Stories from Bangan Forest for Families

A collection of stories for all ages from Bangan Forest – a Canadian fictional forest.

There are 27 stories in total, I think… I’ve been sharing a few of them here.

Children and preteens have helped with the writing of some of these stories- a classroom project (A Hunter in Bangan Forest) and a covid project (the Runt Rabbit series- thank you Aubree!) This is a living forest and stories are still being written here today. What character would you be in Bangan Forest?

This is not really a story, just a starting place. The Ojibwe words’ meanings are revealed in the English words nearby. (For example, Bangan means ‘It is peaceful here’):

a strong sturdy mushroom     photo by Laurie Fraser

a strong sturdy mushroom
photo by Laurie Fraser

 

Introduction to Bangan Forest

by Laurie Fraser

It is peaceful here in Bangan Forest. It has had many names, but Bangan Forest has always been right here. Forest of Maple, Oak, Aspen, Birch, Pine, Spruce and Cedar has always lived here at Northeast’s place, this place of four seasons and abundant water. Some trees living here today, famously Black Gum and Oaky Dokey, are over 400 years old. Can you imagine?  Oaky Dokey has seen more than 5,000 full moons.

Of course, trees cannot move and although River changes constantly, he too has always been here. River is fed by spring streams from Mountain. Mountain is Mother Earth herself, and she is called Bangan too because it is peaceful there, in that place, too.

And so you see, Bangan Forest and Bangan Mountain are sisters, their fingers intertwined with River and streams and paths. Animals of all sizes make paths: well-used paths through woods, tiny paths under grass. So many pathways to know: paths that lead to meadows full of the flowering plants that rabbits and deer adore; paths that lead to streams full of precious stones; paths to animal dens and hidden storage; paths to teaching places and ceremonial places; paths to other paths.

The most important path is Mnaadendmowin, the path of respect. Animals these days call it Widest Path. It runs right through Bangan Forest, joining River and Danger Road. Widest Path provides 50 miles of peaceful passage for all animals- mice and moose, fishers and coyotes alike.

In spite of Forest’s many paths, River is the main thoroughfare in Bangan. His true name is Debwewin. Large communities of fish and turtles, frogs and rocks live in Debwewin River. Current is strong and always moving around. Sand bars and lily pads, fallen trees and spiders’ webs, dragonflies and rats’ rafts… oh, it is a beautiful place of constant change… Spring’s floods… Winter’s ice.

Debwewin River can be dangerous because of Current’s strength, but he is always a better choice for travel than Danger Road. River can heal too. Debwewin forces us to look at our own selves- to see our face reflected in water and know truth. Councillor Crow has been known to take wrongdoers to Shoreline and force them to look at Debwewin, the truth of who they are. This is where wrongdoers learn that they are not bad; they are broken. Debwewin can do more: he can free burdens, forgive, clean.

You will find otters at Debwewin River’s west end. One thousand otters, all involved in the operation of Wild Waterslide World, where, for free, you can spend the day sliding down some of the craziest slides on Mother Earth. One is half a mile long!

You might be surprised, but Bangan Forest is a place of high fashion. Bowties are in vogue now; I saw several squirrels sporting bright bowties just yesterday: yellow on a black squirrel, turquoise on a grey squirrel. Hats are popular, all kinds of hats. Females of all species are into those tight stretchy skirts these days. Deer Darling wears her stretchy black skirt with loose leggings that fall around her delicate ankles. Mr. Fox’s daughter wears her tight black skirt with fishnet tights on all four legs- she’s a bit of a tramp. She totters on around two-inch heels too, but as everyone knows, foxes are tolerant parents.

Not all animals degrade themselves by wearing accessories and clothes that originated with needy materialistic humans. Wolf is too dignified to wear anything but his own black fur coat; it’s perfect- breathable and thick. It’s just the small-brained who are into human clothes: squirrels, mice, rabbits… youth especially- well, youth of any species, truth be told.

Fashion interest is a natural consequence of immigrants coming here to live, especially the monkeys. As well, of course, Town is a growing influence as more of Forest’s youth go to Town to seek their fortune. They invariably come home with a human-made velvet cape or lace dress or winter parka. So far, fashion trends continue to influence Bangan Forest’s animals despite the obvious irony of baby otters wearing bathing suits and sleeping bears wearing Eddie Bauer winter parkas.

Meadows are throughout Bangan- up Mountain’s sides and dotted throughout Forest. Butterflies and flutterbys by the millions live here. Their names are always LuLu, LoLo, LeeLee or something along those lines. They stir happiness by flapping their wings, so you can imagine troops of them spreading happiness all over fields of sweetgrass and down Forest’s paths.

This place is rich with food and comfort and medicines too. Willow heals headaches and Slippery Elm soothes sick tummies. Coltsfoot stops coughs. Medicines grow right where they will be needed. Jewelweed grows near Poison Ivy. If you touch Poison Ivy by mistake, Jewelweed is right there to help- you can wash your hands with her, and you’ll have no itching or pain.

If you do get sick or hurt, your best bet is to try and find Snake. Snake is a healer, albeit a somewhat reluctant healer. The animals call her Nanaandawi which means healer or doctor.

I can’t divulge the exact location of Snake’s Clinic. First, you have to find Favourite Stone and then convince Nanaandawi to take you to her clinic. Favourite Stone is at the end of Snake’s Trail, which is off Elk’s Path, which is off Widest Path. It isn’t easy to find Snake’s Trail, at least not the first time, and Nanaandawi likes it that way. Animals are always bothering her, asking her to heal them when Nanaandawi thinks that they should have just taken care of themselves in the first place- not gotten into that fight, nor eaten that toxic plant, nor run away from home at a young age… a million troubles these animals get themselves into every day.

Nanaandawi is worth the search. Today she is on Favourite Stone- flat, grey, reliable, with a bit of an overhang that Nanaandawi slides under when she wants to hide or cool down. Sun has been warming her on Favourite Stone for hours. The red diamonds on Nanaandawi’s back have deepened in colour until they glitter in the heat. Nanaandawi is most powerful when her diamonds glitter like this. Today they are shining like poison berries.

In spite of her reluctance to work, Nanaandawi is the sacred feminine. Truly, she is some powerful magic, but she’d rather spend her hours with Favourite Stone, out of earshot of her clinic, making love with Sun, soaking him up. You know, she’s an odd choice for a healer; snakes are basically hedonists, aren’t they? And a bit on the lazy side. Manoo, let her be, such is life.

It is peaceful here in Bangan Forest, and it is peaceful too on Bangan Mountain. Nature is whatever she feels like. In Bangan Forest, it’s not unusual to find rabbits sleeping with squirrels. I mean, it’s pretty relaxed here, even when it comes to marriage. Old Fox married Old Skunk 6 years ago, and he hasn’t eaten her yet. Down at Main Meadow, you’ll find some lesbian turtles and whole community of gay mice and moles. Frog is Two-Spirit. All of Bangan Forest’s animals are respected for being their own true selves.

It’s getting crowded. More and more animals end up here because they’ve been bullied out of their first-choice homes. Sometimes the bullies look like development companies or banks; sometimes the bullies talk about greener pastures or repatriation. In the end, all bullies look like the bottom of a foot… and a new home must be found.

You know how it goes. When a place gets crowded, it’s harder to find a job. Sometimes animals fight over dens and tree-holes. Sometimes food is harder to find- especially when Winter comes to stay.

Of course, and we can’t ignore it, one of the hard truths in this life is that we all have to eat. And sometimes we eat each other. And so, Forest is about fear sometimes and aggression too. Owls eat mice. Moles eat worms. Coyotes eat rabbits. Beaver and Porcupine strip bark right off trees. Rabbits nibble on tender grass all day long. Caterpillars eat Milkweed’s leaves. Squirrels eat flower faces as soon as they come out of the ground!

It sounds barbaric, doesn’t it, all this eating, but here is another truth. When a plant has grown, sometimes even before she is grown, she gives herself freely to her purpose. Maybe her purpose is to nourish another. Maybe her purpose is to burn after death and warm another. Maybe her purpose is to cheer another. And so when this purpose is achieved- this bringing of nourishment or warmth or comfort- Plant is grateful to be of use and gladly gives her life.

Animals who are eaten are similar. Their will is to live; they will fight to the end. However, in the end, it is better for that animal to nourish another than to be left to rot. There is a difference between an animal who is killed under the wheels of a car and an animal who is eaten completely and gratefully- the way Wolf eats calves of Elk and Moose.

That’s life- it’s full of hard truths. For one: Everyone’s gotta eat. Another hard truth is that animals are envious sometimes. This can lead to stealing. Magpie and Bumblebee rob other animals’ food stores. Fox and Fisher steal eggs from nests. Coyote will take another’s supper. Raccoon will steal the shoes on your feet and Crow will take the rings off your fingers, not to eat, mind you, but just because they’re so pretty.

When Bangan Forest’s animals stole and murdered in the past, they sometimes did those things unnecessarily. It was said that this lack of restraint was harming the community, and so it came to pass that the ancestors – the first animals – made some rules to help everyone get along.

Seven animals were elected to enforce seven teachings. These seven animals became known as the Council of Seven or sometimes- Council of Bangan Forest. And so it came to pass that Wolf, Turtle, Beaver, Bear, Buffalo, Crow and Eagle came together to enforce the laws of Bangan Forest. Surely you already know the laws for they are universal: Humility, Truth, Wisdom, Courage, Respect, Honesty and Love.

The Council of Seven is busy with rights. The right to be treated fairly, the right to be clean, the right to live and the right to die. Everyone is born with rights. Council cares about all of them: the rights of those who cannot move such as trees and rocks, the rights of beings who move such as animals and fish; and the rights of Mother Earth and Father Sky.

The Council of Seven is busy with wrongs. When trees and plants argue, when animals fight, Council can help sort out the problem. Often, it is a territorial issue. Sometimes it’s very serious, like dishonouring the harvest or littering or animal trafficking, but usually disputes are about “empty” dens and theft.

Raccoons are constantly before Council and so is Crow’s whole family; thieving is a way of life for some species. Squirrels have a million minor disputes that Council is always throwing out. Councillor Beaver threatened to lock a whole bunch of them in Hollow Birch until they learned to listen to each other. Skunks tend to offend, and buffalos tend to break things that don’t belong to them. Owl and Crow do not get along. Ever. One time, Cruel Cricket read LayLay’s diary, and she was so upset that she brought her right to privacy before Council.

Here in Bangan, Council of Seven oversees rights and wrongs. Border Bears patrol the boundaries and wolves are on guard all night. The widest path- Mnaadendmowin- is safe passage where all are respected. River is clean, streams are plentiful, and soil is nourishing. It is peaceful here in Bangan.

Many animals live here in Bangan Forest. They are regular creatures like you and I. They fall in love and make mistakes; they run away from home and make mistakes. Just like you and I, the animals of Bangan Forest make mistakes all the time: Cougar loses his daughter, Mousie trusts Yowl, Dozy kidnaps Fawnish, Cubby gets addicted to sugar. Wonderful things happen here too, of course: Mr. Fisher chooses love, Turtle chooses love, LayLay chooses love.

I will tell you these stories, the stories of Bangan Forest, but you must listen carefully. You must listen with your heart because the stories of Bangan Forest are true. And you must listen with your head because the stories of Bangan Forest are tricky.

Let’s go together, now. You definitely need boots. Grab the coolest hat you own. Let us start in Little Clearing where Raccoon and Pond play, and then let’s go to Bangan Mountain where streams are born and life begins. Take my hand now, so you don’t get lost.

Okay, let’s get started; aambey, maj ta da.

DSC03863 (4)

A Hunter in Bangan Forest – by Laurie Fraser

A Hunter in Bangan Forest

This story is dedicated to Jack, Cyrus, Parker, Nadeem, and Kayden (in order of appearance). Thank you for your contributions.

Bangan Forest was a peaceful place. After all, the word ‘bangan’ means It is peaceful here. However, something happened one sweaty June afternoon that was entirely unusual and not peaceful at all. First of all, humans were not permitted in Bangan Forest. Some tall metal signs on Danger Road declared that there was “NO HUNTING ALLOWED” and that was one of the reasons that the animals of Bangan Forest felt safe.

Normally, animals weren’t even on the lookout for intruders; that’s how rarely it happened. Plus, everyone knew that Eagle was up in Sky every day. Surely Eagle would be the one to see a problem like a hunter. In fact, on that sweaty June day, it was not Eagle who spotted an intruder, it was Jackbird.

You know Jackbird Puffin: black and white with a strong orange beak. He’s surprisingly clever; he likes to study things like space and rockets and astronauts. If Jackbird knew a way to do it, he would fly all the way to Moon, even other planets like Jupitar and Pluto. You know… puffins can’t fly that high. Truth be told, I’m not aware of any bird that can reach Moon.

So Jackbird made do with flying the uppermost parts of Sky. He loved to glide over Bangan Forest, watching for any anomalies, anything out of the ordinary. Now, on occasion, Jackbird did see trouble. One time, he saw three elks in a terrible battle. He was there too, when Bodacious Bear, just a baby, was “rescued” by a human who gave him to Townzoo (which is really just a jail).

Now, to get back to that fateful sweaty day in June: Jackbird Puffin was doing his regular rounds, acting like Eagle and surveying Forest. It was about midday when he spied something odd in Miss Terry Tree. Miss Terry Tree was a beautiful Maple, not young and not old. Her trunk was straight and solid; her branches were graceful. Her dress in June was a lovely lively green colour. The thing that caught Jackbird’s sharp eye, was a little movement deep in her branches. It wasn’t Wind because only one small part of Miss Terry Tree was moving.

