Mathias Trufflehunter woke up at six thirty and departed his little burrow at seven with a small satchel on his back. Rushing through last night's snow and sticking to the tree line, he secretly argued with himself the reason for his lateness.
You slept after two o'clock, again. Now she's going to suspect something went wrong. What's a viable excuse? Drunk? No, you never drink. Injured? More believable but there's no blood on you. Forgetful? Well, that's actually true.
As he trekked, the small satchel complained on how horrible its predicament was. For it was built for travelling on a horse, not on the back of a badger in the middle of winter in several feet of snow. It wondered, as all satchel's do perhaps, what was so important about its contents. For the satchel knew that this thing it carried was not suitable for anyone- not a King, a Prince, or even a malicious vagabond. The only type of person this thing was suitable, valuable, or worthy for would be a mangy good for nothing wolf, and considering that the satchel looked around and saw no such beast around, it simply settled for carrying this rather stupid thing to wherever his master was taking it. Personally, the satchel thought, it would be better just to leave the thing on the side of the road than to deliver it. Saves both time and grief.
Trufflehunter, who could hear nor read the satchel's thoughts, climbed over the snow, for he practically sunk to the bottom of it, and trekked from there on a height that would normally be three and a half feet above the ground. He passed by the houses that the birds had built so well, seeing that blue jays and robins had kindly offered to rent a space for ferrets who had nowhere to go and he wondered where the brook was that ran so beautifully and still at this time of year. For it froze over only rarely and even in thick snow the water could be heard as if spring were whispering it's longing to return. As he walked to his destination, which was his parents' house, Trufflehunter thought about all the possibilities for the inevitable conversation.
When he turned at a place which would usually be a bend in the brook and a boulder that had no business being there, Trufflehunter ascended a small slope and discovered that the stone pathway that lead to his parents' humble abode was disinterred from the heaping snow in a way that was much more enjoyable and interesting than a simple straight path. For the way to get to the door now consisted of a gentle slide of snow with the pathway remaining the same save for the flanks of snow that went over the badger's head.
Creeping up to it, not necessarily knowing what to expect, he said nothing and listened to a world glossed over in an artist's winter. The trees were sleeping, their voices silent as their boroughs stood weighed down and their dreams frozen in their heads like the bark on their bodies or the roots at their feet. The birds sang no songs, for the time for singing is reserved for spring. All of nature reverted back to déjà vu, while all Mathias thought of was: it's simply winter.
The Badger made his way down to the door and surprised to have it opened after the first knock and was even more surprised to see a dear friend standing in the doorway.
Beaming at him as if he had been away for twenty- years, Reepicheep looked up and quickly stepped to one side to let the Badger through.
"I was beginning to wonder when you would come." The Mouse said smiling a bit, closing the door once Trufflehunter was in and out of the way. "Conveniently enough, I was just about to leave to fetch you."
Trufflehunter crossed the room to the table, which was a large, custom made cedar piece built for thirteen. Marley, his father, who sat at the head of the table with a dinner plate and glass in front of him, looked up at the only son he did not disown and the son he inherited with a smile. "So the prodigal sons return."
"How many times must I tell you," Reepicheep said as he resumed his place at the table next to Naomi, Trufflehunter's wife. "I am not your son, merely a family friend who has a room in your house."
"Oh come now," Naomi replied, coming back from her thoughts of which to eat first, the salmon or the spinach. "You're as much a brother to Mathias as you are to me."
"Yes, but brothers don't necessarily turn up missing for seven weeks, come back a day and leave again." Reepicheep stated, turning to the party of three confused as to why they were misunderstanding something incredibly simple. "It just isn't right to call me brother or son to you when I'm rarely ever here."
Mathias rolled his eyes as he prepared himself for supper, looking over the meal and admiring the care the chef, whomever it was, took to prepare it and make his plate orderly and presentable. "Does that make me not my father's son then?" Mathias asked. "I live no less than half a mile away and rarely ever come here either but you don't see him behaving as if he isn't loved anywhere. Come, let us bless the food and eat before it turns cold."
