Note: A little something from 1997, originally posted on my SFF.Net web page.
Stubby the squirrel looked down at his new shoes with great satisfaction. They were red, with little tacks on the bottoms that he hoped would give him speed and traction for that long stretch of fence from the bird feeder to his tree.
The bird feeder, always heavily populated by grackles and other squirrels who didn’t want to share, was in a yard patrolled by two fierce dogs. Stubby was afraid of dogs. Last year, he’d gotten cornered by one on the other side of the fence from that same bird feeder, after men had come and chopped down a whole row of trees that had run along the wires which provided a squirrel highway above the backyard fences.
Stubby hadn’t expected dogs in that yard. The poodle who’d lived there had grown old and died without ever doing more than yip at him from the comfort of her back porch. But this … this wolf, this furry monster, had come out of nowhere and chomped down on his tail … and then paced up and down under the tree for hours, ignoring all commands to go into the house, determined that the rest of Stubby should follow that tail into his maw.
Stubby watched closely from the safety of his tree as the dog was hauled protesting into the house. A whole fall, winter and spring had come and gone, and still that monster hadn’t forgotten the taste of the tip of Stubby’s tail or his determination to gobble up the rest of him.
At last, the path was safe … Quietly, Stubby sneaked down from the lowest branches of his tree and into the little path between the alternating cedar boards that formed the fence. Softly, softly like a shadow, Stubby crept from one plank to the next until the bird feeder was in sight.
Leaning out through the slats, Stubby reached over and started stuffing sunflower seeds into his cheeks until … until … until he almost couldn’t get his cheeks back through the slats. His cheeks were so fat, he almost got stuck! Distracted by his predicament, Stubby let out a little squeak, the tiniest little grumble, and the wolf dog who lived in the yard with the bird feeder woke up, came to alert.
Stubby stared at the dog, who was staring at him. It was no use for the dog to try to pretend that he wasn’t after him, and Stubby knew it was useless to freeze to immobility and pretend he wasn’t there. The chase was on!
Stubby tore along that fence faster than he’d ever run before. The tacks on his new track shoes stuck a little at first, as they tore into the rough boards, but Stubby pulled his feet up hard and ran like the wind, sticking to the curves of the boards, until he leaped high up into the branches of his tree, a good two fence posts farther ahead of the dog than he’d ever managed before … and without losing one precious sunflower seed!
Stubby was proud of his new shoes. They’d saved the day! And, he thought, he’d never have to worry about that dog or about going hungry, ever again.
“Stubby’s New Track Shoes. Copyright © 1997, by Elizabeth W. Bennefeld. All rights reserved.