone in a foreign country and have taught high school and have done other things that have made people say, “Wow, you must be really brave.” So if I have an issue around removing a dead squirrel, I’m okay with that; overall, I think I’ve proved my courage. And though I am normally not one to fall back on old-timey gender stereotypes, in this one area I can make June Cleaver look like Gloria Steinem. The sun rises in the east, and men get to handle the vermin. (And, yes, I always say thank you.)
Bless his heart, Scott didn’t roll his eyes or push back or say, “No, you do it.” Instead, he sighed ever so slightly and asked a few questions (what? where? etc.) and took a flashlight to go investigate. He came back in and said, “Yeah, I saw it. I’m going to relax for a bit, and I’ll get it later.”
He watched TV and unwound for about half an hour, during which time I started to fear that maybe he’d forgotten. Then finally he said, “Okay. I’ll go take care of it.” I channeled my best Bette Midler and sang, “Did you ever know that you’re my hero?” as he resolutely and generously headed out to do the unmentionable.
I think he already knows, and if he doesn’t, he does read this blog. Honey: you truly are my hero. One of these days, I just might greet you at the front door with your paper and slippers.