This is awesome! I can’t wait for dad to see this!
Who knew being a squirrel was so much fun. The going was a little slow when I first left Mrs. Hatfield’s. Once that nasty little dog of hers left and the coast was clear, I climbed back down the tree. It was pretty cool, I have to say. I climbed down head first. I bet none of my friends have ever done that. Well, there was that one day in PE that we got to do rappelling. We went down face first one time, but that’s not quite the same thing.
Anyway, I got down and ran across the lawn to find my way home. I thought I could run pretty fast but I soon found that dogs are pretty sneaky. They’re everywhere on that street! They jump out of the most unexpected places, and I couldn’t be ready for them every time so I ended up climbing a lot of trees and waiting them out.
It was the third tree I climbed when I had to wait longer than my patience would allow. Yeah, I’m not that patient. I never have been. But this was bad. That dog—I think it was a pointer, a hunting dog—he treed me and wouldn’t go away. He just kept barking and leaping at the trunk of my tree. I was never going to get home at that rate.
Then I noticed that the branches of my tree overlapped with the next, but as I scurried—yep, I scurried—out one of the branches, it got really thin and shaky. Luckily, squirrel-grip is pretty good. I had no problem hanging on until I’d scurried far enough out that I could leap to a branch on the next tree.
Talk about a rush! That leap was the scariest and most exhilarating thing I’ve ever done! When I pushed off, my branch dropped weakly beneath my feet, or paws, or whatever. I thought I was doomed because I could see that pointer right beneath me, watching. But I stretched forward as hard as I could and it was like I was flying. I could see the branch I was aiming for, and I could see—or sense—my trajectory through the air. I knew I would make it, and I knew I could hold on when I reached it.
Sure enough, I caught hold of that other branch and bounded—scurried—along it to the trunk. I didn’t even need to catch my breath but when I looked down, the pointer was waiting beneath my new tree, barking.
So I scurried a little ways out another branch, moving on down the street, and I could see that the next tree was a little farther. “What the heck,” I thought, and I ran along my branch as fast as I could and leaped at the last second. I immediately knew that my trajectory was good, and I caught the next branch and hurried along.
I leapt from tree to tree in the same manner until I reached the end of the block and came to a place where the trees weren’t close enough to jump between because of the cross-street. The pointer was still there, more excited than ever and determined to get me if I came down.
It seemed I was stuck and going to have to wait the dog out, but I didn’t want to wait, not just because of my lack of patience but because I wanted to get home before my mom and dad so I could figure out how I would get their attention.
I didn’t know what to do. Could I come down the tree and stay on the opposite side of the trunk from the dog? I’ve seen squirrels do that before, go around tree trunks so fast that surely a dog couldn’t keep up. But even if I did manage to get to the ground safely, could I get across the street without the dog catching me?
That would be taking quite a chance. “Surely there’s a better way,” I thought. And then the idea hit me: I’d seen squirrels cross the cables stretched between poles around town before. Would my grip and balance be good enough to do that?
I looked up and down the cross-street and, sure enough, there was a cable line strung across the street, and it was close enough to reach from my tree. It looked like I would be able to jump to another tree on the other side of the cross-street.
So I scurried out a different branch to a place where I could hop to the cable. Surely it wouldn’t shock me. I think I have to be touching something that will ground me in order to get shocked. I went with that assumption and I hopped carefully onto the cable. It swayed beneath me but my grip held firm and my balance was—is—superior.
I hurried across the cable to the far side of the street and without so much as a hesitation I leaped from the cable to another tree. Sweet! That was easy! And the pointer didn’t follow me across the street. It seemed I was home free, and I made my way from tree to tree along the side of the street, watching where I was going to make sure I found my way home. Things look different from up in the trees.
There’s really only one other instance to note about my trip home. It was an instance where I either did something really right or something really strange. I’m not sure which, or why it worked.
Somewhere in the third or fourth block, I jumped into a big tree—an oak, I think—and I scurried along until I was headed out a branch on the far side of it. Before I reached the end of the branch, though, another squirrel—a real one—landed on the branch in front of me. It seemed really mad because it chattered loudly at me and came at me with its teeth bared.
No, I can’t understand squirrel, but it was definitely mad at me. It chased me back toward the trunk, and around the trunk, and up and down the tree. Then I realized that there were more squirrels, I think at least three of them but they were so fast that it seemed like twenty! I’d only been a squirrel for about a half hour but these guys had been squirrels their whole lives. They were fast and they knew what they were doing.
Pretty soon, they had me backed up and cornered on a large branch against the trunk. They had me surrounded and I was too exhausted to run, and they were coming in closer. Do squirrels kill each other? Do they fight? I don’t know if they do but I didn’t want to find out and I was scared to death.
My normal, human instincts kicked in and I yelled at them. “Get away from me!” Of course, it was a weird and loud chatter that came out of my mouth, not English. But it worked. The looks on their faces—I think I could recognize those looks—were worth a thousand words. They looked shocked, even frightened. They didn’t run right away. They stopped, they got quiet, and they looked at me like they were curious. Then one of them chattered and they all hopped between branches and were gone before I knew it.
