SHELBY is BACK!

Forest daytime

Picture painted in deep forest

I just want to tell you that there will be a SHELBY F SQUIRREL sequel. And here is CHAPTER ONE:

MYSTERY IN THE FOREST

Shelby and Petra were basking in the fresh air. It was a beautiful spring day, with Rosie and her family sending their melodious notes echoing through the treetops.

Sunshine filtered through the fresh green leaves creating deep shadows against dancing rays of gold. Little motes floated in the bright columns, and butterflies made flashes of orange and yellow as they flitted about. Shelby and Petra felt more like napping than gathering food.

Darby and Peter had left long ago, which was their habit lately. It would be nightfall before they would likely return. The mother flying squirrels were happy to sit back and enjoy the warmth of the sun on their fur high in the branches of the gentle pine where they found cones holding sweet seeds, and soft needles to line their nests.

Petra sat up suddenly, pricking up her ears. “What’s that noise?” she asked, peering around and then staring at Shelby with a spark of fear in her eyes.

“I don’t hear anything!,” he responded, trying to sound calm. He had seen a truck nearby a few times, and just had an uncomfortable feeling it was up to no good. But then he was naturally distrustful of new sounds and anything that might invade their paradise here.

“Let’s go look!” shouted Petra, taking off with a flying leap into space. With a small sigh Shelby followed her as she led him to the forest’s edge. Sure enough there was the small brown van, the same one that had been hanging around for a week or two.

They decided to follow the two men that climbed out carrying small bags and notebooks. One of the men glanced upward, as though he sensed them above him, and quickly brought his camera up and snapped several shots.

“Couple of flying squirrels up there, Tony,” he said, jerking his head in their general direction.

“Yeah, hope we see lots of signs of wildlife. We need to produce solid evidence if we want to get anywhere against the plans for this woodlot. Let’s take a walk. You have your recorders all set up?”

“Yup, I’ll pick up everything from birdsong to mice running through dried leaves, you’ll see!”

“Glad you’re the one deciphering it later. I’ll take care of the visual. If we separate, then I can use my own recorder to dictate notes. You wouldn’t want my jabbering on your nature tapes!”

With a hearty chuckle he marched off toward the farm on the west side of the forest.

Shelby whispered to Petra, “Okay, you go with that one, and I’ll follow the one with the recorder. We have to tell the Wise Old Owl about this tonight for sure.”

Petra soon realized that she would have difficulty keeping up with the photographer below her. He walked briskly, barely pausing to click the camera before swinging away to forge ahead.

She realized he was noticing the animals of the forest as he went. Their curious faces were peeking out of burrows, or around tree branches or between leaves. Once, she spied Molly and Polly clinging to the trunk of the tree that was home, quite camouflaged in the dappled light and shadow. And Rosy Robin was easy to find as she continued to sing and warble at the top of her voice. In fact Petra thought Rosie was following the man too.

Somehow it made Petra’s heart feel warm as he paused to click the shutter. But then her being froze in a mixture of pleasure and fright! He was looking directly at her, wearing a funny little smile.

“Well, well!” he said, as he brought the camera up, and snapped before Petra could react.

He checked the result and laugh loudly. “Now, that has to be a first! Little flying squirrel wearing a total look of guilt! I do believe you are following me!”

Petra was horrified! She just turned and fled blindly, her heart beating frantically, crashing through the branches until she was at their home nest hole.

“Shelby!! Shelby!!” she called, really distressed now because he was nowhere in sight. With a small tremor of shock she realized how much she depended on him every single day. It took a while for her to calm down enough to remember he was following the other man. Of course, he wasn’t home!! That just made her feel both frightened and foolish.

She sat down to think for a moment or two, but couldn’t sit idle at such a time. In another moment, she was in flight, determined to get the job done that she had been given to do.

It was easy to find the man with the camera, but now she scrupulously kept her distance. He was still taking what seemed like hundreds of pictures, sometimes bending very low and sometimes just clicking as he walked. The whole time, his low voice droned on, recording the extra details needed to catalogue everything at the end of the day.

Petra began to lose her fear, and relax. He wasn’t threatening any of her friends and he was being careful not to damage anything he came close to, like a nest on the ground or the opening of a small animal’s tunnel.

Meanwhile, Shelby was tracking the man with the specialized recording equipment. He watched him holding a big fuzzy shape ahead of him, sometimes reaching high above his head, and even bending low to the ground. This man was careful with his steps, proceeding quite silently through the grass. He was avoiding any dried twigs that would snap, or loose stones that would tumble or scrape under his boots.

Shelby sat and cocked his head, wondering what this was all about. It was peaceful and not looking dangerous. At least not so far. Shelby’s head buzzed with questions. Maybe a little visit to Charlie later on today would be a good idea.

The sun was low in the west, descending in a sea of peach-coloured clouds against a turquoise sky. Stars were already visible high above them. The two men had long departed in the little brown van.

As if by magic, suddenly the Wise Old Owl was with Shelby and Petra. He folded his great wings and fluffed his feathers with a brisk ripple before speaking.

“We need to find out what those men are doing in our woods!” he exclaimed with an edge of haughty authority. “I’ve never seen anything quite like their carry-on today, and I’ve been around forever!”

“Well,” began Shelby hesitating a little, since he wasn’t used to giving suggestions to the Wise Old Owl. He still remembered his first night flight and the lesson the old bird gave him as a very young flying squirrel. Straightening himself upright, he continued, “I thought maybe we should ask Charlie, if you think that’s a good idea.”

The owl’s head snapped around to glare at Shelby. His eyes seemed to bore right through the tiny flying squirrel. Wise Old Owl had been a kindly uncle to Shelby and all his friends for all their young lives. They all had great respect for him because he usually had an answer for everything.

Now the huge bird blinked once, and cleared his throat to say, “It’s okay, Shelby! You’re quite grown up enough now to speak to me as an equal, and I welcome that. Your idea to see Charlie is an excellent one. Let’s go right now!” And as if on cue, just then the largest member of Wise Old Owl’s extended family arrived with a loud whoosh of wings.

“Howie, you take Petra and I’ll take Shelby.” And with a flying squirrel clinging to each of their wide strong backs, the owls took off toward the farm.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Gita
    Feb 25, 2016 @ 05:26:40

    I welcome the idea of a continued series where Shelby has grown up and learnt many forest lessons. These stories dealing with important issues relating to nature and its importance and preservation, soberly addressed by the animal characters through the skilfulness of the writer, will certainly serve to promote awareness in young minds, prompting them to closer examine that aspect of nature that they can effect. Good thought provoking discussions can be stirred among both young and old members of literary groups, once this can be promoted. This is much needed. Good luck Shelby, on this leg of the journey!

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  2. Eleanor Lawrie
    Feb 25, 2016 @ 13:56:07

    Thanks so much, Gita!!! You have a lot of faith in my little flying squirrel and my aspirations for him. I hope the story will do as you suggest and serve to help awareness of the beauty of nature and the need to preserve it.

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