Friday, October 31, 2003
Country Lines The Red Ghost of Carlisle
It was a little over a week ago that I began to think my house was haunted. Just little things at first — I returned home to find the cabinet under the kitchen sink open and a bottle of dish soap on the floor. I blamed it on one of my dogs. Later, I noticed that a Halloween witch who had been standing on the living room mantelpiece had taken a header. I blamed it on seismic tremors. It wasn't until I watched a Tupperware bowl fall out of a cabinet seemingly all by itself that I seriously considered paranormal manifestations. Only for a moment, though — just until I saw the red squirrel barrel out of the cabinet, land in the open dog food bag and spray me with kibble as he leapt into the nether reaches under the counter,
I tried my best to coax him out, but red squirrels, it turns out, are notoriously adverse to reason. Who knew? Also, I was due to leave for a weekend trip to visit an old girlfriend, so I had no choice but to leave the problem in the capable hands of my husband Steve. I say "capable" because he has had plenty of experience with red squirrels. A few years ago, we found a red squirrel baby in our basement and Steve ministered to the little one with hot water bottles and warm milk until he reluctantly handed his charge over to a shelter near Harvard, Mass. Since then, he has looked longingly at the red squirrels who flock to our bird feeders, wondering how his little orphan fared. Who better to talk sense to our doubtful guest than he?
I was helpful enough to locate our Hav-a-heart trap and leave it on the kitchen table before I left. It was the smallest size Hav-a-heart makes, designed to hold a mouse, but I figured it was better than nothing. Then I closed off the kitchen. This was not really to protect the little guy from our five vicious terriers, who seemed to be sublimely oblivious to this critter. After all, they had been living with his wandering the house for over a day and had emitted nary a yip. No, my aim was simply to make finding the squirrel easier for my husband. I am obviously as clueless as my dogs, because I never once thought of what the little guy would do to my kitchen.
I called home that night for an update. So far the squirrel had succeeded in eluding Steve, turning up his nose at the cheese my husband had left in the trap (who offers a squirrel cheese?) Then, in a "break it to me gently" tone, he told me of the path of destruction, starting with the toothpick cup over the stove and proceeding to the Halloween collectibles flung hither and yon, ending with the scratch marks on the porcelain sink. "He obviously was just trying to get out," my husband explained in mitigating tones. "All the damage was done near the windows." When I suggested that he just leave a window open to speed his escape, my idea was pooh-poohed. "I've got it under control," he assured me.
The next night, I called home again, "How goes the battle?" I asked, trying to sound chipper, all the time certain that the bugger had chewed his way through the refrigerator wiring in a fit of pique. "He's gone," came the reply in a rather subdued tone. My husband related how he had reset the trap, this time with peanut butter on a bagel, and bingo! He came home to find a very angry, very squashed red squirrel eager to give him a piece of his mind.
"What did you do with him?"
"I hung him from the bird feeder with a little sign around his neck as a warning to other red squirrels. His buddies stood on each others' shoulders and lowered him down gently." He then added that he thought he could hear Taps playing over at Green Cemetery. Finally, I got him to admit that he had released him across the street, on the far side of the Banta-Davis Land.
"Then why do you sound so down?" I asked.
"I'm afraid he'll get hit by a car crossing Bedford Road."
Like my husband, I too am certain he'll be back. Life was just too good here in our house — accommodating dogs, lots of places to hide and loads of potential for a little destruction. What self-respecting red squirrel could resist? Sometimes I think I hear his return — a scratch in the wall, a bump in the night. The suspense is killing me. Give me a ghost any time.
© 2003 The Carlisle Mosquito