Squirrels Can’t Read Minds and Other Things My Crazy Neighbor Needs to Know

Midlife Sentence | Squirrels Can't Read Minds

Yesterday I had an appointment with Steven, whose calendar fills months in advance. If I ever have to reschedule, it’ll be a while before I can get back in.

I don’t have a lot of secrets, but if I did, Steven would know them. He’s got sophisticated ways of making people talk even when they don’t want to. I’m just guessing about that. I’m not one of those people who needs a lot of prodding to spill the beans.

In fact, I’d make a lousy secret agent, or spy or anything. This would be me in any kind of captured secret agent situation:

Evil Villain: Ve have vays of making you talk. *brandishes pliers*

Me: Eek. Whatever you do, do make me tell you the secret code, or the location of our secret agent headquarters.

EV: *puts down pliers* You have a code? Headquarters?

Me: Well it’s more of a clubhouse, really… Oh shoot! Dangit.

“So, what’s new,” Steven says as I come in, hang my coat and take my seat. He’s a good one to hash over stuff relating to family, parenting, work, or just the weather. If I don’t have anything to share, he’s ready with a story of his own, just to get the juices flowing.

But on this day, I’ve come prepped with the latest tale about my flailing about as a human.

“I’m still feeding the crazy lady’s squirrels.” I cut to the chase. We only have 45 minutes.

Steven frowns as he shakes out a gown and drapes it on me.

“Let’s hear it.”

Here’s the story: Once upon a time, a woman on Nextdoor needs help unloading a big bag of birdseed from her car because her back is out. I live with two strapping adolescents, and have a rare minute to spare, so I grab a kid and head down to see her.

She’s already found help with her bird seed but keeps us on her doorstep for about 30 minutes with what I suspect is only a partial account of her personal woes. She’s thankful we’ve come to help. The rest of her neighbors can’t seem be neighborly enough to do so anymore. We manage to extract ourselves from the conversation when she finally stops for breath, but it isn’t easy.

Days later she calls (because why not leave my cell number on some strange neighbor’s Nextdoor comment?) and leaves a message that’s essentially “thank you for your kindness,” but in long form. Like, my-voice-mail-cuts-her-off long.

I don’t call back then, or later when she calls to say how nice I seem and how she can tell these things about people and would my son be able to come around once in a while and empty her cat litter? Newsflash: I can tell things about people too, and this woman freaks me out. I take a pass on the cat litter thing on behalf of my kid.

In December she calls again and I pick up, not recognizing her number. She’s fallen on ice and was at the hospital until late when her neighbors could drive her home. She’s broken both arms and her knee and can’t really function and isn’t sure what she’s going to do to take care of herself or her cat but the most tragic thing is her bird and squirrel feeders are empty and it’s winter and they’re starving and all looking at her through the window and she swears she can hear them all dying and she’s dying too and all she’s asking is if I’ll pick up the birdseed she’s already paid for from the lawn and garden store?

I promise to pick up the birdseed the next day and assure her that the birds and the squirrels won’t hold the wait against her. I hang up and have a mini nervous breakdown in the middle of the grocery aisle.

I won’t bore you with a long list, but I’ve somehow found myself Head Caretaker of All the Things at this point in my life. Worrying about how some stranger is going to take care of a bunch of codependent fauna much less her own, damn self is the last thing I need on my plate.

Which is the genesis of my latest inner monologue that’s been on continuous replay every couple of days or so for the last two months I’ve been feeding this crazy lady’s squirrels and birds:

Me: Oh my God, I don’t have time for worrying about her damn squirrels.

Also Me: It’s literally 20 minutes every couple of days, and you’re just too busy?

Me: You know it’s twice that long if she happens to catch me while I’m there.

AM: Man, you are a piece of work. You’re all willing to help a person out but only so long as it meets your criteria?

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