Morning porch mystery

squirrel window

So yeah, as I was saying, a squirrel’s head suddenly appears over the edge of the porch roof as I’m sitting out drinking my coffee this morning around 7:30. Looks at me for half a minute. Disappears. I hear it skitter off across the roof and around the back of the house.

A little while later, a movement off to my right catches my eye. There’s the squirrel — or maybe another squirrel; I’m not too good at telling them apart — sitting on its haunches on the sidewalk at the edge of the porch, and just as before, it’s staring intently in my direction. Well, they do that sometimes, I say to myself. Except then it trots over, click click click click click, goes right under my plastic stack chair, and stops.

So there I am with my feet propped up on the rail and a squirrel under my chair, and I gotta tell you, I’m starting to get nervous. This isn’t some college campus where squirrels have long ago lost their fear of humans through prolonged exposure to idiots with peanuts. Squirrels are wary creatures on the mountain, and with good reason: sometimes they got shot at. Quite often they get shooed out of birdfeeders by shrieking people brandishing brooms. But this squirrel (a) has exhibited a total lack of fear of me, and (b) is sitting, as I mentioned, directly underneath my butt. I know they say that rodents never get rabies, but I’ve just read a press release from the Pennsylvania Game Commission verifying that an attack beaver in Philadelphia, which bit three people before they blew it away, tested positive for rabies, so all bets are off as far as I’m concerned.

Two minutes go by. I can’t take it anymore. “Hey buddy, watcha doin’ under there?” I say loudly. No response. I stand up, take a long step away from the chair, and look: no squirrel. What the hell?

There are only two other pieces of furniture on the porch, and they flank the chair: my ratty old end-table on the right, and a white wicker settee-type thing on the left. The former provides no cover, and I examine all around the other: nothing. I lift it up and look underneath, even knowing there’s no way the squirrel could’ve gotten under it without making a sound. In fact, the squirrel couldn’t have gone anywhere without making a sound. It’s a wood floor, there’s nothing wrong with my hearing, and besides, I was on high alert. The only possible explanation, my dad agrees when I tell him the story an hour later, is that I have somehow acquired some kind of wormhole or portal to another universe directly under my chair. I mean, I’d be happy to hear alternate explanations, but I’ve been thinking about this all day and I have yet to come up with one.

I don’t expect the world to make sense all the time. I accept that any worldview, no matter how firmly based in science, cannot account for all phenomena, and that deciding what to believe about the way things work comes down to picking the least objectionable mass delusion. But is it too much to ask for a little self-consistency? In my universe, squirrels don’t scamper under one’s plastic stack chair and disappear. It’s simply not done. Maybe in your universe — that’s fine. But mine makes sense… in fact, too much sense sometimes. It has laws of physics in effect. If it didn’t, I probably wouldn’t feel compelled to spend all my time scribbling poetry just to mess with my sense of reality. You know what I mean? Every morning would be an adventure straight out of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. Hell, I might not even have to blog.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave's writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the "share alike" provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

21 Comments


  1. Beam me up, Scotty. There’s no intelligent life down here.
    ;)

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  2. :-) Wait ten, twenty years, and your senses will do this kind of thing to you all the time. It’s good for you.

    Squirrels don’t use portals to other worlds, so that can’t be it. My best guess is that the squirrel never went under your chair at all (which after all would be a very strange thing for it to do.) Your mind just worked up some sense data into a best guess, which after all is what it does all day, and this time it guessed wrong.

    Possibly a bird or a large insect flew under your chair, coming in on a similar bearing to the squirrel? Once your mind is convinced that it’s got a moving object identified, it tends to hang on to the identification whether it really fits or not.

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    1. Nice try, Dale, but I watched the squirrel cross the porch. I only lost sight of it when it went under my chair.

      One possiblity I haven’t considered though is that it is a trained ninja.

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  3. No explanations to offer but it sure does make a good story. And I’ll be watching our local squirrels more closely. Pratchett’s world is fun to visit but I think maybe living there would be unsettling.

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    1. Yes, I agree. He has a knack for making magic sound… unmagical. Downright unpleasant, in fact.

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  4. Remember that teeny, weeny door with the telephone inside? Maybe it was really a squirrel Tardis, and you had a visitor from Castell Powis…

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    1. Well, that’s true — since our gray squirrels have kind of taken over the UK, I guess I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference, would I?

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  5. 1) I never really solved the chocolate muffin mystery in our life/my blog, involving a visiting dog and a garage door repairman, so I have to warn you that there may be no resolution…

    2) Intricate relationships with the squirrels in my yard here…so I know anything is possible…

    3) Have you seen Bruce Almighty? Small animals can emerge from and return to unusual places indeed…so be careful.

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    1. Squirrels are wily critters, no doubt about it. (I am among the heretics who would rather watch them than the birds!)

      I have seen that movie; forgot about that scene until now. I guess I should count myself lucky, then!

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  6. Surreal story, Dave! I’ve had similar encounters with magical squirrels — it’s like the X-Files of the squirrel world.

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    1. This was my first thought, as well. That, or perhaps the hat you were wearing at the time?

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    2. I’m not sure what that means, Clive, but I suspect I don’t have such things.

      I’ve been going mostly bare-headed lately. I managed to lose my qarrtsiluni ballcap in Wales. Not that it could have accomodated anything much larger than a cockroach — I have a big head.

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  7. It goes click, click, click on its way under the chair… and later on it isn’t there. If it’s possible that it could have left without your seeing it maybe it had a quick nail-clipping session and left going , , ?

    If it wasn’t possible to get out from under your chair without your seeing it (eyes in the back of your head, obviously) then it must be nesting in your beard. To paraphrase Mr Lear:

    There was a young man with a beard
    Who said “it is just as I feared!
    While I drank my coffee
    The squirrel went dotty
    Shrank in size and climbed in my beard.”

    You never know.

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  8. Maybe it did go under your chair and its next move was a big leap off the porch, landing silently on a soft grassy place. I’d like to see the position of your chair on the porch…I know that it’s not very big and squirrels can leap in big bounds.

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    1. Such a bound would’ve been completely blocked by the wicker settee — and even if it weren’t, the squirrel would’ve hit the heating oil tanks with a thud. You can examine the exact placement of chairs if you come out tomorrow.

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  9. It happens to me all the time these days, Dave. I look for my eyeglasses where I last saw it, and it is no longer there. I think the only difference between your experience and mine is a case of dotage for me, and you, a quicksilver mirage, or the squirrel is just a lot faster than your senses and your thoughts faster than your senses. But you’re getting there. Not yet, though.
    (:–)]

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