“Sir, could you tell us what species of squirrel it is that bit you? Were you close enough?” It was 7am on a Sunday in late July and Jacques, my very Belgian stepfather, was already on the phone with Wisconsin Public Health. The toaster sat, mangled and fuming, on the floor of the kitchen. Several of its wires were stripped down to the copper filling. An oozing wound graced his left hand, scratches climbed up his arms and neck. Blood was splattered all over the oakwood table and sprinkled on the counter tops and floors. His morning toast, palpably absent.
“How would I know? It bit me, it stole my toast, and it chased me all around my house.” I gazed over at the living room, which now featured broken crystal and a bloody armchair. “Are you telling me that I need to pursue the squirrel? It attacked me!”
As he spoke, a particularly fat chestnut colored squirrel popped up near the screen door to the patio. “That was him!” Jacques motioned wildly to me, flailing his wounded hand around in the air. Crumbs stuck to the squirrel’s face and hands. It mimicked him, gesticulating with its creepy wee arms and hands, before resuming the most intense stare I’ve ever witnessed from a member of the animal kingdom. I’m not sure how Jacques knew the squirrel was a “he”: probably because it was a righteous asshole.
“Erm…yes. Yes, we need you to get close enough because it’s only a particular species of squirrel here in Wisconsin that carries rabies. This way we know whether or not you should panic and go to the ER.”
“I hate this country,” he spat at me, before turning back to Wisconsin Public Health. “Look, I am feeling fine, I have just lost a lot of blood and I wanted to report what I think is an unusually aggressive squirrel…Now he’s over there! It’s like he’s leering at me.”
I heard the employee sigh again. “Sir. Is the squirrel foaming at the mouth? It’s unusual for squirrels in these parts to exhibit such aggressive behavior.”
“I don’t know!” he exclaimed. “How close do you think I am to the thing?”
“Well, sir…it did bite you so I imagine it was pretty close.”
“I wasn’t paying attention!” Jacques yelled again, this time pacing around the kitchen island while the squirrel remained glued to its seat right outside the patio screen door.
“You’re going to have to remain calm. Once you can actually provide a detailed description of the squirrel for us, we can fill out a report and better advise.”
Jacques sighed and shoved the phone at me in his state of panic. “Here, hold this while I go after the bastard.”
“Hello?” I said.
“Hi, is your dad doing what we said?”
“Stepdad. Yup,” I replied as Jacques eyed the squirrel.
He quickly slid open the door and the squirrel bolted into the yard. What ensued soon after was pure madness – French and Dutch expletives pierced the air as my tiny Belgian stepdad pursued an admittedly unhinged and greedy squirrel. Together, the two ran several circles around the yard in a matter of minutes. Occasionally, the squirrel would perch on top of a tree branch or on the roof of the shed to taunt Jacques. Waving its small arms around, the crumbs remained on its fur, convincing me it had rolled in sugary coffee or syrup before looting the kitchen for his toast.
“How did it even get in?” Wisconsin Public Health asked me.
“I’ve no clue, I’ll ask him – hey, Jacques, how’d the squirrel get in?”
“Stop talking to me!” he yelled, jumping over a bed of irises.
“He doesn’t know,” I said.
“Mmmmm…pppttthwwwtt” the employee responded. I could hear them slurping coffee.
Meanwhile, the absurdity of the scene outside only escalated. Jacques continued to curse various creative obscenities and the squirrel grew ever more brazen, inching up close to him, waving its little fists, shrugging its shoulders, and whipping its tail back and forth. It chittered and struck Jacques again, landing on his shoulder and molding itself onto his head of curly hair.
“Get off, get off!”
“Look, I think he might need my help,” I said.
“Your stepdad or the squirrel?” laughed the employee.
“Ooohhh, that’s good, respect. I mean, I think Jacques could use help…”
The pandemonium stopped. I turned around to see Jacques already behind me. His hair resembled a pigeon’s nest. His chest heaved and he spat out a tooth as he demanded the phone back.
“Yeah, hello? Are you ready? It’s not foaming. Let me describe him…”
Jacques waved me away. I overheard him discuss how they didn’t think the squirrel was rabid. He was incredulous, but accepted the information more or less calmly.
When my mother, who could sleep through a tsunami, emerged from the bedroom, Jacques animatedly recounted the entire story with unusual pride.
“You realize none of this is normal,” I remarked to both of them, as I spotted the squirrel on the horizon again. This time, he sat outside the kitchen window, grimacing and locking eyes with whomever turned his way.
“They say it’s totally fine,” Jacques shot back.
We then heard a small tearing sound and thump. I turned my head back toward the kitchen window’s screen. The squirrel was next to the garburator switch. Again, it gestured to us and chittered menacingly. As the garburator switched on, the A/C and lights went off, and I was left in a humid kitchen with a squirrel, a nut, and the sound of garbage swirling through blades.
“Merde!” shouted Jacques, as he desperately searched for the squirrel.
I darted from the kitchen to the bathroom and shut the door. Sighing, I lit a candle and sat on the toilet. A tiny furry hand grasped my ankle.
Morgan L. Ventura (They/she) is a writer and ex-archaeologist based in western Canada. Originally from the Midwest, their work has appeared or is forthcoming in Vulnerary Magazine,The Daily Drunk, Strange Horizons, and Augur Magazine, among others. A Rhysling-nominated poet and editor at South Broadway Press, find Morgan on Twitter: @hmorganvl