There was a man who loved squirrels so much…

First he collected ceramic squirrels. His bookshelves and dresser tops were soon haunted by plastic, plush, wood, stone, glass, and sea-shell squirrels.

Then he began to collect real squirrels, breeding them and setting them loose in his yard and in his house. Squirrels scampered on his countertops, foraging for nuts left out in snack bowls.

They got into the clothes-hamper, burrowing nests in the dirty clothes. They chewed through electrical cords, left droppings on the floor and behind the couch cushions. They overran the yard, a swarm of furry, flickering tails and twitching, whiskered noses and chattering rodent teeth. The man had to wade through them to get out his front door. He would crunch over them when he pulled his car out of the garage.

One day at the zoo, the man who loved squirrels saw the biggest squirrel he’d ever seen.

The man thought to himself, “I must have that squirrel.”

Under cover of night he snuck into the zoo and stole the giant squirrel. When he brought it home it didn’t get along well with the other squirrels; the giant squirrel was stand-offish, and all the other squirrels gave it a wide berth, chattering at it indignantly from a safe distance.

One day the man’s friend Bob visited.

Observing the man’s giant squirrel, Bob said, “That’s not a squirrel. That’s a lesser panda.”

“A lesser panda?”

“Also known as a red panda.”

That is when the man who loved squirrels learned he needed glasses. He hadn’t realized how fuzzy his world had become until his new glasses put everything back into sharp focus.

The first morning he went outside wearing his new glasses his neighbor–a widow–waved at him and he waved back. The widow was quite shocked. She had waved at the man every morning for years, and since he never waved back she had assumed he was anti-social and that there was no room in his heart for anything but squirrels.

Now that the man could see her, he waved back at her every morning. After a few weeks they began talking. Eventually they were married. The man who loved squirrels moved into her house and left his house to the squirrels.

One day, on a tip from the paperboy, the DNR raided the man’s house and found no human residing there, but several dozen squirrels and one malnourished lesser panda. The widow posted bail and the man worked off his sentence with community service, lecturing at nature centers and Cub Scout camps about rodents.

When the man died, atop his headstone perched not an angel but a stone squirrel.

In time the widow was buried beside him.

It is said that on some evenings when the cemetery is quiet and still, a whole bevy of squirrels can be seen huddled around the man’s grave, planting acorns in the ground beside the plastic flowers, a tribute to the man who loved squirrels.

Or maybe they are trying to weigh his corpse down with acorns so that he can never rise up to torment them again.

Nicholas Ozment once had a pet squirrel. Sometimes it would run up the leg of a visitor to perch on a shoulder, and the unwitting guest thought he or she was being attacked by a rabid squirrel. It was the cutest thing.

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Every Day Fiction