The Squirrel Who Came to Dinner

The squirrel who came to dinner filled the plate.

‘Maybe you should have cut off the tail,’ Aunt Olive said.

‘Or cleaned it,’ said Uncle Jack.

‘Maybe cooked it,’ said Cousin Ezekiel.

Anne resented their remarks as much as she resented their visiting her, once a year, always now, as if she or they wanted a Reunion. She waited. The ice melted in their drinks they had brought to the table. She waited.

They looked at her from time to time, and exchanged Significant Looks with each other. Aeons went by, maybe fifty seconds.

The squirrel sat up. Aunt Olive jumped up. The squirrel waved its tail. Uncle Jack stood up. Cousin Ezekiel waved.

‘I am an angel,’ said the squirrel. ‘You may each make three wishes.’

‘Don’t look at me,’ Alice told her relatives. They looked back at the squirrel. It radiated, maybe charm.

‘Three wishes each?’ asked Cousin Ezekiel?

The squirrel bowed.

‘I wish I had a new car, one I actually can drive the way I want to, a BMW X5,’ said Uncle Jack.

‘It said you get three wishes,’ said Aunt Olive.

‘You can wish silently, like he did for his other two,’ said the squirrel.

Aunt Olive glared at Uncle Jack but he was used to it. She turned to the squirrel.

‘Well, I want world peace,’ she said. The squirrel blushed right through its fur, receiving her other wishes.

‘Don’t you have wishes?’ the squirrel asked Cousin Ezekiel. He had slumped down in his chair and now he fell onto the edge of the table and to the floor.

‘One of your wishes?’ Aunt Olive snarled at Uncle Jack. He did not hear her. He was looking at the car keys on his plate.

‘Can we have his wishes?’ Uncle Jack asked the squirrel.

Alice turned Cousin Ezekiel on his back. ‘He is breathing softly, and looks as normal as often,’ she told the others.

No one paid her any attention, except the squirrel, who made an expression that may have been a rodent smile, or may have been gas.

‘When do the wishes come true?’ asked Aunt Olive. ‘Are you really an angel?’

‘Do you have a pin with a head on it?’ the squirrel asked her. ‘No? Then demonstrations will be difficult. What are wishes? Is this a Turing test? Are you a human?’

Aunt Olive and Uncle Jack looked at each other, allies in spite of being family. Uncle Jack stirred Cousin Ezekiel with his foot. Cousin Ezekiel moaned, a little. Sat up. Stood up. Genuflected.

The squirrel looked less impressed by the minute. It lay down on the plate. Its fur disappeared, and its tail, and its head. There was steam, and the aroma of roast.

Cousin Ezekiel clambered back into his chair, picked up a fork and a knife.

Anne picked up the decanter, waved it at their glasses. ‘Spirits, anyone? Visions?’