The Mayor of Little Yew (a squirrel story)

A story looking for a home

Note to the reader: Writers are always advised to write for a well defined audience. The following story had the most well defined audience posisble; my younger brother, Shimon. It all started a half-century ago, as children growing up in North London. Every night, when sent to bed, I would recite another episode of the “Squirrel Stories” — the adventures of a group of good-hearted yet mischievous squirrels who lived in the forest at the end of our street. I’ve decided to that it was about time those pesky squirrels made a reappearance. This is child’s tale, but with long sentenses and difficult words. Please tell me if you like it. If so, I will publish more.

Hello, my name is Tosh and I’m a squirrel. I live in a neck of the woods named Little Yew, on account of there once being a little Yew tree there, although no one has ever seen it. Lots of interesting things happen in Little Yew, and I’ll be dropping by from time to time to tell you about some of them. Today, I want to tell you about our esteemed Mayor.

Sir Melvin Edwards Lord Little Yew is an extremely pompous squirrel. Since being elected mayor he has been putting on all manner of airs and graces, (although to be honest, he was not overly modest prior to his election). He wanders about the forest, always wearing his special chain of office, and expects all who pass by to greet him with his full title. He is most annoyed if you just say Sir Melvin, or even Sir Melvin Edwards. No, it has to be the full Sir Melvin Edward Lord Little Yew. He actually spends a lot of time strolling about and seems to enjoy being greeted by any squirrels he passes on the way. He even passed a decree saying that he must always be addressed using his full title and name.

Now you could be forgiven for thinking that the Mayor deserves all the accolades he can get. After all, he is the judge, the policeman, the postmaster, the tax inspector, and the inspector-of-munitions of Little Yew. But the truth is, there is not much for him to do in any of these most prestigious of positions. There has never been a court case in Little Yew, so the workload of the judge is not exactly onerous. The only crime ever committed was when Bob’s nut hoard was stolen, but even then, it was never really established that the scatterbrained Bob had actually put his nuts where he thought he did. Hercules the Badger was interrogated over the incident, but as Badgers don’t eat nuts, he was never a likely suspect. So, as you see, the policeman’s lot is not an unhappy one. The postmaster is indeed a most valuable profession, except that none of the squirrels in Little Yew has ever sent or received a letter. Likewise, the tax collector is somewhat underemployed, as squirrels don’t pay taxes. And as for inspector-of-munitions, well, no one actually knows what that means.

One sunny morning, Sir Melvin Edward Lord Little Yew was having his usual stroll amongst the trees and bushes of the village, when he noticed Fred, an elderly squirrel much beloved in the community, walking his way. He prepared to bathe himself in the warm glow of public recognition, but when he glanced again, he caught just a glimpse of Fred’s bushy tale as he rushed off into the undergrowth.

“Most strange,” thought the Mayor. “He must have been called away suddenly on some very urgent business.”

A few steps later he saw Mildred coming along the path with her thirteen children in tow. The Mayor was just contemplating the question of at what age should the citizens of Little Yew be obliged to address him by his full title when he saw Mildred turn around and quickly push her offspring hurriedly back up the path.

“Most strange,” thought the mayor. “Mildred must have forgotten something important at home.”

The mayor continued on his way along the path that ran between the trees and undergrowth when suddenly he saw Peter, Peter and Peter coming his way. Peter, Peter and Peter were three mischievous triplets, whose mother had decided to call them all by the same name. She thought, most wisely, that to prevent her from getting their names wrong, she would give them all the same name to avoid any confusion.

The Mayor was pleasantly surprised when Peter said “Good day to you Sir Melvin Edward Lord Little Yew”, followed by Peter who said “Most pedantic greetings Sir Melvin Edward Lord Little Yew.”

Peter also chipped in with “Most honoured to join paths with you on this fine morning Sir Melvin Edward Lord Little Yew”

The Mayor, feeling more than a little chuffed, replied, “Thank you, Peter, and good day to you too.”

Peter asked, “Are you referring to Peter, Peter or Peter? We should be specific about these things.”

“Well does it really matter,” asked the Mayor.

“Most definitely,” replied Peter.

