In Boozo Veritas # 61 by Teege Braune
Squirrel Babies of Orlando: Part 2
And now the exciting conclusion to Squirrel Babies of Orlando.
When I got back to my house, I was met with a critical situation. Jenn had quarantined the babies in a cat carrier, and while two of them were spunky and active, wrestling with each other and climbing up the carrier’s metal gate, the third had grown weaker, was obviously fading. His nose had not stopped bleeding. He sat in the corner of the case shivering slightly and clearly required the kind of medical assistance neither Jenn nor I was qualified to give. Fortunately, in my absence Jenn had formulated a plan. She had spoken to Shirley at Fallin’ Pines Critter Rescue who emphatically agreed to foster them despite the fact that she was already caring for over seventy orphaned squirrels at the same time. Jenn had met Shirley once before in a similar situation and felt confident in the woman’s nurturing abilities.
As we were pulling out of our driveway, Jenn told me that we had to swing by Drunken Monkey before we could begin the long journey to Fort Christmas in the sticks of rural Florida.
“What in the world is at Drunken Monkey that can’t wait until we get back from dropping off the squirrels?” I nearly shouted.
“You’ll find out when you get there,” she said.
It dawned on me that this must be the surprise to which she had eluded earlier, and as eager as I was to deliver the squirrels unto salvation, I could see that there would be no reasoning with Jenn who was unwavering in her insistence. As Drunken Monkey is only a block from our house, simply indulging her, and getting the chore over with seemed a safer plan than arguing the point. Nevertheless, I had become single-minded and frantic in my mission to rescue the babies, so I was barely considering the possibilities that this surprise might entail.
“Are you coming in?” I asked Jenn as I idled the van in a parking space.
“No, I’ll stay here with the babies,” she said.
“What in the hell am I supposed to do when I go inside? Ask them for my surprise at the counter?” I asked growing frustrated.
“Uh, sure. They know you,” was her cryptic answer.
I flung open the door to my favorite coffee shop and ran straight into the last person I expected to see.
Clasping my shoulders, my dear friend Adam looked me in the eye and said, “I hear there are some baby squirrels that need saving. I’m here to help.”
All this time, unbeknownst to me, Adam was some kind of super hero, and he had flown across the globe from Australia in a moment’s notice for the salvation of three baby squirrels. With this titan among men joining our ragtag expedition, I knew that we could not possibly fail.
“Thank God you’re here!” I said. “Come on, let’s go.”
Back in the van Jenn and Adam were laughing and asking me if I was surprised to see him.
I answered that of course I was, but the truth is I thought I must be dreaming and accepted the entirety of the bizarre situation with the resignation of the lucid dreamer whose dim awareness of reality quickly subverts the delightful illusions until they are conquered by consciousness, washed out completely, and so lost forever. I waited for wakefulness to take Adam, the baby squirrels, and perhaps even Jenn from me as I opened my eyes to discover who knew what other life, but then it occurred to me that I would probably not dream Laura Branigan’s “Gloria” onto the radio, and with that acknowledgment, I returned from my brief and unsettling revelry, my delusion of a delusion, and faced the wonderful knowledge that I was rescuing baby squirrels with not only my fiancé and love of my life, but also a long lost friend who only moments ago I did not know when I would see again. As we drove and joked and reminisced about old times, it was with a shrill heart shattering shriek that the poor, injured baby squirrel reminded us of our mission and purpose lest we forget the lives for which we had taken responsibility.
Fallin’ Pines Critter Rescue lies a clearing dotted by palms and trees laden with Spanish moss. Nothing about its appearance suggest that it exists anywhere near a major metropolis. The simple house sits beside a fenced in garden carved by a winding path, adorned by ponds and flowers, home to many abandoned animals including geese, rabbits, sugar gliders, and even a wallaby. This mini Wonderland is shepherded by Shirley, sometimes affectionately referred to as Squirrely Shirley, and her canine assistant who exhibited a gentleness with the babies that is uncharacteristic of her species. Shirley gathered the tiny squirrels in her cupped palms and held them up at eye level.
“Oh they’re going to be fine,” she said beaming.
We tried to point out the injured baby, to make sure he received extra and immediate care, but as I watched the three of them crawling up and down Shirley’s sweater, nibbling on loose threads, I realized I couldn’t tell him apart from his brother. As though Shirley exhibited a mystical healing touch, the little squirrel was completely revitalized. His nose had finally stopped bleeding and no one would have guessed that only moments ago he was crying out in agony.
“He just needed somebody to love on him… Yowww!!!” She screamed when one of the babies had bitten her ear. At the sound of her yell, the squirrel scurried inside Shirley’s hair.
“That happens,” she said regaining composure. “They’ll try to nurse on anything. Sometimes they come in and their poor, little penises are pink and red because they think they’re nipples.”
We all nodded at this observation pondering its implications.
“Well, I better take these guys inside and get them something to eat.”
Declining our offer of a donation, Shirley turned and walked away. Beside her large auburn ponytail, jutting from her hairline, hung a tiny gray ponytail.
Back in the car Jenn admitted that she hand’t named the squirrels because she would have been too heartbroken if they hadn’t survived the drive to Celebration. We drove back to town as the sun began to set on Orlando, planning our next move. Although Adam was only going to be around for the weekend, and I had to work much of it, we decided to make the most of the time we had. All three of us were ravenous from our adventure, and thought it appropriate to celebrate its success with dinner and libations, so headed to Fuji Sushi, a former staple for us back when Adam still lived in Orlando. We ate green mussels and an unreasonable amount of rolls including one called Aqua Bear, which we ordered simply because it reminded us of the tardigrade, a minuscule creature that can, oddly enough, survive in the vacuum of space, an animal so bizarre its very nature is a testament to the surreality of nature, the dreamy euphoria that is life.
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.