At the end of January, the polar vortex came though forcing me to visit the storage room. I don't much care for the storage room. It's dark, crowded, and occupied. At the end of November, Lawerence Fischman made a sound argument for short term residence and I let him in.
By virtue of no cold water in the kitchen sink, I immediately diagnosed frozen pipe disease, braced myself and headed down the basement stairs.
What you're looking at is what used to be the kitchen of an illegal apartment. Everything's been stripped out but the bathroom behind me, which is still the bathroom behind me. The plumbing has been shut off, and or ripped out. Hard to say. However, the kitchen sink is directly above what used to be the illegal bathroom sink which means something is connected somewhere, or disconnected in a way that might not have been a good idea.
I don't see Lawrence Fischman when I visit storage to fetch a stored thing. I also don't spend much time in the room and I certainly do not start rearranging shit. That's the agreement we have. There will be no sign of squirrel residence and I won't go looking for him either. The verbal lease states that I shall immediately contact the squirrel elimination squad should I find any sign of chewed anything, much less squirrel poop or debauchery.
I'd forgotten the frozen pipe rider.
Lawrence Fischman, bit of a truce, eh? I've got a frozen pipe upstairs and if I don't isolate and thaw the damn thing we're going to have burst pipe and water everywhere.
Lawrence Fischman, I really don't want to have to yell, so could you just give me a nod of some sort? I don't want you waking up freaked out. That didn't end well last time.
Snarly squirrel sigh...
Yeah. I see you. I always see you. I know you think I don't see you, but I see you. I also appreciate that you don't come down here naked. That's pretty much more than I could bear. On the other hand, if Elizabeth...
OK, state your business and be done with it, Woman.
Get to it. I've got, uh
You've got, uh, what?
Mind your own beeswax.
Did you really just say that? How old are you anyway?
Nice people don't make inquires into squirrel age or weight.
Do I look like I've gotten any nicer than the last time you saw me?
Nope. Not at all. I'm fourteen.
A bit long in the tooth, don't you think?
Not at all. In the proper environment we can live to the ripe old age of twenty-four. If I haven't already made mention, this is the proper environment.
I'm going to erase that, OK?
That's fine, just get about your business, alright? I have a zoom session later on.
I'm not even going to touch that.
I was in that bathroom a long time. I was in there with a small, but very effective space heater. I stacked half empty five gallon buckets of sheetrock goo and stood there waiting for the sound of very old copper pipes splitting at their non-existent seams. Backing out of the bathroom, I realized the illegal apartment was quite toasty. It's almost always a comfortable level of toasty because a furnace big enough to heat the entire block is on the other side of the wall.
This wasn't a comfortable sort of toasty. I worried about Lawerence Fischman and thought about inviting him into the laundry room to ride out the heatwave. Except.
Except sitting on top of a suitcase in the back left corner were maybe a dozen of something that looked a bit like chipmunks sunning themselves on a blue suitcase rock. One of them was wearing my missing pearl bracelet doubled up around its (her?) neck. Another was wearing something I'm never going to unsee. Apparently somebody got into my craft bin and made themselves a chipmunk thong out of flamingo pink embroidery floss. Three of them were tearing at a piece of tulle, as if there wasn't enough to go around... there's a 200 yard bolt down here somewhere. Was a 200 yard bolt?
Mister Fischmannnn... a word, please?
Sure! Step into my office!
You office?! You have an office?
Yep. You've been standing in it for two hours now which is why I've missed two zoom calls.
It's a bit warm in your office at the moment...
Yeah, but it has a door that closes.
Could you close that, please? No! Not all the way! I'll never get out!
Lawrence Fischman, this place is full of squirrel size tunnels.
Yeah, but they don't come back here.
Oh. Oh, shit. Have you been over the wall?
No ma'am. I saw what he keeps in there and you don't ever want to see what he keeps in there so let's not talk about it. OK?
So I'll cut right to the chase.
You want to know where those women came from. Right?
I know exactly where they came from. They came from NOT IN THIS APARTMENT!
Well, technically that would be true but there's a little more to it than that.
On the other side of that back wall there was an abandoned oil tank. Remember that?
Of course I do, they dug up half the driveway removing it this summer.
They sure did. Did it ever occur to any of you that the abandoned oil tank might be somebody's winter home?
Nope. Never even thought about it.
Well you should have.
Lady, please stop yelling. It freaks 'em out.
... who's been yelling?
Lawrence Fischman, who has been yelling? We do not permit yelling in our home.
OK, I was a little pissed during the initial invasion.
I moved in November 25 and I moved in rather abruptly. You gave me the agreed upon two weeks of privacy to get myself situated, which I really appreciate because it really did take that long. I was going to set up housekeeping under the camping gear in the back right corner because there's a good size bubble with a couple of well concealed tunnels for my in and outs. You know, the necessaries.
Yes. I know about the necessaries and to date I've been very pleased with your cleanliness.
So. During my period of situation there was a bit of noise at the window. Sounded like an excavation. This went on about a week and a half before they started banging on the window. They looked like they'd been rolled and also, they looked a bit psychotic.
So you let them in?!
Lady. I had to. If you go around the side of the house, you may notice one or two rather large boulders where there didn't used to be anything bigger than a pebble.
They were getting ready to storm my castle.
They were going to push a rock through my window?
That's my window for the season and it's not a rock. It's a boulder. Anything more than twice my size is a boulder and those are at least four of me. I let them in to save the glass. And also your pipes. I was thinking of you. I'm sure several pipes would have frozen and burst if that window was open.
I would have noticed...
You come down here twice a month, Lady. This is a thing I appreciate, but let's face it, you come down here twice a month.
OK, Lawrence Fischman, I'm running out of daylight. Who are they and why are they here?
They are here because the women's chipmunk winter home, the empty oil tank, is gone. Just like that. Gone. In its place is a ton of cleaninsh and not so cleanish fill. They tried really hard to make it work but they were going to starve or freeze or something.
Wasn't there anyplace they could go? Where are all the boy chipmunks.
The boy chipmunks are next door in Dom's compost bin.
And they can't go there why, exactly?
Ever met a boy chipmunk in winter?
Can't say I have.
If you think I'm randy, you
Stop. Just stop. They have to go. There will be no chipmunk harems in my storage room. Not for any reason.
Are you heartless?!
Yes. Get them out.
Lawrence Fischman. You look positively teary-eyed but it's not working.
Can I have a week?
A week to play with them or a week to rehome them?
Yeah, OK, but you see that pearl bracelet? I don't know where the hell she found it but it is mine and I want it back now.
It's been more than a week. I found my bracelet on my dresser. I'm not sure if I'm more horrified by the lack of privacy or relieved to see it. I went down there today to make sure they were gone.
Ah, Shit. Lawrence Fischman, I didn't mean you too.
Yeah. I know, and I really appreciate that, but, Lady, could you just give me some space?
I can do that. I'll see you in the spring, OK?
Not if I see you first!
And that's how I knew Lawrence Fischman was going to make it through another broken heart.