Saturday, October 15, 2005

In my last year of college I shared a house with friends in a quiet College Park neighborhood near the University of Maryland. We didn't throw loud parties and we considerately limited our pot smoking to the interior of the house, so most of our neighbors -- families and a few elderly couples -- went about their lives as if we weren't there. But there was one fortyish man named Earle, living with his parents down the street, who would sometimes stop by and chat with us while we lazed on our porch swing on weekend afternoons. He was harmless, if a little odd, and he liked to talk about the squirrels in our yard -- particularly the albino that lived in the tree out front.

As the weather turned cold we'd watch the squirrel out there every day, working hard for his acorns -- find, dig, bury, dig, chew, chew, chew -- day in and day out. I don't know if it was his milky coat, his admirable work ethic or the fact that a snow-white squirrel is simply captivating when you're twenty-one, bored and high as a kite, but we took a shine to the little guy and adopted him as the unofficial mascot of our happy home.

Sometime in late winter the white squirrel up and disappeared. We noticed, it was briefly discussed, but we were too busy with our studies and social lives to give it much thought... until one day in February when a storm stranded us at home, classes cancelled, with nothing to do but get stoned and play in the snow. When Earle spotted us outside he walked over to ask if we'd noticed the squirrel was gone. We said yes, as a matter of fact we had noticed. Did he have any idea what had happened?

Earle's eyes got kinda shifty and he kicked at the snow a moment before confessing that he'd found it lying on the ground in our yard one day when no one was home. "Must've fallen from the treetop," he said.

We bowed our heads in silence but Earle continued, "Nothin' to be done, he was already dead, so I took him home and put him on ice."

"What do you mean you 'put him on ice'?"

"I stuck him in the freezer." He said it casually, as if he was talking about a steak he planned to thaw and grill up for supper next week.

"You mean our white squirrel is sitting in your freezer at home? Right now?"

"Yep."

"You're full of shit, Earle."

He shrugged and walked away, seemingly unfazed by this bizarre exchange.

Ten minutes later Earle came trudging back up our walkway holding a plastic bag with a fluffy white tail poking out the top.

"See?" he said, and when he dropped the bag on the porch it clattered against the floorboards like...well, like a frozen rodent falling on a two-by-four.

There it was, our little white mascot, now a squirrelsicle in a grocery bag shroud.

We cut back considerably on the dope after that, and stopped hanging out on the porch altogether. I wish I could say the squirrel is in a better place now, but Earle took him back to the freezer that day and for all I know he's still there, chillin' out, waiting for a new class of half-baked college brats to start playing in the snow.

4 comments:

Washington Cube said...

Unfortunately albino animals suffer from many maladies including weak eyes and deafness, so poor eyesight isn't good when you are trying to negotiate things like trees. Earle sounds like something out of Flannery O'Connor...just a whiff of the Southern Gothic about him.

Lior said...

Actually...in the more frozen parts of the world - like for example Upstate NY - it's actually quite common to freeze your loved dead animal until the Spring, so the ground can thaw out and you can bury it appropriately...

You city slicker, you...

...but I'm not quite sure that Washington DC qualifies as frozen tundra land, yet. So Mr. Earle might, in fact, be storing up for his stuffed animal collection in his basement, or a TV dinner.

AJ Gentile said...

And then you tried to make a bong of the frozen rodent carcass?

Anonymous said...

Feh.