Bart was going to die. He’d spent autumn, when he should’ve been gorging on the bounty of nature (or stolen apples), petrified and covered with skunk bits. Without a store of fat, hibernation was just another word for starvation.
Even worse, he was going to go out ugly. He waved his limbs. Tattered fur hung in twisted, matted clumps. He looked like shit. This depressed him; nobody wants to die ugly.
“Nice dreadlocks.” It was a chirpy voice. The kind of voice that would sound sunny and cheerful as it told you they’d sold your dog to a Korean restaurant; just before giving you a coupon to visit said restaurant. It was the kind of voice that would talk about nice weather while slashing your tires. It was the kind of voice…
“Hello? You listening?” The voice intruded on Bart’s inner dialog.
“I’m here.” Bart agreed. Then, because Bart told it like it was, he added “I hate you.”
“Any particular reason why?” The voice sounded entirely unconcerned that a bear, the biggest baddest creature in the forest, had threatened it.
He couldn’t even scare a squirrel; further proof he was in dire straits. “Where are you?”
“Over here.” A squirrel crouched at the base of a stump a few yards away. Squirrels were fast. Bears never catch them. But Bart went for it.
When he jumped, the squirrel, who had been expecting this, darted left. Simultaneously, Bart felt a searing pain in his right ear as something bit it. He twisted in mid leap, careened out of control, and crashed onto his back. Luckily, he landed on something soft
“I can’t believe that worked!” Terry squeaked as she and Mary tore up the nearest tree trunk.
“Get off me!” The soft thing crushed under Bart’s back was squirming. Bart hadn’t moved in weeks; his joints ached and his muscles were weak. It took a few tries to roll off what turned out to be a partially flattened hawk. Bart recognized Edward, a pretentious git who claimed he was an eagle and lorded his self-proclaimed superior intellect over Bart.
“You messed it all up!” Edward croaked as he flapped to a branch just out of Bart’s reach. “I had Mary pinned down at that stump. I was going to atone for my sins but you freed her!”
Bart rubbed a sore ear. “Atone? For what? Pretending you’re an eagle when everyone knows a real eagle would kick your ass?” Bart never liked the forest wide unspoken agreement that they pretend Edward, who was obviously a hawk, was an eagle. Was Bart to demand everyone call him a badger?
“I learned… sadly, that I’m nothing. I’m evil. And a rough legged hawk; at least biologically.”
Evil? This was new. Bart scratched his torso, hunger pains wouldn’t be far away. “Who said you were evil?”
“The squirrels; Mary and Terry. And it’s true.”
“You’ve been listening to squirrels?” Bart growled. Everyone knew squirrels were liars; the woodland equivalent of politicians. Count on the overintellectualized Edward to fall for a squirrel’s reasoning.
“Well, that and I killed every male squirrel for miles.” The bird shook his head sadly. “And I caused the wrath of God to destroy the tree with all the females. I’m damned.”
“You gotta’ stop listening to squirrels. Didn’t your mother teach you that?”
“She was incinerated by a solar experiment. Burst into flames in mid-flight. They say it was pretty epic. I basically raised myself.”
“Did a bad job of it I’d say.” Bart was merciless.
“Indeed. I learned the error of my ways when God exploded the oak. That was my… my Waterloo…” The raptor started humming to himself. “I’m only alive to kill Mary and Terry. After that I’ll throw myself into a windmill. Perhaps in the next life I’ll find solace.”
Bart didn’t like all this metaphysical claptrap. “Sure, whatever you say…”
“I can try again. I’m Buddhist now. Goodbye.” Without explaining how a Buddhist sought revenge to atone for sins demonstrated by God’s wrath, the raptor flew off.
Bart stretched, working out the kinks in his aching back, and waited. After a few minutes, he spoke to nobody in particular, “He’s gone. You can come out.”
“How’d you know we were watching?” It was Terry.
“Squirrels never stop watching.” He continued without waiting for a response. “While I was…” he paused, seeking the right word, “…out, you turned Edward into your nemesis?”
Both squirrels came out of hiding. Bart continued, “Then you teamed up to lure me into jumping at one of you while the other bit my ear so I was off balance. All to make me land on a hawk during a dive. It didn’t harm him as far as I could tell. Could you possibly come up with a more convoluted and unworkable plan?”
“We trapped him and brainwashed him with Swedish disco; tried to create a Utopian gynocentric world order.”
“OK, I stand corrected, that’s actually more convoluted. You look skinny. How’s Utopia working out?”
“It started out well. We had all the male squirrels in the vicinity killed.” Terry began.
“The female deaths were an accident!” Mary blurted guiltily.
“And?” Bart was impressed these two furballs had locally eradicated their own species. All the acorns for just the two of them? There had to be a catch.
“All of the nuts were cached by hundreds of squirrels. Now that they’re dead, we can’t find the caches” Mary conceded.
“Our bad.” Terry shrugged.
“And your own cache?” Bart hoped to wheedle the information out of them. If they’d stashed anything palatable, he would take it.
“Exploded. We don’t know how. Edward thinks it was God. Regardless it’s gone. We’re in the same boat as you. Winter is here and we have no food.”
Everything they said reminded Bart why he ignored “logic” that came out of a squirrel’s mouth. They were clever critters. Far too clever for their own good. They concocted absurd plans. Their inquisitive nature gave them just enough information to think they knew things about which they were completely clueless. They got locked in garages, shot while raiding birdfeeders, poisoned in barns, sucked into tractor engine air intakes, and so forth. They reflexively sought trouble and usually found it. In some ways, they reminded him of Sammy. Poor racist Sammy… who was dead and had it coming.
Bart looked up at the two squirrels, daydreaming of a way to grab them and take the edge off his hunger. Terry was thinking; thinking so hard her tail twitched.
“There’s a place for us.” Terry announced. “I read about it back when we had Facebook.”
“A place for you?” Bart chuckled. “Fat chance.”
“I remember it now. A place you’re supposed to go when…” she started checking off digits on her paw. “…when you have no life plan you go there. It’s a place for people who’ve screwed up; who haven’t lived properly…” she pointed at Bart’s hollow stomach. “…for folks who have stored no wealth to carry them through times of no resources. Where new ideas are embraced.” She waved her paw at Mary and herself and then looked pointedly at Bart as she continued, “It’s also for folks who… well for folks who haven’t maintained the best hygiene.”
Bart sniffed his armpit and almost gagged. Point taken.
“There’s a place for all three of us.” Terry beamed at her new idea, “We must go to Portland!”
More will ensue. If there’s a brief pause it just means I’m managing non-squirrel related affairs. As always, if you wish to encourage literature that has nothing to do with Jar Jar Binks, Washington D.C., or albino whales please click below.