Jackbird flew several laps around her, getting closer each time until he saw something that made him open his orange beak wide in shock. The thing that Jackbird saw was very very dangerous. Can you guess? It was a human! And what do you think was in that human’s hands? Well, I have to tell you the hard truth: it was a gun. It was the sort of long gun that hunters carry… and so Jackbird thought, “Why that’s a hunter! An actual hunter!”

Now, if Jackbird had been Blue Jay, he would have just opened his mouth and announced the news. And if Jackbird had been Crow, he would have shouted the news to one and all. Luckily, Jackbird was a clever one. He knew that if he squawked, the hunter would realize he’d been seen, and he would run away… or maybe hide in a better place.

So Jackbird quietly flew away. He flew directly to his pal and best friend: Cycat. I know, I know… you wouldn’t think that Cat and Bird could be best buddies. Normally, cats catch birds; at least they have fun trying, but Cycat wasn’t that type of cat. First of all, he had a great big heart. Secondly, Cycat had unusual fur for a cat. He wasn’t brown or white or black. Cycat wasn’t even a ginger or a calico. You see, Cycat was unique: his fur was cyan which is a lovely green colour… and instead of straight stripes like most cats, his colourful stripes were zigzagged. Can you imagine a cat that looks a bit like a peacock? Well, that was Cycat. He was clever too, and that was one of the reasons that Cycat and Jackbird hung out together. They were both unusual and clever in their own ways, and so they understood each other.

Jackbird found Cycat hanging out with Miss Wendy Willow. You know how Willows love to wear their brown hair long, so it almost touches Earth? Well, Miss Wendy Willow had tied 2 ends of her long branches together to make a swing for Cycat… and man, I’m telling you, it was Cycat’s favourite place to hang. Literally hang. So Jackbird found him easily and reported the news: There was a human hunter in Miss Terry Tree, and he had a long gun.

“Are you sure?” asked Cycat.

“Absolutely sure! What should we do?”

“Well,” said Cycat, “what animal is big enough to knock a hunter out of Tree?”

“Buffalo?” asked Jackbird.

“Maybe,” said Cycat, “but he might get hurt. Hunters love to get Buffalo… and Bear too. They love to shoot anything big… like Moose or Deer. If they even approached Miss Terry Tree, the hunter would see them from far away, and that would be dangerous.”

Jackbird agreed. “Very dangerous! What should we do?”

“Let’s ask Carigator. He’s tough!”

So the two friends said good-bye to Miss Wendy Willow and headed deep into Forest to find Carigator. Yes, I know, you’ve probably never heard of Carigator before. Okay, imagine Alligator crawling into an actual car and getting stuck. That will give you an idea of this creature. You see, Alligator did crawl into an abandoned car, an old RCMP cruiser… and he got stuck! He’s been that way for years!

That would be a real difficulty for most Alligators, but Carigator was super-flexible. He adapted. He learned to live in the car. Well, he wasn’t all in- his head had gone right through the front bumper, and his Alligator feet stuck out the bottom. He could move with the car over him like a shield or protective armour or Turtle’s shell. When he moved, the car travelled with him.

You might have trouble imagining this, but Alligator came to love that car. I mean, he LOVED the car. He felt that it was part of him. Alligator wouldn’t, couldn’t go anywhere without the car and so it didn’t take long for all of the astonished animals of Bangan Forest to start calling him Carigator. It was a new name and Carigator LOVED it.

Now Carigator obviously had some problems… for example, he had no brakes- they wore out long ago, so it was hard for him to slow down sometimes, and it was hard for him to turn too. I mean, the car part didn’t always cooperate with the alligator part and sometimes he got so HOT, smoke came right out of his head. In spite of transition troubles, Carigator was really tough. I mean, he was made mostly of metal and even his Alligator head was quite bony and hard.

Once Jackbird and Cycat presented their quandary, Carigator said, “Well, what do you want me to do about it? It’s not my problem! Hunters are no threat to me.”

“Maybe you could ram right into Miss Terry Tree,” suggested Cycat.

“Yeah,” said Jackbird. “Knock her over! Then the hunter will fall and drop his gun and then you can eat him.”

“EAT HIM!” shouted Carigator. “Are you crazy? Humans taste HORRIBLE; don’t you know that?”

“Well, run him over then.”

“Right, then council comes to talk to me about disrespect. You think I’m gonna do your dirty work? Find someone else. I’m busy anyway.”

All three of them looked at each other.

“That idea would have hurt Miss Terry Tree anyway, banging into her like that,” shrugged Cycat.

“I have to go now,” said Carigator. “I’m going to Debwewin River for a carwash and a swim.”

Jackbird Puffin and Cycat wandered over to Miss Bee Tree and sat under her on Grass. Sometimes they hung out with Miss Bee Tree when they needed support. They sat in her shade. Bees from Miss Bee Tree’s heavy hive buzzed around them. Cycat and Jackbird thought and thought about what to do. Finally, Jackbird had an idea.

“Maybe ancient wisdom!”

“What?”

“Maybe I should go to Town and ask Koi Fish. He’s wise in the old ways, the traditional ways.”

“How can a fish live in Town? Surely, he needs River to feel comfortable?” asked Cycat.

“Well, I have talked to him before. It’s not easy to communicate with him because he doesn’t know much English. In spite of that, he did make it clear to me that he is NOT comfortable in his little pond. It’s way too little, and sometimes he doesn’t get clean water for months.”

“What do you mean? All Ponds clean themselves.”

“Well, not this one. It was made of cement by humans, so it can’t clean itself properly. Koi Fish’s pond is decorative, in front of a Japanese restaurant.”

“Ewww! That poor fish. We should rescue him one day,” suggested Cycat.

“You’ll be surprised, but he doesn’t want to be rescued. He loves Japanese stuff- the food, the language, the people, the lanterns…. I can’t imagine him ever leaving,” said Jackbird.

“Oh. Are you sure he is wise?”

“Oh yes, all koi fish are wise.”

“Okay, fly there and find out what he says. We should hurry up too. We don’t know what the hunter is doing at this very moment.”

Jackbird gave a nod and flew off. He flew over Bagan Forest, across Danger Road and all the way to Town. He quickly spotted the bright red Japanese restaurant and landed perfectly under Mis Cherry Tree beside the pond.

Jackbird chirped, “Koi Koi. Koi Koi. Koi Koi”…. until finally big strong Koi Fish rose from the depths and stuck his pouty mouth out of Water.

“Kon’nichiwa” he said, which in Japanese means ‘Good Afternoon.’

“Hello,” said Jackbird. “I am in search of wisdom.”

“Hai,” said Koi Fish, meaning ‘Yes.’

Jackbird explained the whole situation in English. It took some time and he actually had to draw a tree and a hunter in the dust beside the pond in order for Koi Fish to completely understand.

Now, Koi Fish had white whiskers, but he was not old. In spite of his youth, he was filled with ancient wisdom. He had learned to speak his truth with few words, in the Japanese way. He rolled his big beautiful body over in Water several times while he mulled over this strange situation in Bangan Forest.

When the orange fish with glorious fins finished rolling and mulling, he stuck his mouth out of Water to say: “Hunter is a big animal, but he will be defeated by a tiny animal.”

Then he sunk back to the bottom of the pond, and he stayed there.

“A tiny animal?” repeated Jackbird. “Are you kidding me?”

He flew back to Cycat and reported: “That was a waste of time, and we don’t have time to waste!”

“Did you find him? What did he say?”

“He said, ’Hunter is a big animal, but he will be defeated by a tiny animal.’ It doesn’t even make sense.”

Right then, as fortune would have it, K-mouse skittered by their feet.

“Hey! K-mouse!” called Cycat.

“Hey Dude, what’s up?” K-mouse was very cool. He was a dude himself. He wore a black hoodie and black high-tops which is pretty cool for a mouse. He carried a black satchel over his chest.

“You’re a tiny animal,” said Jackbird, “I wonder if you have any ideas about how to get rid of a hunter with a gun in a tree?”

“A human hunter?” asked K-mouse, his hands on his hips. “Lemme at him; where is he? I’ll take him down!”

It was easy to see that K-mouse felt entirely confident. There was not a shred of fear in him!

Jackbird led Cycat and K-mouse toward Miss Terry Tree. When they were well-hidden under bushes and shrubs, Jackbird quietly pointed out the exact branch that the hunter was on. He was still there, crouched on the branch and eating a bag of chips.

Everyone knows it is impossible to eat chips quietly. It was the hunter’s downfall; it was his tragic error to be eating chips while hiding. K-mouse – well, all mice, in fact – have excellent hearing and a terrific sense of smell. Without a second thought, without a word, without even a PLAN, K-mouse darted straight toward Miss Terry Tree and straight up her trunk, into her branches, directly to the hunter who didn’t have chance to even see K-mouse, that’s how fast he ran.

Now, K-mouse truly didn’t have a plan, but when he saw the hunter open his mouth wide and throw in a big chip, K-mouse jumped right in his mouth along with that big potato chip.

K-mouse had free rein in that poor hunter’s body. He tickled his tongue and ran down his throat. He went directly to his stomach full of chips and dip, and right there, in the hunter’s stomach, K-mouse jumped and scratched until the stomach walls began to squeeze in and out.

“Oh no, you don’t,” said K-mouse. “You are not going to vomit me up.”

And that’s when a tiny animal named K-mouse reached into his tiny black satchel and pulled out a tiny grenade. He laughed, “Ha ha ha hah!” He pulled a tiny pin out of the tiny grenade and well…. there was an explosion that was not tiny at all.

Now that explosion was so loud that Carigator heard it. “I know what that is,” he said as he scrubbed his tires in River. “That is one dead hunter.”

The explosion was so loud that the sound reached Town! It was even heard by a wise Koi Fish who was deep under Water. ‘I know what that is,’ he thought to himself as he watched a cherry blossom fall. ‘That is one dead hunter.’

From where Jackbird and Cycat waited, they saw the hunter break into many parts. Some of those parts fell to Earth and some of those parts flew up to Sky and then they fell to Earth.

Cycat cheered, “That’s one dead hunter! K-mouse saved us!”

Jackbird hung his head. “I didn’t know he was going to sacrifice his life for Bangan Forest.”

Oh my goodness, what a dramatic ending! What a tragic end to this story. We all thought that it was kind of sad…. until…. one of the parts that had flown up to Sky and then fallen down Earth, well… it moved… just a touch.

K-mouse lifted his tiny head off Forest’s floor. He gave his head a shake. Then he got up and scampered over to Cycat and Jackbird.

Cycat shook K-mouse’s hand. “Nice job.”

“Why do you have grenades?” asked Jackbird. “Grenades are illegal in Bangan Forest.”

“So are hunters!” said K-mouse with a grin. He tapped his black satchel.

“What else do you have in there?” asked Jackbird, walking over to him.

K-mouse gave a laugh, kicked his back heels together and skittered away so fast that he couldn’t be seen in Grass, not even by Jackbird’s sharp eyes.

He did spy a crack in Miss Terry Tree’s limb. Nanaandawi, the snake doctor, came by to splint her broken branch. She was strong and healthy in no time.

And so it came to pass that four forest animals who don’t always get along – bird, cat, fish and mouse – managed to rid Bangan Forest of a human hunter. How did four natural enemies manage to accomplish such a dangerous task? Oh, you know, they did it the old-fashioned way: They worked together.

Runt Rabbit Runs Away – a story from Bangan Forest by Laurie Fraser

Runt Rabbit Runs Away.

This is Runt’s debut in Stories from Bangan Forest. He will show up again as Jag’s friend, Ricky Raccoon’s rival & Bunny’s saviour. This is the first of 5 Runt Rabbit stories.

art by William Fraser

art by William Fraser

When Runt Rabbit’s mother took off, he barely noticed- that’s how crowded the den was. She said she wanted to stretch her hoppers; she needed a breath of fresh air. That was an understatement given that the older litter was still at home, and the newest one was still untrained. Runt Rabbit’s mother didn’t bother with moss diapers- there would be no end to them with 12 babies. She just swept out the den every morning.

It did get harder for Runt to get his fair share of food once she left, and he got no affection at all. He was last in line for carrot juice every morning. Big Brothers practiced their kicks on him, on all the new bunnies, and Big Sisters were always dressing him up in their doll clothes.

Runt was the smallest of the rabbits; his tan coat was faded and oversized. His feet were too large for him. The slightest noise made him jump up to the ceiling, even when he was sleeping. Runt was one twitchy rabbit. He skittered from topic to topic in conversation as if he were on skates, as if his words were sliding out of control all over the icy surface of his busy brain. His attention twitched, but so did his black eyes and his girl-nose and his sparse bent whiskers.

Runt Rabbit’s father tried not to look directly at him. He had so many children anyway, what was one dud? Odd little thing would be out of the den in a moment anyway; they grew up so fast these days. If he even made it to moving-out size. Probably Hawk would eat him up on his way home from school one day.

Runt was unreasonably confident. You’d think he’d be hiding most of the time, hanging out with Thistle or playing games with Long Grasses. Sometimes he did those things, but Runt was a sociable fellow. He considered Beaver and Mole to be his friends, although they didn’t treat him very well. In fact, Runt was bullied at school, but to him it was normal. He was in a good mood most of the time.

