CW 12 – How The Squirrel Got His Bushy Tail

   This week’s assignment is to write a story about how an animal got one of its traits in the style of the “Just So Stories” of Rudyard Kipling. I was not at all excited about it, but it has turned out better than I expected. 

 

 

The squirrel had a rough life. He wasn’t any good at building nests like the other animals. He would spend hours watching the birds build nests. He inspected them day in and day out to see if he could make one too. No matter what he tried he still couldn’t make his nest comfortable enough. Every morning he woke up with a stiff neck or a stiff back.

            The squirrel traveled far and wide through the forest to learn the art of making a good bed. Finding a number of Blue Jays building their nests, he sheepishly climbed toward them.

            “Would ye koindly ‘elp a mate learn t’ buiwld a nest?” he asked, hanging his head a little from nervousness.

            The Jays looked up, startled, “Who do you think we are!” They shrieked in their shrill loud calls. “You steal our food in the winter! We would never help you!”

            The Squirrel had to cover his ears because their voices were so loud. Shamefully he scampered off to find a new teacher. Perhaps the fox on the forest floor below would help him.

            “Mr. Fox. Sir. Would ye koindly ‘elp a mate learn t’ buiwld a nest?” He jumped down to the ground before the fox.

            “Oh, ho, ho,” The fox stood back a little and surveyed the squirrel up and down. “I might, jes do that fo you.” His voice was smooth and oily.

            “Oh, thank ya sir! Thank ya!” The squirrel jumped excitedly and clapped his paws. “My greatest o’ thanks!”

            “Well, well,” The fox circled him, a nasty sort of smile forming on his lips.

            “W- What’s yer smoile for, sir?” The squirrel became a little frightened.

            “Oh, nothin.” The fox just smiled more. “I haven’t teached anyone to build a nest in quite a while, that’s all.”

            “Oh, well then, can we get started?”

            “Yes, yes.” The fox replied and began to instruct him.

            After a quarter of an hour the squirrel began to tire. On top of this he couldn’t see anything new in what the fox was saying to him. A tiny bird anxiously fluttered by him. Their eyes met as the squirrel glanced up from his work. The bird came close and whispered in his ear.

            “Oh, Mr. Squirrel! That Fox will eat you! You must run!” The bird flew away just as soon as it finished speaking.

            The squirrel blinked and looked up at the fox. To his horror the fox was smacking his lips hungrily. Without wasting a moment the squirrel took action.

            “Oh, Thank you Mr. Fox! Oi think Oi’ve learnt enoigh today!” And the squirrel scampered off as quickly as an arrow through the trees.

            The squirrel went from one harrowing adventure to the next, always coming near his death, but never learning how to get a good night’s sleep. One day he found himself panting on a tree limb at the edge of a yard. He had out run a hawk and was tuckered out. As he lay their, catching his breath, his eyes wandered to a large dog pacing through the yard.

         Every few moments the dog would pause and chew a bit on his back or rub up against something to scratch his back. At first the squirrel saw nothing interesting in this, but as he watched, he noticed that the dog was getting rid of some type of fur. It looked much fluffier than the shaggy dark-gray hair of the animal, and a little lighter in color too. Being unfamiliar with dogs, the squirrel was unaware that the dog was shedding an under layer of fur. Even so, the squirrel didn’t need to know anymore.

       Once the dog had passed to the opposite side of the yard the squirrel scampered down the tree and to the nearest pile of discarded fur. He eagerly began gathering as much as he could. Even though he tried to stay out of the dog’s way, he did not keep unnoticed. The dog looked at him wearily, taking little interest in the tiny gray form skittering over the lawn.

   After a half hour of gathering the squirrel found a hollow spot in a tree trunk and sat down. He began eagerly binding all the fur around his long thin tale. If he could get it to stay on, then he could have a pillow to carry with him all the time! He worked intently for some time, trying several different methods. As the sun began to sink in the sky he finally wiped his paws off and looked at his tale with a smile. It was huge and fluffy and infinitely comfortable. Ever since that day he passed the trait of bushy tales to every squirrel in the universe.

 

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JW 12 – “And as Tiny Tim said, ‘God bless us, everyone!”

Christmas in the Johnston family has ever been heavily steeped in tradition. As soon as we find ourselves home on Thanksgiving night we pull out our heirloom Santa Mugs. That is of course, if you could call mugs as beat up and old as those, heirlooms. However, we inherited them from someone I assume, because they are indeed ancient. Each mug is a mold of Santa’s face, complete with a winking eye, and a little green glitter in the open eye. During the Christmas season, we consume nearly every hot beverage out of these cups, and the occasional cold ones, such as eggnog.

 

            On the first of December we pull out our green advent calendar. Each of the 24 days has its own pocket. We put a figurine in the first pocket and the last pocket and move them every day. This way one tells us the date, and the other tells us how many days are left before Christmas. In our younger years we used to have a competition to see who could get up early enough to change the figurines. We rarely beat our father though, and he often changed them himself. Every night during this time Daddy reads to us from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

 

            Every year we host a Christmas party called the “Carol sing” during which we sing a plethora of Christmas carols and then eat piles of desert. It’s the most excitingly formal event. I’ve always loved it because I get to wear floor length gowns that I’d only otherwise wear to a ball. In preparation for the party we bake all sorts of goodies and usually a gingerbread house. The day before the party we usually have a pre-party during which we invite over a few good friends to help us decorate cookies.

