15 May

It was as if the big blue sky opened up and out of it an ocean of water fell.  The ground swelled with puddles and the animals groused with displeasure as not a dry spot was to be found.  Badger sat on a tree root, shivering with a chill he could not shake, and wiping droplets of water from his eyes he was certain were not tears.  It had been days since Chick had waddled away to another pond, and he was equally certain it was only a matter of time before he forgot her.

Yet when he ate honey and could no longer taste the sweet, he had to admit he did not want to forget her.  The only thing able to make his heart sail with wings was the thought of the friend he had foolishly let leave.  She was just gone one morning.  Without  a goodbye or even a wave of her wing.  Just gone.

It didn’t help that Bear the squirrel had also left.  He had sadly shaken his head, clucked his tongue and waggled his tail.  “Now you have to go find her.”

“I’m never leaving.”

“Then you’ll be alone.”

Badger felt his head hurt at the thought of alone.  Before Chick he had wanted his solace and preferred his own company.  Now he could barely stand himself.  He was not nearly as funny or as entertaining as he had thought.  He ached for his fuzzy companion to chatter and cajole all the while he pretended he did not like it. 

Badger walked down the hill, his paws tromping in the mud as it splashed onto his fur.  He just kept walking until he was at the edge of the pond where Chick had sat many evenings refusing to splash in the water.  Chick did not like swimming.  She didn’t even like being wet.  He wondered if she was dry and warm where she had gone.

The geese gabbed to each other as he sullenly stared at his reflection in the pond.  He no longer recognized the Badger he once was.  He had spent an entire day furious at Chick for changing him until he realized she had done nothing of the sort.  He had changed himself.  He did it to be with her, and she had been worth it.

“I’ll be glad when they fly south.”  A turtle remarked as he emerged from the murky water and walked achingly slow to where Badger sat. 

Badger could only nod, unable to speak because of the lump of unhappy lodged in his throat.

“I was going to move to another pond with the others, but it’s difficult for me to walk in the mud.” 

Badger turned to look at the turtle who was talking as he nibbled on a blade of wet grass.  “The others?”

“I’m Seymore.”  The turtle ignored his question and lifted a wrinkled foot out of the puddle he was now standing in.

“I’m Badger.” 

Seymore regarded him with a suspicious look.  “A badger named Badger?  Your parents were not very original were they?”

“They couldn’t agree on a name.” 

And Badger ached more as he thought of his mother with her kind black eyes and the gentle way she would rub her cheek on his.  She had pushed him out of a hole one day and told him badgers grew up and moved away.  He had not wanted to leave her since his father had wandered off one hot evening and never returned.  His mother had said.  “Sometimes the world takes us and we do not return.”  That had been such a long time ago.

Badger felt his furry body shake with great sobs of heartbroken.  He knew then why he preferred the isolation of his burrow.  If a badger did not attach himself to others then there was no one to grieve.  He had been so good at not caring until Chick had showed up that day.  They made each other better, they made each other not like to be alone and then they made each other heartsick.

“I know where your friend is.”  Seymore said suddenly.  “She told me where she was going just in case you decided to join her.”

 Badger sniffled.  “But what if I find her and she leaves again, but this time forever?”

“Turtles live a very long time.”  Seymore stretched his neck out as far as a turtle neck would go.  “I outlive a lot of friends.”

“So why make friends at all?”

“Imagine all the happy I would have missed.”  Seymore said.  “Happy is much better than down in the dumps.”

“I made a terrible mistake.”  Badger finally admitted to even himself.  “I need to find Chick.”

“Then let’s go.” 

“And leave everything behind?”

“There’s nothing here anyway.”  Seymore snapped his mouth.  “Now pick me up, we’ll travel faster that way.”

Badger picked the turtle up in his paw and placed him on his back.  “Let’s hurry.”

They walked across soggy fields of grass as Seymore told Badger stories of all the things a turtle who lives a very long time sees.  They reached a black top road and Badger was afraid to walk across where the orange line split it in two.  Cars sped past and he did not think he could be fast enough.

“There’s a trick.”  Came a small voice from above them. 

Badger and Seymore looked up where a bird sat perched on a black wire.  “I’m Bluejay and I can see far distances.  When there are no cars where the road curves on both sides, I’ll let you know.  You can walk across then.”

“How do we know to trust him?”  Badger whispered to Seymore.

“Birds don’t lie.”  His new-found friend said matter-of-factly.

 Badger felt very brave as he began his trek across the hard pavement as Bluejay kept reporting the road was clear.  It wasn’t until he was almost to the other side that the bird squawked there was a car coming and Badger scrambled nearly toppling Seymore off his back.

“Thank you, Bluejay.”  Badger said.  Birds indeed did not lie.

The sun was moving across the sky as they made their way through grass taller than even the cows Badger had seen.  It was difficult and hot and more than once Badger wished he could just plop down and rest.  Each time he felt like giving up, Seymore reminded him how close they were.   Getting to Chick was all he needed to make the tired go away.

Just before the sun moved behind the hills they reached a clearing.  There were several trees there and a larger pond.  On the surface, Badger could see the ducks floating harmoniously with the swans. 

“We’re here.”  Seymore said as he moved to slide off Badger’s back and into the grass. 

Just then the rain stopped.  There was a quiet like no other.   Everything felt fresh and new just like Badger.  He looked around, feeling anxious for the first time.

Then he saw her.  She sat quietly beneath a tree.  Her once fluffy feathers having fallen away to reveal a dark coat of down.  She looked as miserable as he felt.

“Go to her.”  Seymore said.

Badger did something he had never done before.  He ran then.  Well, as much as a badger could run in the mud.  He ran toward her feeling like he did when he was just a baby badger and so excited about life.  He splashed toward the one person worth leaving the comfort of his aloneness for. 

Chick looked up then and he could see the happiness in her eyes.  She stood her wings outstretched flapping them with all the duck joy any duck had ever felt. 

“You’re here!”  She said running toward him.

“I’m sorry.”  He said even though he had practiced what he would say, he could no longer think of the words. 

“Nothing matters except you’re here now.”  She fluffed her no longer fluffy feathers and he knew she felt the joy he was nearly bursting with.

Badger laughed out loud, but a badger’s laugh sounds more like a growl.  “I was so scared but somehow I made it anyway.”

Chick walked over to him, tucking her head against his neck.  “I never want to be without the us-ness that is anymore.  I’ll never leave for another pond again.”

“I can’t promise I won’t hide.”  He felt her tremble against him.

“We’ll figure it out together.”

And so when Badger sat beside her in the warm grass and he told her about his bravery at the road, the bird named Bluejay and Seymore the turtle who would now become both of their friend, he knew he had finally found the sweetness of life.  Together, even on the rainiest of days, they could find each other and bask in the swirly sunny that was “us” they had become.


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