Synopsis: On the corner of Scurry Lane lives a young squirrel, Roundabout and his family. Roundabout is still a youth so he is discovering the world and learning day by day. Like other creatures, he attends Woodland Elementary to become educated in basic survival skills. He finds 'house dwellers' fascinating but only at a distance. However his life is forever transformed when a little girl, Jane Baum, saves his life during a particularly gelid winter.
Verna RedSquirrel (his mother)
Chipper 'Chip' Redsquirrel (his father)
Walter 'Wally' Redsquirrel (his younger brother)
Fiona Nadine Redsquirrel (his baby sister)
Nadine Marie Redsquirrel (grandmother)
Abraham 'Abe' Redsquirrel (grandfather)
Madaline 'Maddy' Auburnsquirrel (girlfriend/mate)
Sully Skunk (Wally's best friend)
Anastasia Snowy Owl (teacher)
Jasper Fieldmouse (Roundabout's best friend)
Opal Raccoon (Roundabout's crush)
April Baum (Jane's mother)
David Baum (Jane's father)
Jane Baum (human female protagonist)
Felonious Angora (feline antagonist)
Chapter 1—Scurry Lane
Roundabout Redsquirrel had been inquisitive since youth, even moreso than his younger brother Walter and baby sister Fiona. Fiona could be quite a handful ,but 'Roundy' helped whenever he was needed. Despite the fact he was still young, he wasn't against helping out his mom and dad when they required a bit of assistance.
Roundabout, like all other woodland creatures, attended school. School wasn't too terribly far from Scurry Lane; about a 30 minute hike in the woods to a quaint oak tree near a babbling stream. It was quite a picturesque locale, and Roundabout adored going every year. There were always new elements to learn and new things to explore and encounter. One of those things he had always wondered about was the world of human beings. They were such unusual creatures, but as Anastasia Snowy Owl had said many times before as a reproving reminder, 'Not all human beings can be trusted'. Roundabout was certain he would never forget this creedo. It was repeated so much that all the woodland creatures had it memorized, especially it's addendum, 'Exercise caution'. And even though he was cautious, his curiousity sometimes got the better of him.
Anastasia welcomed her students to a new season rife with learning, excitement and opportunities to branch out and forge new friendships. Roundabout didn't really know anyone in the area and was a new arrival. He wasn't familiar with anyone, but a rather chittery fieldmouse by the name of Jasper made an instant connection with him once he introduced himself.
"Hi, I'm Jasper ! What's your name ?", Jasper said, cheerily. It was hard not to like Jasper due to his infectious smile and robust laugh. Even though Jasper was incredibly hyper, it didn't bother Roundabout one bit since his little brother was exactly like him. After a shake of the hand and rattling off favorite activities around the forest, Roundy and Jasper became best friends.
"It's so cool that we're so close. Maybe I can invite you over. Be mindful fieldmice aren't so large as squirrels so it may be a bit snug when you do visit.", Jasper said, with a massive, sparkling grin.
"Sure, that'd be oaktastic !", Roundy stated. The two made a pinky swear, and shook on their vow to one another. However, this beautiful friendship was about to hit a snag in later years when Roundy began noticing a rather ravishing racoon by the name of Opal. Currently, the two were friends, but, Roundabout preferred hanging out, foraging, climbing, swinging, and chasing his best friend who could outrun him, even when he came down with the occasional forest sniffles.
Roundy, as he grew older, came to the sudden realization that his female friend, Opal, a raccoon, was starting to become more and more interesting to him. Jasper was starting to take offense and often pointed out his friend's irrational behavior.
"Roundabout, can't you see ? That lovely companion you've had since Field School is a raccoon. She's not a squirrel like yourself. Besides, haven't you noticed she pals about with Malcolm ?", Jasper said. It was then that the crush Roundabout had harbored for weeks had begun to diminish and he began to feel depressed.
"Why so glum, chum ?", Jasper questioned, not completely understanding his friend's remorse and gloom.
"It's nothing. Being a teenager can really sting sometimes, though.", Roundabout confessed.
