Blind Strike

{February 12, 2008}   Squirrel’s Journey: The Prickly Pear

Javelina introduced Squirrel into her herd and let her drink from their pool. A few of the herd looked at Squirrel with hungry eyes, and she shivered at the sight of their sharp lower canines covered in drool. But Javelina assured her she would not be eaten. “Come morning,” she told Squirrel, “you will become one of the herd.”

Squirrel was herself growing unbearably hungry. She frequently tongued the side of her cheek, where the false acorn had sat and comforted her. Squirrel slept fitfully, and awoke in the night to a strange sight. The herd was spread out in front of her, Javelina approaching with an object in her mouth. She spat out a prickly pear, succulent and gleaming in the moonlight. Squirrel could smell it immediately. She thought about tearing it open and feeling the juice drip into every corner of her mouth.

“Do you want this?” Javelina asked. Squirrel, becoming wary, nodded. “Take it then,” Javelina said. And so the games began.

 Squirrel lunged for the fruit, but Javelina grabbed it and tossed it behind her. A male javelina grasped it in his mouth and trotted away. The rest of the herd scattered and clacked with delight. Squirrel scampered after, but as soon as she got close enough to wrestle with the leader, a burly Peccary with chipped hooves, he tossed the pear to another. It went on like this, Squirrel running herself ragged while the javelinas laughed and played keep-away with the prickly pear. One of the younger Peccary’s kicked Squirrel, bruising her in the side. When she tried to fight back, the javelina’s mother flashed sharp teeth and gave a menacing grunt.

Eventually, tired and beaten, Squirrel gave up and lay down by the pool, resting her bruised side. Then the herd gathered around her, and she heard the sound of the prickly pear splashing in the water. She ignored it at first, but then Javelina came forward. Without saying a word, she thrust her snout under Squirrel’s belly and tossed her into the pool. Squirrel, who hated swimming, squeaked in protest. The herd waited quietly to see what she would do.

 When she’d calmed down, Squirrel began to swim in circles. She didn’t want to go back to the herd; she was angry. “Pigs!” she yelled out, and a grumble rippled through the herd. Javelina snorted in amusement.

“Don’t be upset!” she said. “If you bring back the pear, they will accept you.”

 “I don’t want to be accepted by you!” Squirrel cried. The spot where the little javelina had kicked her radiated with pain.

“Are you sure?”


“We can show you our ways and help you survive.”

“Your ways are cruel!” Squirrel said. “Leave me alone!”

The herd was silent. Javelina turned then and began to lead them out of the basin. As Squirrel watched their backsides retreat in unison, she began to feel cold and afraid. Where would she sleep? What would she eat? Or rather, what would eat her? 

She could see the pear at the bottom of the pool and now she dove for it. It took three tries–her body was not made for swimming–but finally she managed to wrap her lips around the fruit and hold it in her mouth as she swam upward. The spines pierced her mouth, and the pain made Squirrel swim harder. Soon she made it to the shore, where she dropped the pear in the mud.


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