Canto Twenty-Five – Squirrel on the Lam
Valerie-squirrel found that even though she had rapidly ascended through the hollows of the brickwork, dodging obstacles, squeezing through narrows, and working her paws at a high rate of speed, she reached the top with energy to spare. Her squirrel-body was almost infinitely flexible and full of muscle. What skateboard miracles she could perform if her body were only like that as a human!
But she came out under the eaves of the Philips’ house and was soon racing across the roof. She leaped into the branches of the tall maple that stood in front of Mary’s house. The leaves were mostly yellow with fall color, but bright reds and scarlet colors tipped the five points of almost every leaf. The view was amazing from the heights of the tree, especially because of her squirrel eyes that gave her very nearly a 360-degree view around her. It was like three-dimensional vision warped into surround-see super-reality. And yet, as amazing as the view was, her squirrel heart knew despair because the Pidney and Mary squirrels were nowhere to be seen. Had cats eaten them already? She shuddered to think it. Was it up to her to save them? Could they somehow save her?
There was no squirrel-plan that made sense at that moment. Her instincts were screaming at her to run and climb and jump… and eat nuts. But how could any of that be helpful? Especially eating nuts?
She knew this predicament had to be the result of magic, probably evil magic. How could she turn herself back into a human girl? The only real magic she was aware of before this terrible curse was the magic revealed to her by the witch, Mazie Haire. Somehow she had to go and find the Haire woman, and somehow she had to make the woman understand, through a stream of screamed-out squirrel curses, chreeks, and chit-it-its, that magically somehow the witch would interpret, what had happened to Valerie, and that she needed the old witch to change her back. But how to get there?
“I see you up there!” The cat’s voice startled her because, even though she could clearly see the cat on the ground far below, it sounded as loud as if she were face to face with the ugly old cat. She calmed herself with the realization that the cat was somehow telepathic.
She looked intently at the cat, wiggled her blond tail, and thought intensely in its general direction. “Can you read minds, damned old cat?” she heard herself say.
“I can hear you animal-talking,” said Skaggs from below. “I can’t hear what you’re thinking. But I don’t need to know that to know you must come down from that tree to get the help you need.”
She ran along a maple branch and launched herself through the air, landing in a branch of the elm tree next door in the Pixeley’s yard. “I can travel from tree to tree!” she cried out with her mind.
“Not all the way to where you need to go. There is too much space for you to cross to go north to the witch’s house.”
“How did you know I wanted to go there?”
“Where else would you go in your present situation? You need that old witch’s magic to undo what Oojie did. Am I right?”
“You are about as wrong as anything could be… because you are… you’re evil! Evil is always wrong!”
“I am not evil. But I will admit, to a squirrel a cat surely seems evil.”
“I will find a way.” She leaped down onto the red tar-paper shingles of the Pixeley house. There was no tree near enough going to the north, but there were bushes around the house. And there was a line of pine trees in Tom Kellogg’s yard to the north.