A couple of weeks ago this crazy little squirrel started hanging out at the condo. I have never, in fifteen years, seen a squirrel here. Neither had anybody else. A friendly little beast, he would follow me, would follow anybody, up and down the hall. Some of the women freaked out. He would follow you home and run up your screen door. Look you quizzically in the face. He jumped on Dan's shoulder.
We concluded that he must have been somebody's lost pet, so frank was his trust. Barbara fed him almonds. His behavior wasn't rabies-peculiar or erratic. Just unaccountably friendly.
Finally he followed a woman to the laundry room; Phyllis ran home screaming and refused to leave her apartment. She called me. I told her I had seen the squirrel and wasn't sure what, if anything, I could do, or could be done. By now I was feeling a bit protective of the little guy, while realizing that of course he couldn't stay. Phyllis was undaunted. She began making a series of phone calls, first to the police, then to various agencies, all leading nowhere.
Eventually she got in touch with her nephew who came by with a squirrel cage with a trip door. He brought peanuts with him. Sam, for that is what Barbara had named him, was an easy lure. Rich put the cage down on the lawn, threw in some peanuts, and Sam came running. Seconds later little Sam was in the bag. Rich fell in love with him. He took Sam home and turned him loose in his back yard.
Omens sometimes accompany significant events. The next day, on Monday morning, July 21, the day before Kate's shout started the avalanche that was to collapse the grand illusion that was Nicky Cooper, I picked up the phone at my condo.
"Bees, what bees?"
"Hundreds of them."
"On the fourth floor."
Convinced they were probably just a few paper wasps, multiplied by geriatric anxiety and myopia, I went to look.
Bees. Hundreds of bees. At one point while I was watching, a piece of the swarm simply fell off and dropped at my feet on the sidewalk like a chunk of melted snow.
Dan came out for a look. "Unbelievable," he said.
Somebody, we supposed, should do something. I'm an officer on the condo board. I picked up the phone and started making calls. It didn't take long to locate beemaster Keith. The apiary office of the state environmental agency knew him. So did our local exterminator. "We don't kill bees," he said, when I took him up to the roof to show him the swarm.
He brought up a bee box and quickly began loading bees, who seemed all too happy to be loaded, onto the blocks. Then he settled in to watch the rest of the swarm slowly migrate boxward. "Why do they like our rain gutter?" I wanted to know. "The queen." said Keith, a man of few words.
Suddenly, he was reaching into the swarm with his bare hand.
"Here she is," he said.
Gingerly placing the royal one in a special capsule, he returned her to the box, and to the company and ministrations of her subjects. The bees would be transfered to Keith's bee farm.
He told me that he'd come back that night to pick up the bees. I watched them stream, flit, and saunter into the bee box. It would take a couple of hours. "They know where their home is now," he said.
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