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.
The Great Weight Loss Challenge goes on, providing health benefits to both Kell and to Frank Mangle, and a nice diversion for the employees of Dewclaw’s Fine Meats. The company is still in a fragile position, battling for market share in a business with razor-thin profit margins, so any moral boost is a good thing. Fenton and I drove back to Beige after Mother’s Day to find the campus pretty much emptied out after Finals were over. As a classic college town, Beige gets very quiet during the summer months for those of us who live here year round. In our case, Fenton maintains the Hare-Link and I focus on my grad studies research in peace and quiet. The next big event will, of course, be the wedding that I’m officiating in a few weeks. I know the words that I’ll be saying (written by the brides), but I see this as more than as if they were lines in a play.
With the infusion of sap donated by his mother, the tree (Come to think of it, it needs a name.) recovered its strength to point where it was able to fight off the main colony of bark beetles without our further assistance. Rachel and Joan were overjoyed, but the outcome depended on the verdict of the contractors.
They arrived the next day, and Fenton and I stayed overnight to hear. The beavers expected to find the same weakened, infested conifer they’d previously examined, and were amazed by its recovery. They revised their assessment, and the bank approved the loan. As I write this, construction has begun.
As long as I was in Domain I presented Kell with a Mother’s Day basket of meat products. That went with the carrot bandolier Coney made from construction paper. Rudy, meanwhile, got her roadkill imprinted with her favorite tire tread.
After the drama over Easter weekend things settled down back home, except when Rudy was using the catapult for gardening purposes. Then I received a visit from Rachel and Joan who drove down to Beige to go over wedding details. (Just a month away!) They were excited about moving into our old neighborhood, down the street from my family at the bottom of the hill near the river. As it turned out, the conifer they were looking to buy and convert into a home happened to be the offspring of our Tree. (It seems that Tree’s ability to communicate wasn’t passed down.) Their enthusiasm was soon crushed when the inspector discovered an infestation of bark beetles, which is frequently a death sentence. The sale was cancelled, and Tree was horrified. Fenton and I just looked at each other and thought “Lunch.” I packed supplies that I keep to maintain Tree’s health, and the four of us piled into the car for the two-hour drive. When we arrived Fenton and I saw that while bark beetles were indeed attacking the tree, it wasn’t an entire colony. It was an expeditionary force, which was bad enough. After all, beetles mainly attack trees that are already in a weakened state, so we also have to address the underlying cause of that. Fenton and I don’t have much time. We need to eliminate the existing bugs and restore the tree to health before the main colony arrives.
The assassins had brought two catapults for the job of eliminating Ms. Chien. While made of traditional wood materials like the ones from Medieval times, these had high-tech targeting mechanisms keyed to her cell phone signal. They sent a volley of six rocks (three on each catapult) just moments after Wendell got everyone into the rabbit warren entrance. The four could’ve hidden down there until morning, but leave it to Rudy to decide to end the threat once and for all. After Fiona revealed that she could convincingly disguise herself as Ms. Chien the plan was hatched, beginning with the realization on Ms. Chien’s part that her phone was the bait. Rudy and Fiona acted as decoys while Wendell got permission to use the rabbit warren to lead Ms. Chien back to the Dewclaw house. Permission was granted; almost suspiciously quickly, too. He then hid the rest of the eggs before dawn. You’ve heard the rest from the news reports. The assassins were captured by the rabbits after falling into their tunnels, and were turned over to the local police. (Much worse has happened to intruders down there.) They confessed everything, and finally French authorities had the evidence they’d long sought to move against Ms. Chien’s former employers. They’re effectively out of business. However, they’re still at large. We’ll have to see how much stock they place in acts of revenge.
