April 21, 2011

Male Otter

It’s far too dark in here,” the sister scolded. The graying mouse stood in the doorway of the Abbey attic and gazed into the gloom. “For goodness sake, light a candle!”

“I already got a candle,” came the mumbled reply from the writing desk in the corner. A scrawny young otter sat there, cocooned in a quilt, hunched over parchments, quill bristling.

“More than one?”

“I only need one.”

“Aye, and a diet of nothing but carrots! I brought up your soup.”

“Um… thanks.”

She set it down on the desk and idly began flipping through his stacks of Long Patrol officer cards. The otter paused in his writing, shoulders tensing.

“Very interesting. Did you make these ones?”

“No, sister,” he said. “They’re from Salamandastron. Collectibles. Very… very… rare.”

“I see. From your friend?”

“Some o’ them. Th’collection he sent me didn’t have th’ones I wanted fer my army, so I’ve been tradin’ with beasts all o’er Mossflower.”

“I see. Who are you writing to now?”

The otter curled his arm over the paper. “It’s private.”

“I won’t pry, Ripple, but you know I worry. Not everybeast out in Mossflower is -”

“I know, Sister.” He sighed. “Vermin are vermin. But it’s only tradin’ cards fer the game. No one’s gettin’ hurt. I’m probably not even writin’ to any vermin!”

“You mean you don’t know? You haven’t met any of them? Why not invite them over to Redwall? Or ask if you can visit. I’m sure Skipper would be glad to take you outside to see -”

“Outside?” Ripple squeaked. He dropped his quill. His eyes darted to the drawn window curtain, as if daring it to spring open.

“It’s not healthy, a young otter like you staying cooped up inside all season ’round, writing to strangers. Won’t even play with the dibbuns you grew up with.”

“But there’s… trees out there…”

The sister smiled. “And rivers and hills and meadows.”

Ripple shuddered. “I don’t have t’go out, do I?”

“I suppose not. Not if it scares you.”

“I’m not scared! I’m just…”

The mouse took hold of his chair and pulled it out. The wheels creaked as she rolled him across the floor.

“Why did you bring this rickety old thing up here? It’s dangerous. You don’t even need it anymore. What if you rolled down the stairs?”

His paws squeezed the chair’s arms as he pressed himself into it. She was not pushing him fast, but the back of his teeth were electrified.

“It’s comfortable.”

“Aye, that it is. It’s got your rump’s shape molded into it.” Delores giggled. She returned him to his desk. “You do your leg exercises still?”

“Yes, sister. Skipper comes up and helps me.”

“Don’t sound so bitter, Ripple. He means the best for you.”

“I just wish he’d… wish he’d stay out o’ my life! I don’t wanna join his crew. All right? I’m happy here!”

“Rip…” Delores leaned over his chair and hugged him from behind. “He loves you. I’ll talk to him if you want me to. But someday you’ll have to come downstairs and join the rest of us for meals, and someday you’ll have to go outside and meet your friends, and someday you’ll have to help out around the Abbey or else go with your father and follow in his footsteps.”

“No, I don’t.”

The sister sighed. “Your soup’ll get cold on you. Good night, Ripple.”

When Delores left, Ripple read his letter from start to finish. He nodded to himself. It was a good letter. It just needed a little more… hm. Persuasion.

He wrote: Enclosed within is a rare Winter of the Late Frost Corporal Whipscutt. Note the epewlet is missing from his shoulder. One of a kind! Please send me any Brocktrees you have! Love you, my darling,

– Commander Eliwood

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