Grandpa loved it when the days got shorter, the leaves on trees started to change colors, and nature transformed the landscape of the little wood in front of his house.
He loved this season so much that every year he used to organize the Chestnut Challenge. The rules were easy: the whole family had to meet up at his house with a wicker basket and gloves. They took a path in the woods to gather the highest number of chestnuts until noon, when Grandpa played his trumpet to stop the game and to invite everyone to come back home for the traditional family lunch.
The defending champion was Steve, the older son of Uncle Lucian, but this year Sam was going to attend the challenge for the first time.
Sam, grandpa’s favourite granddaughter, took the path on the left. She was trying to open a chestnut burr when she heard a strange sound coming from the tree.
Looking behind the trunk, a squirrel was crying. “Oh little squirrel, why are you so sad?” asked Sam.
“I lost my nut! My favorite nut!” replied the squirrel.
Sam showed her wicker basket to the little animal. “Look, maybe it’s here!”
“No,” replied the squirrel sniveling, “it’s a different nut. It’s all rounded and smells good. It was the first nut of the season. The first nut of the season is always the tastiest!”
Sam was torn. On one hand, she wanted to win the Chestnut Challenge, and on the other hand, she wanted to help the squirrel to find the nut. In the end, she decided to help the squirrel and said, “Let’s go find it! Everything is gonna be ok!”
The couple started to look around, retracing the squirrel’s steps.
“I stopped to talk with the mushroom over there,” said the animal.
Sam got closer, “Good morning, Mr Mushroom. Have you seen a rounded nut?”
“Not here. Have you checked in the vegetable garden?” asked the mushroom.
“Grandpa’s garden! Of course we would find it there! Thank you, Mr. Mushroom!” replied Sam.
Squirrel jumped on Sam’s shoulder, and the girl ran out of the wood directly to the garden.
Sam remembered it during summer, full of different vegetables, but, in that period of the year, Grandpa grew only pumpkins.
She started to look everywhere, even lifting up one of the huge pumpkins.
“Put me down!” screamed the orange pumpkin.
“Sorry, Madam,” Sam quickly said, placing it on the ground. “We are looking for a rounded nut, have you seen it?”
“I see a lot of nuts”, replied the vegetable, “wrinkled nuts, ovals nuts, pointed nuts, dark brown nuts, light brown nuts, yellow nuts, green nuts, big nuts, small nuts, …but no, I’ve never seen a rounded nut!”
Sam thanked the pumpkin for the support. The little squirrel was so sad and ready to cry again when they saw a fox in the woodshed and started to run in that direction.
“Hey Foxy, have you seen my nut?” asked the little animal.
“I heard that you were looking for a rounded nut, and I’ve got it!” said the fox, handing out the nut. “I found it at the edge of the wood. It looked like the first nut of the season, and I was looking for its owner!”
“Thank you, Foxy!” screamed Sam happily, “Finally we found the nut! And it’s true, squirrel, it really looks like a nut you cannot lose!”
Suddenly, the sound of Grandpa’s trumpet came from the house. “Oh no, the Chestnut Challenge is finished, and Cousin Steve will win again,” said Sam sadly.
The squirrel jumped for the last time on Sam’s shoulder and said, “You have been very gentle with me. Check your basket, while we were walking in the woods, I filled it for you. That’s my way to thank you for your help.”
Sam, amazed by the amount of chestnuts he gathered, thanked the squirrel and ran back to Grandpa’s house, sure to win.
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