Scruffy was a big hit with our new friends – they just loved her. She sat on my shoulder while I told them about how she came to me and then of her broken leg and how she had chosen to be an indoor squirrel.
“I think you said you have a dog”, Ralph said when I had recounted her story. “How does that work out?”
“There are two dogs in the house now that Alex and Deanna are staying with us. It makes for some ... uh ...interesting times.”
“I was pretty skeptical of having a squirrel in the house”, Doc said. “Especially after her leg healed. But I have to say she has not been destructive. As Meredith said, she uses a litter box and is well behaved. The dogs like to chase her around the house, and she will get up on the tall furniture and jump from piece to piece, but she doesn't knock anything off of it. I am amazed. When it gets too much for the humans, we separate them until they cool off.”
After awhile, the squirrel got off my shoulder and checked our visitors out. First she sniffed all around Ellen's feet, then Ralph's. Next, she jumped onto the arm rest of the chair he was sitting in and then onto his lap. Ralph stayed as still as a statue. A few minutes later, Scruffy sought out his hand and rubbed her head against it.
“She wants you to pet her”, I told him. “That's her way of issuing the invitation. She's accepted you.”
Ralph petted her for a few minutes before she went to Ellen's chair and did the same. I was glad that she was comfortable around them but worried once again that she was trusting humans too much. I hoped that it was only because I was there, along with Doc and Alex - three people that she lived with and trusted. If she chose to go back to the wild some day, I hoped that she would not trust strangers.
Once she'd had enough of being petted, she went back to the bedroom. The evening was getting on and she was ready to go to bed.
“Do you square dance?” Ellen asked Doc and I.
“No, but I have always wanted to learn”, I replied. “Do you?”
“Yes, we've been doing it for years.”
“Would you like us to teach you?” Ralph offered.
“I would love it!” I looked at Doc. The expression on his face said 'Not a chance in Hell'. “Come on, Doc, it will be fun!”
“You do it, Meredith. I'll watch.”
“I need a partner, silly!”
“I'll be your partner, Meredith”, Alex offered. “I'd like to learn, too.”
Ralph had taken his phone out of his pocket and was doing something on it. “I'll get some music ready. Meredith, why don't you be my partner and Alex can be Ellen's? It will be easier to learn if you partner with someone experienced.”
The Braxtons explained and demonstrated some of the basic square dance moves, then we paired off to practice. Finally, we traded partners, Ralph with Ellen and I with Alex. I was having a great time. Doc was watching us, looking amused. At one point, he cautioned me to be careful to not overdo it.
“Are you okay?” Ralph asked.
“Yes, Julian is just concerned because I have a lot of arthritis throughout my body.” While I was a little irritated at Doc for acting like a father, I felt a need to protect him.
“You need to live, Meredith. Being in a bubble all the time is not good, but....” he must have seen Doc's expression “you also have to know your limitations.”
“She knows her limitations, she just doesn't heed them”, Doc piped up.
“You mean like running barefoot outside and cutting her foot open?”
“Wait, I thought that was impulsive”, I said. They laughed.
Alex decided it was his turn to take a jab at me. “It was very impulsive and I concur with the other two doctors here - you need to pay attention to your limitations and not overdo things. There, that's three physicians, including one shrink, who say so. You are outnumbered, even if Ellen takes your side.”
Ellen looked put on the spot. “Don't worry, you don't have to”, I told her. “I can hold my own, even against three doctors.”
“Now, why do I not doubt that?” Ralph asked. We all laughed. “Let's put the square dancing away for now. I'll get some slow music up and we can dance in a way that's safer for you.”
“If you're going to slow dance, I want to dance with my wife.” Doc decided he would dance after all - just not square dance.
“By all means, Julian. But I would like one with our hostess after that. I'll even let you dance with Ellen.” He winked to show it was said good naturedly.
“I feel left out”, Alex pretend pouted.
“I'll dance with you after the others”, Ellen offered.
We danced for a bit, then the Braxtons said they had to get going. Ralph gave me a hug at the door and said “You take care of yourself - I don't want to see you in my ER anytime soon, unless it's to take me to lunch!” I laughed. “But seriously, if you're sick or hurt while you're here and I'm off, give me a call and I'll come and treat you if you don't need a hospital.”
I expected Doc to butt in and say he was perfectly capable of treating me, but he stayed silent. Later, he told me that he was fine with it, that maybe if TWO doctors said I needed something or to go to the hospital, I'd listen. Haha, Doc.
We made sure we had everyone's phone numbers and email addresses, the Braxtons even wanted to stay in touch with Alex and they wanted to meet Deanna. I invited them to friend me on Facebook and they said they would. “Can we friend you, Julian?” Ellen asked.
“I'm not on Facebook”, Doc replied.
“He thinks social media is a waste of time”, I said.
When Doc opened the door so the Braxtons could leave, we saw it was snowing. Not heavy - yet - but enough to need to shovel the walkway and behind their car. Ralph and Alex did it - they wouldn't let me help.
“Are you okay to drive?” Doc asked them.
“Oh yes, this is nothing”, Ralph answered. “We are not too far from you - only about 20 minutes or so. We will have to have you over some time.”
“We'd love that, Ralph. And next time you are in Williams Lake, you'll have to come spend a couple days on the farm. Do you ride?”
“We both do”, Ellen said.
“Meredith, you don't have enough horses that three can ride together”, Doc reminded me.
“There's Nell, one of the Braxtons can ride her, I can ride Jack - I will just run him the day before so he will go slower without protesting. And we can use one of Karen's horses - they are bomb proof. If you come in the winter”, I said to Ralph and Ellen, “I can take you on a hay ride. I have two Belgians that need the work.”
