Disappeared Deer- a short story by Laurie Fraser

Disappeared Deer 

for International Women’s Day,

lest we forget the missing and murdered indigenous people in Canada.

When Wolf howls at Moon, it is said that all Disappeared Deer hear their names. He howls each name, and they know he is looking for them; they know they are not forgotten. Their mothers and fathers hear their own anguish when Wolf howls. Wind joins in then, wailing and moaning around trees and dens, calling out their names with Wolf: “Ada, Ruth, Cheyenne, Alissa, Rhonda, Azraya, Edna, Marilyn, Cheryl, Delaine, Beatrice, Gladys…”

When Councillor Wolf howls the names of Disappeared Deer, most animals in Bangan Forest stop to listen. It is respect for missing deer, but it is respect for Wolf as well. Strong, black… and always alone, Councillor Wolf is their protector.

The Deer Clan is experiencing a heartbreaking crisis: deer, usually females, are disappearing. It’s been going on for years.  disappeared deer

The Council of Seven have met, of course, many times about Disappeared Deer. Experts have been brought in, studies studied. Theories abound, most of them involving foul play, humans and poachers. Councillor Eagle can’t let go of the UFO angle and he is harshly judged for his alien theory, but to be fair, Eagle does fly awfully high, sometimes quite close to Sun, and occasionally he reports seeing things that the residents of Bangan Forest can hardly believe.

At Council, evidence has come to light that supports the tricking theory. Daanis Deer was only an adolescent when she told her friends that a human had offered her a job dancing in Town. Her father had forced her to dance from a young age, so it was natural for her to think of herself as a dancer. Daanis was especially pretty with little white freckles on her nose. Males admired her gorgeous legs and long supple neck.

“She said his name was Mr. Human,” Daanis’s friend reported to Council. “He told her that he owned some dance clubs and vegetarian restaurants. Daanis said he was really nice to her, like a boyfriend. He gave her a whole box of sugar.”

Another missing deer named Nindaanis had told her family that she was going to visit some friends in Next Town, but she had never arrived. No one knew what happened to Nindaanis.

“It’s a long journey between towns,” Wise Beaver pointed out. “Anything can happen out there. Land between towns is not protected like Bangan; travel isn’t safe for deer.”

“They’ve probably been shot by human hunters,” said Councillor Turtle. He was concerned with truth and it was he who would be the one to speak the most difficult words. “They may be in freezers and on dinner plates all over the country.”

“Daanis talked about dancing opportunities in far off places like Greenland and Japan and Las Vegas. She was quite excited about that,” said her friend.

“Japan has plenty of their own deer,” said Eagle, who had been there.

“Mr. Human said Daanis was especially beautiful. They don’t have deer that look like her in Japan.”

“You see?” said Wolf. “It’s a type of trap. If one deer didn’t come home, we could imagine she is settled in a new home. However, it’s not one deer- it’s dozens now. How could so many disappear without a word, without a message sent home to their families? Obviously, they are not working at jobs or travelling to exciting destinations.”

The Forest Boys were asked to come before The Council of Seven and advise. The Forest Boys are a loosely organized group of minor criminals operating in Bangan Forest. They’re mostly involved in sugar smuggling. Membership includes elk, raccoons, coyotes, weasels and badgers.

It was Fat Badger who spoke. “We are aware of humans contacting deer and offering jobs or gifts of sugar. That happens in Outer Meadow usually, or in the ditch on this side of Danger Road. Sometimes deer want the sugar so much that they go off with the humans. We don’t know where they go. We try to convince them to stay because we want them eating our sugar, not town sugar… but they tell us it’s free in Town.”

“How can sugar be free?” asked Wolf.

“I know, that’s what we say, but they’ve made new friends. They’ve been promised.”

Ever since hearing Fat Badger’s testimony, Wolf pretty much lives in that ditch. All day he watches for new friends with promises and job offers that are too good to be true. He watches for fake new boyfriends who are too generous to be true. He watches for young deer who are uncertain of their path, who are especially beautiful with white freckles on their noses. He watches for hunters with guns and camouflage hats and refrigerated trucks.

He is one frustrated wolf. He spends his days watching from ditches and meadows’ edges, but Wolf has not found even one human handing out sugar and telling stories of fame and wealth. He has not returned even one female deer or fawn to Bangan Forest.

