This is a story about Zombie Squirrel.
Zombie Squirrel made his first appearance right at the tail end (no pun intended) of winter. He'd sit just outside of my home office window and stare in at me.
Usually, I wouldn't notice his arrival; then, he'd scare the pants off of me when I glanced up. Those black, blank and beady little eyeballs would be trained on mine. I swear to you that I could hear him mutter, "Braaaaaiiiins."
By mid-spring, Zombie Squirrel stopped coming around. Part of me was thrilled. Part of me was worried about the little guy. Or little gal. I never got a good enough look to say with any certainty.
Like so many things, Zombie Squirrel completely slipped out of my memory _ until the other morning when I let the dog out. She stopped dead about three steps from the door, which is weird for a puppy. Stopping is something only done in small doses and, then, only when sleeping.
But stop she did. So I stuck my head out. There was a dead squirrel in our backyard. He (or she, natch) was still on his feet. His eyes were still open, but looked lifeless, like the eyes in a taxidermied squirrel.
While I was figuring out what the next step needed to be, which was taking longer than you might think because my coffee cup had only just been filled and was inside, Lucy got close enough to the ex-squirrel to sniff his tail. The squirrel didn't move at all, confirming its state.
I galumphed up behind the dog, picked her up, and shoved her back into the house before she could make mischief with this woodland creature's remains. She was so excited, she tore into the living room and up onto the couch (where she is not allowed), which overturned the Diva's breakfast. Waffle and maple syrup went flying, all over the dog, the couch and the kid.
Because it's better that way.
Also, because I knew that the dog needed her al fresco potty break, I knew that the squirrel had to be relocated before I dealt with the other mess.
I pulled out a plastic bag, left the house through the back door to get to the garage. The squirrel was in the last place I'd seen him, still dead.
Once in the garage, I grabbed a shovel. The plan was to scoop up the body, put it in the bag, then put the bag ... somewhere. That part of the plan was still a little fuzzy, frankly.
I went back to the spot where the squirrel had met his demise and the squirrel was gone.
I stood there and stared at the spot for a solid minute, pondering how some bigger critter must have scaled the fence and carried the body off in the 20 seconds it had taken me to walk to the garage and back. I also started to think about how bad my hearing must be, since I missed it.
And then I saw the squirrel, who was three feet from where I'd last seen him. He looked exactly the same, which was dead.
I shook my head. Maybe I'd just misremembered the spot. I mean, no coffee in my system yet and mistakes happen. Regardless, it was best to get this done quickly.
And then I touched the dead squirrel with the shovel, whereupon he took off like a rocket up the closest tree. He clung there, at eye level, and looked at me like I was the crazy one.
Or, at least, I think that's what he did. I was too busy trying to not have a heart attack.
So there we stood _ me with my shovel, Zombie Squirrel on the tree _ for a good five minutes. Then he scampered off and I went back inside.
The dog shot out the instant I opened the door, then promptly rolled her syrupy self in a pile of pine leaves and dirt.
Because it's better that way.
I stripped the cover off of the couch (yes, I have learned that the couch needs to be covered until the day the last kid leaves for college) and chucked it into the washer.
The Diva was left to her own devices.
Finally, I was reunited with my coffee and wandered upstairs to drink it in peace. My husband was just coming out of the shower, so I told him why there would be a shovel and Hannaford bag in the backyard.
"It wasn't even a long shower," he said.
Adrienne Martini is a freelance writer, instructor at the State University College at Oneonta, mom to Maddy and Cory, wife to Scott, and author of "Sweater Quest." Her columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/parentingimperfect.