I've noticed that Francis is rather quiet even for a three year old. Has there been any concerns about that?
He talks and has a normal vocabulary for his age level, so no worries. He does, however, sit back and observe a lot, which could be a smart move being the only one of his kind on this side of the portal.
Those of you who follow Catherine Aura’s tweets know that I’ve been doing some research for her, even though she currently resides in human form on the other side of the dimensional portal separating our worlds. If you’ve been a regular reader of the strip you know that anyone who crosses over from this side to the other becomes human. Pretty basic. (Note: It was a complicated process that enabled Ms. Aura and her son Nigel to temporarily become dolphins, but it’s too involved to go into here.) What she’s asked me to do is delve into the other side of the equation: What happens when a human comes into *this* dimension. I became a hedgehog, but there was no way to predict that. Catherine wants me to find a way of doing just that, so that when a human crosses through the portal for the first they’ll know in advance what species they would turn into. Tricky. I may be on to something, but it’ll require extensive testing. You probably don’t want to wait until next Sunday for an update, so during the coming week go to twitter.com/catherine_aura where you’ll find daily reports.
Awkward moment at the Happy Little Predator Preschool. They’d lined up a number of local business leaders, and two staffers independently scheduled Kell and R.L. Worse, they were the last two presenters, so for a brief time they were alone together.
Nothing happened, fortunately. R.L. went in and provided snarky comments about his *unique* version of the concept of loyalty. It went over the heads of most of the kids, and for those who caught the meaning (i.e., Coney, Lin, Harcourt) it was a lesson in Adults Who Lie To You. He was then wisked away in his limo.
Kell was next and was much more warmly received. That’s hardly surprising since the kids know her from picking up Coney. Kell talked about the many career opportunities in the food industry. That made everyone hungry, which was fortunate since it was time for lunch.
The big news in Domain was the construction of a new preschool across the street from Coney’s carnivore class, this one specifically for herbivores. Both schools are run by the same company, and it has a sterling record of safety for both groups. Rachel immediately applied, and was accepted. In addition to her degree from Beige U., she had extensive experience as a counsellor at the Herbivore Camp. The later probably carried more weight, since that’s another entity that knows how to protect headstrong youngsters who don’t realize they’re being protected. (Yes, Coney, I’m looking at you, little sister.) So now Rachel is busy making lesson plans and buying supplies…and telling Joan no, the school doesn’t require someone to design uniforms. They’re receiving a great deal of interest from local herbivore parents, including a certain family in the rabbit warren. That would be Wendell, whose dissatisfaction with his education is exceeded only by his dislike of the Herbivore Camp. I know what classes are taught in the underground rabbit warren, and basically it’s how best to steal vegetables. To outsiders the Rabbit Council makes a big show of discouraging vegetable theft, but winks at it among themselves. (Yes, this is why Gran was so intent on teaching garden security to Rudy.) Wendell, despite being adept at the five-fingered-discount, found it unchallenging and desired more. (Good for him!) He convinced his mother that it would best serve his Easter Bunny ambitions to go to a school with a more diverse student body, and she relented. The school opens in a few weeks!
I was checking in Rachel and Joan back in Domain, seeing how they were adjusting to married life. They both have degrees from Beige University, but at the moment neither has a full time job. Rachel comes the closest, as her work as herbivore camp counsellor does give her income, but only on a seasonal freelance basis. At least it’s in the field of her degree, which is in teaching. Joan, meanwhile, studied fashion design. (Do *not* call her a clothes horse.) If you’re wondering, they qualified for the loan on their tree by having Rachel’s parents cosign for it. Apparently home loans are exceedingly difficult to get these days for freelancers. Loan officers pick through every detail of a person’s finances, demanding that the borrower justify virtually every penny of their income to prove their not laundering money or something. I’m glad we got Tree when we did. Rachel and Joan have lived in their tree for two months, and so it hasn’t exhibited any of the intelligent behavior unique to its mother. Either that, or perhaps the two newlyweds are too preoccupied to notice.
