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Squirrel stories
by Katerina Charisi
2016-04-03 09:56:48
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So many years have passed since then but I still remember her face. She had a round face with thick skin and two round black eyes. Her noise big and round, you could see her nostrils moving heavily when she was breathing. Emily often said that Manon saved her life more times that she could count and that she was always there even moments she couldn’t see her.

Actually that was a short of mystery with Manon. She could appear out of nowhere and solve situations with simple moves. Always including her thick arms. Emily used to call her “my multidimensional angel” joking about the then so popular “amazing stories” magazine. This magazine was always full of stories from different planets and dimensions with humans or not to humans full of superpowers, able to move mountains and sometimes even fly.

ily01_400_01Manon looked at me for some time before answering. “Of course I work, I just don’t need to be there all the time.” I sighed quietly. “Lucky you,” I said in the end. “I need to be in this goddamn place all the time. Not that I don’t like the place,” I tried fast to correct the impression, “I love the place. Nothing wrong with the place. It is this Nola I hate. The man behind the goddamn bar.”

“What’s wrong with him, sweetie?” Manon asked softly. I took a deep breath, “you know, it’s the way he looks at me. I feel his eyes following me all the time and I know, I’m sure there is nothing good in this eyeing. There is no kindness or affection. Is evil I tell you.” And I felt a strange chill like he was somewhere around watching me. Actually I turned my head around checking.

Manon didn’t say anything. “White, thin with long face?” She asked quite suddenly surprising me. “Yep, that’s him alright.” Manon did a strange movement with her eyeballs and then turned her eyes back to me. “I know the swine. Don’t worry, I will have a small talk with him. This will be the second time and hope the last.”

“What you mean his second time? Has he done something to you?” she looked at me half smiling. “To me? Oh little bird, he could never do anything to me!” she said and sipped a mouthful from her straight bourbon.

The music was soft jazz – a man at the piano and another one laying heavy on a base - and it was in the background. We were in a small bourbon bar, one of those service men avoid. No half naked women, no loud music, no heavy drinking, a lot of black folks, men and women. Clean wooden floors and chairs all the same. None of them metallic. All wood. Manon had her usual, bourbon double no ice and a glass of water and I had Brandy milk punch, lots of ice. This was not the first time the two of us had joined for a drink after work but it was the first time I told her about Nola.

Nola had been there all my time at the café and for ever as everybody else had told me. He was the eyes and the ears of the big man. But I had seen him, except the ears and the eyes he was also the pocket of the big man. And inside the big man’s pocket he had a smaller of his own. I had often seen him separating a few dollars here and there and putting them in his inside pocket. And I think he had seen that I had seen him. And since then he was watching me.

But it was not just that. It was not that he was afraid of me, snooping and snitching not my style and it was obvious to everybody. It was something else in his look. Something evil that terrified me. A black cloud on my soul and every time he was watching and I could feel it straight away.

“What’s the matter hon? Did you fall asleep?”

“No, no, just thinking.” I said quickly.

“The little squirrel I bet.” I smiled. I didn’t want to tell her but she was right. I was thinking the little squirrel.

“Let me tell you a story with a little squirrel.” Manon’s smile was back. “There was a small squirrel once. For a small creature he was a big cheater and a thief. Instead of working or at least checking in the forest for his own food he had spotted where other squirrels in the neighbourhood store there food and the he was waiting for them to go away and he was stealing everything. And when I say everything I mean clean white. Nothing left. But nobody saw him nobody could accuse him for anything. So they decided to organize themselves and put a guard. One of them was going to stay around all the time and check what’s going on.” I have to admit that the soft music, Manon’s voice and the white cocktail were working in my mind making me see the forest and the squirrels.

“And have a wild guess who was going to be the first to guard the place? Of course our slimy squirrel. You see the others didn’t now that he was the thief.” She lit a cigarette and inhaled heavily. “Now the little bastard thought, I can’t steal anything tonight because they are going to suspect me, I will stay quiet and nice, pretending to guard the place and tomorrow when the next squirrel will take over I will take the food in double. And he kept quiet while the others went to the forest, walking slowly up and down pretending that he guards the food.

ily02_400_01“Evening came, the squirrels returned with a lot of new food and everybody went to sleep happy that the plan was working. The second day comes and the squirrels decide to let him again to guard the food since he had proved himself so good and as payment they were going to give him each a small portion from what they will bring as a payment. The little bastard saw it as fair and good and agreed.

“The third day the same and by the end of the week the little slimy squirrel had become the permanent guardian of the food. It was actually working well for him as well. He had food every day and had already managed to save some for the winter but the same time he had an itch. He wanted to steal the rest of the food but he had to do it in a way that nobody would suspect. So he came with a plan. New day arrives, he is back in duty and in the evening when everybody returns he tells them about the big snake he saw and how he stopped it with screams and hitting the wood all around. There was some food missing but most of it was there. So everybody was happy and they congratulated the hero squirrel. The next evening the same and third evening the same. And every night little food was missing, squirrel food, and every time everybody congratulated the little hero who had scared the big snake and kept most of the food unattached. Then the fifth night they all return and they didn’t find the small squirrel waiting for them jumping up and down describing his latest heroism. What they saw was a snake escaping in the bushes carrying in its mouth the dead body of the small squirrel.” Manon stopped again, lit a new cigarette and had a zip from the new glass of bourbon that had just arrived.

“Do you know what happened next? The squirrels congratulated each other because the snake didn’t take any of their food that night and they saved some from the little squirrel’s share.” And she laughed. She laughed so loud that even the piano player stopped for a moment. The base player continued lost in his rhythm. The barman looked at us wandering what was the joke and I pretended to laugh not understand where the joke was. But this was Manon anyway. Sometimes she was the only one to understand her jokes and stories.

We had one more drink that night and then we both left for our houses. Manon to wherever her house was, she had never told me and I …I went to my little apartment ready to fall asleep. And it was fast sine brandy with milk had worked heavily on me.

Noon next day and I was back at the café. There was a lot of talking among the girls when I entered the place. “What’s the matter?” I asked Marion, the morning sift girl. “Didn’t you hear anything? They found Nola. Near the river. Throat cut side to side.” I didn’t know what to say. “How?”

They say he had raped a girl a few months ago but the police couldn’t do anything. She had a big family, four brothers. Not nice people. Snakes all of them.”

So, the snake ate the little bastard squirrel. I smiled.

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