Children's story involving 3 racoons, a cat, and love.
|Twiggy, Bandit, and Cupcake?
My entrance into life was heralded by the coming of spring. The earth was newly thawed from its winter slumber. My two brothers and I were newly born and still under the loving care of our mother. I had the misfortune of being born last. When you're an animal, being born last can sometimes mean that you are also born the smallest of the litter. In my case I was the smallest, the runt. My brothers would never let me forget, the fact, that I was the smallest, youngest, and . . . a girl.
We lived beneath a wild and untamed shrub. Mom had found a den that was both protected from the elements and prying eyes of passersby. A pink-flowered bush rose further guarded our home by its sheer size and magnificence. I remember many a drowsy day beneath that bush rose, smelling its heady scent and watching the bumble buzzers as they zipped from flower to flower. Sometimes, I’d fall asleep listening to those bumble buzzers and then Rocky, my eldest brother, would wake me up by calling me Twiggy instead of my real name, Lilac, to remind me of my size.
“Twiggy! Oh Twiggy!” he’d say.
I’d pretend that I didn’t hear him until he moved closer.
That’s when I’d pounce on him. I’d pretend that he was one of those bumble buzzers and swat at him and say, “Buzz, buzz! All I can hear is buzz buzz. It must be a really big bumble buzzer to wake me up!”
Sometimes, he’d play along and we’d end up laughing and rolling around until Bandit, my other brother, joined in. Eventually, we’d get tired and fall asleep all snuggled together. Other times, Rocky wouldn’t play. He’d get a serious far away look on his face and I could tell that he was trying to think of ways to fill the shoes of our absent father. Things would have been a lot easier on the lot of us, if my father had stayed in the picture. As it was, my mother had to work very hard to be able to feed and protect us.
At first it was easy for mom to take care of us while we were young. We drank her milk for the first eight weeks of our new lives and mom was able to stay with us every moment of the day and would later scavenge through the night. If there was a time that she had to slip away, we knew our neighbour Ponch, the cat, was keeping a baleful eye on us. Ponch never said very much but, she’d let mom know where food was so that mom didn’t have to leave us alone for long. Unfortunately, that idyllic time couldn't continue forever. It wasn't long before she had to go out and scavenge for food at greater and greater distances from home.
When I think of my mother, I think of her eyes. She had the blackest eyes for a raccoon. I say blackest because us raccoons generally don’t see colour well. Her eyes were so lovely. I think she found her first human that way; that was a great time. She'd bring us food from the human’s backyard, full of fruit trees, that we could share three ways instead of four as she'd be full from the food she’d received. I don't know why she wouldn't let us go with her to the human’s home. We were getting old enough to go foraging with her so why wouldn't someone want four raccoons? It's not like we're like those Doberman or slobbery St. Bernard dogs. We couldn't eat that much.
When I asked her why we couldn’t be together in one family, she said, in her soft voice, "It's better this way. We’re not meant to be pets because we’re wild animals. Humans can be finicky when it comes to pets especially when we don't meet their expectations and then they want to get rid of us."
"Did that happen to you momma?" She looked at me and I could see such a deep sorrow in her eyes that I knew then that she had. "Will you tell me about it mother?"
"No, my child, I won't tell you about it only because I don't want you to feel sad for me. I can only say that I wasn't always a street raccoon and I did have my own home in the forest."
"But your life could have been so different instead of always having to hide and hunt for food!"
"Yes, but I have a good life right now with my three lovely children. The past is the past and often cannot be changed so we must always look ahead to the future. Besides, child, I have everything I need. What more could I want?”
“To be warm all the time and to have food whenever you want it.” She just looked at me sadly her with those black eyes melting into mine. “I’m sorry momma. I didn’t mean to make you sad. We don’t need anything but you!”
She licked me then and smiled ever so gently at me. I began to purr. I knew that everything was all right again and I fell asleep under the gentle strokes of her tongue on my ear.
A speeding metal beast hit her shortly after our conversation. We found her brutalized body against a pole, as if she’d been thrown by the impact. I don’t know how long she lay there before she died, but I could only hope that it hadn’t been too long.
