“I still don’t see the problem.”
“The problem, brother-dear,” Bree sighs, mildly exasperated. “Is that squirrels have rabies. They are rabid. Raa-bi-DA. You know, foaming at the mouth?”
She placed her fingers in her mouth to imitate fangs, which I was certain had little to do with rabies, squirrels or foam, but did paint a horrifying peek at her mind’s eye. I noted never to watch Watership Down with Bree . . . ever.
“Understanding the meaning of the disease, I still don’t see how that factors into the argument.”
“You don’t . . ? If an elf rides a squirrel like a horse, skittering and jumping willy-nilly from treetop to treetop. . . ” my sister explains, arching her hands as if trying to explain the flight-plan of the squirrel in the branches, “. . . then there is a good to fair chance that the rodent will infect them with the disease. Thus, your theory that fairies use the rodents as mounts is impossible.”
My sister and I waited outside the house my siblings’ piano teacher. Both Bree and Kevin had scheduled their lesson back to back in order to save gas, and — as neither could drive unaccompanied yet — I had spent the last ten or so years carting them to and from practice. During the dark winter months, I spent my time recovering from the school day (i.e. sleeping) but in June with the sun still shining at eight o’clock, I clasped a book in hand and allowed our mind to wander through . . . interesting realms.
“You don’t care much for the creatures, do you?”
“No,” Bree said emphatically. “Squirrels are evil. Everyone knows this. They’re the forefathers of spiders and hangnails, you know?”
I did not.
“Really?” I ask nonetheless, still trying to wrap my head around that bit of trivia. “Aren’t you being a little narrow-minded?”
“Uh, they’re stupid and evil? Either way they’re sure to transmit rabies to their riders.”
“True,” I postulated, “if you assume that the biology of a fae — their scientific name among the wise –is the same as that of a human, which you cannot. Human’s do not have the capacity for magic; fae do. Heck, they could probably simply talk to the squirrel in their own language:
‘Hey, Mr. Nutters, we must traverse to the borders of On’Dorith Wood and onward to the great Fields of Cuth’Aton, so try not to bite my hand or head while we’re riding, ‘kay? I’d really appreciate having both at the end of journey.’
See? Now maybe if they were wearing acorn-scented aftershave or . . .”
“Wait, a second,” Bree interjected, “you could think up names of fields and tree . . .”
“On’Dorith Wood is the elvish capital,” I explain patiently, “where the elf queen is besieged by the vampiric forces of the Mal Dorn, leech-knights from the mossy swamps of the Squito King. It’s not just some tree.”
“Whatever. You made all that up on the spot and the best name you could generate for the squirrel steed was ‘Mr. Nutters?’
“Clearly . . .” I explained. “That is not an elvish or mortal name, but an English translation from squirrel-ish.”
“The squirrel named itself, Mr. Nutters? Okay, you’ve only proven my point: squirrels are stupid.”
Bree rolled onto the back seat, laughing and kicking her feet against my seat.
“Mr. Nutters is an honorable name among the rural squirrel population. He is the proud son of Nibbles the Fair, Knight of the Oak, and Apple-Cheeks, last lady protector of the community’s dwindling fruit supply. Only Nutters can retrieve Nibbles lost nuts before an unholy host of fruit bats gnaw them . . . Stop laughing! Squirrel lore is unnaturally complex! Did I ever tell you of Nockers and the Basket of Shiny Metal Treasures? It’s quite the epic and not for the squeamish . . . “