By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
Editor’s note: Violence has broken out over the confusion and resentment stemming from the disappearance of Oleput’s venerable Wishbone monument. It promises to get worse unless something changes the course of events quickly.
By Errol Castens
The red letters were hidden to the warm-blooded Oleputians, but the cold-blooded creatures could read them clearly: “Fight the fathead finks in fur and feathers.”
The words got uglier – much uglier – before the place and times were named.
Within minutes, someone had reprogrammed the electronic sign at TownCrossing with a similarly vicious message, only using green letters on a gray background.
Thus were the lines drawn: Warm bloods vs. cold bloods. Green seers vs. red seers. Mammals and birds vs. reptiles and amphibians.
Neighbor vs. neighbor, friend vs. friend.
Christmas seemed so very far away.
Chloe and Oliver slipped away from the crowd and into a side door of City Hall. As hopeless as it seemed, they were going to carry out their Christmas decorating assignment. They started by putting wreaths on every office door in the building.
With the chaos surrounding them, it was an effort born more of determination than of enthusiasm.
“Let’s rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic,” Oliver joked.
“No matter what, Christmas is still coming,” Chloe replied. “Somebody has to care.”
Mayor Peacock and Councilman Alligator turned away from their own argument on the City Hall balcony when the tone of the shouting below changed from anger to fear.
In the dusky light they could see the crowd parting leftward and rightward. Through the gap strode a hideous creature with massive claws, a leathery hide and two long horns that kept his bowler hat in place. He stopped in front of the balcony.
“Hello. I’m Maurice,” he said in a soft tenor voice. “I hear that people have taken offense about the Wishbone.”
Mayor Peacock and Councilman Alligator nodded agreement, trying simultaneously to hide their revulsion that Maurice’s looks engendered.
“Do you have it?” Dr. Alligator asked.
“I know who’s responsible for its absence,” Maurice answered. Fixing his gaze on Chris Crow, he asked quietly, “Don’t you have something to tell them?”
Christopher’s beak hit the ground. His right foot scratched aimlessly at the grass. He wished he were anywhere else.
“I know you think I’m all about taking things to decorate my nest, but I don’t have it. I really was trying to help,” he pleaded to no one in particular. “The pond leak was eroding around the pedestal, and I didn’t want anything to happen to the Wishbone.”
He told about the light from the pond and covering his eyes and dropping the public treasure.
Gilligan Armadillo made his way back through the crowd to the front.
“I’m to blame, too,” he told the two officials and the now-silent crowd. “I was digging for grubs in the pond bank and made it leak.”
Bubba Beaver snorted, “Hard to believe a mammal would be that stupid.”
“Stupid is as stupid does,” Stanley Snake hissed. “Not hard to believe at all.”
Maurice’s voice took on just a hint of sharpness.
“No more such words,” he told Stanley. “The Wishbone was given to unify, not divide.”
Across City Hall’s south lawn, Celeste Otter made her way under the feet of warm-blooded animals crowding in toward the front steps. Only those close to the ground saw that she was dragging a triangular mass carefully wrapped in dead cattails.
Celeste popped out of the crowd at Maurice’s feet.
“Guess what I found downstream from the pond,” she said as she peeled off the vegetation.
Every animal close enough to see in the pale glow of the outdoor lighting gasped. It was the Wishbone.
Mayor Peacock howled in relief. Dr. Alligator growled and grinned. Rusty and Bubba started looking for bolts.
Oleputians didn’t have to wait for the word to spread. Suddenly, Ferdinand Frog realized he looked, even in the bluishness of the streetlights, like himself again. The Fox family could see their own redness again.
For Oliver, candy canes sparkled. Chloe could see cedar in its real hues.
Bubba and Rusty cranked up the bucket truck and lost no time in affixing other municipal decorations in their places along Main Street.
Maybe there would be peace on earth – or at least in Eel County – after all.
Chris Crow was more relieved than anyone to see the Wishbone again, but he was content to sail away while the others celebrated.
“Let’s get out of here,” he said to himself, then answered, “Yes, let’s.”
He flew high enough to be above all the towers – just enjoying his solitude in the nighttime sky, grateful to be guiltless again.
After a few minutes he said, “You know you still want to know,” and headed for Maurice’s place, as the crow flies.
Maurice was already home. After he made Chris and himself a pot of tea, the crow warmed up to his question.
“That night when I was flying with the Wishbone, there was a blinding light from Founders’ Pond,” Christopher said. “Rusty and Bubba said there’s no fixture in the pond. So what explains it?”
“It was love,” Maurice stated matter-of-factly. “In the midst of mistrust and chaos, love was being rejected all around, so it retreated into the Pond’s symbolic peace.
“Ultimately, though, love can’t stay contained,” the old creature said. “Sometimes its light breaks out at the most unexpected moments, giving hints of itself to an unsuspecting world.”
Friday, Chapter 10: The end