Things changed after her death. Rocky decided that it was his job to take care of us now that mother was no longer there, but how in the world could newly weaned five-month-old raccoons try their paws at being adults when the world perceived us as mere kits? We learned the hard way by living in the streets and scavenging at night for any scrap we could find.
In the evenings, after we’d gone scavenging, we’d meet and huddle together for warmth in the home we had shared with mother. Those are my fondest memories of my brothers. We’d tell stories of our adventures and reminisce about mother. We’d talk of having owners, more food, and our own homes. For some reason though, the talk of our own home would make me sad. I don’t know if it was a result of the last conversation that I had had with my mother, but I would always hear her last words and I’d fall asleep with them echoing in my head.
One threat to our safety was the dog man. I knew we all ran the risk of being caught by the dog man. I had heard that dogs, cats, and even raccoons would get caught and put into a truck and disappear. I always wanted to know what happened to those dogs and cats. Plus, I don’t recall ever seeing any of our raccoon kin again. In our youthful arrogance, we thought we were too smart to get caught. However, our arrogance quickly disappeared when Rocky didn’t come home. Bandit said that the dog man had caught him in his trap and taken him away. We were devastated by the news. First mother and now Rocky, our beloved Rocky! He was the gentlest sort and wouldn’t hurt anyone, not even a bumble buzzer.
We were more careful after Rocky was taken. Bandit and I became sneakier. Bandit became tougher and joined a gang. He’d leave me alone for hour after hour and I’d wait to fall asleep until he returned. Sometimes, he returned so late that he’d find me asleep. In the morning, he’d gruffly ask me about my day and I’d try not to upset him. For some reason, the loss of both mom and Rocky had hardened Bandit. He never smiled or laughed anymore. Once when he called me Twiggy, like he and Rocky used to do, I tried to pounce on him as if he were a bumble buzzer. He only pushed me off and said he didn’t have time to play.
“I’m sorry Bandit. I didn’t mean anything by it. It’s just that you’re never home and I miss you.”
Bandit looked at me then and let out a heavy sigh. I turned away until I heard a ‘buzz, buzz’ coming from Bandit. I didn’t have time to react before he pounced on me.
For a week or two after that, Bandit made a point of getting home earlier so that I wouldn’t worry. With just the two of us, we fell into an easy routine. We prowled the alleys in the late evening hours for any scraps that we could find. Our pal and neighbor, Ponch the cat, often gave us news of any potential meals that she’d discovered in her daily wanderings.
Bandit wasn’t too fond of cats, but Ponch had befriended mom when we were newborn kits and decided that she was an aunt of sorts. Ponch had been the one who’d watched out for us and given us advice after mom had died. She’d been the one who’d visited and offered consolation at our loss.
It was Ponch who brought me the news one damp drizzling day. Bandit had finally gotten himself into trouble that he couldn’t walk away from.
“Hey, Lilac!” Ponch called as she approached our home in the dense shrub behind the bush rose.
“Yes, Ponch. What is it? Has something happened?”
“Yes, my dear Lilac.” Ponch pushed herself against my side, “I’m afraid it’s bad news.”
“What is it?” I asked, my heart thumping deeply in my chest.
“It’s Bandit. He got into a fight last night and I’m afraid he’s dead.”
“Are you sure?”
Ponch didn’t speak right away, “Yes, it was Bandit. He was trying to protect me from his gang. They turned on him Lilac.”
“Where is he now Ponch?”
“There’s nothing left Lilac. You’d only be hurting yourself to see him after they tore him apart.”
“I want to bury him properly!” I said resolutely.
“I’ll take you then,” was all Ponch said before she headed off.
I followed Ponch as she sped down her secret paths and alleys probably the same pathways that she’d taken my mom as she searched for food. Bandit was all the family that I had left. I couldn’t think of anything beyond Ponch’s agonizing words. I followed her blindly and I don’t know where we went or where we were until Ponch stopped.
It was then that I saw Bandit, or what was left of him. He’d been heavily mauled and was hardly recognizable, but I knew his scent. It was Bandit. All I could do was stare and cry and my attempts at waking him up were futile.
“He’s dead Lilac,” Ponch said gently. “He died a hero. Your mother would have been so proud of him.”
