The squirrel: furry forest friend or pestiferous urban vermin? That's the topic of tonight's show where we let the viewer decide.
"Hopping his Merry Way across the sidewalk and onto the trunk of the lone Maple, I see my Friend the squirrel come to break the paved Drear of my city block. I breathe a whiff of emergent Nature."
"What sound is more frightful than the shrill chitter-chatter of the mad squirrel that dismembered the trash bag behind my Building? It dragged off a carcass of pizza crust that I watched disappear round the corner like my Hope.
"The center of Power is shifting and we do nothing to stop it."
Though it has long been known that squirrels spread Rabies to pets and children, it is only recently that researchers have proven the amazing ability of these rodents to spread Gossip.
Studies done by Hunt and Greimas at the University of Michigan (2010) suggest that an even minimally dense squirrel population can move an item of salacious Rumor across an urban space and into the suburbs even faster than traditional print Media.
The squirrel rests on its haunches, eating the Chestnut held in its forepaws. Its tail, curved into a stiff "S," stands to attention behind the upright silver body.
When the tasty tidbit concerned a prominent or fashionable young Woman, squirrels were found to spread the slander at a speed and efficiency approaching that of the Internet. This led Greimas to conclude in a Dec. 2011 interview in Zoological American that: "A squirrel is a suburban housewife trapped in a rodent's body."
Hunt, however, has disagreed with his this assessment, stating in a counter interview in Nature: "The soul of squirrels cannot be gendered or classed this way. A squirrel, in my view, is a small mammalian incarnation of the god Hermes. That is how we should treat them. Parkside libations, peanut butter, the works."
A squirrel is the pilonidal cyst of the animal kingdom; it is a compact yet motile furball of pent-up office park Rage.
Greimas: "Note the beady black eyes always on you, the twitching. You approach the tree from one side, it scutters round to the other. You go to the other side and it scutters back, the twitching tail all the while sending Messages in every direction, mean backstabbing bytes of Gossip."
Hunt: "In his role as psychopomp, Hermes led the dead to the Underworld, his caduceus held aloft and guiding them like the squirrel's tail. If only we could cleanse our eyes to see. If only we could read the divine chatter. The word hermeneutics, after all, comes from Hermes."
To move through life like a squirrel leaping branch to branch, Philosophy my tail keeping balance, my path developed by a fractal logic, out to the perimeter of one Oak, then working toward the center of Another. To accept each day with its acorns and near auto misses, ever aware of the boy with the Pellet Gun who lives down the lane.
Greimas: "My research points to one of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors as most effective. I've especially shown good results using Sertraline, which can slow the gossip-mongering of these rodents significantly."
"C'mon, kids!" Buddy Squirrel exclaimed, waving the crowd to the platform. "C'mon! The Acorn Train is about to depart! It's time to go to NutterNutterLand!"
Hunt: "United with Thoth, he brought us the Corpus Hermeticum."
Greimas: "Within ten years, I predict prudent city councils will be earmarking funds to medicate their squirrel populations."
Whether Greimas or Hunt's approach will best help us appease the Wrath of these small tree-hugging mammals, whether they are friends or chattering foes, there is one thing I think we can all agree on here: Squirrels would be nowhere without their extravagant tails.
If Evolutionists point to the tail as having evolved to help the animal balance, we can point another important survival-enhancing aspect of the tail: It's the one thing that makes squirrels cute.
Only raze the fur from a squirrel's tail and you get a largish tree-climbing rat. How long would a neurotic, hygiene-obsessed species like ourselves have tolerated such a creature in our parks and school yards, chattering at our children and denying the Trinity? How long would this verbose vermin have survived?
Whether parkbench backbiters or avatars of Greco-Roman divinity, we'd have exterminated the lot of them back in the Fifties.
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This and many other animal musings are collected in my new book Idiocy, Ltd.--dryest damn prose in the West.