Leaving the office Friday evening, Kell and Caniche had thought that Caniche’s former employers had given up trying to silence her. Twelve paces away from the car, that assumption was proven wrong in the form a boulder painted like an Easter egg. It missed by inches. Caniche immediately abandoned her strategy of keeping quiet and hoping they’d forget about her, resolving to go to the international authorities first thing on Monday. But first she’d have to survive the weekend. Easter weekend. Me, I would’ve kept her in the house never more than six feet away from Coney. But no; Caniche felt that being outdoors, away from buildings, where none of the trees could support a boulder was protection enough. Fiona did the requisite Easter bunny makeup, complete with pheromones which may or may not throw the assassins off the track. It was an effective disguise, though, and at sunset Rudy, Fiona, Caniche and apprentice Wendell headed out for the ten-hour race to hide eggs around the county. Being nocturnal I’ve been staying up waiting for developments. It seems to be going well so far… Wait. I’m getting slight but noticeable seismograph readings from the area right around where Rudy is now. It’s as if the ground is being shaken by…boulders.
Those of you who follow Ms. Aura’s Twitter feed from the human world know that she’s got a problem with a marmot. As a result she asked me to do some detective work, and what I uncovered demonstrated that he’d been on a very interesting journey, similar to one Fenton and I once took. Basically, we got a crash course in the existence of dimensional portals that cross both time and planes of existence. Our tale was recounted in the book "Oh the Humanity," in which we were transformed into humans after a number of stops on the way. The marmot encountered a similar predicament. In his case he went through a portal by accident, and instead returning straight home as he’d been directed, simple greed led him to make a more circuitous route that nearly proved his undoing.
As Rachel and Joan’s wedding preparations proceed, I’m thinking more and more deeply about my role. They’ve given me the lines I’ll be saying, which are actually quite beautiful, but I’d like to be more than a mouthpiece. They’ve entrusted me to officiate the ceremony so I feel responsible that it all goes well. Rudy, as always, says I’m over-thinking this. For once, Fenton agrees with him. Still, I’m feeling a need to be helpful, which is the same impulse that feeds my scientific research. I’ve never felt a separation between my analytical inquiries and my basic desire to connect with others on an emotional level. They’re all one and the same. (Although, from what I see at the lab, I know that’s not a universal sentiment.) I guess that being railroaded into getting ordained has given me permission to indulge that side of me that heretofore only had a limited outlet. It was in this mood that Tree began telling me that I’ve been her spiritual advisor all along. I suppose so, once she explained the influence I’ve had on her. I get that. But then, she said that other trees, ones that can’t speak like she can, could still benefit from knowing me. I asked how this was possible, and Tree said she could translate for me. So how I’m thinking, trees talk to each other??? I knew she had a connection to the maple across the street through their root systems, but maybe it’s more like a network. And I’d be the router.
Kell has done well in disguising it, but she has gained weight since becoming exclusively desk bound. That often happens to professional athletes after retirement, and essentially, that’s what the top predators are.
Most of the weight gain is in her thighs, and her skirts hide most of it. In Frank Mangle’s case it was fairly obvious, and two of them decided it would be mutually beneficial to turn it into a contest. Ever since the days at Herd Thinners when R.L. was playing them off against each other, they’ve responded well to being rivals. The mixture of respect and recognition as equals spurred both to higher levels than they’d imagined.
Even better, Kell has Dad involved. He’s the one who needs exercise the most, as I sometimes worry that he’ll become as heavy as Uncle Ralph. Dad works at his screen all day which is productive, but can’t be good in the long run as far as his body is concerned.
So far Kell hasn’t asked Gran for training assistance. I think she recalls all too vividly Gran’s physical therapy as she recovered from the broken leg a while back.
As much as becoming ordained has led me into a personal reevaluation of my spiritual side, one good thing about officiating my friends’ wedding is that I’m excluded from the bridesmaid duties. Seriously. I may grouse about them writing the service that I’ll be speaking, but that vastly preferable what the actual bridesmaids are going through. After spending an entire Saturday at a dress shop, Fiona texted me with the comment, “I’m so glad they’re marrying each other!” meaning, they’re getting their Bridezilla fix over the course of one wedding instead of making all of us go through two. :) I asked how bad I had been, and Fiona sent me a text full of hearts. So, they’re making me look good. Keep in mind they’re not behaving terribly. They’re just perfectionists. That’s partly what makes them such loyal friends; the attention to every little detail. They can be so…focused. The surprising thing, I guess, is that those types usually marry total slobs. They’ve shown, though, that they can coexist in the same apartment, so they’ve worked it out somehow. Probably due to their attention to detail.
