21 January 2014

Squirrel UnAppreciation Day

My Twitter feed reminded me repeatedly that this is "Squirrel Appreciation Day." I could not let such a thing pass unremarked upon, now that it has come to my notice; and therefore I have written down a quick 900 words that came to me this evening. It takes place somewhere after "Fabric Factory of Horror" but before the main events of "Interstellar Conference Call". I'll fold it into a future edition of "Astounding Adventure Tales of the Improbable", maybe as part of Volume II (yeah, I'm writing it...sorta) but for now, enjoy his interlude with our hero. A glimpse into his private life, even:

Squirrel UnAppreciation Day

The alarm blared in my ear, even though I remembered turning the damn thing off the night before. More proof that the Universe hated me, which always made me feel special in a weird way. I turned it off before putting on my coat and crawling into bed. I had taken the next day -- today -- off. I always took this day off. Every boss understood, and those who did not were invited to spend some time with my scrap book full of newspaper clippings, medical records, and psychiatric profiles. They always came around, because after seeing my scrap book they knew I needed to be alone on this day. I hated this day.
I had sweated through the night with my coat on, the fur keeping me warm even though I had turned the heat back as far as January would allow. I wrapped the damp coat around me tightly as a stumbled out of bed and crossed the room to switch off the alarm before pulling the plug on the digital clock and tossing it across the room. When the alarm is nailing you in your ears, every wall is a hammer. Especially on this of all days. I hated this day.

Breakfast was one of those candy bars that was marketed as a healthy alternative to candy bars, but was various nuts glued together with a potion of refined sugars. And coffee. Pots of coffee. This of all days was no day to be caught groggy. They knew what day this was and they remembered what I had done to their kind. They knew it was their day. I hated this day.
Somewhere in the warmer parts of the world people probably made their way into parks and tossed nuts and seeds to the as they scampered about, blissfully unaware or not remembering what was possible. They had not been there, so of course they forgot; people always forget what has not happened to them. Until it is too late, that is. Usually. But not me. Not on this day. Today was a day for vigilance and coffee and eating nuts in defiance. If I thought it would help I would climb a tree and chatter at people in defiance, but I had made that mistake once. Remember this: if you spend time in an institution repairing the shattered pieces of your mind, no matter how sane you know you are, do not climb a tree wearing a fur coat in January and chatter mindlessly at people passing by beneath you. And throwing walnut shells at them only makes it worse. Trust me. God in Heaven I hated this day.
With the heat back to a normal temperature and me moving about with a pot of coffee rumbling about my innards the night's sweat evaporated from the coat and my pajamas. A few swipes of my hand and the matts came out of the gray fur that was tinged with brown. The coat was my reminder, my touchstone to sanity even though if I caught myself gazing at it too long or running my hand along the soft hair on the arm absently I would start to reach for the hammer that never left my hip. The hammer that my customers in the realm of tech support thought I carried for effect. The customers who had forgotten, because for a week I had been world wide news. This was not that day. This was their day and they knew it. I hated this day.
I chanced a look out the window, at the half-melted snow that sat in sad white and gray piles along the side of the road, or in still crystalline ponds that dotted the grass outside my house. A couple of them had come out of their dens to scamper about between the trees, trying to remember where they had buried their nuts a few short months before. Hungrily they scouted, digging at times into the ground and their memories as they sought a frozen meal to break the monotony of consuming their own fat stores. Fat nasty furry little nut hunting machines that could turn rabid with their twitching tails suddenly menacing in their flicking to and fro, back and forth, massing to send you to Hell with a scamper and a bite. Scores of scampers and a thousand bites. They went so far as to romp beneath my window, and I shrugged my coat up a bit so they could see what they already knew, who I was. What I was prepared to do if they ever got any ideas. If they ever were too full of themselves and longing to burn extra fat on this, their day. I hated this day.
I turned away from the window and walked back to the thermostat, giving it another nudge and taking off my coat. Many squirrels had given their lives to make this coat, and not nearly enough for my liking. Yet again alone in the world, the only person who remembered the true horror of their species and this day, I kept my vigil. Coffee and nuts and a squirrel skin coat. It might have been Squirrel Appreciation Day, but I only appreciated that I was alive. That I had survived another day where the squirrels proved that they were very much not to be appreciated, but watched. I hated this day.

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