The world focused then. I knew that I had to take him home. It took us a few false attempts but Ponch and I finally managed to drag Bandit onto a piece of cardboard. From there, we slowly made our way home, dragging Bandit’s body behind us. What a spectacle we must have made.
A man saw us and we stopped moving while he approached us. We usually tried to avoid humans but we couldn’t leave Bandit. The human hurried over and checked Bandit. I guess he was checking to see if he was alive.
“What are you to doing? Is this your brother? He must be because he looks a lot like you. I’m not an expert, but it looks like your taking him somewhere. Let me help.”
I growled at him when he picked Bandit up in his arms but, he didn’t move away.
“Why, he’s not dead. Underneath this torn mess, I can feel his pulse. Maybe, it’s not too late to save him.”
I didn’t quite understand the man, but he was handling Bandit so gently that hope leapt into my heart. I followed the man to a metal beast that roared furiously when we approached it.
“Don’t be afraid little one. It’s only a car.”
I looked at Ponch for help. “I can’t go near the beast. It will eat me. What is he doing with Bandit?”
"I’m not sure, Lilac, but I think he’s going to help Bandit.”
“Then he is alive!” I yelled joyously. I nearly jumped when the man spoke to me. He must have thought I was talking to him.
“Go on, get into the car.”
His voice was gentle and I knew that he was trying to be kind, but I was frozen to where I stood as I watched smoke coming out of the back end of the beast. Its long, rounded mouth never seemed to close. The man must have sensed my trepidation as he went into the beast and did something that quieted it.
I approached him cautiously.
“Go on Lilac before he gets away,” Ponch called.
“I’m afraid, Ponch. He’s a human and momma said that humans are finicky with pets and then they get rid of us!”
“Not every human is like that Lilac. I know because I once had an owner but she died. She was the most wonderful person and she loved me”
“A human loved you?” I asked in disbelief.
“Yes, Lilac. I was happier than any cat ever deserved to be and you deserve to have that happiness too!”
“Come with me, Ponch. Maybe, we can find a family.”
“My time is past for that.”
“I won’t go without you Ponch! You’re my family.”
“Don’t be so stubborn Lilac.”
I licked Ponch then and she roughly said, “Oh, all right, I’ll go with you but if I get sick in this beast . . .”
I never gave her a chance to finish her sentence, as I pushed her toward the beast.
A short time later, the human had controlled the roaring metal beast we were in and made it go where he wanted it do go. It took us to a small brown building, surrounded by a huge fence. We got out of the beast as soon as it stopped and stared at the building.
“Follow me, you two and don’t bother the other animals.”
We followed the human for two reasons. One, he was holding Bandit and second because Ponch and I were totally lost without him. It’s good we stayed on his shadow as he quickly disappeared into the building and our paws were forced to go faster just to keep up with him.
There was a very weird smell in the building. It seemed like someone had tried to take away the natural smell of the wood and cover it in one of those strange liquids that I sometimes smelled outside restaurants near a long narrow stick with lots of string on it.
“What’s that smell Ponch?”
“Don’t worry, Lilac, you’ll get used to it. It’s what humans call cleaning.”
“Their tongues do that?!”
Ponch scrunched her face. “No, silly! They use a broom and a mop.”
I looked at her strangely and Ponch just shook her head and said, “It’s good that I came along as I can see you’ve got a lot to learn. Oh! Follow him quickly!” She said, but we had missed our opportunity and a wall leapt in front of us.
“Don’t be nervous, Lilac. It’s only a door. I think, we’re meant to wait here.”
“But he has Bandit!” I cried out.
Ponch rubbed her head beneath mine and began purring. “Shhhh Lilac! I think this man is trying to help Bandit. Trust me.”
I trusted Ponch and tried to overcome my fear, but all I could think of was how I was losing everyone whom I loved. I couldn’t lose Bandit too. How could I bear it? Ponch just purred and rubbed against me as I lay my head on my paws and wept. It was like a pool of water that wouldn’t stop. I cried and cried, overcome with grief.
