20090106

The Squirrel and the Length of Twine

This is a story about a squirrel and a length of twine. It starts out very nicely, as stories go, but let me warn you now: there is trouble ahead. Nothing much can be done about it, but I thought you should know.

There is a squirrel who lives in a very high tree and seldom goes out. He has an elaborate collection of shells in his nest, and this collection takes up a lot of his time. He polishes and arranges and rearranges the shells according to various categories. He corresponds by mail with other collectors and reads scholarly shell collection journals and he's made notes toward a scholarly article on the filbert (Corylus maxima).

I have an very fulfilling existence, the squirrel tells himself. I have my work. Yet he becomes transfixed when he hears the other squirrels screeching in the other trees and often finds that he's been leaning, vacant-eyed, over his work bench, paws up and ears cocked.

One day the squirrel looked out of his nest and saw a length of twine hanging down over the opening. He leaned out and gave it a cautious sniff. Nothing, just a length of twine-smelling twine. He returned to his shell collection and several days passed before he noticed the twine again.

One evening, after treating himself to a vintage California Black walnut (Juglans californica), he decided to stretch his legs. He batted the twine out of the way, hopped out onto one of the larger limbs and looked around. He saw leaves and branches swaying in the air. He breathed some of this air. Distant other-screeching floated through the late afternoon. Then he hopped back into his nest to attend to a newly acquired Brazil nut (Bertholletia excelsa).

Several days later, on a day when the other squirrels were especially loud, he found himself crouched at the entrance to his nest, trying to locate the source of the screeching. He noticed the length of twine again. He took it tentatively in one paw and gave it a little tug, just to see if it was connected to anything, and was startled when it gave a little tug in return.

I should make some notes on this, he thought as he looked up the side of the tree, craning his neck and squinting to see where the string came from. He gave it another, slightly firmer tug and got another, slightly firmer tug in return. Then, for some reason neither the squirrel nor I can figure out, he took the length of twine in both of his hind paws and gave it the mightiest yank he could muster.

As you might have guessed, the length of twine mightily yanked the squirrel right out his nest. For several terrifying seconds the squirrel tumbled through a blur of air and limbs and leaves, not knowing up from down or down from up. By a stroke of good fortune, he landed safely on a pile of leaves, and lay there for awhile looking at what he could see of the sky through the trees. One seldom sees the world from this angle, he thought, cradling his neck in his front paws and crossing one hind leg over the other.

Here's where the trouble begins.

The squirrel heard a rustling in the leaves behind him and looked up and back to see the biggest pair of brown eyes he had ever seen. He noticed right away that they were almond shaped and liked this very much. The eyes belonged to another squirrel who appeared to be smiling. The squirrel smiled himself and was surprised to hear himself let out a joyful screech.

From this point on the squirrel's story becomes unreliable. The squirrel insists that he'd seen this pair of eyes earlier, back when he looked up the side of his tree to find out where the twine came from. When I ask why he didn't say something about this before, he rolls his eyes and tells me that if I don't like his story I should make up one of my own. But I have only this squirrel to work with.

However whatever happened happened, the squirrel is much happier these days, although it would have been difficult to convince him that he wasn't very happy before he got yanked out of his tree. You will hear him screeching now and then, but he hasn't spent much time around his nest for several weeks. His shell collection has gathered a fine layer of dust.


Image above by lee.

4 comments:

John B. said...

Lee,
Just a quick thank-you for visiting my place and for the kind words on my cycling post.

The coffee hasn't kicked in yet, so I don't have anything coherent to say about this post. I am intrigued by it, though--and especially by your choosing to write fabulae in general. Plenty of mystery remains in the world, even though we (pre)tend to think otherwise.

Lee said...

Mystery is a good reason to get up in the morning. Stop by anytime.

Doc said...

if keillor dealt in squirrels intead of lutherans, you'd quite possibly be able to place this piece...

Lee said...

oo, snap!