USA Today Bestselling Author
Daredevil Romance Expert
VOLT, WATTS and SPARKY
Extended FLICKER bonus scene
I watched them take off on their matching bikes. Volt towards the front, his straight hair flopping and Watts bringing up the rear with his bouncy curls. Eight years old was a magical time for boys.
Bear and I loved raising the kids in the warehouse that we converted into a workspace/home. The hills behind the house were an endless playground for them. They built an extensive, elaborate treehouse with their dad. It was wired for electricity by their father and grandfather and painted to foster imaginations by yours truly. Volt loved anything related to transportation and Watts was known as our own personal zookeeper.
Twins were a lot. And enough. Bear had his vasectomy over two years ago now. I always thought that I was going to have three kids. Maybe because my parents had three kids, but either way--after their delivery and my uterus really, really throwing hissy fits, we decided we were blessed and to knock it off.
We still had plenty of sex. The good news about two very active boys was that they slept soundly through the night--allowing for Bear and I to still fan the flames of our romance.
Volt had the cell phone, and I watched as the GPS pinged their location on my iPad. Watts could not be trusted with any electronics--not because he was careless--just because it would misfire around him.
When I tried to give him a phone --just for safety reasons-- it had a habit of dialing itself all the time. Notably, it dialed three times to 911. And he managed to Facetime the mayor. After that, we buried his phone out back.
My luck with electricity was much better than it had been. I had a sinking feeling that my curse had traveled to my youngest-by-four-minutes son. Volt was amazing with building things and taking them apart. He could almost always put them back together.
Did I mention the zoo? We have four cats, two dogs and a snake the size of a tree branch. That was Watts' ability. Bear liked to say that the kid was Tarzan in a past life. If there was injured wildlife in a two mile radius, they dragged themselves to my son’s feet. And he would pick it up and bring it home.
We had a skunk baby, four chipmunks, about thirty frogs and an entire Monarch butterfly hatchery going on for a while. All were returned to the wild better than they were found.
Bear’s loud boots let me know to expect his arms around me, so I dried off my hands in anticipation.
“How’s Voldemort and Wildebeest doing?” He spoke into the nap of my neck as I reached a hand back to get a handful of his hair.
I shook my head and rolled my eyes. Bear liked to come up with different nicknames for the boys as often as possible to get a rise out of me.
“Getting into trouble, I’m sure.” I tapped the iPad screen with my finger to make their location bigger. They were out of sight now, having taken their bikes straight into the woods.
“Good. That’s character building.” He began kissing up the side of my neck.
“They have plenty of character. They don’t need any trouble helping them out.” I turned in his arms so I could kiss his handsome face.
“I’d like to get into some trouble with you.” He ran his hands down my hips and put his hands in the back pockets of my jeans.
The day was clear as a bell. Sixty-three degrees and sun, sun and more sun. So the thunderclap that sounded like bomb going off in our backyard scared Bear and I like we’d been smacked.
Bear was off running before I could even comprehend what the hell had happened.
I said, “The boys,” to an empty kitchen. I grabbed my phone and hustled down the side stairs. When I made it to the backyard, I watched Bear and two of our dogs disappear into the tree line.
Snowy, my white, spitz mix stayed near me. I looked at the sky and saw nothing. No foreboding clouds. No impending doom. But the loud crack that had my husband moving happened again. I looked at Snowy and she looked at me. I rushed to the pickup truck and she hopped in with me. We kept an extra set of keys hidden in the sun visor, so I was able to get the truck rolling in the right direction.
I slid my phone from under Snowy who was whining next to me. I opened the GPS app and tapped on the dot marking Volt’s phone and watched as Bear’s dot moved closer to our son.
The large swatch of mountain that we use as a sleigh riding hill in the winter was the cleared out path so that the electrical lines could be serviced. I aimed the truck in that direction. I was pretty sure I could get really close to Volt’s phone and hopefully the boys with it.
I took the bumpy terrain as fast as I could. When I got close to the dot, I threw the truck in park with the parking brake hard. Snowy followed me out and I heard Spike and Peanut barking.
I followed my dog and found all three of my guys in a huddle around a small lump on the ground. As I got closer, I saw that Bear was kissing something.
Volt ran up to me and hugged my middle.
“Is everyone okay?”
I could see that they were all fine, but Watts was distressed. Now that I was close enough, I could see that Bear was doing the tiniest CPR ever on a small rodent.
“Is that a rat?” I put my hand on Volt’s shoulder.
“No. It’s a squirrel. We think it’s Mr. Nuts’ grandchild.” Volt’s big brown eyes were rimmed with tears.
I came closer and pushed the sniffing dogs away from the patient.
Bear had a limp squirrel on the ground, and then picked it up to do compressions right in his hand.