"Hey, I got an idea. After Camofladge practice, what say you and I grab some peanut milkshakes at Cozy's ?", Jasper questioned. To Roundy, it wasn't even an invitation. Cozy's was a little restraunt owned by Camilla Chipmunk and her husband, Craig. They had a son named Casper, but Casper was a suburbinite and had moved on from the simple forest life long ago. He would send leafgrams to his mom and dad every so often, just to let them know the suburbs had been treating him well.
Jasper and Roundabout had noticed the forest change around them. It had become more urban and more 'house dwellers' had been appearing. Mainly, 'bipeds' as they were called, needed to be avoided if possible. Anastasia Owl had told them that in Field School. However, Roundabout couldn't help but be curious about them. He knew the dangers; especially since bipeds owned creatures called cats and dogs. Dogs were fast, and if they were small they'd never catch you. Cats, on the other hand, could be a larger danger. Roundabout was well aware of this, especially since a rather fluffy feline by the name of Felonious Angora had shown up on the edge of the woodlanders' territory. He could see the yellow-eyed hunter, staring them all down with a feral gaze.
Definitely not to be trusted, and hopefully, Felonious would keep his distance, or Roundabout would call in Anastasia to deal with him.
Chapter 3—So Close To Death
It was a rather chilly winter morning but Roundabout wanted to go outside and play with his younger brother. He loathed hibernating. Usually his hyperactive brother, Wally, would've wanted to go outside, even in the bitter cold.
But there he was, sound asleep in his hammock, while Fiona Nadine was hibernating in a smaller cot of her own. She had since outgrown the crib dad had built by hand for her and he hated giving it away, but last year, he had 'lent' the crib to a couple of voles who were expecting their first set of quadruplets.
Not wanting to bother his siblings, Roundy sneaked quickly past them and pushed open the door after layering himself with jackets, scarves, gloves and a knit wrap-around cap to keep his head warm. His mother would've been proud of him, he thought, since he was keeping every access point covered and the wind wouldn't enter and cause frostbite.
As he walked, the satisfying crunch of snow welcomed his booted feet.
He tried not to giggle with glee as he pranced about this winter wonderland.
"How could they sleep through this mapleriffic winter ? There's so much snow to play in, almost never ending fields of white !", Roundabout thought to himself as he played for hours on end. Then the jocund mood he had quickly turned sour as he found himself staring into the sullen, fierce, yellow hunter's moon eyes of Felonious.
"Hello there, Felonious. Nice weather we're having, huh ?", Roundabout said, trying to make small talk with the fluffy beast. Felonious wasn't one for chatting and began chasing him through the field.
Roundabout was beginning to run out of breath and losing more clothes as he fled from Felonious. He didn't care how undignifed he looked. All those clothes were beginning to weigh him down and without them, he could possibly outrun the cat without losing a limb or worse. Scared half to death, and feeling faint and woozy, Roundabout skittered up the nearest birch.
"Thanks be to Maya.", he thought to himself, barely able to hang on to the highest branch there. Felonious was out of shape and couldn't keep up with the young squirrel.
"You've won this round, rodent !", the feline hissed sardonically, swishing his tail menacingly. He vanished to a house somewhere in the suburbs. Next thing Roundy knew, he had been hit with a sudden avalanche, and was knocked, literally, out cold.
When Roundabout awoke, he found himself in a lit room, full of brightly colored lights. He heard the strangest noises coming from somewhere but couldn't place what they were. There was music, unusual alien noises and light all at once, and he was still disoriented.
"Mummy, I think he's waking up !", a chipper biped voice said. Roundabout was too subdued to make any sense of it all. He wasn't at all scared.
If this was heaven, he thought, he might as well make the best he could of it.
After all, it was far nicer here than it had been outside in the snow.
Chapter 4—Human Kind
Having thought he entered into Maya's eternal realm, Roundabout looked everywhere for the Goddess hoping to praise her on her artistic prowess in the recent December snow. He saw the hand of a biped reaching down to feed him something, a nut paste of some kind. Skittishly, he didn't want to accept the offer from the little girl, whom he quickly learned was named Jane. He learned that these bipeds were actually kind, especially the little girl. Jane treated him as if she had grown up as a squirrel herself.
"As soon as you're all better, little guy, we'll put you back outside and you can go back to your family. I bet your mum and dad are worried sick about you.", the girl said in a gay, British chirp. Her accent was unlike anything he had heard before, but he knew that it revealed her character; gentle, tender, and altruistic.
