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Tiny little balls of fur with tails twice the size of the animal. Squirrels are adorable. They hop around the grass. Their sharp claws dig into tree bark as they climb with astounding agility. Black beady eyes perceptively discover seeds and nuts. It’s so fun to see a squirrel pause to nibble on their treasure. Both front paws hold the food twisting it as they gnaw away. Even their chitter chatter is cute.

Let’s face it though, squirrels are pretty stupid. They at least have a death wish. I can’t tell you the number of times I have been driving down the Road to Nowhere when a squirrel darted out in front of me. They like to wait at the side of the road until cars come close enough. Then they run for it.

I think they like the power trip of knowing they can stop a large, heavy moving object that can easily kill them. You would think that seeing friends and family flattened in the road with bugs and scavenger birds hovering nearby would be a good reminder to not run out in the street like a maniac. Some of them will run into the street like a mammal on a mission then pause. Classic deer in the headlights moment as they stare at the rapidly approaching vehicle.

“What should I do now? I can’t even remember what I was doing before I ran out of the safety of the park. Maybe if I run back to where I was moments before it will come back to me.”

Just as motorists stop the squirrel figures out what to do. He either finishes crossing the street or runs back to the park, whichever takes longer and is less logical. Yep, squirrels are not the brightest creatures in the forest. They are also crazy.

The squirrels in the park are used to humans. People are in the park from dawn to dark doing their park thing. The squirrels run around all day doing their park thing. The squirrels don’t scare easily but they do know when to scamper off at a good clip. Usually when a toddler with a wild look in his eye starts making his way, Frankenstein style, toward the squirrel eating leftover food scraps from the ground. That squirrel will find his way to the top of the nearest tree in no time flat. Food scraps haven’t even landed on the ground yet from when the squirrel dropped them to run.

I have noticed that maybe the squirrels who nest near the playgrounds are bolder while being more cautious than other park squirrels. They get fed plenty but they can still book it in the face of danger – small children looking for a pet. The other park squirrels are just nuts. It’s true that you are what you eat.

Recently I was walking around the park and saw many squirrels. Normally I see one chilling on the edge of the grass or in the middle of the sidewalk. When I get close enough the squirrel moves. Sometimes they dart off quickly. Other times they lazily hop a couple times increasing the space between us. Either way, I have gotten used to these animals and their sense of personal space.

On this particular walk the squirrels didn’t do that. I saw two squirrels in the grass. They paused, paused, paused while I continued to walk, walk, walk. Then I crossed the threshold of personal space yet they still stood there. Staring at me. I started to wonder if I had time to race to the hospital before picking up my kids from school. You know, should I contract rabies from one of them.

They were not moving. They looked dumbstruck to a degree. It was more like a small dog assuming the position as if he is the alpha male despite his size restrictions. The squirrel closest to me started to move away from me and closer to the other squirrel. But that guy wanted none of it. Squirrel Number One had only taken a midair step before calling his leg back because Squirrel Number Two was staring him down, daring him to come closer.

Meanwhile I was almost parallel with the showdown. I even slowed my steps to give the fighting squirrels more time to recognize my presence. Nothing. I thought I was the predator! They either didn’t get the memo or didn’t care. So I walked a large arc around the insane animals that never did move. I felt their beady little eyes on me though and could hear their thoughts.

“Do you mind lady? We’re in the middle of something here!”

As I walked diagonally back to my original side of the sidewalk I looked up to see a couple coming towards me. Great. Did they see me zigzag across the sidewalk? Did they hear me mutter under my breath? I believed they didn’t, which may not be true but it was how I was able to continue on without feeling like a moron.

Walk, walk, walk. I was getting close to the far end of the park and almost finished with my walk. Another squirrel encounter. This one was fat. They all are really. This one reminded me of when two year old Parker would point at the trees saying, “Cat? Cat sneep?” (cat sleep) This fella was a big boy. And dumber than a box of rocks.

He stood in the middle of the sidewalk looking lost as I kept walking closer. The gap between us was closing quickly. With bushes to my right and a chain link fence on my left there weren’t many places I could go for my second game of chicken for the day. And the squirrel was not making a decision one way or the other.

He hopped a couple steps before stopping again. All I could think of was Kyle from Last Man Standing saying how he picked out a creature from Ed’s tires with really kind eyes. I was thinking kind eyes or not, these creatures are sadistic. I’m still considered the predator right? I don’t remember that changing.

Finally he started moving. Slow, rhythmic hops forward along the sidewalk. Oh so that’s how we’re going to play this? I have to seriously follow you until there is open space on one side of the sidewalk for me to step into the grass? Yes, that is exactly how it went for several steps.

I followed the squirrel until he stopped again and started looking in the bushes. I don’t know what he was looking for. His buddies? Maybe trying to avoid the bird’s nests? I don’t know. The bushes are the ones where I have seen baby fledglings tottering around on the ground. The first bush was a no go for the squirrel leading me on a low speed chase. The second bush worked. He paused, sniffed, then duck off the sidewalk.

I was free at last! I rounded the corner. Sneezes came over me in rapid succession. It’s not exactly easy to sneeze and walk at the same time. The Claritin I took that morning wasn’t helping. I was glad I hadn’t worn any eyeliner. It likes to transfer itself under my eyes when I sneeze so I look like a raccoon.

I had had enough of my neighborhood wildlife for one day. It was sure nice to make it to the safety of my own home where I saw a very large spider on the wall behind the TV. Since I couldn’t reach him with a shoe and we were out of bug spray, he lived. He must have contacted his buddy because a spider tried to rappel into my lap today and eat me. True story.

My friend Vicki stopped talking in the middle of an idea and said there was a spider. She got up to ask her husband to take care of it but he was on a conference call. So she went into the kitchen for a napkin. I saw this huge ugly brown thing with eyes that could be described as anything but kind. He was suspended in air at my eye level licking his lips.

I turned to my other friend Chris. I asked her if she would let me get up in front of her. She obviously didn’t see the spider when I asked her. She was aware there was a spider though. She looked over and saw him hanging there in midair. We both exited the couch on the left side away from the spider and declared our hatred for the shudder inducing creatures.

The spider lowered himself almost onto the couch where I was just sitting moments before. He climbed up and down the spiderweb rope. When Vicki got back with the napkin he was in the middle of the air again. She closed the napkin around him with both hands and squished the middle for good measure. She shuddered at the tell-tale crunch.

I would like to thank my friends for saving my life …

After all these years, living in California is still quite the adventure.

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