Bender Brings Peace
The voice sounded vaguely familiar. He opened his eyes. Where was he? The red sky glinted across the pond. Was it morning or had the sun just gone down?
He turned his head. Benlow was standing on the edge of the pond, peering at him, standing next to an older badger.
“Malcolm, this is my Dad.”
“He wants to help.”
“His name is Bender.”
“Hello. I’d like to help.”
“Thank you. I don’t… know what you could do.”
“Often, it is enough to join together in common bond.”
Malcolm took to a breath to understand the old badger had said. He liked the sound of it.
“Not that I would be doing this for myself, although I would benefit as well. When animals come together to achieve a common good, their efforts can often inspire each other.”
Malcolm wondered how one old badger, and one too fond of the ja-ja, could ‘come together’ with them to save them from a herd of demented boars. Perhaps they knew a herd of badgers who, emerging angrily from their setts at night, might taunt the boars. Unlikely. Badgers tended to be secretive and solitary. “What did you have in mind, Bender?”
“A peace vigil.”
“A peace vigil. We hold them quite often.”
“And what’s a ‘peace vigil’?”
“Well, it’s when animals, like you and I, stand together in one place to let other animals know that we desire all animals to live in peace.”
Malcolm wondered if he was still be asleep. “And how exactly, Bender, would that help us?”
“It’s a question of awareness. How does anyone know there’s a problem until it’s pointed out. A peace vigil is a signal to other animals that peace is in danger.”
“Any group of animals gathered together creates curiosity. Curiosity leads to awareness.”
“Don’t think me ungrateful, Bender. I’ve never been to a peace vigil so I don’t know how they work, but do you think that will stop all the animals who want harm us?”
Bender thought a moment. “Probably not, but you do have to start somewhere, don’t you?”
Malcolm was unconvinced, but liked the old Badger. Maybe it was worth trying.
In the dark, Manley tried to remain still. He didn’t mind being above ground, but lying on his back like this, he felt vulnerable. His fear, he knew, was irrational—Miranda or Malcolm would protect him—but it didn’t ease his anxiety. He couldn’t see Bender, or anyone else for that matter, but he could hear him on the other side of Malcolm chanting away What he was saying was unintelligible, but the sound of his voice was reassuring.
“Bring us peace, come what may, bring us joy every day, bring us health and let us run, bring us all a little fun,” chanted Bender.
What did he mean, and why were they holding the ‘peace vigil’ at night? No one could see them; and who would hear it except possibly an owl?
“Let us all habitat together, even as we eat one another…”
“I can’t agree to that.” Manley heard Miranda say rigidly.
“What?” said Bender.
“What you just said.”
“Why not?” Bender sounded puzzled.
“It makes no sense. Why must animals eat each other?”
“Why? You might as well ask why is the female different from the male.”
Oh-oh, thought Manley.
“Is the female different from the male?”
“Isn’t it obvious?”
“I know the female bears the young, but aside from that I can see no difference.”
“That’s because you’re a female.”
“And you’re a male.”
Lying there in the dark, Manley marvelled at Miranda’s resoluteness.
“I believe,” replied Bender, gently, “in all animals being free, including the female, but you must admit that the differences between the female and male in most species are marked.”
“Only because the male insists on it. The female is rarely, if ever, allowed to voice her opinions.”
Bender was silent. “You might be right,” he said, finally. “I shall have to think on that.”
“How much longer,” asked Malcolm, “do we need to continue, do you think?”
“All night if possible,” said Bender.
“Could we take turns, some awake, some sleeping?”
“It’s not usually done, but I don’t see why not.”
“Good, I’ll just close my eyes for a short time. Wake me when you need me.”
Theobald woke with the first rays of sun slanting through the water. The pond continued to delight him, and he tried to imagine staying here. It had an abundance of trout; the water was clean; and floating fearlessly, his slumber was restful. What else could he want?
Breaking the surface, he was surprised to see Malcolm, Miranda and Manley on the edge of the pond with what appeared to be two badgers. The boar—what was his name?—was lying in the grass; Theobald heard him snoring. He could also hear chanting—was it Malcolm? Pulling himself up onto the shore, he though Malcolm was saying, “Let all moose walk through the forest in peace. Let all Martens walk through through forest in peace… Let all Moles walk through the forest in peace.. Let all Turtles walk through the forest…”
As Theobald drew closer he noted that the badgers were asleep. He also saw something else. Eyes. In the bushes. Watching.
He swam in, as close as he dared. “Malcolm?”
Malcolm stopped chanting and looked at him.
“What are you doing?”
“We’re having a peace vigil.”
“The badgers suggested it. They thought it might help.”
“Can’t tell yet.”
Theobald lowered his voice. “Someone is watching us.”
Malcolm didn’t turn, didn’t move. “Where?” he said, quietly.
“In the bushes behind you.”
“One, possibly more.”
“Don’t say anything.” Malcolm turned slowly and said loudly, “I think our peace vigil is over. Bender? Benlow…?”
The two badgers stirred. The old one looked up at Malcolm. “What?”
“It’s getting to be day.”
Bender blinked and looked around, vaguely. “Hmmm.”
“How do think it went?”
“The peace vigil.”
“What did you think?”
Malcolm blinked, and his left eye twitched as he said loudly. “Quite well. I feel very peaceful.”
