[Editor’s note: This 100% True Tale from the Oak Tree was originally published on March 18, 2009. It was a quick one-off, scribbled on the back of a packet of trail mix and handed to me by a jumpy courier chipmunk. We never imagined there would be sequels and expansions and such a lovely fan base. The casual reader should know that the stories are full of real inside jokes, that this little guys’ biggest fans are his worst in-story foils, and that every bit of this is 100% true – though names and details may be shifted around to protect the neurotic. With the author’s permission this first story has been sharpened up and re-formatted for permanent archive on this blog.]
I knew she was trouble the minute she came into my office. I looked her over, ending with those dark brown eyes. Yeah, you can guess where I started, and I was sure those boots had kicked a few shins before.
She got uncomfortably close right away. I expected that because, well, I’m a squirrel and my office is inside an oak tree. Her gams did their job well, but they weren’t that long, so she eventually got all the way inside and got comfortable.
“What can I do for you?”, I asked. I savored the quiet pause. The real question was, ‘Who’s the problem?’. It almost always is, and with her those cold eyes told me she had problems to pick from.
She jumped right in, with surprising passion. “Stop playing games. You know why I’m here.” Actually, I didn’t, but it seemed like a good angle to play. “Ok, toots. Let’s say I do know. Maybe the pay was good, maybe shelled walnuts even. You think I can turn that down?”
“This isn’t about nuts!” she insisted. “It’s about being decent people. And decent mammals.” The words sunk in. I sat back and sighed a little to myself. This was going to be another cross-species complication. And probably expensive. But I thought she was kinda cute, in the right places, so I listened.
She was perceptive. Too perceptive. She saw my stance soften and jumped in for what she wanted. “I know you’ve had your men following me.”
“Men?” I interrupted?
“You know what I mean! Don’t make this difficult.” I nodded ‘ok’ and she started over.
“Your agents have been following me, with cameras. They’re always there, everywhere I go.”
I was starting to remember this dame now. I’d buried the case file in the yard somewhere and hadn’t seen it in a while. We’d been doing some discrete surveillance. At least, I thought it was discrete. I suppose when your spy has a brain the size of a pine nut… mmmm, pine nuts… She kept on, bringing my focus back from tasty treats.
“Really, I’ve got nothing to hide, but… can’t I crash at a friends house just once, or twice, or… anyway, can’t I just enjoy some polite company without it being splashed all over the Internet?”
I hadn’t known about that, actually. I’d have to talk to the Sarge about missing it. Oh, he wasn’t really ever a sergeant anywhere, he just liked military surplus stuff.
Sarge is pretty thorough, but he does lose things sometimes.
I gave my retort. “Can it, filly. We don’t go splashing secrets around. It’s bad for business.” She wasn’t convinced, so I went on. “You should talk to your busy-body clucking hen friends,” — I didn’t literally mean hens, but I think she got it — “and tell them to check their Spanish.” I added that last bit in a gambit, to make her think I might’ve heard one of the stories somewhere.
I continued before she could nail that one down. “Here’s the deal, sugar tits.” I ducked as a boot went flying past my ear. It might have been something I said. “We’re just here trying to make a living. We got bills. We pay child support.” I knew Slick, my best shooter, had never made a payment, but I guessed that wouldn’t help my case here. “Our client in your case has already paid up, and I ain’t got the nuts to go back to him.”
“Don’t you mean balls? Like, ‘I don’t have the balls to go back'”
“No, I mean nuts, cuz the sack of nuts… ok, look, the payment has already been spent. Get it?”
“Yeah, I get it.” She looked right through me.
“So, we can’t just disappoint this client. But I’ll tell you what I can do.” She looked at me hopefully, but also with disdain. I still can’t figure out how she could do both at once. “We can settle up with the client using last week’s shots from the mall changing room cameras.”
That got her attention. “But I didn’t use the changing rooms!” Her face was passive, but I felt a steel-toe sandwich coming my way if I didn’t explain quickly.
“Yeah, I know that,” I reassured her. (Lord knows I’d scanned through the tapes a dozen times.) “But he doesn’t.”
“Look, forget I said even that much, and this will all work out. He doesn’t know you weren’t in there, but he also doesn’t know what kinda bra holder you got going under that cute outfit… Say, where did you get that blouse anyway?”
Her eyes lit up like we’d found a favorite topic, “Oh, it was a great deal at… hey, is that really important right now?” Her scowl returned.
“Right. So, we give our ‘client’ some grainy shots of a body double, tear up the salon pics, and…”
“The salon pics???” Now she really looked scared.
“Well, we call them the ‘Fraggle’ set but…”
“You have got to get rid of those!” She grabbed my desk, leaning urgently forward until I could see every detail of her expertly done eye makeup. One of my own eyes snuck down to her cleavage, lingering just long enough that she might notice… I’m pretty sure she did notice, since another spiked heel went whizzing past my ear, pinning my tail to the wall.
“Consider it done,” I reassured her again. I was bluffing anyway; Eddie had been off that day, getting his furry eyebrows did or something.
She looked relieved. She turned to leave, but stopped and looked back. “How ever can I thank you?” she asked sincerely.
“First of all, take this with you.” I handed over the boots that had previously been ballistics problems. “I’ve got enough of them in the collection.” She looked puzzled, but I wasn’t about to explain. She didn’t need to hear all the old stories right away.
“Just give me a call later on. I’m sure we can figure something out.” I knew I had to learn more about this mysterious woman. But first I had some business to take care of.
She could never find out that my client, who had wanted to know everything about her, was Tony. Tony the Dance Machine.
The money actually wasn’t very good, but he promised me dance lessons.