They were walking towards Squirrel Fishnets’ house. Todd hadn’t really said ‘come with me’, and Mrs Tiddles hadn’t just disappeared inside for her thick walking shawl for going out just like that either; in fact they exchanged a rather unaesthetic dialogue for some time. This may have included Todd going totally against the theme of the conversation to ask Mrs Tiddles if she would like to accompany him to the next country dance on Sunday, and Mrs Tiddles having to reply that she couldn’t, because she had already accepted an invitation from Mr Chips.
Anyway, they were off now. It was the big details that mattered in life. Mrs Tiddles had seemed unsure at first, but had been encouraged by his resolve.
It was cold that day in the country. Their path took them past a cow fence, and they looked at the hulking bovines peering down at them. Mrs Tiddles commented that they should have ‘joined in with the animal rebellion of ‘84 like the rest of us’. Todd just grunted noncommittantly at this, for he thought the animal rebellion of ‘84 had been a silly idea. He felt awed to be walking alongside Mrs Tiddles. She was really nice, and not bad looking either.
At Squirrel Fishnets’ house, Todd felt himself bump into Mrs Tiddles, as she seemed to have wanted to get to the front door first as well. It was unconventional to have a hole in a tree as your front door, but Todd didn’t judge. He knew that different animals had different conventions. To a squirrel, it might seem weird that he lived in a pond. Todd laughed at the thought.
Before he had had time to clear his throat and announce himself and his party, the magnified eye and bushy body of Squirrel Fishnets scrambled into view.
“Howdy partner. What can I do for you, chip?”
Todd wrinkled his nose at this term of endearment, until Mrs Tiddles pushed past him and took something from Squirrel Fishnets’ outstretched palm, and Todd realised it hadn’t been a term of endearment, Squirrel Fishnets had been offering edible chips.
“No, thank you,” said Todd. In the eye of the hurricane, he suddenly found a composure, an ability to talk. “Squirrel Nuts sent me a letter. About his strawberry start up company.”
Mrs Tiddles looked pointedly at Squirrel Fishnets from over Todd’s shoulder as he said this. Squirrel Fishnets nodded fervently.
“Oh yes, Mr Todd. I was there when he wrote it to help with his spelling. Him and Squirrel Trojan were so excited to sell strawberries. It’s a shame there’s no good strawberries now.”
Todd was quiet for a moment, to let the full implications of the situation ingest themselves in everyone.
“How is the boy now?”
“Oh he’s all to the good. I think he’s reading one of his comics. Squirrel Nuts!” She directed this last exclamation up the tree trunk. In a poof, Squirrel Nuts appeared by his mother’s side.
“Oh hello Todd,” said Squirrel Nuts. “Sorry about the strawberry subscription. Did you get our letter?”
Todd chuckled into the open air.
“Scram you. I want to say something in private to your mother.”
“Okay Mr Todd!” Squirrel Nuts said, and he whooshed back up the tree.
Todd turned his gaze to address Squirrel Fishnets.
“Would you like to come to the country dance with me on Sunday?”
Mrs Tiddles gave an exaggerated eye roll and shook her head with her eyes down from over Todd’s shoulder so Squirrel Fishnets could have seen. Squirrel Fishnets’ face lit up.
“I’d love to Todd! I was hoping someone would ask me. Oh, thank you!” Squirrel Fishnets dashed out of the trunk before Todd could stop her and gave him a peck on the cheek. Todd held out a hand to put some distance between him and Mrs Tiddles, a rye smile on his face.
“I’ll see you on Sunday.” He tapped his hand on his head, then started walking away.
“Nice to see you Squirrel Fishnets, we really must catch up some time,” called Mrs Tiddles, caught by the increasing distance between her two friends.
“Always lovely to see you Mrs Tiddles! I’m sure we can catch up at the dance on Sunday.”
“Yes good idea,” called Mrs Tiddles, moving away now to catch up with Todd.
Squirrel Fishnets waved and called goodbye, then went back inside her home.
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