I was catching up on my reading around noon when Mrs. M came in, holding her hands in front of her, one atop the other, like an oyster’s shell. But she wasn’t carrying a pearl.
What she had was a baby squirrel, which she had found at the base of a tree in our back yard. The Hound of the Basketballs had stood over the little varmint, but didn’t appear to have harmed it. So Mrs. M picked it up and brought it in.
“You know it isn’t gonna make it,” I said.
“Yeah, but I couldn’t just leave it there.”
“Well, I guess we’d better wrap it up in something. Keep it warm.” So Mrs. M found a dish towel and a washcloth, wrapped the squirrel up, and put it in a plastic container we usually use for leftovers. Then she phoned a friend of hers, who told us about a wildlife rescue center in Real City. Five minutes later, I was providing ambulance service for the swaddled squirrel and heading for the Interstate. The Spawn was downcast. “It’ll probably die, won’t it?” she asked.
“Well, everything does eventually,” I said, “But maybe not just yet.”
The Spawn and Mrs. M said goodbye to the squirrel, and I suggested they try for “Good luck” instead. “Don’t crank the A/C,” Mrs. M told me as I left. So I didn’t, and I was sweating like Michael Jackson at a Cub Scout meeting by the time I got to the center, some 35 minutes later.
I walked in, noticing an aquarium on my right as I approached the check-in window. A turtle swam inside the tank. A nice middle-aged woman in scrubs walked up to the window and asked me what I needed. “It’s a baby squirrel,” I said, handing her the container, wrappings, and critter. She unwrapped it. It lay very still. “It had a heartbeat when I left the house,” I said.
A voice from another room called “What do you have?”
The middle-aged lady shook her head a little, and said, “It used to –“, and then she said, “No, it’s still here,” and I let go of the breath I had caught without realizing it. She took the squirrel to a side room, and I filled out an “admission form” for the animal. Type of animal: Squirrel. Where found: At base of tree. When found: 60-90 minutes ago. Have you fed it? No. And at the bottom: “Our patients don’t have health insurance, so donations are always welcome.” I saw a sign near the turtle tank, listing the costs to rehabilitate various animals. At the top of the list, it said, “Squirrels (fox, gray, flying): $35.” Again, it said donations, either cash or supplies, were welcome. I checked my wallet. Eighteen bucks.
The triage lady came back, and said, “It’s a girl, about three weeks old. We’ll have to give her fluids, because I don’t think she’s strong enough to suck out of a syringe. But we never give up on an animal, and she’s got a chance.”
“Well,” I said, “We’ll just assume that everything will go well and that she’ll be rehabilitated successfully.” The lady smiled, and I said, “Given that assumption, there won’t be any need to tell us how things ultimately worked out. We’ll just maintain the assumption. And by the way,” I said, handing her the eighteen dollars, “Here’s half a squirrel.”
“Do you want a receipt?”
I shook my head. She thanked me for the money — I told her it was all I happened to be carrying. I wished her and the squirrel good luck, and as I turned to go, the woman said, “Thanks for bringing her in here, and for the donation.”
I shrugged. “What else would I do? And thank you for what y’all do.” And she smiled, and I smiled, and went back to my car, and headed back to Mondoville, and that was our Sunday afternoon.