 

            When it comes to Christmas itself our family follows a very exact tradition. On Christmas Eve we gather in the living room, which is closely adjoined by a tiny solarium, which holds our Christmas tree and the massive stacks of presents beneath it. For dinner we feast on a salmon sent yearly by our cousins living in the northwest. We eat it on Melba toast with capers, onions, and cream cheese. In addition we always serve a raw veggie plate with curry dipping sauce, and spinach dip with Tiscuits. After we finish eating this dinner Daddy commences with handing out all the gifts under the tree. We open them all one at a time until we have gotten finished with all of them.

 

            On Christmas morning we run downstairs as soon as we are awake and wait in the kitchen. Generally we are decked in Christmas pajamas and bathrobes. We bake sausage balls and cut up oranges ready to take into the living room. Habitually we line up at the door with baskets in our hands and often Santa mugs full of coffee. When Daddy gives the word we charge into the room. Our stockings, so loaded with presents have always managed to fall off of the mantle and end up in various chairs or on sections of the couches surrounded by presents. We all dig in and explore our stockings excitedly. I usually never eat any breakfast except my chocolates.

 

            Sometime around 4 o’clock in the afternoon we serve Christmas dinner. It’s sometimes ham, and sometimes turkey. Sometimes we have dressing; sometimes we have sweet potato casserole. Whatever it is, it’s a feast indeed! We finish it off with little glass bowls of ambrosia, usually topped with coconut. And more often than not, we end the day with watching a movie that someone has received as a Christmas gift. Christmas at the Johnston’s is always different, and always the same. 

CW 11 – Railroad Between The Lives

 

They both reached the railroad at the same time. George flopped down on the track, his face reflecting his foggy mood, which matched the day. Jess delicately took a seat on the other track, carefully adjusting her skirt across her knees.

“What sort of dark cloud is hanging over you today?” She asked with a smile. “Perhaps I can brush it away.”

“Yeah, right. Just brush away the grades on my last six weeks of math tests.” He shrugged, taking off his hat and resting his elbows loosely on his knees.

“Oh come on George! A math class isn’t the end of the world.” Jess laughed cheerfully.

“Easy for you to say. You act it.” George looked at his hands and fiddled with his coal-grey hat.

“George,” Jess brushed back her bands and leaned forward. “It’s ok. You don’t need to have perfect grades to be secure in who you are.”

“Says the girl who makes extra credit.” He fidgeted with his hands.  “I don’t mean to be rude, or brush off what you’re saying, but I don’t think you understand.”

Jess brushed back her bangs in contemplation before beginning again. “Surely there’s something else you can dwell on! Did you ask out that girl you mentioned?”

“. . .No,” his shoulders drooped even more. “She’s too good for me. I don’t think she’d even want to go out.”

“Oh, come on! I’m sure she would! You can’t give up without trying!”

“But she doesn’t see me that way. When I’ve tried to bring it up she just misses the point entirely.” He grew a little heated, coming out of his complacently wilted mood.

“Then stop beating around the bush!” She felt uncomfortable as she tried to be gentle with her prodding.

George was silent for a moment. “It would be awkward now.”

Jess tried to give a comeback, but it took a while in coming. As she sat in thought all his comments came together. She slowly ran her fingers through her bangs and took a deep breath as she began. “. . .you mean me, don’t you?”

George started back, abashed. “Well, I didn’t want to put you on the spot! Since we’re already close, it might make everything all weird.”

“Oh come on, George!” Jess blushed and laughed. “I wouldn’t have spent every afternoon talking to you if I didn’t at least like you a little bit! Of course I’ll go out with you!”

JW 11 – Winning the Fight For Them

I’ve always been a natural at conversation. I would mingle among adults before I could even talk properly. Though I wasn’t trying to get attention, adults would all talk about me. I didn’t understand that most children were afraid of talking to adults. This seemed natural to me. As I grew older I became more reserved, but it took a long time before I came upon conversations that challenged me.

 

The first hard conversation I ever faced successfully was with my oldest sister. We’d been fighting on an off for months. Nothing we said did anything but hurt. I’d prayed about it, and been lazy over praying about it. I’d gossiped about it, and maturely not talked about it, all in varying phases. We were yelling through the house, in different rooms and different stories. I knew I had to stop what I was doing on the computer and just come face to face. If we were ever going to find peace I knew the key.

 

I had to win the fight for her before anything else could happen. So I talked to her about how her hurtful behavior all came from the fact that she was insecure. She didn’t need to put me down in order to be a good person. I tried as hard as I could to explain to her that she wasn’t incomplete.

 

She tearfully apologized and we reunited. To spite following years of head butting, that was the beginning of a mutual understanding. Now we stay up late together in deep conversation, and are closer than ever.