It’s still a mystery, the facts are not known, dozens of females are lost out there- maybe as close as the nearest Town, maybe as far as a stage in Japan. They might be travelling the world. They might be trying to get home. There’s a chance, and no one except Turtle is willing to acknowledge this possibility, but there’s a chance that they’re dead.

All of us here in Bangan Forest miss these females very much. They were supposed to grow up here, helping us, as deer do, with pruning and so on. They were our future Council members and who knows- teachers, ballet dancers, firefighters.

There’s a chance too that they are singing and dancing in your town.

Could you keep an eye out for these dappled deer with gorgeous legs? Their mothers want to see them. Their fathers feel helpless. Wolf howls their names every night. You can know them if you listen: “Loraine, Nashie, Shelley, Minnie, Verna, Spring, Laura, Savanna, Jordina, Viola, Margaret, Regis, Mitzi, Rebecca, Paula, Maxine, Theresa, Vivian, Mary, Tashina, Sarah, Robyn, Patrina, Melissa, Lynn… “

After he howls the names, Wolf runs around Mother Earth, circles her every single night looking for Disappeared Deer in towns and forests and bus stations. Moon assists, but even so, Wolf could use a hand at this point. I mean, if you see some pretty female deer on the street, please, just take a moment and ask: “What’s your name? Where are you from? Do you want to go home?”

Deer at Mud Lake eating Sumac

Deer at Mud Lake eating Sumac

Wild and Blue- a short story by Laurie Fraser

Wild and Blue

a story from Bangan Forest

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 decade 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. 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 the 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 a 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. He picked 3 clover leaves and wrapped them around his body. His belt was Blade of grass who wound around his waist 3 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 he used it to filter maple syrup in Spring.

Blue gathered food for breakfast: fibre 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 were both covered in 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 violet- smokey violet. 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 Rock. Sunny Rock 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 Rock 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 LuLu 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 fairy ring 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 does 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…

Wild and Blue took their sharing gifts over to Buttercup 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 flint 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 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.

Hummingbird had contributed to the buffet and she was a remarkable cook. Always humming, Daisy stuck behind her ear, Hummingbird loved to prepare festive foods. For Corn Moon, she had prepared corn muffins, corn panna cotta, corn chips, popped corn kernels, charred kernels, and creamed corn. No matter how much fairies ate, Hummingbird would dart in with more delicacies: candied crab apples on branches, pine nut brittle, candy floss clouds. 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 violet eyes and white rose petal dress, her long lavender 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. Because of this, fairies savour moments.

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, 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. 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. Precious dust flew off fairies, sparkles 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 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 and Blue 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 Blue, and then she kissed Wild, 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’re right. It happened there and it happened then, Blue Sky kissed Wild Lavender, or maybe Wild Lavender kissed Blue Sky 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.

tree spirit

 

Debwewin River – a story from Bangan Forest, by Laurie Fraser

Debwewin River

Oaky Dokey’s testimony was the most interesting, just because he was the oldest witness, the oldest by far. Oaky Dokey was 436 years old. Can you imagine? He has seen more than 5,000 full moons. He remembers when Bangan Forest had no borders, when there was nothing but trees and rivers and rocks; nothing but animals and birds and plants.

Oaky Dokey wasn’t the oldest tree, Black Gum was even older, but Oakey Dokey had spent his entire life beside Debwewin River with his roots pushed right through River’s North Bank, his gnarly toes in water every day. He was the best witness to what had happened to Debwewin, and so it was his role to come before Council and talk truth.

The case had been brought before the Council of Seven by Debwewin River himself. He cited his right to be clean. Council had come to River to hear witnesses on North Shore.

Oaky Dokey grew on a small crest; River was slightly lower and water was wide here. Long Grasses loved both water and land; they danced all over North Shore. Spectators and supporters had trooped over with the seven Council members and they stood around in small groups. The situation was critical.

Oaky Dokey had a gravelly voice. “From the time I was a boy, River has been my friend, cooling my toes, quenching my thirst, growing my leaves, fattening my acorns. We are entwined and my health depends on him.”

“What changes have you witnessed over the years?” Councillor Crow led the questioning.

