It might have been the winter doldrums that did it. You can never be sure of these things. It’s just that … well, Doc is one of those guys who can’t stand to see anyone bored. He claims it’s bad for their inner chemistry, and since he has more initials after his name than anyone else in town, we tend to listen to him.
When it happened, we in the inner circle of the World Dilemma Think Tank down at the Mule Barn truck stop thought back on what Doc had said a year ago when the temperature dropped, along with everyone’s spirits.
“In weather like this,” Doc pronounced, stirring sugar into his cup, “a real American would come up with a great hoax.”
Those of us sitting at the philosophy counter that morning just nodded, even though we didn’t have a clue. No one wanted to admit it, you see.
When the Valley Weekly Miracle hit the street yesterday, we bought one to see how much the editor dared to print, as always, but there in the classifieds was this:
“LOST – One gray squirrel, fluffy tail, two years old. Answers to “Chipper.” $5.25 reward. Call Doc.”
The paper was passed down the counter and we all looked at Doc after we read it. He was smirking as only Doc can smirk.
“Doc,” Steve said, tentatively, “would this be the same imaginary squirrel that was kidnapped and held for ransom last year?”
“The very same,” Doc said. “I named him Chipper.”
“But he’s imaginary, right?”
“The very best kind.”
“Imaginary squirrels don’t bite, don’t have to be fed, and you never have to clean up after them,” he said. “And a real squirrel will eat the leg off a coffee table.”
He grinned. “Besides, I’ve always wanted an imaginary squirrel.”
After we laughed, Dud said, “And what if someone finds a squirrel and brings him to you?”
“Dudley,” he said, “I figure it’s worth $5.25 to get a squirrel, which would be hibernating this time of year, of course, and then to turn it loose. Besides, I’ll make more money than that just stitching up the squirrel catcher’s hand.”
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