Titles by Kij Johnson are available for purchase online

As my cold eases up, the temperature drops again outside. More snow, more cold, temps below zero on Sunday. Again.

I worry. I have an enclosed patio where I scatter sunflower seeds and cracked corn and shelled peanuts — lots of food, when it’s cold. Two weeks ago I used up forty pounds in a week. It’s mostly safe, except for the occasional hawk, and the black and white cat that some neighbor allows out from time to time: ringed with tall wooden fences, and sheltered by trees and vines. Just across the patio is a tall, shaggy tree that overhangs the space. It is often full of squirrels playing with each other, or hanging out between visits to the patio watching for trouble, or sunning themselves, and it’s always surprised me that there are no squirrel nests in that tree. I have lots of squirrel nests in the other trees in my yard; maybe it’s too much like living above a downtown bar?

But this morning, as I walked home from getting coffee beans and cream at the Merc, I saw a new little tuft of dead leaves crammed into the crotch where several branches join, very high up. It’s wee: I would say there’s not enough there to shelter even one squirrel, let alone keep it warm or give it company. I hope that whatever little squirrel has started this tiny nest plumps it up before tomorrow night; I hope he (or she, but it’s probably a he) sleeps cozy through the bitterest cold. I wish I could put out a basket full of warm, soft wool fluff with a note: Free to (make) a good home. I love you guys–