If we had a keen vision of all that is ordinary in human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow or the squirrel’s heartbeat, and we should die of that roar, which is the other side of silence.
We lived in a city condo until our son was 10 months old. The lot next to us was recent, huge, and, when it rained, so full of water Canadian geese mistook it for a lake and stopped in. Far across the lot was a pole. Just your average, tall, abandoned wooden pole candle-sticking earth. And one extremely early morning as I bounced our son in my arms and gazed blearily out the living room’s picture window, I watched two squirrels chase each other up that pole in quick, frantic circles and, when they reached the top, one squirrel fall.
I ran into the bedroom and woke my husband. SQUIRREL DOWN, WE HAVE A SQUIRREL DOWN, I whisper-hissed so as not to traumatize our son, and yet convey intense urgency. 10 minutes later, our son cooing in the Bjorn, we went to investigate.
There was the squirrel. Bad, it was bad. We returned home, me repeating over and over in a sing-song voice that would never traumatize a 10 month old, how I just couldn’t understand how a squirrel, A SQUIRREL, could fall from a pole, as my husband phoned animal control. SHE came right over. My husband went down to meet her and from the picture window I watched them cross the lot, get the squirrel into a container, move to the center of the lot, set the container down and keep chatting, at which point I left the window because I thought it was all over, squirrel going to shelter, done.
BANG. BANG. BANGBANGBANG.
Returning to the window, heart in my throat, surpressing outraged sounds because my son was finally asleep in my arms and who would want to traumatize a sleeping child, I thought this: WTF. And, actually, this: RUF***INGKIDDINGME. And something resembling: CAN’T THERE JUST BE PEACE FOR 1 F***ING MINUTE! Etc.
My husband vaulted up the outside stairs and into the condo. I pointed to our comatose son and he whispered:
She had to shoot it, babe, it was horribly hurt and suffering, but she missed with the first shot and then she said SCHEISE, she was German, babe, and kept on shooting and saying SCHEISE because she kept missing and then she asked me, VY EM I MISSINK EET? and she was crying, babe, she didn’t want to kill the squirrel, but she said it was better as the lineup for euthanasia at the shelter was super slow and squirrel would have suffered for a long time–
I pressed my hand to his mouth. We went into the bedroom and lay down with our snoozing son. We held found a way to hold hands and link arms with our little boy between us. It was only 8:00 a.m. and we’d been through an eon.
We live in leafy suburbs now. There are more trees here than poles. The squirrels keep their footing, although they do chase each other, taunt our cats and scold me daily from the fluffy pines. I just wave. And scatter our property with endless bread crusts.