The meal was divine- the salmon was cooked a bit too long and the spinach perhaps a bit dry but it was all in all a grand supper that filled their stomachs. Mathias stoked a fire in the fireplace, and Reepicheep took care of the cleanup, while Marley and Naomi sat quietly in the two comfortable green chairs that overlooked the bookshelf engraved so beautifully into the wall.
Mathias crouched down on the rug that was probably only still there because it was original to the place. A shadow of its former self, the rug, much like the satchel which sat next to the fireplace, thought its current predicament rather strange. That a group of badgers now took ownership of it for instance, was perhaps the biggest reality check the rug has received in years. It saw the likes of dwarfs, satyrs, imps, sprites, and other creatures of grand power and authority- never once was it master to creatures considered vermin by some and harmless to most. The satchel meanwhile, wanted so much to fidget around and get that loathsome thing out, and then to heave itself straight into a warm soak, for to say that the satchel was a germaphobe would not necessarily be out of the question.
"Well," Reepicheep said upon re-entering the room and taking a seat back at the table. "All the dishes have been cleaned, dried, put away, and I've also taken the liberty of checking on the Hallam- not to worry, he's sound asleep."
Naomi turned towards the rodent and smiled both in shock and gratitude, for she knew her child well and understood that Hallam, like most infants, often liked to wake up at inconvenient times. Being a new mother, she often wondered what it was she was doing wrong in terms of getting him back to sleep- trying everything from lullabies to warm milk with little to no success.
"Why, thank you Reep," she said, "I am generally impressed, for no one, not even Mathias can get Hallam to bed, may I ask how you managed to do it?"
"Unfortunately there is no methodology to parenting," Reepicheep answered, "for if there were then we would all be the same and life would be horrendously dull. However, I've always find it helpful to sing a lullaby."
"I've tried that," Naomi replied, leaning in a bit extremely intrigued in the conversation as her husband stood from his pyro management and sat on an ottoman. "Nothing seems to work, isn't that right, Mathias?"
Mathias yawned and nodded, stretching his arms via reaching behind him as far as he could go. "Putting that boy to sleep is like wrestling a bear to the ground with your bear hands. It's futile. I doubt it will last. He usually begins to cry after an hour or so and it's right back to square one again."
Reepicheep looked the badgers over and noticed how exhausted and aged they were, despite the fact that he was younger than Mathias by a year. Both of them appear to be seventeen years older than their true age, it was as if birthing and siring a child has become the very thing that will kill them. That, or they're simply too pessimistic and see no end to sleepless nights of little nightmares and endless days of living them out. Should I tell them that it's just a phase in a series of phases or wait for them to find that out for themselves? To think, if they're stressed out about something that they themselves did not actually do, imagine how they'll feel when I tell them the news I've brought with me.
"Which lullaby do you choose?" Reepicheep asked.
"Sir Lionel." Mathias answered.
"Well no wonder the poor fellow can't get any sleep! You're singing him a song about killing a boar that will eat him alive!" Reepicheep said standing up from his chair and shaking his head at the pathetic choice of a song and even worse how calm his friend was about it. "Have you considered Castle Dromore in its original tongue?"
"Oh not that dreary thing!" Naomi cried with a disdainful eye roll, "My mother used to pride herself on her ability to sing that one and she did so every night for seven years. It worked."
"If it worked," he said, turning towards her, "then why despise it?"
Naomi laughed, "It's my mother we're talking about Reep."
"I've never had the pleasure," The Mouse replied as he walked back to his chair to pull it closer to everyone so that he wouldn't feel so alone or left out. "Perhaps when spring comes I shall get a chance."
"Oh I'm afraid you won't be able to Reepicheep," The female Badger said, "the poor thing is thankfully dead."
Well that's rather morbid. Reepicheep thought, Still, best get on with it. The Mouse shifted himself in his chair and turned towards Marley who was asleep in his chair with his mouth hanging open, snoring louder than a cave bear. Reepicheep laughed a little and stood up to stretch.
"Well," he said with a slight yawn, "I believe I shall go to bed myself. I have a long day ahead of me tomorrow."
"What happens tomorrow?" Mathias asked.
