The One About A Squirrel

Photo by Evan McDougall on Unsplash
Note: For the next year, I plan to write a short story every day. Some may be 
palatable, even enjoyable(?). Others may be horrendous. If you like them, like them or share them. If you don’t, well it is whatever. I’m doing it as a challenge someone gave me. I’m calling these my fivers. I try and write them without stopping in five minutes, little to no editing after the time limit. Each story or post will come from a different prompt I am given. These are just exercises for me to be in the process of writing.

 

I grew up in small, rural America. Some people have called my area the rust belt; others have called it the snow belt. I called it home. In the sleepy towns of NW PA, there was a small private Christian school that I attended for most of my life from Kindergarten through 11th grade. The elementary wing of French Creek Valley Christian School had these decently giant windows to allow for natural light, as well as a good distraction for most of my classmates while some teacher went on about time, times tables, writing cursive, or the rudimentary knowledge of grammar. Grammar was the time that I would space out in the day, but I didn’t do it in a way that made the teacher genuinely suspect that I wasn’t listening.

One day, I don’t know for how long, but I blatantly watched two squirrels play with each other in the most jovial and playful manner. I don’t remember what drew me in; it might have been the changing of the weather. It was May! May in Pennsylvania was my favorite time of the year, and I found these two squirrel-mates living in a manner that made me envy them. While I heard this teacher go on about adjectives, nouns, verbs, and adverbs, my mind was analyzing what I was watching. Plato made the statement that a student’s formal, lecturing education should happen later on in life while as a youth they should learn the control of self through body and mind training. Education was to turn the light of our eyes to the goodness within us, thinks Plato. Well, chubby little Phil wanted to be jovial and lounge in the sun while I played. I kept hearing my teacher sound like the parents’ from the cartoon strip Peanuts.

As the squirrels played, they seemed to drift farther and farther from me. I watched them intensely, using anything I could to get a good eye on their bonding time. It was somehow a chance to escape the confines of my education to live a child’s dream — to simply be within the world. The next thing I knew my escape was immediately interrupted by the teacher calling out my name. “Philip! What are you doing?” As I heard the teacher, my mind reinstated the necessity to be a drone. However, I was more than halfway out of my seat, leaning more than half of my body sideways to watch the squirrels. Seeking to catch my balance, I spoke the truth. I wasn’t paying attention teacher. I cared more about the squirrels than this grammar lesson.

As I recentered upon the lesson, my mind couldn’t help but go back to the squirrels. Squirrels are funny creatures! Yet, they are fascinating in a peculiar way. I learned something valuable that day that I more recently realized in my adult life. Jovial and playfulness come to us in the moments of sheer non-expectation. Those squirrels did not happen to plan it; no, instead, they found themselves raptured into it. We become overwhelmed by chance to do something many of dream about: to find joy within the most serious of times.

How dare these squirrels to interrupt teaching of grammar for some nutty fun and comradery. But TRULY, it was the opposite! How dare we intrude into the scared moment of joy, innocence, and profound connectedness with a quibbling triffle about constucted rules to communicate through a medium other than oral language.  A bit of pleasure within the fabric of life isn’t found by the removal of things. Friend, joy is located in the midst of life. Connectedness is found within doing, not planning. Playfulness cannot be prepared or forced; instead, it becomes playful from the busy. There is much to say, but squirrels, small creatures of God’s creation, taught me that at a young age. I’m still learning it.

The One Time Water Nearly Killed Me

Photo by Zen Photographer on Unsplash
Note: For the next year, I plan to write a short story every day. Some may be 
palatable, even enjoyable(?). Others may be horrendous. If you like them, like them or share them. If you don’t, well it is whatever. I’m doing it as a challenge someone gave me. I’m calling these my fivers. I try and write them without stopping in five minutes, little to no editing after the time limit. Each story or post will come from a different prompt I am given. These are just exercises for me to be in the process of writing.

 

My first real experience with water was also the moment I remember having a traumatic experience. The trauma was brought on by myself. It wasn’t like my dad and mom acted like a mother bird trying to get her chicks to fly by pushing them out of the nest. No, I jumped into the water thinking I knew what to do. But, I’m getting ahead of this short story.

My family rarely traveled, but, for some reason, we were at a hotel that had a swimming pool. The whole family was excited, and we got ready to go to the pool as one family. It truly was a unique family moment for the Worrall clan. I remember putting on my swimming trunks being overtly excited like a kid given his first sip of coffee. I felt like I was bouncing off the walls. I wanted to urge my mother and father to get me down to the pool; what if it left. What if we didn’t have enough time! All I believed was that the pool was going somewhere and I had to be in it for wherever it was going to go. I couldn’t have been older than six when this magical moment happened. (Pause, if you know nothing about my family. Let me give you some insider information! I’m the youngest of six children, five boys and one girl.)

