Gaines Park had no shortage of trees and no shortage of squirrels to inhabit them, rodents grown fat and entitled by living off the refuse of students from the community college or specifically put out for them by Students for a Happy Earth. In fact, the park supported two warring populations of the critters: the larger but lazier fox squirrels, and the smaller but severely ADD grey squirrels. They could often be heard chittering at each other, with the insulting nature of the exchange generally clear from context.

And, sometimes, they would chitter and chirp at nothing in particular.

“Look at that,” Isaac said. A grey squirrel was perched in the barren highest boughs of a half-dead maple, clearly exposed, and making such a rodenty cacophony that it was audible for dozens of yards in every direction. “What are you doing, squirrel? You’re just telling every predator in range that there’s a tasty rodent up that tree and that dinner is served!”

“Kuk-kuk-kuk-kuk-kuk, quaa-quaaaa!” said the squirrel. “Kuk-kuk-kuk-kuk-kuk, quaa-quaaaa!” It was staring straight at Isaac and flicking its tail like a tiny battle pennant.

“They can see you up there, you know,” Isaac continued. “No leaves. And if you run away you’ll just exhaust your nut fat and die of starvation!”

“Kuk-kuk-kuk-kuk-kuk,” said the squirrel, unmoved. “Quaa-quaaaa!”

“I give up,” Isaac said, throwing up his hands. “I tried to help, but you’re being evolutionarily maladaptive.”

“She is warning the other nearby squirrels of a potential predator, and pinpointing that predator’s location by varying her alarm call and looking at it while flecking her tail.”

Isaac had no reason to doubt the speaker beside him, as she was the avatar of Aquerna, the Norse goddess of squirrels. “Oh. I guess she’s warning the other squirrels about me, huh,” he said sheepishly. “How do you say ‘I don’t want to eat you because you’d probably taste gross’ in squirrelese?”

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