Now wide awake, I jumped to my feet, pulled on a pair of sweatpants and a pair of tennis shoes as I dashed to the apartment door. The exterior door from the building’s hallway to the outside was just around the corner from my apartment, so I pushed outward on the aluminum bar and stepped out. Looking for a (now-silenced) quacker, I scanned the small grassy side lot and concrete walkway that led from the side street. No duck could be found. I glanced up at the top of the nearby power pole transformer and saw a small trailing wisp of smoke and a disconnected fuse hanging like a broken arm. My eyes moved down the pole towards the ground below when I noticed out of the corner of my eye that the exterior door had opened, and a figure had emerged. Though I didn’t know her name, I recognized her as one of the two women living in the corner apartment across the hallway from me. I had seen her and her “partner” on many occasions as they came and went. I asked her if she had also heard the quacking or the flash. She acknowledged that she had seen the flash and her power was also out. I explained that I suspected to find that an avian wader was our culprit, but had yet to locate the victim.
I fixed my attention back to the power pole and saw a brief movement in the leaf litter from the previous fall. Approaching cautiously, looking at the twisting form on the ground my initial thought was it was much too small for a duck. Recognition dawned on me as I bent over the gray and furry form that lay scrambling and smoking at my feet, a squirrel! Its tail looked like a hairless rope; its four feet had exploded at their last joints and remained attached by mere smoking ligaments, its ears showed signs of blood and it was pissed! My thoughts drifted to finding a club when the tree-hugging neighbor, who had now joined me in my visual triage screeched, “We’ve Got to Save It!” “Ahhh, save it?” I asked incredulously. “Yes, it’s injured and it needs help, so we’ve got to catch it!” she breathlessly continued. Now, I have successfully handled my share of woodsy creatures in the past, so the thought that an injured squirrel would not wish to be “saved” never entered my head. I reached forward to grab the squiggling writhing rodent assuming that it would appreciate my quick response to its plight as I placed it in the loving care of my neighbor. Wrong! As my hands closed over its slim body, it twisted its head around and BIT me.
Now I was pissed but only slightly wiser as I threw the beast to the ground, bringing my bleeding hand to my eyes for a quick inspection of the damage. “Damn it!” I exclaimed as I looked to my intrepid partner for an explanation she was unequipped to answer. “Are you sure about this “rescue” thing?” I implored while incredulously watching the quadriplegic repeatedly leap from the ground up to a nearby tree trunk, finding no purchase for escape. Seeing her resolve and confusion at my inability to capture a poor, injured defenseless mammal, I turned and walked to my car parked nearby in the lot, muttering, “I need gloves.” Hand protection in place, I searched the area that I had pitched “Rocky” to mount a different strategy. Movement in the nearby lilac bush drew my attention so I moved to intercept. I wish that I had thought to put on a tee-shirt as sharp sticks scratched my sides and chest while I parted the woodwork to lean in for another attempt at a merciful intervention. This time the wriggling and worming wee-titan of the forest spun and sunk its incisors deep into my gloved hands again and again, finally eliciting enough release to leap from my hands to the roadway and across. It scrambled like a fuel-injected tortoise on stumps to the other side as I stood there in stunned admiration of its tenacity. Never having been bested by any small creature before, I was now determined to finish the job. Running across the side street, my gloved hands outstretched, I plunged into yet another shrubbery. This time, ignoring the chewing, pinching twisting “victim” I crossed the street victoriously imploring for a box in which to place the squirrel.
The entire comedy had unfolded in the span of less than 5-minutes. Squirrel safely (I gave a damn if it was “safely”) in the neighbor’s cardboard box and out of my sight, I reentered my apartment to apply first aide to my throbbing hand. Greeted by my wife, I recounted a thumbnail sketch of the previous few minutes. She burst my triumphant bubble with a question; “Could that squirrel have had rabies?” Crap, I hadn’t thought of that in the heat of the capture. I cleaned and dressed my hand with a nagging worry in my gut. I promised to call a doctor’s office with her question as soon as I got to work, kissed her and off I went armed with the number for the clinic. Later, dialing the number with trepidation, I silently rehearsed the question and potential answer, wondering what the series of shots to my stomach would feel like. A nurse answered my call and sat listening patiently as I recounted the sins of my stupidity ending with the question I dreaded. Several moments went by as I strained to hear if she had registered the horror I had relayed to her through the telephone. The sound of stifled laughter came through the earpiece as she excused herself and her emotional outburst. Intense relief flooded my soul as she told me not to worry about squirrels and rabies, but to be extra careful of infection. “INFECTION!” I scoff at thee infection, for I have stared potential rabies in the face and it blinked.
Later that afternoon, with the results of my good fortune retold to my fretting wife, I enquired as to the squirrel’s condition at the loving hands of the local animal shelter. She grinned and said, “Oh, they put it to sleep.”