Rudy’s smart; I know that by now. (How many ever successfully stowed away on the space shuttle?) Yet, as an 18-year-old he still has learning curves ahead of him.
Case in point: Gardening, something to which he’s shown a surprising talent. Last year Gran was his partner during the televised competition, and she saw untapped potential.
She’s a born teacher, and saw that he responds best to direct challenges. She then set herself up as his adversary.
A vital part of gardening is defending one’s crop. (Indoor gardening is strictly minor league to purists.) Rudy, being a wolf, felt that his reputation was protection enough. Repeated explanations to the contrary fell on deaf ears, so…She took another approach.
Several of her many grandchildren were enlisted to steal a section of his produce while she distracted him. They were returned just before the weigh-in.
That, he won’t forget.
8/24/14 CAMP: THE FINAL CHAPTER There was a lot going on this week, highlighted by the conclusion of Coney’s camp adventure. As reported, she was totally busted for switching places with Wendell. Dad and Kell were on their way to pick her up for breaking explicit camp rules when word came that her cousin Francis was outside the predator camp boundary. Coney has a canine sense of smell that she inherited from Kell, and was enlisted to find the missing human three-year-old (along with Wendell and Harcourt). A complication was the media; overnight they’d descended on the camps to report on the story of a rabbit bringing down a bear. The camp didn’t want it to get out that *two* security breeches had occurred on the same day, so they needed to maintain the fiction that Wendell was the savior. So, Coney had to find her cousin, and not get caught by the reporters. Dad and Kell were called to get their permission for Coney to join the hunt, and out of concern for Francis they agreed. As Coney proceeded through the brush she was stealthily protected by the counsellors following her closely. She quickly picked up Wendell’s scent and found all three within fifteen minutes. She and Wendell switched clothes, and he soon found himself before the newshounds. Coney was driven home. Despite the medical exam given at the camp, the parental units wanted to make sure that she hadn’t been exposed to rabies by the bear. Fortunately Dr. Caduceus confirmed the initial diagnosis. After that reassurance Kell was able to express her displeasure over Coney’s self-haircut. Kell’s sensitive about that, given her own traumatic experience with losing her hair that one time. Finally, Lin’s mother was told about the texting going on between Lin and Wendell. She intensely disapproves, for reasons I personally can’t argue with.
Rachel kept me informed as to what was going on. The camp staff knew from the kids’ cell phones that Coney and Wendell had switched places, but before the parents could be notified the rabid bear attack occurred. That of course took priority. The lockdown enabled the staff to sweep the area for any other creatures carrying rabies. That took all day and most of the night before the all clear was given. During that time Coney (with her rather amateurish haircut) was given a private tent as a precaution. Wendell, meanwhile, was kept under tight observation in the girls’ cabin. The next morning Rachel was given the assignment of telling Coney the jig was up. Coney took her punishment with acceptance; I doubt she’ll pull that stunt again. And she still has to face the wrath of Mom. Meanwhile, more trouble appeared on the other side of the lake when Francis escaped the oversight of Wendell and Harcourt. In short order he used the flag pole rope to scale the wall (which was smaller for the predators). Wendell and Harcourt took off after him, so now three children were beyond the camp’s supervision, without their cell phones that ordinarily enabled them to be located. All the counsellors were notified, including Rachel who had the idea of using Coney to track her cousins and best male friend. While that was going on, Wendell and Harcourt had to fight through the rope traps set by Francis. A wild feline wasn’t so lucky, ending up drenched and embarrassed as he was eventually washed up at the lake shore and freed by the counsellors. Knowing felines, he probably wished he’d drowned.
Why was Coney kicked out of camp? She didn't mean any harm and most of the staff in both camps seemed amused by her little stunt.
…And she saved the lives of numerous campers by incapacitating the bear. However, this isn’t the first time she’s violated camp rules by sneaking over, and the consequences of doing so are clearly stated in the guidelines.
