March 16th, 2007

Forget About Beach Bunnies

The glorious thing about being a freelancer is that—although sometimes I am shackled to my desk on a Saturday, and sometimes interviewees call me at home very late because they thought it was an office number and didn’t know they’d be waking me up—basically, I get to make my own schedule.


Which means that after I write this blog, I will take a salsa-making break, and before I started writing this blog, I took a laundry break. (Okay, my breaks aren’t always fun. But I do get a lot done during the course of a day.)


And sometimes…  I head out to my beachfront property and work there.


(By this I actually mean: I hop on the freeway and once I get to scenic Crystal Cove, I pull out my State Parks parking pass and drive into the lot for free. Then I hike down to the sand and find a likely spot and sit there gazing at the sea until the muse strikes me. Or, alternatively, I hike down to the sand, find a likely spot, and haul out the 5.8 pounds of revisions I brought along with me.)


Because this week I was frantically finishing up a less-than-fab assignment about Star Wars (wasn’t a fan before; less of a fan now), contacting places like the National Snow and Ice Data Center and the National Meteorological Institute of Tunisia (trust me—it sounds like a far more exotic week than it actually was), I decided to take Thursday afternoon off.


So I headed out to the beach—but not to Crystal Cove. I went to the Balboa Peninsula and rented me a beach cruiser.


Then I hopped on the Balboa Island Ferry, pedaled across the island, hiked up the Tsunami Evacuation Path (there’s actually placards that announce this part of Jamboree Rd. is a tsunami evacuation path. They feature a very colorful drawing of a very tall wave), and began my Journey of Terror through parts of Newport Beach and Corona del Mar. (I am not exaggerating for humorous effect. The last time I biked through CdM, I nearly ran over a little elderly lady who meandered outside a store to throw something out in the trashcan on the sidewalk. I actually burned rubber—yes, on a beach cruiser—trying not to mow her down.)


But this time I proceeded without incident, eventually reaching my beachfront office. I locked up the bike, hiked down to the beach, found a likely spot, and hauled out my 10 ounces of revising (hey, I said I was taking the day off. You didn’t expect me to bring the full 5.8 pounds, did you?).


And that’s when I spotted it. A lithe gray squirrel that skittered out from the brush on the hill behind me, paused on its haunches, and sniffed meaningfully.


Beach squirrels. Who ever heard of such a thing? I mean, there were flocks of 3-inch lizards slithering about, and last time I went to the beach there was a ginormous black beetle crossing one of the trails back and forth. But squirrels? (Okay, I admit it—I’m a suburban girl, and inordinately thrilled by any forms of wildlife. Even ginormous black beetles. We don’t get that much variety out here. Just the annoying wild parrots, and the killer hummingbirds.)


It turned out he had a friend. Another squirrel skittered and paused and sniffed. Then the first one began to scamper. The second one followed suit. They raced up to various pieces of camouflage—a stone, a pile of discarded clothing, a hollow log—and paused again before continuing on their way.


I heard a sound behind me and turned to my right.


Another squirrel.


Sound to my left.


And there was another.


If you knew what a fan of Alfred Hitchcock I am, you would be less surprised to read that I was starting to get a little nervous. They didn’t look  like they were plotting—but how do I know what the heck a squirrel is thinking? I don’t even know what I’m  thinking half the time.


By the time I’d read through my middle grade fantasy prologue once, I was surrounded by a gajillion squirrels. (Okay, at least five unique squirrels. But probably a lot more. They move fast and are hard to count.)  


They were adorable and very distracting. So I thought I would snooze a little bit. But every time I heard a rustle in the underbrush I twitched, nervous that the adorable sniffers might be inching in to investigate me more intimately.


So, in the end, I stretched, dusted myself off as best I could (by which I mean, not very well. I have issues with sand), hiked back up to the bike, and cycled to the ferry. It had been a fairly productive and totally spectacular afternoon out at the beachfront office—plus I got a fabulous idea for a new query. If only there was a market for a story about beach squirrels. Hmm…


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