The Unsubtle Armadillo and The Squirrel That Wasn't

Okay, so there was this armadillo.

His shell was painted incredible colors and his armadillo squawk could be heard throughout the forest. This was one very unsubtle armadillo. And he had a lot of little animal friends, some of them totally rad armadillos themselves. They have sweet Ferngully-style parties and invited all the rabbits and birds and it was generally awesome.

But here's the thing. The unsubtle armadillo wasn't happy. The colors on his shell? They cheered him up sometimes. The squawk? It was pretty loud. But really all the armadillo wanted... was to not be an armadillo. He wanted to be anything else - a fox, a skylark, a crocodile. Ultimately, he spent a lot of time putting color on that shell because he wished it were never there at all.

And then, get this: This squirrel showed up to one of the armadillo parties. She was, like, a mega-squirrel too, all fur and tail and adorable squirrel overbite.

And halfway through the party, she walked right up the armadillo, who was enjoying his quiet time inside his shell thankyouverymuch. He tried to move, but for every inch he inched away, her smile got just a little wider.

"Whoa! You're an armadillo! Me too!" said the squirrel.

The armadillo looked at her sideways.

"You're funny, squirrel."

"I think you mean Armadillo. Squirrels are totally awesome, sure, but I ain't one."

"You're an armadillo."

"Sure am. And I just wanted to say how good you were at being one too."

"Okay. Yeah. Goodnight, crazy."

And the armadillo started walking away.

But here's the thing: squirrels are fast. You can't outrun 'em on stubby little armadillo legs. It's just impossible. So before he knew it, the unsubtle armadillo was looking right in the face of the squirrel he'd moments ago attempted to leave.

"I like your shell."

"Uh, thanks."

"Don't you love shells? Isn't it awesome to have? You can't see mine, invisible shell, whoops, but that's what makes yours so cool. I could see it from all the way up in the pines."

"You're confusing."

"Well, duh. I'm an armadillo, after all."

He'd had enough.

"NO! YOU'RE! NOT!

You're a squirrel. You're light and you're fast, you get to run away and people let you hang around their houses without trying to step on you or poke you or skin you. You don't have to look into the lake every morning and see this leathery weirdness staring back at you. You have no idea what you're talking about. You want my shell? I wish I could give it to you. I wish you COULD be an armadillo, just so I wouldn't have to be."

His squawk echoed through the tall trees.

After a long moment of silence, the squirrel moved out of his way. Tiny little stubby legs moved the very unsubtle armadillo slowly past the dejected little tree-rat as he made his way to the forests' edge. No way he was going back to that party.

No way.

"You know, there's no point to having that shell if you don't enjoy it."

He stopped. He couldn't even believe he stopped but for some reason, he did.

"Who enjoys it?"

"I do."

"Really."

"Yeah! I mean, its heavy and it can be ugly but it's also super protective and you can roll around on it like a log on a wet hill and -"

"You have no idea what you're talking about."

"You're not the only animal with problems."

"How would you know?"

"Umm, hello? Lifelong armadillo, here"

"I told you, you're not -"

"Say that again and I never come to this side of the forest again. Ever."

And somehow, that stopped him.

Just that little threat. That little idea. That tiny thought that he'd never see this weird little squirlmadillo ever again. He had no idea why, but it felt like his shell grew a size. It was almost too much to bear.

So he stepped up to her. Took him a while, but he got there eventually. Right up to where he could look in her black squirrel eyes, which reflected a surprising amount of light.

"... I've never rolled around on my shell."

"Not ever?"

"Not ever."

He was embarrassed to admit, it had never even crossed his mind.

"That's a bummer. I could teach you."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. Totally."

"Would you maybe... wanna learn how to paint yours?"

"Well, I mean, It's invisible, but... sure. That sounds nice."

"Then I'll teach you. If you teach me."

He didn't think her smile could get bigger. He was - not for the first time today - very wrong. She made it look effortless. He made a point to learn how to do that next.

--

Happy Anniversary, Alexandra. Here's to the lessons yet unlearned.