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Friday, Jan. 27, 2006
It all started at the Watering Hole a couple of weeks ago, as Ally and I did our usual Friday nightcap thing with Judy the bartender. Judy, the 90 pound spitfire who can balance a tray full of nachos and beer while running headlong through a Sunday football crowd and still blow me a kiss when I walk through the door.

“It’s my Mom’s house, Outfoxed,” said Judy. “She’s about at her wits end about it. Is there any way you could go over and take a look at it?” She has this habit of starting conversations as though I’m fully versed in the problem. Chances are she told me something when I was multitasking between a beer, the game on the TV and two separate conversations going on at the bar.

“Take a look at what?”, sez I.

“The squirrels! The squirrels! Don’t you remember last week I was tellin ye about the squirrels in her attic? They‘re up there running around all night and she‘s just about to lose her mind, thinks they‘re gonna come flying through the ceiling at 3 am or something.”

Oh. That problem.

It’s probably helpful to know that Judy and presumably her Mom are both animal lovers. The PETA sort of animal lovers. The “We don’t eat meat anymore” sort of animal lovers. Which is just one of the reasons why I tend to scratch my head and wonder out loud to Ally, “I can’t believe that one of my favorite bartenders, my pal, is a PETAite. Not to mention she has multiple tattoos and loves punk rock. What the hell?”

So I called Mrs. Judy (which was all I could think of for a moniker, and she seemed to get a kick out of it) a few days later, and we scheduled a play date for me to come over and romp through the attic with the squirrels. Maybe even fix the holes in her cornice, which is where the little bastards were getting into the house in the first place. I managed to round up my extension ladder from whoever had borrowed it last, since it was a second story job. Went to the store and got some ’Squirrel Shield’, which is nothing more than plaster screen, but will dull the teeth of the most determined rodent.

I had about a week to let this fester and Judy wasted no opportunity to let me know just how excited her Mom was to get this over with. “Ohmigod Outfoxed she calls me like everyday to make sure,” as I nursed a longneck and tried to think of pleasant things. “You’re not gonna hurt the squirrel now, are you?”

“Hurt ‘em? Naw, why would I go and do something like that? Although sittin’ at the curb with a .22 and handful of bullets would sure be more fun than scrambling up and down a ladder for half a day, now wouldn’t it? Might even cut my fee in half, don’t you know. I happen to like a little squirrel stew once in a while.”

She pursed her lips, muttered something about what she had to put up with in this damned place and fetched me another cold one.

So the great day came yesterday, and I moaned getting out of bed since I’d spent the previous two days scrambling around Big Daddy’s new deck on my knees, and they hurt. Matter of fact most of me hurt. I like decks, but they do tend to take a toll on me. And I wasn’t exactly looking forward to the whole extension ladder thing, either.

“Maybe it’ll rain today, and you can rest up a little bit,” said Ally. “You’ve been hitting it pretty hard the last few days. I’m sure Mrs. Judy won’t mind putting it off another day or so.”

“Huh. I wouldn’t be so sure of that. Somethin’ tells me if I don’t show up for this gig the Watering Hole is gonna be off limits for me. I do believe Judy and Mrs. Judy both would be up there hunting me down, and PETA be damned. They’d skin me alive.”

Naturally enough, the day was clear and sunny, a crisp 45 degrees. Perfect squirrel weather. I drove on over.

It wasn’t exactly rocket science. I looked up at the corner of the house and the end of a soffit had peeled back, allowing a nice little foot square hole right into the attic. And lo, a fuzzy head and clawed foot was poking out, taking the air of the morning so to say.

Mrs. Judy trotted out immediately and pointed skyward. “There! Do you see? That’s the one! Oh god oh my . . .”

“Well, let’s just take a look in the attic and see if there’s anymore, shall we?”

I fetched the big Mag-Lite and the step ladder from the truck, clomped upstairs and hoisted my generous ass up into the attic. Walked through the trusses and shining the light in all corners with a professional flair. Damned if ol’ squirrel wasn’t sitting right by his hole, and he wasn’t particularly thrilled to see me. I was nearly in grabbing range when he decided that life in the penthouse had taken a turn for the worse, and ducked outside to scramble across the roof.

I dove back through the attic hole in a shower of insulation and pounded back downstairs. “He’s out Mrs. Judy!” I yelled and her little dogs were going insane as I raced for the truck, yanked out the big ladder and ran it over to the house. The key here was to get the hole plugged before the squirrel had a chance to dive back inside.

It was touch and go. I banged the ladder on the house just as he reappeared at the ridge of the roof and made an abrupt U-turn. That held him off as I snipped a square of Squirrel Shield, ran hoses from the compressor to the ladder and snapped in my stapler. I was about halfway up the ladder when he made another run at it. I’m pretty sure the neighbors wish they’d videotaped the part where I was digging nails out of the tool pouch to fling at him while I was twenty feet up, re-attaching soffit with my left hand and tossing nails with my right.

After that, it was almost leisurely. I went around to the other corners and patched wood, put up Shield and generally pissed off the tribe of squirrels who were hanging out in a nearby tree. Aside from my aching knees it was fun.

Mrs. Judy came out and viewed the improvements when I deemed it done. “Oh my lord this is so wonderful, let me get my checkbook. How much do you need?”

“Well, I spent eight dollars on the Squirrel Shield and I’ve been here for an hour, how does fifty bucks sound?”

I swear she positively glared at me. “No! You’re not going to charge me fifty dollars! And you’ve been here nearly two hours, not one! I’m gonna pay you one hundred and that’s all there is to it!”

I grinned at her. “You know, you remind me more of your daughter with every passing minute. And think about this, you want to pay me a hunski just to get rid of one pesky squirrel? I gotta tell ye, I wouldn’t pay me that much.”

“Well it’s worth two hundred to me. You have no idea . . . He‘s been keeping me awake at night for weeks. Oh I‘m so grateful.”

Grateful enough, as it turned out, to stroke out the hundred bucks. A fair amount of which, I’m sure, will wind up in her daughters hands over the course of the coming week as she and I relentlessly pursue the extinction of the Coors Lite as a specie and I tell her the tale of the penthouse squirrel.

It does make me wonder though, because I’ve never had to do an estimate on this sort of thing. Just how much would YOU charge to get rid of one pesky squirrel? It’s one of those topics that never got covered in construction school.

Maybe I ought to call PETA. I’ll bet they know.

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