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NaNoWriMo 2021

No. Eleven.

Brian Doyle, in his essay “Joyas Voladoras,” writes that “[n]o living being is without interior liquid motion.” To move that liquid, everything from a worm on up the food chain has a heart of some sort, something to pump that liquid that keeps us churning; for mammals and birds, Doyle says, those hearts have four chambers and beat approximately two billion times over the course of each creature’s life.

The squirrel that had deposited the owl feather in Cody’s people’s backyard just before sunrise, when it was still dangerous for would-be owl food to be out and about. The squirrel accepted that risk, betting on the notion that, by what would be the owl’s bedtime, the owl would be well-fed enough to not bother with something as big as a squirrel. The gamble paid off, as the owl was, in fact, feasting on the remains of a mouse far from the pecan tree the squirrel called home; the squirrel, of course, was oblivious to this, as most squirrels are oblivious to most things that do not directly involve seed or nuts or the obstacles standing in between.

Even as the squirrel raced across the neighborhood in pre-dawn hours with the feather again clutched in its jaws, even on the previous day’s journey to get the feather, did the squirrel’s heart rates—its beats per minute, or BPM—rise much above its resting rate of around 130 BPM. But now, Cody’s eyes locked with his, the squirrel’s heart rate was reaching astronomical proportions, clocking in faster than should be possible, giving even the beloved hummingbirds—or “flying jewels,” the joyas voladoras—of Doyle’s essay reason to pause and think that squirrel should probably calm down a bit before it suffered an aneurysm or something. Its heart rate was easily north of four hundred BPM.

Fortunately, it did, in fact, calmed itself a bit before letting out its inquisitive “chirp-chirp” to Cody, which, in squirrel-speak, was an invitation to chat about their mutual enemy. Sadly, Cody did not comprehend this and merely stared at the squirrel, eyes nonplussed at having been greeted simultaneously by the largest bird feather he’d ever seen and by being chirped at by a squirrel.

To recover and give himself a chance to gather his thoughts, Cody returned his attention to the feather on the ground.

Heart rate on the rise again, the squirrel hopped from tree to the courtesy privacy fence separating one house from another and proffered a peace offering to Cody: A pecan.

Cody, predictably, was unimpressed as the pecan bounced softly in the grass.

“Chirp-chirp?” the squirrel again inquired.

“No, I do not want to go someplace else to—” Cody began but cut himself off.

Did I just understand that squirrel? Cody asked himself. And is he understanding me?

Cat understands squirrel! Squirrel understands cat! the squirrel ecstatically said to itself, its mind now racing as fast as its heart.

“Chirp-chirp-chirp!” the squirrel exclaimed aloud. “Chirp-chirp-chirp-chirp?”

“Where, exactly, do you propose we go to have this conversation? This yard’s not terribly big.”

“Chrip-chirp-chirp-chirp-chirp-chirp!”

Does everything with squirrels get said with such excitement? Cody asked himself. The squirrel waited with anticipation at Cody’s response. Finally, he gave one.

“Yeah, going outside of the yard isn’t something that we house cats get to do. I’ve not figured out the whole doorknob thing, and my person’s just weird about opening whatever doors I want whenever I want.”

…although that is their purpose Cody finished to himself, almost squinting his eyes in a grin.

“Chirp-chirp!” The squirrel sounded like it was breathing through its teeth with the sort of enthusiasm reserved for extra special occasions, but Cody presumed this was a normal occurrence for squirrels. Or this one, anyway.

Of all the squirrels…

“Fine, I’ll try.”

“Chirp!”

“Ugh. Whatever. OK, I’ll do it. How’s that?”

“Chirp-chirp-chirp!”

And, with that, the squirrel sprinted along the fence, hugging the right angle that ran towards the front of the house, near the rendezvous point had been arranged. Or at least discussed. Maybe mentioned. Cody wasn’t sure; he wasn’t paying attention. He was, after all, still a cat, even if he was now a cat that could now communicate with squirrels.

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