I wrote this little piece for a friend, for Christmas. They requested a story about squirrels and helicopter moms.
|Steve was a man of simple wants. He loved good food, fine wine, and spending time in the park with his squirrel. It was a matter of debate whether or not Steve was in control of the squirrel, or the squirrel was in control of him. Nutbuster wore a small pink sequined cape emblazoned with the letter N, and a tiny pink and white luchador mask when out at the park, fighting crime. Steve usually offered support, as a human a hundred times the size of Nutbuster could, by buying nuts, driving to and from the park, and generally staying out of Nutbuster’s way. At home Nutbuster was content to curl up in her window perch, safe from the dog below, or to sit on Steve’s shoulder reading classics and sampling whatever food he was eating. On occasion Nutbuster took a bath, and Steve was content to hold the blow dryer afterward while Nutbuster chittered show tunes and turned to and fro in front of the hot blowing air. |
The crimes Nutbuster hated most were crimes of poor parenting. Steve was relatively affluent and lived a life free of many wants, and the people Nutbuster and Steve encountered most often were fairly to extremely wealthy. Children were still subjected to poor parenting, though, and Nutbuster found herself attacking examples of overprotective or emotionally neglectful or abusive parents on a regular basis. Steve usually found it useful to carry a copy of the New York Times with him and pretend to read it, following Nutbuster’s antics through a small slit cut in the paper, so he could avoid vituperative parents. Once Nutbuster wreaked vengeance on the unsuspecting humans (and they were unsuspecting, as the only person able to understand Nutbuster was Steve), she would run to Steve and chitter away on his shoulder; he would keep the New York Times up until the other humans left, and that was the basis of many a fine afternoon spent in the park in all seasons.
Steve did not like being outside much in the winter, but Nutbuster loved it, so Steve dutifully picked up Nutbuster’s travel case and carried her into his large black SUV. They parked at the entrance to a local park that offered skating and snacks in winter. Steve was not much for skating but like many New Yorkers he enjoyed roasted chestnuts and hot chocolate, so he decided he would content himself with these while Nutbuster, in her own way, fought crimes among the parents of the children at the skating rink.
Nuts in one hand, hot chocolate in the other, Steve nodded toward Nutbuster, a pink and gray blur as she made her way through the crowds of people around the skating rink, listening for evidence of criminal activity.
Nutbuster found one family, then another. Her superbly sharp senses were activated when she saw two children, much too old to be dressed by their mother, having their coats zipped together.
“This is so you don’t get separated,” said the bossy, fairly plain-looking woman. She had a greying dark brown bob that was cut too short, so that her ears were visible. Nutbuster chittered irritably to herself. She disapproved of haircuts that reminded her of ones originating from bowls and grandparents with poor vision and do-it-yourself barbering kits.
The children’s hair looked no better, and Nutbuster watched closely. She pressed a button on the side of her luchador mask and computerized goggles slid down over her face. She chittered instructions to her mask and inside her goggles, green symbols appeared, telling her the names and financial status of the family she was looking at.
Absent father, Nutbuster read. Lucy McGee, overprotective mother. Germophobic.
The mother was busy spraying Lysol on the bench she had cleared so that she and her children could use it. Nutbuster coughed.
She was just about to turn away when Mrs. McGee tugged at the nearest child (Paul, Nutbuster noted) and the other child his coat had been zipped to (Maggie, Nutbuster noted) stumbled and fell. Both children fell face-first into the snow.
Mrs. McGee grabbed Paul and Maggie, roughly dragged them upright, and started swabbing their faces and hands with Lysol wipes. The running commentary gave Nutbuster new resolve.
“Such clumsy children! You get that from your father. Stop it, Paul. Your hands are not clean, I have to wipe them again. Maggie, stop crying. You wouldn’t have fallen if you weren’t so clumsy. This is your fault. If you can’t stay clean I am going to have to take you home.”
Nutbuster quickly scanned the nearby area. There was a hot dog lying on the ground covered in gooey mustard. Nutbuster grabbed a large globule of mustard, then sprang into action. She grabbed the fabric of Mrs. McGee’s designer pants and clawed her way up, leaving traces of mustard; as Mrs. McGee screamed, Nutbuster sprang at her face and shoved the globule of mustard into Mrs. McGee’s large open mouth.
Wiping her forepaws and arms in Evelyn’s hair to remove most of the mustard, Nutbuster then sprang toward the children. They cowered, but Nutbuster merely grabbed the zipper that joined them and unzipped the two coats.
“Be free!” Nutbuster chittered, and made a “come on” motion with her left forepaw. The children followed her.
Behind them, Mrs. McGee choked and gurgled. She fell backwards into the snow.
Nutbuster ran slowly so the children could keep sight of her, and made a beeline for Steve.
Sighing, Steve drained the last of his hot chocolate.
“Hi, kids,” he said, when Maggie and Paul reached him.
“Is that your mother?”
He pointed at Mrs. McGee. There was a crowd gathering around her, and she was quickly obscured from view.
“Sort of,” said Paul.
“Can I have some chestnuts?” asked Maggie.
Steve held out his packet of chestnuts. Maggie took two.
“Can we play with your squirrel?” asked Paul.
Steve looked at Nutbuster.
Nutbuster chittered, and Steve said, “She’d like that. I’ll check on your mother.”
Nutbuster made the “come on” motion again and led Paul and Maggie toward the skate rental area. Steve watched as the kids obtained skates, put them on, and started wobbling around the skating rink.
Sighing, Steve decided he had waited long enough and decided to go check on the mother. By the time he had reached where she was, he found her in the arms of an EMT, dramatically flourishing and asking for oxygen.
“You don’t need oxygen, ma’am”, the EMT was saying. He looked pained.
Mrs. McGee coughed and pretended to faint. The EMT awkwardly tried catch her and she slid to the ground, and screamed.
“There’s nothing wrong with you, ma’am. I’m here to treat people who actually are in some sort of distress.”
On the ground, Mrs. McGee rolled and groaned.
Steve wondered if he should mention that her children were safe. He checked over one shoulder- Paul and Maggie were fine, circling the skating rink while Nutbuster jumped from one’s shoulders to the other’s. He decided not to get involved. Let the kids enjoy their afternoon skating, he decided.
He retreated to his bench with a new cup of hot chocolate and sat and watched the children skating.
About an hour later, Mrs. McGee remembered her children and rose from her apparent deathbed to look for them.
Steve whistled a warning, and Nutbuster signaled to the kids that they should get off the ice. She led them to Steve, bowed, and burrowed into Steve’s jacket pocket just in time to avoid being seen by Mrs. McGee, who came barreling down on them.
“What are you doing with my children?” she demanded.
“Nothing at all, ma’am, these kids were just out skating and came over here, I had nothing to do with it,” said Steve.
“We thought he was selling nuts,” said Paul, quickly. Maggie nodded.
“Come on, we are leaving,” said Mrs. McGee. “Both of you need baths. This park is filthy. The squirrels! I was attacked! I need to see a doctor!”
She grabbed Maggie and Paul, but each child squirmed away.
“What are you doing?”
“We can walk on our own.”
After a moment, Mrs. McGee said, “Fine,” and the children turned and waved at Nutbuster, who emerged from Steve’s pocket to gesture flamboyantly at them.
Steve and Nutbuster watched the McGees leave the park, and Steve looked into his pocket.
“This is a dry clean only jacket,” he said. “There’s mustard in here.”
Nutbuster chittered at him.
“As you wish,” he said. “All done for today?”
“All right then, we go home and then a bath for both of us.”
“Fine, you first,” said Steve, and the superhero squirrel and her human sidekick left the park.