The gigantic white trees had always creaked and groaned, but they had never growled like this before. In fact, none of the other trees had growled before.
I wonder if they are angry at us for straying too far from the nest? I only came out here because Fisher made me!
Squint had only ever seen the white trees from a distance. This morning, however, he had followed his brother on an adventure. Fisher said these trees were so big that they must have huge nuts. Probably even bigger than their mother, father, and even the whole nest! Squint wondered why he bothered listening to Fisher. It was always Fisher’s fault when they got in trouble.
Another long and loud growl shook the ground. Squint looked for his brother but didn’t know where he was. Had he tried to climb the gigantic tree? Was there a nest up there? Squint didn’t see any nuts at all.
These trees were so odd. They didn’t have many branches at all. There was really just one gigantic trunk, as tall as any mountain. The trunk had three extensions hanging from the top; one pointed up to the sky and the other two pointed down to the ground. Were they branches or just really, really long leaves? If there were any nuts, Squint knew they would be all the way up at the top. Nuts were always at the ends of the branches, near leaves usually.
These white trees all looked pretty much alike, too. The other trees Squint had known were very different from each other. The tree his family lived in was tall and straight, kind of like the white trees, but theirs had a lot more branches sticking out. It had sticky sap under portions of the bark and pointy green leaves. Momma didn’t call them leaves, though; they were needles. But Squint still thought of them as leaves. When the brown cones grew, they would get to chew on them. Inside were the delicious nuts. Momma would make them chew cones every night to keep their teeth good.
Yet another growl! But this time, it was worse. It wasn’t the tree. The ground was starting to open its mouth. It looked as if it was going to eat the white tree!
The ground had split open and the gigantic white trunk was falling towards it. Squint’s heart was in his throat and his legs felt numb. He couldn’t move. His big brother must have done something horrible because the world was falling apart. All he had wanted was to see the white trees and whether they had giant nuts or not. Finally, Squint felt sensation again in his toes. He dug them into the ground, almost leaping backwards, and started running for home as fast as he could.
After he had gained some distance, Squint glanced behind himself. The massive white trunk was still coming towards him, but before Squint could turn his head back towards his exit, he found himself sailing through the air.
Squealing in terror as his head hit the ground, he recognized the object that tripped him as one of the upright animal’s tools used to take down squirrel homes. It had the long familiar wooden handle with the red and grey tooth on the end that would bite into trunks. That tooth had torn a chunk out of his hand as he fell over it.
Tears streamed down his face as he sat there in the shadow of the white tree falling over him. There was no hope! The trees were all coming down. His home would be gone, even if he got there. What would happen to his Momma, his Daddy, all his brother and sisters? Why did he even leave the nest this morning?
“Come on, Dummy, get up!”
Squint opened damp eyes and saw Fisher reaching for his arm.
“Do you want to get squashed?”
Squint shook his head.
“No, but you do!” he shouted, leaping up with renewed vigor at the sight of his brother.
Filled with sibling rivalry, Squint was able to move again and ignore the burning in his lungs, the ache in his legs and the cut on his hand. This horrible white tree would not get them!
As a result of Squint’s courage to keep going, he realized that the world ending shadow had disappeared. He could feel the sun on his back again and that gave him hope despite the ground shaking apart all around them. Squint risked another look behind to see if they would make it and saw the giant white leaf that had been pointed to the sky was meters from them now.
Something in the back of his mind told Squint that the giant white leaf would not be soft when landing on them. They were not moving fast enough to outrun it; even his brother who was a few paces ahead. So at what seemed like the very last minute, Squint grabbed his brother’s tail and pulled hard to the left. Fisher yelped in anguish while all kinds of dirt and debris kicked up around them. Squint watched as the very edge of the massive white leaf just missed his brother’s head.
As Fisher turned towards him, Squint feared the inevitable punch in the face for the unthinkable act of pulling another squirrel’s tail. Instead, he was engulfed in arms as his brother wrapped them around his neck. Squint hugged him back. Once Fisher let him go, he realized the ground wasn’t angry anymore. Neither were the trees. The growling had stopped and the world had not ended.
Unmistakable relief welled up from inside Squint, and he began to laugh heartily. His brother followed his lead, and they sat there laughing their heads off for several minutes. Then, once that had settled down, Squint grinned at his brother and punched him in the arm.
“You are SUCH a liar! There are no giant nuts on the white trees.”