Fall 2019, Volume 27

Nonfiction by Robert A. Bak

A Squirrel At Hertz

This story started many years ago, when my partner Bill, a hard-working actor, went to the American Film Institute,or what everyone called it, the AFI, for a working seminar on acting.  The AFI is in the Hollywood Hills, in a beautiful wooded area.  There are some different kind of buildings, on many different levels.  The class that he was going to was in one of the older buildings surrounded by a wooded area.  As he got out of his car, a brown squirrel came running up to him, with a look of please feed me.  “OK, where are the peanuts.”  Bill was not expecting this intrusion and quickly walked to the entrance of the building.  Of course, this squirrel followed him toward the entrance.

After the class was over, and after talking to some fellow actors, he went back outside to go to his car.  As soon as Bill exited the building, this same squirrel, came running up to him again, with the same look of desire.  “Where are the peanuts?”  He started to run to his car, with the squirrel keeping pace with him.  At one point, he thought he was going to be attacked by this hungry squirrel.  Bill finally got into his car and sighed a breath of relief.

When Bill got home, he told me about this episode of the squirrel and then told our families about it.  That was his undoing.  After that, on every birthday, Bill would get cards that of course, had a squirrel or nuts or a combination of both.  He forever became attached to the squirrel story.   All of us always enjoyed hearing the story, and Bill never stopped telling it.  He never knew that strange things would become of it.


We are now many years forward.  After living in Los Angeles for many years we decided to move to New Mexico.  The cost of living is so much easier and having four seasons of the year it what we needed to retire and enjoy ourselves.

Then after a short but totally unexpected cruel illness Bill has passed away.  How one year can make so many changes in two lives.  It has been a hard time dealing with all of the arrangements, and legal responsibilities that one takes on.  As an actor and writer for many years and an award-winning playwright at that, a group of his former directors and actors decided to have a memorial service in Los Angeles.  Of course, I would fly in.  We had an uplifting, enjoyable event with actors who originated some of his best writings.  Everyone had a wonderful time, and hearing the actors say his words, brought enjoyment and some tears to everyone.

A surprise for all of us was a famous local deli had catered it, and his favorite foods, matzo ball soup, and chopped chicken liver sandwiches along with other enticing foods that were available to us attending his memorial.  How many celebratory services have you been to that would have this happen, to end a most astonishing afternoon?


A few days later, after a wonderful time with family and friends, I am flying back home, and I have to return the rental car.  I pull into the car return lane at Hertz, with many other people, all dropping off their cars, and getting to the airport for our flights out.  As I pull into one of the lanes, there are some Hertz attendants assisting us with the final paperwork.  Over to the side, there are a couple of workers, who are pointing and laughing.  I wondered what was going on but was trying to remember everything in the car that I had to take.  I got out of the car and went back to the trunk to get my luggage.  I then look at the attendants, and there on the ground is a brown squirrel.  Running back and forth, and then standing up asking for food.  I thought to myself, “that this could not be happening.”  Why would a squirrel be in the parking lot, among the cars, with jets flying overhead as they were about ready to land?  Then I thought, this could not be Bill, he wasn’t here as a squirrel to say goodbye.  Then, why not?  Why not a squirrel to say goodbye?




BIO: Robert Bak has been in the entertainment business for many years. He started as a stage manager Off-Off-Broadway in NYC, worked in Los Angeles and Albuquerque and then was a director and producer of plays with national award-winning playwright William Derringer. Robert has also written short stories, essays, and plays. His writing has been published in Work Literary Magazine, Door Is A Jar Magazine and SERIAL Magazine.