Tangled Up in Blue (fiction)

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[This is an old story, a “flash” triggered by a quote from Haruki Murakami.  It isn’t what I intended to post today but participating in a very civil discussion in an on-line group I belong to made me think of this.  It’s good to be reminded to see things from another point of view and to be willing to compromise. Haruki Badger is one of my favorite characters.]

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Haruki Badger woke soon after the sun and waddled up his front tunnel. As he waddled, he admired the smooth and even digging job he had done on this tunnel. In truth (and he could admit this to himself, but to admit it to anyone else would seem boastful), every tunnel in his efficient complex was just the right size, and also very smooth and even. He had done his best and felt justified in being proud of it.

He poked his sharp black nose out into the crisp air. He took a deep breath and looked about to make sure everything was perfect and in its place, as it should be on such a fine spring dawn. The tilted oak tree and knotted strands of grass at its feet were the same as always. Likewise, the gently eroding brook banks sloping down. His muzzle wrinkled a bit at the sight of the ever-encroaching honeysuckle bushes: no doubt his ancestors took comfort in the sight of growing things from their native home, but Haruki felt that honeysuckle tended to bully, shading out plants that belonged here, unwilling to coexist peacefully.

He bent his stubby neck to survey the clearing to the left of his front door. What he saw made him gasp.

Showers of dirt were arcing through the air, into messy little piles, flattening the short grasses.  Haruki’s eyes widened as he took in the perimeters of the clearing. Half a dozen ragged holes ringed it, dirt flung all over the neat surface of the kidney-shaped clearing.

He waddled forward, his whiskers twitching in outrage. Dodging the flying dirt—and shaking his head as a clump landed between his eyes—Haruki peered into the hole from which the earth was coming. He saw a flashy white tail that he was, unfortunately, familiar with.

“Miss Murakami Hare!” he barked out. The flying dirt stopped at once. After a moment, his neighbor backed out from her hole and turned to face him. She had the decency to look ashamed.

“Greetings, Mr. Haruki Badger,” she said in her soft voice.

“What is your purpose here, Miss Murakami?” He made his voice very stern. Miss Murakami was generally easy to set upon the correct path—she never admitted that he was right, of course, but usually she knew to keep her foolishness far from Haruki.

“Oh, Mr. Haruki, I feel the great coming of spring in my claws!” She held up a delicate paw and splayed her claws, marred with clumps of damp soil. “I must dig, you know, it feels so wonderful.”

Haruki goggled at her. “What are you digging, then?” His disapproving stare swept from one side of the clearing to another.

“I am digging for the sake of digging. It’s so very much fun.” Her wide, dark eyes—which some found appealing, but not so Haruki, who felt such large eyes made the owner look terribly foolish—pleaded with him. Her long nose twitched constantly. Haruki could feel her compulsion to go back to her digging.

“You’re digging for no purpose? No purpose at all?” Haruki was flabbergasted. He, too, was fond of digging, and good at it as well, but to just dig for its own sake was beyond foolish. It was downright mad. “Here, now, you have no right to go digging up my clearing!”

“Why, Mr. Haruki, is it your clearing?”

“Well, ah,” Haruki cleared his throat, “it is in the range of my home, certainly, and you can’t go spoiling my view for no reason in the world.”

“Oh, but I have a reason!”  Miss Murakami’s voice was becoming squeaky. “Please, sir, allow me to go back to my digging!”

“Certainly not. You must take your pointless tomfoolery elsewhere immediately. I will not stand for it.” Haruki was taken aback by Miss Murakami’s impertinence, but he did not show it. He decided he must stand firm or the land all about would be littered with incompetent and purposeless holes.

“Mr. Haruki, you are being unreasonable.” Miss Murakami’s voice was uncharacteristically firm.

“I’ll show you unreasonable, Miss!” And Haruki swung his paw into a small blotch of dirt. Clumps of it flew right onto her elegant nose.

Shocked, Miss Murakami hopped straight into the air. When she came down, she turned and kicked a damp load of dirt right into Haruki’s face with her muscular hind legs. Then she bounded off into the undergrowth.

#

Haruki was settling in for a nap in his sleeping burrow when he heard a scrabbling near his front door. He groaned. What now? Surely a poor badger should be able to live and nap in peace, without having to deal with ridiculous holes being dug all over the world and people scrabbling around his front door. He uncurled from the comfortable ball he was in and lumbered up to the entrance of his burrow.

He was surprised to see Miss Murakami. She was getting bolder and bolder.

“Hello, there,” Haruki said gruffly. “Here to apologize, are you?”

Miss Murakami drew her shoulders up. “No, sir, I am not. I have asked Miss Shira to help us resolve our quarrel.” She looked behind her at a tiny figure that had escaped Haruki’s notice.

The meadowlark looked at him brightly, turning her head first one way, then the other.

Haruki was shocked that Miss Murakami had resorted to official arbitration. “Why then! I need an arbiter as well.” He bustled from his tunnel and turned around and around. And who should be calmly nibbling buds from a nearby bush, but Miss Kama Bear.

“Miss Kama,” Haruki called.

The bear strolled over to the small gathering. She dipped her head to each animal in greeting and relaxed on her haunches.

“Could you help us with a problem here, if you please?” Haruki asked.

“Perhaps,” Kama allowed. “What is the trouble?”

Haruki explained the situation to the bear, whose brow knotted further and further as the tale went on. Miss Murakami broke in to tell her side and Haruki glared at her.

“It seems to me, Miss Murakami, that you are guilty of disturbing the peace,” Kama said, her brow still knitted.

“Not at all!” twittered the meadowlark. “Miss Murakami was only exercising the right of freedom that each animal has possessed since the beginning of time!”

“Ah, but Miss Shira, she is impinging upon Mr. Haruki’s right to a peaceful existence, wouldn’t you agree? Each of us has a responsibility to keep our community functioning smoothly.”

“Certainly, Miss Kama, but Mr. Haruki is not more important than Miss Murakami. Miss Murakami loves to dig. Should she not be able to do so anywhere she wants to? After all, she did not disturb Mr. Haruki’s dwelling at all.”

Kama Bear rumbled. “Miss Murakami’s happiness does not take precedence here. The smooth functioning of the community does. It is just not right that someone go about digging so many holes that are not even intended for living in.”

The meadowlark twitched her feathers importantly. “Each animal is entitled to pursue her own happiness and fulfillment.”

Haruki Badger yawned hugely. He had stopped listening to the nattering. He glanced to his left. He wondered if he could live with the cursed holes as long as he could go nap.

He noticed Miss Murakami edging away, onto the soft-soiled banks of the brook. She scratched experimentally at the dirt, then looked at him. “Perhaps,” she ventured, “if I fill them in when I am through?”

Haruki, who wanted his nap badly now, gave her a brisk nod. “Very well, Miss Murakami.” He turned and took leave of them, waddling down his perfectly constructed tunnel to his sleeping burrow. The voices of the bear and meadowlark, growing heated, and the gently scratching sounds of Miss Murakami digging, followed him down.

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