When I was much younger and had not yet saved up enough to own a step ladder, I found I had squirrels living in my attic. I heard the squirrels first and, when I stacked some dining room chairs on top of each other, I could make myself just tall enough to peer over the attic access to see the squirrels relaxing in a corner.
“Hey, you!” I shouted.
This startled them, and they studied me for moment. However, since my eyeballs never rose any higher than the level of the attic floor nor advanced toward them in a menacing way, they reasoned that I was not to be taken seriously. After trying a few bad words I learned in the Navy with no effect, I decided on another approach.
I went down to the gas station and bought a box of the cheapest cigars I could find. Then, piling my chairs one atop the other again, I stood just under the attic access and lit my first cigar. I carefully blew the smoke in their direction, letting them know that the attic would soon be insufferably full of second-hand cigar smoke.
My wife, Bobbalee, came by sometime later and, after looking up at me for a time, asked, “What are you doing?”
“There’s squirrels up here. I’m smoking them out.”
She watched me puffing away and then said, “You know, of course, that tobacco is very addictive.”
“Good,” I said evilly, “I’d like to see the little rascals try to buy their own cigars at the gas station.”
“Why are your legs shaking?” I heard her ask in a far-off sounding voice and realized just in time that I was losing consciousness. I clambered down and sat on the floor drooling a little and trying to catch my breath.
“How many cigars have you smoked?”
“Flith or maybe Slix,” I drooled.
“Looks like two cigars are gone,” she said examining the box.
“Only tooth?! Snot plassaple,” I gagged.
“If you’re going to barf, get in the bathroom.” So I did.
The second day, I added another chair that allowed me to sit, rather than stand, just under the open attic access while smoking my cigars. I attached a clamp-on lamp on my chair, and thought that, if there ever was going to be a good time to read it, now was the time to read Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past.
By the end of the evening, I had smoked four cigars and read about 50 pages of the 3,000 I had to go. After three days, I had smoked the whole box and covered 100 pages. It’s a slow read.
At the end of the fourth day and using a flashlight, I checked on the squirrels. They had moved to a spot farthest from me. One had developed, like me, a persistent smoker’s cough which, in a squirrel, sounds like a tiny sneeze.
On the fifth day, I got far enough into Proust’s book to realize that I had no idea what he was talking about. The little madeleine cakes mentioned at the front of the book were not, it turns out, a clue to a murder mystery. Then, too, I had dozed off a couple of times and nearly fell off my stack of chairs.
On the sixth day, my wife said that she could not stand the cigars in the house anymore, that she had called the exterminators, and that I had to smoke outside from now on. I started to like cigars and spent much of that winter outside with the evicted squirrels. However, I noticed that, if I left a half-smoked stogie on the ground, it was always missing the next day.
Ed Hughes can be reached at (715) 365-1070.