Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Candice is a nice squirrel who, despite her many wonderful qualities, definitely needs to work on being more assertive. Candice has always been highly suspicious of absurdly-handsome men—as a general rule, they’re too relaxed, they don’t seem to understand boundaries, and they can make you feel invisible—and unfortunately, her new neighbor, Daryl, is no exception. Daryl’s only been in her home for a few minutes, and he’s already helped himself to her hot dogs, grabbed way too much beer out of her fridge, and taken half his clothes off. And that chair? That’s Candice’s chair. Not a guest chair, not a boyfriend chair—it’s Candice’s chair. At this point, Candice is sort of hoping that Daryl tells her he’s married or a serial killer so she can kick him out of her house without seeming too rude, but so far, all he wants to talk about is how good her hotdogs are. He's already had two. 

Sharon is a quiet young female who is also today’s guest on Today! With Blaine! A couple of days ago, Sharon got a call from the show telling her that someone important from her past wanted to meet her, and ever since, she’s been calling up ex-boyfriends and the few friends she still has from high school trying to figure out who this someone might be. While she was backstage, though, the announcer told the audience that Sharon is actually one of three triplets that were adopted by three different families as infants, and that her two sisters have been looking for her ever since they learned the truth! Today is the day the three sisters learn about one another, as well as how much growing up in different households can shape the life of a little squirrel.

Patrick is apparently part of a surveying team here to determine how much of my yard belongs to me, and how much belongs to the squirrels. I’m a little peeved about this, since I honestly thought we were all sharing the space, but Patrick seems to have all the appropriate paperwork signed and notarized and on hand. There’s a part of me that thinks this may be a scam, but who has time for a lawyer these days?

You might already be familiar with Gerald's picture if you read the society pages. A few weeks ago, Gerald was best known for being the arm candy of Lady Adeline (again, if you bothered to read the society pages, you’d know exactly who I was talking about), a very wealthy woman from my neighborhood with a reputation less for her charm and more for her extravagant spending habits. The most expensive thing she ever bought by far, though, was the glamourous Gerald, who she took up with after almost hitting him with her limo. After a whirlwind and confusing courtship of two-and-a-half weeks of fancy dining in restaurants usually off-limits to squirrels, decadent shopping sprees, and one very exciting, near-fatal airplane ride (Gerald had never been in a plane before, and was so terrified he ended up attacking the pilot), the two were married in a quiet ceremony in Lady Adeline’s back yard. Tragically, later that evening, Adeline passed away at the banquet table, her mouth full of wedding cake, leaving everything to little Gerald, who has since been completely cleared of suspicion by the police.

Jerome has been trapped in the attic of my neighbor’s house for most of his life. When he was very small, a crow yanked him out of the tree branch he was running around on and flew him up to my neighbor’s roof, but Jerome escaped through a tiny hole in the roof and made his way into the attic. The mice in the attic brought him scraps from the kitchen downstairs to eat, and within a few weeks, Jerome was way too plump to escape back out through the little hole in the roof. For the past six months, he’s been trapped in my neighbors’ attic, running back and forth at all hours and making terrifying noises and knocking old furniture over, to the point where the home owners are too afraid to go up and investigate and have decided that it’s easier to believe that the attic is just haunted by a very dangerous ghost. But no, it’s just poor Jerome, running around and around in the dark, trying to figure out how to get back outside to his old life again.

This is Myron, and Myron is in love. For the past few months, he’s been trying to find a way to express his affection for Georgia, the beautiful girl squirrel who lives just across the street, but he keeps falling short. First, he mailed a box of doll feet to her, with his phone number written on the bottom of each foot, but she didn’t respond—next, he sent a box of doll hands. Again, no response! Today, he’s pulling out all the stops and sending her a box full of doll heads in the hopes that she’ll understand how much she means to him, and maybe even pick up the phone and try the number scrawled dozens of times all over the inside of the box. After all, what has she got to lose?

