A Non-Christmas Miracle
Winner of the Florida Magazine Association’s 2008 Charlie Award for Writing Excellence – Best Humor
Toilet Squirrel. Illustration by Marc L. Thomas.
There Is a Squirrel in My ToiletYou May Not Believe How It Got in There,
But Here’s One Way to Get It Out By Beth Nabi
It wasn’t December. It wasn’t my chimney. And it sure as snowballs wasn’t Santa.
It was a steamy July day, and it was a squirrel. In my toilet. I’ve told this story as many times as you’ll hear “Feliz Navidad” on the radio this winter, and I think people would be less incredulous if I were to claim I actually had seen St. Nick sneaking down my smokestack.
I have two cats that are good for exactly two things: un-decorating my Christmas tree and, apparently, alerting me to when there’s a rodent using my restroom. No-No and Get Down, Kitty had been acting a little — er, squirrely, all morning. I found the pair in Sphinx-like poses on the bathmat, staring intently at the toilet and not about to miss the show getting ready to go down. Tiptoeing somewhere between curiosity and dread, I explored the tiny room — looking under the cabinet, checking behind the toilet, peeking around the shower curtain … unsure what I was looking for, and very afraid I was going to find it. There was just one place left to look. And I didn’t wanna.
I lifted the toilet lid and, in the same heartbeat, slammed it down. What the – ?! Is that a – ?! Did somebody eat a – ?! Wait, is that alive? Did I just see that? Did it see me? What does it want? And then, the question everyone wants answered: How did a squirrel get in my toilet?
My mind and my heart racing one another, I shooed the cats out of the bathroom and shut the door. After a five-minute pep talk with myself, I got on my sweaty hands and shaking knees, eye-level with the toilet rim, and slowly cracked open the lid. There, just inches away on the other side of the cold white porcelain, beyond thick bristly whiskers and a mess of wet gray-brown fur, was a big, black, wide eye staring back at me. I slammed the lid down again.
There are certain bathroom situations I can deal with. I can jiggle the handle to stop a running toilet, I can plunge a clog, I can say “ballcock” at The Home Depot with minimal giggling. I’ve even been known to move the roll from the top of the tank and onto the holder when company’s coming (loose end hanging over, of course). A squirrel in the toilet left me bewildered and blank.
I called a friend who was my rescuer in a previous pest-related incident involving a Rodent of Unusual Size. Mike had fashioned a makeshift shovel out of a dustpan duct-taped to a broomstick to help me evict an 18-inch rat that had keeled over in my water heater closet. I’m pretty sure the behemoth choked when he was popping d-CON bon-bons and swallowed one the wrong way. Mike lived 600 miles away, but I thought he might have some advice. It was his birthday, and while I’m sure he was expecting an excited “Happy Birthday!” all that came out when he answered was a frantic “THERE’S A SQUIRREL IN MY TOILET!”
“There’s a what? In your what?”
“A squirrel! In my toilet!”
“How’d a squirrel get in your toilet?”
“I don’t know! How do I get a squirrel out of my toilet?”
He stopped laughing long enough to suggest I call Animal Control, but I wasn’t ready to make Toilet Squirrel a taxpayer concern just yet. We hung up and I decided to take my problem next door — to Evan, the World’s Greatest Neighbor. He has fixed everything in my house, including the kitchen sink. He keeps his garage stocked with thingamathings and whatchamajobs to solve any problem. Surely, he would know how to handle this.
I knocked. He answered, “Hiya, Beth!”
“Hi, Evan. Um, there’s a squirrel in my toilet.”
Unfazed by my absurd string of words, and without so much as a “How’d a squirrel get in your toilet?” he immediately grabbed the most logical toilet-squirrel-getter-outter tool — the Nifty Nabber Reach Extender — and said, “Let’s go.”
We marched back into my house, up the stairs and into the bathroom. Evan lifted the toilet lid as readily as if he were going to use the john, and slammed it right back down.
“There really is a squirrel in your toilet!”
I don’t know if he thought I had been lying or was just crazy, but I was happy to now be sharing this preposterous predicament with someone else. I may have had a squirrel in my toilet, but there were no bats in my belfry.
“Do you think we could just flush it?” he asked.
I suggested that, to keep both the squirrel and my plumbing intact, maybe flushing should be a last resort.
