The park at the edge of the still wild woodlands on the outskirts of town was shady and inviting, sporting wide lawns of soft grass, playground equipment for varying ages, all settled on nice mounds of mulch. Flanking the playground equipment—and providing the aforementioned shade—were some of the largest pecan trees for miles and miles around.
Snaking its way through the park was a path of concrete making up nearly a quarter of a mile in length, with width just enough for the park service vehicles that made their way through twice per week to empty trash and recycle bins.
The concrete path was used by walkers and runners and kids on scooters, as well as at least woman in a wheelchair who made her way to the park once a week or so with her family. The children would play on the playground equipment, swinging on the swings, and playing impromptu games of tag with anyone willing to give chase across the expanses of greenery, while the woman would roll lap after lap in her wheelchair, reliving in her mind the delights of running track in her younger and more agile days.
Attached to her wheelchair was a cupholder cradling a container of coffee while in the woman’s lap lay a brown paper bag within which were several plain cake doughnuts—the woman’s favorite—for her and her family to enjoy. Surplus doughnuts and crumbs were distributed to the birds and squirrels frequenting the park and its ample trees.
The squirrels affectionally referred to this woman as Doughnut Lady. Indeed, she had grown in stature and standing in the eyes of the squirrels who greedily gobbled the doughnuts she brought and handed out ever so generously. Or so the northern squirrel had had.
Though it had never personally seen or met Doughnut Lady, word of her works and generosity had spread from one squirrel to the next, one nest, one tree, one neighborhood to the next.
All the northern squirrel knew was that it had to find Doughnut Lady—or some of the good doughnuts she gave out as an offer of enticement to Cody in order to solicit his help in ridding the squirrel’s world of the threat of the owl.
Because who could say no to a doughnut?
Racing again from tree to tree, lawn to lawn, the squirrel eventually made its way the mile and change to the park and its myriad pecan trees. It found a place to rest and wait for the arrival of Doughnut Lady. Fortunately, the other squirrels in the park were not yet awake, still reeling from the pecan equivalent of crapulence; evidence of their hedonistic debauchery the hours before strewn all over concrete and grass.
Though the debris of pecan shells lay everywhere, its scent heavy in the air, the squirrel did not let its hunger get the better of its though; it had again raided the bird feeder and lay still satiated from its own indulgence.
Car doors shut from across the park, and the squirrel lay eyes on its target: Doughnut Lady.
She carved a counterclockwise route along the concrete path towards the picnic table near the pecan tree where the northern squirrel lay in wait. Her kids cut across the lawn, squealing with the delight that came with not being in school and too young for the obligations that made weekends like a second job for so many. Their eyes were on swings and other playground equipment, their minds on the doughnuts in the brown paper bag in their mother’s lap.
After cutting a left turn, the pitch of the concrete path increased to the picnic table, and Doughnut Lady guided her wheelchair in a graceful descent, controlling speed and turns with ease, stopping at the picnic table, where she placed her coffee and the bag filled with doughnut goodness.
The squirrel was on its feet, ready to pounce.
But the racket of happy children, accompanied by the crackle of wheelchair tires and casters over the remains of pecan shells and twigs and leaves, had awakened other squirrels, as well. They peered their heads and sleepy eyes out of their respective hidey holes to behold the usual spectacle of people in the park. One of these native squirrels laid eyes on the northern squirrel and let out a “chirp” of surprise.
“Chirp!” it exclaimed.
The northern squirrel turned its head quickly while attempting to keep its eyes locked on the bag of doughnuts. It needed the contents of that bag to aid in its mission.
“Chirp!” the park squirrel repeated.
“Chirp-chirp!” the northern squirrel said in reply, as close to a whisper as an excited squirrel could muster.
“Chirp-chirp?” asked the park squirrel.
“Chirp!” the northern squirrel answered. This is going great! it thought to itself. “Chirp-chirp-chirp!”
“Chirp-chirp-chirp?” inquired the park squirrel. Suddenly, other squirrels began gravitating their eyes to the northern squirrel, as well as the bag of doughnuts still lying on the picnic table.
Oh, no, thought the squirrel. Squirrel should not have had said something about doughnuts to other squirrels.
But it was too late. By now, multiple squirrels were venturing out onto various branches to get a closer look at the unassuming brown paper bag, sporting a light grease stain, lying atop a small stack of plain white paper napkins.
The northern squirrel edged its way back to the main branch to began its descent to ground level in an effort to beg for doughnuts—Did Doughnut Lady always take this long to break into the bag? it thought to itself—but it found itself with two squirrels following it in circles, rotating their way down to where the tree met the grass and dirt of earth.
Whether she had seen the squirrels as her cue to open the bag or sh had done so out of pure coincidence was unknown to the squirrel. All it knew was that Doughnut Lady was on the move and soon the manna would flow from her hands. Full as its tummy was, the squirrel still held its mouth agape in eager anticipation of the sweet, chewy goodness that was a plain cake doughnut.
There was a soft thud in the grass at the base of the pecan tree. The northern squirrel and those pursuing it down the tree heard and saw what caused it, causing them all to stop in their frantic scurrying down the tree: Nearly half a golden doughnut lay in stark contrast to the greenery in its impact area.
Less than a second, three squirrels were on the ground, racing to cover the ground to the doughnut, with one of the lighter, leaner park squirrels reaching the doughnut first.
“Chirp!” said the northern squirrel.
“Chirp-chirp-chirp-chirp-chirp-chirp!” retorted the first park squirrel.
“Chirp-chirp!” repeated the second.
“Chirp-chirp-chirp-chirp-chirp!” pleaded the northern squirrel. Please—squirrel needs this to give to cat neighbor.
“Mommy! The squirrels are fighting over the doughnut!” Three sets of human eyes watched the three squirrels squabbling over a hunk of doughnut.
Cat? Asked the first squirrel. Why would squirrel give such an amazing thing to an animal that hates us?
Because the enemy of our enemy is our friend replied the northern squirrel.
Both park squirrels stared, stupefied by the northern squirrels statement.
Uh…what? one of the squirrels finally asked to break the silence.
Cat will be champion for squirrels and challenge the owl that has been venturing out from the woods over there, the northern squirrel told its parkland cousins. Cat helps squirrel, cat helps all squirrels.
The two park squirrels looked at each other, looked at the doughnut, then back at each other.
“Chirp-chirp?” asked one.
“Chirp-chirp!” said the other.
Okay, said the second park squirrel. Squirrels trust squirrel with this most precious of gifts from Doughnut Lady.
“Chirp-chirp-chirp!” said the northern squirrel. Hurray! This will never be forgotten, and squirrel will tell cat and all others of squirrels’ generosity.
And with that, the northern squirrel moved forward and collected the huge piece of doughnut in its jaw to begin the journey back home.
“Look, Mommy!” replied the smaller of the children. “The squirrel’s carrying the doughnut up in the tree!”
“Squirrels are weird,” said the older, as he munched on his own doughnut.
“Hmm,” replied the mother, as she tossed two more pieces of doughnut to the park squirrels, still on the ground, contemplating what it was they had just agreed to with their neighbor to the north.
But they didn’t think long. A few seconds later, both park squirrels were back in a pecan tree, nibbling on a doughnut and wondering if their northern cousin really as going to try to win over the affections of a cat. With a half a doughnut.
That squirrel is weird one said to the other.
“Chirp-chirp!” said the first park squirrel in agreement before devouring the rest of its doughnut.