Dr. Eugene is a world-famous archaeologist and adventurer, and if you're a subscriber to the academic magazines “Squirrel Archaeologist” or “History! For Squirrels!” you may be familiar with some of his more celebrated discoveries, such as the trove of species peanuts discovered piled in a stack underneath a sarcophagus slab in Egypt, or his analysis of the remnants of the brain of the 13th century saint, Joseph of Illado, which turned out to be a dried-out apricot. Earlier today, as a huge fan of archaeology myself, I asked Dr. Eugene what exactly he was looking for in my window well, but he is famously tight-lipped about his discoveries and doesn’t discuss his work until his notes are ready to be delivered and cataloged with the universities funding his trips or to the reporters at the many magazines that chronicle his adventures, and unfortunately for me, today was no exception.

Bastien is a weary traveler who has unfortunately stumbled into the wrong inn to spend the night, for this quaint little B&B is run by Ma Hatchett and her three beautiful daughters, Pull-Tab, Spot, and Grits, who, despite their genteel appearance, are all cold-blooded killers. Usually, the Hatchetts wait until their guests retire for the night before they start a-stabbing and a-robbing, but they haven’t had any visitors for a good couple of weeks, so at the risk of Bastien slipping out without paying his bill in the middle of the night, they’ve decided to all greet him at the front door, fully armed and ready to stab, before he’s even had a chance to sign the guest register or check out his room for the night. Oh, if only he’d picked a Holiday Inn or some recognizable chain hotel, but no, he had to go with the quirky stop just outside of town instead.

This is Sophia, soon to be Queen Sophia. When Sophia signed up with Find-a-Prince's dating service, she figured she’d be set up with just a nice guy with a job, nothing fancy, or, if they set her up with an actual prince, that it’d be one of those suave Dutch princes, like the ones that wear suits and sashes in the movies. She did not imagine in the slightest that her prince might be this Genghis Khan type warrior, an angry brute who has already informed her that there will be no dating—he’s already decided she’s to be his wife and that they will be returning to his home world immediately. “As Queen, you can have all the meat you can eat!” he roars. “But mister, I’m a squirrel! I don’t eat meat!” protests Sophia, the future Queen of God-knows-where, swearing under her breath to never use a dating service to find a man ever again.

The Big Dam Monster is an ancient creature that patrols this small, manmade lake. Every few decades, when the water level dips dangerously low and the fish population is threatened, the Big Dam Monster has been known to come to the surface and wreak havoc on the local population of fishermen and summer vacationers. Unfortunately for these carefree teens partying at the edge of the dam, their night of illicit, drunken fun is about to be cut short by this local denizen of the deep.

 Someone looked in my window and thought, "There's a sucker for a cute squirrel if I ever saw one--and she's got a can of mixed nuts sitting right on her desk."

Julius is a professional magician with a reputation for being a real jerk to his assistants. This new assistant is finding out that this reputation is well-deserved—halfway through his signature act, he’s decided to take his lunch break, leaving her with her legs and arms stuck in one half of the box and her head in another! And to make matters worse, the poor girl really has to use the bathroom, and how does one even find the bathroom with their head unattached? “Quit whining,” says Julius, pausing to take another stupid bite of his stupid fancy almond before twirling his stupid magician moustache at the girl. “In this economy, you should just be happy you have any job at all.” 

Friday, December 18, 2020

Sheila was at my window the moment it stopped raining to press her little face and paws up against my window to beg for treats. Almost immediately after this picture was taken, it started raining buckets again, so I don't imagine I'll have any more squirrel visitors today.

Jackie is a highly superstitious squirrel who can’t get her day started without either consulting the astrology page of the newspaper or stopping by to get her cards read by the neighborhood fortune teller. Moment ago, she received the most disturbing news—Madame Lisa just told her that she seems to have no future at all! “It’s probably nothing,” says Madame Lisa. “Sometimes the cards don’t work until I’ve had lunch. I’m sure it doesn’t mean something terrible is going to happen to you or anything.” But Jackie, oh, how is she supposed to live her day today, not knowing what’s about to happen?

