Visitor or squirrel? A tricky choice for the #writephoto prompt from KL Caley at New2writing.com. I leaned more towards the ‘squirrel’ aspect…

Have I mentioned an idea for a book of Roscoe and Neville adventures for readers around 7 years old? I might have done it on the Princelings website though. This could fit into it, or at least be the start of something slightly longer. This is 1000 words exactly (smug).

a small squirrel nibbling something whilst sitting on a fence panel

Visitor

Roscoe looked forward to grass time more than anything (except food).

Neville enjoyed grass time just as much, but he had to listen to Roscoe going on about it.

“It’s nearly grass time.”

“Isn’t it grass time yet?”

“Where is she? Why aren’t we outside?”

Neville’s response was always the same. A quiet smile and to get on with whatever he was doing. Usually he was rootling around in the hay to see if there were any fancy bits Roscoe had missed.

He supposed most companion animals enjoyed getting out and about. It appealed to some inner call of nature. To be out in the sunshine, or preferably the shade, grazing on sweet grass, listening to the birds sing and the bees buzz.

At last it was time. The runs had been set up the day before, so no need to wait for Mam to put them out. Yesterday, he and Roscoe had devoted their time to eating the long grass growing up against the vegetable beds. Today they would go for the longer tufts in the middle.

Tomorrow… was another day.

Roscoe spent the first few minutes with his nose on the ground, checking for intruders.

“Hedgehog last night, Nev,” he called. “Something else this morning, don’t know what.”

“Where?” Neville munched his way through the grass to where Roscoe was sniffing. Roscoe moved on a good few feet and sniffed again.

“This is strange.”

“Why?” Neville asked.

“Well, it doesn’t smell like a bird, but there’s no trail between there and here, and… yes, over here. It’s either very big, taking big strides, or it’s flying in between steps.”

Neville stopped grazing and looked up, still chewing the ample supply he’d stored in his cheeks in case of interruptions. Not that Roscoe ever interrupted him.

“How could it fly if it isn’t a bird?”

“Good question.” Roscoe quartered the area, mapping out where the visitor had been. “I reckon it came in here… then went over here… then here…”

Neville watched as Roscoe mapped out a sort of zigzag path that sometimes did several zigs before it zagged again, and then left near the spot it had come in.

“So something jumped in, jumped around a bit, and jumped out again?” Neville summarised, but always ended like a question, because Roscoe preferred it that way.

“That sounds about right, yes. I wonder what would do that.”

“Maybe you’ll think of something while you sleep?”

“Ah, good idea. Nap time.”

A life of grass and naps on a balmy summer afternoon suited the boys just fine. But today, it was rudely interrupted.

“Hey up! Anybody home?”

Roscoe opened one eye and closed it again. Neville stood up, ready to find a safer spot if needed.  They were already in their tunnel, so if it was a cat they’d be safe, and besides, Mam would have chased away a cat.

“Ahoy there, in the tunnel. Can I come in?”

“NO! You can’t, no, sorry. Private.” Neville scuttled forward to peer out, into the face of something his own size. It looked a bit like a lemon agouti guinea pig with short round ears, but the face wasn’t quite right, and he had broader front teeth. “Er, hello. Who are you?”

“I might ask the same meself, seeing as I live here.”

“No you don’t, we live here. This is our garden, and you’re trespassing. Where do you really live?”

“Up in the trees there. I come down every now and then to search for acorns and the like. You’ve got a nice hazel at the bottom of the garden. Love burying those nuts for winter.”

“Nuts?”

“The fruits of nut trees. Don’t tell me you’ve never had a nut?”

“We have nuggets and pellets, and all sorts of nice things, but I don’t think I’ve had a nut. Roscoe, do we eat nuts?”

Roscoe had arrived as backup. “No, Nev. Not nuts, no. Never.”

“Oh, right then. Not nut-eaters. We’ll get on splendidly then. My name’s Tiffin. What’s yours?”

Roscoe squeezed past to take charge. “I’m Roscoe and this is Neville. Don’t bother with the others; they talk funny.”

“Funny, right.” Tiffin looked like they weren’t the only ones in his opinion.

“Did you jump in our run last night then?” Roscoe squeezed out and demonstrated the route. 

“Oh, yes, but here, let me show you.” He bounced around, following the track Roscoe had mapped out. 

“Oh, you popcorn!”

“What?” 

Roscoe leapt in the air and turned round at the same time. “I haven’t done that for years.”

“You don’t have to turn around,” Neville said, demonstrating a bound in the air landing in the same spot. “No, I haven’t done that for years either. Mostly youngsters do it.”

“Oh, it’s the only way to travel,” Tiffin said. “Saves hours of plodding.”

“Maybe we should try that,” Roscoe said, doubtfully. Popcorning took up a lot of energy at his age.

“Yes, get your popcorning skills updated, and then maybe you can come home with me for a visit.”

“Where do you live?” Neville remembered him saying ‘in the tree’ but he couldn’t see any holes near the ground that might be a front door.

“Up in that drey, up there.” 

They looked up, and up, until they saw a fuzzy ball of leaves and twigs and stuff.

“You mean….” 

“Up in the sky?” Neville finished with a squeak.

“Well, that’s right kind of you to offer,” said Roscoe in his deep, important voice, “But we prefer to stay at ground level. Perhaps we can take tea here on another occasion. How does that sound?”

“Great!’ said Tiffin. “I’ll bring the nuts.”

Roscoe nodded, and watched as their new friend bounced off.

“I don’t know what you think, Nev, but I think he’s nuts living way up there.”

“Takes all sorts, Roscoe, all sorts. Nice visitor, though.”

“Yeah, very…” Roscoe took a mouthful of grass while he thought of a suitable word. And since he couldn’t, he carried on grazing.

© J M Pett 2022

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Visitor | #writephoto Flash Fiction
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