They have a secret life, you know: squirrels do. It's a highly-involved battle between evil greed and the common good, being fought in our backyards, our parks, along our telephone lines.
And as with other epic clashes of ideology, it absorbs much of their attention. That's why, when we humans come along, they always seem so incredibly surprised to see us.
They've gone on like this for years. And I suspect they could have sustained it for years more. Only one of them in particular has blown his cover.
See, day after day, one squirrel has stood alone, sentinel, watching, waiting... Unfortunately, it's in my driveway during the morning and evening commute.
Picture him here now:
A slim, natty little gray squirrel. And hop, hop, hop, not a care in the world-- or so it would seem...
Until this giant suburban fire-breathing creature with the round feet comes barreling down on him like that stone ball rolling after a fluffy-tailed Indiana Jones.
G-AH! HOP! HOP! PANIC! SQUIRREL CHEST PALPITATIONS! HOP!
Instead of leaping to the side per Indy protocol, though, Harry Acorn continues on this path-- the straight path with the round-footed, steam-snorting monster in hot pursuit-- all the way down the drive and into the street.
He's missing the point of things, Harry Acorn is. And he's learned nothing from our repeated encounters.
Which got me to thinking. Any species that has managed to make it as long as squirrels have by burying their food and then going on piratical adventures to get it back cannot be as stupid as this particular squirrel.
I mean, they balance on powerlines like the Flying Wallendas. They pester us at picnics for food, leveraging their seductive fluffy-bummed cuteness. They act in major Tim Burton films.
No. See, there's more going on than meets the eye. This squirrel isn't just a squirrel.
So I did a little digging. Applied a little pressure in the right places. Leveraged a few peanut and suet-ball bribes. Even busted out the honey-roasted. Whatever it took.
And finally, I got the real 4-1-1. It confirmed what I should have suspected all along--
Harry Acorn is the squirrel version of Maxwell Smart, Agent 86.
Yes, he's got a super-secret spy job to do, in his work for his super-secret squirrel organization, and he sucks at it.
The agency? It's SCWEEK. That is, "Squirrel Covert Workers Empowering Equitable Konduct." (They took some liberties with their acronym but always seem to get distracted by hibernation when they set out to fix it.)
SCWEEK is working against the evil GNAW-- "Gathering Nuts Against Wimps." While SCWEEK's mission is to ensure there are enough nuts for everyone, GNAW has a plan for Squirreled Domination through resource hoarding.
A little like OPEC.
Agent Acorn has been hired to guard Sector Q, a major nut transport route, thus ensuring plenty for all squirrelkind.
This, coincidentally, also happens to be my driveway.
I understand from sources which only agreed to speak under anonymity that the Chief at SCWEEK is having second thoughts about putting Acorn on such an important task.
"Remember what happened to Agent MacAdamia in Honolulu?" the Chief reminded him.
"He was a terrific guy, but a dreamer with uncontrolled ADHD. And eventually, in his pursuit of a shipment of Mauna Loa dry roasted, he was flattened by a Tiny Bubbles Tour Bus.
"There wasn't enough of him left to put in a Clusters cereal box... Single-serving size.
"That could be you, Harry."
Yet I know that today when I come home from a long day of work, Agent Acorn will be there in the drive. I will head up that concrete path and he will leap miles in the air in squirrel spasms, scrambling the length of the route with trembling paws, as if for the very first time, to ultimate safety.
And I bet I know what he says to himself, breathless, each and every day.
"Missed it by that much."
But for how long, Harry Acorn? How long...?
So tell me, folks-- what does your local wildlife get up to?