The switch between Coney and Wendell was only supposed to last an afternoon. That all changed when a huge rabid bear attacked the Herbivore Camp. In the throes of the disease he somehow got through the considerable defenses circling the camp. He would’ve done horrific damage but fortunately, Coney was the first individual he encountered. She also demonstrated quick thinking by using her sharp claws to incapacitate the bear, as claws are a weapon shared by both wolves and rabbits. She was able to save the camp and still maintain the fiction that she was Wendell. With his Achilles tendons severed, the bear was totally immobile. He was restrained and taken to the nearest hospital where hopefully he’ll be treated. Coney, of course, will need to be examined as a precaution, but she’s up to date on her vaccinations so I’m confident she’s okay. Meanwhile, both camps went into lockdown as the areas around them were checked for other rabid creatures. That meant Wendell was forced to spend the night in the cabin for carnivorous young ladies. With a little help from Lin he was able to pull it off. The next morning found Coney still confined to her tent, and Wendell still in Lin’s cabin. At breakfast Harcourt informed Wendell that they were responsible for mentoring little Francis, the human. Wendell is familiar with Francis’s lack of defenses, but that doesn’t excuse dismissing him out of hand. Speaking from experience, it’s never a good idea to underestimate a human.
Coney seems to have inherited Rudy’s penchant for ill-considered, impulsive strategies that tend to blow up in the face of those involved. Let’s just hope she also got the unlimited supply of luck that Rudy frequently is forced to draw upon.
The camps train young predators and prey not only to succeed in satisfying their respective diets but in learning to join a society in which both groups interact. To that end there are several heavy monitored gatherings in which the campers mingle.
Apparently no one noticed Coney and Wendell sneaking off behind some bushes and re-emerging five minutes later. They had traded shirts, RFID lanyards and of course the wig. One spray of vermin scent (popular among young carnivores) and the switch was complete.
Lin and Wendell immediately discovered that texting can be an easier form of communication than talking face to face, and then each group returned to the respective camps. Coney, being half-rabbit, had the easiest time blending in.
Moments after Lin and Wendell were ensconced in the Predator Camp’s girl’s cabin, the alarm was sounded for both camps to go into lockdown. Next week, more complications…
Life at the camps had been going along smoothly… Too smoothly. While Wendell was deep into his usual grumbling mode at Camp Chewalottacud, Coney, Lin and Harcourt were successfully staying out of trouble. They were following the camp guidelines and were even being positive role models for little Francis. If the camp counselors weren’t suspicious by this point, they should all be given demerits. While all this was going on, Wendell and Lin were texting back and forth. They seem to have more in common than you’d think between a tiger and a rabbit, but considering my family I’m not surprised. Both children are extremely ambitious, but hide vulnerabilities beneath aggressive exteriors. Managing expectations, from both inward and outward sources, can be stressful and draining. By texting, they’ve found they’re not alone. (Let’s just hope Lin’s mother doesn’t find out.) That’s when Coney stepped in, with the blond wig that Lin wore last Halloween when the two girls dressed as each other. There’s an intercamp postal system, and Coney had it delivered to Wendell. Of course, making the actual switch will be tricky.
The buses carrying the campers arrived at their separate destinations after a ninety-minute journey. Even rabbits like Wendell who live in the underground warren travelled overland, although there are rumors that the rabbits have tunnel entrances everywhere.
Having grown up in the warren myself I can assert that that’s not true. Also, unless there’s been new construction since Dad and I left, there is no tunnel access near the camps. If you need any further proof consider this: Wendell is stuck there. If there were any way of leaving the herbivore camp he’d have found it.
Meanwhile, Coney, Lin, Harcourt and little Francis are considerably more enthusiastic about the activities planned for the predator children. Coney and Lin are in the girl’s cabin, Harcourt is with the boys, and Francis is in the special three-year-old bunkhouse.
