"With the certitude of a true believer, Vellya Paapen had assured the twins that there was no such thing in the world as a black cat. He said that there were only black, cat-shaped holes in the universe."
-- Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

Monday, August 26, 2013

It's Raining Squirrel Skeletons

Right now, I have a hole in my ceiling.  It's a purposeful hole; the nice man from the air conditioning company created it to give us another air return for our new AC unit.  I also have a headache because Uno was none-too-pleased when a creature in the attic poked a hole in the ceiling and started sawing.  I don’t blame him—he probably thought the rats up there had finally discovered tools—but it was really noisy in here for a while.

Anyway, the creation of the new hole in our ceiling is going fine, but it reminds me of another time when I had unplanned hole in my ceiling, and that's the story I want to tell.

In 2002, I was living in the Bent Tree Apartments off of Steck Avenue.  I had recently transitioned from my 1st floor, one-bedroom apartment to my second (top) floor TWO-bedroom apartment in that same complex.  (Movin' on up!)  It was a nice little pad that I shared with my two black cats, Gink and Lili (or Ginknlili as my dad often referred to them, as if they were one monstrous beast). It faced the wooded area on the back side of the property and I occasionally saw deer or coyotes from my balcony.  (Not related to this story—just setting the scene.)

One day I got a call at work from the apartment manager.  She wanted to let me know that one of the men who had been re-roofing my building had fallen through my bedroom ceiling and she was very sorry and they would get the hole patched up ASAP.  (!!!)  Several things went through my head at that moment, including but not limited to:  Wile E. Coyote’s antics, images of my cats fleeing my apartment through the roof (or possibly being squished by a large man falling on them), and the song "It's raining men!"  I went home that afternoon, expecting to see a giant man-shaped hole in my ceiling and a nice view of the sky, but it turned out to be a much smaller hole than I anticipated, roughly circle-shaped, in the corner of my room over my dresser. (Apparently only the man's legs had broken through, not all of him.)  The hole was already temporarily patched, and my cats, while somewhat traumatized, were still inside the apartment and were fine.  Over the next couple of days, the hole was repaired completely and the whole thing was over.  Ish. 

Image from:  http://www.gabbay.org.uk/blog/praxis.html

Along with the dangling legs of the worker, a whole lot of crap also crashed into my bedroom, like pieces of plaster and insulation and dust.  Lots and lots of dust.  And probably some asbestos.  The workers cleaned up the big stuff, but when they were done, I still had a mess to vacuum up and wipe down, which I did.  And THEN it was over.  Sorta.

A few months later (yes, I said “months”) I started rummaging around in the basket of cat toys beside my dresser.  The basket had become obsolete.  It was filled with the kinds of toys that my students gave me for my cats—stuffed animals and large mouse-shaped things—cute, but easily ignored by felines who would rather attack a lambs wool sweater or eat curly ribbon.  During the “it’s raining men” fiasco, I had moved the basket to the side, vacuumed the carpet, and then put it back, and there it had sat, untouched, until one random day when I decided to go through it and get rid of stuff.

That’s when I discovered a few “toys” that I didn’t remember.  They were a dark yellowish-brown in color and hard, kind of like rawhide.  The first one was long and skinny with many small points protruding from its sides.  The second was more rounded and had a shape that my brain knew it should recognize but couldn’t at that moment put a name to.  And the third looked like a tiny little femur bone.

That’s when I realized it was a tiny little femur bone.  I was holding in my hands several well-preserved pieces of a squirrel skeleton.  Apparently, more than dust and insulation came out of the attic when that guy fell through my ceiling.

Image from: http://www.skullsunlimited.com/record_species.php?id=2487

At that point, all the usual thoughts went through my brain that normally occur to a person when they realize they are holding a dead animal, such as, I can’t believe I’ve been sleeping four feet from a squirrel skeleton for months!  And Why did my good-for-nothing cats not realize there was a squirrel skeleton in their basket of toys?  And My friend Emily would really like this, I think I’ll save it for her.  No?  That’s not a normal thought?  Well, it is if your best friend is a science teacher that loves animal bones.

Unfortunately, Emily lived in Massachusetts at that time, and I couldn’t easily give her my gift.  So, being the good friend that I am, I put the squirrel bones—the spine, the pelvis, and the femur—into a ziplock bag and kept it in my dresser for… oh, longer than I care to admit.  In my memory, I eventually gave the remains of Skippy the Squirrel to Emily, but I just talked to her yesterday and she remembers no such thing, so I am thinking (hoping) that I one day came to my senses and threw them away.  Or gave them a proper burial.  Or donated them to another, less enthusiastic, science teacher.  All I know is that I’m pretty sure I no longer have them.

I guess the moral of the story is… yeah, I’m drawing a blank here.  Good luck.

[Strangely enough, this is not my only blog post about a person realizing they are holding a dead animal.  To read the other one, entitled "Danger, Danger Everywhere", click here .]

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