Thursday, September 06, 2007

Rudolph, Randolph, and Scamp

I'm sitting on my balcony and reading, waiting for my laundry to dry. Rudolph, the resident black squirrel, climbs down his tree and on to the grass below. He tolerates a bit of yelling from the grey squirrel who lives in a nearby oak, then runs across the lawn and around the corner. Autumn's coming and he's looking for food.

A few minutes later I see an identical black squirrel follow the exact same path. Either Rudolph is a magic squirrel or he's got a friend, who I decide must be Randolph. The names are easily confused but so are the squirrels; they're impossible to tell apart.

Eventually I hear a squeaking noise, the sound of claws on metal, and I see that Rudolph is foraging in the neighbouring building's eavestroughs. I see his tail rushing along, leaves flying out of the tough, and then he looks out. He might be accustomed to finding seeds or insects there. Randolph is on the ground, looking up. He effortlessly scales the brickwork, jumps onto the neighbour's balcony, jumps twice more to a window ledge and then a power line, and takes the powerline highway into the tree. Seconds later he's on the roof with Rudolph. I expect a fight but they work collectively, both of them scraping through the eavestroughs, leaves flying. It's hot outside and Randolph occasionally lies down for a quick rest, but Rudolph keeps him on his toes. I suspect there's some flirting going on here. One of them might be a Dolphina.

A third black squirrel, smaller than the others, jumps out of the tree. They push through the eavestroughs together. This is getting complicated; one will rest, the others will rush forward and backward, they'll look at each other, click sharply in the hot air, run back to search some more. Eventually the three run back to the tree and I decide that the little one is "Scamp."

Back to my reading. All is quiet until I see Rudolph and Randolph jump down onto the powerline again. This line is in a "V" shape, joining my balcony, the tree, and the neighbour's balcony. This time they're coming towards me, closer and closer, looking for the stale bread or crackers I sometimes leave here.

Rudolph makes a terrifying leap and lands on the railing beside me, then -- realizing that I'm there -- jumps OVER MY HEAD and on to the opposite railing where he climbs down and out of sight.

Randolph, however, is more curious. He stands on the railing only a few feet away, shifting east and west, stopping, lifting one paw up in a weight-lifter's stance, oscillating his vocal chords with the shiver of his tail. He is thin but incredibly muscular. I am amazed at the size of his claws, the breadth of his forehead, the strength in his coiled-up body. He isn't built like a rat at all. He is a compact spring, strong, intelligent. I had no idea that squirrels were so powerful; I know that sounds funny but it's true.

He is about three feet away from me, close to where my feet are propped up on the railing. He knows I'm there, even though I'm not moving. I wonder what he wants; he obviously hasn't been trained to beg for food, but does he have an innate understanding of human generosity? Or is he angry? Rabid? His eyes aren't friendly...I realize that squirrels only look cute because they want something or they're far away. I don't know what Randolph wants but his proximity and attention is nerve-wracking.

Then I notice that the other squirrel, Rudolph, is on the opposite railing a few feet to my right. I can't see both of them at once. They are both making that oscillating noise, staring directly at me from either side. This is like a coordinated attack. Scamp is on the powerline too but he isn't coming closer, he's fearful.

I have an overpowering urge to speak to Randolph, but I don't want to scare him. So I go "mmmmmm," without moving my lips. He stops fidgeting and stares. I go "mmmmmm" again. He stares, motionless. Huge eyes and ugly nose.

Rudolph runs away, and Scamp follows the powerline back to the tree they obviously live in. Randolph turns east, turns west, takes one more look into my eyes, and then he's gone too. Down the sheer vertical cliff of my balcony and into the tree.


Hilda said...

OK - if I was surrounded by killer squirrels *that* close to me I would probably tinkle in my panties!

I agree with Carrie Bradshaw who I believe said in a memorable episode of *Sex and the City* (the one where she spends the weekend in Aidan's cabin in the woods)- "Squirrels are rats in better outfits".


Adam Thornton said...

It was a strangely tense moment! I didn't think they'd actually ATTACK, but it was strange to be "cased out" in such a confident way.

I'll get some pictures next time. After seeing videos of "Twiggy the Water-Skiing Squirrel," I think I need to find out more about these creatures.

"Rats in better outfits!" Wonderful. Also with bigger claws, broader foreheads, muscular bodies, and a tendency to "bounce" as opposed to "skitter."

Anonymous said...

OMG - between this and the bully cat, you live in one tough neighbourhood!

Adam Thornton said...

Have I mentioned the killer attack-Dachshund? :)