Fortunately, for me, mom had chosen her friends well and Ponch stayed with me as I grieved over the loss of both my mother and Rocky. I felt Ponch’s rough tongue as she began licking my ear. I don’t know if it was the memory of my mother doing that very same thing, but it calmed me until I stopped crying.
Ponch and I waited outside the door thing. Every now and then, I’d hear a muffled sound from behind the door and I’d sit up only to have Ponch whisper, “It’s okay Lilac. Everything will be all right.” She’d been right so many times before that I’d immediately sit back down.
Finally, what seemed like the passing of an entire sun day, I heard a steady noise approaching us. The human was coming out at last and I leapt up in anticipation. He held the door and I was the first to enter, eager to see my brother. Ponch followed me, trying to hold me back with her words. “Lilac, don’t rush!”
“I’ve got to see Bandit! Hurry up!” Ponch leaped in front of me and startled me so that I nearly jumped out of my fur. “Lilac, I don’t want you to get your hopes up. You know how badly Bandit was hurt.”
I think it was at that moment that I felt my mother’s faith and strength flowing through me. “No!” I said confidently. “Bandit will be all right and we can all be a family.”
It was then that I saw Bandit, he looked like he had a white stick on one leg and black spiders on his head and tummy.
"Your brother had some very serious injuries especially that broken leg. I managed to clean out his more serious cuts and stitch them together. I’m afraid he won’t be doing much roaming for a while but he’ll be as good as new in no time.”
To my eyes, all I was aware of was the rise and fall of my brother’s chest as his breath rasped in and out. My eyes misted over. “He’s alive, Ponch! My brother is alive!”
“Good! That means, we can go home soon.” Ponch had reverted back to her gruff, no-nonsense exterior but it was just an attempt to hide her tears as they threatened to surface and reveal that she actually had a soft heart.
We chatted excitedly unaware that the human had left the room and was talking to a plastic object.
“Yes, I’ve got a couple of strays for you. I’ve got a cat and a raccoon that you may pick up as soon as you can. There’s going to be another raccoon that you can pick up later next week after he regains his strength. Oh, okay. I didn’t realize that it was so late. How about Monday then? Fine. I’ll see you then.”
The man took the three of us to our own separate place. There were bowls of food and water and soft beds to lie on. It wasn’t as cozy as our den but I tired and more than happy to lie there next to Bandit and Ponch and I fell asleep dreaming of being back behind the bush rose and catching bumble buzzers.
In the morning, Bandit was more aware of his surroundings when the human entered.
“There you are young fella! You gave us quite a scare! Hmmm, you look better already,” he said as his ran his hands gently over Bandit’s battled body. “I’m going to take you outside for a moment. I’m sure you’ll understand that better than having that newspaper underneath you.”
Ponch and I watched the human carefully. He’d been soft-spoken and gentle with Bandit and we didn’t feel any fear toward him. Ponch strolled out onto the floor and I gingerly followed as Ponch stretched and did her morning routine. The rushed entrance of a small human suddenly interrupted us. Ponch scattered in surprise and I froze where I was, hoping that the miniature human wouldn’t notice me. I failed.
“There you are Cupcake.”
I turned to see who she was calling Cupcake, but I didn’t see anyone.
“How did you get into dad’s work? You know he doesn’t like for us to come in here when he’s not around. You know what he’ll say! ‘You’re not supposed to be in here. We have ten acres and the entire house that you can explore. There’s no need to come into my office!’”The little girl burst out into laughter at her imitation of her dad and grabbed me and, before I knew what was happening, ran outside into the yard. I watched Ponch scurry to keep up with us before the screen door closed.
In the meantime, the real Cupcake, wearing a lovely blue ribbon around his neck was busily surveying his human, the same man who’d taken care of Bandit.
“What are you doing here Cupcake? Don’t you know that you’re not supposed to be here? You do have your own den and all of those trees outside to climb.”
His words were interrupted by, “Daddy, daddy, where are you?”
Cupcake took that moment to race off in the opposite direction and found himself nose to nose with a bandaged Bandit. Cupcake growled at the stranger. “Who are you? What are you doing here?”
To Bandit, the voice of the ribboned raccoon sounded familiar. “Rocky?” He asked uncertainly.
“How’d you know my real name?” Cupcake asked suspiciously.
