the life of richie


Posted in is by Rich on February 25, 2009

There is a squirrel who has taken to waiting for him when he returns to his apartment in the afternoons. He stations himself on a post long the perimeter of the porch, a ledge above the trellis-work, waiting. Once Rich saw the squirrel nibbling on one of the red chilies left-over from the summer; the ones that had taken to drying and dying in fiery ristras on the stem. The jittery squirrel (hot, hot, hot); he had worried/wondered if the chili would be safe for his digestion. What is the constitution of a squirrel, after all? Vernacularly, he assumed squirrels subsisted off of nuts. Nuts are so bland, so bland and so safe; sometimes life too seems like this. Maybe there are berries too. But chilies?

There he is now, waiting.


After a trip to visit with his friend Anne, in which he speaks often of the squirrel and thinks of the squirrel oftener still, Rich decides to name him Pepper; then, almost immediately decides to promote him to the rank of sergeant. After all, Pepper looks to be a grey old pet, who has seen much of the world. The world has worked its wars on Pepper. What is a chili, when you have seen the things I’ve seen? he might growl. A chili will help me to forget all this world, kid. The things I’ve seen!

Rich remembers: when he and his sister had gone to Venice, Rich had stuffed bags of mixed nuts purchased at the Sainsbury’s into his suitcase. For some reason he had worried about he and his sister having enough to eat. What if they were hungry at night? What if they ran out of money? One could subsist off nuts, he reasoned, for days, even weeks if necessary; they are so safe and nutritious. When they were tucked away in their hotel room in the afternoons, reading books or watching Italian television, they would snack on the nuts and feel very safe and nutritious.

Perhaps this is how he has come to be a brother to this squirrel. They are almost roommates; except that the squirrel keeps to the back porch and Rich to the insides; this makes them very good roommates, very respectful of each other’s space. He considers Pepper more a roommate, though (or a brother) than a pet or vagrant varmint.

He feels responsible for Pepper. He has named him now, domesticated him in this sense. He wonders what Pepper does all day while he is out –– during all the hours and minutes and seconds that he is not waiting for Rich to come home; for them to share a brief moment (sometimes up to a minute, but usually much less) of “roommate time”, the silent staring of one to one. He wonders if Pepper has friends, but worries that he does not, which is why he is not afraid of Rich and has taken up this routine of the waiting. He would like to leave out foodstuffs, but doesn’t want to attract any hussy squirrels or birds or rabbits or things that might show up just for the free eats. He thinks Pepper understands this; does not expect any handouts (he is proud). Stole the chili, maybe, just to be noticed: that was when Rich first took serious notice of Pepper. Like any other middle-class shoplifter, who does it entirely for the thrill and the attention.

So that is what is, between the man and the squirrel. Shared, liminal moments of coming in the house –– a pause in passing (how was your day? mine too); and then, off ––


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