Alright, so some of the older siblings were able to go to the pool before myself and my sister Alice, had to be accompanied by mom and dad. My third brother, John, had a key to a hotel room. It was a huge responsibility; sort of, not really, but, in my mind, it was like one of the elven rings of LOTR. So, as I rush in giddy as all can be with a dopey smile from ear to ear. I heard my brother John say quite loudly. “Where is my key!? Can anyone see where the room key is?” Somehow, I internalized that cry for help like the Batman signal was being lit by Commissioner Gordon. I had to act, and there was only one person who could save that key. It could just be me…I am the chosen one. The key is small. I’m small. It makes total sense.

Then, in the midst of my glee and hearing the cry for help, my body without hesitation rushed towards where my brothers were at, wading through the water looking for the mischevious room key. It felt like a slow-motion scene from a feel-good action movie! I could hear the music rumbling. My little chubby body rushing towards the water. I screamed, “I GOT THIS!!!” But, I really didn’t. Then, I jumped into the water. As my little legs left the ground and my body was curling into a ball. It was like my analytical brain turned on for the first time. I heard myself say, “I can’t swim!!!”

I hit the water like a brick. Chubby fat rolls hit the water and burned like I made the gravest mistake of my life. I flailed in the water. My mind whispered, “This is it…this is how you die in front of everyone. No one will save you. Evolution kills the weak.” Besides that last sentence, this is what went running through my mind as my body bobbed up and down like an ocean buoy, except I didn’t know how to word it other than, upon reflection, realizing I was drowning.

Right before everything went black, I felt a giant tug on my hair. At that moment, my father rushed to the side of the pool. With my father’s giant hand and forearm, he palmed my head and grabbed my hair. Like a crane, my dad picked me up by the head pulling my hair, and he lifted me out of the water. I was simultaneously grateful, and I was upset that he pulled me up by my head. My dad quickly looked at me with a higher pitched voice, “What in the world were you thinking son??” “Well, dad…” stammering and coughing up water, “I thought…I thought I could find the key. And, and, and…I realized before I hit the water that you never taught me how to swim. ALL I wanted to do was be a hero and help.”

My dad shook his head, and he took me to a chair to relax. He mentioned that I shouldn’t go in the water till I was ready. I had to have some self-awareness, recognizing that I can’t do everything. I can’t be everything. It bugged me to an nth degree. I sat there shivering because the water reminded me of my frailty. My mom came over to me, and she asked me how I was doing. I remember I cried a bit because for some reason I thought dad was going to be really upset with me and that I was in trouble. My mom chuckled at me, for a few seconds. “That isn’t funny, but that is ridiculous Pip.” She told me to let her know when I was ready to go back in the water to come find her and use the stairs.

I sat there for a few minutes with the sniffles and doing that little kid thing when they aren’t crying but are holding back tears. What is that called? Oh yeah, I was whimpering/ sobbing and kinda had this face like I was permanently going to be stuck in the corner while everyone swam. I got the courage to go back in the water after ten minutes. Nothing could stop me, I knew I had to conquer my fear. But, I still didn’t know how to swim. C’est la vie; I’m still here.

 

Do We Understand Friendship?’

“I have no duty to be anyone’s Friend and no man in the world has a duty to be mine. No claims, no shadow of necessity. Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself (for God did not need to create). It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”

 

 

“Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one.”

 

“The very condition of having Friends is that we should want something else besides Friends. Where the truthful answer to the question “Do you see the same truth?” would be “I see nothing and I don’t care about the truth; I only want a Friend,” no Friendship can arise – though Affection of course may. There would be nothing for the Friendship to be about; and Friendship must be about something, even if it were only an enthusiasm for dominoes or white mice. Those who have nothing can share nothing; those who are going nowhere can have no fellow-travellers.”

 

“Eros will have naked bodies; Friendship naked personalities.” 

 

“But in Friendship, being free of all that, we think we have chosen our peers. In reality, a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another, posting to different regiments, the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting—any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret Master of the Ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples ‘Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,’ can truly say to every group of Christian friends “You have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The Friendship is not a reward for our discrimination and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each the beauties of all the others. They are no greater than the beauties of a thousand other men; by Friendship God opens our eyes to them. They are, like all beauties, derived from Him, and then, in a good Friendship, increased by Him through the Friendship itself, so that it is His instrument for creating as well as for revealing.”

 

All these quotes are from the section on Friendship in C.S. Lewis’ book called, The Four Loves. It is a superb book, one of his lesser widely read. Lewis did such a great job, and I kept trying to write something but to no avail. So, the quotes should help getting you to think about what it means to be a friend, have friends, and finding a friend. The last quote is the best, because he connects it to Jesus. BOOM!