Why Squirrels Dart out in Front of Cars

My first short story.

OK, I admit it, it’s just a political rant.

Big Red was well respected even though he wasn’t exactly the friendly type.  Luckily, Mrs. Red and most of the younger Reds were more neighborly than dad.  What Big Red did have was an impressive talent for finding the best hiding places for his acorns and for protecting them from predators.  He also had a reputation for constantly nagging the younger generation to store as many acorns as possible during the warmer months.  Most of the young squirrels had grown tired of listening to Red’s diatribes about the importance of planning and personal responsibility.

During hoarding season, Mrs. Red’s talent was selecting and hiring the best workers for a specific job.  When folks asked the Reds if they could join their acorn storing enterprise, the Reds were always happy to include the newcomers.  Mrs. Red could tell which squirrels were clever and should focus on learning how to find the best hiding places and she knew which squirrels were better off hauling the acorns or digging and covering up.  She also knew which ones didn’t really want to work at all and she was quick to eliminate them from the process.  Pretty soon the red squirrels had put together an intricate network of acorn hoarding squirrels which efficiently collected and stored plenty of food for the workers and their families.

Bark was a different kind of squirrel.  He was an intellectual and didn’t believe in spending time on mundane efforts such as collecting and hiding acorns.  He was not greedy and he believed that no one squirrel should hoard more acorns than he needed for himself and his family.  He therefore had no respect for the vast hoarding empire built by Red and his family.  Bark’s greatest interest was in improving living conditions for the squirrels in the neighborhood.  All the squirrels loved to hear him speak because he always talked about how in the future, squirrels would live in larger more beautiful nests and winters would be much shorter and there would be plenty of good food for everyone year round.  Bark was a huge fan of dumpster food, it was better than acorns because it was free and readily available.  He loved the hamburgers, french fries, popcorn and cheese curds that the other squirrels sometimes brought for him when they came to hear him speak.

One day Bark was approached by a young female squirrel named Demi.  Demi had suffered a major tragedy early in life when her fiancé was killed by a car, leaving Demi to raise 8 baby squirrels on her own.  She was frustrated because her young children seemed to always be in trouble and she was angry at the ongoing traffic problem that they and the other neighborhood children faced every time they needed to cross the street.  Bark was a big believer in solving social issues and he was sure he could help the community find a solution for the problem of road safety.  Bark asked a good friend of his, who he knew to be the smartest squirrel in the neighborhood, what he thought of the car vs. squirrel problem.

Joe was extremely well educated and also devoted to social justice.  He had a quick answer since watching cars was a passion of his and had spent all of his time studying them.  Car studying was Joes occupation.  Joe would cross the street at various times of the day and at various speeds in various parts of town.  He was extremely proud of his ability to out run the cars and loved showing off his skills.  He became an extremely well respected street crossing expert.  I know what we have to do, Joe said.  We need to train the cars to swerve when they see us.  He had noticed that after crossing the street in front of cars over and over again, eventually, one of the cars would swerve to miss hitting him.  He offered to teach all the squirrels in the neighborhood using his innovative method of darting out in front of a car and pausing for a moment before continuing briskly across the street.  He had proven that the longer he was able to pause and make eye contact with the headlights, the more likely the car was to swerve.

Meanwhile, the red clan had started a robust economy of trading goods and services throughout the community and between neighborhoods.  There seemed to be plenty of acorns stored for winter so the excess was exchanged for nest upgrades, the highly sought after dumpster food and entertainment.  The squirrels that liked dumpster diving always found it easy to trade dumpster food for acorns that would get them through a long harsh winter if necessary.

Some of the gray squirrels were annoyed by the greed of the red hoarder squirrels and complained to Bark that while they focused their energies on the greater good of the community by sending their children to be educated by Joe and his colleagues in the intricacies of car chasing, the red squirrels spent all their time hoarding acorns, upgrading their nests and having fun.  They believed that the acorn hoarders should make their resources available to all squirrels equally, not just other hoarder squirrels.  Pretty soon a whole network of policy makers was hired to address problems of inequality and a whole system of law enforcement rose up to insure that every squirrel participated in activities that Bark believed to be in the best interest of the neighborhood.  Experts were hired to oversee every aspect of collecting acorn taxes and spending them for the greater good of the neighborhood.

Committees of gray squirrels decided that the red squirrels must be pay 1/3 of their acorns to the gray squirrels because obviously the more time the gray squirrels devoted to the greater good, the less time they had to gather acorns for themselves, and their families.  Many of the socially responsible squirrels were angry because the red squirrels continued to have plenty of time for trading and buying nice things for their nest.  It just wasn’t fair because the gray squirrels worked long hours to create policies, hire experts and enforce rules.  They focused a lot of energy on improving the car chasing educational system so that more and more squirrels could learn the car training exercises that would some day make all squirrels safe from cars.

Most of the red squirrels minimized their involvement in car training planning meetings, car training tax enforcement and car training research endeavors.  Some thought that car training was not a good idea and that the car training exercises weren’t working because it was beginning to appear as though cars were not even trainable for some strange reason.  Red squirrels rarely voiced these opinions in front of gray squirrels because it made the gray squirrels very angry.  Sometimes the red squirrels even felt guilty for not participating in car chasing activities.  They wanted to be sympathetic to the sacrifices made by the socially conscious car chasers.  Some red squirrels actually believed that car chasing was important, but that it was too expensive and too dangerous and that avoiding the streets at ground level was a much better solution to the problem.  For the most part, the red squirrels stuck to an above ground system of crossing streets.  They would jump from rooftop, to tree to cable to tree etc. instead of crossing at street level.

