Knocking this time, Vina waits politely for permission...

"Come."

... then enters at her father's invitation.

Crying? She can always tell. Despite his having hidden that contraption he invented, it leaves marks around his nose - around his TALL nose, she regards with envy; hers seems nonexistent, short and stubby, pésék locals tease (when her back is turned, of course). 

Oh, why, oh, why she got her mother's

only genes can answer (and the luck of leaving sequence - so archaic - up to chance).

"Poppie?"

"Ja?"

"Can squirrels be smart? As smart as you, for instance?"

Disinclined to slight his daughter's question, Poppie skirts.

"A squirrel can learn. And it remembers where it hides things."

"I mean rational, like a human being."

"In that sense, I would have to answer, no."

"So if a squirrel explained that people mostly care about themselves, and that we're good and evil both and therefore all messed up inside, and that the only way to fix us is to rearrange our genome, you'd conclude that he was nuts, right? Off his rocker? Round the bend?"

Surprised the argument has taken a direction left-of-radical, Dr. Windmollen resumes his role of Guru.

"That's some squirrel! Are referring to our resident redhead?"

"Whitehead; he's reverted."

"Oh?"

"I think he may have changed back on his own when he got out."

"He's flown the coop, has Mister Whitehead?"

"Claims his name is Ade Oya. I made sure his cage was fastened. It was open, though, before, and he was bragging how he'd picked the lock himself."

Crediting his daughter with a wild imagination (hyperactive, even), Poppie has his doubts about this tale, but does his level best to answer her judiciously.

"First off, let me say that people are, indeed, self-centered. When it comes to making 'us' important, humans are the champs. We often act as if the whole wide world, and everything housed within it, has been put here for 'our' benefit."

Vina listens, interest flagged. Another lecture she can do without. Might rodents learn to reason; yes or no? If no, then maybe she is out-to-lunch, as well.

Aware his audience has turned inattentive, Poppie changes tactics.

 "Liefje?"

Spreading wide his arms, he simply offers her a squeeze... which she (in tacit need of hugs) accepts that instant.

*

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