Don’t you remember the story of Calvin Bushytail? You don’t? That’s odd, considering it was on the front page of every major squirrel news website just recently. What? Yes, of course squirrels have news websites. What kind of question is that? Okay, fine, I’ll tell you the story, but please pay attention, because I’ll only tell it once; you should probably put your phone down for this.
First off, you should know that hardly anything newsworthy ever happens in Squirrel Town. After all, it’s not a hustling and bustling metropolis like Squirrel City or Squirrelsville. Heck, it’s not even like Squirrelsburg, which isn’t hustling and bustling per se, but is considered up-and-coming if you ask the right people. In any case, while Squirrel Town is not considered to be hustling and bustling or even up and coming, it made squirrel-wide news for the first time six months ago last Tuesday. This was due to the trial, conviction and eventual five-month prison sentence of one Calvin Bushytail for embezzling from the city’s nut fund, a fund that distributed nuts to those in the community who could not forage for themselves - and one that Mr. Bushytail himself managed. Nuts, and thank you for asking by the way, serve as both a food source and currency for squirrels. It’s not a very efficient system, but hey, could you come up with a better option? That’s what I thought.
Last Tuesday around 2:13 p.m., after serving his five months at the Squirrel Town prison (five months, as you probably don’t know because you don’t seem to know that much about squirrels, is a very long time for a squirrel), Calvin was in a taxi on the way to his apartment on Acorn Street. He had the driver drop him off at the back of the building and scurried up a secret entrance to his unit that he had dug prior to prison as a way to avoid any of the reporters and nosy citizens who would no doubt be gathered outside to take pictures and ask questions and probably squeak out an unkind word or two.
After crawling up the drain and popping up through the kitchen sink, Calvin looked out his front window and was surprised to discover that there was no angry mob with very tiny pitchforks waiting outside. He was also slightly annoyed, because he had to dodge a peckish woodpecker on the way up, and he hadn’t cleaned the sink in a very long time. He poured himself a tall glass of tree sap whiskey as he dusted the wet nut shells from his fur.
Calvin soon found out that while the town had forgotten about the specific date of his release, they had not forgotten about him or his insidious crime. Outside of the town hall building, where Calvin had worked as the manager of the nut fund all those months ago, were several large vans, a camera crew, and an extremely large banner that read “Filming in Progress for Fraud Story: The Calvin Bushytail Scandal.” Just about everyone in the town had gathered to witness the spectacle, save for two squirrels next-door who were having a very loud conversation about the hubbub.
“Should we go down there and check it out, Miriam?” one muffled voice said.
“Let’s wait until the crowd clears out a bit, Rodney,” said the other voice. “You know how much I hate crowd nowadays ever since the weed whacker incident.”
“By the way, your tail fur is growing back very nicely, dear.”
“Can you believe it? A documentary crew in Squirrel Town? I hear they’re filming an entire series and shopping it around to all the major streaming services. Word in the trees is that Nutflix is picking it up. Maybe they’ll want to interview me. I’m pretty sure I ran into that Bushytail fellow a couple times at the TreeMV. Even then, he always seemed like a fraudster to me.”
“You’ve always been a great judge of character, dear. Not so much of weed whackers, I’m afraid.”
I’m sure Miriam and Rodney are great squirrels when you get to know them, Calvin thought as he downed his tree sap whiskey and poured himself another glass. He had done a lot of thinking when he was locked up. Calvin didn’t particularly enjoy being alone with his thoughts, but there wasn’t really anything else to do in prison. After all, he and the other inmates were only allotted one hour of scurrying a day, which was significantly less than the middle-aged squirrel’s average daily scurrying time. The average is 5.37 hours, by the way. You’d know this if you took a break from your TikTok-ing and electric scootering and researched a squirrel fact every once and a while.
