Squirrels Hate Robots by William Turbyfill

“Squirrels hate robots.” He says it with such earnestness that it catches me off guard.

“I beg your pardon.”

“Squirrels. Hate. Robots. It’s really not that complicated.” The five year old is right. It is not a complicated concept to comprehend and yet, I have questions, not the least of which is, ‘if squirrels hate robots, do robots in turn, hate squirrels?’ “I could draw you a picture of it if that would make it easier for you.” I’m not a fan of his condescending attitude.

              “How do you know this, about the robots and the squirrels and what not?” I say this while looking for a pencil and paper. As much as I want to smack him, if I’m honest, I also really want him to draw me a picture of squirrels hating on robots.

“Everyone knows that.” Do they? Is that another one of those bits of information that everyone knows but that I somehow missed out on? Like how mortgages work or how a person goes about scheduling dentist appointments. I’m well past the age where I can be given a free pass on things like that. Is the instinctual animosity of that all squirrels have towards robots the newest thing?

“Of course, I mean. I know that and you know that I know that,” I pause waiting for him to acknowledge that he knows that I know that. He looks up from his blocks, gives me an impatient nod and I continue. “But what do you think about that?

“What do I think about what?”

“Do you think it’s fair, I mean right? What’s your position on the whole squirrel robot thing?”

“Well,” the cherub’s chubby little fingers put down the blocks and he crosses his arms in a look of deep contemplation. “That’s a big question. You have to look at it from both sides. Robots are not born like squirrels are, they are made by people. And squirrels are not made by people; they are born from other squirrels.” There is nothing in that that I can argue with. “Now squirrels live in trees and what are trees made of?”

I hadn’t realized that I was going to be asked questions. Before I can think of an intelligent answer, I shout out, “Bark!”

He looks at me like I’m an eye chart.

“No. Wood. Trees are made of wood. The bark is just decoration. Now, where do robots live?”

Shit. Where do robots live? I mean, do robots even live? Is this a trick question? Is this little pip squeak trying to make a fool out of me on some sort of technicality? Okay, let’s think this through. Robots are inorganic life that rely on Artificial Intelligence that stems ultimately from human programming and construction; no actually, they got robots that build robots now. Mental note to remind this kid later that not all robots are made by people like he said they were. Oh no, he’s staring. Think of something quick; just don’t say ‘bark’.

“Um… not trees.”

“Exactly!” Nailed it. “Robots live everywhere but trees. They are in houses, underwater, airplanes and outer space. The only place Robots don’t live is in trees.”

“With the squirrels.” I say showing that I’m tracking him.

“With the squirrels,” he responds before going back to playing with his blocks thus inaugurating the longest silence I have ever experienced in my life. Is that it? Does that explain everything? What the hell does that have to do with anything? Am I having a stroke? Why would a tree dwelling rat give two shits about robots? Unless…do they feel threatened? Are squirrels aware of the encroachment of robotic life into all ecosystems both natural and man-made with trees being the last bastion of robotless freedom? And why haven’t they been able to encroach into trees yet? Oh my god, are the squirrels fending them off somehow? Are they aware on some deep rooted level of consciousness that the advent of the singularity is at hand and with its fulfillment all life on earth will suffer and be subjugated under the titanium fist of emotionless robotic rule? Are the squirrels protecting us from total annihilation? I mean on some level it makes sense of course, robots are cold and calculating but squirrels, well, whether one believes in God or evolution, both humans and squirrels come from the same life source, the same heartbeat that gave birth to humanity also birth forth the noble squirrel. They are our earthborn brethren and allies against the factory-made menace. How many squirrels have given their lives in an attempt to free us from our dependence on the automobile? Sure, their approach is flawed in its execution, but their intention and motive is as pure as freshly fallen snow. Never again will I pass by a squirrel killed on the street without mourning my distant kin. We are in this together little friend and together we will prevail.

The boy interrupts my thoughts, “Can I help you?”

I wipe the tears of revelation from my face and try to find the words. “I was just wondering where, I mean when it was that… I mean, fucking robots, am I right?”

“Ugh, you’re such a squirrel.”