In Boozo Veritas # 60 by Teege Braune
Squirrel Babies of Orlando: Part 1
The day began with bloodshed. A small lizard named Bill who had snuck onto our porch seeking shelter from the storm found himself instead in the deadly maw of a nine pound monster in a tuxedo. Jenn grabbed Eury by the scruff, jostled her, but by the time she released Bill from her jaws, Eury had already inflicted a wound of fatally violent severity. Bill wriggled on his back, and we assumed his demise was imminent. The killer, for her part, exhibited not the slightest shred of remorse as she was incarcerated inside the house, but instead chirped out her frustration at being unable to finish the job and devour her victim completely.
Perhaps sacrificing the poor lizard to this fiend would have been the most humane course, but we were determined that Bill should know some kind of peace at the very end of his short life. Momentarily he regained composure, attempted to flee, but ran only a few inches, impaired as he was by his disembowelment. Ending his suffering by stamping him out seemed far too brutal an act, so Jenn merely scooped him up and laid him gently among some overgrown foliage in our front yard. He lay for a moment, breathing quickly, and then crawled slowly into the shadows presumedly to pass into the next world. One more brave, fallen soldier in the fight against Florida’s pervasive and aggressive mosquito onslaught.
“Are we cowards for not putting him out of his misery?” Jenn asked, and I cited Abbot Zerchi’s arguments against euthanasia in Walter M. Miller Jr.’s A Canticle for Leibowitz by way of a defense
Even the passing of one so meek as Bill had me reflecting on the brevity of life. I’d read that the biggest regret shared by those in their final months was not keeping up with friends, as though a lifetime is a collection of people to miss, a cultivation of those from whom circumstances have kept us for one reason or another. In my case: my family in and around Louisville, Kentucky, my high school buddies spread out around the country, my good friend Nat in Seattle whose birthday was over the weekend, Adam all the way across the world in Australia. A few years ago we were nearly inseparable and yet with that distance between us, two years had gone by since I last saw him. Just recently I had a dream in which I found us together again, only to awake and realize just how long it had been.
I was distracted from my melancholy as the animals in our yard were behaving oddly; bats flitted through the air in broad daylight, and a bluejay who had alighted on the porch railing bounced towards me on his back-bent legs, glaring nefariously. Perhaps it was Bill’s death that had agitated them or maybe we were just unused to the incongruities of nature as we’ve only had any yard at all for a short time, having recently moved out of an apartment building in downtown Winter Park. I was vaguely aware in the back of my mind that Jenn had promised me a surprise earlier that morning, but as my yard was becoming the fabled Area X of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy, I almost completely forgot about it. Even the broad elephant ear leaves seemed to encroach with an unnerving familiarity. The off-putting atmosphere culminated just as I was about to leave for a work appointment with the discovery of three baby squirrels, each with a bloody nose, scattered around the porch and the yard, climbing up walls and trees with unsure footing and squealing in a pitch that cut right to the heart strings.
I put off my exit as long as possible while Jenn and I watched from inside and waited for the negligent squirrel parents to return and gather up their fallen babies at the same time keeping an eye out for potential predators not excluding the murderer Eury and her accomplice Riley who sat at the window chirping, howling, and begging us to let them outside so that they could dispatch the innocent creatures. The babies teetered precariously along the fronds of a palm tree, and it became clear that they had been abandoned. No parent would return. Utterly helpless, overly trusting, they suffered slim chances in that wild backyard of ours. Intervention would soon be necessary. As I guiltily ran off for my appointment, Jenn and our neighbor Matt set about gathering the babies for safe keeping, but we had no idea what to do with them next. Jenn and I didn’t know how to raise baby squirrels, and furthermore, it became clear that one of them might be seriously injured. I spent my appointment anxious, glancing continually and apologetically at my phone for updates and as soon as it was over raced back home.
Will Jenn and Teege rescue the baby squirrels and deliver them to safety, or will they all die a bloody and agonizing death?! Tune into In Boozo Veritas next week for the exciting conclusion to Squirrel Babies of Orlando!
Teege Braune (episode 72, episode 75, episode 77, episode 90, episode 102) is a writer of literary fiction, horror, essays, and poetry. Recently he has discovered the joys of drinking responsibly. He may or may not be a werewolf.