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Sharbenau the Squirrel (Juvenile Fiction)
“Sharbenau Squirrel” by Miriam Pia
Sharbenau realized at some point that he was not like other squirrels in some ways. In most respects he was a normal squirrel. He grew at the same rate, liked most of the same foods, his tail was bushy just like everyone else’s. His temperament was also not that different from many of the others in his tribe.
Sharbenau lived in a large colony of squirrels. They had 3 tribes, 2 of them had 15 families and the other tribe had 9 families in it. The elders taught the youth how to live and do well in the forest where they lived. Like it or not, it became clear that some of the larger squirrels seemed to ‘do better’ than others.
There were moments that made Sharbe very sad. When he was young this happened mostly when he saw another injured or sick. He hated to witness their suffering, but he didn’t want to leave them – he knew it would make him look cold-hearted when he wasn’t. Well, that problem got Sharbenaut a lot of attention for a long time.
Once, when another squirrel was hurt, he tried to help it. Partly, he just gave the other animal comfort, and somehow—he wasn’t even sure how; he tried to change things. He tried to help the other to heal. Sharbenau wasn’t sure it would do any good, but his grandmother mentioned it to him once. She complimented him. She told him: “Now the little one, he was very creative and quite kind. That’s a very rare thing, but it’s something to feel good about, rather than bad.”
Sharbenau thought his grandmother meant well, but it was a little strange. Thing is, she had been kind to him when he was feeling a little sad or lonely or something—he remembered the incident. The squirrel children found that they often had plenty of time to play and have fun, as well as time to learn how to take care of themselves and each other. Most of the time, they were told to stay indoors after dark. The real reason for this was to protect them from danger. There were other animals. The way they saw things made it harder for squirrels to identify danger during the dark. It made it easier for them to get the youngsters to stick around during these times. Sharbenau felt this made sense and did not fight it. He was actually a very well behaved baby squirrel. Most were, but some of them looked different. For a very long time, he observed what happened to different individuals depending on what they did. There appeared to be 2 main effects among the more adventurous squirrels. Some had sad fates: they were often injured and many died young in the tragedy.
Others had happy fortunes. They seemed to be blessed with great energy and talent and able to survive. So Sharbenau developed a new understanding of this type of squirrel. However, he did not stray far from the elders. It did not seem to be in his nature to disobey or go against sound advice.
Sharbenau and a crow
One day, when Sharbenau was climbing a tree in an area where he was allowed, he had a very unusual experience. A large crow, at least twice his size, got close enough – they looked each other in the eye. The bird lowered its head and moved it slowly towards the squirrel.
Sharbenau saw this huge, sharp and dangerous beak coming towards him, but for some reason he did not feel the usual fear and did not move away. Suddenly, he reached out one of his front paws and struck the bird in the beak.
Well, after that happened, they both panicked. The squirrel withdrew his hand very suddenly. The bird turned its head back; this had never happened before! The bird bowed. The squirrel was terrified by the dangerous giant open mouth and the terrible sound. Sharbenau started screaming and ran along some branches and ran to safety. There he gasped, calmed down, resumed his daily life. The experience stayed with him. Because he remembered it so well, he felt it might have deep meaning.
After his experience with the crow, Sharbenau tried to help others when someone was hurt or injured. He didn’t do this every time no matter who he was, but he tried. As time passed, the others began to talk among themselves about it. They were beginning to think he might have some kind of power to help them. They wondered if it would work if they tried the same things—if it would work the same way for the elders to tell them how to find food and what to eat. They also wondered if maybe it was Sharbenau.
One day Sharbenau was out on an excursion. He was feeling more mature and quite proud because he was single again. In fact, he had not run away from home. He found a berry bush. He was happy because he found his meal without help for the first time in a long time. On this particular occasion Sharbenau brought with him a small quantity of the branch. A little while later: it seemed like a long time, but it might have been two weeks, Sharbenau was with a squirrel that wasn’t feeling well. Spontaneously, Sharbenau hit the other squirrel with the blackberry branch, screamed 3 times and jumped around for half a minute. Then, just as suddenly, he stopped. He suddenly felt embarrassed. He looked at the other squirrel and found that the other one was smiling at him. Sharbenau felt the fur on his tail. He pulled his tail in and around. Then Sharbenau quickly found a way to get away.