Christie is a passionate young female from the maple out front. Christie’s best friend, Judith, was supposed to guard the pile of nuts set out for her from the ravaging shrew that’s eaten her breakfast twice already this morning, but Judith had not had her cup of coffee yet when she volunteered for this position and fell asleep sometime during her watch. She tried to make it up to Christie by buying her more nuts with her own money—and Judith is currently unemployed and doesn't have much money, so this was very generous of her—but Christie’s decided that she’s just had enough of that darned shrew. “Don’t do anything rash!” says Judith. “Trust me, no breakfast is worth going to jail for!” But Christie, she lets her heart rule most days, and often, with tragic consequences.

Dustin has come to the grim conclusion that the part of the birch tree he just moved into happens to be haunted. Pictures keep falling off the walls, doors open and close of their own volition, and the scratching of non-squirrel feet can be heard at all hours in the parts of the tree too skinny and termite-ridden for Dustin to safely investigate. However, trying to coax a priest way up into this part of the tree has proven impossible, so Dustin has been left to deal with the ghost on his own. His first step? Set out a lovely dinner and a place setting for the ghost in the hopes that the two of them can sit down together and have a peaceful conversation about how to coexist. Dustin has made up a list of things he can do to accommodate the ghost’s schedule, and he hopes that when the ghost eventually comes to the table, he or she will have something similar to present to him.

This squirrel only eats almonds. She scratches at my window until I toss some nuts out for her, and she immediately picks out all the almonds and runs away. After the other squirrels come and eat all the nuts, she comes back and asks for more. Again and again and again. I can't help but think that the other squirrels also come to my window looking for almonds, only to find they've all been grabbed by this one squirrel.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Rowena is a lovely, quiet female from this spring’s first litter. Rowena just got off the phone with her mother, who apparently spent a whole lot of money getting a family tree put together to surprise Rowena and her siblings. According to the chart, Rowena’s family not only came over from the Old World nearly a thousand years ago, accompanying a crew of rugged Viking explorers who loved having squirrels running around on deck while battling the high seas, but also, it looks like there’s some royal blood way down the line. Rowena’s mother is already looking into on whether any of them can claim any benefits from being the direct descendent of a genuine squirrel king, even if it’s just a royal title that they can all use on business cards. “Aren’t you excited?” asked Rowena’s mother once she paused for breath. “Wouldn’t it be exciting if it turned out _you_ were a princess?”

Princess Rowena. It has a nice ring to it.

Celeste is a local author who lives in the maple tree out front. Celeste is here at one of her favorite bookstores to autograph copies of her newest release, “Lots of Hugs,” a cozy, romantic non-thriller that takes place almost entirely in some guy’s fancy garden and is mostly about how much this guy and this girl like hugging each other and smashing their faces together and making weird nonsensical sounds while they do it. While most critics have been relatively gentle when reviewing Celeste’s work, the one noticeable flaw that runs through almost every single one of her books is the fact that she insists on writing about people and from a human point of view without seeming to know anything about people or what motivates your average human. One day, when she can relax and take time to write something more serious, more legacy-oriented, she plans to write at least one book that is just about squirrels, perhaps two, but that time is too far away to think about right now.

Stan’s kind of a loner, but that’s OK, because we can’t all be Mr. Popular party animal types. After a hard day of punching numbers at the office, Stan likes to come home and watch TV, and that’s it. Sometimes, coworkers invite Stan out for drinks after work, because it’s this thing they all like to do at the office, they like to hang out together after work after gabbing with each other all day _at_ work, but Stan usually just says he doesn’t drink, or that he has something really important to do, both of which are plain-out lies. Stan likes to drink, but he likes to do it at home, by himself, without anyone yapping at him, and the thing he likes to do best is watch TV. By himself.

