Gray Squirrels by Annie

Rain handed him what had to be the fifth box of spaghetti and answered his question with a smile. "Because--a woman just knows."

Nathan shook his head. "You don't know that."

"I do know. And if you were more--observant--you'd know, too."

Yeah, well--maybe. He supposed you never really knew--leastways, he would never be in the position to find out--but you'd think working with someone . . .

What he did know was his wife had gone completely crazy at the grocery store. It looked like too much food to him--way too much. Then again, with this crowd--

He stared at her a minute, thinking about what she'd told him. Okay, maybe he wasn't always the most observant, but damn it, he'd know that, and so shook his head as she handed him the third head of lettuce. "No way. There is just no way he's gay."

Buck walked in and headed to the refrigerator. Nathan stared at him a moment, then handed him the lettuce and watched as Buck's hand reached in with the head, pulled back with a beer.

"When'd you get here? I didn't hear the doorbell."

"Just now. Who's gay?" Buck asked, eyebrows raised into almost gleeful arches.

Rain and Nathan exchanged glances. "No one."

Not a twist-off bottle--he watched as Buck rubbed his hand then handed him the opener.

Buck was frowning as he flipped the top. "Didn't sound like no one."

No way could they eat all this food, Nathan thought. Not even in a week. Leave it to a pregnant woman to have eyes bigger than seven men's stomachs.

How were they going to eat all this?

He glanced at Buck who was still sending a questioning look, eyes filled with a huge amount of curiosity, and shrugged. "Oh, Rain here, thinks she knows everything."

"I never said that."

"Hormones," he whispered as an aside to Buck, stopping short as he caught the look Rain was sending him--a look that wiped the grin right off his face.

Rain was scowling. "Don't give me that, Nathan. Anything you don't like that I say, you blame hormones."

"And rightly so." He and Buck chuckled. For sure there would be hell to pay later for that comment, though.

"You're being an ass, Nathan." Rain resumed unpacking what looked to be half the grocery store. How much did she think they all ate, anyway?

"Lord, honey. You leave anything there for anyone else to buy?"

"What?" She had that tone to her voice---that sharp snap--and that, coupled with the hand on her hip, made him suck back in his words.

"Nothing." He nodded to Buck and watched his wife go back to pulling out groceries. Lots of groceries. Ah, what the hell, he thought. Buck would protect him. "See there? See what I gotta put up with? Testiness, attitude. Hormones. I rest my case."

Rain scoffed. "You have no case."

"Do I even need to mention the tears?"

"Wouldn't if I were you," Rain said tightly.

"Hallmark card commercials."

"Shut up, Nathan."

"Pictures of babies."

The wooden spoon to the back of his head had him shutting up about those things he'd found her crying over. He laughed then glanced over to Buck who looked thoroughly amused. Okay, just one more, he couldn’t resist.

"Go ahead, Buck. Ask her about the squirrel and the acorn."

"I'd rather ask about what all you were talking about before--who's gay?"

"It was a walnut, Nathan. A walnut." Rain started removing pots and pans from the cabinets.

Josiah appeared through the door. "Walnuts? I'd love some walnuts."

"Where'd you come from?" Nathan asked.

Buck pushed on. "Walnuts--yeah, great. Now, the gay part? Gay?"

Nathan waved a hand in dismissal as Josiah sent him a questioning glance. "We're talking about a squirrel."

Josiah frowned. "A gay squirrel? Is that even possible?"

"No, not a gay squirrel," Rain explained, "although I suppose there could be such a thing. It was a gray squirrel that lost its nut."

Nathan stared at the counter now covered in more food than they could all possibly eat, and remembered the way his wife had got all teary-eyed when she'd told him about the squirrel and the nut. He shook his head and mumbled, "I think you've lost your nut."

"You men--you just have no compassion."

"No hormones, you mean," Nathan added softly.

"Thank God," Buck added, not quite as softly. The two men high-fived.

"Hormones?" Josiah's voice sounded confused.

Rain sighed. "It was dead in the road with its little nut lying right by its side."

