Groundhog Day

2 February 2012 in 20 Minute Stories

Elton gazed at his door from his bed.  He’d been dreading this day for months.  Every year those tall, loud creatures would gather around the front door, staring intently, waiting for him to come out.  He could never figure out the purpose of this tradition.  Sometimes he would forget that they were going to be there and their ecstatic cheers would scare the crap out of him, causing him to haul ass back inside and hide with his head under the covers for six more weeks.  Such a pain.  This year, he was ready for them though.  He had been listening to the thunderous stomping of their fat feet all morning.  They had no grace, no respect.  He was ready this year.

He looked around at the mess.  He was so glad the tall, loud creatures weren’t smart enough to come inside to find him, and that they seemed to spend the cold months forgetting about his existence.  Every January 16th was Groundhog’s Day of Vengeance.  A day when the Groundhogs would gather in groups and track down one of those smelly, sloppy creatures and kill it for their annual feast.

In recent years, the village of the tall, loud creatures just outside of Groundhog Village had been growing in size, making the annual feast more plentiful and the annual hunt much easier.  Elton smiled as he recalled tales his grandfather used to tell about having to go into the tall, loud creatures’ dens to fetch one of the smaller ones.  Nowadays the hunt was much more simple.  They could go out in smaller groups, hide in the shadows between the tall, loud creatures’ dens and pick off one that was injured or had that oddly sweet smell to them and was walking funny.  He liked those ones the best, their meat always had a better taste to it.

This year, Elton kept souvenirs.  Usually the village elders all kept something from the annual kill.  Elton hadn’t quite risen to the ranks of village elder, but he was older than most of the others in the village that weren’t elders and he felt this was his year.  He looked at the eyeball in the corner and wondered if it was looking back at him.  He kind of hoped it was.  Thank goodness those creatures outside couldn’t see in.  A few years ago one of the creatures picked him right up off the ground.  They could be deceptively strong, especially when the numbers were turned in their favour.  That year Elton bit down on the hand that grabbed him, which resulted in chaos.  A quick drop to the ground, then two others grabbed him, bagged him, and threw him in a cage.

He spent weeks in that cage, practically starving on the weak rations of green vegetables and seeds that they fed him, and the bowl of dirty water they put in his bed.  Vegetables and seeds were good as side dishes, or a snack while out on the hunt, but not as a meal replacement.  And who puts water in their bed?  The best he could do was kick some of the wood shavings into the water, hoping that it would soak it up, making caged life a bit more comfortable.

The weeks in that cage were long.  There was no darkness.  The sun never set inside the tall, loud creatures dens.  It was virtually impossible to tell how long he had been there, what time of day it was, and whether he would ever be free.  For the first few days he could gauge the time by the hunger pangs, but the terrible prison rations the tall, loud creatures kept feeding him turned the pain of hunger into a continuous ache that slowly sucked out his free will and independence.

As the isolation continued, the insanity slowly crept in.  His fear began to turn to acceptance.  At the beginning of his imprisonment, he loathed his captors.  With each day seamlessly slipping into the next, he started to welcome their company.  Occasionally they would give him a good scratch behind his ears, or rub his slowly emptying belly.  Then, as quickly as he was captured, he was dropped off at the far end of their village, just a little too close to enemy lines for his liking.  This is where the coyote clan lived, and although there WAS peace with the coyotes, tensions were always high with them.

The two day journey back to Groundhog Village left Elton with a new respect for the tall, loud creatures.  He went to great lengths to avoid being seen by them, while continuously dodging the paths that he knew were frequented by the coyotes.  His grandfather, a wise old groundhog who had served as chief elder for two seasons before being killed in the last great coyote war, had always advised to stay away from anything that seemed too convenient.

Elton shook his head.  He had been lost in the gaze of the eye.  It reminded him of lessons learned and wisdom to be passed to further generations.  He smiled, licked his hand and ran it through his hair, nibbled on a tick and headed towards the door.  He was ready for the crowd.  He would keep his cool this year.  He could smell the mild dampness in the air and knew that it would be overcast today.  You had to be careful out there.  Seeing the shadow of something creeping up behind you was something you had to be wary about, and an overcast day meant no shadows.

It had been a few years since it was overcast…

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

2 February 2012 20 Minute Stories