Shakespeare for Squirrels Page 1

Author: Christopher Moore

Series: Fool #3

Genres: Humorous , Fiction

Act I

The jaws of darkness do devour it up:

So quick bright things come to confusion.

—Lysander, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 1:1


Chapter 1

He Is Drowned and These Are Devils

We’d been adrift for eight days when the ninny tried to eat the monkey. I lay in the bow of the boat, under the moonlight, slowly expiring from thirst and heartbreak, while the great beef-brained boy, Drool, made bumbling snatches for the monkey, who was perched on the bowsprit behind my head, screeching and clawing at my jester’s hat, and jingling his bells in a festive manner.

“Sit down, Drool, you’ll capsize us.”

“Just one wee lick,” said the giant, grasping the air before him like an enormous baby reaching for his tiny monkey mother. The bow of the boat dove under Drool’s weight. Seawater splashed the monkey’s bottom; he shrieked and made as if to fling poo at the giant, but it had been eight days since any of us had eaten and he could birth no bum-babies for the flinging.

“There will be no monkey-licking as long as I draw breath.”

“I’ll just give him a bit of a squeeze, then?”

“No,” said I. On the fourth day, after the water ran out, Drool had taken to squeezing Jeff (the monkey) as if he were a wineskin and drinking his wee, but now the monkey was dry and I feared the next squeeze would produce little but a sanguine monkey marmalade.

“I won’t hurt him,” said the oaf, so inept in the lie that he might as well have tied bells on the truth and chased it around the town square while beating a drum.

Drool dropped back onto the seat at his end of the dinghy, his weight sending the bow up so rapidly that Jeff was nearly launched into the drink. I caught the monkey and comforted him by slapping my coxcomb over his head and holding it fast until he stopped biting.

“But . . . ,” said Drool, holding a great sausage of a finger aloft as he searched the night for a point.

“Shhhh, Drool. Listen.” I heard something beyond the lap of waves and the growl of my gut.


I stood in the boat, still hugging the monkey to my chest, and looked in the direction of the noise. A full moon puddled silver across the inky sea, but there, in the distance, lay a line of white. Surf.

“It’s land, lad. Land. That way.” I pointed. “Now paddle, you great dribbling ninny. Paddle, lest it be an island and we drift by.”

“I will, Pocket,” said Drool. “I am. Land’s the dog’s bollocks, ain’t it?”

He showed less enthusiasm than the revelation should have engendered.

“Land, lad, where they keep food and drink.”

“Oh, right. Land,” he said, a spark finally striking in the vast, dark empty of his noggin.

The pirates had set us adrift without oars, but Drool’s arms were long enough that if he lay down he could get enough of a hand in the water to paddle. By his sliding from one gunwale to the other, the little boat sloshed slowly forward. My arms would barely reach the water, and as it turned out, though the monkey could swim, even with a sturdy cord tied round his middle, Jeff was complete shit at towing a boat.

An hour or so later, what had been a calm sea began to rise up on rollers, and the blue-white lines I’d spotted churned into a briny boil. What had been the distant swish of surf now crashed like thunder before us.

“Pocket,” said Drool, sitting up, his eyes wide and alight with fear. “I don’t want to paddle no more. I wanna go back.”

“Nonsense,” said I, with enthusiasm I did not feel. “Once more unto the breach!”

And before I could turn to see where we were headed, a great wave lifted the boat and we were driven ahead on its face, racing as if on a sled down a never-ending slope. Drool let loose a long, terrified wail and gripped the rails as the stern was lifted, lifted—and then we were vertical on the face of the wave. I looked above me to see a great flailing nitwit flying in the night and a monkey tumbling with him. Then the wave crashed down upon us. I lost my hold on the boat and was awash in a confusion of salt and chill. Over and down and over until there was no up, nowhere to go for air, and no way to get there. Then a light. The moon. A tumble, and there again, the silver above, shining life. I kicked, hoping to find some purchase on sand, but there was nothing but water; then the moon, and a black specter diving out of the silver disc above—the boat. I tried to tuck my head but too late and then a shock and a flash in the eye as the boat struck me and all was dark. Oblivion.


There were flames dancing before me when I woke from the dead, which was not entirely unexpected. The devil was smaller and rather younger than I would have guessed. He danced barefoot around the fire as he stoked it in preparation for my torment. The fiend wore a tunic of rough linen, leaves and sticks clinging to it, and a bycocket hat with a single feather in the style of bow hunters back home in Blighty. Bit of a ginger fringe. Scrawny and pathetic, really, for the prince of bloody darkness.

As I stirred, the fiend made his way over to me and studied my face. He had wide eyes and high cheekbones, decidedly feminine, which gave him the look of a cat that has been surprised in the middle of his repast of a freshly killed rat—alert and fierce.