Have you given any thought to upgrading your wardrobe? As a young woman in what's still a man's world, a more sophisticated look might help them see you as an adult. (Plus, a slimmer silhouette would be more aerodynamic.)
Fenton *did* mention that it was easier to carry me when I wore that Ren Faire costume…
So i was wondering are you trying to avoid having children at the moment to observe Francis more in case your children would go through the same process?
While I am watching Francis’s development with personal interest, the reason that Fenton and I haven’t become parents yet is because we’re still in our early twenties and have plans we want to accomplish before making that step. In my case, it’s getting my Masters and Ph.D. :)
By now you’ve probably heard how Domain was paralyzed by an event that was extraordinary for this region: an enormous mass of shedded fur that blanketed the area. We became the butt of many jokes in other parts of the country that are more used to it, not recognizing that we don’t have the machinery or resources that come from dealing with it day to day. That said, in one respect we did bring this upon ourselves in terms of the official response (or lack of same). Unlike most major metropolitan areas this one finds itself divided so minutely that any united approach to a crisis is impossible. (Also, some of the official bodies are controlled by an ideology that doesn’t *want* government to work at all, but that’s another story). The result was that there was no coordination whatsoever when the city shut down all at once leaving every square inch of asphalt gridlocked. While Kell shut down her company before any of her employees had gotten on the road, Coney and her friends had always left on a school bus which became trapped for hours. Dad and Kell finally took matters into their own hands. Dad led her down into the rabbit warren, and located the exit shaft nearest to where the bus was snarled. Kell’s hereditary lung capacity did the rest. The children and the bus driver were led through the tunnels back to our house where they stayed the rest of the afternoon until the roads were cleared. The parents all came over to pick up their kids, and the driver was taken back to the bus.
Just wondering if you were planning to plant flowers this year. If so, what sort of flowers are you going to plant? I suggest you go with clover. That would benefit Tree as well as the bees. (On top of that, you could give Kevin a clover bouquet for Father's Day!)
Yes, we are! :) Clover is on the list, along with daffodils and tulips. We hope that Tree gets over her “personality conflict” with flowers and doesn’t block the sunlight.
Fenton and I just returned home to Beige after spending the weekend in Domain. We left on Friday evening and made the two-hour trip to stay at the Fuscus house in Fenton’s old bedroom. Dip now has his own room, and he and Fenton’s parents have become a close-knit family unit. (Of course they always have been; just unawares.) We came to attend the Renaissance Faire for Extinct Species, an event intended to bring awareness to species loss and their possible reintroduction through genetics. One of the sponsors was the genetics lab back at Beige U. where I work, so for me it was personal. I created a Passenger Pigeon costume which required six weeks of construction. Fenton spent considerably less time on his, making a paper mache mastodon head the night before. We spent all day Saturday at the Faire, answering questions while in character. The turnout was impressive. I didn’t win Best Costume, but I did win a Special Commendation for Worst Pun.
I logged on to that site and went through the process. As promised, it took less than five minutes. Rachel and Joan were pleased to no end, and they immediately relaxed into their old comfortable selves. The contentiousness between them dissipated as soon as the issue was resolved. Yet…they didn’t demonstrate much in the way of conflict resolution; they just found their way around the obstacle without any give and take. But they’ll have the rest of their lives to work on that. Anyway, I’m now allowed to officiate at weddings. As I mentioned last week I just feel there needs to be more to this process; it seems so superficial. Rudy wrote online that I’m over-thinking this and maybe that’s true, but right now I don’t feel qualified no matter what this site says. Coney heard about all this, and when we drove up for the weekend she asked me to marry two of her dolls. (A frog and a robot.) I accessed the Book of Common Prayer and was reading it aloud for about five minutes when I looked up and realized that Coney had gotten bored and wandered off.