The Braxtons were on their way. “I should probably head back to the city”, Alex said “in case this snow gets any heavier.”
“Alex, it's a two hour drive. If it gets heavier, you could get stranded”, Doc told him. “Stay here until it stops and the roads are clear.”
“The hospital will understand”, I said. “And if they fire you, you can always open your own practice”, I teased. He gave in and decided to stay until the next day.
Sunday morning, the snow was still coming down. We put the radio on while we had our coffee and it said that all roads were closed. “Looks like you are staying awhile longer”, Doc said to Alex. Our guest called the hospital in Williams Lake and explained his situation. They told him to stay put until the roads were clear, no matter how much time he needed off. Fortunately, Doc and I had stocked the pantry and the freezer, at my insistence. I did not want to get stranded by an unexpected storm and run out of food.
After having coffee, Doc had a shower before he cooked breakfast. Time to put my plan for revenge on Doc in action. “Alex, want to help me prank Doc?” I asked.
“Oh, you know I do!” was the reply. I took him out to the woodshed, where I scooped some mouse turds into an empty tin. Alex looked at me quizzically.
“You'll see”, I told him. We went back to the cabin. Doc was still in the shower. I took the tin to the kitchen and opened the door under the sink. I shook a few turds onto the cupboard floor, making sure they were apart from each other since mice only drop one at a time, then shut the door and put the tin containing the rest of the droppings behind the stack of wood on the back porch where Doc wouldn't find them.
Alex had figured out what I was doing. “You're going to give him a heart attack, Meredith.”
“As his therapist, do you think this will scar him for life? If so, I'll remove the turds right now.”
“No, Meredith - I was teasing. I can't wait to see his reaction.” He giggled. Alex had a wicked sense of humour - he certainly wasn't the stereotypical stuffed shirt psychiatrist.
Doc cooked breakfast and we watched the snow through the kitchen window as we ate. It looked like we weren't going anywhere for a while. I didn't know how low on the priority scale our road was for plowing - since it wasn't a highway, my guess was pretty low.
As expected, Doc started the dishes right after breakfast was over. Alex and I watched as he opened the cupboard door to get the drainer/rack combo. He froze. I knew he had spotted the turds. I had to use every ounce of self control I had to not laugh. Alex left the room, I knew he was trying hard to keep a straight face, too. “Meredith!”
“We have a mouse!”
“Are you sure?” I asked in as innocent a voice as I could muster.
Doc stood up. “Look!” He pointed to the bottom of the cupboard.
I feigned surprise. “Yes, it does look like we have a mouse. I'll get the traps, I saw some in a drawer somewhere around here.” I found the traps and showed Doc how to set one, using peanut butter as bait.
“Peanut butter?” he asked. “Not cheese?”
“They can't resist peanut butter.” We put a couple traps down under the sink and a couple along the walls of the kitchen, but first, Doc bleached the cupboard floor and the drainboard and dish rack. I wanted to roll my eyes, but it wasn't hurting anything even if it was unnecessary.
I made my exit and went to the back porch. Alex was in the living room. He followed me and we had a good laugh out of range of Doc's hearing. “Are you going to tell him?”
“Not today. I'm going to let it go on for a few days before I let him know.”
“Not too long, Meredith.” He got serious. “Just a day or two, okay?”
“Sure, Alex. How about day after tomorrow for the reveal?”
The next morning, while Doc was showering, I put some more turds down and sprung the traps before removing the peanut butter. As expected, he went into the cupboard after breakfast. Alex and I had beat a retreat to the living room. We were on the verge of busting a gut laughing and didn't want to give ourselves away.
“Meredith!” I heard. “Meredith!”
“Yes, Doc?” I called out to the kitchen. I heard footsteps so I busied myself with stoking the fire. “Meredith, look at this”, Doc said as he entered the living room.
“What is it, Julian?” Alex asked innocently.
“Look!” I assumed Doc was showing him the sprung trap.
“Oh, my, Julian. It appears you have a very smart mouse. Look, Meredith.” I turned around and feigned surprise once again.
“Are you pranking me, Doc?”
“I don't prank people, Meredith.”
“No, I suppose you don't. Evidently, we do have a very smart mouse. I think I'll name it Einstein."
“Very funny, Meredith.” Oh, Doc, some day I will get you to have more of a sense of humour, I vowed.
“Let's reset the traps and try again”, I suggested.
“First, I have to clean the cupboard.”
“Doc, maybe you should wait until we trap the mouse. It would save doing it over and over again.”
“But it may have walked on the dish rack!”
“Then clean it, but wait on doing the cupboard. Just wipe it down, don't worry about bleaching it.”
The snow had stopped but the drifts were almost up to the roof of the cabin in places. The road was still undriveable, so Alex was our guest for a while longer. It was a good thing the three of us got along so well. We played game after game of Scrabble, of which I lost every one but it was funny watching Doc and Alex competing for top spot. Alex and I practised the square dancing steps that Ralph and Ellen had taught us. Julian kept a watchful eye on me, and put an end to it when he'd felt I had had enough. He didn't want me to have a bad flare during our honeymoon.
Tuesday morning, Alex and I anxiously waited for Doc to go into the cupboard under the kitchen sink. This was the day I was going to fess up and tell him he'd been pranked. We could barely suppress our giggles as he opened the door and looked inside. He fell to his knees, clutching his chest, saying he couldn't breathe. Then he keeled over onto his side.