Close Encounters of the Sciuridae Kind


I should have been asleep. Any other respectable second-grader would have been peacefully dormant a long time ago, but not me. I was anxious for a reason I could not place. Minutes passed slowly as they crawled by individually, and quickly once they had accumulated. I silently stared at the Blue’s Clues nightlight.

That was when I heard something, and I thought I saw a silhouette shuffle across the floor. I dismissed this as mere paranoia at first… until I heard it again. Still skeptical, I called out cautiously to my sisters across the room. “Did you see something….?”

As it turned out, Millie was also awake. “Yeah, but I don’t know what.”

I was comforted that I was not the only one feeling uncharacteristically insecure. Awake in solidarity.

I went through a unsystematic list of tangental possibilities. Was it one of the household cats? Or a mouse? Or one of those giant poisonous toads from Africa? I had just checked out a book from the library featuring those; surely there would be some useful information on defense within. Whatever it was, I didn’t want to leave my only sanctuary– the bed– to find out.

Conveniently, my mother heard us talking and opened the door. Suddenly, I could see the creature in all its glory, bathed in the unfiltered light from the hallway. Whatever I thought was exuding the aura of vague, indeterminate malaise in my dark room, I’m pretty sure a flying squirrel wasn’t it.

The squirrel panicked, as did everyone else. I clutched my pillow and screamed with Millie. If I was in a cartoon, there would have been a string of question marks and exclamation points over my head, along with a singular word: WHAT. 

Dad probably noticed that there was more shrieking than usual coming from upstairs. Instead of screaming like the rest of us, however, he ran to find something to trap it with. By this time the squirrel had leaped from its spot on the floor onto the yellow-and-red striped curtains. My other sister, Evelyn, lay there right next to it, still asleep. She has always been a deep sleeper, but given the circumstances, I thought this might be an exception.

Dad reappeared with a large plastic sand-castle bucket and a newspaper. He climbed heroically onto Evelyn’s bed, bucket in hand, trying to capture the squirrel without waking up my sister. The squirrel was clinging stubbornly to the curtain with its tiny yet terrifying claws. It stared at my dad with its dark endless eyes that only portrayed doom and despair. Then, with a startled flurry of its veined, membrane-like wings, it was on the floor again, and my dad pulled the bucket over it.

Now the squirrel was thoroughly trapped. We all just kind of stared at the bucket for a moment. The squirrel was under it, scared witless. In Girl Scouts, we had learned that “animals are more scared of you than you are of them.” The Girl Scouts were filthy liars.

Mom somehow kept the squirrel in the bucket as she covered the opening with newspaper. I never knew what happened to the flying squirrel after it left the room. Secretly, I had hoped that it had been permanently relocated to the Siberian wastelands, but a suppressed part of my mind knew that its whereabouts were much more local.

Quoth my father: “Go to sleep, you have school tomorrow.”

For quite a while afterward I was traumatized. Just thinking of those tiny claws and dark eyes gave me heart palpitations. I would be lying if I said I fully recovered, but there’s only so many nights you can stay up scouring the floor with a flashlight before you figure out it’s not worth it.

I wish I could say this story had a moral, or at least some semblance of a message, but this tale is mostly one of blind hatred and fear that ended more or less ambivalently for all parties involved. If I gleaned any lesson from this experience, it was “In matters involving airborne mammals, meddle not.” It has served me well so far, and I can only hope that this adage holds true in the future.


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