Hitty Pitty within the wall, Hitty Pitty without the wall.
If you touch Hitty Pitty, Hitty Pitty will bite you.
Nutkin taunts Old Brown, the owl in shadow, for no apparent reason, except a squirrel cannot stand subservience, except an owl is death and a squirrel is not.
Because I liked him so much for riddling the unflappable owl day after day, I begged him, Nutkin, please, tuck your tail under your knees.
The only squirrels I had known were dead beside the road.
Once I ran over something small and bushy-tailed, and it was one of the truly terrible nights of my life. A grief of headlights and the most ordinary of things that happens to everybody.
It was 27 miles every day down Highway 13. Another time I had a miscarriage on the way home, and drove the stretch of it after sometimes but not always remembering.
All of the squirrels are naked, but Old Brown wears a waistcoat.
Sooner or later Nutkin winds up in that pocket.
Once I knew a squirrel a little, when my daughter was learning to walk and she had an idea she could catch it. He flirted with her and I thought he must be the most benevolent and generous of creatures to be playing with my baby in the grass. When his nails made busy clicks on the brick path, it reminded me of how Coleridge said fancy takes you out of your life, but imagination brings you more deeply into it.
If you read about neonatal development as you go, it’s like watching a fish crawl onto land, grow fur, drop its tail and build a fire. One of the times I was pregnant – I can’t remember which anymore – I felt like I was gestating a frantic and skittering chipmunk. Is this fancy or imagination?
Some grown-up experts on children will tell you anything less than nonfiction is a mean joke to play on people who cannot distinguish reality from fantasy, and some will tell you nonfiction is a mean joke to play on people living in the dreamscape of an undeveloped id. These experts will find agreement only on the subject of animals behaving like small people, which, they say, insults the dignity of animals and children alike.
When I was a girl I loved this story, as my daughter loves this story. Now I love it even more.
Nutkin spent his days arranging the thorns into rows and figures atop the wall, always keeping his eye on the closed door of that tree.
I had to pull the car over and try to breathe. It hurt so much and there was blood on my legs. Later I’d be driving into town and pull off at the same shoulder to nurse in the back seat.
The fields on the side of the road were full of thistles, purple and round as stars.
If you move very carefully, hitty pitty, you can cut the stalk and peel back the prickle skin. Beneath there is a kind of green milk that is sweet.
When the time came, there was a flutterment and a scufflement, but out popped Nutkin, tail-less and hissing. He became as dangerous as an owl, throwing pine cones at anyone who approached to offer him a riddle or a tail on a pin.
The squirrels that came after wore little jackets with buttons. Their sitting rooms overflow with quantities and still they collect more nuts. “Imagine how hungry we’ll be,” they say to each other, “when we wake from the long winter.” They don’t know what Nutkin is about.