Like all young rabbits, Runt Rabbit was exploring career options. He considered architect, but he’d rather dig holes than draw pictures. He considered builder, but Little Fisher and Mole had laughed their heads off at that idea. He was just too small.

“Sex worker,” suggested Mole.

“Magician’s assistant,” grinned Little Fisher.

“I know! You can be a good luck charm in a human’s pocket!”

They rolled over each other, laughing wildly.

“Stew!” shrieked Little Fisher.

“Human toilet paper!”

Runt Rabbit didn’t do well at school. It wasn’t because he was bullied or because he looked like a girl, although those things were true. Runt Rabbit didn’t do well at school because his brain twitched. It twitched here and there and everywhere until Runt didn’t know what was a number and what was a letter. F and 5 were the same to him.

And so it happened that one day, when Owl’s glasses sat sideways on her face and she banged her pointer hysterically on ‘FIVE’ written on Big Slate and screamed, “It’s a word about a number,” Runt just got up from his stump in the front row and walked right out the front door of that school.

Now, I’m not passing opinion on quitting school, I’m just saying, it’s best to wait until you have a plan. Runt Rabbit had no plan and a twitchy brain.

Queen Anne's Lace

Queen Anne’s Lace

Runt hopped right by his den at Tom Tree without stopping in to get a scolding from his father.  He hopped right down Small Hill covered in goldenrod and purple asters to Main Meadow. He hid from Hawk by hopping erratically through Long Grass, stopping only under Queen Anne’s faces as if they were umbrellas.

Once he was through Main Meadow, he chose his favourite of Forest’s paths, a shadowy trail kept narrow by tall birches on both sides. It took all day, but he followed Forest’s path to the end where Debwewin River waited with open arms.

Runt could swim, and he crossed River without Current giving him a hard time. He quickly got out of open space and into a welcoming crowd of pines. This was the furthest he had ever been from Tom Tree. He stopped and twitched his whiskers. Runt Rabbit’s father had taught caution when it came to new spaces. Runt hopped around a bit, looking for safe shelter. He found Daisy Patch nestled under Little Bush, and he curled up beside her for a nap.

He woke up to a clawed foot in his face. Even before looking up, he could smell who it was. He twitched his pink nose at a face bigger than his: black, whiskered, not friendly.

“Move it,” said Skunk.

“Sure,” said Runt, and he hopped along the edge of cedars until he couldn’t smell Skunk anymore.

Runt was thirsty and hungry too. He foraged for forbs and greens along Shoreline for an hour before his belly was full. After that, he took Widest Path deep into Bangan Forest. It was a random choice, but it was a good one.

Widest Path was busy with animals of many species nodding politely to each other as they passed; even a group of mice with suitcases seemed to feel safe. Two skunks had stopped to talk by sugar maples and Runt passed them unnoticed. He was startled by Fox who overcame him from behind, his hot breath on Runt’s neck. Fox trotted right on by as if he wasn’t hungry, not even for a little snack like Runt. There were so many animals travelling that Runt wondered if he might find his mother.

He thought about his family sitting down to supper. Overcooked carrot tops. Weed salad. Two dozen chewing rabbits and two empty chairs. Maybe they thought Owl had locked him in the cloakroom again. Runt wished his father could see him now, strutting down Widest Path with all Forest’s animals.

And so he strutted a while, gaining confidence with every swagger of his hips.

He came across Turtle in a black cap. He had his shell up and was tinkering under the hood. Boxes were piled beside him.

Runt stopped to watch. “Hi,” he said.

Turtle was not fond of conversation at the best of times. He did not hit reply.

“Are you stuck here?” asked Runt.

Turtle ducked deeper under his shiny green and black shell.

Runt wasn’t surprised- Turtlegirl at Main Meadow’s creek was always in her shell. He shrugged and hopped behind bushy bushes to pee. From there, he could hear Turtle muttering, “Need a whole new transmission.”

An odd silver-grey cat suddenly appeared in front of Runt, facing him. He stopped.

“Greetings,” he said with a smile.

Lynx broke her own pledge of non-interference and said, “Watch out for Jag.”

“What’s jag?”

Lynx’s yellow eyes held Runt’s brown eyes. “Take care of Jag.”

“Who’s Jag?”

Then there was no one there. Runt swung his head right around in a circle. No lynx, no cat.

Widest Path led the way for nine days and nights. Raccoons and squirrels were the chatterboxes; they shared all sorts of information: old stories and new stories. One thing Runt learned was that Widest Path’s traditional name was Mnaadendmowin.

Mnaadendmowin was a place where all beings were respected. It had been safe passage for all animals since beginning times. Blood was never spilled there. Unless it was an accident of course, or maybe a surprise birth. Even humans didn’t hunt on Widest Path – in fact, nowhere in Bangan Forest at all – due to some metal signs near Danger Road.

Oh, Runt Rabbit learned many important things from raccoons and squirrels. He learned to watch out for Councillor Wolf who was obsessed with returning runaways to their homes. Just as important, Runt learned that no one cared about 5s or Fs. He learned that skunks can be distracted with a love song. He learned to pitch a tent in 3 minutes.

He learned to step aside for size when Buffalo almost pancaked him.

But the very best thing that Runt learned, was that all the things his father had taught him about survival were true all along Widest Path, not just at home in Main Meadow. Lamb’s Quarters loved Water, Clover loved Sun, and Moss welcomed him into bed at night.

One evening, Runt joined a singalong with young animals like him sitting in a circle, many of them playing music: Deer with wind chimes, Cubby Bear on saxophone, lots of little raccoons with guitars, mice with tiny harmonicas and tambourines. To Runt’s surprise, they sang songs that he knew the words to, and soon he raised his voice and stamped his oddly large feet along with everyone else.

After that, the young ones all trooped down Widest Path together, sometimes with their arms slung around each other, sometimes racing or playing games. Runt had lots of fun. They were always laughing, these guys, not a care in the world: young raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks, even a weasel and a couple of skunks were tolerated.

Some of them were runaways like Runt (technically a hopaway), but most of them were just out of the den. Innocents. Legal age, but they hadn’t yet mated or fed yawling babies. Winter had a long journey before he would arrive at this place. Hunger could not be imagined. Grass and weeds were plentiful. Sun’s arms were welcoming and long. Rain fell gently, generously, and no one thirsted, not even Moss.

Runt was not bullied by his new friends. No one made fun of him at all. No one asked what he wanted to do with his life. Runt felt not stupid- he felt the same as everyone else. Spelling dictation was nothing but a bad memory, and his mind was free of Fs and 5s. Still, there was one important thing Runt didn’t think about. And because he didn’t think about it, he didn’t ask about it either.

The thing Runt Rabbit didn’t ask was this: Where are we going?

All of Forest’s animals know basic survival rules at an early age. Children are taught the signs of human presence and how to avoid them. These instructions first appear woven into bedtime stories for children: A hunter disguised as Wolf, Three Bears surprised by a home invasion, many tales about the Dragon Genocide. And then there was the warning that mothers whispered when they tucked their little ones in at night: “Don’t ever cross Danger Road. Many animals have died on Danger Road.”

Runt and his brothers and sisters would shudder and crowd together in bed when Father said those things about Danger Road. They would beg him to leave the candle lit. One evening, when Big Brothers and Big Sisters were close to leaving the den, Father said something different. He started the same as ever, “Never cross Danger Road. Many rabbits have died there.” but then he added, “If you absolutely must cross, ask Silence and Moon for assistance.”

This was what Runt was remembering as he stood at the end of Widest Path with his new friends. He recalled Father’s whisper on his twitchy cheek as he watched giant metal vehicles with giant rubber tires rage by on Danger Road. No one had ever mentioned the specific danger, but it was obvious now.

A few animals wandered along the side of Danger Road, in the ditch. They were afraid to cross and some of them told stories of dead animals down the way- Toad, Squirrel and Deer.

“Impossible,” said Runt. How could a big animal like Deer fail? And if Deer couldn’t get across, for sure, Runt wasn’t going anywhere either.

“Forget it,” he said to his friends. “We’ll never make it.”

“Sure we will,” said Little Raccoon. “Just hold hands and run fast.”

“What for?” asked Runt. “We don’t need to go anywhere. Everything we need is here.”

Wee Weasel rubbed his hands together. “Treats, my friend. We are going to Town for treats.”

“We crossed before – me and Wee Weasel and Squirrely,” added Little Raccoon.  “No worries. We’ll be back in a couple of days.”

“Besides,” grinned Little Skunk, “the sugar is worth it.”

Later in life, when he was so old that he had a patch of skin showing between his long ears, and a hint of grey in his wrinkled tan coat, Runt would look back on this moment in his life. It was the moment that everything changed. He didn’t realize that he was making a choice; he just liked his new friends.

Runt Rabbit’s stomach felt sour as if he’d eaten white strawberries. “Father told me to ask Silence and Moon for help.”

“We always do.”

And so it happened that some hours later, nine little animals faced Danger Road under Moon’s light in the middle of Night. Their arms were linked. After waiting carefully for Silence, Little Raccoon hissed, “Now!” and they scurried across as one being.

No one died.

Alternate ending due to the possibility of an electric vehicle these days:

They all died.

Ricky Loves Bunny – a story from Bangan Forest by Laurie Fraser

This is the second story in the Runt Rabbit series from Bangan Forest.

Ricky loves Bunny.

PART ONE

art by William Fraser

art by William Fraser

Bunny’s hut smelled like bubblegum and old apples. It was safe to leave the door open during the day- she lived in a backyard with a fence that kept most animals out. Mole would pop in from time to time, of course, squirrels and such, but Bunny didn’t have to worry about cats or dogs.

Humans shared the backyard when they came out of their house. Small Human liked to pick Bunny up and put her inside things like a doll stroller or a bucket of water. Sometimes Small tried to stuff Bunny into her pocket as if she were a toy and not a real breathing rabbit.

Small Human didn’t do those things to scare Bunny. She did those things because she loved to touch Bunny. Bunny was astonishingly soft, a strawberry blond with big grey eyes and a pretty pink nose. Her whiskers jumped out from her face like sparklers, and she was always smiling. Everyone loved Bunny.

Sticky Ricky loved her the most. He was a mid-size raccoon with a large black mask and a handlebar moustache. Ricky was a flashy guy. He wore a black vest with silver studs, many rings on his fat tail, and plenty of bling around his neck. He came over the fence every night. Sometimes he was early, but usually he was very late, so he would wake Bunny up. She was always tucked in a high-heeled shoe under Mint. Mint’s scent made Bunny’s sleep refreshing and her dreams sweet.

“Bunny,” Ricky would whisper and pet her cheek with his leathery nose. “Bunny, wake up, my Love.”

And Bunny would curl her little paws into pom poms and then stretch out her arms and legs, her nose twitching from his cologne.

“What did you bring me?” she would ask, her paws open then.

Ricky would hand her a cup of coffee maybe, or a whole donut with pink sprinkles or a gold chain or a designer shoe. She had plenty of singles- Manolo Blahnik, Saint Laurent… but only one complete pair: Gucci, which she loved more than her children.

Only a few days previous, Ricky had given her a diamond tiara and she had hidden it at Evergreen’s place so that humans wouldn’t find it. She suspected they would take it from her the same way they took the emerald that they found in her bellybutton last spring.

“How in the world?” wondered Mother Human. She sold the emerald and bought a little boat to take to the seaside on weekends.

Ricky had promised Bunny he’d bring her another emerald. He had declared it a priority and said that she, Bunny, was his only reason to live.

Now if Ricky knew where an emerald was, he’d just take it. Stealing wasn’t the problem- Sticky Ricky was a master thief. He just had to find another emerald. He’d looked up and down, of course; Bunny was crazy for emeralds, but they were rare. Most jewelry boxes had diamonds.

Diamonds were everywhere. Plenty of diamonds were right on people, and Ricky had a real easy time lifting precious jewels directly off humans. (Basically, they got so freaked out, running around screaming when he jumped on their heads, that picking off the jewelry was simple. Humans didn’t even notice. He would sometimes snag a shoe too, with his clever claws, but only if it was designer- something with a heel- Bunny was fond of those.)

Tonight, when Bunny opened her paw, he gave her a chocolate eclair from the French patisserie. Her grey eyes widened then, as if he was Morning and not Sticky Ricky.

“Mmmmm!” She sat right up and ate the whole eclair without offering Ricky a bite. You can be sure- she didn’t even think of sharing. Bunny was spoiled by Ricky and she loved the spoils… but Bunny didn’t love Ricky Raccoon. Maybe Ricky tried too hard. Maybe he too obviously adored her. Maybe he asked a bit too often if he could have a kiss.

One thing was certain: Ricky gave too much to Bunny, and she didn’t think twice about it. You might wonder if Bunny gave anything in return. She didn’t allow kisses, and she turned away when Ricky got yappy. She didn’t tell him about her dreams; she didn’t even tell him about her day. Bunny didn’t share her carrots or lettuce. She didn’t let Ricky meet her children who were kept in the closed hut at night. Bunny did let him pet her downy fur until she fell back asleep under Mint. Her shoulders ached from working all day in the garden and Ricky knew massage. Afterwards, he would sit beside her and watch her sleep.

Up at the crack of Dawn, Blue J. gave advice freely from Maple’s branches, shrieking so loudly that everyone along the alley could hear: “You’re wasting your time, Ricky Raccoon. She will never love you. Give your gifts to someone who cares.” Ricky ignored him every single morning, just like all other animals. Only blue jays care about what blue jays think, and that’s a fact.

