On Being Nuts about Politics
By Squirrel Foozle
I teach at the Foozle Normal School on 10th Street, over behind the Onion Cannery here in the Valley. Or I did until a few weeks ago, anyway. When the fire spread through the town, it ate up the school in no time. The structure should have been condemned—the walls and roof were constructed out of pallets and other scrap wood, but affixed to the bones of an older building, an old silo facility for wheat. It hadn’t been used in years for its intended purpose, not since the feral cats took over the eastern fields. The silo worked well enough to keep the rain out, once we’d covered the old parts with scraps of old pallets and other refuse wood, but it was drafty as hell, and little foozle would often have to come to school in big coats and mittens and scarves. For the cold-blooded ones, it was a real problem. The reptile foozle would always want to curl up at my feet, or they’d cling to the end of my skirt as I tried to explain something to the rest of the children.
We can’t teach without a school, so we’ve closed things until we can find another suitable location, which might only happen if we see some real political change. The budget for education has been cut like filets from a carcass at the Exhibition—just stripped down to the bones until there’s nothing left. When people used to complain, we’d be told funding has to be preserved to defend the Huge Wall from foreign enemies, or that we can only grow our economy if we lower taxes on Grumpf Enterprises, or eliminate them, or whatever. It’s always just sounded like political noise to me, and I’ve not paid much attention to it in the past simply in virtue of the fact that I had neither the time nor energy to do anything about it. I was busy enough trying to feed myself and my family—that and not get harassed, even in subtle ways, like the little micro-aggressions.
A few weeks back, before the fire, I was sitting in the teacher’s lounge at the Foozle Normal School (it’s really a patio behind the silo, but we call it our ‘lounge’), having my lunch. I had eaten most of a Grumpf Nutrition Bar and had put it back in my pocket for safe-keeping.
“You squirrelling that away for later?” the Principal said from behind me, and I just shook my head and grimaced.
“That’s really not appropriate,” I said, reminding my boss that such expressions assume the worst of all squirrel foozle, and that everyone ought to get a fair shake.
“Sorry ma’am,” the Principal said, I believe with malicious intent, “I didn’t mean anything by it.”
I pushed my last bit of Grumpf’s Nutty Nutrition Bars from one generous cheek to the other so I could speak. “We should be careful what we say, sir,” I told him, a few crumbs coming out of my mouth with each syllable. I gathered up my things from the Formica table, sitting out under a make-shift awning in our ‘teacher’s lounge.’ I put my things away, frowning the whole time. I noticed I’d got a hand on the communal salt and pepper in just enough time to catch myself. The Principal stared at me, assuming the worst.
“Really, Steve,” I said. “You should know better.”
I guess you could say I was born with a concern about equitable distribution of resources. For as long as I can remember I have worked toward social justice. Part of it is simply the result of growing up in poverty, with the need to secure food constantly looming over my family, a new cold-front only ever a season away. It felt like every fall we’d have to scramble to find enough pickled onions or nutrition bars to make it through the winter. My family scavenged too, and I’m not afraid to admit it. Tough times can surprise you—make you see yourself for what you are.
That part of my life led naturally to the next, I suppose: the reputation of Squirrel Foozle as light-fingered, as pick-pockets and shop-lifters, as hoarders.
I’m not proud of my hoarding, but I am no thief. I’ve never taken so much as a nut from another Foozle, let alone townsfolk. But they watch me when I’m at the Grumpf’s Free Market Farmer’s Marker, always suspecting me of something. I can’t so much as look at one of their wilted heads of lettuce without having a clerk hovering over me.
That’s what brought me to the Rooster Foozle Campaign. I want to work on messaging for our cause. We have a right to live our revolution, right here and now, to be the change we want to see, as some old foozle put it, to open up the valley to a new, harmonious, way of living together. I think Rooster’s calling us to get up, to see the new dawn just on the horizon.
Cock-a-doodle-do! Cock-a-doodle-do! Wake up! It’s time for a new day.