Sometimes You Feel Like a NutOct 01, 2021 08:45AM ● By Maggie Barnes
“We’re all here, so let’s get started.” It was the 10,000th Zoom call of the year. We were planning a commemorative coin if it went well. I settled in for another hour in front of my screen, staring at my colleagues in their corporate Hollywood Squares boxes.
My part was over early, so I minimized the screen and worked on other things, while listening to the proceedings. That’s when I noticed my squirrel.
My office has a window looking out on a parking area and fenced-off space for equipment. Last year I saw a little gray squirrel hanging out on the fence and the half wall. Thin, ragged, with a tail that bore evidence of some sort of attack, he wasn’t the least bit cute. But my heart always went out to him. About once a week, I dumped a few handfuls of peanuts on the half wall, and he rewarded me by sitting within my view while he munched.
A medical leave kept me from being faithful with the peanuts and the squirrel wanted me to know I’d dropped the ball. When I looked out, he stood up on his hind legs, tiny gray paws clasped together, staring at me pleadingly. I thought of the brand-new bag of peanuts in my car on the other side of the campus and fought the age-old battle of logic versus emotion.
“I can’t,” I said through the window. “I’m on a call.”
He continued to stare.
After ten minutes, my heart couldn’t take it. I was calculating the time left in the meeting and the distance to my car when my eyes fell on the large jar of cashews I keep in my office for afternoon snack attacks.
“Hang on, buddy, I’ve got a treat for you.”
I grabbed the jar and headed outside. I arrived to find him sitting on the fence, regarding me silently.
As I dumped a hefty portion of cashews on the half wall, I chatted away at him.
“I know, I’ve been gone for a while, but this will make up for it. Something special!”
I trotted around the building, clutching the jar of cashews and feeling proud of myself.
Like most corporate settings, we have only one entrance open these days where you are screened for COVID every time you enter. The screener raised her brows at the cashews but waved me through.
Back to my desk. Back to the meeting. I watched the squirrel push the cashews around with his paws, seemingly unsure whether he should take one. Odd. I mean he’s a squirrel, it’s a nut, what’s the issue here? He finally selected one and headed back to the fence.
The meeting continued on.
Idly, I Googled “Do squirrels like cashews?”
The website that came up blasted me with a bolded message—You should never feed squirrels cashews of any kind!
I snapped to attention at my monitor and read the whole entry. Apparently, a high level of phosphorous in cashews depletes the squirrels of calcium. One or two is okay, but more are toxic.
A second later I watched the little fella pop the cashew in his mouth.
I leapt from my seat and waved my arms frantically. Keeping my voice down to avoid alerting my co-workers, I hissed at the window.
“Spit that out! You can’t have that!”
I looked at my heaping gift of poison pills, then at the squirrel and began to panic. Great. I was about to single-handedly wipe out the gray squirrel population in East Elmira.
As I watched in horror, he snagged another.
Two down. One more and his bones would fall out of his body. I envisioned his suddenly frameless body draped over the fence like an unmanned hand puppet. Wonder how many chest compressions you do on a squirrel?
I had to get those nuts back.
Ten minutes left in the meeting.
Out the door again, I ran the length of the campus to the employee parking lot. Well, what passes for my running. I looked like a person trying to smuggle two stolen brooms down my pant legs. Drove my car around the block and parked closer to my office. Grabbed the bag of peanuts and trotted around the building. My friend was back on the fence, second cashew at the ready.
“No! Put that down, you can’t have it!”
Into his mouth it went.
Frantic now, I dumped half the bag of peanuts on the wall. “No more! Are you feeling okay? Are your bones brittle or anything?”
Making a pocket with the tail of my shirt, I scraped up the cashews and folded them against me. I figured I was about three minutes ahead of the security detail I was sure had been dispatched.
“Look, I screwed this up. I didn’t know. Whoever would think you, of all creatures, have a nut allergy?”
Juggling my car keys, the open bag of peanuts and the shirt filled with cashews, I headed back for the a garbage can, then staggered the length of the building again to go in for my third screening of the day.
The nurse looked at the bag of peanuts, the remnants of the cashews on my shirt, and my sweating face.
“Do you walk all your nuts on Thursdays?”
I looked straight ahead. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
She took my temperature and tilted the scanner. “Slightly elevated.” Above her mask, her blue eyes twinkled.
“Shut up, Lucy.” And I kept walking.
The next morning the peanuts were gone and the squirrel was still there.
I’ll start him on calcium supplements next week.