Dear Squirrel
Ann Hillesland

 

Dear Squirrel,

Hiding the avocado between the bars of my patio table base won’t fool anyone. We can all see it. You should be more careful.

 

Dear Squirrel,

Please please PLEASE stop digging up my pansies. It’s like you’re compulsive. Can’t you let it go?

 

Dear Squirrel,

Usually you race up trees like a cheetah, tightrope the narrow phone line. I’ll just pretend I didn’t see you slip and backflip into the ivy. You need to keep your dignity.

 

Dear Squirrel,

Sorry the tree trimmers disturbed your nest in the avocado branches. It looked like a mess of dried leaves to me, but to you it was home.

I’ve felt the same way, leaving the beautiful house on Fontleroy to come to this shitty shack. All the things that I could wrest away from that cheating scumbag crammed into this Navaho White box. I lie on the too-big sofa, look out the window and wonder how it happened.

 

Dear Squirrel,

Are you an adrenaline junky? What were you thinking, freezing in the road as I drove toward you? When I dodged to the right, you ran right as well. Are you insane? I know escaping by a whisker is a thrill—the fights made every day an adventure with that SOB Jack. You and I will just have to get over the excitement.

 

Dear Squirrel,

I’ve seen you chasing the lady squirrels up the tree trunk, making that chirping noise and rippling that tail you’re so damn proud of. But just you wait. The lady squirrels eventually figure out you’re chasing a different one every day. Then, watch out!

 

Dear Squirrel,

You may look good in your fluffy suit, but underneath you’re just a rodent. A rat.

 

Dear Squirrel,

Forgive me. I figured it out. You weren’t chasing lady squirrels; you were defending your territory. Chasing away those squirrels who trespassed in your home. Driving them off with your loud chatters and swishing tail. More power to you!

 

Dear Squirrel,

You’ll be happy to hear that I followed your example. I defended my territory. I haven’t told you, but I’ve been driving by my old house. I didn’t want you to know how weak I still was, hoping to catch a glimpse of Jack but ambushed by seeing a strange car in the driveway. Well, last night I put a note under some bitch’s window. DON’T TRUST HIM, I wrote. Tonight I’ll go back. Leave another little letter. Nothing threatening—maybe after looking in the window I’ll comment on the TV show they’re watching or the sweater she’s wearing. Jack and the latest bitch will know they are in MY space.

 

Dear Squirrel,

I like watching you eat. The way you nibble, pause, nibble, pause, then race through the peanut so shells and skin go flying. You go after what you want.

Your coat is getting lighter and even glossier with the peanuts I’ve been leaving you.

 

Dear Squirrel,

Have you noticed my new hair color? I’m a blond!

I watched Jack’s house until he went to the grocery story, then I “accidentally” ran into him in by the acorn squash. I gave him a full-tooth smile, pulse jumping.

“What are you doing here?” he said.

“Just buying some fruit. I knew this store would have plums, even though it’s late in the season.”

“Stop coming by the house.” He did that thing where he lowered his eyebrows at me, but I wasn’t scared.

“I don’t know what you mean.” Another grin. The happiest person in the world.

 

Dear Squirrel,

You’ve been looking remarkably handsome lately. Your tail seems bushier than ever.

Did you like the plums? I thought you might enjoy a change from peanuts. I’ll drop by that store and pick up some more tonight. After all, I’m going to be in the neighborhood.

What a rush! I can’t decide what to do tonight. Tip over the birdbath? Rearrange the flower pots? Write the latest bitch and tell her that he keeps an old-school stash of porn magazines beneath the Popular Sciences in the bookcase? Maybe I’ll just leave my lip print on the front window. I have this new red lipstick that would be perfect.

When I crouch in the azaleas I’m invisible.

 

Dear Squirrel,

I know now why you froze in the road. Last night, I was watching them playing Scrabble. (Scrabble! Just like we used to play.) I could almost feel those smooth wood tiles as she swished them around with her red acrylic talons.

I was composing my note in my head (about how he can’t spell, and it’s worth it to challenge him) when a cop car swung onto the street and pinned me with its headlights. I panicked, not knowing whether to run to the backyard, dive into the bushes, or what, so I just kept crouching there.

Jack and his bitch must have called them. That whole Scrabble thing was just to distract me. Well, triple word score to you, Jack! But that’s not the end of the game. A temporary restraining order is nothing.

 

Dear Squirrel,

Why do you keep fidgeting, looking around, tasting, stopping, twitching away, coming back? Just eat the peanuts!

 

Dear Squirrel,

You’ll probably wonder about the extra food. I might not be able to feed you for a few days. I have a plan, a great plan. Then Jack and his bitch will be gone, and I can move into my house again. Don’t worry, I’ll come back for you.

I know where he keeps the spare key. It’ll look like an accident. Those space heaters can be so dangerous. Real big sources of carbon monoxide.

But I’m going to go away for a few days, just in case. Who, me? I was in Tahoe. Nothing will go wrong.

I just want to say that you’ve been such a help to me in these last few weeks. I can’t tell you how much you mean to me, my friend. You’re my inspiration.

 

Ann Hillesland‘s work has been published in many literary journals, including Fourth Genre, Sou’wester, and SmokeLong Quarterly, and has been included in the Wigleaf Top 50 Very Short Fictions. She won the grand prize for prose in a contest held by Spark, and has been presented onstage by Stories On Stage. She is a graduate of the MFA program at Queen’s University of Charlotte.