Oh my poor boys.
Volt pointed at a wire in the distance. “He was on that with his family and then a hawk swooped in. When the hawk touched the wire and then his beak touched the squirrel, they all went up in a shock fireball. The other squirrels ran, but not that guy.”
Watts wiped his hind under his nose and sniffled.
“Up. That’s him. We got him.”
Before I could even start to console Watts, Bear had gotten a response from the little squirrel. He looked stunned, but his little body was moving with the breaths he was taking.
“You did it, Dad!” Volt came close to his father and patted his back. Watts reached for the squirrel and true to his nature, the small animal curled up on his chest.
“I bet he’s exhausted. He needs water and stuff.” Watts gently pet the squirrel’s head.
I was gazing at my happy family, relieved that electricity hadn’t done in the little woodland creature, when I noticed that there was a distinct call. It was weird. Like an angry bird mixed with a nutcracker.
I searched the branches above our heads. I spotted the noise maker. Another squirrel. I felt my heart soften as I realized the squirrel was probably worried about the one that Bear was taking care of. I was about to point it out to the boys, when another squirrel appeared on the branch next to the first. And then another. And another. The noise turned from poignet calls to screeches.
I whipped my head all around, tracking the noises. There were hundreds of them. The squirrels--who normally have very sweet eyes, seemed to have a laser focused hate beams on us.
Bear stood as I pulled the twins to me. “Do you think they’re mad?”
The screams ratcheted up another notch. “I have that fear, yes.”
Volt spoke the word that was in all of our souls. “RUN!”
Bear took the lead, and the boys clamored after him. The dogs galloped alongside, from their wagging tails, they thought it was all a game.
But it wasn’t. The entire scurry of squirrels in the woods were chasing us. They leapt from branch to branch, leaves falling down on our heads as we sprinited. They were fast.
Luckily, Bear and the boys got to the truck. He flung open the door and Watts the baby squirrel crawled in. Watts cradled the small bundle carefully as Volt and Bear helped me herd the dogs into the cab. After Volt was in, I threw myself next to him. Bear shut the door just as the deluge of furry fury hit full blast.
Bear ducked his head and ran to the other side. He was able to fling off his attackers, and I pushed his door open. Once he was in, and the door was closed, the truck was covered with tiny paws and swishy tails.
“How the hell am I getting out of here without hurting any of them?” Bear gestured to the swarm outside.
“Maybe blow the horn?” I figured that seagulls in a parking lot rules applied here.
Bear shrugged his shoulders and put his palm in the center of the wheel. The truck’s horn was aggressively loud. The squirrels did not enjoy the soundwaves reverberating, and hopped away quickly.
Bear started backing up slowly, and then was able to execute a three point turn and head us back home. I wasn’t able to shake the feeling that we were still being watched. I turned around in my seat and looked out the back window.
“Holy Crap.” I was having trouble processing what I was seeing. It looked like a huge fuzzy brown wave was following us. “Oh, baby. Gas it. They’re coming!”
I locked eyes with my husband and then watched as he glanced in the rear view mirror. We picked up speed.
“Mom’s cursing. We’ve got problems.” Volt tried to peek out back as well and I gently guided his eyes forward. Watts was so focused on keeping the baby squirrel still, he wasn’t trying to get a look.
“I’m going to fit this in the garage.” Bear white knuckled the steering wheel as we bounded down the dirt path at top speed.
I was skeptical we would fit the whole truck. But I didn’t see that we had much choice. There was just not enough lead time between us and the wave. They would overtake us if we tried to get out and run inside.
As far as I knew, the truck had never even been in the garage. I pulled up the garage app on my phone and pressed the button to lift the door.
I had to close my eyes as Bear fishtailed through a hard left turn and headed at the door like it was fully opened. I was positive we’d crunch through the metal.
Instead, I was treated to an abrupt stop on a dime moment. All of our heads hit the backs of the seats. The dogs yipped. I hit the close button on the door.
While the door was closing, Bear took to inching forward. The bumper gently grazed Bear’s toolbox in the garage, and we heard the comforting slam of the garage door closing completely.
My shoulders slumped as we heard repeated hits over and over against the door. Bear tumbled out, grabbing a tennis racket to arm himself, but after a few moments he shook his head.
“We’re good. We made it.”
“We have all the doors and windows in the house closed, right?” I ran through my nightly routine in my head.
“We can check, but I think we just have the chimney as an access point.” He helped Watts out of the truck as he pressed the squirrel gently to his chest.
When Volt climbed out, he found the matching tennis racket and followed his father. The dogs hopped out, tongues lolling out like we’d been on a fun hike. The banging on the garage door was unnerving. I had no idea squirrels were such vindictive pack animals.
After getting into the kitchen, I watched as Volt and Bear did a tennis racket reconnaissance.
