Mar 20, 2012

RedTail and the Copy Key

Today is the first day of Spring, and my daughter Frances' 14th birthday.
She wrote this story a couple of years ago. It is one of my favorites.
  Happy Birthday, Beautiful Girl! 

RedTail and the Copy Key
This story is dedicated to Walter and Alice Bower
  Thank you, Aunt Alice and Uncle Walter, for my beautiful keys, and for feeding RedTail and his friends.
Love,  Frances    

     RedTail traced his paw over the object. It was quite small, and heavy, but it had a pretty shape.  
     Nice key, he thought. 
     He wrapped the key in his fuzzy tail so the other squirrels couldn’t see he had it, and ran to the bushes for cover. But RedTail didn’t stop when he reached the bushes, he ran right through the forest to the other side, coming out onto a beach. RedTail ran to a rock wall and disappeared into a hole. 
Feeling more secure in his own home, RedTail removed the key from his tail and took it to the kitchen where he made himself some acorn tea and ate a slice of pumpkin bread.
    I got the key, I am the best squirrel in the whole forest! he snickered, I am the one who stole the copy key! RedTail was so pleased with himself. 
    He took a moment to study it. The top looked like a flower, but on a key ring with the top hole punched out, it looked like a heart. The key wasn’t very long and on the end was just a small piece of steel with a empty square space on the bottom. A beautiful key.
    On the other side of Islesboro was a bird feeder, a squirrel-proof one.  In that feeder was every seed known to squirrel. The lady who fed the birds had a key that she wore on a chain around her neck to open and restock the feeder, but she also kept a copy key in the barn where she kept the bags of seeds she filled her feeders with.
     All the squirrels on Islesboro had been trying to get the copy key, and with winter coming on, the search had become even more frantic. 
     But RedTail had been watching the barn cat, Jinx, for days, and when he wasn’t by his food dish, RedTail would sneak in and put herbs in it. Then, when the cat came to eat, he ate the herbs and threw up. RedTail had been doing this for days and eventually the owner had to take Jinx to the vet, so RedTail snuck in and took the took the key.
     RedTail went into his study and came back out with a map of the island. He traced his paw over the map trying to find the quickest way to the feeder, but he needed good cover, because if the other squirrels knew he had the key, they would try to steal it from him!
     Someone was knocking on the rock door. 
     “I’m coming!” RedTail called. 
     He scurried over to the door to see his friend Amber.
  “May I come in?”
  “Of course!” RedTail led her into the living room, disappeared into the kitchen, and came back a minute later with some fresh acorns.
     “What happened to you?” RedTail got a good look at Amber, and could see that she had bruises, cuts, scraps, and claw marks.
     “Birds, that’s what!” she growled stuffing her cheeks with acorns, “I was trying to get the key, and I came so close, but these birds swooped down and attacked me!”
     “Are you okay?”
     “I will be once I tell you what I came for, I have a battle plan to get the spare key!”
  “Er… I don’t think that it will be necessary.”
  “Why?” she said, sounding hurt.
  “I have the key.”
  Amber couldn’t take her eyes away from the key.
  “But how?” she asked reaching her paw out to touch it. “How did you manage to get it?”
  “That doesn’t matter, what matters is how to get to the feeder unnoticed.”
     Amber thought for a moment, then said, "I have a plan, but you’re not going to like it.”
  And it was true, he didn’t like it.  Not one bit.
  “On and off as quickly as possible!” RedTail demanded. The crisp night air of fall was making the two squirrels shiver as the drew near the beach.
  “Trust me, I won’t make this last any longer than it has to!” she said through chattering teeth. 
RedTail and Amber went to the waters edge and jumped in. The icy water felt like nettles, and was so cold it felt like it was pulling them down.
  “W-w-which way?” RedTail asked, his teeth chattering.
  “The b-b-boat Better in Butter, straight a-a-ahead,” she said pointing to a lobster boat in front of them, “I’ve b-b-been watching this b-b-boat, it leaves at night a-and fishes o-o-on the side of the island w-w-where the feeder is.”
  “People don’t fish for lobsters at night,” RedTail pointed out.
  “No, he takes his kids mackerel fishing.” Amber explained.  
     RedTail nodded, no rival squirrel will find us getting there on that, he thought, too tired and cold to speak, then swam over to the stern. They heaved themselves into the boat, climbing up the motor, then hid. The captain got on a few minutes later. RedTail tightened his grip on the key, checking to make sure it was still there, he couldn’t tell with his numb paws. It seemed like a good plan, until the boat actually started.
       RedTail had never gone so fast! His cheeks were flying behind him like he saw dogs do when they stuck their heads out car doors. The boat was racing across the water, and he could see that Amber was starting to regret her idea. While the captain wasn’t paying attention, RedTail and Amber stole a glance over the edge. The salty sea spay was getting in their faces and clinging to their whiskers, while the waves kept coming over the edge trying to push them down. It even looked like Amber was getting a little green.   Serves her right! RedTail scowled. She made us get on this thing. 
     RedTail and Amber slid back down into their hiding spots, waiting for their ride to end.
     It seemed like forever before the boat began to slow down, and as soon as Amber thought that land was close enough, she grabbed RedTail’s paw and dragged him overboard. 
     “At least I’m finding swimming easier,” Amber mumbled.
     “That’s because you’re covered in fish scales!”
     “GROSS!” Amber wailed, then they laughed. 
     The two squirrels thrashed their way back to shore then began to dry off.
     “Hey, it cut twenty minutes off our travel,” Amber said, trying to convince RedTail her idea wasn’t all bad.
     “And we got here unseen,” RedTail agreed, “but once this is over and we have our winter stash, lets just walk home.” 
     Amber nodded and the squirrels climbed their way up to the feeder.
     “Do you have the key?” Amber whispered. 
     RedTail twitched his whiskers, amused she thought he would get on that boat and actually forget the key. 
Ignoring her, he made his way up the feeder pole and silently slid the key in the lock. 
     The top of the feeder flew open as soon as he twisted the key in the lock.
     “Here it comes,” he whispered down to Amber, then dumped the seed to the ground, emptying the whole feeder. 
     Working quickly, the squirrels buried all the seed.  They buried them under bushes, trees, rocks, and even buried them out in the open. They buried the seeds every where the could think of, until the big pile in the middle had become nothing more then single scattered seeds laying around. The squirrels had completed their winters stash.
  “I think we’re done here,” Amber smiled. 
  RedTail smiled too. He could always come back when it was restocked, and he wouldn’t have to ride the boat, because now that he had his winter stash, keeping the key a secret wasn’t as important. He shook some more water from his fur, and looked back once more at the empty feeder. Winding his tail around the key the two squirrels turned around and began their journey home. On paw.

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