Bunny sucked each one of her fingers clean. “Yum!” She smiled at Ricky.

He said, “I got the eclair by reaching into a bag and pulling out a box of them. Humans were busy talking and shopping. No one even noticed me until I opened the box to try one. That’s a benefit of being short.”

“Are there more eclairs?”

“Then they started screaming for a broom, and I had to head out before I finished eating. What a commotion! I tripped over something gooey – a pecan pie had hit the floor, I think – and I landed on my back, sliding across the floor with half an eclair in one hand and the box in the other.”

Bunny waited, her grey eyes opened very wide…

“I dropped the box and eclairs flew everywhere.”

… and she gasped. “No!” Her paw fluttered to her mouth.

“I was able to bring you just one, the one I had started to taste. It was still in my hand when I rolled to the curb and stood up, a shoe print on my back. I’m so sorry, Buns.”

Bunny told Ricky that she was tired. It was the middle of the night, after all. Ricky was nocturnal, suited for life in a mask. When he climbed into his bed exhausted at the end of Night’s work, Bunny was waking with Dawn, refreshed and ready for 9 to 5.

Sometimes he called her at suppertime, before he went out in the evening, but she wouldn’t pick up the phone. “What’s the point of that?” thought Bunny. “He can’t pet me over the phone. He can’t feed me from there. He just wants attention.”

Blue J. would chatter from Maple’s lowest branch. “You rude rabbit. This raccoon is not going to spoil you and love you forever. If you don’t give something in return, he will leave you. You will get no donuts or trinkets then!”

“I don’t want to kiss him!” Bunny stamped her back feet.

“Why not?” asked Blue J. “He’s a fine raccoon.”

“He’s a thief!”

“Best thief in the city and everyone knows it. A provider. Think about hopping along beside him down Widest Path in a human-skin cape, a tiara on your head for all Forest’s animals to see.”

Bunny twitched her pretty pink nose. Of course, she longed to live in Bangan Forest. All Town’s animals had heard of the utopian life there: no cages, no humans, just wild foraging and the sound of Wind in Leaves. Could Ricky take her there? Her mother had always warned of Danger Road. Her father had pointed out the benefits of domesticity – the regular meals, the safe yard. He had preferred it to freedom.

“I’m not kissing a thief.”

“Your only escape!”

“I have no reason to escape,” yelled Bunny, stamping all four pom poms now, her long strawberry blond fur flying.

Blue J. spread his wings and flapped. “Think about it,” he screamed as he flew away.

What no one knew, not Blue J. and not her children, and certainly not Ricky, was that Bunny had a little crush on a little rabbit named Runt. He made her smile. Now Runt was nothing special and Bunny could see that. He had no skills. He couldn’t find work because he had quit school. He was terribly small, barely a rabbit at all, really. He was twitchy too. Twitchy nose, twitchy ears, even a twitchy brain.

Bunny couldn’t explain to herself why she liked Runt. He wasn’t handsome. He wore a wrinkled tan coat that was too big for him; his feet were oddly large too. He didn’t give her much. A pizza crust. A chocolate bar wrapper to lick.

In fact, Runt had so little that, one morning, when he squeezed under her backyard fence, Bunny noticed his tiny ribs showing through his thin fur coat, and she had a brand-new thought. Well, it was a brand-new feeling – it was compassion. With Sun beaming at this character development, Bunny gave Runt the carrot cake leftover from Ricky’s visit. Runt gobbled that up with such pleasure and gratitude that Bunny felt happy just watching him. After that, Bunny saved food for Runt every day.

And so it came to pass that Ricky Raccoon was feeding Bunny and Runt and all Bunny’s children too, although he’d never met them.

PART TWO

art by William Fraser

It seemed like it would go on forever: Ricky would come over the fence every night, and Runt would squeeze under the fence every morning. Ricky would give Bunny a treat, and Bunny would save a little for Runt. Ricky would ask for a kiss, and Runt would get one.

You know, sometimes it seems like every day is the same and nothing will ever change…. but of course, change is always on the move. It’s good to remember that, to know that change is just down the street; change is in the next paragraph.

And so now, at this point in the story, because of Sticky Ricky’s fame, because of his newsworthy struggles to keep Bunny satisfied, and because his final act of thievery was recorded by security cameras and shared on the world wide web, it cannot be helped that this unremarkable love story must now transform into an insider’s account of a celebrity’s tragic downfall.

Change arrived around the time that Sticky Ricky was getting a bit too well-known in the city. Animals knew him, of course. They knew him for his skill and drama and generosity, but the problem was that humans were starting to talk about a raccoon who jumped on their heads and stole their treasures and their shoes too. Ricky himself wore black Converse runners, nothing fancy, but he was a sucker for Bunny and Bunny was sucker for shoes. And emeralds and chocolate eclairs, but in the end, it would be a shoe that did Sticky Ricky in.

When Ricky became infamous, he got a new name: Killer Raccoon. The rest of the headline was usually something like: …attacks again! …on the loose! …steals $2,000 Gucci shoes from Mayor’s daughter! Town citizens armed themselves with baseball bats and handguns. Stores shuttered at dusk.

Now, to Ricky Raccoon- which is the name his mother gave him, not Killer or Sticky mind you, just Ricky- this was all fabulous fun. Everything is fun to raccoons. He would hide and jump out on a head, usually a human head, and all the humans would immediately start shooting at him. This made the head scream louder or sometimes, spurt blood. Even humans who were way far away down the street would pull out their handguns and wildly shoot. Not one of them could aim, but they could all pull a trigger.

Ricky was fast on his feet. He would be in Bunny’s backyard with a fresh shoe, and humans would still be shooting each other in the head.

Rat Council met to discuss the matter. With shops closing early and humans shooting at anything that moved, their quality of life was much affected by this idiot raccoon. It was time for him to go.

Rats can be quite effective at creating change. They can spread disease, destroy buildings, and cause a black out. Rat networks are exceedingly complex, and a rat bite can be fatal. Rat Council had no doubt that they could ferret out the thief for the humans and put the entire matter to rest. And so a suggestion to put a bounty on Ricky’s head was seconded and passed. The hunter who brought in Killer Raccoon would collect a tiny clown car suitable for sidewalks, alleys and Shriner parades.

Rats knew all about the shoe fetish. Rabbits, chipmunks and mice had been sleeping in designer shoes for years. Bunny could only keep a few favourites on hand because of her klepto humans. She’d place the high-heeled shoes in bushes and flower gardens, discreetly enough that humans didn’t find them but convenient enough for seed storage, sunbathing and her babies’ afternoon naps. As Ricky brought her new shoes, she’d discard the old over the fence. Animals all over the city had foraged there. Designer shoes were in tree stumps, dens and burrows; they were in attics, chimneys and under porches all over town.

Ricky spent his last afternoon of freedom at Kangaroo Kuts getting a manicure on his clever claws, some fresh wax on his handsome handlebar moustache and a little trim around his pointy ears. He wanted to look his best for Bunny that night. He had seen an advertisement for a temporary exhibit at the museum. The exhibit was titled: The Collected Shoes of Imelda Marcos, a woman who appeared to love shoes as much as Bunny. There were 3,000 single shoes on display and Ricky had seen the one that he wanted on the front page of the pamphlet- silver patent with 4” heels and an emerald buckle.

Bunny would love him for sure.

Ricky had robbed the museum before, at night when he could slip easily under the laser security- again that advantage of being short. The security system was looking for thieves of human size and ability. Ricky was faster than most motion detectors could detect.

The thing that Ricky didn’t know – and it was an important bit of intel – was that rats had been following him since Kangaroo Kuts. They were in touch with each other electronically, a blue tooth headset on each rat’s head. They’d reported on his meal at Piggy’s Pub, a stop at Little Raccoon’s den and some odd frolicking in the park. When Ricky finally reached the museum around midnight, the rats cheered quietly through their blue teeth.

“I knew it! He’s here!” Ratty wanted the tiny clown car.

“A real Sherlock, you are,” said Ratson to his boss, but his speaker was muted. “Imagine a shoe thief coming to a museum full of shoes.”

“Brilliant!” said Brownlips.

Ricky sprinted up the wide front steps of the museum. He scaled the tall door in a matter of seconds, disappeared onto the roof and re-appeared in the marble lobby. He followed the arrows to Imelda’s shoes and came to a room with high ceilings. The light was dim, but he could see that the shoes were all behind glass, like closed bookcases.

The shoes looked new and shiny, lined up like a factory outlet, but each pair was different. Ricky’s eyes searched for the silver shoes, but he couldn’t see them from where he stood at the door. He leaped to the top of a display case and walked along the top of it, looking down and all around. He hopped from case to case; his clever claws clicked on the glass tops as he searched.

Rats can’t climb glass cabinets. They can’t jump more than a couple of feet high. Ratty, Ratson, Brownlips and all the other rats could do nothing but watch the master thief who started running and sliding on the top of the long cabinets.

“Whoo-hooooo!”

Ricky thought of Bunny then, how thrilled she would be to play among 1,500 pairs of shoes, but Buns wasn’t free. She’d never been further than the backyard fence.

He leapt to the next glass top and slid all the way to the end. That’s when Ricky stopped looking at shoes and started seeing runways all around Exhibit Hall.

He would run a bit, slide right to end of a cabinet and hop over a gap and continue sliding on the next one, as if he were on a skateboard. That’s what he was doing when he flew over a gap larger than the rest and landed hard on a low display case, cracking the top. Only one pair of shoes was in the case. They were silver with 4” heels. The ethereal light caught a cut green stone on each silver buckle.

Ricky jumped up and down on the top of the low case, breaking it into pieces and crashing into the silver shoes. Alarms screamed. Rats mobbed the room. Rats swarmed up and around Ricky. Rats grabbed tiny fistfuls of his fur until they could pull him right to the floor. It took 153 very determined rats to carry the thief out the front door of the museum where he was handed over to police, a silver shoe with a 4-inch heel and an emerald buckle still held tightly between his teeth.

The morning headline read: ‘Killer Raccoon in Custody’, but it was Blue J. who announced the news to Bunny. “No more treats for you. No more shoes. No more donuts. No more cupcakes. No more Ricky. No more candy floss for you. No more petting. No more diamonds. No more…” until Bunny screamed at J. to shut up, to leave her alone, to take his bad news far away from her backyard.

It was Runt who found her curled up into in a damp furry ball, crying her little heart out.

“I’ll take of you, Bunny.”

“How? You bring me nothing but garbage. I need my Ricky!”

All Town’s animals believed Ricky would escape Townzoo. His claws were clever and so was his brain; he’d be out and on a spinning human’s head in no time.

Runt moved in with Bunny, and they ate dry hard “food” provided by humans who shared the yard with them. The pointy-toed Manolo Blahnik under Mint was never replaced by a newer shoe. It softened and molded over time, but Bunny continued to sleep there, sometimes dreaming of a masked visitor who put a chocolate eclair in her paw and petted her back to sleep.

Bunny had loved Runt more at one time, but now that Ricky was gone, well, it was Ricky she pined for. Runt was desperate to make her happy, but desperation sours love – everyone knows that. No matter what he gave her: fast food wrappings, half a cup of cold coffee, a shiny screw- it was never enough for Bunny. She smiled sometimes, a compassionate smile for him that acknowledged his efforts, his lack of skills.

Poor Runt couldn’t even read. No one would hire him, but he got better at scrounging around, following humans like a seagull, getting some bagel bites that way. He figured out what Bunny needed, and that was sweets. She could live without the shoes. Runt swiped sugar packets from outdoor cafes, and they kept her mood in check. Once he found a ball of ice cream on the ground. It was chocolate, and Bunny laughed delightedly when he dropped it dripping at her pom pom feet.

Still, it was a mediocre life in their opinion, and they often spoke of Bangan Forest. Bunny had never been, but Runt told stories about Widest Path and Bangan’s Council of Seven, stories about his family den crammed with babies and his mom who took off. He told her about reclusive Turtle and portentous Lynx and Campfire ringed with friends. He told her about fresh greens everywhere he looked, soft moss to sleep on, and the sound of Leaves in Wind. Winter didn’t go there, he told her, only Spring and Summer lived in Bangan.

Bunny couldn’t imagine life without humans or fences or dry food in a dish.

“What about skunks? What about dogs?”

The more Runt talked about the clean life in Bangan Forest, the more he missed it. He was tired of hearing sirens and gunshots and Bunny’s complaints. Here in Town, Runt was a loser, but he remembered how he felt strutting down Widest Path. Runt was respected on Minadendramowin, as it was once known; all beings were respected there.

He knew the way home. It was dangerous though, and he didn’t think Bunny had what the trip would take. For one thing, she didn’t have any papers. Worse, she was soft and spoiled. Bunny had never even hopped down the street. She knew nothing of the world, and her muscles were weak.

It is true that Runt Rabbit was small, and he had a twitchy brain. He was uneducated and terrible at stealing. You might think that Runt didn’t have much to offer, but Runt had a kind heart, and he was a good male. He didn’t consider leaving without Bunny; he knew she couldn’t take another loss after Ricky.

Runt also knew she wouldn’t survive the journey. He hadn’t told her that Widest Path was the only guaranteed peaceful passage. There were hundreds more paths, some narrow, some dark, some hard to find. He hadn’t told her about Hawk or Hungry Fox. Bunny was their favourite kind of meal: slow and plump and sweet as pie. No, she was safer in her yard with a hut and a meal plan.

Bunny was a sugar addict with a broken heart. She wasn’t good at being alone. Runt understood that even though Bunny wanted Ricky Raccoon, she needed Runt Rabbit.

