Creative Writing Piece: Participation Prize

By: Mila Salamone

It stared at me, the squirrel, as I stepped outside
“By the nut and by the seed,” it said 
“Great master of the cashew, 
Let not your manliness concede”
I held a bag of cashews in my hand
“To the rusty walnut
Or the pecan, expired”
My eyebrows raised, I plopped down on the backdoor patio stairs, unimpressed, nothing else to do 
The creature stayed where it was
I rubbed my fingers in the morning mildew 
“Please, by whatever grace your majesty requires  
That I might taste supple saltiness and crunch 
And hide in the ground the rest, for later months”
I sighed, kept on eating from the plastic bag
Summer air was humid, pollen made me sneeze 
I watched it and it watched me—
Belly rubbed and ready 
Gesticulations flying, scrawny little hands reaching forward 
I licked residual cashew texture, 
Squirrel cried out in agony and fell to its knees
Nothing to defend hunger, desire, started begging, tired of shame  
I can’t say at this point whether I was dreaming, or smashed beyond the brains 
The creature said “please, please, please”
I waited 
It waited 
We both waited for me—I had to make up my mind, you see
I had to figure out what was going on 
“Hmm.”
“Well?”
“Yeah, sure, whatever. You can have the rest.” I was going to toss them when the squirrel pulled
out a sword 
“Oh—by the morrow, by the day! That I might put my loyalty to the test!”
“What? No. I said I’ll give them to you. Here—”
“Oh, but how could I accept such a gift, without first passing your examinations, most prudent
and obscure! For thine nut, sweet as garlic, supple as February, ripe as a morning’s fortnight—”
“Well, now see, that doesn’t even make sense.”
“And then that I might bite into their juiciness with evermore the certainty, that I have gained
thine nuts as well as thine’s royal trust.”
It paused for a moment here, and it took me more than a few to figure out 
It was waiting
For me to respond 
I scratched my armpit and yawned 
“Okay—what?”
“A test?”
“Oh! Right. Let’s see. Ahem.”
I thought for a moment: 
“Uh, if ‘thine’ doth want ‘thine’ glory, then ‘thine’ must…”
“Thine must….?”
“Thine must take out the trash!”
“Aha! A noble task. Where be this trash most recently spoken of?”
“Well, I was in the process of throwing it out the other day when I got distracted, so, probably
somewhere in the backyard, close to the trash bin but not totally in it.” 
“Oh. Alright.”
The squirrel left to take out the trash, and unfortunately, 
It didn’t come back for a few hours
At which time it explained, the load was too full
I decided to give it the nuts anyway 
Feeling like it had failed,
I had to convince the thing that this was a participation prize— 
Finally, the squirrel ran away, cashews in hand, grateful, we were friends
I took a nap on my porch 
When I woke up it was fall 

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