From a safe perch on the bathtub ledge, I watched Evan take a single swipe with the metal pincher, which sent Toilet Squirrel into a frenzy of sloshing and squealing as he whirled into Phelps-esque laps around the bowl. While the Nifty Nabber Web site guarantees that its wide, rubber-coated, grooved jaws “easily grab and securely hold out-of-reach objects,” the product had obviously not been tested on animals.
Evan headed back to his house to re-strategize, while I followed Mike’s original counsel and called the Leon County Animal Control Division. I missed their office hours by about one minute, and got a recording that said if I had an animal-related emergency, call the Sheriff’s Department. Convinced this qualified, I dialed the number.
“Hello. What’s your emergency?”
“It’s an animal-related emergency.”
“There’s a squirrel in my toilet.”
In the silence that followed, I wasn’t sure if a patrol car was being sent to haul me away for prank-calling an emergency number, or if the officer had dropped the phone in a fit of laughter, or if maybe, just maybe, she was checking the handbook for squirrel-in-the-toilet protocol.
She said there wasn’t much she could do, but wished me luck. Sounding more eager than precautionary, she told me to call back if anyone got bitten, because if rabies were involved it would fall under the Sheriff’s Department’s jurisdiction. I thanked her for not arresting me, and was headed back over to Evan’s to find out what Plan No. 2 was when I saw Alan, another neighbor, roll up on his bicycle. Evan had called for back-up.
I stood in my garage and watched these two Social Security-aged citizens stride across the driveway fully equipped and ready for combat. In my head, they were marching through a slow-motion Armageddon-Independence Day-Top Gun hero shot, with an epic action-adventure score playing. Alan wore three pairs of heavy-duty rubber gloves and had a rubber mallet slung over his shoulder. Sunlight glinted off the tin garbage can Evan carried, and an old, vinyl, flower-patterned shower curtain was tucked under his arm.
As our bizarre but intrepid trio climbed the stairs, the rescue squad briefed me on the plan: slide the shower curtain through the gap between the lid and the bowl, creating an impenetrable squirrel-human barrier; lift the lid, reach in and grab Toilet Squirrel; transfer him to the tin can; then secure the garbage lid with the mallet. I was relieved to hear that’s how the mallet would be used.
The two entered the bathroom and closed the door. I would give up all the presents on this year’s wish list to have visual documentation of the mêlée that occurred on the other side, but was instead left standing there listening to the shrieking, clawing, splashing, thrashing, knocking, banging and clanging, and finally, the victorious shouts of two grown men who had just fished a 1-pound vermin out of a commode and relocated him two feet to a garbage can: “We got ’im!”
They emerged from my water closet, each holding a handle of the tin can, looking very much like the Ghostbusters carrying out Slimer in a ghost trap. In the backyard, we removed the lid and all peered down at the poor, drowned-rat-looking thing. I tipped the can over and watched Toilet Squirrel go bounding out and scramble up the nearest tree. I wasn’t sure who’d been more scared: him or me. I wonder if he’s told the story as many times as I have.
The Squirrelbusters then started to theorize: How did the squirrel get in the toilet? Most people, affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age, want only to believe it came in through the front door — as if he rang the doorbell while standing on the step, legs crossed and doing the pee-pee dance, begging to use my bathroom.
I assured Evan and Alan that the toilet lids stay vigilantly closed, to divert the cats to the one legitimate water bowl in the house. I have no doubt the aforementioned R.O.U.S. could have lifted the lid himself and hopped in, but Toilet Squirrel had to have used the back entrance. Evan pored over the diagrams in his home-repair book while I feverishly Googled “How’d a squirrel get in my toilet?” (and found a surprisingly large Web community of toilet-squirrel veterans). We finally concurred that Toilet Squirrel had entered through an uncovered plumbing vent on the roof, found his way into a pipe, suited up in his little squirrel scuba gear and somehow made it through the closet bend and the S-trap. We think. Kind of like Santa Claus — no one actually saw it.
But I believe.
Editor’s Note: Before powdering her nose, the author still has to do a sweep to confirm a squirrel-free bowl. In hindsight, she realizes her discovery could have been even more startling (for both parties involved), and is eternally grateful for her cats’ curiosity.