Now I know why Rachel came over last week; she and her longtime girlfriend Joan Hoof announced that they were getting married in June. Ordinarily that would be wonderful news, except that it came with an awful conflict for me. For the ceremony they chose bridesmaids to flank them on each side of the altar, and I was on both lists. Both Rachel and Joan are strong-willed individuals who don’t back down from a position, and that quality serves them well in most instances. In this case, though, it threatened their ability to make compromises necessary in a successful marriage. In short, what we have here are two Bridezillas. Each of them offered enticements for me to stand next to them, and I refused to play along. It was an uncomfortable 24 hours, but the next day they showed up at our tree together after having arrived at a solution: having me conduct the ceremony. At least then I’d be right in the center. They pointed out how quick and easy it is to become ordained to perform weddings by going online. (“Just as fast as microwaving popcorn!” one site says.) However, I’m naturally suspicious of anything quick and easy; this in particular as it concerns the deepest matters of the heart. They still haven’t convinced me.
Okay, Elsa, you can let it go now. We’ve had enough with the snow and ice. Rare events that occurred this week: (1) Another bout of freezing precipitation, although this fortunately began Tuesday night when everyone was home in bed. (2) The Winter Olympics (once every four years) (3) An actual earthquake Friday evening, which hardly ever occurs in this part of the country, and (4) Rudy doing the right thing with his bacon bouquet. And yes, Fiona had indeed gotten rid of the poodle cut by then. Meanwhile, I got a surprise visit from my former roommate, Rachel Einhorn. She came over and basically just hung out for a few hours. I wonder what that was all about.
Rudy couldn’t figure what was up with Fiona when she told him she needed to spend Saturday alone. In and of itself that wasn’t so unusual as she often spends an entire weekend on homework. This, however, wasn’t one of those times. No, she spent the whole day having her fur curled in the form of a poodle in the mistaken notion that she somehow had to “compete” with Caniche for Rudy’s affections. As I said last week Fiona is level-headed most times, but when one is a teenager the possibility of over-reaction is a constant byproduct of hormones. She avoided Rudy all day Sunday, and got to school ahead of him Monday morning. He saw her minutes before the bell rang, but that gave him just enough time to say the right things to reassure Fiona that she had nothing to worry about from our French visitor. (Like most romance comedy contrivances, it falls apart in seconds when the two parties are finally honest with each other.) Now Fiona has a…unique…furstyle. Fortunately it’ll be able to be restored to its normal state by Valentines Day.
Caniche Chien has been living in my old room in Domain for a couple weeks now. She and Kell commute to Dewclaws Fine Meats every morning and return home at 6:00. This is tremendously valuable to Kell, as it prevents her from being tempted to stay late at the office. (Before this arrangement she’d frequently stay until around nine.) As soon as they get home Caniche begins cooking for the family, and dinner is served around 7:30. As it turns out, Kell has found that she’s more productive on this schedule than when she put in twelve hour workdays. So far there hasn’t been another attempt on Caniche’s life, but everyone is still vigilant. Meanwhile, Fiona of all people is freaking out. (I got this from Corrie.) Fiona is usually thoughtful and level-headed, but she’s still a teenager and (like me) a child of divorce. It’s only natural that she still has trust issues, which surfaced when she came over to eat as she so often does. When she felt that Rudy was being overly attentive to Caniche during dinner it triggered her insecurities. This was compounded by her super-hearing, which is frequently a tremendous asset. In this case she became aware of Rudy’s heightened stress levels, leading her to believe that Caniche had captured Rudy’s fancy. I don’t personally see it, but Rudy has been known to be mercurial in his behavior…in everything except his loyalty to Fiona. Corrie tried to convince her of that without success. Stay tuned. This isn’t over.