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The Half-Tailed Squirrel

by Linda Jenkinson |

Julia awoke to a golden morning, the kind of day when the sun beamed through the open east window making everything in the room sparkle, especially the rose zircon earrings waiting on her bureau.

Outside she heard the cacophony of the half-tail squirrel who lived in the live oak at the side of the driveway. This morning he was loudly arguing with a raucous murder of crows. Murder, might be the usual descriptive word for a flock like this, but actually these were a band of pirates. The squirrel was an easy mark for them. He had a penchant for contraband and the band of crows frequently pillaged his treasures.

Julia smiled. I really don't need an alarm clock when they're around! She looked out the window to see if she could tell what the commotion was all about, but the dispute had been resolved.

Julia had a special fondness for the half-tailed squirrel. She had been present on the day he lost part of his tail. That day, the little critter had come through her open window, planning to swipe the shiny baton that held it open. The window crashed and neatly snipped the tip of his tail as he escaped. That was mayhem, Julia ruefully remembered and then she thought that she had better get moving or her whole day would turn into mayhem!

Julia was a planner. Her morning routine was as neatly planned as the clothes she had fastidiously laid out on her bedside chair. The first task of the day was to wake her son, Josh, for school. "Time to get up Josh" she called from his doorway. "Don't make me sing for you!"

Josh groaned and pulled the covers over his head.

"Okay, then! Da da duh duh duh, Da da duh duh duh, Da da duh duh duh da dah dum" Julia sang, her nasal rendition of Reveille resembling something between a jaw harp and a kazoo.

"Mom, please stop!" Josh begged.

"Well get up then sleepy head!" Julia smiled, and on seeing Josh's feet hit the floor, went to take her shower.

The hot, soapy water felt good in the cool morning air, but Julia didn't have time to dally. She was presenting her biggest purchase agreement to date at 9:00 a.m. and she couldn't afford to be late! She wanted her presentation to be perfect and professional.

After dressing, Julia carefully looked to see that the pale pink blouse was tucked 'just so' into the navy blue wrap-around skirt. She had chosen the pink blouse because, psychologically, pink is supposedly non-threatening, calming, and represent trustworthiness . The pink shirt was also the perfect complement for her favorite rose zircon earrings.

Looking into the mirror she thought, not bad for a 37-year-old lady, but something was missing. Oh yes! The rose zircon earrings. She had set them on her bureau when she chose her ensemble for today.

She went into the bedroom to get them, but… they weren't there! She was sure she had laid them out. In fact, she remembered seeing them sparkle in the morning sunlight. Or had she?

She looked at the mauve carpet around the bureau, near and then under the rumpled bed but there was no sign of the earrings. Finally she abandoned her search. She really couldn't afford to be late today! Favorite or not, there was no time to fret over the whereabouts of an inexpensive (well semi-expensive) pair of sparkly earrings. She would continue the search later. For now, the gold hoops would just have to do.

She quickly retrieved them from her jewelry case and fastened them to her ears, pausing to close the open window before she left the room, just in case it rained. One never knew in April what the weather would do.

Josh was finishing half a cut orange and a piece of peanut butter toast as Julia walked into the kitchen.

"Josh did you happen to see my…"

"Mom, what would you think if I got my ear pierced?" the twelve-year-old interrupted.

"Funny you should ask that," Julia commented. " I was just going to ask if you had seen my rose zircon earrings."

"Where'd you leave 'em?"

"Well, usually I would tell you that if I knew where I left them I could find them, but this time I was sure I left them on my bureau. Yet, they aren't there."

"You know I don't go into your room without permission. I haven't seen them."

"I know, but I just thought maybe... well, never mind."

"What about getting my ear pierced?"

"I think I need to think about that one for awhile. It's time to go anyway. Got everything?"

"Think I do." Josh began to reach for his pocket. "Yeah I do," he answered, his hand stopping in mid-air. Julia caught the awkward pause and for a fleeting moment wondered… but no, Josh had no reason to take the earrings.

"Well, have a good day, Mom," he said, heading for the door.

"Oh I hope so," Julia replied. "If this deal goes through, it will be a great day! You have a good day, too, Josh. And we'll talk about the ear piercing tonight. Promise."

As it turned out, there was no need to worry. Julia's presentation went as perfectly as she had hoped it would. If the sale was completed as easily as the P.A. was accepted, Julia would have one healthy commission check. In fact, she would be able to buy all the rose zircon earrings she wanted!

Yet, she was dearly fond of the pair she owned. They were the last gift David had given to her before the fatal car crash that had dealt her and Josh the greatest loss of their lives.

Julia decided to take a half-day off, to celebrate her success and to continue her search for the earrings. Home again, she went straight to the bedroom, setting her car keys down on the bureau.

There had been no rain. In fact, the day was an unusually warm one for April. Before she started searching again, Julia took a moment to open the window.

She began by checking under the pillows and in the rumpled bed linens. She made the bed after she was certain the earrings weren't tangled in the sheets.

Next she checked her jewelry case. She hadn't seen them there, but she may have overlooked them in her haste. No, she sighed, they weren't there.

She looked on her desk, in her desk, under her desk. She checked the top of the nightstand and inside its drawer. She went through every bureau drawer, but no earrings! Where could they be?

Maybe she had brought them into the bathroom before she showered. She went to check. Nope. Not on the sink and not on the floor. Suddenly she heard a noise coming from the bedroom. It sounded like keys jingling. Quickly she went to investigate. Just as she entered the doorway, she saw a blur of gray-brown shoot across the bed as the half-tailed squirrel bolted for the open window, Julia's shiny key ring hanging from his firmly closed mouth!

Julia made a beeline for the back door, intent on chasing the little brigand across the yard. He was at the tree. Suddenly, a crow swooped down from the power line, straight at the squirrel's head. In utter frustration, the thief opened his mouth to give the bird a piece of his mind and the keys fell to the ground. Now spying Julia, the squirrel raced up the trunk to his nest high in the branches, leaving his contraband where it had fallen at the base of the live oak.

"Aha!" exclaimed Julia. Now she had a good idea what had happened to her earrings.

When Josh got home from school, she recruited him to climb up the tall tree to see just what was in that squirrel's nest as she held the tall extension ladder firmly at the base. At least the squirrel was fearful enough to flee the moment Julia leaned the ladder into the tree.

The squirrel had been a busy little critter. His nest held a spoon, two shiny pennies, a dime, a single gold cuff-link, and yes -- Julia's rose zircon earrings. From his perch on a higher branch, the squirrel watched helplessly, while Josh cleaned out his cache, loudly bemoaning his loss to the entire neighborhood. Julia was just grateful that the thieving crows hadn't made off with her earrings.

Earrings safely back in hand, she chuckled. Both she and the half-tailed squirrel should have learned their lessons last summer when he had bumped the open window, slamming it shut and leaving the other half of his tail behind him. Note to self, she thought, first new thing to buy with that commission check is a screen for my bedroom window!


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