“Before Town was built,” said Oaky Dokey, “changes were seasonal: flooding, freezing. Current moved around and Sand Bar was erratic, but the quality of water never changed. Spring streams fed Debwewin fresh melted snows and he was clean. Since Town arrived, I sometimes see garbage in River: plastic bags and cigarette butts. Sometimes there is a smell or a pool of oily substance floating on top of water and she can’t breathe then, through that oil.”

A surge of agreement erupted from groups of deer and beaver and heron.

Ducks quacked loudly from River and frogs pumped their fists. They hated the oil slicks. Trout had already testified about the smell. Goose had brought evidence: one of her babies was all sticky.

“Flooding has increased,” continued Oaky Dokey, “and streams come earlier now that Heat has intensified. Year after year, it is too warm. But the dramatic change has been recent, ever since Town humans built pipes and culverts to join Town water with River. Town water is dirty- brown and smelly- and it mixes into River, our pristine Debwewin.”

Stream testified next. “More animals come to me now because I am clean, and I taste better than River. They are depleting me.”

Councillor Turtle was concerned with Truth and so it was he who spoke next. ”Debwewin River has the right to be clean. It is his birthright. More than that, Debwewin shows us our true selves when we look into him. This truth must not be distorted by garbage or oil. Water must be clear.

This very council uses Debwewin River to show wrongdoers the truth of who they are. It is essential that water reflects clearly for the health and good function of our community.”

Councillor Wolf raised his bushy eyebrows. “May I remind you that Mr. Fisher is waiting for his day in court.”

Everyone already knew that Debwewin River’s case had been pushed ahead because of the Fisher case. There was no way to help Mr. Fisher when there was no Truth to be seen in Debwewin.

“Clearly there is an urgent need to rectify the problem,” Councillor Wise Beaver spoke up. “I’ve been out to the site a number of times. It is a matter of re-directing that sewage water back into Town. Give me a team and 3 days.”

It took 3 days of stealthy work and 3 nights of manic work. It took 45 beavers, maybe 20 or so turtles, and a slew of muskrats and otters. It took about a hundred otters, but you’d swear it was a thousand the way they swarmed the project… and wanted all the credit too at the end.

Wise Beaver’s design perplexed Town humans. It was weeks before they realized that their dirty water was being recycled right back to them. Wise Beaver had blocked the pipelines with dams so that dirty water couldn’t reach River. Otters’ slides and tunnels re-routed that Town water right into the water tower on the edge of Town.

Councillor Eagle took Debwewin River under her loving wing and he healed rapidly there. The trees and plants and animals poured love and gratitude into River as he quenched their thirst once again.

Mr. Fisher’s case came to Council and it was agreed that the time had come for Mr. Fisher to stop hitting Mrs. Fisher. Crow walked with him to Debwewin River, and Fisher looked at his own face in water.

Debwewin showed him the truth of who he was, for when Mr. Fisher looked in water he saw himself as a boy. A sad boy; a scared boy. He saw his father hitting his mother. Then he saw his father as a boy. A sad boy; a scared boy. He saw a teacher hitting that boy. And then Debwewin showed Mr. Fisher another truth. He showed him Little Fisher, his own son, sad and scared, growing up and hitting his wife.

Mr. Fisher saw all these truths in Debwewin River. He understood that he was a hurt fisher; not a bad fisher. Like all animals in Bangan Forest, Fisher trusted Debwewin River, and so he believed the Truth of who he was.

Humans figured it all out, of course- they are the clever ones. The Town workers unblocked the pipelines, bulldozers ripped apart the dams and tunnels. Garbage flowed directly into Debwewin River once more.

So, Wise Beaver’s team got back to work.

And then the bulldozers came back.

Just when it looked like the cycle would never end, a teenage human posted a few pics on Instagram. They went viral- did you see them? Pics of beavers at work, bulldozers at work, sewage flowing into River, trees weeping, ducks unable to fly with their heavy oily wings. Those pics were shared all over social media.

A reporter came and interviewed Oaky Dokey, Wise Beaver and Town Mayor. Mr. Fisher was on the news too. He explained how Debwewin had shown him his true self. He had taken his hurt to Eagle who gave him so much love, that he came to forgive himself and his father too. But the most important interview was with Debwewin River himself. It was the first time a river had been interviewed by a human.

The media exposés about the cycle of waste made people angry. Humans in Town gathered outside the mayor’s office. They pumped their fists like frogs. They pumped their fists for frogs… and oak trees and fish and fisher families. They protested for Debwewin, the truth of the matter.

