Posted by jdg | Thursday, October 29, 2009 |

I can tell the season has officially tipped from the purr of traffic on the highway when I open the back door; millions of honey locust leaves that absorbed that sound all summer now hide the grass, leaving the sidewalks so covered that a nearsighted man might confuse them for paths of gold. The tiny leaves slink under the door and stow away in cuffs, in the tread of boots and in between dog toes. I find the cadmium-colored blades in my daughter's bedsheets, in the bathtub. Tonight I read her Keats at bedtime and she was asleep before I finished the second stanza. I continued with the third (what's the difference?) and thought about the song of SUVs on a highway, and the squirrel who'd cursed at me an hour earlier. . .

There is still a kinship with the dog, that anticipation for my wife to get home so we can both be free of their kid smells: tapioca; apple skins; urine. When we get to the edge of the park we scan it for pedestrians and other dogs. If the coast is clear I release him from his leash and he dashes towards the nearest squirrel (obliviously gathering nuts) and he tosses that fucker a few feet in the air with his snout before it recovers and scrambles up the nearest tree. He's never killed one: it's a game. He will bark ferociously and sometimes climb up after it, circling a tree twice before taking off towards the next oblivious squirrel. This may sound cruel but the critters in our neighborhood have it easy, with so much parkland and so few roads, they grow fat on the fruit of exotic trees and still have the nerve to dig up our tulips and usurp the birdfeeder. Some neighbor even scatters bread around the bases of trees for them. I figure they need a bit of terror to toughen them up should they ever encounter the squirrels from other Detroit neighborhoods with eye patches and festering bullet wounds who subsist entirely on a diet of discarded menthol filters and chicken bones.

This afternoon, we were out in the park and the dog disrupted some gray squirrel's incessant winter preparations and apparently really pissed it off. . .or maybe this one went for a snout ride last week. . . or perhaps he saw himself as some kind of squirrel Gandhi or something, because he sat on a low limb and started yelling at us. Now I don't speak squirrel, but I know the inter-species language of go fuck yourself, you motherfucking cocksucking motherfuckers when I hear it.

Being incredibly immature, I naturally threw a stick at it.

The squirrel scampered back towards the trunk and climbed up to the next series of branches and started mouthing off even worse. I chucked another stick up at him and he climbed higher while continuing to berate us, flicking his tail in what must be the squirrel equivalent of the Sicilian chin-flick. By this time I experienced what most powerful adversaries feel when facing the improbable bravery of a powerless foe: my confused anger turned into admiration. He was the Chinese guy and I was the tank. He was Spartacus and I was the guy who gets Tony Curtis sponge baths. I almost wanted to buy the little bugger a bag of pistachios and give him a high-five.

But instead I hid behind a tree and unleashed the dog as soon as the rebellious rodent climbed down out of his tree. "Give him a nose job, boy," I muttered under my breath. That'll teach him.

[While not harassing squirrels, we have been working feverishly on the Halloween costumes; pictures tomorrow]