About a year ago, I started writing short fiction for the enjoyment of it. As a hobby goes, it is great. All you need is your imagination and a pad and a pencil. When all is said and done, it can be a hobby you take on for relatively low cost. I am using different formats to share it - but my hope is that it is read. I want to share one of my longer ones.
This story is called My Office Pet. I submitted it to the Dearborn Public Library's Animal Tales project from their Big Read Summer Program. That program had the entire community read Jack London's The Call of the Wild. But, as an added program, they invited people from all over Dearborn and Beyond to send in stories and poem for a book project that would be called Animal Tales. This book was just released and is fantastic - great job by the librarians at Dearborn Public Library to produce this wonderful program. You may get it from the Dearborn Public Library, from Amazon, and from CreateSpace (a print on demand service).
I am very happy to say that my story, My Office Pet, is part of the collection. You may find it on page 313 in the section on....wait for it....you got it....SQUIRRELS! (here are some of my favorite squirrel pictures on flickr) It is a story about someone who takes a real liking to a particular squirrel on a cold winter's day. While I have written some crime and mystery works, this is pure whimsy. I hope you enjoy it.
My Office Pet
by Corey Seeman
There was no good reason to go outside on that cold January day. The negative 25 degree wind chill closed all the schools and was warning enough that it was not a day to be out if you could help it. And yet there I was, getting my coat, hat and gloves on for a walk around the park across from work. I guess there was one reason to head out that day. The squirrels. It had been my habit every day over lunch to feed the squirrels in the park. Why should today be any different? The squirrels needed me. I believed they truly needed me.
I walked more quickly than usual as I headed through the park. While I often had company on these walks, even in winter, today, I was alone. Even the squirrels were not out and about. No doubt they were hoping to wait out this unusually cold day in their nests.
After a few minutes, I finally spotted a squirrel. He was a plump little guy looking for a nut under the snow. He looked up as I approached. It was almost as if he was surprised to see anyone out as well. He ran over to me and squeaked. He was looking right at me as if to say ‘might you have some food?’ With that, I tossed a few peanuts towards his feet. I always hoped that feeding the squirrels peanuts was the highlight of their day. The work involved in eating is lifted away, much like heading out to eat at a restaurant when you cannot be bothered to make dinner yourself. For the squirrel - it was the life. No digging. No guessing.
I moved towards him as he grabbed a peanut and started to eat. I squatted near him and he did not seem to mind at all. This is what happens on miserably cold days, most are just happy to have something to eat, they will not mind the company.
I was out only a short while, but I could feel my face growing uncomfortable in the frigid temperature. Thinking I better move to warm up, I lunged up to start walking. Instead of moving forward, I felt myself slipping and falling backwards, feeling a sharp pain in the back of my head where it hit the frozen ground. It seemed that I was more embarrassed than hurt as I sat there.
As I started to move off the ground, I heard the squeak of a squirrel again and I looked looked over toward him. Strangely, he looked right at me. Then, he moved slowly towards me, in a rather deliberate fashion. I was so fascinated that I did not move from my spot on the ground, despite my desire to get off the ice. He inched closer and placed a single paw on my pants leg. In all my time walking through the park, I couldn’t remember another time when a squirrel was close enough to touch me.
This was one brave squirrel. Then, without warning, this squirrel climbed my leg and sat up. I sat there in the freezing cold, in the middle of winter, on the ground of a park, with no one around, but with a squirrel on my leg. He moved towards my knee and made one last squeak.
Then in a flash, he sprinted up my leg and crawled under my coat. I had no idea what had happened and again looked around to see if anyone was watching. No one was there.
I could feel the squirrel under my coat and over my sweater nestle in. It was a strange sensation, feeling the sharp claws that enabled him to climb all the trees in the park. And yet, he did not hurt me at all. He moved gingerly from spot to spot under my coat. More settling in than anything else. I could feel his light heartbeat through his fur and my clothing as he held on. I could feel the small moves that he made as he settled in, enjoying the warmth that was so absent on these brutal winter days. It became obvious as I sat there on the ground of the park that he was not going anywhere. But it was also equally obvious to me that I should not do the same with the winds kicking up and the desire for the warmth of my office increasing with every passing minute.
But what of my new friend? Well, more like a pet now, I guessed. He held on and showed no signs of letting go. I unzipped my coat, but he moved to my back to stay warm. It seemed that like it or not, I had a companion. He chose me. I was his host.
I managed to stand up. All the while, the squirrel hung onto my sweater. I held my coat out and tried to get him to drop, but there was nothing doing. I looked around and wondered what on earth was I going to do. When you have been outside in this horrible cold temperature for only a short while, there are few good decisions to be made. I needed to figure this out and it made sense to get warm to facilitate better thinking.
With that, I headed back to my office. If I could get there, I could shake this squirrel loose and then figure out my next steps. Who knows, maybe the process of walking the few minutes back to my office would let this guy reconsider being attached to me. In my walk back to the office, he did not change his mind at all.
I entered my office with a horribly guilty look on my face. I decided the stairs might be a better option than the elevator, especially if he decided to make a run for it. I applauded my own sense of good judgement - possibly the best ever exhibited by someone smuggling in a squirrel to an office. I thought we had a flexible pet policy, but I was pretty sure it did not cover this. I moved quickly, feeling the squirrel hold tightly onto my sweater as I headed to my office. What I did not see was a colleague come towards me as I headed towards my office.
