by Diane Arrelle
“I hate squirrels,” my dad yelled.
Well, I think they’re cute. I didn’t say it, because I didn’t want to argue with my parents. So what if the sweet little fuzzy-tailed rats dug holes in the grass and bit the heads off of the flowers? So what if they chewed the vegetable garden and emptied the bird feeders? I loved to watch them jump and scamper around the yard.
I clenched my teeth and stomped into the house. I couldn’t watch Dad set the live traps again. So far my parents had caught thirty-five squirrels and let them go in the park ten miles away.
I put in my earbuds to shut out my father and mother screaming at the poor, helpless little furballs and started my freshman Earth Science assignment. I was doing a project on squirrels since they are my favourite animal. We had dozens of oak trees on our property so my project had to involve acorns.
As I learned about squirrels I became more and more horrified. My mother and father were heartlessly tearing apart families. The nests were full of baby squirrels at this time of year. They’d starve to death without their parents, and the displaced adults were being dumped where other squirrels were not going to welcome them. In fact, thanks to my parents, a turf war was going to break out. Worst of all, the displaced squirrels had left behind hundreds of caches of food they’d carefully hidden for winter. Now the acorns and seeds sat underground forsaken.
I knew what I had to do for my project. Over the next three days, I raked up all the acorns as they fell in our yard. Dad was so pleased with me he even gave me ten bucks for doing extra yard work. I took the money and smirked because I knew that by the weekend he’d be spitting mad.
Dad thought I bagged and dumped the acorns but he was only half right. I bagged them and created my own caches. I stuffed bags in hollow trees and rotten stumps. When I ran out of trees I hid the rest in the rafters of the garage.
Finally, I was ready. The day Mom and Dad took more cages to the park I was already there waiting for them. When I saw them drive in, I followed them to where they dumped the squirrels. They never saw me, a good thing too, because they would have had a shit-fit if they’d known I rode my bike ten miles alone on deserted back roads.
They left the poor little abandoned animals and drove home. Me, well I had my huge backpack filled with hundreds of acorns which I started doling out, like bread crumbs to mark the way. It took a while for the little guys to calm down, but soon they noticed the trail of acorns I was leaving as I slowly rode my bike toward home.
I’m pretty sure the forty-five squirrels, including the ten my parents had just transferred, were behind me picking up the oak seeds. I was so proud and pleased to be bringing them back to their families that I didn’t even notice how many more squirrels joined them, and followed me as well. I just enjoyed riding at the head of the squirrel parade, being the heroine to mistreated wildlife.
Dinnertime got cut short by deafening chittering. Mom and Dad stood at the windows their mouths open in shock and I went up to my bedroom to prepare phase two. As I sat in my room, I smiled when I heard Dad screaming, “What the hell! Where did all these squirrels come from?”
Well, I thought, I was sure going to teach Mom and Dad a lesson about being cruel to animals.
Later that night, after my parents went to bed. I snuck into their room and gently spilled acorns all over their bed. I piled them up on the sides and the end. Then I opened their bedroom windows and went back into my room.
I didn’t wait long. First Mom screamed, it was bloodcurdling, I could tell she was absolutely terrified. Then Dad cursed. Then they both screamed and screamed and screamed. I finally stopped laughing and put on my sound-cancelling headphones and went to sleep. I was going to be in big trouble in the morning, but saving the squirrels was worth it.
The sun streaming in my room woke me and I was surprised that Mom hadn’t called me down for breakfast. “Wow,” I muttered. “They must be so pissed!”
I sat on the edge of the bed and wondered just how long I was going to be punished for this. I took the headphones off and heard it — chittering. Loud, noisy eeps and screeches coming from the next room.
I didn’t understand why the squirrels were still in the house so I walked to my parents’ room and shoved the door. It barely moved. I shoved harder and got it open enough to squeeze inside.
I stared for a moment until everything registered then I screamed. Terror made me feel sick. I bent over and threw up on the floor covered in a sea of grey, furry bodies pushing at each other. The bed was covered with them as well, most of them feasting on what little was left of Mom and Dad. A rib cage showed through the mess that had been my family.
The door behind me was pushed closed and all sound stopped as every vicious, grey, rodent-like creature turned to stare at me. Hundreds of shiny, beady, black eyes focused on me.
First one, “Eep?”
Then dozens. “Eep-eep-eep-eep,” until the sound filled the room.
Sobbing and shaking, I backed to the door and grabbed the knob. “All r-r-right,” I stammered. “I’ll get you more acorns.”
I just wondered if all the oak nuts in my caches would be enough to keep them happy.
Diane Arrelle, (Dina Leacock) has had more than 250 short stories published and three books including two short story collections: Just A Drop In The Cup and Seasons On The Dark Side. She is co-owner of a small publishing company, Jersey Pines Ink LLC, and resides with her sane husband and her insane cat on the edge of the Southern New Jersey Pine Barrens (home of the Jersey Devil).