Isaac’s Adventures Underground: Chapter Sixteen

“This is a story from before,” the squirrel said. “I was there, and owl was there, and I remember, but owl does not.”

“I object,” the owl said. “If I don’t remember it, then I obviously wasn’t there.”

The bat laughed. “This is obviously going to be good. Keep going. What happened?”

“As I said…” The squirrel paused and yawned. “I said that the owl was there.”

“I was not,” the owl said.

“Keep going,” the bat said.

The squirrel blinked sleepily. “The owl was there, and he lived in a hole in a tree. The tree was on an island in the middle of a lake. My cousins and I visited the island in the fall, to gather nuts for winter.”

“What kind of nuts?” Isaac asked.

“Whatever kinds we could find,” the squirrel said.

“What kinds could you find?” Isaac asked.

“Whatever kinds were there,” the squirrel said.

“But…” Isaac began.

“Hush,” the bat said. “You’re interrupting the story. That’s rude.”

“I don’t remember when I last met someone so rude,” the owl said.

“You don’t remember anything,” the bat said.

“I remember…” the squirrel said. The owl and bat looked down at the squirrel. “I remember that we took boats to the island. And we carried empty sacks for the nuts. We used our tails as sails and the wind pushed us across the water…”

The squirrel stared off into the distance. The bat scowled. “What happened next?” he asked.

“I used to like riddles,” the squirrel said. “The trickier the better.”

“That’s nice,” the bat said. “But I wanted to hear the rest of the story. Tell us a riddle later.”

“You’d better know the answer to the riddle before you ask it,” the owl said.   “The bat always forgets. It’s irritating.”

“I do not,” the bat said.

“You do too,” the owl said.

“I remember…” the squirrel said again. Once again, the owl and bat stopped arguing and looked down. “The owl lived in a hole in a tree.”

“You already said that part,” Isaac said, trying to be helpful.

“Stop interrupting,” the bat said.

“You interrupt too,” Isaac said.

“I do not,” the bat said. “I have more manners than that.”

“Is the story over, then?” the owl asked.

“No, it’s just started,” the bat said. “Keep talking, squirrel.”

“The owl lived in a tree, and the tree was on an island,” the squirrel said.   “And my cousins and I would come to gather nuts for the winter.”

“Is that the whole story?” Isaac asked.

“Hush,” the bat said.

“My cousins and I would visit the island, and I remember…” the squirrel looked off into the distance. Isaac opened his mouth to say something, but closed it when the bat hissed at him.

“We would ask the owl permission to gather nuts,” the squirrel said at last.   “And I would tell him riddles. But he never answered them. He never answered.”

“This story is obviously not about me,” the owl said. “I am very good at riddles.”

“What happened?” the bat said, ignoring him.

“He bit off my tail,” the squirrel said.

“But you still have a tail,” Isaac said.

“It was longer,” the squirrel said. “I remember.”

“Is that the end?” the owl asked.

“My tail is the end of me, but the end of my tail is not the end of the tale,” the squirrel said.

“I’m suddenly remembering something,” the owl said.

“What do you remember?” Isaac asked.

“I’m remembering that I hate riddles,” the owl said. He clicked his beak ominously.

“The tale is done,” the squirrel said, and he disappeared back into the hollow of the log.