Either I said the right thing and scared them off or something weird happened. It didn’t really look like they were scared. It was more like they were shocked and curious. Had I said something to them? Did they understand me, or understand that I could be understood if I only knew what to say? Weird.
Anyway, I came on home after that. I had no more problems with dogs or with other squirrels.
Sitting here on the lowest branch of the tree in our front yard, I’m noticing some strange things here, too. I’ve been waiting here for a while now—an hour maybe—and I haven’t seen a single car drive by. Yeah, we’re on the edge of town but there’s always some traffic on our street.
I noticed because I’m watching the street like a hawk—like a squirrel, actually—waiting for my mom or dad to get home. I’ve been thinking about how to tell them that I’m a squirrel. I know I can’t talk to them because I can’t speak English anymore. I also know that if I try to talk, and I end up chattering up a storm instead, they’ll just think I’m an insane squirrel and they’ll either ignore me or try to chase me off. Worst case scenario, dad gets the BB gun.
I have to do something to get their attention and let them know that I’m me. That’s a tough one, because what can I do as a squirrel that will possibly make them believe I’m their son?
I can write. I know I can still write.
Quickly, I scurry down the tree and over to edge of the driveway. In the corner of the yard, where the driveway meets the street, there is a little section of the lawn that always gets run over when anyone turns in or out of our driveway, and there is no grass there. It’s the same little patch of dirt I used to play in with my Hot Wheels when I was younger. With my paw, I begin to scratch words into the dirt.
Yep, I can still write. I spell out my message:
It’s me, Tobias. I’m a squirrel. Don’t chase me away.
Careful not to disturb any of the writing, I hop back and examine my handiwork. “Help” seems wrong. They’re already going to be freaked out, if I can even get them to believe it’s true, and saying “help” might put mom over the edge. I scratch it out and write, “Love you,” in its place. There. That looks better.
I run back to the tree and climb up to my branch to wait. Surprisingly, it’s not long before I hear voices coming from down the street. I crawl out toward the end of my branch so I can see because those voices sound like my parents.
I can see two people walking toward me, houses on their left and the street on their right. On the far side, the street is paralleled by a creek and there is no sidewalk over there, so the two people will almost certainly walk along our sidewalk. As they come closer, I realize that they are my mom and dad. They’re walking instead of driving. That’s weird. Mom is talking and using her hands a lot. At least that’s normal.
As if my squirrel-heart is not beating fast enough already, it kicks up a notch. I’m getting ready, thinking about how I’ll hop down when they’re at the right place. I’ll get in front of them, stop them, and get them to look at the message I wrote. I just hope they don’t freak out at a squirrel jumping in front of them, or they miss the message or something.
They’re on the sidewalk in our yard now. They’re almost here. I catch parts of their conversation, something about the power being out, about everything being out. Does that have anything to do with them walking instead of driving home?
I scurry down the trunk of my tree on the far side where they won’t see me. I want to surprise them at the right time. Peeking around the tree, I watch them until they’re just where I want them. Then I run out screaming at the top of my lungs, “Mom! Dad! It’s me! Tobias!” As expected, it comes out as a loud chattering but it does get their attention. They both look at me as I run in front of them to stop them. They hesitate as I get closer and I see dad step in front of mom.
“Get out of here, you little turd,” my dad says, and he aims a kick in my direction. I jump out of the way but don’t run. I stand on my hind legs and motion—as best as I can—with my paws toward the message. Dad kicks at me again, and this time he comes closer to getting me. I move out of the way of his foot but he’s still coming and I have to dodge three kicks in a row. Finally, I hop clear of his kicking and realize that, between my dad’s kicking and my own scurrying, we’ve scratched most of my message out.
What am I going to do now? I stand in the yard, stunned. I had been so sure this would work. I was certain I could get them to see what I wrote.
Instead of chasing me, mom and dad are standing where I left them. They’re both looking across the street at something, and then they turn and start walking across the street.
As quick as I can, I run across the yard and to where my message was written. Sure enough, it’s unreadable. I unceremoniously swipe my tail back and forth across the ground to make a clean slate, and then I start scratching the message into the dirt again.
I hear it even before I get the first line written: a loud buzzing noise, like cicadas but… different. More like lots of voices…whispering. It’s coming from the trees across the street. Mom and dad have crossed now and are standing near the edge of the trees trying to see into them. Dad takes a step closer and pushes some of the brush back with his arms so he can get a better look.
In an instant, he’s gone. He’s pulled in, like something grabbed his arms and yanked him into the trees! Mom screams and reaches for him. She falls down, and now she’s trying to crawl away from the trees. Something’s grabbed her legs!
I’m running toward her now, I’m almost across the street, but she gets away, gets up, and starts running toward me. I scamper in front of her trying to ask what’s happened. She screams at me, tears and fear in her eyes. Mostly fear. She has one shoe but that’s all I notice because she passes me and runs for the house as fast as she can. I chase after but she slams the door in my face and I’m left looking at a house I have no way into. I hurry to my tree and climb to my branch, the only feeling of safety I can achieve.
The whispering noise is dying down now. There’s no movement from the trees. Dad’s gone.