Today is the first day of Geraldine's new cable-access cooking show, Cooking with Gerry. Everything has to be perfect for this big day—the equipment has to work, her studio-provided assistant needs to stay the fuck out of her way, all of the ingredients need to be retested for freshness, and most important, none of her jokes can fall flat before the studio audience. Or maybe she should forget her carefully-scripted jokes completely? She only tested them on a couple of friends, and while they laughed very politely when she told them, they were perhaps just a little too polite. Yes, for this first show, she should play it super seriously, then maybe on the second episode, cut loose a little, try to get people to laugh with her. So long as they’re not laughing at her, that is. Oh, she should have packed a flask for today. This is not going well at all.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Charmaine is the manager for Bounce, the most popular squirrel band in the world. She's been managing the band since she and Yeet were in college together, back when no one knew who they were, and was responsible for setting up some of their first paying gigs, including bookings at high school proms all over town. However, ever since their last record, “NUTS!” hit platinum almost overnight, she’s begun hearing rumors that the band’s planning on ditching her to sign with a real agency, and the thought just makes her so sad she can’t sleep. In fact, she’s hasn’t left her office for the past three days, making her little charts and planning her next big move for the band, hoping to come up with something so impressive that when they all get together for coffee next week, the boys’ll have to admit she is the best manager any group could ever have.

This is Bertrand, and Bertrand’s still not sure how he got here. Earlier today, he was on his way to work and decided to take a short cut through an unfamiliar part of the yard, and suddenly just found himself in this pristine, warm and happy place that's apparently never been visited by any other squirrel. Food is plentiful, the inhabitants are extra friendly, and while secretly, Bertrand’s a little worried he fell down a well or something and is just imagining all of this, he doesn't want to dwell on that possibility too much. Either way, this day’s turning out to be a lot more interesting than he thought it’d be when he got up this morning.

Jules is a veteran of the squirrel art scene, setting up his wall display and table for what seems like his millionth group art show and print signing. The crowds won’t be showing up for at least an hour or so, which gives him just enough time to eat some breakfast and maybe grab a cup of coffee with some of the younger artists who are also exhibiting today. What he doesn’t know about this seemingly routine art show is that the evening will end with a confrontation with his greatest fan (other than his mother)—a secretive character who's been leaving strange letters and packages intermittently on his doorstep for the past ten or so years. In the end, though, Jules will be pleasantly surprised to find that this stranger is actually just a genuine fan who is truly confused on what constitutes boundaries in the artist-audience relationship.

Loretta has come to this ramshackle theater set up outside my window full of good intentions. Tonight is the debut of her friend Janice’s seven-act play, “Three Tiny Women With Something to Say,” a lengthy exploration on the trials of being a 5-inch-tall woman in this crazy modern world. Unfortunately, the program did not state that the play would end up being nearly five hours long from beginning to end, and three hours into the performance, Loretta really has to use the bathroom. Unfortunately, she is the only one who turned up for this performance, so her absence, however brief, would be immediately noticed, and she does not want to hurt any of the performers’ feelings. Far off in the corner of the theatre, the red, glowing "Restrooms" light blinks on and off, on and off, as if purposefully taunting her as she tries to focus only on the actors on the stage.

Friday, October 09, 2020

Rupert and his girlfriend, X-92-A, are having a romantic picnic in the valley after an amazing ride through the countryside. With the town far behind them on the horizon, the world may as well be nothing but just the two of them, and the butterflies, and the birds, and, of course, X-92-A’s horse. Is there any better way to spend a warm summer day than pulling away from the hustle and bustle of life to sit on a blanket spread out on the grass, a basket of nuts set out for sharing, to spend time with a loved one? But alas, even a day like this must draw to an end, and even smitten lovebirds must eventually return home to play their parts in this game.


Up until a week ago, Frank was a perfectly-ordinary squirrel. But either some new toxin got in the water supply, or he was exposed to radiation in his sleep, or some scientist abducted him and tested a slew of chemicals on him, because now, Frank is a gigantic squirrel, and seems to be getting bigger and bigger every day. See these houses? He used to sneak in and out of a hole in the attic of the orange one, and he was so small the owners of the house barely even noticed he was there! He knows he’s too big for this neighborhood now, but this is where he grew up, and where his family lives, so he just keeps coming back, despite the terror he inspires in all his thoroughly-confused loved ones, who just can’t believe that this is the same Frank who used to chatter at them from the treetops.

