A few months ago, during a particularly feisty meeting of the Women's Sewing Co-op, one of the small children we allow to linger during meetings captured a small squirrel. Bendu convinced him to give it to her and used her sewing thread to make it a collar and a leash. The squirrel, which Bendu and the children took turns holding in their cupped hands, looked terrified.
"It's a baby," Elijah, who'd no doubt had some part in catching it, informed us." The baby squirrel bulged its eyes and made a squeak. "Let it go!" I wanted to scream, but didn't. I have to choose my battles, and freeing imprisoned squirrels was not going to be one of them. Bendu took it home on her leash and when I asked her about it later, she let out a little wail. "No! It left me!" she screamed, laughing. "It ran up the tree and I said, 'Squirrel, squirrel, please come down,' and it said no!" Squirrel-1, Bendu-0.
Fast-forward to last weekend, when I was relaxing at the campsite until I heard a terrible racket. I looked over to where all the noise was coming from, and there T-Boy and Wallace were, swinging their cutlasses at something I couldn't see. "Squirrel!" they shouted with cheery enthusiasm.
Now, in Liberian English one would say this is "not correct." I stopped them both and asked T-Boy to explain why campsite security was bent on the annihilation of a tiny squirrel. "I wanted to keep it for a pet," T-Boy's answered. Then, why the machetes? "You know," T-Boy explained, pointing with seriousness. "That squirrel can be very terrible."
I could not help but start laughing. A tiny squirrel, terrible? Exactly how? "Sometime," T-Boy said, gesturing towards the towering cotton tree, "it can fall on your head." Now both Nate and I burst out laughing, and T-Boy joined in.
"No more killing squirrels," I said, "even if they do fall of the tree."