Why the squirrel was important

I mentally prepare for the impact--I mean, it doesn't matter how many times you've seen it. Watching a bus full of people fly off the road and die is always a surprise. Even when I'm expecting it, as I am now. Somehow death (The concept, not my boss) always seems to find a new, innovative way of offing people.

But, nothing. Well, nothing of real concern. A man either drunk or stoned (I suppose I'll never be sure which) tears away a garbage bag and leans out the window, yelling something indistinguishable, but, I'm sure, ridiculous at the two people on the side of the road. Then it's gone, a lonely black bag the only memento of its existence.

Penny frowns. "Hey, are you sure we went to the right spot?"

Yeah, like I would know. I handle the whole patience thing and protect Penny from any passing squirrels. Penny's the one who specializes in comforting the formerly-living and the navigating. Look, my job's more important than one would think. Penny's never been good with time, nor rodents, so it is necessary that I keep the sanity in situations dealing with either. But, all long, drawn out excuses aside, I only reply, "Maybe not."

"Well, darn." Penny removes her diary from her back pocket (Penny's diary holds sentimental value for me, might I add. One of the first post-death memories I have is of wondering what the hell [no pun intended] a pink, floral journal sporting the extremely original title "Penny's Diary" was doing in the afterlife. In all honesty, I'm more attached to the thing than I am to my own. Odd, how those things work. But I digress.) and flips to today's page, squinting at Death's small handwriting. "These directions are too confusing..."

I probably should have warned her. To protect the diary, at least. But I can't help it if I have a dark sense of humor! I mean, seeing a squirrel silently creeping up on a rodent-phobic girl like a little furry ninja... I simply don't have to self-control to tell her.

And so, as the squirrel darts away and the tip of its bushy tail brushes Penny's ankle, the inevitable squeal is released. And as I'm busy giggling like a little girl who has just seen her favorite boy band, the panicked woman is backing dangerously close to the road. And she is just too busy screaming to notice the real bus we were supposed to be waiting for.

It swerves, but still crashes into her, enough to kill any still-living human. And then, as I watch with horror, its rear-view mirror nicks one of the pine trees, and the panicked driver swerves again. Unluckily for him, this drives the bus even deeper into the pine farm. I draw my hand over my eyes for the rest of the episode (I had always found it rather respectful to refrain from watching the actual death. Who wants two people watching you with impatience and vague interest as you draw your last breath?) but, of course, every one of the passengers died. We had been informed of it this morning.

Penny is just recovering, from the squirrel episode more than the whole "Getting hit by a bus" thing. "Oh," she comments matter-of-factly, "So we were in the right place after all!"

See what I mean about death always hitting that little surprise note?

The End

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