Art Interludes, Literature, Valley Voices

The Squirrel & The Owl

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Story Craig Spence / Art Diana Durrand

Ptero was  going about his business one evening, searching for nuts, berries and tasty insects to eat, when – whoosh – Bubo, the owl swept down and snatched him up in her talons.

He struggled and squirmed, but she held him fast in her powerful grip, and he knew he could not survive long. He had to think quickly if he was ever to see his nest again.

‘Bubo!’ he gasped. ‘Bubo, why would you bother eating a scrawny little squirrel like me. Winter has just ended, and I’m not much more than a skeleton right now. Let me go, and I promise to return to the very branch you snatched me from in three month’s time. Then I will be plump and delicious, and make a mouthful… er, a beakful.’

Because squirrels always keep their word, Bubo agreed to Ptero’s request, and returned on the appointed evening to find his prey, plump and well-fed, on the same branch where they’d first met. Bubo swooped down and carried him off again.

‘Bubo,’ Ptero pleaded this time. ‘Why would you tear me to pieces and eat me up now, when it is the season I am preparing to make many meals for you?’

‘Explain yourself, and be quick about it, for I am hungry,’ Bubo demanded.

‘It’s springtime, and I must mate. Soon there will be many of me scampering amongst the branches for you to catch and eat. Three more months, and I promise to return so you can me carry off a third time. But by then there will be many more like me for you to feast on.’

To Bubo this made good sense, so he returned Ptero to their favourite branch. ‘I shall see you in three months my little friend, then – sadly – I will have to gobble you up, for that is my nature,’ she said as she flew off.

So Ptero met a mate, and they had a family, and after the three months past he returned for Bubo to catch again.

‘What am I to say now,’ Ptero fretted, shivering with fright. He thought, and thought, but no new ideas came to him before Bubo glided silently overhead and snatched him up a third time.

‘So Ptero,’ the owl said as they flew away, ‘what reason are you going to give me tonight to keep me from my dinner?’

Ptero had nothing to offer, so he went limp in Bubo’s talons, closed his eyes, and prepared for his grisly fate.

‘Before I devour you, let me ask a question,’ Bubo said.

Eager to postpone what was surely coming, even for a heartbeat – and I  can tell you, a squirrel’s heart beats very quickly when he is afraid – Ptero replied, ‘Please ask, and I will do my best to answer.’

‘What time of year is it, my scrumptious little friend?’

Now, to Ptero this seemed a silly question. But he pretended to be puzzled, and took as many wing beats as he possibly could to answer. ‘It is the season of long days and warm weather,’ he said at last.

‘Indeed,’ Bubo agreed. ‘It is also the season of abundance, is it not, when an owl can catch more food on a single night’s hunt than she could eat in a week.’

‘True,’ Ptero agreed.

‘And what season will arrive in three month’s time?’

‘Why that would be the season of falling leaves and withering fruit.’

‘So what might a wise owl do – and there is no such thing as an owl who-hoo-hoo isn’t wise – what might a wise owl do with a bit of prey, if her stomach and larder were already full, but winter was on its way?’

Ptero hesitated, fearful of making a guess. But he finally screwed up enough courage to say, ‘He might return a little squirrel to its branch and come back again in three month’s time, when his larder and belly will both be empty?’

‘Ah!’ Bubo hooted happily. ‘Excellent idea. Why, if you weren’t shaped like a plump little rodent, I might mistake you for one of my kind.’

And so for many seasons Ptero and Bubo have been getting together for their pleasant flights, and neither has figured out in all that time why one should eat the other. You could even say they’ve become good friends.

~ The End ~

About Craig Spence

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