In this setting Francis is demonstrating some unique skills. I’ve watched his development closely, and I’m realizing that, all appearances to the contrary, he’s not as helpless and defenseless as one might think.
Lastly, Lin is constantly texting Wendell. It’s perhaps a sign of how bored he is that he replies. Or, maybe it’s a sign of something else.
My, all this and I haven’t even talked about my sister! Well, I’m sure Coney has something planned…
It’s July, and at the Dewclaw household that means one thing: Coney goes off to Predator Camp. She never goes alone, and this year she’ll be accompanied by her friends Lin and Harcourt. As an added twist, for the first time Danielle is sending three-year-old Francis along. The camp has a special system for little predators, giving them mentors in the age group just ahead of them. All are overseen by the counselors, of course. Francis’s mentor is Harcourt, and Coney will provide an extra set of eyes. As the world’s only carnivorous bunny she’s a celebrity, but she still probably doesn’t realize it. Dad and Kell do their best to insulate her from that, but in a setting like camp she can’t help but notice that other campers defer to her. Meanwhile, poor Wendell Luckyfoot is at Herbivore Camp which he hates with a passion. He complains bitterly and unceasingly, but yet he goes. One would think it might be that he actually likes being across the lake from a certain little tiger girl. Lin keeps texting him, and so far he hasn’t blocked her. Subplots aplenty!
The weight loss competition between Frank Mangle and Kell came to an end this week with a surprising outcome. FYI, since the object of the contest was to incentivize healthy behavior, the winner wasn’t determined by the number of pounds lost but by their overall body mass index.
It seemed that Kell had squeaked out a victory on the morning of the weigh in, but Frank resorted to desperate measures by cutting off his precious mane. That put him ahead, but Kell would have won if she had followed suit. She chose not to, and Desdemona declared Frank the winner.
Neither of the two ever said what the winner received. I suspect….nothing. Under R.L. they were competitive so long that it’s become second nature.
They don’t need a reason.
As I continue to wander the practically deserted campus of Beige University during summer semester, doing my best to administer to the emotional needs of plant life, I sometimes think this is all an elaborate prank that Tree is pulling on me. After all, I only have her word that she’s doing actual translations. Also, she’s still new to our ethical standards of behavior (although she’s come a long way in that regard). And yet… I have noticed that when I circle back to places I’ve visited after a week or so, the flora that I’ve “spoken to” tend to demonstrate a remarkable change in growth and overall health. As a researcher, I’ve begun taking specific measurements to see if this is more than anecdotal. Tree is disappointed, though, as I said I’ll need a control group of plants that I never speak to. She wants me to talk to everyone. Back home, Rachel and Joan have returned from their Honeymoon and have moved into their tree. The beaver crew were true to their word; completed on time and in great shape. Tree was relieved when I told her. Finally, the family is preparing to pack Coney off to Predator Camp again. Maybe some year things will go smoothly there. Nah…
With Rachel and Joan on their honeymoon I was finally able to sit back and take stock of what recent events have meant for me on a personal level. While I still I question the ultimate worth of my online ordination, it has crystallized the part of my personality that has always been prominent; the desire to help others. It was a few months ago that Tree first told me that she’d always seen me as a spiritual advisor, and that I could do the same for other plants through her translations. I let that slide as other life events took precedence, but now with the ceremony over I came back to it. How exactly would Tree translate another plant’s speech…whatever form that speech may take? Tree said it all happens through their root systems (as I’d speculated, although airborne pheromones were another possibility). Tree’s immediate root system is still limited after being transplanted from Domain, and it isn’t as extensive as some her age, but as long as she reaches the maple across the street she’s connected to everybody. (Yes, even the flowers she detests.) She alone has the intelligence to communicate with fauna like me, and since she’s wired into the net she can speak to me via my phone as I go from plant to plant. I don’t know what form my speech becomes when Tree translates my responses back to them, but so far the foliage around the neighborhood is doing well. And what concerns do the plants have? Mostly requests for watering, and fair bit about canine urinary habits.
