Beasts of New York

Jon Evans
Beasts of New York
a children's book for adults
by Jon Evans
This is the bare-bones, single-file, downloadable version of Beasts of
New York, a novel by Jon Evans that has been released under the
Creative Commons license viewable at this URL:
To learn more, see or Jon's web site
Please do not change or remove this introductory text.

a children's book for adults
by Jon Evans
I. The Center Kingdom

The Missing Acorns
A long time ago, when humans still lived in cities, on a cold morning
near the end of a long, cruel winter, in magnificent Central Park in the
middle of magnificent New York City, a young squirrel named Patch
was awakened very early by the growls of his empty stomach.

A squirrel's home is called a drey. Patch's drey was very comfortable.
He lived high up an old oak tree, in a hollowed-out stump of a big
branch that had long ago been cut off by humans. The entrance was
only just big enough for Patch to squeeze in and out, but the drey itself
was spacious, for a squirrel. Patch had lined his drey with dry leaves,
grasses and bits of newspaper. It was warm and dry, and on that cold
morning he would have liked nothing better than to stay home all day
and sleep.
But he was so hungry. Hunger filled him like water fills a glass. The
cherry and maple trees had not yet started to bud; flowers had not yet
begun to grow; the juicy grubs and bugs of spring had not yet emerged;
and it had been two days since Patch had found a nut. Imagine how
hungry you would feel if you went two whole days without eating, and
you may have some idea how Patch felt that morning.
Patch poked his head out of the drey into the cold air and shivered as he
looked around. Clumps of white, crumbly ice still clung to the ground.
Gusts of cold wind shook and rustled the trees' bare branches. The pale
and distant sun seemed drained of heat. Patch took a moment to satisfy
himself that there were no dangers nearby, no hawk circling above or
unleashed dog below. Then he emerged from his drey and began to
look for acorns.
But what marvels, what miracles, what mysteries are hidden inside
those simple words!
Squirrels are extraordinary creatures. Think first of how they climb.
When Patch left his drey, he went up, not down. He passed the drey of
his friend and neighbour Twitch, climbed to the northernmost tip of his
oak tree's cloud of barren branches, and casually hopped onto the
adjacent maple tree, home to his brother Tuft. To a squirrel, every tree
is an apartment building, connected not only by the grassy
thoroughfares of the ground but by sky-roads of overlapping branches.
Tree trunks are like highways to them, even branches thin as twine are
like walking paths, and they leap through the sky from one tree to
another like circus acrobats.

When he reached the last of the thick grove of trees, Patch paused a
moment to look around and consult his memory. His memory was not
like yours or mine. Human memories are like messages written on
crumbling sand, seen through warped glass. But squirrels have
memories like photograph albums; exact and perfect recollections of
individual moments. Patch, like every squirrel, had spent the past
autumn burying hundreds and hundreds of nuts and acorns, each one in
a different place. And he had stored all of those places in his memory
book. The winter had been long, but Patch's memory book still
contained a precious few pages that depicted the locations of nuts
buried in the autumn, but not yet dug up and eaten. Patch climbed to a
high branch, stood on his hind legs, and looked all around, seeking an
image from one of those memories.
If you had looked at Central Park that morning with human eyes, you
would have seen concrete paths, steel fences, a few early-morning
joggers and dog walkers, all surrounded by fields of grass and ice and
bare trees and rocks, and beyond them, Manhattan's endless rows of
But with Patch's eyes, with animal eyes, he saw no park at all. Instead
he saw a city in itself. A vast and mighty city called the Center
Kingdom. A city of trees, bushes, meadows and lakes; a city scarred by
strips of barren concrete; a city surrounded by endless towering
mountains. All manner of creatures lived in this city. Squirrels in their
dreys, rats and mice in their underground warrens, raccoons in the
bushes, fish and turtles in the lakes, birds fluttering through the trees or
resting in their nests. At that
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