At first, Calvin spent a lot of time thinking about how much he hated Gertrude Fluffbottom, the shrill-voiced, octagon-shaped-glasses-wearing head of Squirrel Resources who ultimately blew the whistle on his embezzling scheme. Gertrude was known as the snoopiest squirrel in Squirrel Town, and she had always rubbed Calvin the wrong way. Not because she was snoopy, but because she was the only co-worker who never tried Calvin’s famous tree bark brittle whenever he’d bring it into the office for a special occasion. In any case, due to Gertrude’s snooping ways, Calvin always kept his office locked when he wasn’t in it. All it took was one forgetful Thursday afternoon in March as Calvin was stepping out for lunch, and Gertrude had read through all of his files and had called the local authorities waiting for him when he returned. On top of being a snoop, Gertrude had almost freakish deduction skills.
After he got tired of being angry at Gertrude, Calvin started feeling sorry for himself. I was doomed to be a bad squirrel from birth, he thought. As it turns out, Calvin came from a long line of criminals, miscreants, and ne’er-do-wells. He great-great-grandfather was Sylvan Bushytail, the most notorious bootlegger of Ponderosa pine cones during the Pine Cone prohibition of 1984. His great-grandfather Melvin was a bank robber, his grandfather Kelvin was a con-squirrel, and his father Alvin was a top associate for the Squirrelatelli crime family. He also had a great aunt on his mother’s side who worked the local squirrel clubs as a really, really mean insult comic.
Despite his family history, Calvin had never thought that he himself would ever turn to crime. All it took was a birthday gift from his second cousin Smellvin, a book called How to Embezzle From Your Company’s Nut Fund and Get Away With It, and his Bushytail instincts started to kick in. What started as a harmless curiosity led to Calvin skimming just a few nuts from the top, and before he knew it, he had stolen from dozens and dozens of elderly and handicapped squirrels. Now, as he looked out at the documentary crew, Calvin did some more thinking. He thought and thought about what he could do to get himself back in the good graces of the squirrels in Squirrel Town, particularly the ones who he had defrauded. It was going to take more than making a big batch of tree bark brittle, that much was for sure. He wasn’t going to come up with any good ideas just by drinking tree sap whiskey in his apartment and twiddling his tail. He decided to leave his apartment, through the front door this time, and get some fresh air.
Meanwhile, the Fraud Story documentary crew was in the middle of interviewing Bernard Nibblesby, a former co-worker Calvin’s who had an office right next to his. Bernard was extremely camera shy, which the director — an extremely fat squirrel named Francois Forageier —found slightly endearing at first, but after almost a half-hour of Bernard’s meek squeaks, it was starting to get unbearably annoying.
“Bernard, you’re going to need to squeak up,” the director barked impatiently.
“I’m so sorry, what was the question again?” Bernard nervously stammered.
“What was your first impression of Calvin Bushytail?”
“Uh, I think, well, um, the thing is...”
While Bernard mumbled and stumbled through his answer, sweat dripped from every part of his furry body. This was actually somewhat impressive, considering that squirrels have very few sweat glands. You didn’t know that? I’m disappointed but not surprised.
“Okay, let’s take five,” Francois yelled.
He stormed over to the craft services table and jammed a handful of deep-fried pecans into his mouth.
“I can’t with this freakin’ squirrel and this freakin’ podunk town,” Francois said to no one in particular. “I should be directing feature films by this point in my career. If only Martin Squirrelsese would take my calls.”
Just as he inhaled half a bowl’s worth of olives, Francois felt something land on the top of his head. It felt big and wet. He looked up, which was hard for Francois on account of his head being so massive yet his neck being surprisingly tiny, to see a chubby human boy standing over him with a garden hose. The water was barely leaking out of the hose, but Francois knew what was coming next. He had dealt with a similar incident on set a couple years back when he was working as best squirrel grip on a Steven Squealberg picture in Squirrel City. His tale had still not fully dried from that horrifying day.
“Everybody scurry!” Francois screamed, spitting olives out every which way.
The citizens of Squirrel Town and the documentary crew looked up to see the hose-wielding menace about to strike, and they all let out a collective squeak of terror as they scattered in every direction. A strong burst of water jetted from the hose and sent the craft services table flying into oblivion. Next, the child turned his attention to the camera equipment and the vans, which to him looked like nothing more than Lego toys. He sprayed them from the lawn all the way to the driveway.
