It wasn't quite the morning sun Casper had hoped for coming through the loft window. The squirrel sat up in bed, his eyes shut tight in defense, his ears perked as a large utility vehicle rattled to a halt outside, its headlights blaring searing white into the cottage. Ardent, his pet slerret, wriggled onto his lap, whining and hissing, and Casper soothed him through an exhausted scowl.
All attempts to parse out a good reason for a visit at this hour escaped him.
Especially now, Casper wondered why he even entertained guests. These visits always ended the same. He'd drop everything in his arms to help some confused, lost City dweller in an air-conditioned car with sleeping bags and an expensive grill and often family on board. It was their idea of nature—a fenced-in campground with free parking, if only they could find it.
Regardless of his undying friendliness, his nature—an axe in hand, worn flannel draped over his white fur, piercing red eyes staring at them from the cottage steps—appealed to them slightly less. Seeing their demeanor change from curious to disturbed made his heart sink a little every time. Jittering as they felt the slerret's gooey, slimy trails under their step, in their expensive cars, they'd make their escape. They'd reconnected plenty with nature.
Most days, it was his manners and the possibility of one of those guests being vaguely unlike the rest that kept him polite. Tonight, his care for the slerrets took precedence. He could hear the wild ones scatter and scurry under the cottage for shelter, and their distraught noises would've kept him nursing a pit in his stomach all night, light or not.
With his eyes clamped shut, and now with Ardent hanging from his shoulder, Casper unearthed himself from his bedding and climbed down the loft ladder to greet his visitor.