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.