My grandmother has been dead for over seven years, but I’m pretty sure the squirrel on my windowsill is her. Mainly because she’s talking to me, but also the particular way she holds her paws and darts forward once in a while, toward the box of See’s candy on the counter—nuts and chews were always her favorite.
“Would you like one?” I ask, and she shakes her head, says, “I couldn’t eat all that.” Which tells me for sure—this is Grandma.
I hope she doesn’t notice I haven’t kept her porcelain dolls—some went in yard sales, some sleep in the garage. I never liked them, really, but couldn’t come to tell her. She told me once, when she was starting to need handrails, that the porcelain dolls were tiring. They had to be dusted and arranged and kept in glass cases. And when there weren’t grandchildren pressing their noses to the glass, begging for the cases to be opened, when there weren’t jelly stains to be removed from the dresses, they must not have been much fun anymore.
I take a candy out of the box, anyway, and leave it on the windowsill, and turn my back, and sure enough, when I turn back, the candy is gone and Grandma is cleaning bits of almond out of her fur.
“I thought you’d be a canary,” I tell her, remembering the birdcage she kept in her kitchen. It was usually covered, maybe to protect the bird from the cigarette smoke, but sometimes I’d see a stir of yellow or hear a chirp.
“Flying ain’t for me,” she says. “They made me a duck for a while, but I got hit by a car. I like to keep my feet on the ground.”
I want to ask how many times she’s gone back and forth since I’ve seen her, and has she been in the area this whole time? I’m not sure how long squirrels live, or ducks for that matter. Strange that she’d ever come back as a swimmer. She was a fire sign, as a human, and never learned to swim. I imagine life as a seal or a narwhal—what fun to be the stuff of myth. I want to ask about the “they” who sent her back with fur and tail, to eat acorns from the tree outside my kitchen window. But I never knew how to ask her things, and could never understand the answers.
Grandma eyes the candy again, a milk chocolate number with marshmallow fluff. I move the box to the windowsill and tell her to have her fill.
But Grandma couldn’t eat all that. Her squirrel stomach is so dang small.
I look through the cupboards for something more squirrel-friendly, and she says, “I’d better be going.” Her tail is all fluff and her cheeks are all bulge and she chews on her words and she chirrups. I say I hope I’ll see her soon, that we shouldn’t be strangers. She scampers off, as squirrels do, and I take the candy off the sill. The marshmallow chocolate is gone.
Laura Ender is an MFA student at Eastern Washington University and an assistant managing editor for Willow Springs. She contributes weekly to Bark and writes a food blog. Her fiction has appeared in Iconoclast and Tomfoolery Review.