In the heart of downtown Los Angeles, there was a speakeasy, called The Silver Squirrel, where exotic liquor was served and smoking of all types was permitted—cigars, cigarettes, but mostly joints.
Wall lamps filled the bar with dim red light. Unique statues of squirrels were scattered throughout the entire bar. Some were large and others were small—all of them made of silver. In the furthest and darkest corner of the bar rested a special statue.
The tarnished statue was the size of a real squirrel. His front paws were pulled close to his mouth and his tail curled behind him in an “S” shape. The lamp above him had gone out and he was completely in shadow. He preferred it this way. Patrons rarely noticed him, but he could carefully observe those around him.
Every night the silver statue would wake up once smoke began to fill the room.
He couldn’t explain it, but once he got a small whiff only his mind was awakened. Most nights only his mind was awakened. Those nights were horrible. He would perch as a sentient being, but crippled. He could only watch as men got drunk and played pool or flirted with women. He learned much about humans during those nights, but preferred the nights when his legs would gain life.
On some nights, if he was lucky, someone would sit nearby and light a joint. The smoke would cloud around his face and soon he could move his tiny legs. He had to be careful, but he could explore. He’d wait for the perfect moment, when no one was looking, and jump from his pedestal to the floor. He would explore, cautious to stay in the shadows.
On one particular night a wonderful human sat next to him, lit a joint, and blew smoke directly in his face. Squirrel’s mind awakened with a jolt and for a moment all he could see was smoke. His legs felt electric and he resisted the urge to kick them about. When the smoke cleared the silver squirrel could see that the human was close. He was with a friend and they were laughing as they shared the joint. Before long, the two men turned back toward the bar. The man who had lit the joint told his friend to order him a beer, and then headed for the bathroom.
The squirrel seized his chance and jumped to the floor. Staying near the shadowed edge of the wall, he followed the stranger to the bathroom. The man still had the joint between his lips and the squirrel wanted more. That joint was life, and where it went he followed.
The man pushed open the door to the bathroom and walked inside. The silver squirrel darted in but the door was on springs and quickly shut, wedging the statue against the door frame.
The unabashed squirrel brought his hind legs up against the door and pushed. The door gave way and his metallic body skidded across the floor. He dug his tiny claws into the tile and came to a halt. The bathroom was silent.
The squirrel looked around and noticed the man standing in one of the stalls. He could hear him pissing. The squirrel then noticed a pipe running from the floor to the bathroom sink.
He climbed it with unnatural speed leaving claw marks in the soft copper. The squirrel reached the top, sat on his hind legs, and darted his head this way and that, searching for danger.
There was a flush, then a click, and the man emerged from the bathroom stall.
The squirrel froze atop the sink. The man washed his hands. He still had a small bit of the joint between his lips. Smoke spewed forth clouding around the little squirrel’s face. Again, life filled his body more than ever.
The man closed his eyes, spit the joint into the sink and splashed water on his face.
When he opened his eyes he couldn’t believe what he saw. The silver squirrel was leaning forward with tiny nostrils flared. The statue was inhaling the smoke! The man let out a cry and stumbled back falling on his ass.
For a moment the man questioned if it was only weed in his joint, but he remembered that he had rolled it himself. He stared wide-eyed as the squirrel realized he had been spotted and tried to return to a statue like state.
But no matter how hard the little silver squirrel tried to remain motionless he had to breathe. It was a new sensation for him. He tried hard to stop his tiny belly as it grew and shrunk with each frightened breath.
The man grunted as he got up from the floor and approached the frightened statue. He slowly pushed his head closer and closer. He could see the tiny thing breathing! The man ran the water from the faucet, cupped his hands underneath and splashed cold water on his face. He looked again. The statue was still breathing.
The man’s face was now only inches away from the squirrel. Perhaps if he didn’t believe his eyes, his ears might bring truth, he thought. He turned his head and listened for the tiny breaths that should have been coming from the silver statue. Instead of puffs of breath he heard a voice. It wasn’t an audible voice though. It was inside his head. He was hearing someone else’s thoughts. The voice inside his head was panicked. He looked again at the silver squirrel and realized it must be coming from this miraculous statue.
The squirrel’s tiny, metallic, engraved eyes were quivering and for a moment he locked eyes with the man only inches away from him. The man heard the panicked thoughts very clearly all of a sudden. He heard, No, no, no, no…
The man scratched his head and thought for a moment. “Don’t be scared lil guy,” he whispered to the squirrel. The squirrel didn’t twitch.
“If it makes you feel any better, it would be really cool if I’m not imagining this shit and you really are alive.”
The little squirrel relaxed and let out a sigh. The man smiled, “I saw that.”
The squirrel looked into the man’s eyes. The man suddenly realized he wasn’t crazy and also remembered how the statue had been inhaling the smoke from his joint. “You like weed, huh?”
The silver squirrel nodded.
“Well, I’ve got plenty of weed at my place and I only live a few blocks from here. You wanna come over?”
The squirrel nodded his head with excitement.
“Sweet! Here, climb inside my bag and I’ll let you out at my place.”
The man held open his satchel for the little statue sitting upon the sink. The squirrel peered inside and paused before jumping in. He landed among books, a pack of cigarettes, some coinage, and a phone. The squirrel looked up at the man.
“By the way, I’m Thomas,” said the man. The squirrel smiled.
“Alright, here we go.” Thomas closed the flap to his satchel.
The squirrel found Thomas’s phone. He had seen phones before and knew they could provide light. He found the button near the top and pushed it. The screen illuminated the inside of the man’s leather bag. The squirrel didn’t like total darkness. It reminded him of when he wasn’t awake. It was lonely. Humans always came to the bar with friends but the squirrel didn’t have any. Perhaps tonight, that was about change.
Thomas left the bathroom and found his friend.
“Josh, finish your beer and let’s head back to my apartment,” said Thomas. “I’ve got something to show you.”
“What is it?”
“I can’t show you here.”
The squirrel watched from Thomas’s satchel as Josh chugged his beer like a man dying of thirst. The squirrel’s silver nose was barely visible as he peered from under the satchel flap.
Thomas walked toward the door leading from the bar to the street. The squirrel’s tiny heart pumped faster as the door drew closer and closer. He fell off the phone with his eyes shut tight as he was carried through the doorway into the big wide world.
Now on his back among the cigarettes and coins in Thomas’s satchel he couldn’t see the outside world but the sounds of unexplored territory attacked his ears. Car horns blasted and sirens could be heard in the distance. He was frightened but also excited. Bravery grew within his peanut heart as he slowly stood upon the phone to peer upon the outside world.