The Mission Part 3

January 20th, 2012 by Wordsman

Peter glanced around to make sure no one was watching.  Then he bent down and whispered to the squirrel, “Run up that tree.”

The squirrel turned around and bounded up the tree like it was being chased by a rabid dog.  It settled on a low branch and looked back at Peter with that same focused stare.  It was almost eerie, like watching a swarm of gnats fly in a single-file line.

He refused to be convinced by this demonstration.  Running up trees was something that squirrels did all the time.  It was entirely possible that it had decided to race up there on its own, and that the timing was a mere coincidence.  In order to prove it, he would need to convince the squirrel to do something it would never do normally.  Since Simon Park already had one resident who had made a name for herself shouting at trees, Peter chose to think his next command rather than say it out loud: Sing the alphabet song.

The squirrel did not open its mouth and start belting out, “A, B, C.”  It simply continued to stare at him.  It may have just been his imagination, but he thought he could see it shaking its tiny head slightly, as if to dislodge a pesky insect . . . or piece of music.  But the test was a failure.  Peter assured himself that his mind was simply running wild, and that he had no ability to command small rodents to do his bidding.

Unless, he thought, now playing the devil’s advocate’s devil’s advocate (as only a lawyer can), it just can’t obey commands it can’t comprehend.

Peter wrestled for a while with the idea of a command that would be meaningful to the squirrel but still be something it would never do on its own.  After rejecting a number of possibilities as too cruel, he noticed one of his fellow street musicians a little ways along the path.  He was a saxophonist, but at the moment he was taking a food break instead of performing.  The man was eating a large sandwich and making an extremely slovenly job of it: scraps of lettuce and other vegetables, bits of bread, and slivers of meat were scattered around, in, and on his open case.

Run over there, jump into the case, and bring back a coin—one of those shiny metal round things, Peter commanded, before he even really knew why.

As the squirrel dashed off, he realized that there was probably more to the order than a subconscious desire to commit petty theft.  No ordinary animal, he reasoned, would ever run into a veritable feast like that and come back bearing one of the few items that could not possibly be construed as food.

He watched the squirrel—which he had decided to name Rocky—race over and leap into the case.  The musician was distracted trying to negotiate his way through a large meatball and noticed nothing.  A moment later Rocky bounded back, bearing in his (or her—Peter had no idea how to tell with squirrels) mouth a small, shiny metal round thing.  He reached down.  It was a nickel.  He felt a little sorry for the musician.

Then Peter laughed.  What a joke!  The song worked exactly as the woman said it would, but he was so bad at it that it only worked on small animals.  “What am I supposed to do?” he muttered.  “Have this squirrel break into the police station and—?”

It was then that Peter had the stupidest idea he had had all day.

He had had plenty of bad ideas so far, ranging from the inconsiderate (practicing the Speech before sunrise) to the harmless and silly (looking up old annoying commercial jingles on YouTube) to the downright suicidal (running across busy streets without looking), but none of those had been quite this stupid.

It started with a simple thought—They can’t arrest a squirrel—and ended with an image of Rocky bounding toward him, holding a key just as skillfully as he had held the coin a moment earlier.

Even stupider, however, was that he decided to go for it.  Those that knew him—family, friends, less-tipsy coworkers—would have never expected such as decision out of Peter Hamlin.  Then again, maybe it wasn’t really Peter Hamlin calling the shots.  After all, the real Peter Hamlin slept on a normal schedule, worked eight-to-four (three on Fridays), and was a law-abiding citizen.  This man, on the other hand, was manipulated by sounds that existed only inside his head, fraternized with undesirables who got in trouble with the police, had already broken several laws (most of them traffic laws) that day, and commanded the loyalty of squirrels.  Perhaps the stupidest idea of all would be thinking that these two were, in fact, the same person.

Before he could talk himself out of it, Peter—or someone who looked a lot like him—set off for the police station.

The saxophonist had finished his late lunch/early dinner and promptly returned to plying his trade.  He did not even bother to rinse his mouth first, causing woodwind teachers everywhere to wince at the damage he was doing to his reed (they may or may not have been comforted to learn that the reed was already well past its prime and smelled strongly of baloney).  While his attention had been elsewhere for the food break, during the performance his eyes were fixed on his case, which was why he saw a squirrel run up, drop in a coin, and sprint away.

“Damn,” he said, pausing in astonishment.  “I’m even better than I thought.”

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

One Response

  1. Flamingo's heart Says:

    Someone asked me a question before, “why do you like literature?” I think now I can come up with a better answer– because literature is challenging the cruel “realistic” world by creating a kind of imaginary power.

Leave a Comment

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.