by Jake Christie

a story.

Thomas the squirrel sat on a branch above the sidewalk, watching. He shifted from leg to leg, shaking the leaves, and occasionally ran to the end of the branch, only to run back and perch once again. Another squirrel, Wally, scurried up the tree and sat next to him.

“What are you doing?” asked Wally.

“Look,” said Thomas, pointing a tiny claw down at the sidewalk. Two large, hairless creatures were sitting in front of a window at a metal table, drinking some kind of hot brown liquid out of ceramic cups. “What do you think they're doing?”

“Who cares?” said Wally. “You should be collecting nuts.” He ran to the tree trunk, spun around, and came back to Thomas. “How long have you been here?” he asked.

“All morning,” said Thomas. He scratched his ear. “I don't understand it. All morning those hairless creatures have been staggering in there slow and stupid, but as soon as they drink that brown stuff they have more energy than a hummingbird in springtime.”

“Do you think it's made of nuts?” said Wally.

“No,” said Thomas. “I don't--”

“Then who cares?” said Wally. He sprinted down the branch and made a flying leap to the telephone pole, the matter settled.

Thomas watched him go, then turned back to the sidewalk. The hairless creatures were walking away. They had left their cups on the table, and Thomas could see that some of the brown liquid was still inside.

One leap to the roof. Another to the windowsill. One more put Thomas on the table. He sniffed at the liquid. It smelled earthy and slightly sweet – and there was even, perhaps, a hint of nut in there. He stuck out his tongue and lapped up a drop.

That's how Thomas the squirrel discovered coffee, and why squirrel society is at the pinnacle of civilization today.

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