It was another beautiful autumn day in the forest of Sherlock Glen. The leaves on the trees had just started to change color and all the animals – from the small ants on the ground to the birds soaring through the sky – had started gathering everything they would need for winter. That is, all of the animals except one: Cassius, a very proud squirrel who was rather full of himself, was off racing through the meadow. He was playing a game of his own invention. He had made it up when he had realized that if he created a game for only just one player, he would always win. Being a squirrel with a rather high opinion of himself, he hated to lose, so this new game had quickly become his favorite.
At first the other squirrels called out to him, asking why he wasn’t gathering nuts for winter.
But after he had haughtily rebuked all their well-intentioned concerns by shouting rather rudely back that – come winter – HE would have more nuts than any of them, they left him to his own devices and went about their work.
While all the other squirrels were busy preparing their houses for the winter cold, finding the best storage places for their food, and gathering as many nuts as they could find, Cassius spent his time enjoying the still-warm autumn air as much as he could. It wasn’t that Cassius was lazy, although that’s what all the other squirrels thought. Quite the opposite, actually. Cassius truly believed that he was a much better nut-gatherer than all the other squirrels. He thought that once he started working, he’d have more nuts than any of them in half the time; He was just that good.
He even began to picture how great he would feel when some of them would have to come to him asking for spare nuts during the winter because they didn’t have enough. He would, of course, give them as much as they needed. But he would say, “poor thing, and to think you did all that work, even while I was playing in the meadow,” while he gave them the nuts just so that he could get back at them for thinking him lazy and stupid for playing while they worked.
It was thoughts like these that made him even more determined to put off gathering his winter nuts until the last possible moment so that he could really rub it in their faces. He was the best and he wanted them all to know it.
Only when the air started to turn cold and the sun rose lower and lower in the sky, did Cassius finally get to work. He did exactly what he had always done: he prepared his house in a large oak tree for the winter cold, cleared out his old storage places, and began hunting for nuts in all the best places. It would have taken him no time at all to finish all his work with time to spare. Except, when he went to all the trees he usually gathered his nuts from, they were completely bare. The most he could find were a few small and half-rotten nuts on the ground near the trunk.
Still sure of himself, he kicked at one of the nuts on the ground and went to his next favorite tree. But it was the same, completely bare. All of a sudden, he wasn’t sure he could gather all of the nuts he would need. He flew from tree to tree, desperately searching, but they were all the same: empty.
After checking ten trees, he had reached the point where panic turns into hopelessness. There were no nuts to be found, and as he realized what that meant, he started to cry.
He sat by the trunk of that tree and cried and cried until the day was almost over. He didn’t know what else to do.
When he couldn’t cry even one more tear, he sat and thought about his situation. He knew that no matter how many trees he checked, he would find no nuts. He only had one option: he would have to ask for help.
He felt like a failure, but he didn’t have any other choice. He needed food for the winter.
As he reached the grouping of trees where most of the other squirrels lived, he started to call out to them. At the sound of his frightened squeaks, all of the squirrels quickly came out of their trees to see what was wrong.
“I need your help,” he started to say, and immediately looked down, ashamed. “I don’t have any nuts stored for winter and all the trees are empty. Can any of you spare a few nuts so that I’ll have something to eat?”
The other squirrels looked at him with pity, but they were also annoyed with him because he hadn’t listened to them when they’d told him to start collecting his nuts sooner.
Cassius was afraid no one would help him when one of the squirrels finally spoke up.
“Cassius made a mistake, and he started collecting nuts too late. But we’ve all made mistakes at one time or another. None of us is perfect. I think we should help Cassius. He seems sorry for what he did…”
Cassius cut in, “I am! I’m very very sorry I didn’t listen to any of you when you warned me this would happen. I promise I’ll never play when I’m supposed to be working again!”
At this heartfelt apology, all the squirrels ran into their homes and came quickly out with as many nuts as they could carry to give to Cassius. Cassius was so relieved that he started to cry again – this time from joy.
Cassius had enough nuts to make it through the winter, and when the next autumn came he was up in the trees with the other squirrels preparing for winter, and not in the meadow playing.