For right now the meetings were held in a oak tree in the suburbs off Crepe Drive, in between houses numbers one four one and one four three. A close spot where Barry had been deconstructed by a teenager's sedan. Barry was Harry's brother and Harry was a squirrel, but unlike his brother,he had to learn to cope with the loss. The place consisted of tiny glass tables, silver futuristic chairs, and the creamy wisp of lattes in the air. On certain Wednesdays a guitarist would come in and sing songs ranging from nihilistic life to idealistic protest. I usually had my own problems yet still listened to other people's, as if commiserating the halfway point between emulation and empathy. Today is Wednesday.
"I miss that bastard so much," Harry says. He's staring at the tag on his tea that's connected to the bag. It's English Breakfast.
"Why do you miss him?"
"He was my brother."
"Isn't that reason enough?"
"I suppose it is."
"You know what the last thing he told me was?"
"What did he say?" I ask.
"He said that I was never going to understand folk music the way he did."
"What did he mean by that?"
Harry adjusts his eyelids and sort of stares around the place as if fireflies had burst in here with widening light and random cunning. Of course there are none. It's more of the bizarre look on his face.
"Barry always thought I was a fucking idiot."
"I'm trying to make sense of him not ever coming back no more," He squeezes more honey into the tea, the spoon clinks and mixes it all in a tornado. He scratches his left eye. "Wouldn't that make me smart?"
"I don't know if thoughtfulness can be considered a true sign of intellect. There are a lot of people who help others and they wouldn't know the difference between heliocentric and geocentric theory."
"What does helium have to do with intellect? It just makes your voice high like a chipmunk."
"Well that's another point I guess."
I start drinking more of my coffee. It has pumpkin spice in it and it's sweeter than the dickens, Shakespeare notwithstanding. Everybody loves tired old phrases right? I think we say them just to pretend like we understand the past a little better.
"Arnold, have you ever lost anyone?"
This is a pertinent question worth the truth. They say relation is helpful but this is volunteer work and I'm not sure if "they" are right. Granted I showed up here looking for something to get me up or going.
"I lost my mother to natural causes and my father was used for a Charango."
"My god...Any siblings?" he asks.
"My older sister was hit by an bus trying to cross the expressway."
"I'm so sorry."
"It's weird to think about that now," I say. "You spend great chunks of your life with them and then they just drop out, and unlike you, I can't remember any of their last words because I wasn't around."
"That might be a blessing because you never have to hear them."
"I'd rather hear that voice Harry. Aren't you glad the memory is there?"
He just stares off again, something snapping and sounding at his ears. "What's the point of a memory if all it does is make you sad?"
I'm out of speech for that. I want to say even being sad makes you feel good or gives you inspiration, but I'm not the best motivational speaker, it's hard to tread on the ground of broken people.
Another squirrel walks in and his tail is literally cut in half, road ravished by something pretty small. It could be a bicycle or maybe a scooter, a moped. There have not been many mopeds around here. But that tail is what makes squirrels squirrels, and like most people the cosmetic part of the body can be the worst thing to lose. The publicity of losing an external part. The sense of accidents, of being seen out in the world, but instead of the encouragement you get the fear of another person.
The only thing I can lose is my shell and that would mean I'm probably dead.
I gaze back at Harry and he's got dew under his eyelids. Upset, seething in it almost swimming in his eyes a drowning sailor looking at his last wave.
"My brother was hit by a car!"
His head throwing into his own arms, up and down, up and down. His fur turning a deep mahogany with each little stream. Little muffles of baritone. Everyone's looking at me. My name tag. Everyone takes a guess that I either said something wrong, or maybe there's just sympathy there. I pop my neck a little and saunter over. I can feel every creak in this tree, like it too wants me to hear the noise of the universe, it's little whimpers that come from every organism.
I pat his back three times, good noisy hits, noise for the noise. The stares are wearing off. People are going back to their snacks and sorrows. The torn tailed squirrel starts playing his guitar. I didn't even notice he brought it in, but he's just playing a instrumental folk number. Harry raises his head and he attempts to mouth something, but no one can read what he's saying.
I pat his back again and this time rub my paw in clockwise. I'm trying to tell with all the silence I can that this is no one's fault.
He finally understands folk.