Detective Jones is the foremost, and only, squirrel detective on the force that polices my back yard. Jones just arrived mere moments ago to investigate this truly horrendous crime, committed during a perfectly ordinary dinner party with such fury and haste that the gruesome murder weapon was left behind by the perpetrator. But perhaps the murderer never actually left, and is standing right here in front of Jones? Is someone else in this ensemble the next to go, and might that next casualty even be Jones himself?

The Marvelous Marvin is a well-known magician around these parts. He’s a little ticked off right now because no one’s supposed to be here before the special stage lights go on, because, as you can see, under the regular house lights, his famous illusion of a bunch of random objects floating mysteriously around the stage is really just a series of strings attached to pulleys controlling the effect. When I came here, I had no idea I’d be ruining his most famous trick, but his ex-girlfriend was working the door and she’s apparently got a vindictive streak.

Monique is a classically-trained dancer who lives in the maple tree in the front yard. While her background is in salsa and the tango—both of which she teaches at the studio down the street—her dream is to find a way to introduce the traditional squirrel dances she grew up learning, such as the Hop, the Scatter, and the Swirly Tail Jump Jump, to the mainstream dance community. She would like to someday be remembered as the first choreographer to elevate these, and other, squirrel dances as the true art forms they are, and hopes to inspire new generations of choreographers, squirrel _and_ human, to use these moves in their future productions.

This is Katia, a factional leader of the International Squirrel Resistance Army, seen here pictured with a nameless co-conspirator. Tonight’s agenda? How to overthrow The Man, as in _all_ The Mans, a species that, for better or worse, I also belong to. I have double-checked all of the windows to make sure no teeny-tiny squirrel hands can pry their way into my house, and put the dog on alert in case they decide to chew their way in through the screens. I advise each of you to do the same.

Paulo is a temperamental squirrel model from across the street. Paulo’s about to get fired from his latest gig performing as the father in a scene featuring him, a baby, and a lovely kitchenette, but since Paulo is terrible at following orders from the set director, he keeps getting in the way of the carefully-set-up scene as well as blocking all shots of his co-model. He’s a good-looking squirrel, with lovely cheekbones and a fantastic tail, so perhaps he can make it as a fashion model somewhere instead. But working with these complicated tableaus is obviously just not his forte.

Angela got the surprise of her life when she came down to my window well today. As the possibly one-millionth squirrel visitor to my ledge, she received not only a variety of useful and satisfying prizes, but a giant novelty check for one million dollars! Angela, that kind of cash will not only make you the envy of all of the other squirrels in the yard--it’ll buy you a whole lot of nuts.

There’s nothing Susie likes doing better after a hard day’s work than have a few friends over, put on a couple of records, and just dance the night away. Ever since high school—which was a long time ago--it’s become a tradition with her besties to get together every Wednesday to hang out until the wee hours of the night, with everyone bringing a new find from the local record store to dance to. It’s just one night where they can all forget about their stupid jobs and their stupid boyfriends and their stupid diets to pretend they’re all just kids again, and while none of them would ever admit it out loud, every single one of them thinks of this as the _best_ night of every week.

Anthony is an avid duck-feeder and nature-watcher. Today, Anthony is visiting his favorite park to feed his favorite family of ducks, on the shore of a deceptively small pond with waters so deep that many years ago, when they decided to dredge the pond in an effort to clean up the park, they found a metal cage full of human bones at the bottom. For a long time, people were convinced that the bones must belong to someone famous, and a lot of intrepid ghost tour companies sprang up to take visitors around the banks of the pond in the hopes of seeing the ghost of the mysterious dead famous person. However, after multiple DNA tests, the skeleton remained completely unidentifiable and not related to any missing famous people after all. It’s a really deep pond, which is perfect for ducks, because snapping turtles prefer to live in shallow water.

Jasper rode his bike all the way from the alley out back to here just to see his girlfriend, Blanche. Blanche is a passionate woman, with a quick, fiery temper, and has chased away many other suitors with her habit of throwing or breaking things when she’s angry, but Jasper’s learned, through careful study and quiet patience, to keep Blanche about as calm as she can be. Because of this, their days together usually consist of Jasper admiring Blanche’s yard, or any new knickknacks he sees around her house, and never include anything as problematic as board games or serious conversation.

