June 8, 2009

Jemimah found the Squirrel on a Thursday. It lay dead by the side of the road in a puddle of its own fear. The body, head, hands and nose were all in pristine condition but the tail had lost its lustre. She could see no obvious signs of injury and so imagined him as a Nazi Squirrel, cowardly swallowing a cyanide capsule, lest he be hung by an Allied Badger, or worse still, a Communist Raccoon. ‘The savage bastards’ she thought.

There was something about this little crumpled ball of lifeless fur that spoke to Jemimah. Not literally. She did often speak to inanimate objects like chairs or drain pipes and yes, she was talking to this Squirrel now, but it certainly didn’t reply. It was dead. What appealed to her was how delicate he looked, how vulnerable he seemed. She decided right there in the gutter that she loved this Squirrel with all of her tiny little heart. She truly was a romantic, fickle soul. She also decided by the kerb-side that this was not to be the end for her and her new beau. Although she was only five years old, Jemimah began to formulate a plan in her head to bring this rodent back to life.

Strutting proudly through the lunch time main street rush, Jemimah sat the Squirrel on her shoulder like some sort of ghoulish pirate’s parrot. Space seemed to open out in front of them as they strolled along the otherwise packed sidewalks. Women gasped and men gagged at the sight of this toddler and her new boyfriend parading eminently in the August sunshine.

Jemimah rounded the corner and as her house came into view she said aloud; ‘Mum will be so pleased to meet you.’ Jemimah often imagined her mother as the kind of woman who openly welcomed road-kill into the household, but cruelly, in reality, she was not. It was no matter anyway, as she wasn’t home. Having tossed the Squirrel onto the kitchen floor, Jemimah clambered through the window. The back door, as it always was, was unlocked, but as Jemimah’s rather off-beat logic told her, so was the window.

‘Dad, I’m home! I’m just going up to my room to re-animate a dead Squirrel I found in a puddle of urine on the dirty street!’ called the remarkably articulate and concise child from the hall.
‘OK, honey’ replied the remarkably inattentive and negligent father from the lounge.

Jemimah had a unique way with her parents, a way of arguing her point incredibly decisively. She was capable of calmly and coherently presenting even the most ridiculous cases and arguments to her mother and father in such a way that after she had said her piece, they would think it was the most logical and sensible idea they had heard all year. It was this talent of Jemimah’s that had led to the five year-old having a bolt lock on the inside of her bedroom door, so that she could ‘have some privacy.’ She slammed the door extra hard and slid over the lock. It was a big room. Following a suggestion from Jemimah last March, her parents had agreed to swap rooms with her and now crumpled themselves to sleep in the box room on a nightly basis.

Jemimah placed the Squirrel, whom she named Henry on the landing, on a six inch miniature throne that she kept beside the bed. This was a girl with more than ordinary foresight. She dropped to her knees and began fumbling blindly under the bed.
‘Where is it?!’ she fumed. ‘Ah-ha’ she proclaimed inexplicably and continued searching. Following a further few moments of blind reaching, she produced a rather cheap looking silver robot and its remote control. All the blood had suddenly rushed to Jemimah’s head and her eyes narrowed with excited intent. She looked almost demonic as she viciously removed the robot’s outer casing with a screw-driver and threw it at a passing swan. Thankfully the cob saw the ugly lump of wrought iron in flight, hurdling towards him and ducked just in time.

Taking her Swiss army knife, another fruit of her parents’ continuing bamboozlement, she made a considered incision into Henry’s stomach and began to peel. She stood to attention beside the toilet bowl, bloody pulpy ice-cream scoop in hand and with a solemn cough, a respectful salute and a mournful yank of the toilet chain, Jemimah dismissed nine tenths of the Squirrel to the plumbing below. All that was left now was his untarnished skin.

It looked like tiny version of the best Squirrel costume you’ve ever seen at one of those rental shops. If a hamster had wanted to dress up as a squirrel for Halloween, it would have been perfect, if not a little grim. Slipping the Henry suit over the naked robot like some sort of rubber based contraceptive, Jemimah smiled proudly. She took the remote control in her left hand and the Squirrel was re-born. Henry zipped across the floor like a rat with a robot stuck up its arse.

The midday sun had long since disappeared to be replaced by the evening gloom as Jemimah and Robo-Squirrel, as she had nick-named Henry in the hall, took to the streets.
“What shall we do? Where will you take me? I’m a classy girl, you know?” she verbally pecked. Henry’s face didn’t twitch, but simply limply stared into space, as he struggled to keep pace with the little girl.

Da Vincenzo’s, the small town’s only and, by default, worst restaurant stood at the top of the main street. A small queue of hungry diners lined the building’s façade as Gigi, the dubiously Latin Maitre D’, held court at his tiny toad stool and lectern. A quiet mechanical whizzing sound caught his attention and as the queue suddenly dissolved into a retreat of grey and horrified looking would-be customers, Gigi first saw its source. Squeezed somewhat ridiculously into a Ken doll’s wedding tuxedo and with a clump of tiny daisies elastic banded to his paw, the lifeless and by now rotting Squirrel approached the desk. The seemingly impassable level of sheer surprise that was etched across Gigi’s face only doubled when the dead rodent began to speak.
“I would like a table for two my good man.” Gigi recoiled in horror. As he righted himself and leaned in to inspect the thing closer, he noticed a small walkie-talkie cello-taped to Henry’s back. He looked up and, across the road sitting on the knee-high wall, swinging her girlish legs, was Jemimah, identical walkie-talkie in hand and peering expectantly back.
“Well? A table for two please – I haven’t got all night. Hop to it.”
“Eh I’m sorry sir – we’re all booked up.” He slowly reached for the phone. Who he would call, he wasn’t entirely sure. He just knew he had to call someone.
“Now, now son – I’m sure you can find something – in the back.” The Squirrel whizzed and rattled and turned itself 90 degrees to reveal the ten euro note that was half stuffed into its tuxedo pocket.
“I’m sorry. You’re going to have to leave sir. You’re upsetting the diners.” By now, several customers at the closer tables had seen Gigi floundering, seemingly talking to no-one, but on closer inspection, the unsavoury and less than appetizing sight of a dead Squirrel, displaying the preliminary signs of rigour mortis, trying to bribe a Maitre D’ was apparent to nearly half the clientele of the restaurant.

The police pulled up outside Jemimah’s house and led her to the front door.
“I need to see him one more time officer. I need to say goodbye.”
“I’m afraid not Jemimah. It could be diseased. We’re going to have to destroy it.” It soon became apparent that Jemimah’s compelling skills extended in use beyond her family life and the policemen agreed to allow her one minute alone with the Squirrel. As the policemen peered curiously from the agreed ten metres, Jemimah took Henry in her arms and hugged what would have been the life out of him.
“I’ll never forget you Henry.” She began sobbing dramatically and rather falsely.
“I’ll never forget you Jemimah” she croaked roughly out from the side of her mouth. “I love…”
“No, don’t say it. Something’s just don’t need to be said.” She wiped a tear from her eye and tossed the Squirrel onto the lawn. Eyes shieled by a histrionic forearm, she scampered up the front step, through the door and slammed it behind her.

One of the Policemen gingerly picked up the Squirrel between his forefinger and his thumb and dropped it into a plastic shopping bag. He looked back at his partner and was met with an identical glare. It was the kind of glare that seemed to say “Let’s just drive off and not mention this again.” As the police car rounded the corner and zipped quietly away, Jemimah asked her mother what was for dinner. Seemingly, it was a night just like any other.

…Not Also, But Only.


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