"It’s me, Bandit.”
Cupcake sniffed at Bandit. “You smell kind of familiar but you have that an-ti-scep-tic smell.”
“Same old stubborn kid!” Bandit said exasperatedly.
That’s when Cupcake knew it truly was his younger brother Bandit and he began barking and licking at Bandit joyously.
“Careful, Careful Rocky. Ow! Watch the bandages. I love you too!”
While that reunion was going on, Lilac was experiencing the first feeling of being held and touched by a human. It was an incredible experience! It felt like all of Lilac’s hurt and losses were melting away. What is this feeling? She wondered to herself.
Lilac was reveling in the human contact. Is this what mother meant?
“Hey! Holly what are you doing out here?”
“I’m sorry daddy, Cupcake ran inside and I got him out. He’d didn’t do anything.”
Holly’s daddy pretended to be stern with his beloved daughter, “You know how I feel Holly . . .” His words stopped suddenly when he saw the ginger colored cat trailing behind Holly. He quickly recognized that this ‘Cupcake’ didn’t have a ribbon.
“But, I don’t think you’re holding Cupcake. That’s the raccoon that I brought home yesterday with the wounded one.”
Holly looked at her daddy as if he were trying to play a joke. “It’s Cupcake. The same fur and everything.”
He took Lilac out of Holly’s arms. “This one is a lot smaller and she’s a girl.”
“Really, then this must be his sister! Where is Cupcake?”
“He ran off that way!” He followed his daughter while he continued to pet and hold Lilac. It wasn’t an uncomfortable feeling for Lilac, so she didn’t struggle but lay contented in his arms.
The sight that met Lilac’s eyes when they went around the corner of the building was one of incredulity. A fluffy raccoon wearing a blue ribbon was prancing around Bandit.
“Ssssssss! You there!” She yelled. “Leave my brother alone.”
Rocky and Bandit were too busy to hear her.
She cried out again and the human placed her small body down onto the ground.
“Hey you!” She ran over to the unfamiliar looking raccoon. “What are you doing to my brother?”
Rocky turned at the sound of his sister’s voice. He remembered her voice and how she’d played with him. “Twiggy?” He asked, emotion choking his voice. “Is that you?”
“Rocky? You look different,” Lilac managed to whisper in surprise.
“I’m clean and fed and cared for. It makes you look different.”
Suddenly, it was if a rainbow had landed on Lilac and her brothers. She smiled and laughed, cried and licked, and ran and jumped until she couldn’t anymore. Her happiness was so complete. “My family’s back! My family’s back!”
“Look daddy! They know each other!”
“I think you’re right Holly,” the man said slowly and thoughtfully.
“Can we keep them? Please daddy? We have lots of trees and stumps beside the creek and it will make Cupcake so happy.”
Ponch, who’d been watching from a distance, pounced on Rocky. “Did I hear that little girl call you Cupcake?”
“Ponch! It’s You! How’d you get here?”
“Cupcake? Your name is Cupcake?” Lilac asked teasingly.
“Don’t you dare call me that Twiggy!”
“Cupcake?” Bandit also asked as he joined in the familiar teasing and burst out laughing.
Holly’s daddy bent down and began petting us. “I’d say that you three are looking for a home. You’re in luck, I happen to have one.”
Lilac looked up into the human’s eyes. She noticed his dark eyes were just like mothers. Lilac knew then that she’d come home.
Raccoon Fun Facts:
• Average adult size raccoons are up to 3 ½ feet long including the tail.
• They weigh 15 to 48 pounds.
• Raccoons are very social animals and like to den together.
• They are omnivorous (eat both plants and meat). Urban raccoons will eat foraged items from garbage cans that aren’t necessarily good for them.
• 4-5 kits are born in April-May, weaned by late summer.
• Raccoons are nocturnal and have reflective eyes. Generally, they don’t have good eyesight but can see fairly well in dim light.
• Raccoons can be pets but are better off in their natural habitats.
• Some Aboriginal names for the raccoon include: klapissime (Nootka), ah-rah-koon-em (Algonquin), and matchigode (Ojibway).
For more information about fun-loving raccoons, check your local library or sign onto the World Wide Web.