Buck winced. "Not sure I like how that sounds: its little nut lying by its side."

Nathan held out his hands. "It was a squirrel. They get run over by cars all the time, especially this time of year."

JD entered and leaned into the refrigerator in search of a beer.

"Ever hear of knocking?" Nathan wondered aloud.

"Who gets run over by cars?" JD asked.

"Squirrels," Buck and Josiah answered in unison.

"Oh, yeah. Fall shows up and they just go nuts." JD grinned. "Get it? Nuts?"

Nathan rummaged through the last grocery bag and picked up a can of German potato salad, this followed by a can of black olives. He hated olives and couldn't imagine anyone eating canned potatoes. What was she thinking? "Nuts. They're not the only ones, right, Rain?"

Rain frowned. "I don't believe I'm speaking to you."

"Who's not speaking to who?" JD asked, head swiveling to each of them.

"Whom." Ezra's voice sounded as he walked into the kitchen. "Who's not speaking to whom?"

Now JD frowned. "Isn't that what I said?"

"My wife, and don't get her started," Nathan answered, watching his team members pile up in his kitchen one by one. He looked pointedly at Ezra who was now perusing the beer selection in the refrigerator. "And don't any of you believe in ringing the doorbell? It ain't that hard to push a button."

Rain was frowning. "All I'm saying is that if you men took a better look at the world around you, you'd notice things."

JD was shedding the skin on his fingers trying to twist off the top of his beer until Buck handed him the opener. "What things are we noticing?"

"Not noticing," Rain corrected.

"I notice you got enough food here for the whole neighborhood and then some," Nathan said, still watching Ezra as he turned up his nose at the beer and headed back out the kitchen door.

"I want to hear Rain's tale about the squirrel and nut," Josiah requested, shaking his now sore hand and smiling as he spied the bottle opener.

Nathan shook his head and pointed to Buck. "This is all your fault. I told you not to get her started."

"Yeah, right," Buck replied. "You're the one started about hormones."

"Thank you, Buck," Rain said with a smile.

Nathan sent Buck a scowl. "Suck up."

Rain pointed to Nathan. "Smack my husband for me, would you, JD?"

"Oh, no. He could break me in two--and what's all this about squirrels, anyway?"

Nathan continued. "Rain. She was just sitting there when I walked in the door yesterday, sobbing away over a dead squirrel."

"I was most certainly not sobbing and besides, it had been carrying a walnut! Was just lying there, dead, its little nut by its side."

Buck shivered. "Lord, Rain. You gotta stop saying that."

Ezra walked in taking a sip of the drink he'd obviously made from the liquor cabinet in the living room. "What must Rain stop saying?"


"No, scotch." Ezra held up his glass, grinning. No one laughed. "What are you all talking about?"

"Squirrels," Buck, JD, Josiah, Nathan and Rain answered.

"Dead ones."

"Gay ones."

Ezra frowned. "There are gay squirrels?"

JD nodded. "Apparently gay dead ones."

"There are gay, dead squirrels out there?" Ezra asked again.

JD was still nodding. "Rain saw one."

Nathan nodded toward Ezra. "It lost a nut." He eyed Ezra's drink. "That my scotch?"

"Why, yes. I helped myself," Ezra answered, holding his glass up high. "Cheers."

Josiah couldn't resist. "How'd you know it was gay?"

The large pot of water settled on the stove, Rain turned. "You aren't seriously asking me that, are you?"

"Apparently women just know these things," Buck offered with a nod to Josiah.

The look Rain shot him when she turned his way could only be compared to one of Chris's steely-eyed glares, Nathan thought with a shiver, this followed by the thought that the sofa in the living room was too damned hard to sleep on and damn it all, his feet hung over the end. "Don't be looking at me, honey, sweetie, I believed you."

"Now who's sucking up?" Buck asked with a laugh.

Chris came through the kitchen and headed toward the 'fridge. He turned with a beer in each hand. "Who's sucking up?"

"Nathan," Buck answered. "He didn't believe."

"Believe who about what?"

"Rain and her dead, gay squirrel story," Nathan explained.