The weather was beautiful on the day of Rachel and Joan’s nuptials. Like anyone who chooses an outdoor wedding venue they were taking a huge risk, but their luck held. The fallback option in case of rain was the Caliban Academy gym, which is barely adequate for school dances. There was a tent set up, and two hours before the ceremony the wedding party gathered for the photographer to get shots of everyone. Of course, the two brides had their own picture-taking devices as well. As a geek I always applaud triple redundancy. Three local shelties were hired as ushers, and when the guests began arriving the found themselves herded to their assigned seats. Dad, Kell, Rudy and Coney were there; mainly due to my role, probably. At the designated hour the musicians began playing the William Tell Overture, and the bridesmaids paraded down the aisle. (Fiona was resplendent.) then the two brides each made their way to the altar. That was my cue. They’d written their own vows, and I read the texts that they’d assigned for me. It was like being in a play, only this was a serious transition for two friends that are very close to me. At the end of the ceremony they had moved on to a brand new stage of life’s journey. It was a transition for me as well. More on that next week.
Joan and Rachel’s wedding is days away, and Fenton and I drove up to Domain as the festivities got underway. As the person officiating I don’t have the same roles as a bridesmaids and rest of the wedding party, but they still want me to participate nonetheless. Once again we stayed with Fenton’s parents and Dip the sheep. (He’s still involved with the poodle who has my old room at my parents’ house) As one of the bridesmaids, Fiona is quite busy; that leaves Rudy to mainly hang around with Bruno playing video games. Dad is juggling the net neutrality issue at Hare Link. He’s doing his best to make sure all of our clients have equal access and equal bandwidth, but once the data is beyond the HareLink servers there’s nothing he can do. Rudy and Gran have each planted their gardens on plots of land that are the same size. Now it’s a matter of seeing what comes up, and keeping the vegetable thieves away. The real excitement won’t come until harvest time. Finally, Coney and her friends will be heading back to camp in a few weeks. I wonder if they’ve done anything to improve the security measures. Gotta run; a happy couple need to say some vows.
Was Rudys' reaction before or after a coughing fit? And I love the new outfit but I have to wonder if you think Joan is trying to be TOO controlling?
That’s just how Joan is. She cares deeply about her friends, but she doesn’t realize that she sometimes steps over the line. In this case, she isn’t wrong in that someone in Lindesfarne’s professional position shouldn’t dress like a high school student.
Okay, I’ll admit that clothing is low on my list of priorities. That’s partly due to the hedgehog (and porcupine) tradition of wearing attire that just covers our fronts; our quills take care of our backs. Yes, it’s drafty. Think of hospital gowns and you start to see why we don’t see *anything* as flattering. I didn’t realize just how much I’d been ignoring my appearance until Joan brought it up with her usual…undiluted…tact. She presented me with a range of outfits not just for her wedding but for all the time. A full makeover in other words. The reasoning was that I’m 22, married, a grad student and still dressing as if I was still in high school. I have a logical mind and I couldn’t argue against having a more professional wardrobe. Instead of choosing one of Joan’s designs I went online. I used the process of elimination, bringing up thousands of possibilities and discarding the ones that didn’t fit my self-image. Methodical, but it led me to a style I’m comfortable with. Fenton seemed to approve as well. His thoughts turned in a procreative direction. Yes, we used protection.
It’s the time of year when Rudy begins planting vegetables; an endeavor that gains him spending money and most importantly, attention and notoriety.
Usually it’s Dad who provides the necessary competitive conflict that drives him, but with Rudy’s space now taking up the entire yard there was no room for him to plant anything. So, Gran stepped in to provide a rival; with a slight dose of Betrayal to fire him up further.
They had been partners last year, and had bonded in their own way. Now, we’ll see what grows from this situation.
I wonder if the resulting vegetation will require counseling.