Monday, October 13, 2008

A Writing Exercise

Blogger's Note: Just trying to keep some other writing juices flowing with this. Thanks for shopping with us.

Before you presume, know:

Though they are raccoons – black masks, ringed tails, nimble fingers and all – they do not have foresty names like Ring-Tail or Crawdad. Neither do their names rhyme. Nor would they come up with their own names, taken from nature or from their own feats of bravery or skill. Raccoons, see, don’t need names. Warm fur, food, a place to sleep. And kits of their own.

Their mother left them nameless, calling them, collectively with their two brothers and sole sister, “my little kits” because, as their mother knew quite well as soon as they were old enough they’d leave the hollow in the tree where they were born and go off into the big world to find fish, walnuts, berries and spouses of their own, giving perhaps only fleeting thought to the kindly mother and mostly absent father left behind.

The other animals around Purdy Farm, however, called them This and That. They got the name from Farmer Purdy who, returning from the henhouse where the pair snatched eggs, from the dairy where the pair gobbled cheese, from the granary where the pair purloined corn, responded, “Oh, this and that,” to Ma Purdy’s question on the source of the frenzied cackling, the missing cheese, the diminished corn.

Neither one minded the names. Neither one knew who was This nor who was That. Frankly, only a few of the other animals around Purdy Farm bothered to keep them straight, either. “No honor among thieves,” the old badger muttered often when This or That were about. “No sense namin’ them, either.” That the raccoons knew the badger’s name was Aloysus infuriated the badger even more.

Chylus the crow calls them Procyon and Iotor, for reasons he kept to himself.

Before you wonder, know further:

“We’re brothers and stick together for the case of the narrative,” This or That said (I don’t know who is who, either, and the two aren’t telling). “If it weren’t for this story, I wouldn’t be within five miles of him.”

“Nor I,” That or This replied. (I’m sorry; it’s all very confusing. And they just lose or chew up the little name tags.)

They would not spy for the animals as they tried to discover the mood and musings of Farmer Purdy. “We won’t wear vests nor ties nor say things like ‘My fur and whiskers,’ either,” said This. Or That. “So don’t even ask.” But, they agreed, if they happened to learn anything in an off-hand way while they were plundering the Purdy Farm, that they would pass it on to the animals more concerned with the welfare of Farmer Purdy, if only because his welfare directly impacted their own. Secretly, they planned to steal Farmer Purdy’s shotgun and hang it in a tree in a part of the woodlot they knew the farmer visited only rarely, hoping that once they stole it and hung it in the tree the rains would come, so that when the farmer found it, it would be rusted solid and useless for peppering their rear ends with buckshot.

“We’d shoot him,” That said. Or This. “But then who’d plant the corn?”

Know also: Raccoons are not as cute and cuddly as you'd think:

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