As so it came to pass that Runt and Bunny lived unhappily together in Town.

 

Jag- a story from Bangan Forest by Laurie Fraser

This story was written for Jenna, an indigenous child, my friend’s niece, who killed herself at age 14.

We’ve already met Runt Rabbit in previous stories from Bangan Forest- the series of 5 Runt Rabbit stories starts here.

Jag, a young cougar, becomes separated from her father in another story- Lynx in Pinks- that is yet to be published.

Jag

Summer Solstice

You might think that Runt Rabbit had no skills at all. After all, he was uneducated and undersized. His faded tan coat was oversized, his feet were oddly large, and he had a twitchy brain. He’d left the den at an early age, and it was his poor fortune to settle in Town where there was no work for the likes of him.

You might think that Runt had no skills at all, but he had street smarts. He’d been homeless for a while before he found a way to squeeze under Bunny’s fence. Now he had a hut to sleep in and a soft female to snuggle and cuddle. She was an addict though, and she tolerated Runt only because he provided her with sugar.

Bunny thought it must be difficult to find sugar because it took Runt all day, every day. In fact, he didn’t work very hard. He’d go downtown and hang with his friends, at some point grabbing a coffee and swiping some sugar packets for Bunny. He usually didn’t return to the hut until suppertime- Bunny was on the bossy side.

Runt Rabbit was an easy-going guy. He hung out behind the grocery store where two dumpsters served the entire strip mall. The food sucked: pizza crusts, hard slices of white bread, scraps of meat that no one but Crow wanted. Runt remembered clover and nettle galore in Main Meadow where he was from. He’d never developed a taste for human factory food.

This morning, the earliest morning of the year, he was sitting on a curb in the parking lot with his friend, Jag, eating some leftover Thai noodles from a box. Jag had scored an actual leftover breakfast- some homefries and egg yolk in Styrofoam with a lick of that bacon grease she liked. As usual, they were talking a blue streak.

Probably I should tell you right off the bat that Jag was not a jaguar. She was a beige cougar in a stretchy black skirt with jeggings and purple nail polish on her claws. Being a cougar, she had no business living in Town. Humans were terrified of cougars and now that she was getting too large to pass for an alley cat, Jag had to spend more and more of her time in hiding. She was constantly in danger.

Like Runt, she had come to Town as a youngster. Unlike Runt, it wasn’t her choice. She’d become separated from her father in Bangan Forest, and she had gotten lost.

“They don’t celebrate Solstice here,” said Runt, watching Dawn and Sky toss oranges back and forth.

“Solstice is special in Bangan Forest. Floral bells are ringing today. Nature Spirits are gathering at Oaky Dokey’s place; fairies are wearing new summer dresses.”

“I remember,” said Jag.

“Gnomes are probably in the sauce already.”

She smiled. “Flutterbys are losing their minds.”

“Sun and Stream are making love all day long.”

“My sisters and I used to swim with River when it was hot like this,” said Jag.

Runt nodded. “No pavement there. Just clover and moss.”

“I would like to be home by Winter Solstice.” Jag’s voice was wistful, as if she didn’t believe her own self.

“If leaving Bunny was an option, I’d already be home,” said Runt.

“I’m not 100% sure where my home is.”

“Oh, I think you’ll be able to find it,” said Runt. “You’re bigger now. I mean, you don’t fear Fox and Hawk like I do. You could just run Forest’s paths- you’re a cougar, probably only take you a few days. Ask a squirrel- they know everything.”

“No, I mean that my father might not be in Bangan Forest now. His first home was on Bangan Mountain where cougars have been for a few generations. Before that, all cougars had to go to West Grasslands. But my family’s true home, the home that cougar blood knows, is South Grasslands, many days journey from here. My ancestors lived there since beginning times.” Jag bounced one leg as she talked. “My father spoke of returning to South Grasslands. He called it home.”

“Oh. Why did your family keep moving? Are they nomads?”

“No, they didn’t want to leave their territory. Humans came and took our land.”

Runt nodded. “Deer told me a story like that. They all had to move. She said a clan called Dragon was wiped out!”

Jag rubbed her forehead with her front paws.

“What about your mother?”

“Ummm, well… us girls lived with my mother sometimes. It’s complicated.” Jag turned her face away from Runt. When she spoke again, her voice broke, “I miss my dad.”

“Don’t cry, Jaggy.” He jumped up and hugged her neck.

“I don’t belong here.”

“None of us belong here.” He climbed around to the back of her neck. “Let’s go for a walk.”

It was still early morning, most humans were still in their houses, so they left the parking lot and headed right down the sidewalk, scattering rats as they went.

Jag stopped at a small square and they watched some pigeons fight over scraps of human food. Seagull zoomed in and chased the pigeons around. She grabbed a shiny hamburger wrapper right out of another bird’s foot.

“What a bully,” said Runt into Jag’s ear.

“Everyone’s gotta eat,” said Jag.

At the Voyageur Bus Station, they watched an early arrival unload its passengers: sleepy students, a pair of beaver builders, a few businessmen, some mice, a couple of snakes, then – lo and behold – a kangaroo.

Town had a few immigrants, most of them kangaroos, a few swans and of course, the monkeys, try as humans might to get rid of them. No one minded kangaroos though, and Jag and Runt welcomed her. She said her name was Karen and she used a hard hoof to give them high-fives.

Karen had contraband with her, but what Boundary Bear was going to check her deep baby pocket? It was too intimate, too smelly. She’d never been caught smuggling her macaroon treats, and she made a reasonable living at it.

One set of ears stuck out of her baby pocket. When Jag tried to meet Karen’s baby, she found it was fake- just a hairband with kangaroo ears and a tape playing: Mama, where’s my other sock? Mama, can I go surfing?

Karen gave them each a macaroon.

It was magic in Jag’s mouth. Runt saved his for Bunny.

After leaving Karen at Kangaroo Kuts, Jag and Runt took alleys and parking lots until they got to the employee’s entrance at the Lord Elgin Hotel. It was a spiffy joint, but they’d been here before, just to take advantage of the air conditioning and use a clean bathroom.

Jag hung around the dumpster, due to being a cougar and all; she stayed just out of sight while Runt waited for opportunities by the employee entrance. Runt wasn’t much bigger than a mouse, barely a rabbit at all, really, and he was invisible to Bellboy when he stepped out for a smoke. Runt darted past Bellboy’s feet and once inside, he placed a chunk of newspaper in the crook of the door.

Runt hid under a corner of the carpet until Bellboy finished his smoke, picked his nose a bit and then went back to work. As he walked away, the door closing behind him did not shut completely and so Jag nosed her way right in.

After that, they did their usual stuff: picked a room, watched a movie, ordered room service- piles of chicken nuggets for Jag, garden salad for Runt and 2 chocolate eclairs to take home for Bunny. It was super-easy to get anything they wanted- they just provided the room number over the phone and said, “Put it on my bill, please.” When the food arrived, they hid in the bathroom and yelled, “Thanks! Just leave it on the table.”

It was nice to cool down after the heat of the street. Jag loved to get a shower in, shaking and spraying water all over the room. Runt always got into the free coffee and went home smelling like a roastery.

Summer Solstice in Town was sweltering and so, Runt and Jag spent most of the day in their air-conditioned room. When they finally left, they carried the coolness with them for a few blocks. It was suppertime by then. They heard Cubby Bear before they rounded the corner. Runt twitched like crazy, and hopped big excited hops.

“Cubby!”

He grinned at them with one side of his mouth. He was playing his saxophone. He’d drawn a fair-sized crowd and some coins bounced into his green felt hat on the ground in front of him.

It was fabulous music, the blues that Runt loved, the blues that swelled Jag’s aching heart. They danced on the edge of the crowd, their limbs moving in the bluesy heat, their hearts beating the bluesy beat and for some time, as they danced in the thick soupy heat of the longest day of the year, all was well: Jag was a beautiful female cougar with a bright future, Runt Rabbit was a cool and capable dude.

 

Winter Solstice

It was Winter Solstice when Runt got the news. He’d been slow getting up… feeling lazy, sleeping in dark mornings for weeks. It was 7 o’clock before he reached for his splotchy tan overcoat, shouted “Baa maa pii” to Bunny and headed out the door to find food, coffee and sugar.

He stopped in the doorway of the hut to catch Winter Dawn in her pale pink jammies.  That’s where he was- he’ll never forget- when Crow cruised by.

“The cougar is dead. The cougar has died,” Crow screamed overhead.

“What cougar? Jag?”

“She took her life. It was her will.”

“No! Not Jag!”

Runt hopped so fast that he somersaulted and then rolled downhill all the way to the grocery store. The parking lot was full of crying raccoons and mice and kangaroos. Squirrels scolded at the top of their voices. Moles and rabbits sobbed. Blue jays shrieked and cardinals sang. Morning doves mourned. It was intense.

Runt hid behind bags of firewood for sale. He pulled his long ears over his eyes. He rocked on his haunches. “Jaggy.”

Crows flew all over Town. “Cancelled! Solstice is cancelled!”

Humans had already canceled Christmas, but that was because of their pandemic. Humans didn’t know Jag. They didn’t know the cougar who had walked in their backyards, swum in their pools and licked food off their babies’ faces. But Jag had friends who knew her well. Her friends knew a sweet young cougar who danced behind dumpsters, headphones on her ears, purple nail polish on her claws. They knew a girl who had lost her home, a child who missed her dad.

“Her name was Jag!” screamed Crow.

“Her name was Jag!”

“Her name was Jag!”

And so it came to pass that there was no light and nothing to celebrate in December, 2020.

(C) Laurie Fraser

S.Farmer

S.Farmer

Bunny’s New Home – a story from Bangan Forest by Laurie Fraser

This is the 4th story in the Runt Rabbit series.

photo by Laurie Fraser

photo by Laurie Fraser

Bunny’s New Home

“No, Bunny. We can’t get a fence. That’s advertising. A fence says: Someone tasty lives here.”

“It will keep me safe.” Her face was pink.

“No, it won’t. This is not Town. In Forest, we must hide… at least be discreet.” Runt Rabbit was fed up with Bunny’s refusal to face facts. “Hollow Log looks like any other fallen tree. That’s what keeps us safe.”

“What about a mailbox?”

“Absolutely not!”

“A pool?”

Runt hopped up and down. He twitched wildly, “No! No.” He put his small twitchy nose right up to hers. “Bunny. You live in Forest along with Hawk, Wolf, Hungry Fox and Cougar. You are an undigested meal.”

Bunny stormed across Clearing, her long strawberry blond fur flying around her like a model.

“I want to go home!” she shouted, but Runt had ducked back into the safety of Hollow Log.

Runt had told her only good things about Bangan Forest. That it was full of delicious greens and forbs. He had told her of Widest Path where all beings were safe. He had told her about the sound of Wind in Leaves. Those things were true. But the reason that Bunny was really very angry, was that Runt Rabbit had failed to mention a few things about life in Bangan Forest that she considered worthy of her fair consideration before moving here.

First of all, Bunny had expected a proper hut, not a rotting log for a home. Secondly, her clothes were all wrong. Animals of Bangan Forest were trending a decade behind Town and she looked bizarre in her heart-shaped sunglasses. They were still wearing hoop earrings; she was wearing long dangly earrings. If she could go back and pack again, she’d bring her old leggings, a short stretchy skirt, and her hoop earrings. And another thing: She’d bring groceries. Candy, pancake mix, cookies, ketchup, chocolate milk. Anything sweet. He hadn’t told her that there was no sugar here… and Bunny was a sugar addict.

That wasn’t a secret between them. He knew well and good she couldn’t get along without her sugar. He knew well and good she would be in a bad mood forever more.

She plunked herself down beside Mushroom Family and had a good cry.

Tall Chanterelle asked, “What is it today, Bunny?”

“Runt won’t build me a fence.”

Most mushrooms giggled, but Littlest Chanterelle asked, “What’s a fence?”

“It was different for us in Town. I was in charge. Now he’s so bossy, like he knows everything about Forest life. Do you know he told me there was no Winter here? Just because he left here in Fall, before Winter arrived. He’s not too bright, my Runt – a dropout, I already told you. No skills at all.”

Now, it is true that Runt was small and yes, he had quit school. His tan overcoat was oversized, and his feet were oddly large. He had been the runt of the litter, barely a rabbit at all, really. Runt Rabbit was one twitchy guy. He had a twitchy nose and a twitchy brain too. The faintest sound could make him jump right up to the ceiling, even if he was asleep. I mean, you can say all those things about Runt; those things are true, but Bunny was wrong to say he had no skills. He had a few.

Runt had gotten the 2 of them out of Town (during the human’s pandemic, no less) and all the way to Hollow Log which was their new home in Bangan Forest. That took skill.

And smarts. Runt had used his downtown connections to hire Magnificent Moose. Like many moose, she was a shapeshifter. For personal reasons, she was committed to getting Town animals back to Forest. In fact, she was willing to pro-rate her fee if necessary. Runt had paid with a ruby ring from Bunny’s jewelry box.

Magnificent Moose had shifted her shape to Young Girl Human. She put Bunny in her skirt pocket as if she were a toy and not a real breathing rabbit. She pulled a red wagon borrowed from Small Human who shared Bunny’s backyard. The wagon was piled high with Bunny’s stuff: a trunkful of clothes and accessories, a box of kitchen supplies, some blankets and toothbrushes and perfume. A few old moldy designer shoes. Every jewel. Oh, and Runt, of course. Runt buried himself in all that stuff, so that he too, looked a toy, with just one leg hanging out of the red wagon.

