Saturday, August 31, 2013

Never Assume That The Thing Clawing At Your Ceiling Is A Squirrel

Presenting an excerpt from my 2011 Camp NaNoWriMo novel "Sand In The Worcestershire In The Embalming Fluid."  Still there?  Okay.  Let's take a peek at chapter five...

Scratching.  At three fifteen, Dun was gradually drawn from sleep by the sound of scratching.  He lifted his head in an attempt to locate the source.  It wasn't either of the windows in this guest room, where they had bedded down in a deliberate attempt to minimize their exposure to the outside world.  It was coming from the ceiling.

"Oh shit."  Dun said, matter-of-factly.

Lucy stirred, and Dun held her closer.  After a few seconds, she could hear it, too.  "Oh shit!" she gasped.  "Is that in the ceiling?"

"There's an attic.  I forgot all about the attic.  I am just not equipped for this horror movie stuff." he muttered.

"Do you think it can get in?  Is there like, one of those drop-down doors with the folding ladders, or an access panel, or what?" she turned on a light and pulled on a t-shirt.

"I don't know.  How strong are squirrels?  They're so small - how strong could they be?" he reasoned. "As far as I know, the only way up there from inside the house is the big door in the ceiling, out in the hallway."

The distinctive sound of tiny claws digging and scratching at hundred-year old wood - or maybe it was on the ceiling's sheetrock - stopped.  Before either of them could say anything, it resumed, only now it was at the other end of the room.  Then it ceased again.  Dunstan, having quickly climbed into his jeans and Hog's Breath Saloon t-shirt, took the broom they had brought upstairs with them and gave the area where the sound had been a gentle poke.  Then, a firmer poke.  There were a couple of odd banging sounds from above him, then some more scratching, now apparently out over the hallway.

They stepped just outside the bedroom, near the top of the stairs and directly beneath the trapdoor to the attic, and they listened.  The noises seemed more frantic and haphazard than they did evil.

"Well, it doesn't seem to be interested in the door," Dun whispered. "We could probably just leave it until morning."

Lucy wrinkled her nose.  Dun thought for a moment that that may well have been the cutest thing he'd seen her do, so far.  

"I don't know," she said.  "Even if it doesn't want in, those little assholes love to chew stuff.  We had a family of them in our attic once, and they cut the phone line - and a few minutes later, one of them got into an electric main line and ZAP!  Blackout for us, fried squirrel mama in the attic, and two little stupid orphan squirrel babies running around.  It was a mess."

"Oh.  Right.  Forgot about the chewing.  Should we just call 911 again and let them deal with it?"  After three days with Lucy, he was already fairly certain of what her answer to that question would be.

She stared thoughtfully at the ceiling.  "It's a squirrel.  I'm pretty sure we can take him."

"You think so?"

"I do.  I mean, look at our size advantage, and these giant brains we have.  Are there any donuts left?" she asked, eyeing the broom Dun was still holding.

"At least one.  Glazed, I think.  We'll need something to trap it in, though - like a trashcan or a box."  he thought aloud.

"I got it!"  Lucy scampered into the bathroom at the end of the hall and emerged a moment later with a large towel.  "Do you have a hammer?"

"A hammer?  What for?"

"You know, like in 'Christmas Vacation?'  I'll throw the towel over it, and you hit it with a hammer."

"Ew!  Wait.  They only said they were going to do that, and somebody's mother fainted and the thing ended up just running out the front door."


"So, it's an untested strategy.  What if we--"

"'An untested strategy?'  If they had actually done it in the movie, it still wouldn't really be a test of the strategy, would it?  I mean, it's a movie."  Lucy was having fun with this, which was helping immensely Dun's fight against succumbing to panic.

Eventually, they agreed on the rough outline of a plan.  Lucy would pull down on the cord connected to the attic door and hold up a donut-topped mop handle, while Dun would stand ready with the broom and a can of wasp and hornet spray (Dun had thought he might be able to at least stun or temporarily blind the rodent with some extra-strength Raid).  While he whacked, de-wasped and um, swept the critter into submission, Lucy would throw a laundry basket over it.  They would then scoot the upside-down basket over to the top of the stairs and drop their prisoner into a metal roasting pan, slam the lid on it and throw the whole thing out the front door, possibly after giving it a good shake, to ensure a stunned and disoriented little Bullwinkle sidekick would emerge.

They were well-pleased with their plan.  It was a brilliant plan.  It made them want to high-five and kiss and crack open some champagne.  They even had a contingency plan for failure to get the basket over the squirrel, or for losing him down the steps.  Dun would keep after it, using the broom as a kind of hockey stick, and she would assist with the mop handle and the garden shovel they had retrieved from behind the kitchen.  They would usher the thing out the front door and onto the porch - then out the porch door, if things were going well.  Then, they would have awesome celebratory sex and go back to sleep, assuming that the on-again, off-again sirens could stay off-again long enough to allow the latter.

"Ready" she said.

"Wait," he pointed at her bare feet. "We should have shoes on.  Don't want to get bitten during battle."

"Dun, I have nothing on but this t-shirt and some deodorant... and a little foundation... and maybe a hint of blush... and... You're right - jeans and shoes required!"  She located her jeans while Dun fetched their sneakers from downstairs.

"Okay.  Now are we ready?"  She stepped up to him and looked into his eyes.  "Listen, if I get bitten and rabid and dead, I want you to know..."

"Yes?" he smiled expectantly.

"I want you to know that I really, really like you."  She kissed him.  "Now, let's get that varmint."

I wrote this two years ago, and hadn't revisited it until tonight.  I was writing-prompted to do so by the second of this week's two STUDIO 30 PLUS prompts, "SCRATCH."  I figure that posting it here is probably the only way I'll ever get it to see the light of day, so... why not?



  1. I wanted to witness a little blood-shed (it's so unlike you)!

    1. Sorry Katy. This story has TONS of nasty, gory violence, but this scene, sadly, has none. If I can ever finish this year's Camp novel, I need to get back to work on this one. It has potential!

  2. Awesome little snipped of your story Joe! You can write... ;) So, what happened after?

    1. Thanks Marie! The cool thing is that I honestly don't remember what happened next, and I stopped reading when I reached the point where I wanted to cut it off for the post. I do know it's the start of a zombie apocalypse, and my two protags, in the throes of new love, have no clue as to what is going on.