“Do you have the publisher contracts?” Sarah said.
“Nick, do you have the contracts?” she repeated after not hearing an answer.
I had been moving so quickly to my office that I did not realize that someone was trying to get my attention. In my defense, I learned that it was very difficult to consider any contract status with certain publishers when you have a live squirrel holding onto your sweater under your coat. In my goal to learn something new each day, this more than qualified.
“Uhm...I will have them later today. I just need to take care of this one...little... thing and I will get back to you.” I said hoping that I could get away from her.
“I can come right in and get it - it is two emails, right?”
“Yeah, but I have this thing to do now. Let me get back to you - today. I promise.”
Sarah started to ask again, but I moved past her and practically shut the door in her face. I leaned on the back of my office door with my heart racing. What the heck was I thinking? I removed my hat and my gloves, tossing them on my desk. What was I thinking? Who ever heard of a squirrel hitching a ride under a coat? More importantly, who ever heard of someone allowing a squirrel to hitch a ride under a coat? And since no one ever thought of that, the whole squirrel in the office thing is completely out-of-the-question.
I took off my coat and tossed it on an office chair. I looked down and he was not there. I did not have a mirror in my office, but I looked at my reflection in the exterior window and did not see anything. I collapsed on my seat and looked around. Nothing. I looked under my desk. Nothing. I looked on my bookshelves. Nothing.
I turned towards my computer, rubbed my hands together to get some feeling back into my fingers, and logged in. I shook my head a few times to clear the cobwebs. Gotta get those contacts for Sarah. As I was finding the contacts and adding them to the email for Sarah, I heard it. A squeak.
I paused for a moment, and slowly starting typing again. Another squeak. I turned to my left. There was the squirrel. I suppose now it was not just any squirrel...it was my squirrel. It was my pet. Here he was, in my office, enjoying the comfort and warmth of indoor heating. It was probably safe to say that he had never been indoors before. He scampered over to where I tossed my coat and started to nestle in. He seemed to be very much at ease as he found a warm comfortable spot in my coat.
What on earth have I done, I thought looking at the tail of my new pet. What was I thinking, bringing a squirrel into my office.
Then, a knock on the door. “Hey Nick, this is Sarah. Can I get the contacts so I can get on with my day.”
“Today. I will get it today. Trying to fix a little problem first.” I yelled through the door. “I will get this done as soon as can.”
My mind was at a loss as what to do next. A nest...that is what we needed.
I had some extra shirts I kept in my desk for an emergency. This definitely counted. I emptied a box of books and lined it with shirts and then showed it to the squirrel. I placed a few peanuts in the new nest as an enticement to get him to use it. He looked up at me and jumped right in. He was busy fluffing the shirts and settled in. I could not believe it, a pet squirrel. My pet squirrel. And with that a smile came across my face.
It dawned on me that he would need a name. Is he a he? How can you tell? I decided it was probably not relevant.
So what about Sam? That name could work for a Samuel or Samantha - so he or she would be covered. Sam had peanuts, a nest and a name. Maybe this is going to be a great day afterall.
Seeing Sam relaxing in his nest, I reached with two fingers and gently brushed his back. For a moment, it was truly wonderful. Then reality set in. Who keeps a squirrel as a pet? What was I thinking of letting him come inside with me. I’m not that crazy...am I?
As I was thinking this, little Sam looked up at me and squeaked. I cannot tell for sure, but I was positive he nodded to me. I squinted my eyes to get a closer look, and I saw him nod again. I could not recall seeing a squirrel do that before in all my lunch hours in the park. Was Sam really agreeing with me? But how on earth could he tell what I was thinking. He squeaked again.
I leaned closer towards Sam when I heard Sarah yelling through the door. “Hey Nick, are you with me?” I started back on the email to get her off my back.
“Nick, you there?” It was Sarah again.
“Hey Nick, can you hear me?” she asked.
All of a sudden, I started to feel a horrible cold in my cheeks. My fingers lost their flexibility and I could not type at all. What was happening to me?
“Nick, can you tell me where you are?” she asked again.
“I’m in my office - where do you think I am?” I said. Feeling colder and colder with each passing word that passed through my lips.
“In your office? Nick, you slipped outside and knocked your head on the ground. It is freezing, we need to get you back inside.”
Sure enough, I was outside. I was freezing. I must have been out for a little bit. Sarah helped me up. But I suddenly remembered Sam...I did not want him to come into my office. I unzipped my coat and started to dance around to make sure that there was no squirrel heading in with me.
“What are you doing? It is freezing out - keep your coat on.” She said.
There was no squirrel under my coat. None at all.
“Let’s get you inside.” She said.
As I looked towards my office, I noticed a squirrel standing there on our path. He looked up at me. It was Sam - I was sure of it. I have never been so sure of something in my life. Sarah asked me if I had a peanut to feed the squirrel. I gave her one and she bent down and gave it to him. He nodded and ran off.
“Have a good day, Sam. Have a good day” I said as he scurried off.
“Who’s Sam?” Sarah asked.
“Just a friend.” I replied.
“Let’s get you inside. I think you need to rest.”