Badger was in only one word that could possibly describe him at that very moment, despondent. He sat in the dankness of his hovel, his stomach rumbling as he had eaten the last of his honey and clovers the night before. He had been hiding for days from Chick, who showed up every morning for breakfast and every morning he peeked out of the burrow to watch her waddle away, her beak ducked sadly.
For days they had been the best of friends and the fizzy feeling in his badger stomach had made him fall asleep with a smile only a badger could manage. He didn’t think he would like having a friend who poked and prodded his feelings so much. He didn’t think he would like having a friend who could talk about the color green or a dandelion she had sat watching. But he did. He looked forward to when he would hear Chick humming as she walked and the little fluff of her feathers she did when she saw him. She thought he didn’t notice, but he noticed everything about her.
She taught him about ducks and he taught her about badgers. When they walked along the creek, she floated in the mirror of the water and would look at her reflection and think there is one all the other animals know, and then there is the real Chick I know. In return, he let her see the real him behind the fur and the growling exterior.
He knew in his heart Chick’s heart was full of the us that was. Yet, sometimes, they would sit on a patch of grass and the bees buzzed and the birds flew and she would ask him to tell her something important and the words would get stuck in the fizz of his stomach. He would get grumpy when he became tongue tied and twitchy when she poked a certain feeling too hard. He had not known ducks were so sensitive and Chick would drop her wings in a sad way and he would feel the change between them.
One morning, when Chick had huffed away having only asked him what his favorite flower was and he wanted to tell her it was not really a flower, but the honeysuckle bush that tasted as sweet as honey but smelled so much sweeter, but the words jumbled on his tongue. What did she think? He was a badger after all. Badger’s had certain behaviors and who was she to huff about them?
“Friendship is impossible.” Bear, the squirrel who lived above the honey hive, said as he piled acorns in a pyramid against the root of the tree.
Badger harumphed and watched the field to see if Chick would make the trek across the dew dotted grass that morning to yet again be turned away.
Bear clucked his tongue and shook his tail. “I know badgers are stupider than squirrels, but you Badger are the stupidest of them all.”
Badger growled and snapped his jaws. “Leave me alone, Bear.”
“Squirrels know a lot about love, Badger.”
“You don’t know what you are talking about.”
“The world is big, Badger.” Bear continued, balancing another acorn on top of an already lopsided and wobbily pile. “I was up in my tree and I heard her chirping about other ponds. You’re afraid she’ll go away to another pond and you’re afraid all these things about you that make her huff away will mean she will never come back.”
“Why can’t she just let me be me?” Badger sighed, no longer interested in arguing with Bear. Squirrels were smarter than badgers after all.
“Because one day she’ll have to move to another pond, and she is afraid too.” Bear clucked his tongue again. “And she’s afraid you’re so comfortable hiding in your hole you won’t want to venture to other ponds with her.”
“Why can’t she just stay in one pond and things never change between us?”
Bear walked over to Badger and patted his shoulder. “Just like the seasons, we change Badger. If we don’t change everything would always be the same and we would never meet ducks named Chick or see snow on the tree limbs or seas of flowers.”
“I make her huff and I think I hurt her feelings.”
“She makes you harumph and she hurts your feelings, but does that mean you don’t want to be her friends?”
Badger sniffled. “It never does.”
“Squirrels are smart.” Bear tossed an acorn over his shoulder and his entire pyramid of the nuts collapsed and rolled into the leaves. Bear shrugged. “Things fall down and you get a chance to rebuild it. Every time you make it a little stronger and a lot sturdier until you get it figured out.”
At that moment, Badger knew squirrels named Bear were the smartest of squirrels. He moved closer to the edge of the hill so he could look down and see it all stretched out before him. He could see Chick then, her black and yellow feathers lit by the sun as she made her way toward him, stopping to sniff a flower to watch a bug. But she was coming toward him.
Instead of hiding, he sighed heavily and waved sheepishly. At least he thought he waved the way a sheep would. Chick fluffed her feathers then and he knew no matter about the huff or the harumph, she still wanted to tell him about green and dandelions.
“I’m sorry I don’t always understand you.” She said as she sat down next to him.
“I’m sorry sometimes I stop trying.”
“I saw a grasshopper with dark green wings.”
Badger smiled and the fizzy feeling in his stomach made him feel warmer than the sun ever could.