And so it came to pass that Town workers installed some expensive machines that clean water. Beaver Team became a consulting firm, much in demand in Town. Mr. Fisher became a loving husband; Little Fisher grew up to be peaceful too. And Debwewin River’s rights were upheld- the right to be clean, the right to be treated as a living being, the right to be his own true self.

© Laurie Fraser 2021

Stream Knows – a story from Bangan Forest, by Laurie Fraser

Stream Knows

It was one of May’s cool damp mornings. Fawn wore a beige sweater and an acorn necklace, but nothing on her legs. Her legs were so gorgeously awkward that no male of any species could pass by without gawking at them. Frogs and herons alike admired Fawn’s legs.

She came soundlessly out of Bangan Forest and stood for a moment where Long Grass began. Peace was all around except for Baby Jay squeaking for his mom. Turtle was beside Stream, acting like rocks. His dark eyes peered at Fawn from under the brim of his cap. Turtle was a sucker for legs, but he posed no threat. Fawn stepped over to Stream.

Her exquisite legs were on display as she splayed them apart and bent her mouth to Stream to drink, her saucy white tail in the air.

“Thank you,” she said to Stream, “you quench my thirst.”

“I’ve been gaining weight,” said Stream. “I could fill a camel.”

Fawn lifted her pretty head and looked around. At this point Stream moved slowly, hanging out with little pools and inlets, but further down Stream, rocks would break water into tiny white waves, causing Stream to spit up like a baby. She was small by nature, not a river, but Stream was long, and she knew mountain meadows as intimately as she knew Bangan Forest.

“I don’t know about a camel, but my brother is just behind me,” Fawn laughed her tinkling little laugh. The whole family needed Stream, and they visited every day.

Stream was birthed by Spring herself when Sun came closer each year. Sun hugged Snow with his many warm arms. Snow would melt with love for Sun and take off running and playing all the way down Bangan Mountain. And so it was that baby streams were born all over the place.

Sun hugged everyone- ice and snow, but also tree trunks and winter sleeping places. He woke bears and groundhogs and turtles. Old friend Rain came back as he always does, even Sleet showed up once in a while.

This Spring, Stream had grown until she felt quite large. Deep curves developed, pockets and eddies came into being. It was because of Sun’s warm kisses that her body was constantly changing. Stream adored Sun and would do anything for him, give him anything- even her own self.

Stream and Sun had a complicated relationship. History. They had kissed before- this wasn’t Stream’s first trip down the mountain, after all. Sun hugged the others- snakes and lizards and baby robins- but Stream was the one he kissed. Stream was special.

Stream freely admits to silliness and poor judgement those first heady days with Sun each Spring, when Pussywillow sang her songs, and Crow seemed to fight with everyone. Every year, Stream would expand and stretch under Sun’s attention, her little ripples giggling, her fingers reaching and reaching for more. She would rush and chase and take some crazy risks choosing her path, but streams are like that.

Of course, Day would grow longer then, and Sun had plenty of time for Stream. Stream could count on Sun to shine on her, warm her waves, glisten her peaks, reveal her precious stones. She loved to give to him- vapour, mist, wet kisses… whatever he asked.

The animals of Bangan Forest would come to slake their thirst and to feed too, for small fish frolicked in her. Stream slowed down with Summer and she gave to all who needed her: dragonflies, moose, clouds.

It wouldn’t be until late summer, but sooner or later, every year, Stream would give too much to Sun. Conversation would dry up first, and then it would come to pass that Stream herself would become quite weak. Sun became hard then, and he would dictate her path. He refused her soft kisses, and it broke her in places. Sun would glower and glare as Stream thinned. Bushes often grew nearby, gaining size by late summer, and she would try to hide under them. Sometimes clouds protected her. Rain rarely helped.

When Sun did bother to show up, he was cold and distant. He didn’t have much time for Stream. She would miss him then and call, but if Sun did pick up his phone, he made excuses: he had to work overtime, he wasn’t accustomed to Stream’s constant babbling.

The truth was that Sun had other streams. Spring was always arriving somewhere, causing melts and havoc everywhere she went. I mean, Spring is famous for that. In Paris or on a tall mountain, Spring will mess you up.

