Squirrel vs. Lamborghini

A less than sympathetic sun elbowed its way through the fog and smirked on my cheeks that were paling from too long on a rose garden bench in my local park. The roses were taking refuge in non-existence, but it was good enough for North London in mid-December. A long 6 foot + Lamborghini_vs_squirrel_2silhouette filtered in and out of my peripherals – leaning down now and then, and clucking softly. A gentle-looking black man in an ankle-length black coat, carrying a blue plastic carrier bag. The sun-fog swirled around his ankles like stage-production of an old Hammer. I focused in on him, to see him lean down again, pull something out of his bag and put it into the mouth of a Grey Squirrel that was stretched up eagerly on its hind legs. I looked around, scouting for Health & Safety, the Rabies Police and any members of the Red Squirrel Lobby; which pretty much covers everyone in Britain apart from the Nihilists and the Red Squirrel Lobby Haters. Which pretty much covers everyone else.

It occurred to me how much-maligned the Grey Squirrel has been, since the outbreak of the 100 Year Squirrel Wars. I mean, they didn’t ask to be trapped and shipped from their native America in Thomas Brocklehurst’s suitcase. And what was a Victorian banker thinking playing Squirrel God by letting them into the wild? But it is still the case that the Red Squirrel, smaller and arguably cuter, has been driven to the British outback – Scotland – poor wee things, by the vicious teeth-gnashing Greys who chase them out of their beds in the dead of night and infect them with a nasty puss-seeping virus. The situation is deemed so desperate there is even a Red Squirrel Survival Trust, with Prince Charles as its patron. And here is this reckless individual, hand-feeding the bastards in a public park.

But wait, I thought. Aren’t we also driving other species to extinction from the helm of our own evolutionary fortune? Maybe there is a debate going on in the Pleiades right now about whether to exterminate us?

“Look, Zomopharan (continuing a time-honored tradition of naming alien leaders from failed sleeping pill brands), it’s them or the dolphins.”
“True. And the dolphins are cuter.”
“Then I propose total annihilation of the human species. All in favour……?”

Actually, there are some lonely, yet persuasive voices, who suggest that maybe the Squirrel Wars story isn’t quite as bullet proof. They say that the Greys get the nasty virus too, they just developed better immunity to it, that they happen to thrive in trees that we chop down less, and that they don’t actually chase Red Squirrels at all. In fact, they assert, the reason the Grey Squirrels are so much more numerous is simply because they have adapted better to changing circumstance. Their crime is their success. But at the time of this story, I hadn’t done a massive Google search on squirrel eco-politics, and remained unequivocally on the side of the Red propagandists.

I sauntered along West Green Rd–as only the unemployed mulling the Darwinian implications of British wildlife can at 11 on a Thursday morning–ending up at the dry cleaners. And lo and behold! standing at the counter plain as day was the Grey Squirrel Scab still clutching the evidence of his crimes – the blue plastic bag. He was having a rather polite difference of opinion with the proprietor about the speed of his laundry.
“My good man… (yes, he actually said this)…you seem to fail to understand that I require this item in a more timely manner. How do you intend to please me?”
He stepped back a little when he saw me tentatively displaying my yellow laundry ticket, and beckoned me to the counter.
“By all means, go ahead. This could take some time.”
“Did I see you feeding the squirrels?” I asked, trying to not add the word ‘bastard’ before the word ‘squirrels’.
“Yes, isn’t it wonderful! I’ve decided to return to Mother Nature.”
Deciding to ignore the myriad questions this raised, I asked.
“Do they always let you feed them by hand?”
“Oh no. But there’s a first time for everything, don’t you agree?”
He continued.
“I’ve decided to go the other way. Now I do yoga under the moon. We’ve gone as far as we can go this way. I’ve accepted that I’m never going to get that Lamborghini. I’m trying something new.”
His face bounced with tiny vibrations of energy as he spoke. I was happy for him and decided not to trouble him with the complexities of Squirrelgate. Maybe one of the aliens will take pity on me. Even though I’m a scourge on nature, I can still look cute up on my hind legs.
“I still want that Lamborghini though,” he added as I picked up my laundry and turned to leave.
In the battle for this man’s philosophical attention, a squirrel had won over a Lamborghini. This was, I thought, in an odd but indisputable way, impressive.  Okay, maybe it was the wrong kind of squirrel, but goddammit if I didn’t have a grudging admiration for this vintage romantic.
I wished him luck to which he thanked me and promptly returned to continue his courteous dispute.

About subincontinentia

writer and eternal optimist
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