The outside world was far stranger than Squirrel could have possibly imagined. He peered over the side of the satchel and looked upon a dark world covered in stone. Thomas walked along a flat path of white stone. Tall, brick walls rose high into the night sky. And there were huge creatures with bright yellow eyes that traveled upon wide paths of sleek, black stone. There was not a single tree in sight.
The outside world was brighter and louder then the bar. Flickering light from tall lamps illuminated the dark streets. The lamps buzzed and irritated Squirrel. The large creatures with bright eyes never stopped growling, and they growled even louder the closer they got. Squirrel felt like he was in a nightmare.
A fat human, walking the opposite direction of Thomas, bumped into Thomas’s satchel and knocked Squirrel from his perch. He landed on his back and stayed there, quivering with fear.
“Sorry, buddy. You alright?” asked Thomas, looking down at his satchel.
“Are you talking to your bag?” asked Josh, Thomas’s friend. Squirrel curled into a ball and wrapped his tail over his eyes and snout.
“C’mon,” said Thomas, “he’s frightened.”
“Who…?” said Josh.
Squirrel longed for the bar. The wood floor, familiar darkness, and smokey room was all he knew. He was comfortable there. He always wondered what it would be like to explore beyond the bar, but now he was scared. He regretted ever having dreamed of leaving.
Squirrel covered his ears against the cacophony of the outside world—belligerent humans, sirens, dogs barking—it was all too much. Why was the world so loud! Suddenly the sounds of the outside world became muffled. Squirrel’s new surroundings smelled of dog piss and old perfume. There was the ding of a bell and soon they were quickly moving upward. There was another ding and Thomas was once again on the move. He jangled keys from his pocket, and then the creak of an opening door.
Thomas set his satchel down on the wooden floor of his apartment and carefully set it on it’s side. Squirrel cracked open an eye, but remained tightly curled.
“You ok, little guy?” said Thomas. He crouched down near his satchel. “It’s ok to come out.”
Squirrel wanted to explore, he really did, but he had never been this scared in his life. He tightened his tail around himself and stayed inside the bag. Thomas gently opened the flap of the leather satchel and tilted the bag. Squirrel came rolling out, still curled in a ball.
“You could get arrested for stealing that you know,” said Josh.
“He’s scared,” said Thomas.
“What are you talking about,” said Josh, “You’ve lost your mind.”
“Shut up, he’s scared, I can hear him,” said Thomas. He looked at the bright lights of the apartment, then noticed an empty beer box in the kitchen. “Get me that beer box and light some candles. They’re under the sink.”
Squirrel felt the floor shake as Josh stomped away. Thomas came close. Squirrel could feel him. He gently placed a hand on Squirrel’s back and petted him.
“Hang tight little buddy, I’m gonna make you a little home,” said Thomas. Thomas hurried off and returned with several bundles of socks. Josh returned with the empty beer box in his hand. Thomas dumped the socks on top of Squirrel.
“Gimme the box.” Thomas took the box, ripped an opening on one side, and placed the empty box over the mound of underwear and socks covering the silver squirrel. Thomas tucked the ends of socks under the edges of the box so that the box set evenly on the wooden floor. He patted the top of the box proudly. Squirrel was still a vibrating mass of fear under the socks. But he cracked an eye open and noticed that the world was dark again and warm and suddenly the fear began to leave his body.
“Pack a bowl,” said Thomas to Josh.
“Thom, I think you’ve had enough dude…,” said Josh.
“It’s not for me,” said Thomas. He paused. He realized how crazy he must look. “Listen, Josh…trust me. Just pack a bowl.”
Squirrel now felt comforted. He uncurled and ruffled around in the socks. The sounds of the world were now muffled by the box and socks. He felt safe in the burrow which Thomas had made for him.
Thank you, thank you!
“He likes it.” Thomas smiled.
“You’ve lost your mind” shouted Josh. “Where are the candles?”
“Under the—never mind, I’ll get them.”
Squirrel was now perched on top of a small hill of socks and was annoyed by the bright light from the torn hole in the beer box. He took a sock and plugged up the hole leaving only a small opening for the light to come through.
Thomas reached to the back of the cabinet under the sink and found his box of tea light candles. He went around his apartment putting tea light candles everywhere on the ground of the apartment, lighting them as he went along. He placed them on tables, chairs, and several book shelves. He placed one near the beer box which was now “home” to the silver squirrel.
“You got the bowl?” asked Thomas.
“Yeah, can I smoke it?” replied Josh.
“Go ahead,” said Thomas and he turned off the lights of the apartment.
“You’ve seriously lost you mind,” said Josh, then he took a hit.
“Just wait, he’s calming down.” said Thomas.
“He’s calming down? You mean that statue you stole from the bar?” said Josh.
“Yeah, he’s alive.” said Thomas.
“Gimme the pipe,” said Thomas. Squirrel could hear the flick of a lighter and the sizzle of burning weed. Squirrel perked up. He was feeling sluggish and a cloud of smoke sounded refreshing.
Thomas took a long hit from the pipe but didn’t inhale deeply. He brought his head low near the hole in the beer box. He exhaled filling the interior of the box with smoke. Squirrel saw the smoke enter the box like a thick fog, filling up at the top and descending on him. He inhaled in short spurts at first savoring the weed and then inhaled deeply. He didn’t get high like the humans did, he was filled with energy, essence, life. Without the smoke his senses grew dull and after too long he would sleep. But now he was enjoying a surplus unlike any he had experienced before. His eyes now sparkled with life and his metallic body seemed to glow a silver color. He no longer felt timid. Indeed, curiosity prodded at him compelling him to explore. He noticed the hole again that he had plugged with a sock. He stepped toward it.
