I’m standing at the kitchen counter watching CNBC on the little TV when a squirrel comes up to the patio door, stands on his hind legs, and looks in. I don’t move. He doesn’t see me even though he’s looking right at me. After a moment, he drops to all fours, goes over to some windblown leaves in the corner and rummages around, looking for something to eat, or something to store, since it’s still early winter.
Good thing the dogs are in the den watching Dr. Phil with Susan. I get the air rifle out of the hall closet and walk back to the door. The squirrel catches sight of me and jumps halfway up a porch support. He peeks at me from the other side of the post.
I lever a bb into the chamber and slide the door open. I step through and close it quick because the dogs know that sound.
The squirrel clambers onto the roof. I walk out from under and look back. There he is, ten feet away, in profile, not moving, staring down at me like he thinks he’s invisible. I raise the gun and shoot him in the side. He jumps and disappears. I walk farther into the yard for a better look, but he’s gone.
The dogs are at the door, but Susan’s still in with Phil, trying to get some insight into our life, I’m guessing. I cock the rifle and walk out the gate to check the other side of the roof. I don’t see the squirrel again. Perhaps he’s safe somewhere, licking his wound.
Walking back to the patio door, I find myself thinking about that little inn north of Santa Barbara where Susan and I spent a weekend when we first got together. One night after dinner, we sat on the floor by the bed, drinking wine and talking low, besotted with each other. Then, over her shoulder, I saw movement. A raccoon stood at the balcony door looking in at us. I turned Susan slowly and we watched enchanted until he moved off into the darkness. Then we explored each other as if we were also a miracle.
I let myself back into the house and put the gun away. I can hear the good doctor in the other room, still advising people. The dogs come to greet me but Susan is nowhere in sight. I picture her on the couch, legs drawn up, staring at the screen, her lips pressed tight together.