The Honeysuckle Lounge

The honeysuckle bush was busy. A crowd of insects buzzed and gossiped among the buds. A couple here and there shared a flower as the waitress flitted around, and a large group of hummingbirds at the back laughed boisterously. Down in the mound below the bush, the bar was full of the chatter and talk of the neighborhood folk enjoying their drinks as they waited for the game to begin. It was a lovely spring afternoon, and the sun had finally burst through the gray, Sunday gloom. Everyone was cheerier with the sun out and about, even in the dark bar where just a few narrow shafts of light cut through the open windows.

A groundhog in a red striped scarf crashed through the front door of the bar, and several mates who seemed to know him gave a warm shout. Behind the bar, a lovely chipmunk named Dakota scampered left and right, filling drinks, sliding glasses, and ignoring a pair of leering weasels who snickered every walked their way. And in the corner of the bar, a very wide robin sat slumped against the wall, dozing with a large empty pint glass gripped in her wing.

One small, grainy, boxy television hung above an end of the bar where the quarter-finals were soon set to broadcast. The volume in the bar grew steadily as people clad in red and white filtered in. Grins were clear on many of the faces waiting for the game, and drinks were passed around to all the newcomers. The door opened again, and a shaft of sunlight split the room in two momentarily as a couple of ferrets walked in, giving those inside, if there were to look, a glimpse of a tall squirrel outside with his back to the bar.

He seemed to be waiting for something, as he looked left and right down the road. He kept pulling out a scrap of paper from his pocket, unfolding it, glancing down, then repocketing it, as if just to reassure himself it were there. As he stood, he overheard the waitress amongst the flowers with a pair of fat bumblebees who had just buzzed their way to the honeysuckle bush. “I’m sorry, every flower is full!” The waitress said with a smile, her tiny wings nothing but a blur and a buzz.

He shifted his feet every once and a while, his tail twitching with impatience as the time passed and the rest of the crowd passed into the bar. Soon he heard the room quiet for a moment as the TV crackled to life, then cheers erupted through the open windows as the game began.

He waited like this for a while. The yells and shouts of outrage and jubilee came every once in a while from the bar, until the sun stooped low over the trees, heading quickly for the horizon.

The Honeysuckle had nearly emptied when the game ended and the crowd began to thin, grumbling and sidling their way through the door to trudge home in the dusk. If the team had won, the crowd would have stayed for an hour or two celebrating and gabbing, but no one much felt like staying to drink after such a miserable match. As they left, no one seemed to notice a scrap of paper on the road near where the squirrel had been standing. Stamped into the dirt, hard to see now in the darkening gloom, with the outline of a very large paw print, and the words “Honeysuckle Lounge, 3 PM, bring Lucile.” barely legible.

The last of the crowd made their way out as Dakota cleaned up. A while later, she finally switched off all the lights and locked the front door behind her as she walked off into the night, clutching a jacket tightly around her.

She didn’t notice the note in the dirt either. And the rain that came that night washed it away, along with the very large paw print, and the scent of any squirrel, good or bad.

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