Bender yawned. “Well, that’s all that’s important, isn’t it? If you feel it was, then it was. Now, if you’ll excuse us, we’ll be off to bed.”
“Miranda.” said Malcolm. “Time to move on.”
Miranda opened her eyes, rolled to her feet, looked about and nuzzled Bewley awake. “Bewley, we’re moving. Bewley?”
The old boar opened his eyes and stared vaguely at Miranda.
“Do you know what’s further along the shore?” she asked.
“Wolves, I believe.”
Theobald, without glancing at Malcolm, whispered, “what now?”
Cautiously, Miranda led the way through the rocks along the pond’s edge, which took some time. Malcolm had told her and Manley that they were being watched. She kept close to the shore, in case they needed to make an immediate escape.
“Since it’s mid-light,” she said, stopping, “we should rest.”
The others nodded. Malcolm waded into the pond and Theobald floated off. While Manley looked for earth to burrow into, Bewley lay down under a tree, and Miranda laid herself next to a rock. She closed her eyes. The pine smell rejunvenated her, wafting on a breeze that floated out over the pond. Then she caught the scene. Wolf. She rose casually and sauntered down to the water to drink.
“Malcolm,” she said quietly. She could see his head slowly turn to her.
At once, he climbed up on the shore and stood over her. “Where?”
“I caught a whiff of it just now. Careful, we’re probably being watched.”
“I don’t smell anything.”
Malcolm sniffed. “I can’t smell anything.”
She lifted her nose but couldn’t smell it. Had she imagined it? Unlikely. A wolf smell is not imagined. “Not now, but I did.”
“Go to sleep.”
“What about you?”
“I’ll sleep later.”
She curled up by a rock nearby, Malcolm standing beside her.
Malcolm dozed. The midovernoon sun was hot, the insects buzzing at him, biting at his ear and nostrils. He wanted to slip into the pond, cool off and eat, but he knew he couldn’t leave Miranda exposed. Bewley was near her but asleep, and in any case Malcolm didn’t feel confident in the boar’s ability to repel predators.
He glanced about, looking for any sign of movement in the bushes, his nostrils alert to any scent of wolf. Perhaps he could take a quick dip. The pond was only a few paces off and he could be out of the water immediately so any animal could be easily repelled.
Hesitatantly, as he looked towards the trees for any sign of movement, he stepped towards the pond, put one leg into the water, then another and another until all four were submerged and he was up to his belly among the reeds. Taking a quick glance at Miranda, he dove his head down into the water. Seeing succulent pondweed shoots on the bottom, waving in the slow current, he wrapped his rubbery lips over them and plucked them out. Chewing, he raised his head above the surface, glancing to where Miranda lay sleeping. All was still and peaceful. He chewed thoughtfully, then thrust his head under again. Coming up, as the water cascaded from his rack, he glanced over and saw a wolf sitting beside Miranda, watching him. He stopped eating. Why did the wolf seem unthreatening? Malcolm forced himself not to rush—to make each move deliberate so as not to alarm the wolf. Slowly, he brought each leg out of the water, pulling himself up onto the shore. He stood motionless, staring at the wolf; the wolf observing him curiously.
“Hello,” Malcolm said finally.
“What happened to your ear?” asked the Wolf.
“A mink bit it off.”
The Wolf looked at him and then started to laugh, “A mink!? Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha… hcufffh, hhhccouff…” then started to choke.
“Are you alright?”
The Wolf waved him off, “yes, yes… just something in my throat.”
“What do you want?” asked Malcolm, trying to sound authoritative.
“What do you mean?”
“Why are you here?”
The Wolf smiled. “I might ask you the same question.”
“I will. Why are you here?”
Malcolm wasn’t sure whether or not to be irritated. It might not be prudent.
“We like it here. Especially the water.”
“Yes,” said the Wolf, looking out at the vast body of water. “It is one of the joys of being here. Do you know where you are?”
“No …” Malcolm thought the Wolf’s nonchalance curious.
“Should we,” asked Malcolm, “be expecting a friendly welcome?”
The Wolf looked surprised. “Why wouldn’t it be friendly? What, did you think we were going to eat you?”
“It did cross my mind.”
The Wolf smiled. “Well, I suppose if we got hungry enough we might, but here we have plenty to eat and so we like to concentrate on other of life’s aspects.”
Miranda’s voice surprised them both. “We were given to understand that all this is under the protection of the Federation.”
The Wolf looked at Miranda. “The what?” he asked finally.
“We have been, and are, under the protection of Brother Bewley, Boar of the Bold, Watcher and Protector of the Boundaries of the Federation of All the Animals of Grattie Brina.”
The Wolf glanced under the tree where Bewley slept. “This wouldn’t be Brother Bewley, would it?”
“Yes,” said Miranda.
The Wolf began to wheeze and gasp until Malcolm was afraid he would choke himself. “Say that again,” he said, giggling and gasping.
Malcolm looked at Miranda. Was she embarassed?
“Oh please say it again.” The Wolf waved a paw at her. “It’s alright. Don’t take offence. Are there any more boars about?”
“There might be,” said Miranda.
“Perhaps even a hunting party?” he said, chuckling.
“What is it you want?” Miranda asked him coldly.
“I don’t want anything. I have come to see if you are friendly and if you are, to welcome you.”
“Why wouldn’t we be friendly?”
“Good. Welcome then to Lupis park.”
“What’s your name?”