Reepicheep said nothing and yawned again, "Personal business, Truff, that and I need to tell you all something that may be a bit of a shock."
"Can't you tell us now?" Naomi said, "I'm not good with suspense."
"Afraid it requires Mister Marley's attention," Reepicheep answered. "Now," he said turning to them both, "sleep well, I shall see you in the morning."
"Wait just a moment," Trufflehunter said, "you said you sung that lullaby in its original language?"
Reepicheep nodded, "Yes, I did."
"Are you telling me that you are versed in Narnian?" Mathias asked, impressed and scared at the thought that his friend spoke a language that was as dead as the autumn leaves that populated the ground.
"I know Milandish too, but those are stories for the morning." Reepicheep said as he waved a goodnight and crossed the room, quietly entered the hallway, and entered the guest bedroom.
It was small with not much in it, but it was enough for him. A bed on the far left, a bookshelf to the far left a nightstand placed awkwardly in the middle and a rug that covered the floor. There was no window. As he made his way into that particular bed for the third time in a row, he felt the need to say goodnight to his family who was not even in the room or in the world anymore.
Despite having three friends in the living room who treated him like family, Reepicheep felt utterly alone. To combat this, he hummed to himself the sweet song that he mentioned earlier and as he lay on his pillow, The Mouse thought of periwinkles and this made him smile, for he hadn't thought of periwinkles since his childhood and was a lifetime and an age ago.
The night drew on. Eventually the Badger Hallow grew silent as the bark on the trees and once again everything was still. Almost…
While the world became oblivious to the goings on of itself, soft padded footsteps approached the Hallow followed by a wet sniffing nose and a curious tail. The nose inhaled and realized three things: first, there were badgers and a mouse nearby, so there was dinner, second, there was the very thing the nose had been searching for all its life in a small brown satchel. The mouth that resided underneath the nose smiled and spoke.
"So, you were the one who took it? Didn't really expect that one."
Wait a moment, the brain thought, you know this badger. Yes, dear Mathias! Oh remember the games you played when you were pups? How joyous those times were and how wonderful it would be to see him again.
The paws stretched themselves out and the body submitted itself to the snow as the head, which that of which was a wolf, decided to get some rest just in front of the slow slide outside the door. He smiled and laughed to himself as he dreamt the look of his master's face upon the return of a simple satchel and its single content.
The sun peered through the trees, which stretched out their branches yearning for the warmth, comfort, and safety that was spring. A bird fluffed her wings and realizing the temperature simply yawned, resisting her impulse to sing her beautiful song. Her mate, who was busy waking up, turned over to his children and caressed them with his wing.
"Children," he said sweetly, as all robins do, "time to wake up. It's morning."
"Oh father," a chick replied, so eager to slip into the realm of his dreams again, "must we? It's cold out and I wish to sleep for another hour."
"Ah yes," said the father, "but if you sleep for an hour then you'll request another and another and by then it shall be time to sleep again. Now get up and we'll see about some breakfast…."
Hallam cried again. It was the third time in thirty minutes and Reepicheep was alone tending to him. Mathias had gone out to, very fittingly find breakfast, and Naomi had travelled with him. As for Marley he was too tired to move and simply resorted to preparing a fire and sweeping the floor with a makeshift broom.
Reepicheep, who had a rather large book of signature fairytales in his paws entitled, "Narnian Tales, Myths, and Legends" by Dyson Gracie, looked down at the festering cub who was sitting next to him, smiled at the thought that this Badger, even at ten months old was larger than he was and it was probably the reason for the tears. Nevertheless, the Mouse set the heavy book aside, literally dropping it on the floor, admittedly cringing a bit at the thud of the thing, and turned towards Hallam as if he were a physician preforming a routine check-up.
"Now, what seems to be the trouble?" Reepicheep asked, knowing full well that Hallam could not understand him fully to begin with. Hallam simply cried, yearning something he knew he could not have at the moment.
"I bet you miss your mother," Reepicheep continued.
"Of course he does!" Marley cried, who was near the table, sweeping underneath it. "He's a milk drinker just like his father was." He huffed, ashamed and disgusted at the idea of femininity in a masculine mammal. Marley moved himself and his broom towards the pile of dust and dirt in the center of the room, making careful not to muck it up with his tail which was double checking his route, moving side to side, removing evidence of footsteps.