Roundabout had learned quickly never to let his curiosity get the better of him ever again. There was a reason squirrels hibernated, and now he knew why.
It was not only for survival, but because the elements and unfriendly, territorial, hungry domesticated pets that bipeds owned could spell your ultimate doom.
At the end of a couple days, Roundabout had fully recovered and was eager to return home. He wanted to thank Jane for her kindness but didn't think she would be able to read leafgrams. Something told him that human beings didn't understand the syntax of squirrel chatter. Even despite that, Jane seemed to have a connection with him, an implicit understanding that he was truly grateful.
"Don't worry. I will keep my eye out for that nasty cat. He won't be bothering you anytime soon.", Jane said, sweetly. Having an ally like this would most likely be useful. For now, he scampered out the door and followed his footsteps all the way back to Scurry Lane.
As the snow and ice thawed, every woodland creature began to emerge from their sleep. Typical of his character, Roundy awoke before the golden hews of dawn crept over the awakening landscape. The first buds of spring were new and crisp, not yet fragrant.
"Come on, guys ! I want to tell you a story !", he said enthusiastically. The youngest of the squirrels, Fiona, whined and moped about.
"Roundy, let me sleep. I'm still tired.", she said as she fell face first into her pillow. Grabbing her by both arms, Roundy helped her up and gathered his family around the table. As he began his story, his family stood dumbstruck.
"And you accepted the biped's help ? How do you know she wasn't trying to poison you ?" Nadine nearly exclaimed.
"Yes, grandma, I did. Besides, I could smell the nut paste she fed me. It wasn't rancid and actually it was quite tasty. Even if I never meet another biped, she was the nicest one I have known.", Roundabout confessed. The whole family knew they could never repeat one word that Roundabout had uttered. Even the idea of him mingling with a biped could end in his exile from Scurry Lane and the entire forest community. In other words, the implications were grave.
Days passed and Roundabout only kept his 'biped' story with his family. He was a bit concerned due to the fact that his younger brother, the hyperactive Wally, couldn't keep a secret. But he seemed to be occupied with a new friend this year. He had made the forest soccer team and one of the players, Sully Skunk, who had kept his mind on the game instead of Roundabout's riveting account of the biped who nursed him back to health. Eventually, this story was all but forgotten by everyone but Roundabout.
Roundabout had matured, even to the point where his relationship with his girlfriend Madaline Auburnsquirrel had culminated in their marriage. The suburbs were encroaching closer and Roundy had pondered whatever happened to that Jane girl and her family. He hadn't noticed any changes around the house where she had resided, and Felonious had since kept his distance. Felonious seemed to have been getting grey hairs and arthritis and didn't bother squirrels or any other animals. Time and again, he'd catch a fledgeling mouse but beyond that, Felonious was growing old and stuck mainly to the bipeds for food, water, love and 'worship'.
One day, after putting his youngest child to sleep, he decided to go out of his small maple cottage and visit Jane's home. It hadn't changed much but the setting was different than usual. It seemed larger and that more bipeds had congregated in the area. There were more sidewalks, streets and walkways. There were bipeds everywhere that, although they didn't notice him, sidestepped him as he scampered to Jane's old home.
Gazing inside the quaint but cozy cottage, he saw little children, sleeping on the floor in sleeping bags. There were empty and overturned, and there were cans of some kind of beverage on the floor too. One of the little bipeds awoke and looked out the window. Nearly freezing, Roundabout hid in the bushes adjacent to the house.
"Thought I saw something.", he heard the boy biped mutter. Then he heard a familiar voice. It was Jane. His heart soared. Apparently, this little one was her child, and gazing inside, he could see the boy truly favored his mother. He couldn't help but grin, and he felt his heart warm at the thought of Jane as caretaker to this young fellow. Knowing he could never truly breach the divide between squirrel and man again, Roundabout looked back upon the house with a lingering tear. The memories he had of Jane would never fade and somehow he knew that young one would carry the respect for nature that his mother had.
This gave him relief and hope for their future. His pups would grow up in a world, though ever changing, knew that every creature, no matter how different, was interconnected and one day, each being would learn how to interact peaceably with one another.