Long, long ago, after saving up enough money from my first “real job,” I went out and purchased a brand new pellet gun.
It was a break-barrel .177 calibre German-made “Diana” pellet rifle, named after the Roman goddess of hunting, and she sure was pretty.
The name doesn’t sound all that threatening, I know; but trust me when I say that it was a very well-made rifle.
My new Diana fired at a speed of 495 feet per-second. This may seem like an arbitrary number, but it is important to note that when it comes to firearms in Canada, anything that fires at a rate of speed higher than 500 fps requires a Firearms Certificate. I obviously didn’t want the hassle of taking a course in order to obtain one, so I told myself I could do without those extra five feet per second.
When I brought my gun home, I was eager to show it off – but unfortunately, no one was around. I knew, however, that my younger brother would be along shortly, so I waited, rifle in hand, on the back porch. Home is a residential neighborhood, but that didn’t stop me from shooting a few pellets into some pop cans to kill some time. The gun fired with excellent accuracy, and a lot of power. I couldn’t have been more pleased with my purchase.
Before long my brother arrived and I was quick to show off the rifle.
“Wow, nice gun!” he said. “Can I shoot it?”
“Uh, I dunno,” I frowned. “I’ve hardly shot the thing, myself.”
“All right,” little bro said with a shrug. “Show me what it can do, then!”
“Okay!” I said, turning to the cans I had set up on the lawn.
But just as I did this, I sensed something in my peripheral vision. On the grass to the left of my brother and I was a plump, black squirrel, searching about for some nuts, it seemed. The little tresspasser appeared to be unaware of our elevated position, since it was busily digging about, its head buried in the finely-cropped green blades.
Digging in my lawn? Not on my watch! I was thrilled to know that the gun was going to immediately begin paying for itself, and put it to my shoulder, taking careful aim at the filthy little rodent.
What awful luck this squirrel must have, I thought. Of all the yards on this street, this neighbourhood, this town! What are the odds of it crawling its way into the only one where a kid was wielding a fucking rifle!
Pssssst! I signalled to my brother, who gulped in surprise as he caught sight of the foraging creature. I then grinned, closed my left eye, zeroed in, and pulled the trigger.
The rifle “Thwupped” and the squirrel’s body instantly flattened in the grass.
Then, just as I was thinking how anticlimactic it was that it merely collapsed, I was startled to observe an arc of crimson blood, not unlike the stream of a drinking fountain, gush from the back of its neck!
“Eughh!” my brother squirmed, his face shrivelled in disgust.
I looked back at the squirrel, which was now twitching about on the blood-stained grass, doing a slow summersault or two.
“Shit,” I muttered, immediately wondering how many neighbors were witnessing this gruesome scene from their windows–and also how many of those people might think it necessary to dial the police! For this reason I was a little hesitant to load another round. I simply wanted to resolve the situation–and fast!
“Hand me that shovel over there, and grab me a plastic bag from the kitchen!” I said.
My brother then passed me a spade and disappeared into the kitchen, returning seconds later with a white A&P grocery bag.
…he was now an accomplice.
We both hopped off the deck and ran to the squirrel. I scooped it up with the shovel and took it behind our shed where there was cover.
“Okay, here’s what we’re going to do!” I said, handing the shovel to my brother, the squirrel still flipping about in pain at our feet. “We’re gonna hit the sucker with the shovel, and then seal it up in the bag!”
“You mean I’m going to hit it with the shovel!” he whined.
“…right. But there’s no time to argue–so just do it!”
He gave me a contemptuous stare, but I was the older brother, so he winced and followed the order, clanging the flat side of the shovel hard on the squrrel’s body.
“Waeeeeennnnn!! Wa-waaaeeeeen!!” the rodent squawked in agony.
“Hit it harder, you idiot!” I yelled, looking about in a panic for any potential witnesses, whom we’d undoubtedly be forced to kill also at this point!
“Forget it! I’m not doing this!” my brother yelled, defiantly holding the shovel in front of my face.
“Goddammit!” I said, snatching the spade, and looking at the still-flipping animal. I wasn’t looking forward to this, but…it had to be done.
CLANG!! went the shovel as it hit the squirrel yet again, this time ceasing its noise and movement. I then pancake-flipped it into the plastic bag and tied it with a granny knot. I glanced around yet again and felt fairly confident that no one had seen us. My brother and I breathed heavily and went inside for a drink of water, leaving the bag behind the garage.
About an hour later we came outside again, since we had to get rid of the evidence before our parents came home. Amazingly, when we arrived at the bag it was jostling about, the squirrel still squeaking and squawking within!
Its screams were louder now. More desperate.
What the fuck kind of squirrel is this?! I wondered. Why won’t it die? It had taken a lead pellet in the neck, causing it to lose a significant amount of blood, suffered not one, but two hard blows from an old metal shovel, and had been placed in a plastic bag where it probably should have suffocated by now! Who sent you, squirrel!? What do you want from us?!
I then proceeded to give it several more frantic blows with the shovel, and it stopped moving inside the bag.
“Dead at last,” I said.
“About time!” scoffed my little brother.
Pffft! Ehhbit temmmmm!
Just then, we then heard our parents pulling the car into the driveway.
“Oh shit,” I exclaimed, grabbing the plastic bag by the knot I had tied in it. The evidence had to be hidden away before we were discovered! I quickly opened the door to the shed, placed the bag on the ground, and covered it with a overturned flower pot. Just to be sure no one would disturb it, I placed a fifteen pound bag of soil on top of the pot.
* * *
About a week later my Dad approached me while I was strumming away at my guitar and asked me to follow him. He led me towards the shed, and only then did I remember the squirrel! Putting it in there was only meant to be a temporary hiding place of course, and I had meant to toss it in the garbage or something–but I had forgotten! Idiot!
It didn’t look good, but I played dumb.
“Gee Dad—the shed? Why are we going to the shed of all places?” I asked him, as innocently as possible.
“You know why,” my dad responded, sliding open the door.
He turned to face me.
“LISTEN! I don’t want you killing all the goddamn squirrels around here! If we lived in the country you could lay waste to the entire ecosystem for all I care, but you can’t…be doing that…in the CITY!”
Amazingly, he seemed to be more annoyed than angry. Not what I had anticipated.
“Okay, Dad–I won’t do it again.”
“You’d better not,” he said, walking back to the house. “And get rid of that thing–I can smell it from here!”
I then looked down at the spot where I had left the animal a week earlier.
The soil and the flower pot had been removed by my dad, but the squirrel was laying on top of the bag, which, incredibly, it had obviously gnawed and scratched way through!
Its stiff body rested with its forearms outstretched, its yellow scissor-like teeth hanging, and slightly bent. And the face! God! Its FACE!
It was frozen like a snapshot. And if that snapshot had a caption?
…it haunts my dreams to this very day.