"Gay squirrels? There are gay squirrels?"

"Dead ones."

"Nutless dead ones, apparently," Ezra added.

JD had a thought. "Maybe it got bashed."

"Bashed?" Chris asked.

"The gay squirrel," Buck, JD, Nathan, Josiah and Ezra said.

Chris frowned. "Someone gay-bashed a squirrel?"

"I still don’t see how you know it's gay," Josiah said.

Buck stared into the near empty beer bottle in his hand and shook his head. "I think I've had too much to drink."

"I've never heard of squirrel bashing," Chris stated.

"How do you know it was gay?" JD asked, really wanting to know.

"Who's gay?" Vin asked, ambling into the kitchen and taking one of the two beers Chris was holding. He winced as the cap he tried to twist off tore into the skin on his hand.

"The squirrel," Buck, JD, Josiah, Ezra and Chris answered at the same time Nathan said, "I do have a doorbell, you know. And it works."

"What squirrel?" Vin asked, grabbing the bottle opener and flipping off the top of his beer. He took a deep swallow and said, "Wait--there are gay squirrels?"

JD nodded. "Yeah--Rain saw one. It was dead."

"It got bashed," Buck added then shook his head sadly. "A hate crime."

Rain looked disgusted. "Do any of you even listen to yourselves?"

"Maybe it wasn't a hate-crime," Vin said, thinking. "Maybe it got hit by a car."

"It was hit by a car," Rain explained, though why she bothered, she wasn't sure.

Nathan had to say it, already dodging the wooden spoon he was sure was coming his way. "A car filled with gay squirrel bashers."

Rain threw the spoon at him. "How do you people manage to get any work done? Is this what goes on in your office?"

"Only on Mondays when Buck is going on about his latest conquest," Ezra stated.

"You know," Josiah said, "now I think on it, don't know I've never noticed a doorbell."

Vin clearly didn't get it. "I think I've missed something."

"Welcome to my life," Nathan grumbled.


"Sorry, dear."

JD explained: "Rain's all upset because she saw a dead squirrel earlier."

"A dead squirrel that's gay?" Vin asked.

Rain crossed her arms, resting them on her pregnant belly. "Did I ever say the words gay and squirrel together?"

"How do you know it's gay?"

Mary walked into the kitchen. "I've been ringing the doorbell over and over--Who's gay?"

"Exactly what I still want to know," Buck muttered.

"The squirrel," JD, Josiah, Nathan, Ezra, Vin and Chris answered.

"There are gay squirrels?"

All heads turned to Nathan who turned to Rain. "Do not be looking at me, Nathan, you started all this."

"I did not!"

"Irritability--pregnancy hormones," Josiah said nodding. "I get it now."

"Oh, Jeeze, Josiah," Nathan hurried to say, "ixnay on the ormoneshay. You tryin' to get me killed?"

"Thought you was talkin' about a squirrel that got killed?" Vin asked, staring at the shredded skin of his hand. "Think I could use a band-aid."

Buck stood and waved his beer. "Forget the squirrel. Who is gay? Who, who, whooo?"

"What are you, an owl?"

"JD, you are so not funny."

"I'm hurt," JD replied with a scowl.

"No, the squirrel got hurt."

"No, the squirrel got bashed."

"By a car."

"Because it was gay."

Mary frowned. "I've never heard of a gay squirrel, though I suppose--"

"Enough about the damned gay squirrel--"

"I never said gay, I said gray!" Rain beat the spoon on the counter. Nathan was happy it wasn't his head.

"You said it was gay--"

"That's right, a gay squirrel. I heard you."

"And that it got bashed--"

"By a car."

"By a car full of gay-bashers."

"Gay-squirrel bashers."

"A hate crime if I ever heard one."

"Poor bashed gay squirrel."

"That lost a nut."

"Yep, its nuts were lying by its side for all to see."

There was a long pregnant pause.

"Uh-oh," Nathan breathed as he grabbed his beer and raced the others to the door.

Mary looked around at the nearly empty kitchen, then turned to Rain with a knowing grin. They both laughed lightly. "See. I told you he was gay."