Conversation with a squirrel I


Translated by Andrew Fentem

The other day, I didn’t go to work. I wasn’t suffering a sudden fit of laziness which resulted in my being unable to get out of bed until two in the afternoon, nor did I lie and ring in ill when I was really fit as a fiddle. No, I swear that I left my flat in good spirits very early in the morning (as always when I set out to work), with the firm intention of going to earn my daily crust. I went down Demesne Road like I do every day to get to the bus stop but, at the exact point where the road comes to an end and it becomes a footpath between Alexandra Park on the one side and a Shell petrol station on the other, I was stopped in my tracks by a grey squirrel (as in Glasgow, the squirrels in Manchester are grey).
-Hello, sir, would you care for five pounds of nuts?
- Pardon me?
-There’s a surplus of nuts at the moment so we’re trying to get rid of them, you see...
-Oh, I see. I actually like nuts a lot you know but five pounds - I’m not sure what I would do with them all...
-How about two pounds then..?
-Oh! ... well ... OK. How much do I owe you then?
-It’s very kind of you to offer to pay me, but I don’t use money myself...
-However... yes?
-This park is much too small for us. Couldn’t you make it a bit bigger perhaps - a bit more spacious… And get all these ducks to shut up too - they make a right racket. And there are far too many visitors to the park. A squirrel just can’t get any peace here at all.
-I’m afraid I don’t think I can help you out with that but wait…
The squirrel stared at me intently, watching me with his small eyes as I fumbled around in the bottom of my jacket pockets.
-Listen, I have an idea. This is my pass for getting into Shell, the place where I work. I'll let you have it for the day while I hang around in these trees for a while and take in a bit of height. Then maybe I'll be able to think of a way in which I can help you.

No sooner had I finished speaking than the squirrel had snatched my pass out of my hands and was running towards the 104 bus which, two minutes earlier, I had been intending to catch myself. As I watched it run, I started climbing the trees and noticed that, as I did so, I gradually became covered in grey fur and started thinking about the Belgian and Dutch employees at Shell who would be calling the helpdesk that day without realising they were speaking to a squirrel about their computer problems.

Conversation with a squirrel II