Many of the gray squirrels became quite bitter when they saw that even with the major car training efforts and endless studies, grants to experts and oversight committees; the car problem was not improving.  Clearly they needed to devote more resources to the problem.  Other than the chronic lack of resources for their efforts, the main reason for the slow progress was that many of the red squirrels refused to send their children to car training school or to even cross the street at ground level.  Bark decided to pass some more laws requiring all schools to teach car training.  He also insisted that the red squirrels contribute more to car training efforts in their neighborhoods.  He said that the car training schools needed to be more diverse and that every squirrel, no matter what his beliefs or abilities, needed to learn that the only true solution to the car problem was implementing the tried and true car darting method developed by Joe and other government experts.

Winter was harsh that year.  Red and Mrs. Red and all of the other squirrels who contributed to the greedy, hoarding effort all summer long found themselves reaching out to the gray squirrels.  The gray squirrels took the hand-outs but it hurt their pride to be dependent on those awful, greedy, red squirrels.  The following spring, they went to Bark and told him that they didn’t think they should have to ask the greedy people for help when they had worked just as hard for just as many hours as the red squirrels.  It wasn’t their fault that they weren’t making progress with the car training efforts.  Bark agreed and passed a law mandating that any squirrel family that had more than a 1 month supply of acorns be required to give all but what he needed in the immediate future to the government so that car chasing efforts could be increased.  Of course this meant that a whole new enforcement agency would have to be created to oversee the collections.  Bark knew this was a good idea because it would create more census taking, and tax collecting jobs and therefore stimulate the economy.

Pretty soon, the red squirrels quit hoarding acorns.  There was no point in collecting more than they could use in a few days as the rest went directly to the government.  They would gather just enough acorns for their families; then they would spend their time looking for other non-perishable food items that they could quietly hide away.  In their free time, some of the red squirrels got together to talk about how they could bring back the system of wealth and trading that had existed in the old days.  Big Red even suggested that maybe car chasing wasn’t a worthwhile endeavor and that maybe only the squirrels who believed strongly in car chasing should be required to spend their time learning the techniques or devoting resources to the infrastructure associated with supporting the whole car chasing philosophy.  Many of the red squirrels found it difficult to understand why the car chasing experiment was not seen as a failure but rather as a highly successful socially responsible experiment.  Eventually, some of the gray squirrels also came to Big Red asking for advice.  They were afraid they wouldn’t have enough acorns for the winter and they wanted to know if Red had any good ideas.

Bark was still telling his followers that they needed to spend more time building and improving the governmental car chasing infrastructure.  He found the smartest squirrels he could to find and asked them to find even better ways to make sure that all cars were well trained within the next few years.  He knew that the red squirrels would have to step up and gather more acorns to devote to all of the many governmental processes dedicated to the greater good of squirrelkind.  Bark truely could not understand why the red squirrels were gathering and storing fewer and fewer acorns in a time of such great need.

Finally, Red gathered together all the squirrels that had helped him hoard acorns over the years.  He explained that although many squirrels thought it important to spend vast resources on the car chasing projects and its massive associated governmental infrastructure, none of this had benefitted society as Bark had predicted.  Something did not seem to be working.  Red knew that many squirrels would die of starvation this winter because acorn hoarding had essentially come to a halt.  Although Red and his family had found a few substitutes that they believed would get friends and family through the winter, he was sure that many of the car chasing squirrels would not survive.  He and several of the other red squirrels and a few of the gray squirrels who saw the benefits of hoarding acorns started a campaign to convince the gray, car chasing squirrels that only 20% of the hoarded acorns could be used in the car chasing efforts.  Many squirrels in all aspects of governmental car chasing industries from the top down were horrified that the red squirrels could be so stupid and insensitive toward the plight of the squirrels who continued to risk their lives every day, bravely darting in front of cars, while the red squirrels simply created separate above ground street crossings.  They set up protests and picketed the greedy red squirrels.  They created organizations to find ways to increase the amount of acorns devoted to car chasing projects, but to no avail.  Acorns were in short supply throughout the neighborhood because hoarding activities had essentially ceased.

That winter was tough.  Many gray squirrels died of exposure and starvation.  The following spring the remaining squirrels could see that hoarding and greedy behavior was a necessary evil of society that they would learn to tolerate as long as 1/3 of all acorn collections were devoted to car chasing related activities.  The red squirrels went back to hoarding acorns, but they also diversified and hoarded other less perishable goods.  Eventually trading resumed and a strong economy was restored.  Car chasing activities resumed at a slightly slower pace than the previous year.  Of course the gray squirrels vowed to increase taxes on stored acorns once again because progress solving the car problem was still slow and they clearly needed to ramp up their car training efforts since they had not yet devoted enough resources to completely eradicate the problem.  But one day they were sure the red squirrels would cease their greedy hoarding and join their efforts to create a utopian society in which cars had learned to swerve and miss squirrels reliably every time.