Literature 8-27-2008

miniStories: “Squirrels” by Brian Beatty

Read "Squirrels," a twisty, wry little tale by Brian Beatty and one of the winning miniStories shorts from summer 2008.

Brian Beatty


         The squirrels around here report to yours truly. John, Paul, George and Ringo don’t climb a tree or dig up a nut without my say-so.
         Yeah, I named them after the Beatles. So what? They don’t know the difference. And if they could figure it out, they’ve got it so good these days, I bet they couldn’t care less what I call them.
         Before I came along, these idiots wasted beautiful summer days fighting territorial battles that had gone unsettled for who knows how long.
         South Minneapolis has never been kind to squirrels. Chasing invaders out of their trees and keeping hidden stores of food hidden is exhausting work that leaves neighborhood squirrels too tired and nervous to really relax.
         This exhausting battle fatigue gets to them eventually. Many develop twitches. Others run directly into rush hour traffic to put an end to their unbearable misery.
         My little fab foursome had a much better idea. They approached me about protection. They just wanted some peace for a change — that was all. They would do whatever I asked.
         They looked so hopeless, I agreed to help.
         What I did was teach them to defend themselves.
         I taught by example, which I think spooked them. But after I ate the third or fourth squirrel that thought it was going to be the boss of me in my own yard, Ringo convinced his three terrified pals that maybe there was something to my methods.
         Bully squirrels had quit coming around.
         Though the four of them never eat other squirrels, they’re fine with me chowing down as often as I want. Because there’s no denying that their lives are easier now.
         I also showed my squirrels some other tricks I knew. Fetching has nothing to do with self-defense, but it’s so cute how they’ll push my water bowl to wherever I’m resting in the shade. Watching them pretend to shake hands is another fun one, even if it serves no practical purpose. It’s not like my squirrels will ever attend a business meeting.
         They aren’t even allowed inside my house.
         My people have been adamant about that. They hate it when I drag things in — dead or alive.
         When I’m let outside this afternoon, I’m going to try housebreaking my squirrels. Then maybe they’ll be allowed indoors with me. And maybe they’ll learn to appreciate how much more difficult it is to be a dog like me than it is to be some dumb squirrels.
         Seriously. Not even George believes me. I guess that’s what I get for not devouring them when I had the chance. Now that they’re domesticated, I just can’t seem to do it.

About the author: Brian Beatty moved to Minneapolis in 1999 because he assumed that Prince was throwing a party. He still hasn’t received his invitation. Squirrels is dedicated to Brian’s dog (and muse) Hurley.