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

For the past couple of weeks, Joan’s been receiving orders from her television set. They’re nothing particularly strange or harmful, and they really feel more like suggestions than orders, so far—they’re just silly things, like, “Pour a glass of water on your head,” or, “Pour a glass of water over your neighbor’s head,” or “Maybe just drink that glass of water this time.” And while her neighbor didn’t appreciate the mid-conversation surprise dousing, Joan’s always been a little odd, so he just took it in stride. Sometimes Joan doesn’t even know she’s following the orders from the television set, like when she just sort of found herself halfway home from the grocery store, the back of her car filled with jugs of bottled water and a plastic gallon on the seat beside her, opened and half-empty. At night, all of her dreams are filled with the sound of whispering static, like she’s left the TV on in the other room past the last sign-off of the night, but when she gets up to check, the TV’s always off, while the whispering is still there, an undercurrent to everything.

Beefsteak is a professional tail model that has lived in the birch tree in my back yard his whole life. Beefsteak is best known in the squirrel modeling world for his ability to twirl his tail on cue and for just looking adorable no matter who’s behind the camera. Because his tail is his moneymaker, he’s especially cautious about getting dried leaves and sticks caught up in his fur, and has developed a useful fighting stance when confronting other male squirrels of keeping his tail elevated and out of the way of grasping claws and teeth.

You may not think you’ve heard anything by avant-garde composer Bwaak before, but if you’ve sat through any number of commercials or sci-fi films, you’ve definitely heard at least one of her dark, moody compositions. When she’s not trying to work out the best way to create an ambient space to wrap around a scene in a car commercial or the best way to impress upon an audience the seriousness of a space-funeral, Bwaak is usually busy writing her own compositions, which tend to be surprisingly upbeat and poppy, with clever lyrics and a danceable beat. Someday, she plans to release a record of these original compositions, but most likely under a different name so as to not confuse her clients in the industry. 

All night long, Lucy's kids have been screaming about monsters being in their room, and all night long, Lucy’s been coming back to their room, opening their closet door and saying, “See? There’s nothing in the closet! Now go back to bed!” only to have them start screaming about monsters and things grabbing them all over again. That’s the problem with having three little ones at the same time—one of them starts up with an idea, then the other two run with it, and before you know it, the sun’s coming up and you’ve got to face another day on no sleep. Poor Lucy.

Jacks is on the run from the Law. It seems like just yesterday that he was just an ordinary squirrel doing ordinary squirrel things like courting ladies and going to church and helping his widowed mother out on the farm, but everything changed when those men from the bank showed up, said Jacks’ mother hadn’t been paying her bills and that the farm and their house and their whole world now belonged to the bank. What was Jacks supposed to do? They didn’t give him much choice. And now he’s on the run, across the desert with a new name and a made-up past, starting his life all over again, the Law always just one step behind him.

This squirrel appears to be a Peeping Tom, and while his name is probably not Tom, it would be a delightful coincidence if it were. This Peeping Tom in particular has a really hard time dealing with coming to a certain someone’s window well and not finding the usual offering of nuts and raisins waiting for him, and has decided that the only way to get said offering is to take matters into his own hands and _demand_ his tribute. Needless to say, it totally worked.

Basil's a tough guy well-known on the squirrel-boxing circuit. Despite the warnings from his doctor and the tender pleas of his wife and children, Basil is stepping into the ring yet again, right in the face of the knowledge that one more TKO could take him out of the game—for good. But his daughter just got accepted into a prestigious art school—an opportunity that he could only dream about when he was her age—and her partial scholarship isn’t going to cover the high cost of a good education these days. He just has to win this one last fight and all his problems will be solved.

