The Case of the Missing Munk - Part III
Updated: Mar 12
“Let him go,” I barked. “Now. Now. Now!”
The thieving squirrels didn’t answer. The three other squirrels who had been following us flicked their tails at us and darted into the tree, leaving me and my munks unsure what to do next.
“I’m going in,” Chippy said, brandishing the stick-sword he had found earlier. I had no idea how he managed to hold on to it while we were crossing the river, but he was exceptionally resourceful. If there was a way to do something, he would find it.
“No,” Nutsy said. “We need a plan. We can’t just run in there – they’ll smash us to bits if we do that.”
Well, never could I ever have expected Nutsy to say that. He was all about risk and adventure. The fact that he wanted to make a plan spoke to just how frightened he was for his brother’s safety.
“I have an idea,” I said. “But it’s going to be risky.”
Chippy leapt down from my back and made a number of elaborate, threatening movements with his tiny wooden sword. “I fear nothing.”
“Good,” I said. “Because you’re going to be the distraction.”
“What am I to do?” Nutsy said. “I’m terribly afraid, but I’ll do anything to help free my brother.”
“Can you be sneaky?” I asked. The frightened little munk nodded, his eyes wide and glassy.
“Can you be brave?” I asked, bringing my nose extremely close to Nutsy’s. He nodded again, but this time he seemed a little less sure of himself.
“Good, because you’ll both need to be utterly fearless for this to work.”
“What are you going to do?” Chippy asked.
“I’m going to bark my head off,” I said with a shrug. “I can’t do much else from down here. The trees are your domain.” Both of them nodded their understanding. “Okay, here’s my plan. Gather close.”
In moments, Chippy was scampering up the side of the tree, carrying his sword in his mouth, while Nutsy was working his way into the opening at the base of the trunk. To make sure the squirrels couldn’t hear them coming, I started barking. I barked like the mailman was coming to the door. I barked so hard I feared I was going to lose my voice. When Chippy was at the end of a long thin branch right near the opening to the squirrel’s home, I stopped making noise, giving my brave little buddy a chance to issue his challenge.
“Hey, squirrels,” he called out, striking a pose like he was a master swordsman. “I challenge you to a duel. Winner takes all.”
Two squirrels poked their heads from their hole. They looked amused and confused by their tiny rival’s actions.
“What do you think you’ll win?” the larger of the two squirrels asked as he stepped out of his hole. He took a few threatening steps forward. “What stakes are you proposing?”
“I want my brother back. If I can best you in combat, you must release him and leave us all alone.”
“And when I win?” the squirrel said with an annoyingly cute smirk. “What do I get? We already have your brother. What more do we need?”
“If you win,” Chippy said, stepping forward, swishing his sword in front of himself. “You’ll get me and my brother, and you’ll get our friend down there to be your bodyguard.”
“I don’t know,” the smaller squirrel said, his tail twitching while he stared down at me. “How do we know the big brute down there won’t just try to eat us?”
“Because squirrels are friends, not food,” I barked up at him. “You might be fun to chase and bark at, but I would never hurt you.”
“He wouldn’t,” Chippy said. “He’s a good boy. We play together all the time. He’s a lot of fun.”
It warmed my puppy heart hearing my munk buddy speak so kindly of me.
“You have my word,” I said. “I am a golden retriever, and we never, ever lie. I always speak the truth, for fear my tail feathers might fall out.” My dad had once said that to me when he asked if I took a bite of his banana. So, if he said it, it must be true. Although, my dad makes up stories for a living…
“I said you have my word. I promise, if you best my little friend here, I will be your bodyguard and I’ll make sure you stay safe.”
“Deal,” the big squirrel said as he bolted forward.
“You have to catch me to beat me,” Chippy called out as he leapt from the branch to an even smaller branch above, much too thin for the heavy squirrel to follow him. From his place of safety, the little guy chittered and teased, driving the burly squirrel crazy.
“I need help,” the muscle-bound rodent called out. “Everyone get out here and help me catch this chipmunk!” A moment later, the rest of the squirrels came pouring out of the tree. There were so many of them, far more than I had expected. The entire pack chased Chippy through the limbs. He was using the smallest branches to keep them away, but they were surrounding him, giving him no chance to escape.
“Got him,” Nutsy called out from the squirrel’s hole. “Chippy, let’s go!”
My three munk buddies all jumped down from the tree, landing safely on the soft fur of my back. The squirrels chittered in frustration, knowing they had lost their captive.
“Please,” a small female squirrel called out. “Please don’t take him away from us. We need him.”
“Why?” I barked. “Why did you take my friend from me? Why should I trust you now?”
“Because I’m speaking true. One of my babies was searching for nuts we had stored in our tree, and she got stuck in a small hole. It’s too small for any of us to fit into. She’s frightened and lonely and…”
“We thought this chipmunk might be able to get our baby free,” another squirrel finished. His bright black eyes were wet with tears. My puppy heart shattered.
“You didn’t need to steal him,” I said. “If you had just asked for help, I know my friends would have done anything to save your child.”
“They never hurt me,” Cheeks said. “But I was quite frightened by the way they whisked me off like they did.”
“Do you want to help them?” I asked. All three of my buddies nodded enthusiastically. “Okay. Go help them free their baby. I’ll wait here.”
It didn’t take long for the munks to return. All three of them were smiling, with cheeks extended to ridiculous proportions. Their faces were so stuffed with nuts they were incapable of uttering a single word.
“Thank you,” the small female said from her place on the tree branch above. She was clutching onto her child, looking like she was never going to let her go. “Anytime you come back to our forest, please stop by and visit us. You’ll always be welcomed here, and forever known as Squirrel Friends.”
“You’re welcome,” I said on behalf of my tiny striped buddies, who were all busily munching on their nuts, enjoying their picnic on my back. “I’ll be sure to stop by and bark next time I’m near.”
As I happily trotted towards the bridge, I heard my parents calling out my name, which made me realize how worried they must have been after I ran off. It never occurred to me before how much they cared for my safety, and how anxious they might feel if they couldn’t find me – just like I was upset that Cheeks was missing and how the mother squirrel feared for her baby. I felt guilty for causing them unnecessary worry and realized that it wasn't fair to them.
I barked excitedly and ran towards their voices. My tail was wagging behind me in big, round circles when I saw them waiting for me near the bridge. They both looked relieved to see me, and I was so happy to see them. I couldn’t wait to tell them all about my adventure.