Words will keep us together

Fiction, musings and all things writing by Gregory T. Janetka

The Boy and the Squirrels

Encapsulated and sardonic, the small boy sits alone in the woods, surrounded by a hundred shades of brown. The only sound to be heard comes from the creatures and wind as they continually rustle through the dried leaves. He ponders the squirrels that are before him on their daily quest for food.

In his backpack, the boy has two snacks which his mother packed for him earlier in the day. While he could easily consume and enjoy both snacks, he wishes to share one with his new friends – they seem so lost, as the majority of their efforts are fruitlessly expelled. Perhaps he can make everything better.

Slowly removing his book bag from his shoulders, the boy roots through the myriad of new belongings he has acquired along the way, only to draw out a small plastic bag and a slightly larger plastic container. Within the bag is a small serving of nuts, perhaps a handful or two. The container, on the other hand, is stuffed to the brim with pieces of fresh fruit.

After seeing both, the boy soon realizes how truly hungry he is.. ..but the thought of eating both is soon banished from his mind.. ..of course he must keep his promise to the squirrels… Ahh, the delicious, salty nuts would be so tasty. Just the thought of them leads his mouth to water. Meanwhile, the fruit is ripe and sweet – “they would complement each other so well,” he thought to himself, for as any child knows, any two
foods can complement each other as long as both are delicious in their own right.

Seeing how that the normal daily course of action for the squirrels results in a veritable compendium on the variety of available nuts on the current forest market, and that nuts result in a pleasurable, albeit oft recycled, experience, the boy initially veers toward the nuts.

They will certainly enjoy the nuts, he believes, but perhaps they will see it as so ordinary that they needn’t even thank the boy for his manners and deft attention to the plight of the downtrodden squirrel. On the other hand, the fruit, being the xenophobia inducing outlier, could prove a disaster.. .or a godsend. Perhaps they would hold up the boy as a savior – no longer shall they need to consume solely in varying shades of brown.. .or perhaps they would never visit him in the forest again.

The dichotomy between the placid known and the fear and excitement of the unknown stand in stark contrast.

After a great deal of deep seeded contemplation, he decides that he shall indeed share both snacks with the squirrels, for the sign of indecision hangs high over him…the fear of anger or offense being directed toward him is too much to make any decision of merit. While he may appear to be inspired by a wave of altruism, it is fear – not love – which guides his actions.

Continuing to stare at the food before him, an experiment or two beings to form in his mind; for why shouldn’t he attempt to get everything that he can out of this isolated moment? With that he places the closed plastic container of fruit on the ground before him and proceeds to stand up sharply. Rather interested, the squirrels watch his every step, as he slowly walks back and forth about 25 feet in each direction, hiding nuts in trees and burying them in the ground as he goes. “Just what exactly is this boy doing?” They wonder.

After a few minutes, with the plastic bag empty, the boy sits down in his original spot. Picking up the container of fruit, he removes the lid and very deliberately places the fruit, still in the container, a few feet from him.

“It’s all yours!” he shouts, but nothing happens. “My mother gave me all of this food, but I would rather you have it. Please eat it and enjoy!”

In a matter of seconds one squirrel darts out from inside the crook of a large old oak. He immediately begins to search all the places he saw the boy traverse, digging up a small nut. Then another squirrel runs up a tree where she saw the boy hide some of the nuts. Soon a dozen or so can be seen mechanically rambling about after each and every hidden treasure, while the boy intently watches on.

Not one of them has made any approach to the easy prey, but he notices their eyes fall upon it now and again.

“It is just as I thought.” murmured the boy to himself. “Just like everybody else…”

As he begins to hang his head, he is caught off guard by what can only be described as the ugliest squirrel nature has ever produced. The boy is immediately transfixed, as every notion about the experiment falls away for the time being.

The ugly squirrel tries to find the nuts as well, but he is too slow. By the time he finds one, another squirrel has taken it from him. Previously, the others had no care for each other and simply stayed on their own course. The introduction of this misfit into the mix throws them, for why should THAT be allowed to exist among the rest of Them?

Dejected, and slightly bloody, the misfit catches sight of the boy and their eyes meet. Neither move, both being caught off guard by something they see within the other. Slowly, the misfit cocks his head to the left, and the boy nods to him. With carefully chosen steps, the squirrel proceeds towards the fruit – and the boy. The foreign aroma of the strawberries especially strike him, for what taste could lay behind such a
sweetness?  Receiving no form of disapproval from the boy, the misfit hesitatingly sinks his teeth into a strawberry, whose green stem and leaves the boy’s mother had delicately removed.

The squirrel looks up and the boy watches as his little eyes grow quite large. As they both smile, the squirrel digs in, helping himself to a whole new world of peaches, grapes, pears, and, yes, strawberries. Completely satisfied, the squirrel happily returns to his home, passing each of the others who remain on their quest for mediocrity. Just then the boy hears his mother’s call…it’s time for lunch.

Leaving behind his new friend, the boy watches the woods recede into pavement, as the blue 2001 mini-van ambles sludgingly off to the nearest fast-food restaurant, passing each of the others who remain on their quest for mediocrity.

-April 2006

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