Watts had grabbed a few hand towels from my oven door and laid the tiny squirrel out. He was sleeping peacefully, little chest moving up and down.
I looked from window to window and there had to be ten squirrels looking in each one of them.
I wagged my finger at the glass above the kitchen sink. “I raised your grandfather. Mr. Nuts is disappointed in every single one of you.”
The two plumpest ones had the decency to look ashamed.
“Mom? Can we VideoChat Uncle Seth? I want his opinion on what to do next for Sparky.” Watts wrung his hands as he looked at his small patient.
Uncle Seth was a family friend we met when we went camping in Montana. Even though we were miles apart, we still managed to keep up the connection. Seth had worked in a vet’s office while getting his science degree. He was always our first call in emergency animal situations--of which getting swarmed by squirrels and hopefully helping a baby heal would be considered such.
Once the phone rang through, Seth smiled widely when he saw it was Watts. “What’s going on, big guy?”
Watts picked up the phone and switched the view so that Seth could take in all the issues. First the baby and second, the window full of evening warriors.
“Oh wow? What happened? That group looks angry.” Seth was wearing a white lab coat and two sets of eyeglasses. He was a microbiologist now, but I was thankful he had such a great memory retention from his time in the vet’s.
“This one was in the woods and he was on a wire, then a hawk swooped down over and over. Then, when the hawk landed, he touched his beak to this little guy and…”
As Watts’ storytelling tapered off, Volt picked it up. “And then BANG! It was the loudest noise, and the squirrel went FLYING!” Volt reenacted the arch the body traveled in the sky. “And when we found him, he wasn’t breathing. Not even a little. And his whole body was hot.”
Watts pushed in front of his brother. “Dad did CPR and he’s breathing again. Just really tired. Really, really tired.” I watched as my son’s eyes filled up.
“Hey. So he’s still with us, so that is a great sign. I need you to do a few things and I have every hope that Sparky will be just fine.” Seth spoke briefly to someone off camera and then returned with advice. “I need you to see if Mom still has any infant droppers. I want you to make the squirrel a nice, warm place where he can feel safe but you can also get in there if you need to. I want you to give him a few millimeters of room temperature water every fifteen minutes or so. If he starts drinking it, let him take as much as he wants.” Seth then looked at me. “Sometimes when a group of squirrel families perceive danger, they attack. I think you guys are experiencing that phenomenon right now.”
“Any tips on how to survive the squirrel apocalypse?” I watched as one of the squirrels started picking at the window screen.
I watched as Seth worked to hide his smile and failed. “I’m hoping when you release the little hurt one after he’s healed up, you guys will get a pass from the group and they’ll lose interest in hunting you down.”
Bear came up behind me and set his hands on my shoulders. “Hey, Seth.”
“Hey. Sounds like you guys had a rough afternoon.” Seth spoke to someone off camera again and motioned with one finger.
“We did, but it seems like we’re secure for now, so if you have to go, feel free.” Bear tossed a balled up paper towel at the window that the one squirrel was gnawing on. It spooked the rodent enough that he backed up off of it. “And thanks so much.”
“No problem, anytime. Hey, Watts? I’ll call at the end of my shift here to see how Sparky’s doing.”
Watts nodded with big eyes as Seth ended the call.
“Well, he’s a great contact to have in the phone, that’s for sure.” Bear paused to lean down and kiss my cheek. “Nice work, mama bear.”
“Great work to you too, papa bear.”
He hugged me close to his chest.
That evening, Sparky did indeed make a wonderful recovery under Watts' careful care. By 8 pm, Uncle Seth had approved a very rambunctious squirrel to be returned to the wild. Watts shed a few tears when he had to say goodbye. I recorded the moment Sparky was returned on my phone, with Bear bravely sticking his hand out of the window in the laundry room to let Sparky out. The squirrels paraded around Sparky before they all took off for the woods that they’d come from. By the time I had both boys tucked into bed, Bear was in ours looking at his phone like nothing had happened at all.
“Did you brush your teeth?” I was remembering his mouth on the squirrel's mouth and although I appreciated the heroics, I was concerned he might pass something on.
“I did.'' He held an arm out to me and I snuggled into him after climbing on the bed. “Do you think it’d be crazy to build a squirrel obstacle course with the boys this summer?”
I laugh out loud. He flipped his phone my way and we watched as a very engaging man built and narrated an entire course for his wild squirrels. They would have to do many different tricks to get the treat in the token system.
“Whatever floats your boat. As long as they don’t tag team attack us again, I'll have no problem with it.” I kissed his mouth again. I wanted to have some clever retorts about nuts, but instead Bear shifted so he was on top of me.
“You float my boat.” He wiggled his eyebrows at me and then we floated on into the evening.