by Nelson Holmes
GARDNER- There are days when some strange occurrence causes the mental cogs to turn in unaccustomed ways and from this mental industry strange and divergent thoughts get tied together. In this case the thoughts involve a squirrel, UFO abduction, and road-kill. How’s that for window dressing a stage ripe for explanation?
It all began a couple weeks ago. I arose on Saturday earlier than most would consider reasonable and tried to get the attention of my nervous system with dangerous quantities of caffeine. Though I rise early I’m in no way a “morning person.” I tend to start my days running through a mental list of the things that need doing and why I don’t want to be bothered with any of them. My most important obligation was seeing to the cats of a friend who was out of town. Making that task the foremost on my agenda, I started out on the dirt roads that lead to Gardner. The morning was pretty enough and I was starting to see the world with a little less contempt. Then, as I crossed the Huerfano River, I saw something darting through the dappled shadow of the cottonwoods that lined the road. A squirrel was running ahead of me and, sure enough, I could tell he was preparing for a suicidal dash to the other side. I slowed, but not in time. The little devil ran to the center of the road and, in what must have been a moment of sensory overload for his wee rodent brain, stood up. All I could manage to do was shout unheard words of warning to the little soul, my last sentence punctuated by a thump.
I hate running over anything. A swallowtail butterfly bursting on my windshield can turn my mind to dark metaphor. But living out here, you get a little numb to the experience. And so it was that Saturday, and my thoughts quickly turned to what I might find for breakfast at Papa Joe’s. I arrived at my friend’s place and on my way to his door I thought to look back at my vehicle. There, hanging from the front of the van, was the body of a little squirrel, his head wedged between the grill and the chassis. The sight was morbidly humorous and I would simply have disposed of the little carcass had I not noticed his chest rising and falling in panicked breath. In a mad rush I tugged at the van’s broken hood-release then out to the latch; with a click he fell to the ground. I could see no visible damage. The squirrel stood statue still, his eyes wide and unseeing. I stroked his back and he started so, by my twisted logic, the next step was tossing a pebble at his frightened form. This caused him to scurry off into the bushes, apparently no worse for wear.
Sitting in the dirt by the hood of my van, I started thinking. If the little guy weaves a yarn from this experience, what would it be? I’m sure it would be a harrowing tale of abduction, being snatched from his normal life, made to endure a period of noise and darkness, and then released into a strange locale far from family and friends. He’ll probably start a support group, maybe write a book… wonder if he needs a literary agent.