And this hard truth meant that Sun could not be present for Stream when leaves fell. Deserted every Autumn, Stream would cry until she was dangerously thin. Some years she barely survived, nothing but a frozen trickle on rock-hard ground.

Winter was good to her though, holding her safely in his strong arms every year. She could always count on Winter for some stability. He brought the Snows, and they guarded her too. She would rest there until Sun came nudging around again.

Oh, he was confident! He could play guitar and of course, being Sun, everything revolved around him. Beautiful, charismatic, he reached every year, reached for Stream.

“Not this year,” Stream would say, her icy thin arms still tight around herself under sleepy slopes of snow.

“Deer is thirsty,” Sun would tease. “She can’t drink ice.”

“She can eat snow!”

“Aww c’mon, Stream. Her babies are coming.”

“Not yet, they’re not.”

But Sun would flirt, you know how he does it- a clear ray right into an eye, a breaking smile, and then the hug that she had been missing… warmth.

“Sweetie,” he called her.

You could say that Stream never learns, but Stream would answer that she always forgives. Stream would say that she loves the cycles of life, the coming of Sun with all his mania, and the leaving of Sun with all his peace. Stream would say that when love encircles us- we must revel in it, expand, and when love has more important things to do- manoo, let it be, take a nap.

Stream knows about this, the cycles that always circle- seasons and water and love.

© Laurie Fraser 2020

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Raccoon & Turtle, by Laurie Fraser

A short story from Bangan Forest.

Raccoon was singing Morning Song as she ran along one of Forest’s paths. Animals of all sizes passed this way: chipmunks, skunks, deer, but tall birches on each side kept this path narrow and dark. Sun was barely out of bed, still stretching his fine arms, but Raccoon was sweating. It was so humid in early summer that heat followed animals right into shade and slept with them day and night.

Raccoon was on the skinny side and her mask was askew. She should have found a bed by now, but Dawn was early these days; there was little time to forage before Night disappeared.

Raccoon was moving so fast when she came upon Turtle that she had to hop right over him. He was a mature strong-legged turtle of enormous size. A beauty.

Raccoon had travelled a long way all by herself; she sure was happy to come upon a handsome dark-eyed turtle.

“Greetings! Where are you headed?”

Turtle adjusted his black cap. He was not fond of conversation, but he answered. “I am bringing provisions to my family.”

“I see,” said Raccoon as she eyed the many packs and boxes tied to Turtle’s back.

“You don’t see.” He nodded back toward his polished shell. “Food is inside.”

“So, what’s all this?” Raccoon motioned to the pile of boxes.

“Burdens.”

“Ah, burdens… Are they heavy?”

“What do you think?” Turtle was tired, and it made him irritable sometimes.

“I think they must be terribly heavy,” soothed Raccoon. “Can I carry one for you?”

Turtle did not answer.

Raccoon ran a circle around him. “Just one?”

“No! Go away!” Turtle knew that all raccoons were thieves and not to be trusted.

Raccoon fell back and watched Turtle’s thick legs dig into the earth and pull him forward a few inches. He flipped his feet forward and then pulled again, dragging his weight and his boxes. His muscles were clearly defined as they strained. One heavy metal box marked ‘Injustice’ was tied to his tail and as he walked, it drew a twisted trail in the earth behind him.

Raccoon picked up the metal box with her front paws. She walked upright, carrying the box still tied to Turtle’s tail. Turtle noticed how good this felt, and he said, “You have beautiful hands.”

Raccoon took this as an invitation to stay. She untied the metal box from Turtle’s tail, tucked it under her arm and began to talk. Now, no one can talk like a raccoon. Once they start, they never shut up. Raccoon told Turtle everything she knew, all her secrets, and all the important thoughts she had had until that moment in time.

It took a very long time for Raccoon to share all of this, and for Turtle to move down Forest’s path between tall birches. Time after time, Raccoon realized that she was ahead of Turtle, so excited was she and so slow was he, that she would have to stop and wait for him. She would sit with rocks or nap covered by Shade while Turtle progressed at his own pace.

It was a day of sitting with rocks for Raccoon and a day of hard work for Turtle, but at the very end, they found themselves at River’s edge. River was silver and flowing fast. Sun had started his drop toward Mother Earth and Sky chose her orange silk nightgown with pink straps.

“We must part ways now,” said Turtle, his dark eyes on Sky’s nightgown. “I will swim across River to the other side and you must continue to tread Forest’s paths.”