When they finally reached Danger Road, Magnificent Moose looked like Moose again. She looked both ways and waited for Silence. Then she took Silence’s long finger, crossed Danger Road, and put her clients in the capable hands of Boundary Bear #9 at the top of Widest Path. Then, to Bunny’s complete surprise, Magnificent Moose turned into Crow and flew back to Town.

Plenty of Bunny’s stuff was lost along the way: designer shoes had fallen overboard before they even got to Forest, and then at Customs, to Bunny’s dismay, all the sugar packets had been confiscated, and her kitchen knives too. Her new pawprint ID was accepted without question, as Magnificent Moose had promised it would be, although Bunny had, in fact, been born in Town, to Town parents. When they finally got going down Widest Path, Runt pulled the red wagon, and Bunny perched on top of her remaining stuff like a beauty queen.

Bunny was astounded by the change in her surroundings: massive groups of trees – maples and pines and poplars – as far as she could see. Widest Path was busy with animals of all sizes. She was dumbfounded to see so many animals in one place: skunks, snakes, a bunch of squirrels walking in a row, their arms linked together. Bunny saw animals she’d never seen before: Buffalo, Bear, Beaver.

She once thought that Ricky Raccoon would be the hero who got her to Bangan Forest. Who could have imagined it would be Runt Rabbit pulling the red wagon.

Runt was torn. He felt proud of Bunny and her stuff. You remember, he had left Bangan Forest a pauper, not a thing in his coat pockets except Clover snacks. So there was some pride for Runt, who was small, the runt of the litter, and yet somehow, had managed to mate with a beautiful female and to accumulate all this cool stuff too.

On the other hand, he saw Wolf watch them pass with one bushy eyebrow raised. Wolf valued humility. Well, it all started with the ancestors, who lived in Beginning Times. They made seven rules so that all of Bangan Forest’s plants and animals would get along.  One of the rules was about humility: “We are all equal. We are all a sacred part of Bangan Forest. No one is less. No one is more.”

So, you see, Runt was torn. He was proud of Bunny and all he had accumulated, but he knew it was dangerous to parade down Widest Path with his possessions on display. All beings were respected on Mnaadendmowin, as Widest Path was traditionally known, so nothing untoward would happen there, but safe passage did not extend to any other path in Bangan Forest. They’d be on their own as soon as they turned a corner.

By the time Runt had chosen Hollow Log for their new home a week later, the red wagon was almost empty. Bunny had survived the journey from Widest Path to Small Hill, but many of her belongings had been lost to theft and trades. Otters had carried her over Debwewin River, and they got a human raincoat in return. Raccoons had robbed them constantly on Narrow Path between Tall Birches. Finally, Runt had hired four skunks to act as escorts. They did repel raccoons, but Bunny’s gratitude had not been gracious when she learned that the only payment skunks would accept was her precious perfume.

Runt plunked himself down on Messy Moss, who had agreed to be their bed in Hollow Log. He could hear Bunny complaining to Mushroom Family. At least, she had stopped crying. He shook his head. He thought Bunny would be alarmed to learn about Hawk and Hungry Fox and dangerous paths. He thought she would become timid and careful and learn the ways here. But no, Bunny was upset about sugar and linens and welcome mats. Bunny didn’t get it. She didn’t understand Forest life.

All Bunny really cared about was sugar; she was an addict, after all. Runt knew that she would struggle and overcome because there just weren’t any treats here. Her body would learn to live without sugar, and she’d be in a good mood eventually, he reminded himself. She cared about earrings too, her emeralds and diamonds. She still had some of her jewelry, and she liked to flash it around. Crow and Magpie followed her every day; she was due to lose her shiny bling.

Bunny was plump and slow and sweet as pie. She was Hungry Fox’s favourite kind of meal. She refused to exercise or run drills with Runt. She boasted to her new Forest friends about her belongings and her extra roll of fat that came from overeating Town treats. She was proud of the beautiful things she’d brought in the wagon: a Gucci shoe, a diamond tiara, many silver chocolate bar wrappers.

Poor Runt loved Bunny. He’d loved her since he first squeezed under her fence in Town a few years back. In her backyard, Bunny had lived in a hut with a door that locked; she had eaten regular meals. At one time, the infamous “Sticky” Ricky Raccoon himself had brought her elaborate treats. It wasn’t her fault, but Bunny was spoiled.

“All we do is fight,” thought Runt. “Maybe she can’t change. Maybe she’ll hop back across Danger Road just to get sugar. Addicts do things like that.” He didn’t think he could protect her. Bunny was actually bigger than Runt, and her boastful lifestyle brought danger to him too.

He heard Mushroom Family singing to Bunny. Mushroom Family under Beech was Chanterelle genus. They had long thin stalks and pointed yellow tops that could clang like cymbals. Chanterelles love to hang out in groups and sing and sway together. This group under Beech was one of the reasons Runt had chosen Hollow Log for their home. Bunny liked to sing too, and he had hoped they would become friends.

Runt heard a bang on his roof and bits of debris fell on his head.

“You, you make me, make me, make me wanna cry,” Bunny sang Jag’s song; it had gone viral. “And now I beg to see you dance just one more time.” She had learned some cool dance moves too. “So, I say, dance for me, dance for me, dance for me,”

Chanterelles were singing back up, “Oh oh oh, oh-oh, oh-oh.”

Bunny’s singing became much louder then, “I’ve never seen anybody do the things you do before,“

More debris fell on Runt’s head. He crawled out of Hollow Log to see Bunny dancing on his roof and singing with a microphone. “Bunny! BUNNY! STOP!” He twitched wildly.

“Ay, ay, ay.” She stomped her pom pom feet.

“Bunny, it’s too loud. You MUST STOP drawing attention to us here.”

Bunny locked eyes with Runt and sang into the microphone, “Move for me, move for me, move for me, ay, ay, ay.“

Runt hopped up and down in one spot, he was so angry!

“Ay, ay, ay,” Chanterelles couldn’t stop singing either.

Runt hopped over to their spot under Beech. “Don’t encourage her!”

It was then, when Runt’s back was turned, that Hawk swooped in. Listen, I’m sorry, but I have to tell you: hawks rarely miss their target. Bunny was the target, and she looked easy enough to snatch, strutting there on top of Hollow Log, yelling, “Here I am! Here I am!” to Hawk.

It might have been luck, or it might have been stupidity, but as Hawk dove down from Sky, Bunny stomped her pom pom feet and fell right through the roof of Hollow Log.

“Bunny!” screamed Runt as he ran to her, oblivious to Hawk who had returned to circling above, thinking that the fat one would be tastier than the little runty one.

Bunny was flailing and crying, almost buried in dirt and bits of wood and debris. Runt grabbed her pretty feet and pushed her deeper into the mucky mess with him on top of her. “Shush, Bunny, please, shush.”

She cried more quietly.

He reached for her bleeding ear. “Hawk is still out there. Shush now.”

“His claws are like knives!” Hawk had ripped off the tip of her ear and it hurt.

“We’re safe here. Shush now.” He hugged her very tight and wrapped Moss over her wound. When she whimpered, he held her tighter. “Shush!”

She could hardly breathe in the dust. Silence arrived. After a time, Bunny actually fell asleep. That’s how long Runt made her stay still in the dirt. When Chanterelles softly sang, “Move for me, move for me, move for me, oh, oh, oh. Hawk is gone away, ay, ay, ay.” Runt cautiously crawled out of hiding. Log was Hollow no more- he was Broken Old Log now.

Runt fetched the red wagon. Bunny helped him load it up, and they left Goldenrod, Purple Asters and Chanterelles behind on Small Hill. They went only a short distance to Main Meadow where Queen Anne’s Lace shielded them like umbrellas. Runt knew this place from childhood. He chose a soft spot beside Milkweed Family. There, Runt burrowed right into Mother Earth and made a warren with a tight tunnel for the entrance.

Bunny even helped build a little. She didn’t mention doorbells or patios. She put a bunch of Long Grasses by the front door, making it a bit difficult to find.

Runt did all the work inside, burrowing and digging until he had built rooms for babies, rooms for Bunny’s stuff, and even a room for karaoke. Bunny sat by the entrance and watched Sky. She was on the lookout for Hawk. Once she thought she heard him, and she was in the tight tunnel in one long hop. When she did creep out again, well, you’d never believe that she was Bunny at all, she was that careful!

When Runt came out to check on her, she was still sitting motionless under Milkweed, watching Sky. Red-wing Blackbird sang: “Summertime! Summertime!” but Bunny didn’t join in.

Runt sat on his haunches beside her, and he slung one scrawny arm around her neck.

“I love ya, Buns.”

“What can I eat?”

He pulled Sweet Potato out of his overcoat pocket.  “After 2 weeks of no sugar, your tastes are changing. This guy might be sweet enough for you now.”

Bunny accepted him with interest. She gnawed one end. “He’s not bad,” she admitted.

“He is giving his life,” reminded Runt.

“Thank you,” Bunny said to Potato. She put her head on Runt’s shoulder and gnawed some more. He rubbed his chin against her floppy blond ear, the whole one.

“You’re detoxing the sugar, Buns. Already, you crave it less. Soon you will be free.”

“Free? I will always be hiding now.”

“Free from sugar. Free from fences. It’s a clean life here, Bunny, healthy. You should attend The Honourable Harvest Workshop. Or volunteer with The Humility Project. Wolf invited you specifically.”

“I don’t want to work.” She watched Grasshopper leap this way and that way as if he didn’t know where to go next.

“Well, how about a swim?”

“We don’t have a pool.”

“Let’s go for a swim in my childhood buddy, Creek, just a few hops away.”

“Really? Who is Creek? A kind of pool?”

“Yep. And maple syrup is a kind of treat and Blue Jay is a kind of mailbox. Everything is here, Buns. It just looks different in Forest.”

Bunny snuggled her head deeper into Runt’s overcoat. “Really?”

He kissed the top of her head.

“Bunny, my Love, you are from Town and you bring class and style to Bangan Forest. You bring new ideas like designer shoe-beds and make-up and karaoke.”

“Runt, my Love, you are from Forest and you have the skills to keep us fed and safe.” She kissed his twitchy nose.

It was upside down for Bunny to live in Forest, and sometimes even Runt missed Town. As time passed, Bunny’s culture shock lessened, and her Forest skills grew. Wolf was fairly insistent about her joining The Humility Project, and in the end, she made friends there: a loud-mouthed trout and Boastful Boa (who was just garter). Creek never did pass as a pool in her opinion, and Mudbath offended her beyond words, but Bunny did allow Runt to mollify her with Sweet Corn, Sweet Potato and Sweetgrass. She came to love Wind in Leaves and Night Air and Cricket Orchestra. She came to savour Stream’s sweet spring Water. Her acne cleared out and Insomnia moved back to Town.

One day, when Bunny and Runt were visiting Chanterelles and Dusk started creeping in, Bunny said, “I want to go home,” and she meant Warren, not her old hut in Town.

“Let’s go,” said Runt, and he meant, “I love you,” not, “This is the end of my patience.”

And so it finally came to pass that Bunny and Runt lived together peacefully in Bangan Forest.

Well… until all those babies arrived.

photo by L. Fraser

photo by L. Fraser

Mousie! – a story from Bangan Forest by Laurie Fraser

This is the last story in the Runt Rabbit series- read 5th. The first one is here.

mouseytongue.jpg (800×494)  art by shyluk.blogspot.com

Mousie!

Mousie was travelling down the safest path in all of Bangan Forest. She had lived on the edge of Widest Path her whole life, so feeling safe was normal to her. She was an overconfident young female – mostly beige with white feet and bright pink ears. Her bulging eyes were beautiful black beads. She had tied Buttercup to the end of her long tail like a flag. Mousie was heading East at a good pace. She quickly caught up to another mouse: slower, older, and larger than Mousie.

Ani!” she shouted with a big smile as she passed.

“Hello,” he answered with a nod.

Something seemed strange, and she stopped to stare at him.

“You’re not Mouse!”

“Correct. I am Rabbit. Look at my tail.” He lifted his large overcoat and spun around to show her his tiny ball of fluff.

“What?” shouted Mousie. “You’re the smallest rabbit I’ve ever seen!”

“I was the smallest in the litter. I’m called Runt Rabbit.” He didn’t take offence at being mistaken for Mouse. He was, after all, the tiniest rabbit anyone had ever seen. Runt was barely rabbit at all, really.

Mousie could tell he was old because he had a pink bald spot between his ears, and his whiskers were bent. His feet were oddly large. His tan overcoat was patched and oversized.

She jumped. “Gotta go, Runt!”

“Wait. Where are you going? Why is Buttercup on your tail? Why are you travelling alone on Mnaadendmowin?”

Mnaadendmowin? I thought I was on Widest Path. My teacher taught us to use this path for safety.”

“You were taught correctly. Mnaadendmowin is Widest Path’s traditional name, and it is the safest place in all of Bangan Forest. All beings are respected here. But Mousie, as soon as you put one foot off Widest Path, you are fair game. Owl is watching you with his orange eyes, even now as we speak; he waits for you to make a mistake.”

“You think I don’t see him there acting like Tree’s trunk? His name is Yowl! He stalks me everywhere I go!”

“Be careful, Young Mousie. Owls eat mice.”

“I know that! I’m not stupid!”

“No, but you are inexperienced.”

