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Squirrels Cry Too

by Debbie McNaughton

On a cloudy October afternoon, a few years ago, I hired a company to cut down the oak tree on my front lawn. I couldn't stand to look at it one minute longer.

The acorns on my driveway were like a Special Forces obstacle course. I'd roll on them to my mailbox. One time I twisted my ankle as I carried the groceries from my van into the house. My new neighbor pleaded with me to control my leaves. I told her, "Bev, they have a mind of their own, sorry."

Have you ever noticed how a gust of wind will carry them away one day, but by the end of the week, after a visit around the neighborhood, they return to home base? They never leave (no pun intended), like a summer house guest who invites themselves until they realize flip flops and snow just don't mix.

I swear the mother tree cries sap each night so those dull, brown, dry stems can dip into her nature's tears and climb up her trunk to attach themselves to her branches again. How else can you explain every tree, except the oak, is naked by November 30?

To justify the destruction of this aged wood, I thought of every excuse to help ease my conscience. I don't want to rake up leaves for the next thirty years. I'm old enough to remember the birthday of Ringo Starr. My back aches. I need a knee replacement. My sister has bunions so I imagine I'll be the sameā€¦the list went on for three pages. So I made the phone call.

The white bucket truck arrived on Wednesday morning, at eight. Four lumberjack wannabe's wielding chain saws (no doubt their next gig was in the Alaskan wilderness) jumped out and eyed the mighty oak top to bottom. "Bet you'll miss the shade when this one is gone."

"Not really," I replied. "I've got to rush, work calls, good luck and thank you." My van tires savored the crush of acorns for the last time.

Photograph by Debbie McNaughton

It was late when I returned home that evening so I didn't have enough light to notice the naked airspace and hole of sawdust on the lawn.

The next morning, I heard a sound similar to a duck's quack. Curious, I rolled up my bedroom shade and opened the window to locate the fowl sound.

On the branch of my small maple tree sat a gray squirrel, curled on his hunches, with his fingered feet up to his cheeks. Every five seconds he'd let out this odd quack or screech. I'd never heard anything like this before.

Later that day I Googled 'grey squirrel noises'. The sound was identified as an alarm the angry critter makes when he's irate. Believe me, he was livid!

I watched him run head first down the maple tree, like a cirque du soleil acrobat. He bounded across the lawn, three feet at a time, past the pile of shavings and landed on top of my rail fence. He paced the wooden length from one end to the other. Finally, as if in despair, he sat opposite the filled cavity and barked again and again.

The view from my picture window was priceless. I saw blue sky and cooing doves on the overhead wires. I observed my muscle man neighbor leave his house. Truth be told, that fact alone made my guilt disappear! Nevertheless, my bushy tailed friend demanded my immediate attention.

"Dear God, he's crying! Grayson is heartbroken." (Once you see a sciurus carolinensis weep, it's only polite to give him a name.) I'd taken away his home and destroyed his food source. He's having a panic attack!

For days on end, as Gray paced the fence, I imagined his thoughts: "It was here the other day, where did it go?"

When my neighbor Beverly arrived home, on the weekend, she told me I'd made her dreams come true and she couldn't thank me enough. We were both happy.

My traumatized grey buddy, however, was not. With rake and bucket in hand, I gathered up acorns. Chip and Dale couldn't have done a better job, if I do say so myself. At dusk, the autumn sunset cast a long shadow as I walked to the fence. Grayson, now at the far end, ran away as I left him my offering.

"Sorry pal, it's never easy to move on, trust me though, change is good."

Debbie McNaughton is a writer of short stories drawn from everyday life. She is a Member in Letters of the National League of American Pen Women and a member of Cape Cod Writer's Center.

Debbie is a regular contributing writer to CapeWomenOnline and has also been published in Seeing the Everyday magazine.

Debbie and her daughter have lived on Cape Cod for 10 years. They collect mermaids, listen to loud rock music and dream of owning a red corvette.

Debbie welcomes emails at