Later, just 2 days later, there was a new sight. Sharbenau was at the nearest stream to get water. He saw the squirrel that had jumped around and touched him with a branch. The other’s health seemed much improved. Sharbenau the squirrel just watched silently from the shadow. He was beginning to wonder if he had some sort of power after all, and wasn’t just imagining it.
In reality, the other squirrels in the tribe did notice him. It seemed to everyone that Sharbenau had helped the other squirrel to recover. Everyone began to watch Sharbenau a little more, to observe whether or not anything else ‘surprising’ or ‘amazing’ might be happening. At first this made Sharbenau very uncomfortable. Afterwards, he realized he could use that as encouragement to try things sometimes. So after that he was more likely to pursue his ideas about healing, or figuring things out. Now it seemed that if he did anything special the other squirrels would say, “Well, that’s Sharbenau. That’s why.”
One day, Sharbenau was out—again, he was only a short distance away from the rest of his group. He hadn’t actually left the band, or anything like that.
He was on the side of a tree one day, head down on a large oak when another of these ‘strange events’ occurred. Sharbenau sensed the presence of another life form. It was a big, very big creature. Her smell was noticeable, but not unpleasant. He didn’t know what kind of creature it was from the wind. The sound of movement was heard, but the entity moved slowly. Sharbenau decided to remain calm. He looked down. He looked at his front paws and felt the tight grip he had on the thick oak bark. This was a very stable situation from what he could tell. Again, the great creature moved.
This time, Sharbenau could look and see a part of her on the ground. It was like nothing he had ever seen before. He wags his tail back and forth. He sniffed the light wind. There was more movement. Sharbenau knew he was risking a lot by not running away. He had a curious sensation in both his body and mind. This time, another large part of the creature came into view. It turned out to be really gigantic compared to a squirrel, but Sharbenau still thought it was much smaller than the tree it was in. However, even though his tail was twitching a little, Sharbenau didn’t sneer or run.
What happened was that the creature began to make a noise; when Sharbenau was still not running, a small miracle happened when the creature touched him without causing any damage. Sharbenau wasn’t sure how to react. He was quite pleased, but he wasn’t sure why—perhaps simply because this kind of event had never happened before and might never happen again.
The whole experience only took a few minutes. Then the large creature made a series of different sounds and began to move rapidly. The squirrel felt a new kind of pressure on his back and then he suddenly lurched forward, down and then around and away from the strange creature. He climbed much higher and left. In fact, Sharbenau never looked back.
He told the other squirrels of his tribe about it. Well, they have talked about it so much that the old people have heard of it. Finally, Grandma Squirrel told the 2 of them that she thought the creature he had seen and touched could have been a human being.
The new life of Sharbenau
From that moment on, no one treated Sharbenau the way they had treated him before. It was strange because the difference was somewhat subtle, but in other respects noticeable. Sharbenau wasn’t exactly sure what it was. Neither were the others, but it was something and they all knew it. After a long time, the squirrels developed a word for him and began to call Sharbenau a shaman. Slowly, they tried to share this information with other tribes.
Sharbenau himself felt a little special. After all, he was just trying to be himself; he was just this squirrel. He loved his family, enjoyed his life and loved the tribal lifestyle. For some reason he was a little different from the others. He even worried about whether or not he would heal someone with the berry wand again – after it had worked once.
The most amazing thing, it was twofold. First, when Sharbenau returned to the tree where he had once encountered the giant creature, he sometimes found offerings. The other surprising fact is that for the first time in history, a human being understood – but did not understand why this idea arose, that animals could have their own medicine men.
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