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Read Letter

Leaping Tom

Dear Jack, nobody knows what killed the squirrel. We just woke up and found the poor bloke dead. Oh, we saw him foraging in the woods surrounding our villa. Some of those trees are hundreds of years old. The maximum span of the life of a squirrel is of course infinitesimal in comparison. But that’s the order of nature – the old provide for the young. Let’s call our squirrel Tom, though why exactly that name I don’t know. Just sounds OK.

Tom wasn’t the only squirrel foraging round the villa. There were several others. Or how would we explain sighting other squirrels after Tom’s death. Who’s ever heard of the resurrection of squirrels! Each morning Tom would come, looking for food. The villa has a lush garden. I loved sitting in the kitchen in the morning, watching the sun as it sprayed our villa with a little bit of warmth. But I wasn’t the only one trying to catch some warmth. A rather interesting pigeon also loved to sunbathe in the garden. It had a quirk. It would bend its neck at a strange angle like it’s broken, and just soak in the sun.

The English North is very cold. And the Northern sun is very stingy with warmth. You see the sun but you don’t feel the sun. It’s a trick of nature. It’s the equivalence of taking a bag of tea, dipping it ever so slightly in hot water and claiming to supply tea. It’s not exactly tea. It looks like tea, occupies volumetric space in the mug like tea, but it’s not tea – it’s watercolour! The English sun is like that. And it’s rather petulant. You can almost see the pout. Or it may be that the elements are like children, ever quarreling over what not, like little kids withholding their toys. The warmth of the sun is its toy. And it’s chosen not to play. Add to the fact that the English weather is schizoid and highly temperamental. No, it’s bipolar – very unpredictable. It can be bright one moment and be foul the next, even begin to cry, raining.

For centuries people have lived in these lands under these weathers. Explains the long beards of some of the men – they’re like characters straight out of Lord of the Rings movie. When a place is this cold, even in summer, a bushy beard is a very warm blanket. I’m just trying to explain why I think squirrels come out to our garden. They come to soak in the little warmth. Think of a squirrel as a strange little mammal whose tail is actually its beard.

But what really killed the squirrel? I really don’t know. Old age perhaps. Everyone is bound to die. Everything is bound to die, even squirrels. Death is the last enemy. And so old age was one of those theories we propounded in our postmortem analysis. But how would WE know if a squirrel is old? They all look the same. There must be a way squirrels themselves tell who’s old and who’s young. Just like humans. Perhaps the hair colour changes, or they develop the equivalence of human wrinkles.

If squirrels can’t tell old from young then Darwin’s theory of natural selection will fail on them. I assume squirrels want to mate with the best options available, just like humans; that squirrels can identify good genes as evolutionary biologists posit. Of course the criteria used by squirrels and humans probably differ. A good mate in humans will probably be a focused, driven and responsible young man. (In good health, evolutionary biologists will insist. He must be a fine specimen, they’ll say. I hate to call humans specimens but I am not an evolutionary biologist. I’m just a writer). No girl wants to mate with an unserious young man, right? But humans are convoluted. Some have been known to choose partners based entirely on looks alone. Not entirely wise you might say! How can vanity be the sole determinant of something as deterministic as marriage? But we were talking about squirrels, right, not humans. Of course I’m not saying looks don’t matter! But think of looks as an invitation card. It makes sense to do due diligence after accepting the invite. But some humans won’t. They just assume looks determine character and sign on for marriage.

Saw a programme on telly the other day – a reality show about strangers marrying total strangers. How wise! The matches were made by a panel of “experts” who never even knew the parties! The credentials were the multiple-choice questions of a computer programme, as if humans are simple algorithms. Of course people fill in what they think they are with such questioners. Sometimes they even ask friends for opinion. How can you allow others choose a spouse for you? They don’t know YOU. Only you know you!

But back to our squirrel. Let’s leave humans alone. And so we came up with all sorts of theories on the cause of death of the squirrel, Tom. But then someone raised a possibility we hadn’t considered. What if Tom had leapt from one branch of a tree to another but missed? In other words, what if Tom had over-reached himself and fallen to his death? It’s a very plausible theory. Squirrels are not exactly cats. They don’t have nine lives. But if it’s true that Tom over-leaped it will remind you of certain humans, won’t it? They over-reach themselves in the partners they pursue. They go for what is beyond them. Or why would a young man go for a woman he can’t afford? He’s an over-leaping Tom not so?”

He closed the book and muttered under his breath, “Humans!”

Your mentor, LA

© Leke Alder |

Tags : finance

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