“We need to make it to the trees!” Bernard Nibblesby instructed in an uncharacteristically loud and clear voice.
Nearby, there was a wood with enough trees for every squirrel to comfortably hide in, but it was just out of reach. The squirrels tried to go left and they tried to go right, but the chubby child was masterfully keeping them at bay with the hose. They had nowhere to escape. They all huddled in front of the town hall and shook in terror.
With his finger on the trigger of the hose, the chubby boy was about to make every squirrel in the near vicinity soaking wet. Squirrels hated getting wet. They really, really hated it. It was a serious hassle.
“Well, this is just great. I literally just got this suit dry cleaned,” said Mortimer Talltail, the manager of the Squirrel Town Library who loved wearing three-piece suits. This was strange, because none of the other squirrels in Squirrel Town wore clothes. It’s just something that most squirrels prefer not to do. Don’t think too much into it.
Just as he was about to let loose a barrage of water on the squirrel below him, the boy looked down at his shoes confusedly. The confusion quickly turned to fear, as he threw down the hose and started to furiously slap at his left ankle. A fast-moving mass was making its way from the back of the boy’s front leg around to the front. It darted quickly up his leg and up into his chest. The boy convulsed uncomfortably, fanning his shirt furiously and slapping at random parts of his body. Finally, the mass had made its way up to the boy’s neck. A tiny squirrel head peaked up from the collar.
“Oh my goodness, it’s Calvin Bushytail!” said Mayor Josephina Gnaws-a-Plenty, clapping her tiny paws excitedly.
The squirrel crowd erupted into cheers, as Calvin jutted up from the front of the boy’s shirt and clamored on top of his head. The boy, now in true panic mode, grabbed the hose and turned it towards his own head in an attempt to spray Calvin off. Calvin nimbly hopped off the boy’s noggin, just as the boy squeezed down on the nozzle, spraying himself in the face with a hard jet stream.
As the boy went running and crying off into the distance (likely terrified that he would have to wear an eyepatch for the rest of his life), Calvin stepped up nervously to the crowd of squirrels in front of town hall. They were completely silent now. Calvin had expected this. Fortunately, he had prepared a speech for this moment. But, just as he was about to say something, the squirrels closely encircled Calvin. Uh oh, Calvin thought. This was the angry mob he was afraid of.
“Wait, I just want to say...”
“Hurray for Calvin Bushytail!” Mayor Gnaws-a-Plenty interrupted Calvin. “The hero of Squirrel Town!”
Two camera-squirrels from the Fraud Story crew hoisted Calvin onto their shoulders, while the rest of the squirrels surrounded them and started singing “For He’s a Jolly Good Squirrel Friend.” The only two squirrels to not join in on the celebration were Gertrude Fluffybottom, who sulked in her completely fogged-up octagon-shaped glasses, and Francois Forageier, who was busy leaving Martin Squirrelsese a desperate voicemail.
“I have a plan to replenish Squirrel Town’s nut fund,” Calvin told Mayor Gnaws-a-Plenty from his perch.
“We can talk about that later,” the mayor said. “You saved us from getting wet. You know how much we hate getting wet.”
Rodney and Miriam Cumbernuts moseyed out of their apartment to see Calvin Bushytail being tossed in the air by the citizens of Squirrel Town.
“Well, looks like we missed the show,” Rodney said.
“See, I always knew that Calvin Bushytail was a good squirrel deep down,” said Miriam.
“Of course you did, dear,” Rodney sighed. “Of course you did.”
Miriam started to go on about how she always saw the good side in Calvin when no one else did. Rodney nodded, pretending to pay attention. His ears perked up when he heard a loud sound. Miriam seemed oblivious to it, but as Rodney spun around, he saw the source: a weed whacker trimming a bush just behind them. It was heading directly towards Miriam’s tail.
“Miriam, watch out!”