As I walked toward the cabinet, a whimpering sound came from the furnace. I've heard furnaces clunk, click, and whoosh, but never whimper. So, I stopped to listen. Sure enough, it whimpered again. When I rapped my knuckles on the side, I heard the unmistakable sound of tiny feet. Upstairs to call my brother-in-law, who works for a heating and A/C company. "Jon, I've got a critter in my furnace. What should I do?" "Get it out of there." Free advice is worth the price. Tools in hand, and a pair of heavy gloves along in case of rabid attack, I began removing various pieces of sheet metal and ductwork. When I removed the 8" flue pipe from the furnace, a gray squirrel dropped out, hitting the bridge of my foot on its descent. Startled, I jumped back. Equally startled, Buddy the Squirrel scurried into the next room, where all the broken furniture, stereos and VCR's sit, waiting for me to fulfill my promise to fix them "someday." Clearly, he wasn't going to be found in that jungle. I told my wife to keep the basement door closed, then put the furnace back together again and, tired from two hours of ductwork and rodent-driven apprehension, headed off to sleep, assuring my wife I'd get a live trap in the morning. True to my promise, I set up the trap. My wife got peanuts and carrots for the bait. She also neatly cut some peanut butter sandwiches into eight squares (how come I don't get this kind of treatment?). What she would not do was the laundry, which had been piling up in the chute; she wasn't going down in that basement until the threat level was back to White. Buddy didn't like the trap, although he somehow managed to snag some food out of it. I opened a basement window to give him a way out but, with temps outside in the teens, Buddy opted for the warmth of the furnace. The only result of opening the window was to freeze the water in the pipes running up to the kitchen. Day Two: back to the hardware store for some industrial-strength poison and some rat traps. I suspect Buddy may have been a seasoned repeat offender, because he didn't touch any of it. This morning, sometime before dawn, I awoke to the sound of my wife screaming, even louder than the last time she saw me naked. Grabbing flashlight and .45 from the nightstand, I scrambled down the stairs to rescue her from whatever thugs had invaded the house. No thugs, but Buddy the Squirrel had found a way upstairs. He and Zach the Dog were engaged in some kind of barking and shrieking standoff over in the corner. Zach's an indoor dog and, while he had a size advantage over Buddy, he doesn't have the "street fighting" mentality that the squirrel no doubt did. Nor did he have rabies (yet). So, it was Zach or Buddy. Besides, my patience was at an end, as was my supply of clean underwear. Training my flashlight on Buddy, I aimed the pistol at his midsection. (For you technical types, Center of Mass on a squirrel is probably 1/2 MOA). Under flashlight illumination, Federal Hydra-Shoks produce an effect similar to what I vaguely remember psychedelics to be like. At first I saw nothing but white, then the entire room was bathed in a bright, multi-colored glow. Something like an illuminated kaleidoscope. The sound in my ears was like an interminably-sustained high note from a Fender Stratocaster. My wife was yelling something, but I was busy trying to decide whether this New Woodstock experience was annoying or pleasurable. Now, I get along famously with all my neighbors, except the B---- Next Door. Our relationship makes GW and Saddam look like frat brothers. Our houses are just twenty feet apart, and she takes her barking dogs out as early as 4 am, which is usually when I'll call the cops. So, I have no doubt it was her phone call that caused the sea of red and blue flashing lights in front of my house. I'd been able to hear the sirens, and I heard some kind of voices outside, but the Stratocaster kept me from understanding. After years of marriage, wives develop a way of communicating with husbands who can't or won't listen. "They want you outside!" she barked. "Get out there before they come in and shoot all of us!" I obliged, and opened the front door, at which time Zach the Dog decided he'd had enough. He raced past me to the Sane Outdoors, with my wife in hot pursuit. I yelled to the police, "it's okay! She's a non-combatant." I've no idea why I used that term but, in the long history of police paperwork, I'd bet this is probably the first time the words "squirrel," "fox terrier," and "non-combatant" were used in a single report. Standing before me was a police officer who, if not for the badge, would have looked every bit like a very large Marine, complete with the "shaved sidewall" haircut. As I eyed him up, he looked me over: skinny legs spattered with Buddy blood, wearing just my last clean pair of shorts, pillow hair, and pupils probably the size of quarters. "Have you been drinking, sir?" Officer Sidewalls asked. Ever since I was a kid, I've had the nasty habit of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. "No," I replied, "but this sure seems like a good time to start." When Officer Sidewalls finally allowed me to unclasp my hands and step away from the wall, I decided that humor was probably not his strong suit. It was also about then that my vision cleared, and I realized that I hadn't shot Buddy the Squirrel. I'd exploded him. Little bits of Buddy guts were splattered on the sides of the end table where he'd been. The floor was a jumble of fur and unknown viscerals. Buddy's furry tail was near an overturned vase, which got me to thinking about creating some kind of trophy. His eyes were still open, and his yellow rodent teeth sort of reminded me of Gary Bussey from "Lethal Weapon." Officer Sidewalls wasn't as interested in Buddy as I was, though. He wanted some answers. After some lengthy discussion, he became sympathetic to my rodent plight, promised no charges, and left to write the report of his career. Meanwhile, my wife had recovered Zach the Dog. And, in just two hours or so, I'd be able to go to the hardware store to get some True Value SquirrelGutsRemover, as well as some wood putty and stain for the hole in the floor. Life was good once again. Sitting here now, I can reflect on what I learned: a wire grate on top of the chimney is a good thing; joking with an officer responding to a "shots fired" call is not a good thing; squirrels are smarter than people; the .45 ACP is vastly underrated as a varmint round; and the New Woodstock experience is indeed annoying. But, I wonder: would it be over the top to introduce a few mice into the house of the B--- Next Door?