Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Chapter Something Else: The Coming of the Voles

Chapter Something Else: The Coming of the Voles 

We may have a problem.

Really, Father Marmot said. We’ve got produce nearly ready to rot in the field. We’ve got two raccoons who can’t drive their way out of a wet paper sack. We’ve got rabbits finding all of our tunnels, and crows spying on our every move. And you think we may have a problem? 

Aye, Aloysius said. We may have a problem. 

Pray, tell, Father Marmot said, rubbing his eyes. 

The badger snorted dirt out of his nostrils. He’d had to dig his way in a bit, as the marmot tunnels weren’t quite large enough for him to squeeze through. 

It’s Jarrod, he said. He’s got a stink of Sunday about him.

Father Marmot stared at the badger in the semidarkness. Up from the tunnels and chamber below same the murmur of voices, the scrape of chain, an occasional violent shriek of machinery.

A stink. Of Sunday.

Aye, Aloysius said.

Of Sunday.

Yes, Aloysius said. Most abominably 

Father Marmot signed deeply. Pretend I’m tired, he said to the badger. Explain what you mean. 

Aloysius snorted again. Pah, he said. It’s like he’s got religion. The kind of religion you can smell, all of stale bread and sunshine. And the kind that makes you glow and want to, how to say it, how to say it, fly. Or dig a tunnel like you’re going through the best loam where the dirt moves easily but the sides harden when they hit the air. 

Father Marmot groaned a quiet groan. I don’t follow. 

What, what? You don’t follow? Aloysius barked in the semidarkness. He’s been redeemed! Saved from the fall! Shown the path to righteousness lined with burning candles and with a shaft of sunlight at the end!

I fear, Aloysius said, as Father Marmot stared at him in the dark, that the beavers have forgiven him. 

There was a rush of air from below, a sucking, then silence. The sounds of murmuring and machinery dimmed. 

Father Marmot laughed. Redeemed? Forgiven? What does that matter to us, he said. 

Oh, it matters a great deal, Aloysius said. For these few years, the weight of his sins kept Jarrod flying low, avoiding the rain. That kept him in the semidarkness – hah, where we are now. But the clouds appear to have parted and the sky is blue above the canopy of the trees, which until this point have barred his way to heaven. Soon, he will fly high again. 

Riddles, Father Marmot said. Why does everyone speak to me in riddles? 

Oh, you want plain talk, Aloysius said. You shall have it. 

Aloysius swallowed, licked his lips. 

They’ll listen to him now, he said. And obey. 

Mostly, they do that already, Father Marmot barked at the badger. What is the difference? 

They did it for pity, then, Aloysius said. Well, not all. Some few did it for other reasons. But soon the number that do it for respect, for love, will grow. Especially if the beavers spread their tale of forgiveness – which has already started to happen. The canyon yonder already stinks of forgiveness. And I smell the stink coming downstream. Swiftly. 

Think this way, he said to the marmot. A mere few weeks ago, were the crows watching you as tightly as they do now? 

Father Marmot’s breathing paused, for just a moment. 

No, he said, finally, expelling a long breath. No, they were not.

Why do you think they watch so hard now? Aloysius asked. Coincidence? Nay. Chylus and Magda have long stood by Jarrod’s side, when nearly everyone else – including the elder of the magpie – left Jarrod as a doya verdammerling, as my ancestors said. But they’ve sensed the change. They’ve smelt the stink of Sunday on him. They feel it spreading from the canyon down to the wood. And as one stink comes, freshening the nostrils, other stinks are noticed. 

They have smelt the air coming from the canyon, and the air coming from your little burr holes, Father Marmot, Aloysius hissed. And they have found your air wanting. So they watch you. And, he chuckled, they find much worth watching. 

And because they watch you, the others sense the change. Already the rabbits are talking – but more importantly, the stink helps the crows listen to the rabbits more closely. They begin to wonder why marmots need so many tunnels. So they ask more questions. The rabbits speak to the voles, whom they recruit to dig smaller tunnels between yours, though the chicken wire you have buried, to spy, to pry, to watch. And to report. Aye, we may be in trouble, Aloysius said. Jarrod’s Sunday stink is awakening the sleeping forest. His skies above are clear. Which means yours, Marmot, are clouding up.

Father Marmot was indeed worried.

His marmots had reported the discovery of some smaller tunnels, some penetrating the chicken wire surrounding the enclosure. As fast as they filled them in and plugged them up, more appeared. At first, it was only a few, say, half a dozen. But their numbers were growing.

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