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Squirrel Bait

Lady Londonberry

There is a stereotype attached to Catholic schools, one of being beaten by nuns with rulers and learning to fear hell and the devil. But I’m actually going to save my tales of metal-lined straight-edge rulers finding their marks on my devil-worshiping seven-year-old wrists for a goooood therapist. Or at least someone waiting for the No. 1 bus at the Mass Ave. bus stop, on a day I decide I just want to drool and yell at passersby.

I will share a quick tale from the nunnery, for now, that has always stayed with me. One of the school’s nuns was walking through the forest-like section of Mission Hill separating Alleghany St. from Cherokee St. (We used to call it “The Jungle” as kids, and I’d later hide with friends and smoke cigarettes there when I was 13. Also, when I was 10, a bug flew down my throat as I barreled through the rocky dirty pathway on my bicycle. I’m actually still waiting to die from that and/or have my mommy “take it out.”) As the nun was walking through, a squirrel came scampering up to her, as squirrels do. But this squirrel happened to be rabid, and promptly chomped down on her ankle, not releasing it from its teeth. This nun, who was probably Chevy Chase,1 screamed for help and ran about with a wild invalid affixed to her ankle, causing a nearby priest to come to her assistance with a rifle. He blasted the critter off her.

I personally don’t see why priests or the Catholic church in general doesn’t devote the lions’ share of their sermons to Rabid Satan Squirrels, because, as a kid, this story terrified me. I feel they could really get their numbers back up. I mean come on! The devil is more played out than a backwards Judas Priest record. What about these squirrels? I’ve yet to hear about Rob Halford or K.K. Downing attacking nuns. This leads to my next thought: What happens when you play a Chipmunks record backwards? But I’ve been meaning to start a new religion anyway, so maybe I’ll hold off on that petition for a bit.

I was walking to work the other day,2 taking the scenic route as I’m wont to do when the weather is nice. I had just picked up a tea from Tealuxe on Newbury Street, and was going to cut through the Public Gardens and the Common on my way to the downtown Financial District. I had a cup of Lady Londonberry tea steeping and was proud I was even able to order a drink called Lady Londonberry without fear of shame or ridicule. I entered the Public Garden and maybe 50 feet through, I noticed a flurry of squirrels running up and down trees and over dying grass — a pretty normal sight for the area. However, one of these squirrels, after running around on the grass for a second, darted out onto the pavement. Typically, these are timid animals who flee the second someone is too close, which I felt I was.

The squirrel, dead-center in my path, turned around and looked towards me real quick, almost like a wildlife Slimer eyeing Dr. Peter Venkman.

It then began racing at me.

Still walking, I was saying to myself, “Eh, it will run off.” But it actually got about two inches away from my ankle. You know, what? I’m bullshitting. I don’t know if it was two inches away. I didn’t have a ruler nearby; I’m still terrified of the parochial beatdowns I was administered at their hands. In any event, this evil varmint was close enough that its tail had actually touched my jeans.

This sent me jumping in the air like a frail old woman. Or at least, a semi-professional hackey sacker determined to do that jester and get the full hack.

My headphones and blood pressure were high enough that the laughter of those nearby didn’t phase me. I picked up the pace and kept soldiering on. You know, like a solider. I was about to cross the footbridge and from out of nowhere, another squirrel loomed in front of me. Maybe it was the same squirrel. I don’t care if you think I’m racist. Because they all look the same to me.

And they all want to kill me.

Again, this squirrel came running towards me. Again I said, “It will pass?” And again I found myself jumping in the air like a twelve-year-old girl on a trampoline because I am a pussy. I couldn’t believe it.

This was not the worst case of rodents attacking me. Two others come to mind.

1) Twenty-one years old and sleeping on the couch at my parents’ house, I awake to something on my foot. My eyelids, bearing the weight of heavy sleep, pull back enough that I see a mouse on my foot. This caused me to pull off the sort of move that you will not see in a Kung Fu movie unless it has some $1,000,000 special effects. It was a kicking, sweeping action that somehow had me levitated for a second and then on my feet for more jumping and panicking. (As an aside, I feel this could be a much better way to wake someone up than a simple alarm clock. I would like to invent a clock that doesn’t beep or buzz, but lets a mouse out, attached to a rope, and jumps on you, or perhaps sends a spider free, falling down from the ceiling as some sort of snooze button. I think tardiness from oversleeping would become a thing of the past.)

2) Twenty years old. I had just worked a long shift at DeLuca’s Market on Newbury Street. It was the weeknight when all the new groceries had come in, and we had to stay late pricing and stocking. We usually ended up getting out around 1 A.M., in other words, usually too late to catch a bus. I love to walk, so I’d usually make the walk back to my apartment in Mission Hill from Newbury Street, weather permitting. I’ll try to sound as hip as I can, but I had just… you know… “done weed”? And this obviously made for a bit more of a paranoid walk. I had my music loud enough to be aloof and ignore everything around me.

I was walking down Mass Ave., right where the Christian Science building is. As soon as I walked past a trashcan, out jumped an enormous rat, blindsiding me. It landed on my chest3 and ran down my leg, then into the darkness.

You could have put me on ice skates. You could have put me in spandex. You could have put me in front of a high jump. I could have won the gold medal in every one of those Olympic events and then some if I had performed that maneuver for a panel of international judges. Passing a random drug test would have been another impressive trick.

To make matters worse, as I continued home, I could still feel the rat on me. I twitched my way up Huntington Ave. As I reached Mass Art, I saw a man with a huge cast on his leg lying on the sidewalk with his hands outstretched. I turned my Walkman off, curious to hear what he was saying. He was laying there whimpering, asking for help in a broken, battered voice. I had always been always cautious to help a shady stranger in the middle of the night on an empty street, but I was freaked out from the rat, to boot. I think I just sheepishly told him, “Sorry,” as I walked by.

Right as he was out of my vision, I could feel a whoosh of air behind me. The man had leapt to his feet and although I should have wondered, “Gee, I wonder if a mouse just landed on his foot and woke him up too,” I didn’t. He screamed, “YOU WHITE MOTHAFUCKA! GIMME YO SHIT!” and began running at me. Unfortunately for him, his leg cast, though brilliant in theory, really slowed him down. The irony that I ran for safety into the Mission Hill projects at two in the morning is a whole ‘nother story I suppose.

But back to the present. After my run-in with the squirrel, I crossed over to the Commons, making fun of myself for the girly acrobatic movements to which I treated a lunchtime crowd.

I ended up behind a NASCAR family clad in… what else? NASCAR windbreakers, Asics (I didn’t see if they had the gel, but the husband did look like a provider), sweatpants and stonewashed jeans, out for an afternoon stroll. Their son, who looked well-fed, no doubt from a breakfast of powdered drinks and powdered donuts, ran onto the grass off the cracked, jagged concrete walkway and began chasing… Anyone? Anyone?

A squirrel.

A squirrel which was headed right towards me.

Again I descended, landing on a bench with Lady Londonberry splashed on my jacket. I couldn’t help but think, “Man, they should really send that kid to Catholic school.”

    Footnotes

  1. No word as to whether she was indeed him, he of "Vacation" and the original Steely Dan lineup.
  2. Well... at least a few months ago.
  3. !