Acorns, breathless, released their grip on the old oak, dropped for a heart-stopping moment, and struck gravel. They rattled several feet from impact, losing their tattered caps along the way, and settled on the creekside path. Perhaps they congratulated themselves for their bravery.
Little Brooklyn gathered them studiously.
“The squirrels need their dinner.”
Mummy provided a vessel.
“They will love this dinner. What do you think they will do with it?”
“They make acorn bread and acorn stew and acorn honey and peanut butter sandwiches and acorn cake with pink frosting and acorn ice cream.”
Mummy, whose alternate and mildly educational explanation involved burying the acorns in the ground for winter snacks, thought better of providing a statement of such exclusivity.
“Perhaps they do, Brook. Perhaps they do.”
They trundled down the path, Brooklyn pausing every few steps to add more acorns to her cup. She had a patience for the task that far surpassed the short attention spans of adults. Perhaps due to the notion that their tasks take on increasing importance, adults lose the ability to be patient over time. It is primarily an attribute of the young.
“Brook, we must get home for our own dinner.”
“I’m picking up acorns for the squirrels, Mummy.”
On cue, a squirrel appeared ahead of them. He jerked his way along the path, pulled by an invisible string in his nose. He was round in the cheek. Brooklyn scooped several acorns into her fist and hurried forward. The squirrel, sensing danger of the toddler variety, scurried across the path and corkscrewed up an old oak. He chunnered merrily to himself, anxious as any squirrel and enjoying every minute of his anxiety.
Brooklyn spiraled around the tree dutifully. Following a squirrel ’round a tree seems a primordial pleasure, similar to scratching an itch or hugging those who cry. Perhaps an eternal hope springs up in our hearts: this time, I’ll catch the uncatchable.
This time, Brooklyn did not. But she did get dizzy and collapsed to the forest floor, giggling even in her defeat.
Mummy caught up.
“Oh, honey, I don’t think we’ll catch him.”
Brooklyn nodded solemnly. “But we can leave the acorns for him.”
“That’s a wonderful idea.”
And they found a knot near the base of the tree, and Brooklyn unloaded, acorn by acorn, her precious, delectable trove. The squirrel peered down benevolently at this strange little creature and her abundant sacrifice.
Brooklyn stepped back and located the squirrel.
“There’s your dinner!” she hollered up to him.
The squirrel ducked back.
Brooklyn stood looking up for a moment or two before Mummy moved in.
“Time to move along, darling, we have to be home for dinner.”
Brooklyn nodded.”But what about the squirrel dinner?”
“Well, Brook, squirrels are suspicious of strangers. Maybe if we left it there overnight, he would come down and take it off of the root. We can come back tomorrow and see.”
Brooklyn pondered this, and it seemed good to her. She took her mother’s hand and turned toward home.
For several moments afterward, nothing but the early evening buzz of the woodland was heard. A rustle, a scrabble, and Mr. Silas Squirrel poked his head around the corner of the oak tree, cautious but excited. He carried a small burlap sack on his back.
“Hmn, well isn’t that, yes, a wonderful find, yes, wonderful find.”
He rolled the acorns in his paws carefully, checking for spots and mold before popping them, one by one, into his bag. He shouldered the lot and, moving with the agility of many seasons, scampered three-legged up the trunk.
“Hmn, now, Mrs. Squirrel, I’ve, hm, I’ve brought us something wonderful. ‘Tis indeed.”
Mrs. Squirrel bustled over to him and gave him a peck on the cheek, taking the sack in one motion.
“Why Silas T. Squirrel, where did you ever find so many…”
“Oh well, it was, er, nothing hm, now really…”
But Mrs. Squirrel was already excitedly preparing her kitchen for this arrival and didn’t hear the blame-shifting. This was all for the best, in Silas T. Squirrel’s mind. He propped his paws upon a chair near the window and leaned back as Mrs. Squirrel prepared her kitchen.
“So, hmn honey bumpkins, what shall we have tonight from such a find?”
“Oh, acorn bread, acorn stew, acorn honey and peanut butter sandwiches for the children, and acorn ice cream and cake with pink frosting for dessert.”
And he chunnered to himself.
“Yes, quite a find, quite a find. Indeed.”