The Squirrels


The squirrels remember in decades. That is, while they breathe circles into the winter air, one will slip down the muddy walkway and have his spine pressed upright by a memory of running forward, dry cough and chilly wind like needles, showing up for another on a street corner in the dead of night. This isn’t his memory but he recognizes the early morning vibration, the ground shaking, the sky shaking, his feet, and he knows that in order to appreciate the sun he will need to traverse the street and be elated, at least momentarily, by the unused water pooling on the side of the street.

He sees the other squirrel when the crow starts clicking, sitting atop a wire and the sun finally blazing down to proceed into day. It is day. The squirrel approaches the other, and, cheeks wriggling and butt smashing into the grass, he presses the palm of his hand into her chest and her mouth rewinds. The arms might lose themselves in dreams but the squirrels always know where they are. When one is no longer visible to the other, there is no crying but a shouldering of the post and the fullness of survival that contracts and protracts with the waning and waxing of the moon. He knows not to demand and she knows not to wait up. This comes from experience, from decades of memory. After all, if they are running in circles and up and down trees, the memories ought to loop in figure-eight patterns as well, so when creatures grind their teeth it is not only during evening slumber.


Janice Lee is the author of KEROTAKIS (Dog Horn Press, 2010), Daughter (Jaded Ibis, 2011), Damnation (Penny-Ante Editions, 2013), Reconsolidation (Penny-Ante Editions, 2015), and The Sky Isn’t Blue (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2016). She writes about the filmic long take, slowness, interspecies communication, the apocalypse, and asks the question, how do we hold space open while maintaining intimacy? She is Founder & Executive Editor of Entropy, Co-Publisher at Civil Coping Mechanisms, and Contributing Editor at Fanzine. After living for over 30 years in California, she recently moved from Los Angeles to Portland, Oregon where she is an Assistant Professor of Fiction at Portland State University.