“I can swim,” said Raccoon and she took off her shoes.

“It is not an easy crossing,” said Turtle. “You are not heavy enough. River will toss you into Sky and she will catch you in her arms and never let you go.”

He directed her to attach the metal box to his tail again and so she did. He turned his face to Sun and readied himself.

Raccoon tied her shoes to her tail and jumped in Water. Current was strong even near Shoreline and Small Rapids could be heard by an ear turned in their direction.

“Come on!” she shouted from Water. “Why am I always waiting for you?” She showed off some new dance moves. “Hurry up!”

“We separate here,” said Turtle. “I have listened to your silliness long enough. I have important things to do, responsibilities.” He eyed Water’s edge and started a deliberate descent.

Raccoon laughed. “You work too hard!” She somersaulted into baby waves.

Turtle slipped into Water with relief. His burdens lightened, and he moved easily just under the surface of silver ripples.

Raccoon tried to grab the box tied to his tail, but Turtle swished her away. “I don’t need you.”

Raccoon swam alongside Turtle. She could talk even while she was swimming and she offered Turtle advice, a great deal of advice: how to untie boxes from tails, how to reduce baggage, how to run.

“Preposterous,” muttered Turtle, “why would I run?”

Raccoon tried to say, “It’s fun,” but River filled her mouth when she opened it. As always, River was greedy for space. He filled all the spaces he could find in Raccoon- throat and lungs and stomach. Raccoon became heavy with Water and she slipped below the silver surface.

Turtle heard silence and knew Raccoon was gone. He had secretly become fond of the raccoon who had finally shut up. He had chuckled on Forest’s path, and he was no longer accustomed to silence. Turtle reached over with one giant foot and flipped Raccoon over and then slid her onto his back. Raccoon choked and spit and sputtered until Wind found her spaces and forced Water out. Raccoon curled up among the boxes on Turtle’s strong back. She felt protected there, and he liked her weight on him.

River hugged Sky in her orange nightgown with pink straps. Sky hugged River back and got orange all over him. Even Raccoon and Turtle were silky orange for a time as Raccoon slumbered on Turtle’s back. She dreamed of waiting with rocks, as Turtle swam gently, careful not to wake her.

By all accounts, Turtle had journeyed for provisions many times and was expected to arrive without incident, without delay, without a raccoon on his back. Maybe Darkness knows what happened, or maybe Stars could piece it all together… but Moon was the opposite of full that night and so the most reliable source was unable to report.

Raccoon had been dreaming, of course, and Turtle had been charting his way as usual, but something disoriented him. Perhaps it was Darkness playing his games. There is no way to be certain how Turtle got stranded on Sand Bar, but Sand Bar is notoriously erratic, constantly shifting and changing in size. He traps his food by lying in wait.

Once Turtle got stuck, his belly in the grips of hungry Sand Bar, his flippers uselessly flapping the air, Raccoon did her best to move him. She pushed; she shoved.

“You must remove the boxes,” Raccoon said, “or you will die here.”

“Take one,” allowed Turtle.

Raccoon used her clever claws to unfasten the largest burden, over Turtle’s big fat liver. It was full of anger. Turtle felt lighter, but he could not be moved. Raccoon took down a second box marked ‘Explosives’. Then a third one labeled ‘Past’ that had been tied much too tightly to Turtle’s soft heart. As Turtle lightened, he felt relieved… even, just a bit… happy.

Raccoon rocked Turtle from side to side. She sang a love song to Mother Earth as she rocked Turtle. Turtle felt loved. Mother Earth felt loved. Sand Bar gently opened her jaws and released Turtle. He swam free into River. Sand Bar swallowed the boxes.

At Shoreline, Turtle stopped and offered Raccoon a ride. Now, there is not a single raccoon alive who will turn down a ride on a turtle’s back. It’s like a sports car to a raccoon. Everything is fun to them. So Turtle offered a ride and Raccoon clapped her beautiful hands.

Things had changed between them.

“You are slow and heavy,” admitted Raccoon. “I feel safe with you.”

“You are fast and light,” answered Turtle. “I feel uplifted by you.”

And so it was that Turtle arrived with Raccoon on his back. They were both smiling.

© Laurie Fraser 2020

Stone Turtle

Stone Turtle