“Well, I was referring to Peter, Peter and Peter,” said the Mayor, thinking to himself how he must have misjudged Peter, Peter and Peter. They are such polite respectful squirrels.

Peter said, “Goodbye Sir Melvin Edward Lord Little Yew.”

Peter said, “Goodbye Sir Melvin Edward Lord Little Yew.”

Peter said, “Goodbye Sir Melvin Edward Lord Little Yew.”

And they continued on their way.

The mayor was beginning to notice that, with the notable exception of Peter, Peter and Peter, all the squirrels were avoiding him. He hardly met a soul on his walks and could have sworn that he saw various squirrels scampering off into the undergrowth as he approached.

That evening, back at his hole in the tree, resting after a hard day’s strolling, the mayor asked his understanding wife, Mrs Edwards, if she could explain this strange situation. Now, Mrs Edwards was a very understanding squirrel, and over the years had learned to accept philosophically her husband’s little eccentricities. Her usual response was to say, most sensibly, “Yes Dear.” However, on this occasion, a more detailed response was clearly required.

“When did this most strange of circumstances come about?” She asked.

The Mayor thought carefully and replied, “Well I don’t know really; it’s been going on for a few days I suppose.”

Now the wise Mrs Edwards knew the exact reason, but over the years she had learned that it was usually best for her husband to think that things were his idea. So she continued, “You have been very busy recently, after all, you did issue that decree a few days ago, and you did have to spend a long time thinking about it, at least four minutes. Maybe the fine squirrels of Little Yew, out of the goodness of their hearts, realised that you must have been tired and didn’t want to tire you out with unnecessary conversations. After all, they now have to use your full title every time, which must be most exhausting for you to hear so often”.

The Mayor thought about this for a few moments. “Come to think of it, this did all start after I issued the decree, so that could well be the reason. Why didn’t this occur to me before?”

The next day, the Mayor came home in a very excited state of mind. “Those wonderful boys, Peter, Peter and Peter have given me an excellent idea. After they greeted me at least thirty times today, I respectfully suggested that maybe they could refrain slightly. Even though their determination to fulfil their civic duty was most admirable, it was becoming a trifle, well, tiring. They seemed very disappointed, but then came up with a brilliant suggestion; that the citizens should address me using the initials of my full name and title, so they can show me the respect that is my due, but could say it quicker.”

“Sounds most ingenious,” said Mrs Edwards.

The Mayor spent the rest of the evening in deep thought, and just before nest time, he announced, “I will issue a new decree.”

Mrs Edwards replied, “Well if you think that’s wise dear, after all, you know how tiring that can be.”

“That is correct, my dear,” answered the Mayor, “but as a public servant, I have no choice but to act in the best interests of the good squirrels of Little Yew. The current situation is intolerable. The squirrels must not be denied the honour of greeting their esteemed mayor in a full and dignified manner, out of their deep-rooted sense of concern regarding my welfare.”

“Yes Dear,” said Mrs. Edwards.

“So to help the squirrels of Little Yew fulfil their civic duties as they so fervently desire, I will decree that from now on I do not need to be called by my full name and title. It will suffice to address me by the initials only.”

“Yes Dear,” said Mrs Edwards.

The next day the decree was posted on the big oak tree by the stream, as was the custom.

The following evening the Mayor returned to his hole and sat down next to his wife

“What a most pleasant day I’ve had,” said the Mayor. “The decree was most effective. I think that every squirrel in Little Yew came out to greet me today. And those nice boys, Peter, Peter and Peter must have greeted me forty times. I was beginning to think that they were following me, waiting for any opportunity to pay their respects. Bob didn’t scurry off into the woods today, and Mildred and all of her children greeted me one by one. It was most gratifying.”

Mrs Edwards then asked, “Dear, should I also call you by the initials of your full name and title?”

The Mayor reflected on this for a moment. “Well, even though you are my wife, you cannot be excluded from municipal decrees, so yes, maybe you should.”

“Fine,” answered Mrs Edwards. “So be it. But it’s getting very late and I’m tired. Shall we go to bed, my dearest SMELLY?”

When I’m not a poet, novelist, or writer of short stories, I’m a writer of creative non-fiction exploring Self, Food, Society and History.

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