Close Encounters of the Squirrelly Kind

October 11, 2010

Down the driveway this morning to pick up the paper and I noticed a smaller size squirrel sitting in the bare branches just above my head, going through his own morning ablutions. Not close enough to touch, but still near enough that I could easily see bright eyes, sharp nails on fingers – just a little bit intimidating.

Then he noticed me and sat still as a statue, staring at me. Whatever possessed me this morning, I stared back.

I wondered if this was a wise approach, having heard that gorillas hate eye contact and will charge someone if they stare them in the eye. It’s like a challenge. This information is filed in my head, in preparation for the possibility of finding myself face to face with a silverback. I am all ready to meet such an opponent, knowing I will lower my eyes and appear submissive to avoid being torn apart. I will be safe in the event of a silverback encounter.

Do I need to appear submissive for this squirrel?

He released from his freeze and ran a few feet along the branch, parallel to me. He freezes again, all but his tail. That tail twitches and makes noise, almost like a clicking muted in fur. I had never heard this before – it surprised me. I was completely in the squirrel zone at that moment. I kept staring, thinking that unless he jumped at me from the tree and landed directly on my head, I was probably okay. I desperately tried to remember if I’d ever heard of any squirrel attacks in the neighborhood.

He circled around the tree trunk, tail twitching and clicking the whole time, freezing and releasing, freezing and releasing. I stood and watched, wondering what his next move would be, feeling weirdly connected with this squirrel. He started down the trunk, his profile to me. Then he stopped just a few feet from the ground and did the most curious thing. He stretched out one paw and did a “jazz hand”, spreading his fingers and jerking his paw in short waves.

For a moment, I thought it was a secret sign, a squirrel gang signal, and in seconds I’d be surrounded, pelted with acorns amidst flashes of fur and whips of cork-screwing tails.

He jumped down to the ground, gave me a rather disgusted look, and bounced away to my neighbor’s tree, where there were no rude, staring people. He was probably hoping that, when he comes back in his next life, it will be as a gorilla.

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