Friday, January 25, 2013

Chapter Twelve: Where the Farmer's Almanack is Discussed

It can’t be hard to do. 

Well, have you ever done it? 

Never needed to, as you know.

Yeah. Usually we’re stealing from the farmers. Don’t have to plant your own when you can eat what someone else has planted. 

Chaos – that’s what we’d see if animals started tending their own gardens. The humans wouldn’t stand for it. Say it’s not natural. 

But they don’t want us thievin’ either. And there’s nothing more natural than that. We don’t even know we’re stealing – we’re just looking for food and happen to find it where they’ve planted it. 

Truth to that.
Warm today.

Yes indeed. Almost too warm. 

Don’t start complaining. You were whining up a storm when we had that cold snap last January. Said you couldn’t wait for it to heat up. 

Truth to that as well. I’ll button my beak. 

Anting this afternoon? I know where there’s a good hill. 

If we go anting, it’s when I pick the hill. Your last “good hill” was red ants. Bit me from beak to butthole. 

If you planted a garden, what would you grow? 

Sweet corn. And tomatoes. 

In the near distance, a whisper that grows louder: “Ah, lord, and you’d do it all wearing bright green gardening gloves! With your twee little shovel thrust into the dirt at your feet. And you’d have on a straw hat and probably drink lemonade or strawberry water when you took a break and mopped that slanted brow of yours with your red checked handkerchief! Lawks! Look at me! I’m the crow growin’ my own sweet corn! I’ll BOTTLE some for WINTER! It’ll be PRECIOUS!” 

--CIOUS! Echoes off the canyon wall. 

Chylus and Magda perched on the wire fence, beaks agape. 

I swear that badger’s got listening-holes in every part of this wood, Magda. 

“Too right!” Aloysius shouted. “Someone’s got to keep an ear on things. Someone’s got to keep the animals acting like animals!” 

Does that someone know he’s falling into the stereotype of the anthropomorphic conniving badger?


Hah. I swear I can her him stomping away underground. You shouldn’t teas him so. 

He brings it on himself, going on like that. He knows more about what humans think of animals than the humans do. As much as he fights against the stereotypes, I’m sure somewhere in that darkness he calls home he does have a book-lined library with oak shelves and a rag rug on the floor.

Where does he get the rags then? 

Well, Ma Purdy was always short of unmentionables. 

Chylus and Magda looked at each other, beaks still agape. They cackled. 

Where he got this, I wonder? 

Chylus scratched at a book with his claw. 

No reason to wonder. Purdy’s got two or three of them in the privy. 

Ew. Do you think Aloysius dug right into the – into the pit to get this book? 

Here’s to hoping not. But no. I’ve seen him go through the door, bold as brass. Once chased Yank right out of there, with his britches down around his ankles. 

What is it then? 

Almanack. Says so right on the cover. And it’s a good one, too, or so I assume. Only the best books come with extra consonants. 

Still, what is it, then? 

Instruction book. Tells the humans what to plant and when to plant it and what to plant it next to and when to harvest it when it’s ready. Should come in handy with our upcoming endeavors. 

Endeavours, you mean. 

Yeah. Right. Should have class dripping off our pinfeathers. 

Is Aloysius going to read it for us? I’ve never got past H in the alphabet.

No, it’s me who’s going to read it. I got all the way to W. And Jarrod says the rest, well, they don’t get used much – that’s why they’re at the back of the alphabet, see. So I’ll do just fine. And he says that way we won’t plant any zucchini. Help me open it. 

Chylus and Magda pulled the tattered book open. About half of its pages were missing – it had been the one on the top of the pile in the privy. Magda weighted down one side of the book with a stone as Chylus stood on the other, frowning down at the pages in concentration. 

That’s a lot of words, Chylus. 

Chylus frowned down at the pages. 

Carrots! he shouted. Mix the seed with sand for easier planting – use sand with a color that contrasts to your local soil, and you’ll never doubt where you’ve already sown seed. I see the sense in that. We can get sand down from the creek. It’s black. The soil here is a bit tannish. Should work just fine. 

Magda looked around. 

Where will we get the carrot seed? 

This and That are working on getting the seed. 

Oh, good. 

Chylus studied the book some more. 

I’d like a hot dog. One with mustard on it. The dark mustard, not the yellow. 

Do they talk about hot dogs in the book? 

No, but here’s how to plant mustard seed. Maybe we could get This or That to get us a mustard packet. We could plant that. 

And the pigs will provide the hot dogs, no doubt. 

I’m all hungry now. 

Always are, greedy one. 

Magda started to peck half-heartedly at a stink-beetle ambling by. 

Or a pretzel with cheese sauce. Dripping with cheese sauce. 

Can’t stand the salty bits, though. The bettle aimed its rear at Magda’s face and sprayed. 

Sleeping outside the nest tonight, you are, Chylus said. His eyes fell to the book. 

He read about corn and detasseling corn and keeping the earwigs out of your corn. He recalled the bitter taste of earwig – but you ate what you had to eat when the going was tough. Earwigs saw him through as a child when there was no sweet corn about, and in Chylus’ home nest, you didn’t ask for corn when momma brought you earwigs, or she’d bring you dirt the next time. 

Says here to keep the slugs off your tomatoes, you should put out shallow pans of beer. The slugs drink the beer and drown. 

I saw a squirrel drink some of the beer the Hastings put out in their garden last summer, Magda said. He like to fell out of the tree a dozen times. But he never drowned. 

Drowning works only for the slugs, I guess.

I could go for a dozen slugs right now. 

Yeah, but you also smell like a stink-beetle. You’ve never been a picky one. 

This from the bird who eats only male shrews. 

Oh, Chylus said. Now I’m really hungry.

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