The Half-Tailed Squirrel
Published Wed Jan 17, 2018 | Updated Fri Oct 18, 2019 | Posted in Stories | By Linda Jenkinson |
Julia awoke to a golden morning, a day when the sun gleamed through the open east window. It made everything in the room glitter, including 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 quibbling with a quarrelsome murder of crows. The squirrel was an easy mark for these pirates who snatched every chance to pilfer his hard won treasures.
Julia smiled. I sure don’t need an alarm clock when they’re around! She peered through the casement to see if she could tell what the commotion was all about, but the combatants had resolved their dispute.
Julia felt a special fondness for the half-tailed squirrel. She remembered the day he lost part of his tail. That day, the little critter came through her open window, with his eye on the shiny baton that held it open. The window crashed and clipped the tip of his tail as he escaped. That was mayhem, Julia remembered, but if I don’t get on the stick today, my whole day is gonna be mayhem! Julia was a planner. She’d organized every bit of her morning starting with the clothes laid out in order on her bedside chair. Just as she was ready to get into the shower, her mother called from the kitchen. “Julia, can you wake up Josh and get him to school? I’m running a little late.”
“No problem, Mom. Will do.” Then Julia knocked on Josh’s door. “Wake up, Josh. Time for school.” When he didn’t answer she delivered her first and final warning. She opened his door and said, “Josh, I’ve gotta take you to school and I can’t be late. Get up. Don’t make me sing you a song!”
Josh groaned and pulled the covers over his head.
“Okay! Da da duh duh duh. Da da duh duh duh. Da da duh duh duh da dah dum.” Julia’s nasal rendition of Reveille resembled something between a jaw harp and a kazoo.
“Mom, please make her stop!” Josh’s shout could be heard half a block away, or so Julia thought. But, their mother didn’t say a thing, although Julia thought she could hear a giggle coming from downstairs. Josh pulled his pillow over his head.
“Well get up then sleepy head!” Julia repeated. When Josh realized his mother wouldn’t rescue him from his demon sister, his feet hit the floor.
“OKAY, I’m up,“he said. “Now get outa my room!“ Julia left to take her shower.
The hot, soapy water felt good in the cool morning air, but Julia didn’t have time to dally. Today the varsity cheerleading squad was holding new tryouts! Juia wanted her routine;to be flawless and that started with looking good and being on time.
After dressing, Julia looked to make sure she had tucked the pale pink shell ‘just so’ into the navy blue shorts. She chose the pink blouse because she had read that pink is non-threatening, calming, and represents trustworthiness. She wanted to show the squad that she was a joiner, not a rival. Besides, the pink shirt was also the perfect complement for her favorite rose zircon earrings.
Looking into the mirror she thought, Not bad for a 17-year-old. But something was missing. Oh yes! The rose zircon earrings. She went into the bedroom to retrieve 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 and on top of it all, she had to get Josh to school, too. Favorite or not, there was no time to fret over the whereabouts of an inexpensive pair (well, semi-expensive) of sparkly earrings. She would continue the search later. For now, her gold hoops would have to do.
She took the hoops from her jewelry case and fastened them to her ears, closing the open window before she left the room. One never knew in April whether the weather would rain or shine.
Josh was sulking over half a cut up orange and a piece of peanut butter toast as Julia walked into the kitchen.
“I don’t know why you should always get your way. I want to get my ear pierced, but Mom says no.” the twelve-year-old interrupted. “You got yours pierced when, how old were you? Ten?”
“Eight,“ Julia said. “Funny you should say that, I was just going to ask if you had seen my rose zircon earrings.”
"Where’d you leave ‘em?”
“Well, if I knew where I’d left them, I’d be able to find them. I thought for sure I left them on my bureau. Yet, they aren’t there.”
“Well I sure haven’t seen them.”
“I know, but I thought maybe… well, never mind.”
“You thought I took ‘em to get back at you for so rudely waking me up today.”
“No I didn’t but now that you bring it up… "
“And now you think I wanted them because I wanna get my ears pierced? I didn’t take ‘em. What would I do with a pair of girlie earrings, anyway?”
“Okay, okay, I believe you. Just forget about it. I’ll look for them later. It’s time to go now. 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, despite their bickering, Josh wouldn’t take her earrings, even for a joke. He knew why they were so precious to her.
There was no need to worry about the tryouts. Julia’s routine was as perfect as she had hoped it would. She answered their questions and seem to get along fine with the girls on the squad. She was pretty sure they liked her and pretty sure she’d be one of the chosen ones. Now, if she could find the earrings, this day would be perfect! She was fond of the earrings, but with good reason.They were the last gift Dad had given her before the fatal car crash dealt their small family the greatest loss of their lives.
Home again, she went straight to the bedroom, setting her car keys down on the bureau.
The day had turned out to be a warm one for April. The room seemed stuffy. Before she started searching again, Julia took a moment to open the window. Then she began her hunt for the rose zircons. She looked under the pillows and in between the rumples in the linens on her unmade bed. They weren’t there. She made a mental note to go back and make the bed after her search was over.
Next she checked her jewelry case. She hadn’t seen them there, but she may have overlooked them in her haste. No joy. No earrings.
Julia looked on her desk, in her desk, under her desk. She checked the top of the nightstand and inside the nightstand drawer. She searched every blasted drawer in her bureau, but no earrings. Where could they be?
Maybe she had brought them into the bathroom before she showered. She checked. Nope. Not on the sink and not on the floor. As she stepped through the bathroom door, she heard a noise in the bedroom. It was the unmistakable clank of her keys. She went to investigate. As she entered the doorway, a blur of gray-brown shot across the bed as the half-tailed squirrel bolted for the open window. Julia’s shiny key ring hung from his tightly clamped jaws.
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 spotting Julia, the squirrel raced up the trunk to his nest high in the branches, leaving his contraband where it fell at the base of the live oak.
“Aha!” exclaimed Julia. Now she had a good idea what had happened to her earrings.
She went back into the house and rousted Josh out from his video game. She recruited him to see what was in that squirrel’s nest . He agreed to help if she promised to put in a good word about the pierced ear he wanted. “Only fair,“ he said.
He climbed up the tree as she gripped the tall extension ladder at its base. At least, the squirrel was fearful enough to flee farther up the moment Julia leaned the ladder into the tree. He was a busy little critter. His nest held one of her mother’s sterling silver dessert spoons, 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, bemoaning his loss to the entire neighborhood. Julia felt grateful that the thieving crows didn’t have time to make off with her earrings.
Earrings back in hand, she chuckled. Both she and the half-tailed squirrel should have learned their lessons last summer when he slammed the open window shut and left half of his tail behind him. Note to self, she thought, Ask Mom for a screen for my bedroom window… or if Josh gets his ears pierced, bargain for a new screen. Only fair.
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