Postumus was born exactly one cycle of the moon after DT’s death. Squirrels aren’t named until they’ve done their first defining action and this usually isn’t until a while after their births, but BFR said that defining action had been done when DT died and so named him Postumus.
Beth was born on the same day. Thus, from the very day of their births they already had two things that tied them together: birth and death. This is powerful medicine. A third way lay ahead, but there are things we must learn first.
There was no religion before the Fall. There was no need of it. God, Man, and Nature were in harmony and all spoke the same language. But, with the Fall, rifts were open between Man and Nature, Man and God, and Nature and God. There were three rifts, but the three rifts were all one.
Religion was the bridge across this rift.
Dogs and cats, who were closest to Man and so the most messed up, took to worshipping the sun and the moon. They recognize them as sources of light and warmth. Both cat and dog honor the sun in the same way: by sleeping in its rays. It is in the worship of the moon that they differ.
Dogs sing hymns to the moon. Those who are sequestered in yards worship with their trapped brethren by singing their hymns across the night. They believe the sirens of fire trucks and ambulances to be instruments of a heavenly choir. They join their voices with those instruments to joyously sing praises to the moon.
Cats, for their part, honor the moon by hunting to seek sacrifices. They offer these sacrifices to their human owners. Cats consider their human owners not to be their masters but rather priests. The function of the priest is to be an intermediary between themselves and their gods, the sun and the moon. They give their priests sacrifices and their priests are to act on behalf of the gods and satisfy each and every of the their needs.
Dogs also consider humans to be priests, though their view of the priesthood was somewhat more elevated than what cat’s hold.
There is not much similarity beyond that. Dogs and cats consider each other to be heretical. There is the occasional dog that will defect to the cat religion and cat to the dog, but in general the separation is deep and bitter.
There is one thing dogs hate more than cats and cats hate more than dogs,. Being the alert intelligent readers you are, you have guessed it: squirrels.
Squirrels worship neither the sun nor the moon. Squirrels worship trees. This should not surprise anyone. Squirrels believe the purpose of the sun is to nourish the tree, and it is this fact that infuriates dogs and cats so.
Dogs respond to this perceived abomination by urinating on the trees and squirrels react accordingly. This is why “dog-tormenter” is an honorable name-segment among squirrel-kind.
Cats aren’t as crude in their contempt for squirrels but show it in a more deadly fashion. To kill a squirrel and eat its brains is quite a common practice among cats; they would do it even if they didn’t find squirrel brains to be so tasty. Squirrels do bait cats, but they are more careful about it than in their torment of dogs.
Postumus was very pious. He grew in favor with his people and added many segments to his name which grew to be quite long.
In the squirrel religion, the site of the last acorn burial, if it be known, is honored in remembrance of the departed, so Postumus was taught by his mother the place where his father’s last acorn was buried. Postumus visited the place frequently, though not with the boldness of his forbear. He did it quietly and reverently, when Charlie and Mischief were otherwise engaged.
After a time, his visits were blessed by the discovery of an oak tree growing from the acorn. This was strong medicine among the squirrels, indeed, as it is so rare, and the fact that it had occurred and that Postumus had been the one to discover it added a segment, one of those segments that can only be said in squirrel, to Postumus’s name.
Time moves differently for squirrels and trees and girls.
Postumus grew to be a great leader among his people and paid special reverence to this tiny tree, his father’s last, even though it was not a bush nor even a sapling. The tree was small even for its age because it was in a shaded flower bed close to Beth’s house. And Beth was toddling around and could speak a little, as befitted a child of age three.
Beth’s mother who’d retreated to be alone with herself and her daughter after her husband’s death, began to move back into the yard which had been her pleasure and into her garden which had been her joy. She took Beth with her, where Beth could play in the grass and dirt and be in the sunshine when there was sun and smell the air when it was full of the scent of flowers. In the spring, it was much like Eden.
In Eden, Man and animals could talk to each other freely, but this was before the earth was cursed on Man’s account. Since then Man and animals have not spoken except rarely. The Wisest know that there is a time during which young children in their innocence can understand animals, at least some can. It is an ability that has become less common as Man forgets who he is.
Beth, however, was special in having the ability and retaining it longer than most.
By way of contrast, many animals can understand what man says very well, but they find little he says worth listening to. Squirrels can understand Man quite well and some are so frustrated with his stupidity they will preach at him like a prophet of yore, but, of course, to no avail most of the time.
But not all.
And so it came to pass, that Beth was with her mother in her garden when they came upon the tree that Postumus revered.
“Well, Beth,” Beth’s mother said with a sigh, “I need to remove this little oak tree. It’s much too close to the house.”
Beth’s mother wasn’t really telling this to Beth for Beth to know it. She was just teaching her to talk in the way that mothers do. Beth was listening the way small children listen to their mothers because they want to learn to talk, but she didn’t understand.
Postumus, who was waiting in a dark shade to the side did hear and understand. He was overcome with horror. He didn’t think of the dog; he didn’t think of the cat; he didn’t think at all. He simply ran out into the yard to within three feet of Beth and her mother and began beseeching them in the manner of a prophet.
“NO!” Postumus screamed. “Such a thing cannot be done! It is a horror! This is the tree from the last acorn of my father who died before I was born! You cannot, cannot kill it!”
Beth’s mother was at first startled and then amused at the squirrel’s antics. Then she, being a mother, was concerned about Beth’s reaction. Was she scared? She turned to look at Beth and saw that she was not scared, but appeared to be listening. She was cute. When the squirrel stopped, Beth’s mother turned to Beth.
“Well,” she said. “That squirrel is, mad isn’t he. What do you think he said?” She, of course, didn’t expect Beth to answer. Beth didn’t know this.
“He say no kill tree,” she said. “It daddy tree.”
This was the best that she could get out because her understanding of squirrel, ironically, was somewhat better than her command of English.
“What?” Beth’s mother was confused.
Beth was frustrated because she’d tried so hard, so her little eyes teared up.
“No kill tree,” she repeated with effort. “It daddy tree.”
This last came so hard there were tears down her face.
Beth’s mother was still confused but in a deeper way. She had talked to Beth about her father because being a bright little girl she’d noticed other little girls had men around them and had asked. She’d tried to explain to the three-year-old things that even her grown-up heart had trouble understanding. She meditated on Beth’s words and came to the conclusion that somehow Beth had gotten the idea that this little tree was her father’s tree.
“Okay,” she said after a bit. “We will move it over here in the middle of the yard where it can get more sunlight. And we will take care of the Daddy tree, okay?”
Beth and Postumus heard this at the same time. Postumus understood it better and answered.
“Yes, this would be most satisfactory,” said Postumus.
“O-tay,” translated Beth.