Tuesday, November 13, 2012


It started with the old "watched pot" saying. Jonah had been driving her nuts for days using the expression, so at supper, she stood inches from the peas, intensely staring until -- just before the bubbles burst the surface of the water, the phone by her head rang sharply.

Gasping, she leapt backwards, narrowly avoiding knocking the pot to the floor and onto her feet. As she turned to grab the phone, the pot boiled.

Damn you, Jonah.

So naturally, she snapped as she answered the phone, "Yes? What?"

And equally naturally, it was Jonah's mother who frostily asked to speak with her son. Karen didn't even bother to try and explain. She just rounded the corner into the living room and dropped the phone into his lap. He was watching a squirrel documentary, so he put his mother on speaker phone. To Jonah, this was sensible.

Rolling her eyes, Karen stepped back into the kitchen to remove the rapidly boiling peas from the heat and take the chicken out of the oven. She could hear Jonah's mother indignantly demanding why he stayed with such a harridan.

Who uses the word harridan?

On the television, the narrator spoke soothingly and indulgently about the bad habits of squirrels.  He called them "peccadilloes."

A power outage knocked out the power overnight and so, not only was Karen late waking up, but the coffee pot wasn't on. She lifted the kettle and then slammed it back down again. Might as well make lemonade from the mess: she'd treat herself to take-out coffee on the way to work.

Naturally, the drive-thru was backed up to the street, since everyone else on the block had the same thought. Finally, Karen coasted to the window. As she retrieved her coffee and slid a toonie at the server, she saw a swift movement out of the corner of her eye. She blinked and dropped the toonie beside the car. Cursing, she put the vehicle in park and opened the door to grab it. As she reached up and dropped the money on the counter, her eyes focused on the dark corner of the window above the cash register. She saw the sharp bright eyes of a squirrel looking back.

She blinked again. Closed her door. Shifted out of park and drove away. There were no squirrels in coffee shops, for the love of god.


At the office, she spilled the last half of her coffee on the notes she'd just printed for the CEO's speech. Mutter mutter. Mopped it up and hit print again. The photocopier was on the fritz more than it was working, but seemed to be doing okay today, although it was making weird chattering noises.

After dropping the speech on Mr. Panzer's desk, Karen swung by the kitchen to make a cup of tea. Clicked on the kettle. Stared. Nothing. After five minutes, Linda came into the kitchen. Looked at her oddly. Plugged in the kettle and left.

Sighing, Karen trailed back to her office. Stupid bloody pots. Stupid watching. Bloody squirrels. She looked out her window across the parking lot. There was a tidy pile of 4 or 5 pinecones on her car.

On the way home, Karen stopped at the mall to pick up eggs and chocolate chips to make cookies. Leaving, she passed a small cardboard box. "FREE KITTYS" was written on the side of it, and two mewling scraps of felinity were inside. She barely glanced down.

At home, she assembled the cookies, then as they were cooling, remembered her good cookie tins were still in the spare bedroom closet. She yelled, "JONAH". No answer. As if from a distant universe, she heard the shrill PSHING PSHING of laser fire. She sighed. Well, when the marshall of the house was in the basement fighting space crimes, a gal had to do stuff for herself. For the greater good.

She pulled herself up the dark stairs and flicked on the spare bedroom light. Only one 20 watt bulb was in the overhead fixture. She remembered swapping it now with her sewing room task lamp bulb. Hmph. Oh well. In the dusky room, she opened the closet, and a small chittering satellite sprang from an inner orbit to glance off her left shoulder and run straight up the canopy on the bed.

Karen, shocked, sat down hard on the floor. "WHAT's GOING ON?" she heard distantly from downstairs. She looked up. The squirrel stared down at her balefully.

Back at the mall, the box was still there. She grabbed the ginger cat, and then decided to take the tabby too, for good measure.

The phone was ringing when she came in. She glanced at it. Jonah's mother. In the distance, the ek-ek of interstellar machine guns sounded. She put down a dish of milk, released the wee kittens to roam and explore, and turned on a pot of water. Stood up, pulled the phone cord from the wall and sat back down, bringing a recipe book.

"Wild game," said the book. "You can fry, fricasee, broil, roast or even boil squirrels."

Karen smiled.

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