“Veronica! Wait!” I’d spotted her near the bandshell, still as lovely as the last time I’d seen her, and I ran to catch up. “It’s me, Ted!”
“Ted?…Ted!? I…thought you left me.”
“Oh Veronica! I would never leave you like that. I’ve just been…hiding.”
“From predators.” I gestured vaguely toward the sky: “Large birds, dogs, shadows cast by airplanes…”
“But, Ted…” Veronica stammered, “how…how come you’re a squirrel?” She made a show of rubbing her eyes, smudging her mascara in the process. There was nothing wrong with her eyes. I was, in fact, a squirrel.
“It’s a long story.”
“It’d have to be.”
I scampered up onto a nearby park bench, and made a gesture I hoped was the squirrel equivalent of “please sit down and join me.” She hesitated for a second, then sat down, taking care not to squash my tail.
“Go on, Ted.”
I paused. I’d played out this conversation hundreds of times in my head over the last seven months. But rehearsing it alone, in the privacy of the park garbage bins, was one thing; to actually be face to face with Veronica again…
I swallowed. I knew what I had to do.
“I…Veronica, do you remember the last time we were together?”
“Of course I remember, Ted. The fair last summer! How could I forget?”
“Right. The rides, the cotton candy. I tried to win you a stuffed animal at the ring toss.”
“Is that why you left, Ted? Because you couldn’t do the damned ring toss? It happens to every guy, I told you that!”
I sighed. This was going to be harder than I’d thought; she still wasn’t ready to focus on what really mattered.
“No, that wasn’t it. You remember, as it was getting dark and we were starting to leave, that fortune teller called out to us? To tell our fortune?”
I sighed again. “And I called her a…”
“…A…stupid, ugly gypsy.”
“A stupid ugly gypsy,” I confirmed, sighing again.
“Ted, did that fortune teller turn you into a squirrel?”
“I didn’t think so!”
“She had a friend do it.”
Veronica nodded slowly, digesting this. I was digesting most of a hamburger bun, myself, so I knew she needed time.
“So what now, Ted?” she said at last. “Do you want…to get back together?”
I had been afraid of this. I knew I owed her an honest reply, but that didn’t make it easy.
“Veronica, I’d be lying to you if I said I hadn’t had sex with nine other squirrels in the last 37 days.”
She looked heartbroken, like the little girl who’d tried to pet me just the day before. That girl didn’t like it when I scratched her hand, and Veronica certainly wasn’t enjoying this.
“Girl squirrels, of course,” I added.
“…of course…” she seemed close to tears. I tried to be gentle as I pressed on.
“No, what I want to ask you is…I’m pretty sure I left a bag of peanuts in your purse when we were leaving the fair that time. Do you still have them?”
“The nuts? No…no, they’re gone.”
“Damn. I thought that might be the case.” My nose twitched in disappointment. “Okay, well, I should probably get going. You know what this time of year is like. It’s all bitches in heat, bitches in heat…”
“I…did not know that.”
“Well, now you do.” I hopped down from the bench. “Anyways, you take care.”
I waved my tail and scampered away. I was going to miss Veronica. We had had some good times together; particularly when she was in heat. But things were different now. She no longer had any nuts.
And her hindquarters were all wrong.