Noel Lingham

April 21, 2011

Male Weasel

“Noel, come here. Let me have a look that eye – oh! Noel….”

Sister Amery’s face fractured into a branching mess of strains and shadows. Noel had the suspicion that he added a new wrinkle to that painted portrait of sympathy each time she caught him in the abbey halls. This would be the fifth.

“What was it?” she cooed. “Did we trip down the battlements again?”

“Stairs,” he murmured. “Door. Ran into it.”

“What, both at once?”

One of her paws explored the mass of swollen flesh cradling his right eye. Above her ministrations his cream-colored eyebrows worked furiously, two caterpillars contesting for ultimate dominion over his forehead. Before they could agree on a means of escape the mouse’s arm shot out and around his, thwarting his vain attempt to twist away and back down the dark corridor from where he had emerged.

“You are a clumsy bunny,” she said. “What am I going to do with you?”

In reply he offered a grunt, a warning shot to which she remained oblivious. Sister Amery only smiled as she led him up the familiar steps to the infirmary – five times had he toed the cracks in these stones, inhaled the whisker-sizzling musk of potions and tonics sighing down the stairway. She set him down on a bed that promptly leached its putrid lavender scent into his clothes.

“I do feel for you both, Noel,” she said. “It must be difficult, two weasels in an abbeyful of mice and otters and hares…Redwall has yet to catch up with the outside world in some ways. Maybe it would have been better had the two of you stopped in the village – and now that the Abbot doesn’t want any of us to leave! Oh, but you do understand it’s for the best.”

There was no argument there. He had seen the bodies. They had given him ideas – ideas that frightened him.

Sister Amery knelt down to poultice the purple bloom just visible under his fur, and her face resumed some of its youthful roundness.

“It’s a lot of pressure looking after your brother,” she said. “Still, you must take care of yourself – who would he have left to turn to?”

* * *

“Hello again, Munchkin! How was the Momma Mouse?”

The crisp winter chill outside the abbey building, once so refreshing, turned sour with that voice – a constant audible sneer. Noel jerked away from his brother, crunching just a few feet into the snowdrifts still piled thick against the walls.

“Do me a favor, Virrel, and whizz off.”

Virrel laughed, a wiry sound from a wiry weasel. In the glassy winterland of the empty abbey grounds he was a ghostly distortion of his stocky brother, right down to the faded red coat complementing Noel in blue.

“Is that any way to speak to your little brother, eh? And with the two of us stuck in this dead-end slagheap? I dread to think o’ what Mum’d say.”

Virrel’s grinning mouthful of spiny sharp teeth was suddenly full of Noel’s fist. When the stars faded from his sight Noel was standing over him, his every choking breath a reluctant struggle.

“Listen up – I’ve had enough for today, I’ve had enough for a lifetime. You’re dirt, you disgust me absolutely. And you can forget any promises I might’ve made – you touch me again, neither of us leaves this place alive. Understand?”

For once in his life, Virrel said nothing. It was only as his brother stormed away that he felt it, as far back as his teeth – the humble insistent throbs of a gentle swelling under his left eye.

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