"You know for a while there, I thought Mathias was homosexual." Marley said.
Reepicheep shook his head, laughing at the thought but was not necessarily surprised by it. "If I were to tell you that I have thought the same about him would you believe me?"
"Yes, actually." Marley replied with a small chuckle as he walked over to the nearest closet to fetch the makeshift dustpan.
"Have you ever considered it?" Marley asked, "Homosexuality, I mean?"
"No," Reepicheep replied, "I do not find it practical for the country. It seems rather…unorthodox, to say the least. However, just because things are unorthodox does not mean they are necessarily inherently impractical- if that answers your question."
"It does," Marley said, "I'm glad you have an opinion on matters, it gives us elders something to believe in and hope for."
"Well, I'm glad to assure you then." Reepicheep said, who smiled and thought for a moment, the prospect of homosexuality, with whom it was obvious, but he realized rather quickly that the relationship would fly south quicker than a bird's migration. The reason would be simple, they would literally kill each other. For Reepicheep knew that Mathias Trufflehunter was the most orderly person in the entire place and understood that order could only be taken so long. The Mouse was more of an ordered chaos individual, with his house being not so tidy and his papers being strewn about as if he were taking up various papier-mâché projects. In a matter of days, they would be screaming and raging at each other like two disagreeing harlots on the side of a river bank. One claiming their business was more successful and just than the other and so on.
Reepicheep turned towards Hallam, who was still crying but a little less now, and gently and quietly moved around, climbing to where the small Badger's head was, and stroked the back and top of his head, moving his paw in small massaging circles. After a few moments, Hallam relaxed his shoulders and hushed.
"My, my," Marely said rather softly so as to not wake the sleeping cub up as he swept the dust and dirt into the dustpan which he placed on the floor, "you seem to have talent for this. Mind teaching Mathias that trick?"
The Mouse nodded and jumped from the chair. "After twenty minutes," Reepicheep said as he crossed the room to the kitchen table, in the back of his head wondering when Mathias and Naomi would return from their morning escapades. "Would you be so kind as to put our little dreamer in bed?"
Marley walked over to the garbage can, dustpan in hand, placing the entire thing, dust, dirt, and pan, in the garbage. "You know," he said, thinking to himself that he could always use a dustpan anyway, "That you'd make an exceptional godfather."
"As much as I would love to sire him when the sires are gone, I'm afraid that humble opportunity cannot be bestowed to someone like me." Reepicheep replied, sitting down at the place he sat last night, entering his mind and imagining him actually taking one of the many offers he received to be godfather, which in total were thirty-six, all of them by close friends, and all of those close friends, including the godson or goddaughter in question, inexpiably died from unrelated causes. One instance involved a drowning, another a fever that plagued the house.
"Let us just say for your own safety," Reepicheep continued, "that I am extremely unlucky and I fear my curse shall follow you if I even remotely think about accepting it. So no, I shan't be the boy's godfather, but, I can be a just friend and mentor of whatever it is he wishes to be astute in."
Marley nodded and noticed that Reepicheep was beginning to slouch- his whiskers moved down to the floor, his eyes became fixated on the rug, which no longer had the satchel for companionship, and his tail, of which he prided so much of, wallowed in the dirt. The Elder Badger slowly moved toward the table and sat down next to him.
"What happened to them was not your fault Reepicheep," Marley said, "they died because death sometimes happens. Granted, inconveniently at times, but that's part of life. If life were convenient then we would die with nothing accomplished and nothing gained."
Reepicheep turned towards Hallam and for a moment, pictured him dead and enjoying the sight of it. He saw himself smothering the poor cub with a pillow on which he sat on as he carved the body like a Christmas turkey, all the while laughing, shouting that dreadful Sir Lionel song as if he were drunk on sadism and stupidity. The Mouse shook his head and closed his eyes, reliving himself from the daydream and looked at Hallam again, who was sound asleep, curled up in the chair as if the quarrels of the world did not necessarily matter.