This is Bob, and Bob don’t take kindly to strangers in his neck of the woods. In fact, Bob lives out in the middle of nowhere specifically because he doesn’t like anyone—he doesn’t like traveling salespeople, he doesn’t like Avon ladies, he doesn’t like people dropping unexpected packages or court summons at his house, and he doesn’t like tourists or hikers or campers or troops of any sort. Bob has built his entire life around being alone—except for the company of his dog Rufus, of course, who is just the best dog ever. While some people might say Bob takes his antisocial behavior a little too far, in his defense, he does spend almost all day going around nailing up “No Trespassing! I Hate You! Go Away!” signs all over his woods, so if people don’t take him seriously and think he just needs a cuddle to cheer him up and that he's not actually a dangerous psychopath, well, that’s not his problem at all. You don’t put up a sign like that if you don’t mean it.

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

The Apple Tree Monster is an ancient creature that’s part legend, part reality, but is _all_ super terrifying The Monster gets its deceptively charming name from the way it patiently hides at the tops of apple trees, deep in the forest, watching its prey for hours--days, even—before striking, attacking large animals and especially humans where they sleep before dragging them off to its den to consume at its leisure. However, since this particular forest is also the only tourist attraction in the area and a significant source of revenue for the nearby camping supply and convenience stores, there hasn’t been a lot of effort made to discourage people from trekking into the woods for a hike or to camp overnight. Occasionally, some local tries to warn out-of-towners about the Apple Tree Monster—usually someone with a terrible accent who shouts his warnings from the porch of a gas station—but those people tend to have poor communication skills overall and just seem crazy.

This is Father Julian, a priest somewhat famous for being from one of the few churches in the country that offers a Squirrel Mass every evening and twice on Saturday. Less known to his congregation is that fact that Father Julian is one of the last squirrel exorcists left in the world—in that he’s a squirrel that exorcises people who are possessed, and not someone who exorcises squirrels that are possessed, because squirrels just don’t get possessed. It’s like they have natural immunity to it, the same way that squirrels rarely get rabies because of a similar immunity. It’s this natural immunity that makes squirrels such great exorcists, but unfortunately, tends to put whoever is helping them with the exorcism in even greater danger.

Bob is really, really lost. He wasn’t even really going anywhere in particular when he got on his bike this morning, but for some reason, he just can’t remember how to get home from where he’s at right now. It wouldn’t normally be a problem, either, except the storm clouds are rolling in, the skies are getting dark, and this particular neighborhood doesn’t seem like it has any coffeeshops or bars or really any place to sit and wait out a storm and get back his bearings. He’s really tempted to just knock on one of the doors and see if someone can point him in the right direction, but there’s something unfriendly and foreboding about this row of small, flimsy houses that makes him think that that might not be a good idea.

Meet Zortan the Magnificent, knife-thrower extraordinaire. Zortan has been with several different circus companies during his career, but he’s had the same assistant—Gina--since he first started learning how to be a knife-thrower, many, many years ago. When the two of them first started working together, in fact, Gina had four fully-functioning limbs, but due to work-related accidents caused mostly by sneezing, she’s down to just the two legs and one head. But since her job mostly just entails standing in one spot and trying super hard not to cough or sneeze, she doesn’t really miss her arms too much anyway.

When Nathan decided to show up at his school’s dance without a date, he thought it would make him seem mysterious and available, but now that he’s here, he hasn’t a clue how to approach any of the girls to ask them to dance. Which is too bad, because most of the girls seem like they also didn't come with dates, and that short one in particular keeps staring at him for some reason. But none of his other friends came to the dance, so poor Nathan doesn’t even have a buddy to sit and talk to. He’s just lonely. Luckily, the cost of admission included all the snacks one can eat at the concession table, so he’s just going to sit here and eat nuts and keep to himself until this horrible night is over.

Times are tough in the small town Natalie's spent her life in, and with a heavy heart, she decided to leave her family and her friends behind and jump on the train, all in answer to an intriguing ad she saw in the newspaper. Her new boss, XL92-S (series 2), is old and decrepit and makes clanking, creaking noises in the rare moments she moves out of her chair, but Natalie is hoping that beneath that rusty exterior is a heart of gold or at the very least, a fun sense of humor. In all the books Natalie has read, answering strange newspaper advertisements and leaving everything you know behind and following your heart in general is the very best way to meet a husband and start a proper life, something she feels she desperately needs.