It’s part of the human condition to wonder what happens after you leave your earthly bonds. Some people think you get reincarnated, some believe in heaven and hell and purgatory, some feel it’s just oblivion.
Well you can stop wondering, because I found out last week over a beer at Conor O’Neill’s.
But first I wanna talk about the dead squirrel I found on the porch last week.
There he was, on his side, his little paws curled up into fists, as if he’d been holding the handle of a weensy-teensy squirrel basket only moments before. No blood, no signs of a struggle, no tiny weapons nearby. Just the wind fluffing his matted tail.
I’m proud to say I refrained from poking him with a stick, and instead simply skittered past him to the truck hoping he’d get better and go somewhere else, away from my front door, before I got back.
But no. That S.O.B hadn’t moved an inch.
I guess that’s the thing with dead squirrels.
For a long time, I thought squirrels were unilaterally adorable — that little fluffy tail, all that running around, hiding things.
But then I moved to a place off Folsom and the neighborhood squirrel was a bastard. We called him Smacks because he’d hang out in the crabapple tree above the front porch, taking three bites of an apple and tossing it away, often smacking my roommate and I in the head with them.
And when October rolled around and Holly and I had carefully placed our uncarved pumpkins on the porch, Smacks took to gnawing big holes in the front of them. He climbed the screens on our windows, taunted my cat ruthlessly and continued to bonk us on the head whenever we got home.
After a few months of this, it was clear he was a Hatfield and we were McCoys.
I don’t care how jacked up this sounds: We wanted that squirrel to go to hell.
But the little guy on my porch the other day didn’t seem like such a bad guy, and I wondered where his squirrel spirit had gone.
Thankfully, I didn’t have to wonder for long.
Over a beer the other night, my friend and I were talking about this very subject. (The afterlife, not squirrels.)
My friend’s dad had a near-death experience, then got zapped and brought back moments later. Afterward, he told his son what he saw:
“There isn’t a light. And no tunnel. I was waiting for service at a Japanese restaurant, in Honolulu. None of this ‘greeted by loved ones’ stuff, no. No family members, wearing white with outstretched hands. It was a Japanese restaurant. There was an orchid on the table, newspaper clippings on the walls. Maybe the restaurant was in Hiroshima. But… probably Honolulu.”
After my friend related the story to me, he said, “The thing is, my dad doesn’t even really like Asian food. He likes Mexican.”
Sitting in a Japanese restaurant, waiting for service somewhere between Honolulu and Hiroshima sounds pretty purgatory-ish to me.
The little squirrel I saw this week is probably sitting at a table now, but not dressed in white with outstretched paws. Instead, he’s reading newspaper clippings and going over the menu, considering his options. I’m looking forward to seeing him.
And I’m pretty sure Smacks won’t be there.
Jeanine Fritz writes about rodents and the hereafter every Friday in the Colorado Daily.