MONDAY: Neuroplasticity: The Way to Go


Copyright is held by the author.

“GO AWAY. Stay away. No phoning. No email. No texting. No smoke signals.”

These thoughts went around and around in her head then onto the paper. As she wrote she spoke the words out loud over and over. Neuroplasticity she had decided — changing her brain — would rid her of this problem. She took more action and highlighted the words for emphasis. Blue for the word “no.” orange for “away,” red for the final “you.” This will do it she thought. Retrain the brain and move on was her goal.

To further the retrain her brain she collected every card and trinket he had given her. She made a funeral pyre in the back of her garden with a cutesy love-you teddy bear on top. She lit the pile of his scant offerings and watched the flames reduce the once romantic gestures to black ashes. Gusts of fall wind fed the fire. She watched the flames and recalled how the affair had started.

Five years ago today, they had both picked up a desire chip at their first AA meeting. The chip signified a new life not drinking, free of the addiction. It was a jubilant night to begin a new life in sobriety. In the parking lot after the meeting when everyone had gone they showed one another the desire chip they had received at the meeting and spontaneously hugged, then kissed under a street lamp. They went to her place and continued with a night of passion. Well, not quite a night but an hour or so. They gave the desire chip a new meaning .They continued to meet like this for the next five years. He always went home to his wife and children and never stayed with her more than an hour or two. She was fit in when it suited him, in clandestine moments, always at her apartment, usually after an AA meeting. He brought her cards and trinkets and promises that he would see a lawyer for a divorce. He never did. There was always an excuse.

She scooped up the ashes and placed them in a box from the dollar store. Tonight they would both celebrate five years of being sober and receive a special chip marking this milestone. This will be a special night all right, she thought, as a new idea suddenly came to her. She had thought of another way to retrain her brain and rid herself of him for good.

At the meeting when he received his five-year chip he sat down and winked at her. She smiled back. After the meeting he went to his new BMW opened the door and started the engine imagining the private celebration with her to come later. Then he noticed a box on the front seat tied with a ribbon with a card that said, “Open me now !!!!!” He wondered if the contents were from Victoria Secret or their other favourite “specialty” store. The box was heavy and tilted to one side as he lifted it. He took off the ribbon and lifted the lid.

Out jumped a grey squirrel covered in ashes and soot. The squirrel clawed at the white leather seats, raced across the dashboard and tried to cling to the roof of the pristine white interior. He was too stunned to move until the squirrel landed on him .He opened the driver’s door and leapt out, flailing his arms at the crazed rodent. The creature ran under the front seat and made horrendously threatening noises. How could such a small critter make so much noise? The interior light showed off the dreadful damage already done to his precious vehicle. He looked inside the car from a distance and there was the card unopened on the seat. Until now he had always liked to watch these clever animals. He had even fed them in the past because they were so cute. The squirrel lashed its tail and bared its teeth and dug into the back seat, shredding more of the expensive leather. He reached cautiously for the card on the front seat. The squirrel gave him an unmistakable “Don’t mess with me look” with its little beasty eyes, so he snatched the card as fast as he could. Who would do such a thing, putting a squirrel in a box?

She watched him from the far side of the parking lot hidden by a large tree and enjoyed the spectacle. She could see some of the damage the squirrel had managed in its attempt to escape. He stood there beside his precious car rubbing blood from the wounds on his neck inflicted by the crazed animal. Her soon to be ex lover was as sooty as the interior of the car from the attack. His attempts to scare the animal out of the vehicle were to no avail, but caused the squirrel to claw, hiss, chatter and growl louder. How would he explain this to his wife? Their $60,000 BMW was trashed by an ash-covered varmit.

Neuroplasticity, retraining your brain, was the way to go she thought. She was rid of him and moving on. She watched him read the card and look around for her. Rage and confusion and shock was written all over his sooty face. She heard shouts of “out, out dam squirrel” in the background. The words echoed something from Macbeth. She laughed quietly. Squeezing her five-year chip and smiling she walked into the beauty of the night and a new beginning.

He stood alone reading  the card out loud again in disbelief. “Congratulations on five years. Now. Go away. Stay away. No phoning. No email. No texting. No smoke signals.” Yours in full recovery. NB.

The squirrel escaped too.


  1. Charles Pinch

    Breezily told, but for me flawed by credibility issues. Where did the squirrel suddenly come from? How did she catch it? Was it a pet squirrel? Squirrels are nasty biters and hard to hold, I know from experience. How did she get it into the box? The box tilted when he lifted it but confined squirrels don’t stay still. Why didn’t he hear and feel it moving around? Terrified wild animals make every attempt to flee danger. Why didn’t it escape when he opened the car door instead of staying in to trash the vehicle? The story worked for me up to that point. Also, this is just personal but I don’t like the idea of putting any living creature in a box of ashes. They will surely inhale it and if not suffocate, suffer unnecessary stress and discomfort.

  2. Cathie McKillop

    Moving on sometimes takes drastic measures.??? Love the symbolism and your stories do make me laugh. Who cares if it takes some willing suspension of disbelief. Well done Suzanne. ????

  3. Suzanne Burchell

    Thank you Charles your points are well taken and do have merit, re: the credibility. Regarding reality — it is a fictional story and I would never subject an animal to duress in real life — I actually feed the squirrels in my back yard from a feeder beside the one for birds :). The use of the squirrel is allegorical.

  4. Charles Pinch

    Thanks for the reply. I didn’t mean to suggest you would do this to a real squirrel, just that it bothered me when I read it. That’s why I said it was just personal. I’m glad you feed them; I do too. Good luck with your writing! Regards, Charles

  5. Frank Sikora

    A story’s internal logic must be credible and consistent to the reader. If not, the emotional impact of the story will be diminished or compromised. For me, this aspect of story telling is a struggle. I often go back to my work and think, ‘oh oh, is this action or narrative device consistent within the story’s construct?’

  6. JAZZ

    With regards to Frank’s comments — my opinion is that what stands out the most in ‘amateur’ writing is the stiffness, the unsophistication, the colour inside the lines approach. What truly would happen if we went against the tide……?


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