Thank God it's Friday

7th May 1999 at 01:00
MONDAY My partner is glued to 'Animal Hospital', following an alarming incident in the playground. While the children had been collecting objects for their nature table - you know the kind of thing, empty lager cans, discarded crisp packets and crushed snails - they had seen a squirrel. All heads had turned and a little group had stood gawping at the tree.

My partner had endeavoured to regain order by telling them they had all seen a squirrel before. Tim, an assertive seven-year-old, had piped up that he had never seen one eating chocolate money, though. Sure enough, the squirrel was nonchalantly unwrapping a little bag of gold foil-wrapped coins. In 10 minutes he had polished the lot off. My partner is now terrified that Rolf will announce the cruel and unnecessary death of a squirrel through an overdose of sugar.

TUESDAY The saga continues. Today an anonymous note, signed "Tim" but with the name hastily crossed through, appears on my partner's desk announcing that "the squirrel is dead. Look under bush". During playground duty my partner peers under several bushes but can see no squirrel. Daniel, another pupil, comes up to him to ask if he is looking for the body, because he has seen a dinner lady kick it through the railings on to the pavement. My partner tries to squash this story but by home time the school is buzzing with grisly stories of squirrel death.

WEDNESDAY Move over Bill Clinton, this squirrel is the story that refuses to die. Another note appears today, placed discreetly on the nature table with a disturbing message. "I killed the squirrel, signed Tim." This is written, quite distinctly, in Daniel's hand. My partner questions both suspects, and it seems that Daniel reckons Tim almost killed the squirrel because he knows who left the chocolate coins. Tim, clearly foreseeing a week's-worth of "indoor playtimes" looming, quickly confesses that his brother lost the chocolates on his way to school but never meant to hurt the squirrel.

THURSDAY Rehearsals for the annual "festival of voices" are not going too well. Every song is punctuated by whisperings about sightings of dead squirrels. Clare, blessed with a vivid imagination, has even seen several piles of squirrel vomit which she claims smell of chocolate. Opinion is divided as to whether this is a good sign.

FRIDAY Peace at last. A very fat squirrel is seen on the wall of the nature area. All the children are satisfied that this is the squirrel that ate the chocolates and that it is clearly alive. My partner remains silently unconvinced but sometimes silence, like chocolate, is golden.

Emma Howell lives in Oxford

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