I'm enjoying a wonderful turkey dinner at my parents' house when out of the blue my mother says:
"Before you go home, be sure to take a look at the wild animal in the garage."
My mother is a naturally dramatic person, but she says this calmly, to make things even more intriguing.
I put my fork down. "There's a wild animal running around in the garage?"
"Oh, he isn't running around. Just take a look."
Off we go to the garage, my father and me. Sure enough there's a cage on his work bench, and inside the cage is a squirrel, pacing madly back and forth.
"Dad, what the hell?"
Well, for months now my father has had his eye on a squirrel who keeps getting into the eaves of his house through a hole in the woodwork. This animal has become to my father what the gopher was to Bill Murray in "Caddyshack," and at last he took action.
He borrowed a trap from his buddy, a retired veterinarian named Dick, baited it with bacon and set it outside, directly under the hole. BANG! Just like that, he had the squirrel.
Maybe. I was reminded of the scene in "Jaws" when the local yokels catch a shark and are convinced they've got the monstrous one who's been eating people, until a few more people get eaten.
Did my father have the right squirrel? I didn't have the heart to mention that there are seventeen million squirrels in his neighborhood, all of whom wouldn't mind a bit of bacon.
My father's a gentle guy. He puts fallen baby birds back in their nests and one time, he braved four lanes of roaring traffic to rescue a terrified tortoise in the middle of a highway.
But this squirrel was a whole other matter. An unwelcome squatter.
My father squeezed a piece of turkey through the cage's wire mesh. The squirrel devoured it. I squeezed a snowball through the mesh, so the poor creature would have something to drink when it melted.
As squirrel captivity goes, this was definitely a country club prison.
"Let me take him to the ball field and set him free," I suggested.
My father shook his head. "Too close. Dick says he'd find his way back, so we have to put him in the car and drive far away."
He wasn't joking. The plan was to take the squirrel to a park many miles away, toss him a passport with a new identity and wish him the best.
But before they did that, they were going to spray-paint his tail, so they could recognize him in case he found his way back.
Now I was really interested. I'm a producer for the TV show Inside Edition, and the sweeps ratings period is rapidly approaching, and nothing jacks up those ratings like a rollicking animal story.
I could see it all! We love maps on Inside Edition, and if this furry fellow were to find his way back to my father's house, over highways and byways, we would have gotten the graphics department to create a kick-ass map.
It would have a series of squirrel prints dotting the distance between the park and the house, with a bobble-head squirrel bouncing along the route just to keep things lively.
"Up next...The Miracle Squirrel finds his way home!"
Would you change the channel if you heard that promo?
Anyway, I phoned the house the next day to hear all about the great squirrel release, but it was a big letdown. Dick and my father didn't paint the squirrel's tail -- they just drove him to that distant park, and let him go. No story for me.
It's a shame, because I'm sure that squirrel will return. He may be back already. Once you've tasted my mother's turkey dinner, it's tough to go back to nuts and berries.
Charlie Carillo is a novelist and a producer for the TV show "Inside Edition." His website is