December 08, 2003
1998: North S. Ave., Part 2

I ran through the house and did a quick check. TV, computer, and stereo all remained, but my jewelry was gone. The cats, against all odds, had not run away but had hidden under the couch; they emerged within seconds, mute witnesses to whatever had happened.

Hyperventilating, I ran downstairs and knocked on the neighbors’ door and told them we had been robbed. They scratched their heads in puzzlement and looked around. They realized that they had been robbed, too—but, unbelievably, they hadn’t noticed.

We waited for hours for the police to come. When they finally did, I suggested that they might eventually recover the diamond studs I’d gotten for my sixteenth birthday, the amber necklace I always got compliments on, and every earring I’d ever bought since 1980. They smiled kindly, but we all knew that it was never going to happen.

As luck would have it, E.’s mother was in the hospital in Indiana at the time. So he went home that weekend and I barricaded myself with boxes of records behind our broken door, calculating my losses. I had lost my grandmother’s jewelry, a jar of quarters (for laundry), and so on. My stuff was insured, but my sense of safety was irreplaceable.

Squirrelly John came and viewed the devastation, like a politician visiting the site of a flood. But he never fixed the broken door; E. screwed a piece of wood over the broken bottom panel and there it remained. The next weekend we went apartment hunting.

In May, we moved out. E.’s mother was still sick and so I was left to pack the apartment. I mapped out a strategy like the Allies landing at Normandy and enlisted my friend J. to do some heavy lifting and morale boosting.

One afternoon during that week, after J. had gone home, I walked into the kitchen to continue packing and found a baby squirrel clinging to the inside of the kitchen window screen. It had crawled in via a small hole, only a couple of inches in circumference, in the screen of the kitchen window (which, like many things in that apartment, had never been fixed). It was looking fearfully at our Himalayan cat sitting on the window sill.

The cat was (typically) unfazed but I, stressed-out and exhausted, was plenty fazed. With visions of rabies shots dancing in my head, I threw the Himalayan in the bedroom and closed the kitchen door. Then we faced off in the sunset, the squirrel and I, two terrified creatures in an overheated kitchen.

Nobody moved.

A city girl, I didn’t know what to do next. I had expected the squirrel to run amok, but nothing was happening. It seemed to me that someone with a net would be helpful. I grabbed the phone and called the animal control department, which was (of course) closed. Next I called J. at home. He probably didn’t have a net, but he was that week’s talisman to keep bad things at bay.

“What do I do if a squirrel is in the kitchen?”

J., who had just spent two days packing my house, was no doubt somewhat weary of my problems. I heard him give a long sigh.

“Squirrel in the kitchen,” he repeated. A pause. “Well, why don’t you just open the back door and chase him out with a broom?”

By the time I had found the broom and opened the screen door, the squirrel had gotten out through the hole in the window screen. So he got out the same way he had gotten in. A few days later, we got out the same way we had gotten in, too.

Not the squirrel in question.

What happened after: A couple of years after we moved away, Squirrelly John sold the house (no doubt at a healthy profit). It has since been turned into a painted lady in a neighborhood that is virtually unrecognizable now. Three years after we moved out, we heard that one of our first neighbors, S., had died in a bicycle accident. This news slammed shut a window on that era.

Next: One block east.

Posted at December 08, 2003 07:35 PM

Oh, I do remember your jewelry getting stolen, now. Yes, insurance really doesn't cover your sense of safety being ripped away. And some of it was your grandmother's jewelry. Awful. Well, thankfully no one was hurt, and the dumbasses didn't inadvertently let the cats out of the apartment or something else that would have compounded the tragedy.

I'm cracking up picturing you facing off with a baby squirrel in your kitchen. I'm sure it wasn't funny at the time!

Posted by: Laurie on December 10, 2003 10:35 AM
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