The first time I saw it was as I walked past the small woods on my way back from the corner Quick Stop. Its entrance slightly covered with leaves, it was hidden in plain sight; a cozy little home of dried grass and the detritus of summer past. I paused, peering from my spot on the street, my hands jammed into my pockets against the increasing cold of late autumn.
The leaves suddenly rustled a little, and from my spot on the cold concrete of the street I saw its tiny nose poke out, followed by the rest of its striped, furry self, sniffing and scuffing around in the leaves. It spied me in a second, sat momentarily still, then scurried up the rough trunk of the tree. I turned back to the Quick Stop, though by now my toes were beginning to burn. I should’ve worn thicker socks.
That night as I watched the first snowflakes fall – first tentatively, then in increasing numbers until they infused the dark with their icy sparkle – I distractedly peeled an orange into little bits of peel and fruit. Then I sucked on a sunflower shell, split it, and ate the seed.
The next day I returned to the little spot, knelt down, and placed my gift of fruit and seeds at its door. I stepped back and waited. Nothing happened, so I left.
A few days later, I passed the spot again and felt its eyes follow me as I continued on.
I made my final visit that evening. Squatting on the crunchy leaves, I dropped some peanuts and popcorn on the ground. I glanced up in time to see it staring at me from just outside its cozy hole. Our eyes met; I winked, it blinked, and winter began.