You look at him. You look into the beady eyes of that twitching tree-skunk and see the last eight years of your life.
Look at you in college, arms full of boxes, parents bidding you a tearful farewell. This is Philadelphia; you're not in the suburbs anymore, as the security officers at orientation repeat in grimmer and grimmer tones. One of the kids in your Intellectual Heritage course leaves to go buy beer and just never comes back. He never comes back! One day his stuff just isn't in his room anymore and the RA responds to any questions about him by clapping and walking away backwards.
The squirrel blinks and you're hurled a few months into the future - jesus christ, Aaron Rowand just blasted his face out the back of his head! Maybe you should start paying attention to Phillies baseball again; apparently the Rico Brogna Era is over. Next time your cousin asks you to go to a game you may not throw your phone in a river.
The squirrel isn't blinking, you realize, its eyes are just twitching because it lives its entire life in a state of heart-pounding terror; even a strong wind is its enemy. Again, you tumble forward into the future - holy shit, we're in the World Series?! And we're winning?! Now we're back in the World Series and Chase Utley could be the MVP?! Nope, we lost. Everyone is mad.
But now it's 2010, and you're off to San Francisco for an internship. What an adventure! You'll keep up with the Phillies, still; and look, you even make a few friends! Ha ha, they're all Giants fans, but everybody's cool! Ha ha, they're teasing you over Pat Burrell staring down Roy Halladay. Ha ha, they're teasing you because everyone loves Brian Wilson. Ha ha, they're teasing you because of Cody Ross. They're teasing you because Cody Ross. Because Cody Ross. Cody Ross. Cody Ross. Cody Ro
"Because Cody Ross," you're explaining to the SFPD officer after you've flipped over a table in a bar and very casually broken off the legs, hurling the jagged faux-wood at people who now fear you. Ha ha ha, it was all in good fun. Your new friends understand. Look at them over there, huddling and consoling each other and giving you concerned, angry looks! These are the best years of your life.
Well hey, it's 2011 now and the Phillies are even better. Cliff Lee is here! He "spurned" the Yankees, according to all media. He "left money on the table," they also say. Wow! A table! Just like that one you flipped over in San Francisco! You try not to think about that.
It's another playoff run, and the Phillies are rolling. Ryan Howard hit a home run! Ben Francisco hit a home run! Boy, this series is a real nail-biter. A bartender points out you've chewed through your nails and are merely gnawing on the flesh of your fingers. You consider not being in bars anymore, at least during games.
"Or ever," your mother begs.
But now, Ryan Howard is collapsing and screaming and the Cardinals are celebrating, and everyone is saying it's because some squirrel ran across the field during Skip Schumaker's at-bat. The Cardinals fall so in love with this concept they put a squirrel on their championship ring. Schumaker uses him for his baseball card that season. Meanwhile, Ryan Howard motors through a grocery store on a scooter, his life forever altered by a devastating injury. Sports!
You blink and realize the squirrel dangling off the backstop in Citizens Bank Park in 2015 is staring back at you. Did he just wink? Did he just give you the finger? Why he looks just big enough to sneak into a computer, steal its secrets, and report back to Cardinals HQ! Your hands grip the edge of the table at which you're sitting and your chair loudly scrapes against the barroom floor as you stand up. The bartender gestures wordlessly to the bouncers and you realize they have a signal in place just for you.
You sit back down.