“Ok, whatever, he’s alive…,” said Josh. “So you’re hot boxing him?”
“I know it sounds crazy, but I think the weed keeps him alive,” said Thomas.
“I’m gonna lift this box and if that statue isn’t alive I’m gonna punch you,” said Josh. He reached toward the box and immediately froze. The silver squirrel was emerging from the hole in the box. His body softly glowed. Squirrel looked about. He no longer felt fear, only wonder and excitement.
“He wasn’t glowing before,” said Thomas.
Josh was left speechless. He couldn’t believe his eyes. “It’s…the…it’s really moving…the statue is alive.” Josh got very serious. “Why’s it glowing?”
“It’s the weed, dude. I’m telling you.” Thomas held up the pipe that still had little wafts of smoke coming from it. “Did you like it?”
Yes! The silver squirrel nodded.
Thomas could hear Squirrel’s reply in his head, which got him thinking. It shouldn’t be possible, but he was speaking telepathically with the creature from the bar. It wasn’t possible…but it was happening. “Can you hear him?” asked Thomas to Josh.
“No! Are you talking to it?” Josh was becoming more and more thrilled.
“Shh,” hissed Thomas. He closed his eyes, and focused on one thought repeating it over and over—Do you like the candles? Soon there was a reply like an echo coming back in his mind.
Then Thomas thought another thought—Shall I turn on the bright lights? There was an immediate echo back.
Thomas opened his eyes and looked at Josh. “You really can’t hear him?” Josh shook his head.
Squirrel crawled into Thomas’s lap. He trusted Thomas, but not the other one. Thomas slowly placed a hand on the silver squirrel’s back and gently petted him like a dog. Thomas smiled at Josh.
“You really can’t hear him?” asked Thomas.
Josh shook his head. “You’re talking to him?”
Josh laughed. “You’re high dude.”
“Well, yeah, but you are too. But you’re seeing this shit, right?” Thomas laughed.
Josh laughed too and took another hit off the pipe. He looked at the silver squirrel in Thomas’s lap with puffed out cheeks as he held his breath. He thought about it for a moment and then it all seemed absurd and he felt more high then he should be. He coughed hard and smoke escaped his mouth. Josh exhaled and began laughing and coughing at the same time. His eyes grew watery. Squirrel looked at Josh with curiosity. He looked like he was choking but Thomas wasn’t concerned. Finally Josh stopped coughing and drew in several deep breaths. He put the pipe down on the floor and pointed at silver squirrel.
“Dude, Thomas, he’s a gargoyle. He’s like a miniature gargoyle!” Josh shouted. “Looks like you’ve got a new pet. Where is Charles anyway? Charles! Charles!”
Squirrel heard a bark. A predator, in the house! Squirrel looked around frantically and spotted the beast coming forward from the shadows. An English Bulldog came huffing over.
Thomas sensed the silver squirrel panic. He went to pet the squirrel again but the statue skittered up Thomas’s arm and sat defensively on his shoulder. Thomas petted the english bulldog that waddled over and sat between Josh and Thomas. The bulldog didn’t even notice the silver squirrel.
“It’s ok,” said Thomas, “he’s nice.” Squirrel didn’t trust the beast and he climbed on top of Thomas’s head. A moment passed and Thomas began laughing.
“What?” asked Josh.
“He thinks Charles is a wolf,” replied Thomas.
“Really?” Josh laughed. “This is just Charles,” he told the silver squirrel. Squirrel squinted with distrust first at Josh, then at the beast.
Thomas closed his eyes again and thought clearly—It’s ok, really.
Squirrel didn’t trust this creature they called Charles, but he did trust Thomas so he cautiously climbed down from Thomas’s head and studied the Charles creature from a distance. The Charles breathed heavily with it’s tongue hanging out of it’s mouth.
It’s a Charles?
Thomas laughed and replied audibly. “No, no. He’s not a a charles. Charles is his name. He’s an english bulldog.”
Squirrel got a little closer to Charles and the dog licked him with a wet, smelly tongue. Squirrel fled and jumped to the top of the upside down beer box.
An English Bulldog…Squirrel sat back on his hind legs and swished his tail back and forth. What am I?
Thomas scratched his head. “Now that’s a good question,” he said. He turned to Josh, “He wants to know what he is? If Charles is a Bulldog, what is he?”
“Dude! He’s a gargoyle,” said Josh.
Thomas furrowed his brow deep in thought. “Well, you’re a statue, but statues don’t talk. You look like a squirrel, but you’re definitely not a squirrel…”
I am and I am not…said Squirrel.
“Well, he looks like he’s made of silver,” said Josh, “and he looks like a squirrel, so that makes him a silver squirrel.” Josh took another hit from the pipe.
“That sounds about right.” Thomas clapped his hands together. “You are a silver squirrel…and assuming you are the only one, you are The Silver Squirrel.”
The Silver Squirrel, repeated Squirrel. He looked at Josh, then at Charles, and finally at Thomas and Squirrel smiled because he felt comfortable and safe.