"Even words of truth," Reepicheep said to Marley, who was still with him, "cannot assure me."
The Mouse stood up, turned to Marley, and sighed heavily, "I believe I have overstayed my welcome. I shall pack, I shall leave, and I do believe that I shall never return here. Give them my love and blessing."
He turned to bolt out but Marley grabbed his tail, and fully knowing that Reepicheep hated it, personally could not care less.
"Reepicheep Hartwin Daren," Marely said pulling the Mouse back via the tail. "If you're leaving, you must do two things for me."
Reepicheep, who simply went along with the humiliation, quickly cursed and quickly forgave Marley for his arrogance of tail sensitivity. "Are those things quick and easy or long and difficult?"
"Quick and easy." Marley replied as he let go of the Mouse's tail and turned him around to face him. "You must promise to come back here and you must promise to live here until you die."
"Those requests are-"
"Necessary and ordered." Marley quipped, cutting Reepicheep off before he could finish. "I know what happened dear boy, and I know that we are all you have left."
Reepicheep's heart swelled- there was not an act more gracious and welcoming than being allowed to stay in another's home, but it was another thing entirely to be ordered to live there. His head understood what that request meant- a permanent place to retreat to, a humble roof to sleep under, and the justification of several wonderful, happy notions that were far from foolish and naïve.
He wanted so much to embrace this kindhearted adopted uncle of his, but instead, Reepicheep settled for a smile and a respectful nod.
"They would be so proud of you Reepicheep." Marley said, smiling and embracing the Mouse anyway.
"Your father was a good man, and your brothers were great too," The Badger continued, "Do them right and seek out your own greatness."
Reepicheep did not resist the impulse to embrace back, nor did he resist the urge to weep. "Why does grief pain the heart so?" He said beneath his tears, "Why can't it simply kill the heart instead?"
"Grief is an agent of love, Reepicheep." Marley replied, letting the Mouse go and walking over to Hallam and gently picking him up. "You of all people should know that."
The Elder Badger carried his grandson into his room and tucked him back in bed.
We must stand
For we all fall
But rarely do we ever stand.
Sure we get back up
But we don't stand.
We don't believe
To our fullest effort
That whatever it is
We are fighting for
Is also something to die for.
We don't strive
To seek what we came for.
We don't hold on to dreams anymore.
We don't inspire.
We don't create.
We don't even speak
With the same conviction like we used to.
We used to be brave,
We used to stand for something.
Standing does not mean getting up
For anyone can do that.
Standing is belief.
The belief that you can carry on.
The belief that you can do impossibilities
The belief that you can make it.
To the other side.
Join the choirs,
Sing the symphonies,
Praise with all you have
That this moment right now,
Is something you fought for.
Not me, I didn't fight for this
Not them, they didn't fight for this
The only person who fought for anything
In this moment
This sacred moment of profound assurance
Of profound belief.
All because you stood up.
The reason people push you down
The reason people hate on you
Destroy your life
Take your possessions
Kill your dreams
Is because you don't believe
That you can stand up.
I'm not talking about fighting,
I'm not talking about violence,
I'm not talking about vendettas,
I'm talking about belief.
If you believe that you can stand,
That you can push through anything,
That you can love those who despise you,
That you can pick up shattered pieces of your life
Or someone else's
The belief that you can win the battle.
Then you have succeeded.
We have lost the sense of brotherhood
We have gained a sense of caution
Trust is gone
Truth is gone
Belief is gone.
There is somewhere in the world
A place where freedom doesn't exist.
A place where trust, truth, and belief
Are forbidden words
I tell you to stand.
Stand up for those who seek
Stand up for those who ask
Stand up for those who can't
Stand up for yourself.
Do it courageously.
Courage doesn't mean
Blazing fury like in storybooks.
It doesn't mean fighting off dragons
Or saving princesses.
For those are children's stories.
They aren't life stories.
The greatest form of Courage
Is facing life and helping others
The greatest test of Courage
How do you beat it?
How do you overcome every obstacle?
I honestly don't know
But I know a good place to start.
We must stand
For we all fall
But rarely do we ever stand.
Sure we get back up
But we don't stand.