Alright listen up, I think we all know last night was not pretty. It was a hell of a sweaty mess, and I know you understand I’m not talking about the good kind of sweaty mess, right? What I’m talking about is what was probably the worst night of sleep in goddamn recent memory. Do I look well rested to you? No, I didn’t think so. I have a kink in my neck and my back hurts like hell, and why? Because of you. See, I thought you were supposed to support me. I mean, isn’t that what you are MADE for? I toss and turn and scrunch you both up, and then my head literally sinks straight down to the goddamn mattress. It’s like you’re not even there! I’ve never seen such a couple of lame, sorry ass, piece of crap pillows in my life! I mean, I could fit you both into my goddamn wallet. What are you made out of— AIR? Aren’t pillows by definition fluffy? Naw, not you two. You two have seen your day, and that day was a long time ago. Oh look, it’s almost bedtime. I better go get two socks and lay them under my head. That’ll be better than having to deal with you two sons of bitches.
All of the young Potatoes were in their jackets that evening because it was cold at the game, and Mother Spud said, “We’re stayin’ until Little Fry scores a touchdown, so keep yourself warm.” Down by the sidelines, the Salmon twins waved their pennants, calling, “Yay, for our school!” And at halftime they held out their fins to the players jogging off the field, “Gimme some!”
I was out in the front yard, leaning on the tree-swing, enjoying the sound of leaves clicking in the breeze and watching the shade flicker on the dead grass.
My little girl sat above me, tucked into the crook of the mulberry tree, as she peered down the road through plastic binoculars. She wanted to surprise her preschool teacher, who was about to arrive for a visit.
I let myself relax, body and mind, staring at the charcoal purple shadow of the tree on the pavement.
“I don’t see her yet, Mama.”
Long pause. I lingered in my reverie. “Ok,” I said a few moments later. “Stay up there. I’m going inside to check the time.”
I stepped into the open entryway, and that’s when I saw the squirrel walking down our hallway. He had already passed the entryway, so he didn’t see me, and he moved at a moderate pace, looking left and right, which gave the impression of casual curiosity. His tail disappeared around the corner, towards the girls’ bedrooms.
It would have been better for all of us, especially the squirrel, if my reaction had been cool. But no. I clenched my fists and squealed in a whisper, while dancing around from foot to foot, unwittingly telegraphing alarm through the floorboards and the air to every one of the creature’s five senses, and then I ran outside again to lift my girl down from the tree, because to my mind, things were about to get crazy, and I didn’t want to leave her stranded up there if I was caught up in squirrel corralling.
The squirrel bolted to the bathroom where I could hear skittering and crashing as he tried to escape through the large mirror on the wall, and then he jumped into the bathtub and leaped against the clear shower doors again and again, his small body— so foreign to marbled tile— visible each time he jumped.
Finally, he quieted down.
“We aren’t going to hurt you. We just want to help you get back outside,” I said calmly towards the bathroom.
“Mom! Squirrels can’t understand our language!” As she said this, she put a hand to her forehead briefly.
“You never know,” I said.
Just then, the teacher’s car pulled up in the driveway, and my daughter ran outside.
Then I heard her teacher’s voice exclaim, “There’s a squirrel in your bathtub? Well, that’s just ridiculous!”
Standing in the hallway, we told her the story and discussed techniques for ushering the squirrel outside. I ended up opening wide the door to the back yard and closing off all other pathways in the house.
Then we sat down to a three person tea party in the dining room, with chocolate cookies, grapes and lemonade in tea cups. We chatted about the upcoming school year and had a lovely visit.
Epilogue: The squirrel escaped an hour later, with the help of our neighbor, who works with wounded wild animals at the Lindsay Wildlife Museum in her spare time. She came over right away when the girls ran to get her, and said, “What do you need? I have 10 minutes before I have to take the dog to his vet appointment.” She waved a pink bath towel and like a bullfighter but with great compassion, and finally coaxed/ushered the squirrel out from the bathroom and then from under the bed and then out the screen door.
I lie, braided and beautiful. Dead, actually. A vine winds around my body, and it flowers above my head. Irises rest in my hand.
I am graceful and complex and warm in the sun as I rise and float in a dancerly way, or dance in a floaty way into town, down among the shops, swooning in the weekend morning air— swooping around a lamp post coyly, headfirst. I hold myself aloft sideways. Somehow, I still have weight. Oh, the dear weight of me, from my fingertips to my toes! I course with power, like caffeine, only fresher and more natural, like wet bark essence emanating from my pores, as I hold my otherworldly body perpendicular to the metal post, like only a very strong, slight person can do.
In fact, now I am a Chinese man, a 20 year old Olympic gymnast, on the still rings. I look magical as I raise myself from the mat with widespread arms– my muscles roped– to a suspended pike position, toes pointed. I am trained, honed, elite.
How I love my body. I celebrate it and sing it up, like Walt Whitman would have done.