The Squirrel of Hope
Prompt: Each morning there are more red squirrels than the day before . . .
“Just another day in paradise,” snarled Amy, her voice dripped with sarcasm she immediately regretted.
It was just going on half past seven, too early for the day to be this bad. She’d queued at the well for almost an hour before she was able to hobble away, clutching the two jugs of water that would have to get them to Thursday. One and a half, actually. She’d lost half when she’d hit her toe on an angry looking chunk of concrete on the pavement in front of her.
“Aw now, take it easy mum, it’s a good day. Look, there’s a patch of blue in the sky.”
Sammy. A glass half-full kind of guy. She loved that about him but they really, really needed a jug that was more than half-full of water!
Amy wanted to be cheerful for him. She wanted the patch of blue to be enough. She rested the jugs on the collapsed remains of a bus shelter, overgrown with ivy, and drew a deep breath. The early morning light cast patchwork shadows across the grey pavement as the sun tried to cut through the jagged remains of the buildings on Main Street.
“Right you are, kiddo,” Amy said, forcing a smile. She would find beauty in this world if it killed her.
“Check it out, I see a butterfly,” said Amy pointing to the pattern of shadow and light on the pavement.
“Um, I see a pointy hat,” Sammy said, indicating another shadow.
Amy used to play this game with her own parents. Of course, back then they’d looked at the shapes in cotton-wool clouds parading across an unbroken canvas of blue. No clouds anymore.
She looked at Sammy’s pointy hat. It was clearly a Christmas tree, but of course he wouldn’t know that. He’d never seen one.
They said it would take decades for the earth to recover. But it felt like millennia passed before the earth hinted at hope. Unless you count Sammy. Unplanned, of course, and utterly terrifying. The medic said she’d been unbelievably lucky that the infection hadn’t taken hold. The last dose of antibiotics had gone eight years before. The kid, hearty and oblivious to what was missing was the sticky, honey-sweat scented embodiment of hope.
“Mum, look…” Sammy cried as they turned up the lane to their camp. A dart of rust red across the smooth grey surface of rock danced in the corner of her eye.
Yes, thought Amy. There was hope—after all there were more red squirrels than the day before.