“Yowl ate my sister! Yowl ate my cousin! Yowl ate my brother’s friend! Yowl ate…”

“Okay, sorry.”

“Yowl will eat me!”

Owls have excellent hearing, and Yowl heard every word of their conversation from his perch on Poplar Tree. He turned his head all the way to the left and then all the way to the right. Mousie was wrong. Summer was neigh, and Yowl was never hungry. Mice, moles and voles flooded meadows and Forest’s floor. Yowl filled his stomach easily each evening without leaving his territory.

Yowl was a bit of a loner. If he had been human, he would have been a reclusive millionaire or maybe an actor who had grown weary of adulation and spotlights. Yowl was handsome too; anyone would agree. His shiny feathers were brown and grey with bits of black here and there. When Yowl sat on Oak’s branch, his colours matched Oak exactly. That’s why it was hard to see Yowl. The best way to spot him was to look for his orange eyes. His round flat face was brown, and those orange eyes were like lasers.

The truth was – and no one knew it – Yowl had a thing for Mousie. He didn’t need to eat her; he needed to hear her. He followed her around because he loved her sounds. She had a smoker’s voice, and she’d always been loud, shouting from the day she was born. Yowl had listened to her grow up. He had heard her declarations of independence from the traditional female role. He’d heard her cries for freedom from procreation and housework. He’d even heard the wishes she’d made on shooting stars – that’s how good Yowl’s hearing was.

From his perch in Poplar Tree, Yowl listened to Mousie’s endearing squeaks.

“Runt Rabbit! Why are you wearing human clothes?” This was a pet peeve of Mousie’s. In fact, her whole generation generally rejected their parents’ love of human things. The young ones believed that independence was best, and that the old ways were more authentic.

Runt pulled his overcoat tightly around his thin body. “I get cold without it.”

“Your own fur should keep you warm!” Mousie stepped back and crossed her arms. “Your feet are plenty furry!”

“Yes, my feet are always warm.” His brown feet were uncommonly large, much too big for his body. “But look,” he pulled open his tan overcoat, “I have spots with no fur at all.” He had a bald spot on his chest and another on his right shoulder. He was skin and bones.

“Eww!” She looked disgusted. “Keep your coat. Perhaps you are the sort who needs an extra layer!”

Mousie had loudly criticized her parents and neighbours for wearing hats with visors and neckerchiefs with camouflage. “Our eyes need Sun’s rays! We are born camouflaged! We are Deer Mouse!”

Some mice wore clothes to hide their bodies: a hat over a bald spot, a skirt over a big belly or long tail.

“You are beautiful!” Mousie would shout at them. “Fat is not shameful! Tails are not shameful!”

Runt pointed to her white feet. “Aren’t those gloves?”

“No!” She stamped all four feet at once. “These are natural!”

“I know.” He smiled at her like a Grandpa. “I’m just teasing. So, tell me, Young Mousie, what are you up to today besides frustrating Yowl?”

Mousie had lots to share. First of all, she was mating age, but she didn’t want children. Or a mate. Second, she wanted to see Forest, all of Forest, not just her family’s stomping grounds. She explained that she’d grown up in a crowded refugee camp on the edge of Widest Path.

“Which one?” asked Runt, for there were mouse camps all along Widest Path. Miles of mouse’s houses. Or mice hice as they were sometimes called.

She grimaced. “Trailer Park!”

Runt had noticed it in passing. The conditions were squalid: mouse families packed into a mish mash of abandoned squirrels’ nests and birds’ nests dragged to the side of Path. Hollow Logs and Grass Thickets had also become globe-shaped mouse homes with a plug for a door to pull shut for warmth and privacy. Mice reproduce like rabbits. Most families in Trailer Park had 4 litters per year. Crying babies and screaming children were everywhere. Hunger hung around like Sickness, hurting bellies and denying sleep. With all those mice, there was never enough food.

Trailer Park was a true community though. Families helped each other when they could. In the morning, the residents could be seen brushing each other’s backs and sharing water to brush their teeth. They took turns making Dandelion Root Coffee on the central fire pit, and it was shared with all. Adults gathered around for a cuppa, giggling and talking nonsense.

Mousie’s Father had told her that their home was once Robin’s nest. It had fallen to Ground by Shuga Tree. It was a fair size, but it was half full of winter stores that no one was allowed to touch. Mousie’s mother was consumed with finding and storing food. She didn’t allow her children to play after school.

“Get going now, and don’t come home unless your sack is full.”

Mouse sacks were tiny. They should’ve been easy to fill, but food was so scarce near the crowded camp that the children were forced to risk trips into Forest to search for seeds, berries and bark. One time, Mousie found so many cherry pits in Bear’s poop that she couldn’t carry them all. She buried them for later, but when later came, she couldn’t find them.

The children would bring the filled sacks home to their mother who compulsively piled seeds and dried berries for Winter’s time.

“I would come home from school, and she’d be counting seeds! They’d fall down and she’d pile them up again, over and over, counting and fretting and worrying.” Mousie told Runt. “I can’t spend my life as she does. Birthing babies! Feeding babies! Counting grains! Worrying about Winter’s arrival!”

“Winter is real,” said Runt mildly. “You know about him?”

“I want to see Forest, the whole of it: the big picture! Mice usually get lost in details, obsessed with little things, but I shall see it all!”

“But Mice take care of the little things. Little things can be important.”

“No! Little things make you crazy! My mother counts and piles again and again! She’s not fond of babies, but she has babies again and again!”

As usual, Mousie was shouting. “Mice have lost their minds at Trailer Park! Too crowded! Running everywhere and going nowhere! The other day, three blind mice ran right into Tom Tree- BAM! They bounced off Tom Tree and went flying across camp like Kangaroo spit! They don’t even care what happens next!”

Runt nodded. He’d met lots of crazy mice.

“They’re obsessed with human toy cars! Idiots! Mice can’t drive! Broken fingers! Broken backs!”

Runt raised an eyebrow.

“One idiot family got tiny elastics from human braces!”

“What?”

“You know, juvenile humans wear them on their teeth! Now mice are flinging these elastics all over camp, as if it’s a game. Idiots! It hurts to be hit by an elastic, let me tell you!”

Runt tapped one finger on his forehead and pondered. “I wonder how they got those elastics?” His mind went to Ricky Raccoon, probably the only thief who could rob humans’ mouths while they slept.

“Who cares?  Look, half of them are blind; the other half are idiots! They will eventually wander off Widest Path and be eaten!”

Runt was thinking that this was further evidence that Ricky had escaped Townzoo. “Where’d you guys get the toy cars?”

“I ditched the place! Just walked away this very morning! Nothing but nonsense and chaos there! I’m educated, Runt. I read 2 books already! I want to know things, do things, go places! I want to see the big picture!”

“I’m sure I’m not the first to ask you this, Mousie: As one tiny mammal to another, I fully understand the limitations of travelling by foot. You are no more than one inch in height. How, my newfound friend, do you plan to see Forest?”

“Do you have a map?”

“Plucky answer. Again, the limitations of size lead me to question…”

“Fine!” She was shouting again. It made Coyote turn and stare as he loped by. “Mind your business!” Mousie shouted, but Coyote only heard, “Squeak!”

Runt looked into her eyes and waited.

She motioned to her white feet. “You called them gloves, but I think of them as sturdy boots! I have all I need for my journey. I shall see Forest and find my fortune!”

“Are you old enough to leave on your own?”

“I’m not a runaway!” protested Mousie.

“Oh, I see.” Runt sat back on his haunches. “I was a hopaway, myself.” He rocked back and forth, looking at her carefully. “You don’t want to go to Danger Road?”

“OMG! Of course not! I’m too small to cross Danger Road!”

“Glad to hear it,” said Runt. “I’ve seen death there. I hope you don’t go.”

“How far is it?”

“Miles and miles. Better to spend your time collecting Dew’s drops and Thicket’s berries. Better to find a mate. Make a home and a family here in Bangan. It is peaceful here.”

“I told you: I don’t want babies! Our mouse house was crawling with them!”

“It’s your purpose to reproduce.”

“Forget that! I’m not your typical mouse trash just because I grew up in Trailer Park!” Mousie truly had an urge for freedom. Her heart could not be ignored; her dreams could not be small.

“Runt?” She wasn’t shouting this time. “I believe Happiness is somewhere else.”

“Alrighty then,” he said, satisfied. “We will journey together for the time being.”

They looked like 2 mice sauntering down Widest Path, that’s how small Runt was. As they made their way, Yowl followed at a discreet distance. Although he couldn’t always see them, he could hear them.

A few hours later, when they reached the turnoff to Cubby Bear’s Grass Patch, Runt invited Mousie to come with him. “You can make some new forest friends. There’s always a comfy campfire, and Cubby is a terrific musician.”

Mousie followed Runt down Grassy Path’s twists and turns for another 20 minutes to reach Cubby’s Grass Patch, which was surrounded by Weeds and Tall Grasses. Old Oak’s lowest branch leaned over Grass Patch a bit, providing some shelter and privacy. Old Oak’s lowest branch wasn’t bothered by Campfire at all, that’s how small Campfire was. Truth be told, Old Oak loved the warmth, the music and laughter; Cubby and his friends provided continuous entertainment and companionship.

Campfire was the same, but the characters circling it had aged. Wee Beaver was no longer wee, and neither was Wee Raccoon. Little Skunk was not little anymore, and he smelled worse than ever. His streak of white fur was dirtier every year. Twice-divorced, Little Skunk had a new girlfriend with him – a young red squirrel with a yellow bow on her head.

Cubby Bear had grown some grey hair on his snout. His saxophone had acquired a few scratches, and his rainbow-striped beret had faded. Smiles were the same. Smiles never get old. Cubby could smile even while playing sax, and that’s what he was doing when Runt showed up with Young Mousie.

Runt grinned back and waved at everyone. He found Small Stone and took a seat. Mousie crouched beside him, looking around at all the new faces, Buttercup swaying over her head.

“Where’s Bunny?” asked Wee Weasel.

“Suntanning,” answered Runt. “She sends her greetings.” He motioned to Mousie. “This is Young Mousie; she’s just left home today.”

“Welcome Fresh Young Mousie,” said Mrs. Fox with a hungry smile.

Mousie moved a little closer to Runt.

When they were young, a group of them had linked arms and crossed Danger Road with the help of Silence, Moon and Stars. When they reached Town, for their own reasons, Runt and Cubby had both stayed a few years. Runt had stayed for Love. He met his Bunny there.

For Cubby, it was money. He would put his rainbow-striped beret on the street in front of him. Then he would play his sax; Cubby loved the blues. Humans liked the blues too. They’d put money in Cubby’s beret. Cubby almost always spent his money on sugar – entire bags of sugar. He would enjoy most of it right there, in Town with his sugar-lovin’ friends. Then, inevitably, one morning, he’d wake up in a sugar daze feeling homesick. He’d smuggle the leftover sugar back to Bangan Forest: a bit in his sax, some sprinkles in his tangled fur coat.

Cubby Bear spent his whole life going back and forth: playing sax on the street for human money and then playing sax around Campfire for his friends. Cubby had a lot of friends because he always had sugar to share.

Tonight though, he didn’t pass out sugar cubes. Tonight, he opened a whole box of donuts with a flourish. “Ta-da!”

“Donuts!”

“Donuts!”

“Was Ricky Raccoon here?”

“It had to have been Ricky,” said Cubby. “When I woke up, I found this box right by my snout.” He took a sprinkle donut with pink icing and then passed the box to Wee Weasel beside him.

Wee Weasel picked a maple donut and said, “Thanks, Sticky Ricky! My hero.”

“Do you ever see him?” asked Runt, looking around Campfire at his friends. Every animal, big and small, sweet and dangerous, shook their heads. No one had seen Ricky since he escaped from Townzoo, but they knew he was free. They knew the truth about that because Ricky had been leaving gifts for his friends during Night’s time.

“What about Bunny? Has she seen him?” Wee Weasel touched each donut before choosing the strawberry one.

Runt shook his head. “Ricky loved her, probably still does…. but he’s been keeping a low profile.”

Little Skunk spoke up. “I heard he’s not allowed to carry a gun, so he has arrows now, in a quiver that he carries over his shoulder.”

His new girlfriend piped up. “I heard that he stole the arrows.”

“I heard that he was hit by a car on Danger Road, and he got up and walked away without a scratch,” said Macy Mole. She had a powdered donut, filled with blueberry jam, but she didn’t eat it. She was waiting until everyone had a donut in their paw.

“He left milk on our doorstep,” said Racky Raccoon. “I don’t know how he knew…” His voice cracked as he remembered how desperate they’d been when his mate’s milk ran dry. The kits would have died if it weren’t for Ricky’s regular deliveries.

“He’s your bother, that’s how he knew,” said Runt.

When every animal had a donut, they held it out in front of themselves and said in unison, “To Jag,” before tossing it in their mouths.

It was then that Fancy Squirrel (who was in a tux) delivered Acorn Hat full of fermented cider to Mousie.

“What’s this?” she asked, taking a sniff.

“From Yowl.” Fancy pointed up at Old Oak’s lowest branch where Yowl was perched.

Mousie drank.

Runt laughed at all the jokes and told a few stories of his own. He participated in a long serious debate about forest fires. He argued on the side of Fire- the purity, the mineral-rich ash, the new start.

At one point, he saw Yowl Owl fly over their heads, over Campfire, heading West. His wings were enormous stretched out like that, shiny brown feathers with bits of black. His orange eyes were shining like flashlights. Yowl was all-seeing, all-hearing, a master hunter in twilight.

