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Fiction Drama

Yum. Yum. Yum. Yum. Yum.  I do, I do, I do declare Ashton Place is paradise on earth for squirrels. Buffered on three sides by piney woods and with a wide swath of even more pine trees running through its middle, the neighborhood is a veritable all-you-can-eat buffet. Just take a look around at all the pinecones that litter the landscape. I call it reckless abundance. What, you didn’t know that squirrels eat pinecones? Allow me to demonstrate. My teeth gnaw easily through the pinecone’s hard outer scales, exposing the seeds surrounding its core. Voila! I eat them like corn on the cob, typewriter-style, left to right. Chomp, chomp, chomp. Bing! Next row! Chomp, chomp, chomp. Bing! Next row!

            Of course, we squirrels, enjoy variety in our diet, just like you folks do. Ashton delivers! I tell you, it’s like living in a gourmet grocery store. Walk with me, if you will, down aisle number one, our gloriously tree-lined main street. See here: the live oaks have dropped thousands of acorns, like manna from heaven. Thank you, Squirrel Jesus!

 The red seeds found in the pods of magnolias are one of my favorite delicacies. They taste as spicey as they look. Um! Wahoo! That lit a flame in my sinus passages. It makes me want to shout, “Wasabi, Ke-mo sah-bee!”

May I direct your attention to the flower beds and planters adorning the entrance to each and every town house in the development? You see beauty, I see snacks. Watch me as I excavate this terra cotta pot. Eureka, a bulb! Hmm, tart, just what I had a hankering for.

Is it time for dessert yet? Shall I partake of some holly berries? If only the camellias were ready to bloom. I crave one of those sweet buds. Oh, well, berries will have to do. 

Now please follow me to aisle number two, the back yards. Note that a continuous line of fencing runs along the rear of all the properties, which is a very convenient way to travel from one to the next.  Let’s stop at one of my favorite gardens.  The Creightons, the residents of Unit 68, like the majority of their neighbors, have equipped their back yard with bird feeders. The large cylindrical feeder hanging from the shepherd’s hook over there claims to be squirrel-proof. Ha! Ha! My friends, there is no such thing, but I shouldn’t laugh. I must confess it caught me off-guard the first time I encountered it. The circular perch at the bottom of the feeder spins like a merry-go-round when triggered by a squirrel’s weight.  It flung me to the ground, but not to worry, I didn’t hurt anything except my dignity. Ever since that first time, when I make a flying leap at it from the fence, I make certain to stick my landing higher up on the tube itself. I then do a 180 and stuff my cheeks while hanging upside down.  Shall I show you how I do it? Wee! Wee! Here I go!

Sometimes the birds – bless their hearts – make such acrobatics unnecessary. They do the work for us. Let’s go next door to Mrs. Lindley’s and you’ll see what I mean. I am stationing myself beneath the bird feeder hoping for  a sloppy eater to come along. Here we go, a tufted titmouse is showering me with sunflower seeds. How I do love my life!

            Most of our human neighbors seem to have made peace with our appetite for their bird seed. I dare say, some of these kindly, wild-life loving people are even as happy to feed us fuzzy creatures as our feathered friends. Others do chase us away when they catch us in the act. No harm done! We simply hop on the fence and go to the next yard or come back later when no one is looking. 

            Mrs. Burton  in Unit 54 is another story altogether. This tiny, silver-haired grandma has armed herself with a BB gun to keep us from feasting at her expense. I generally avoid her yard, but the other day, I succumbed to the temptation of peanuts and meal worms. I thought the coast was clear, but she was perched just inside her patio door with her rifle at the ready.  Luckily, when she fired, she missed me, but not by much. I heard the BB whiz by and felt its velocity part the fur on top of my head.  I kid you not.

But I digress.  As I was saying, winter, spring, summer and fall, a feast always awaits.  I store food nonetheless – just in case – because it is a squirrel’s nature to do so. You humans made a verb out of our name for that very reason. My cupboard is brimming over. When rain keeps me in my nest or if I am simply feeling lazy, I have a smorgasbord within reach. 

We are a chubby lot here at Ashton and proud of it. We wear our wealth around our bellies. I am so rotund you may have mistaken me for a pregnant female. Don’t worry, I am not offended. Au contraire!

While we were cruising the neighborhood, did you notice that I don’t scurry? I scamper! And you won’t see me or any or my fellows doing that robotic, pop-and-lock sequence of motions – you know – those rapid movements punctuated by freeze-frames. A form of camouflage, this routine is meant to confound and confuse our enemies. Standing stock still, our brown fur blends in with the background and they question whether they actually saw something move. Not necessary in Ashton! Barring Mrs. Burton, it is a safe neighborhood ­– the safest a squirrel could hope for, I firmly believe so– and a great place to raise a family. I have raised several. 

Signs posted along the streets remind drivers of the 15-mile-per-hour speed limit. Lest, they forget, periodic speed bumps forcibly slow them down. I am happy to report there have been no automobile casualties here.

The Homeowners Association requires all dogs to be on leashes when not in their fenced yards. I’m grateful for that rule since many of my ancestors met their demise through a swift jerk to the neck in the jaws of a dog.  Here comes Mrs. Perkins with Roscoe her Rottweiler. He sees me – he’s straining at his leash – and now the barking has started. I admit I delight in his frustration. It’s cruel I know, but I’m going to twitch my tail to taunt him. It worked! That drove him crazy and by golly, he dragged poor Mrs. Perkins 10 feet trying to get at me. 

Some of the neighborhood cats like to think of themselves as a threat and have been known to stalk and attack. Our size makes it impossible for them to subdue us. We always get away, though we sometimes incur a scratch or two. No big deal!

 The only real danger we face here are the hawks that cruise overhead on occasions. I spy one now. He is flying low enough for me to hear him talking to himself:

            “Yum. I swear Ashton Place is hawk heaven. A veritable all-you-can-eat buffet, it is teeming with squirrels – plump ones!”

July 21, 2023 22:57

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10 comments

Jessie Laverton
08:23 Jul 29, 2023

I had fun reading this

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Caroline Tuohy
18:15 Jul 29, 2023

Same.

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Joy Allen
01:35 Jul 31, 2023

Thank you for reading and giving feedback.

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05:38 Aug 02, 2023

Very cute. The circle back at the end is perfect!

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Ellen Neuborne
19:42 Jul 30, 2023

I love the voice of this story! The squirrel is all smug and satisfied – until he's reminded that life is a food chain, even on Aston Place. Fun reading.

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Joy Allen
01:36 Jul 31, 2023

Thank you! I appreciate your comments.

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Caroline Tuohy
18:14 Jul 29, 2023

I love this! It’s so well written and fun, quick paced, great humour. I loved “we wear our wealth around our bellies”. The dark hawk at the end is perfect, and suits the prompt exactly. It reminds me a lot of The Fantastic Mr Fox. It would make an amazing illustrated story book.

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Joy Allen
01:37 Jul 31, 2023

Thank you for sharing your reaction.

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Jorge Soto
04:16 Jul 29, 2023

Love the twist at the end! Makes it that much more tragic because the voice of the squirrel was so childlike and innocent :,)

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Joy Allen
01:38 Jul 31, 2023

Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts.

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