Thomas awoke the next morning and lied in bed for a while thinking. Did last night really happen? A talking statue of a squirrel? It was impossible. He kept looking at beer box near the kitchen. The Silver Squirrel had climbed back into his burrow of socks, under the beer box, when Thomas had gone to bed. Thomas kept waiting for the Silver Squirrel to emerge from the box but nothing happened. Finally Thomas rolled out of bed, started a cup of coffee, and kept staring at the box as he waited for it to brew. When it was done Thomas took his cup of coffee and went over to the box.
“Hey lil’ buddy, rise and shine.”
Nothing. Thomas lightly tapped on the box. “Hey little buddy?” Still no response.
Thomas lifted the box and found the Silver Squirrel curled into a ball, it’s metallic tail coiled tightly around it’s body. The Silver Squirrel was motionless and unresponsive. Thomas was looking at a statue. It was no longer the lively, curious creature he had been talking to last night. For a moment he wondered if he had imagined it all. But then he remembered! As if in a panic, Thomas fetched his weed, packed a bowl and placed the box back over Silver Squirrel. Thomas lit the bowl, took a hit and blew the smoke into the opening of the box and waited. For a while there was nothing and Thomas began to doubt the whole thing happened.
But then the box shifted and the small metallic nose of the Silver Squirrel pushed through the opening of the beer box. He stretched as he emerged from the opening. He ended his stretch with a yawn and a flick of his tail. Squirrel looked up at Thomas and smiled puffing out his cheeks.
I remember you, said Squirrel.
Thomas could hear the voice of the Squirrel clearly in his head. It would still take some getting used to. Thomas smiled back and asked laudably, “Remember?”
The Squirrel nodded then turned around and stuck his head back into the box and graciously inhaled the smoke wafting inside.
I forget if I sleep too long.
“If you don’t smoke out you’ll forget?”
The Silver Squirrel pulled his head out of the little opening and nodded gleefully with his back toward Thomas. Mm hmm, said Squirrel.
“What do you forget?”
Everything. Squirrel jumped on top of the beer box and sat on his hind legs looking around Thomas’s apartment.
“Everything!” Thomas scratched his head. “You still know my name, right?”
Squirrel spotted Charles, the english bulldog rising from his pillow in the corner of the apartment. Of course I do, said Squirrel. You’re Thomas and that’s Charles. Squirrel crouched low as Charles sauntered over, breathing heavily.
“That’s right,” said Thomas. “So what’s the last thing you remember? I mean, before the bar?”
Nothing, said Squirrel. I remember nothing before the bar.
Thomas frowned. “Well, no more forgetting. Not anymore.” Squirrel smiled and swished his tail.
Charles approached the beer box with Squirrel perched on top. Charles pushed his head forward sniffing the silver statue. Squirrel crept forward curiously. He put his metallic paws on the dog’s nose and leaned over it looking into the dog’s eyes. Charles barked, sending Squirrel tumbling backward off the top of the beer box.
“No!” shouted Thomas and pushed Charles away. “I’m sorry,” said Thomas to the Silver Squirrel.
Thomas looked down at Squirrel on his back on the wood floor. He felt like a greek god looking down on a mortal. This creature knew nothing. The Silver Squirrel was part animal, running on instinct, but he was also humanlike—thinking, learning, and communicating.
“Do you know where you are?” asked Thomas.
In your apartment, said Squirrel.
Thomas chuckled. “No, I mean, do you know what city you’re in? What country this is?”
Country? City? Squirrel was confused.
“Oh, shit…,” said Thomas flabbergasted. He scratched the back of his neck feeling a sudden burden unlike any other. He now had to educate Squirrel about everything. Every little thing.
“O.k.” said Thomas, “let’s sit down.” He walked over to his couch by the window. Squirrel scurried after him close to his heels and jumped onto the couch next to Thomas. “Alright. So, what do you know?”
Nothing, said Squirrel.
“O.k. but you know what nothing is. So, you know what that word means. So…how did you know what nothing means?” Squirrel thought for a moment and twitched his tail about. He didn’t know, he just knew some things and didn’t know other things.
Thomas stood up. “I need a cigarette.” He went to the kitchen and opened a cabinet above the stove. He took out a pack of cigarettes and brought it back with him to the couch. He opened the window behind the couch and took a long drag from his cigarette.
“O.k.” said Thomas.
You say that a lot, said Squirrel.
“I know,” said Thomas. “I’m just…I just need to wrap my head around this o.k.?”
Squirrel twitched his tail. O.k. said Squirrel.
“Alright,” said Thomas, “so you know what o.k. means. You have some innate understanding of language.” Thomas took another drag off the cigarette. “Alright, so we’re in Los Angeles. Do you know what city that is?”
Squirrel jumped to the top of the couch and looked out the open window. Thomas lived in an apartment in downtown Los Angeles. Squirrel looked out and saw buildings rising toward the sky, their windows sparkling with the reflected morning sun. Squirrel looked down at the traffic in the street. Cars were bumper to bumper and were slowly filling the parking lots that took up two half blocks. Several car horns blasted disrupting the otherwise pleasant morning.
This is Los Angeles, said Squirrel.
“Well, that’s true, but—.” Thomas was confused. What were the limits of the Silver Squirrel’s knowledge? He considered asking more questions but he figured the rabbit hole would go deeper. Besides, he didn’t have time. He had to get ready for work. But, he remembered one last question.
“Do you eat?”
The Silver Squirrel was tapping the window with his tiny claws testing the window’s strength. He looked at Thomas as he leaned against the window with both forepaws. No, I can only absorb the smoke.
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. I was going to leave you some food…but I guess not, since you can’t…” Thomas stuttered.
I don’t mind, said Squirrel leaping from the couch and scampered toward the beer box.
“O.k. said Thomas as he rose from the couch and finished the last of his cigarette. He put it out on the outside ledge of the window and tossed it to the street.
There’s still a little smoke in here! said Squirrel. Thomas paused and noted how he could hear the thoughts of the Silver Squirrel even though he was half way across the room. He wondered how far he had to be to not hear the Silver Squirrel. He shrugged assuming he would soon find out when he left for work.
“Can you read?” asked Thomas as he put on a gray collared shirt and blue tie.
Yes, replied Squirrel. I think so.
You think so? asked Thomas. He thought the question without actually saying it.
Yeah, replied Squirrel.
“Well, I’ve got some books by my bed if you want to read. And you can always watch some t.v.” Thomas tied his tie as he went to the kitchen counter where his wallet and keys were. He tightened his tie against his collar and put his wallet in his back pocket. Thomas left his apartment and closed the door. He released the door handle and stared at the door.
Can you hear me now? thought Thomas.
Yes, replied Squirrel.
Thomas walked down the hall and pushed the button calling the elevator to the 5th floor.
Can you hear me now?, asked Thomas silently. He felt like the man in the Verizon commercials.
Yes, replied Squirrel. Where do you keep your matches?
The elevator bell dinged and the doors opened. I keep candles and matches in the cabinet under the sink, said Thomas as he stepped into the elevator with an elderly woman and her Yorkshire terrier on a pink leash. He smiled politely at them as the elevator doors closed.
Wait, why do you need matches? thought Thomas. There was no reply. He repeated the question silently again. Nothing.
“Why do you need matches?” Thomas actually spoke the question this time without thinking. The old woman pulled her Yorkshire by the leash further away from Thomas.
“Sorry,” said Thomas and he smiled again hoping that they didn’t think him crazy.