At the last second, Runt saw Mousie on Yowl’s neck, holding tight to his feathers. She was looking down at him and yelling. He thought that she shouted, “I’m free!” but it might have been, “Baa maa pii!” or maybe it was just his imagination. After all, her pink circle mouth was much too far away to hear. Still, he hoped to see her again, and so he shouted back, “Baa maa! Baa Maa, Mousie!”

Runt looked at the place Yowl had filled Sky; now it was empty. He looked around the circle of old friends. Night was soft and Fire danced with her. Wind was gentle, a light handprint on Runt’s cheek. He was thinking that he didn’t want Young Mousie crossing Danger Road, but he had no regrets about doing that himself. He’d made so many good friends in Town. He smiled at Campfire and remembered getting into a picnic lunch left unattended in People Park. He’d eaten a salad with 14 ingredients! The jam sandwiches were overrun by Ant Army, but by then, Humans were charging and Runt took off. He had been fast in his younger days. He thought of dumpster diving and people watching. He didn’t think about Jag too much because he felt a little sad already. He hoped Mousie would be okay.

Runt stayed there, a link in the chain of animals around Campfire, until Sun lightened Night, and Strawberry Moon faded away. It wasn’t until then that Runt thought of Bunny’s warm plump body sleeping deep inside Warren. Still, it was hard to break away. He felt old tonight, and he treasured each friend, savoured every moment.

After all the farewells, the paw bumps and nose kisses, tired old Runt made most of the journey back to Warren all by himself. Dawn had arrived in a soft peachy-pink dress, and she glowed, giving him plenty of light. In spite of Dawn’s efforts to help, Runt didn’t see Raccoon tracks outside Warren. His eyes were too bleary. He ducked through the small opening, hung up his patched tan overcoat and crawled into bed next to Bunny’s warm plump body. He pulled her long strawberry blond fur over himself like a blanket.

Bunny opened one eye and stretched out one pom pom paw. “What did you bring me?”

Now, it’s true that several years had passed, and yes, Bunny had matured. She’d had many babies, and she’d been a good mother. She had learned to share. In fact, Bunny had learned to cook! Still, in all those years, while she was taking care of all those babies, Runt had never stopped taking care of her.

Runt placed a chocolate donut in Bunny’s pom pom paw. “Sweets for my Sweet,” he said sleepily.

Because she had matured, Bunny kissed Runt on his heart nose and said, “Thank you.” She grinned and gobbled up the leftover party treat. Then she snuggled her face into Runt’s armpit and went back to sleep.

art by Laurie Fraser

art by Laurie Fraser

Wild & Blue- A Story from Bangan Forest

art by William Fraser art by WJ Fraser

Blue Sky was skinny and sharp and blue. That about covers it. He was no more than 2 inches tall, thin as a pin, sharp nose, pointy hat, blue skin. His skin was losing colour. I mean, he was born bright blue, but a week later he was more the colour of faded jeans. He’ll die young – all fairies do – and he’ll be translucent by then.

Blue awakened early in anticipation of Corn Moon Celebration. She would be full tonight. Blue climbed out of his bluebell blossom bed and slid down her stalk. Grass was taller than Blue. He pushed blades and stalks aside and made his way to Echinacea who had some drops of Morning Dew on her petals. He washed his hands and face in Dewdrop. Since it was a special day, he pulled off his pointy blue boots and washed his pointy blue feet too. It tinged Dewdrop blue, but Dewdrops are used to these fairy effects. I mean, sometimes, if you take the time to notice, dewdrops resting on Sweetgrass and flower petals in Early Morning are many different colours: pink, green, gold, violet… depending on who’s been washing in them.

Deep Summer had a way of making everyone believe that she would never leave. She settled into Bangan Forest like Fat Human in a double-wide chair: heavy heat spread into every nook and cranny. It seemed it would be too much of an effort for her to ever pull herself out. Temperature was already torrid as Blue picked his clothes for Corn Moon’s celebration. Humming happily, he picked 3 clover leaves and wrapped them around his body. His belt was Blade of grass who wound round his waist 9 times- that’s how skinny Blue was. He topped his outfit off with his blue felt hat. He’d worn that hat every day since he found it hanging on Tiny Twig, forgotten by a long-ago fairy. It was a bit sticky, but that’s because it had been used to filter maple syrup in Spring.

Blue liked to sing, and he sang as he gathered food for breakfast: fiber from Dandelion’s bitter leaf sweetened with honey drips from Bee’s hive and milk from Milkweed. After he ate, he sat on Earth and wrapped gifts to share at the celebration. He put several honey drips in the middle of Buttercup’s blossom and then folded her petals over one by one to protect the tacky treasure. He was building a pile of these sticky yellow gifts, absorbed in his task, when:

“BOO BLUE!”

He startled even though he knew who it was immediately. “Wild! Don’t scare me like that!”

She giggled. “What are you doing?”

Blue showed her the sharing gifts. Wild had brought a little package of Primrose Pollen for the party, but she sat down beside Blue and helped him wrap Honey Drips. Soon they both had honey up to their elbows. By then Morning Dew had evaporated, so they gathered the sharing gifts up in a sack and headed to Cricket Creek to wash up. The sack was heavy, but no dragonflies were around to help, so Blue and Wild held the sack between them as they doggedly flitted up and down, at the mercy of Breeze, all the way to Cricket Creek.

Wild checked her reflection in Water. She had fresh Daisy Blossom on her head, the white petals reflecting Sun and keeping her cool. Her enormous eyes were amethyst. Wild had picked a white party dress- 2 fresh rose petals. As always, lavender filled her shoes and pockets; lavender flowers tangled her long hair. They were even in her ears. Sometimes she woke up with lavender petals in her mouth! All of that was because she slept in Lavender Bush. Her full name was Wild Lavender, and Blue Sky adored her. She looked good and she smelled good, but most important of all, she was his best friend.

Once they were all cleaned up, they flitted over to Sunny Stone. Sunny Stone was wide, low and flat. Sun loved him and they were always hanging out together, making themselves quite popular with snakes and dragonflies and fairies. This morning, Sunny Stone was covered in fairies who wanted a ride to Little Clearing. Red Dragonfly Service was working non-stop, but there must have been 20 fairies waiting. Blue took Wild’s tiny hand in his, and they flew down Elk’s Path a short way to get away from the crowd. A few minutes later, he flagged down LoLo Butterfly, and they were on their way.

Now, fairies will celebrate anything. Their lives are short and jam-packed with joy. Every single moment is worth celebrating in a fairy’s life. They celebrate new moons and full moons. They celebrate every new plant, every death; they celebrate the first fruit and the last fruit.

If you see a wild strawberry plant and there is a ring trodden around it, a ring where the grass is lighter and thinner, you can be sure that fairies danced there. You can be sure that this plant birthed the first strawberry of Summer. Fairies never eat that first white berry, even once it turns red. Well, no one in Bangan Forest would do that, for all have agreed to abide by the Honourable Harvest rules, one of which is: Do not take the first one nor the last one.

This day Corn Moon would be full and Little Clearing was full of fairies: fairies in summer dresses, fairies in supple leaves, fairies in flower blossoms, fairies with no clothes at all, fairies with acorn lid hats, top hats, garden hats, party hats…

Wild and Blue took their sharing gifts over to Violet Clump. Many sharing gifts had already arrived: pine needle baskets and pouches too, dried salty plants from Old Swamp, soapberries from the other side of Bangan Mountain, Dandelion straws filled with honey and milk, Lavender from Outer Meadow, a wide selection of feathers, some White Birch syrup, a few of Flint’s flakes.

“How blessed we are in Bangan Forest!” said Wild.

“Plenty,” smiled Blue. He wanted to kiss her. He kicked the toe of his pointy blue boot into Earth. “Plenty blessed.”

“With food and friends,” Wild said. She wanted to kiss him, but she just took his hand.

The friends flew over Goldenrod and Asters. Little Clearing was busy, but it would be downright crowded with fairies by Nightfall. Some friends lived here, like Morel Mushrooms and Pond, Rockin’ Rocks and Lilypad Knot. Others had travelled a long way for the festivity. Wood fairies, River Fairies and Mountain Fairies were all here, gathering to gather together.

Fairies celebrate the moment because they live in the moment. Although there was plenty of chatting, there was little actual news. Fairies don’t care about the past and they have no faith in the future, so for them, it’s just now. This Day’s news was that Corn Moon was full. No gossip. No fake news. No fearful imaginings. The only news a fairy needs is what to celebrate today.

A hummingbird named Senorita contributed to the buffet. Oh my, she was a remarkable cook. With Miniature Red Rose stuck behind one ear, Senorita had spent days cooking for Corn Moon. All the while humming and throwing flowers in the air, she had prepared corn muffins, corn panna cotta, corn chips, popped corn, charred kernels, and traditional corn soup. No matter how much fairies ate, Senorita Hummingbird would dart in with more delicacies: candied crab apples on branches, pine nut brittle, candy floss clouds. She was so fast that she could hang in midair, her wings flapping sixty times per second, both feet free to carry platters of food. To cut through the sweet treats, she served the tart tastes of Deep Summer: fresh blackberries and blueberries and ground cherries.

Blue filled 2 glasses with Nectar and brought one over to Wild who rested on Queen Anne’s Lace. He thought she was exquisite with her deep purple eyes and white rose petal dress, her long lilac braids and Queen’s throne. She reached out one delicate arm to take the drink.

“To this moment,” toasted Blue. It was Fairy’s Toast; it was always the same.

“To this moment,” grinned Wild. She thought he was spectacular with his blue skin and Clover clothes, his pointy nose and fancy boots.

Their glasses clinked as if they had kissed.

You would think Wild and Blue would kiss then. I mean, fairies don’t waste time. They cherish every moment. Like flutterbys and butterflies, fairies don’t live long. It’s their wings, their delicate wings. They are dripping fairy dust, dropping fairy dust everywhere they go. Enchanted dust that grants wishes, heals hearts and wields magic. So little precious dust, so little precious time.

For sure, you’d think Blue would kiss Wild or maybe, Wild would kiss Blue… in that moment, that toasted moment… but they did not. All afternoon, Wild and Blue chose to sit side by side on Queen Anne’s Lace, singing songs, holding hands and waiting for Corn Moon to show up. Who’s to say they didn’t savour every moment?

Deep Summer remained hot when Dusk arrived. Corn Moon showed up early; he was ecstatic to be full. He poured love down upon Mother Earth and all her life: plants, rocks, animals, humans, fairies. Moon loves all without judgement. If you exist, Moon loves you; it’s that simple.

Forest fairies and River fairies and Mountain fairies all danced in Moon’s light. Fairies love circles and Little Clearing was full of fairy circles: big circles, circles within circles, overlapping circles. Wild and Blue held hands as they danced, their wings beating faster than Hummingbird’s. Spirits were high; Magic was neigh. Fairies were drumming; fairies were strumming. Grasses swayed, flowers bobbed. Night Breeze was filled with petals and giggles and merriment.

Most feet were bare and not touching Earth at all. Fairies spun in pirouettes. Their precious dust sparkled. Fireflies joined the light show.

Each fairy was glowing their own colour, and as they circled together, they became halos of light. Pink halos, blue and green halos, golden rings rolling up into Starry Sky. Dancing fairies swirled like Saturn’s Ring. They whirled like Galaxy. And they were no less.

Wild and Blue were born of this place, Forest and Sky. Mother Earth’s love and Corn Moon’s love were one and the same to them. The love they had for each other was no less.

Corn Moon saw Wild Lavender and Blue Sky dancing in her light. She saw sweet shyness in their hearts, and she pulled them close to her. Wild and Blue rose through Starry Sky on Moon’s beam. And so it happened that Corn Moon kissed Wild, and then she kissed Blue, right on the lips.

Still holding hands, they slid down Moon’s beam, back to Mother Earth, back to Queen Anne’s Lace.

Oh yes, you can be sure…  it was then and it was there that Blue kissed Wild or maybe, Wild kissed Blue in Corn Moon’s light. It was a tiny little kiss, and it changed the world.

How can one tiny fairy kiss change the whole world? Every kiss does that. Every kiss changes the world.

©2020 Laurie Fraser

art by Laurie Fraser art by LoLo

 

The Sunflower Bloomed Yellow.

Morning prayer.

My fears soften and melt away.

I release _____ & ______ & ______. (eg: sadness, resentment, disease, dysfunction…)

I see the world with wonder.

I imagine only good things.

Hope rises within me.

Peace washes over me.

I hear the voice of wisdom.

It is safe to trust.

With confidence, I create my life.

My heart opens.

Joy flies.

Love flows.

All is well.

Crow calls: The time is now.

Crow calls: The time is now.

(I didn’t write this. I don’t remember the original source; it has been adapted over the years.)

Sandra Died

grey skies pour slush on
white roofs
iced branches fall on
white snow
grey tire tracks on
grey road
a green Perrier bottle half-full of frozen sap
the only colour.
My camera has broken so
I commit the scene to
my slurry memory.
I look out the window
a warm fire at my back
a cat squirmed under my arm
thunder under my feet
the window frame grey
the wet picture
underlined by green seedlings:
lupins, marigolds, zinnias
and a sunflower that is expected to bloom
pink.
Love Laurie, April 6, 2023
love

love

We usually celebrated our birthdays together. Our 40 th was in Cuba. This pic is from 2012, our 50th.

pink sunflower