by Jay O'Toole
This is chapter #12 of The Quest for Home, my NaNoWriMo novel for November 2017.
Hurry is their living way!
Ferrets on parade!
Chaos in the class today!
Boredom is displayed...
Run & Ran
The months following the Big Choice for Quest and his Dad were some of the most uneventful times of their lives, except for that one debacle in second grade.
It's not that they had nothing to do. It's just that as Quest put it, "Nothing very exciting is happening." And as we all know, for a little boy, "If it isn't exciting, then it isn't Good."
At any rate, Quest finished the second grade with "flying colors," and after learning how to work with Mrs. Carlyle, he started to like her very much. The two of them became as good of friends as teacher-student decorum would allow.
Quest spent his summer between second and third grades wiling away the long, hot days down by the lake, rolling in the grass, swimming in the cold water and even catching a few fish with his bare,...er...BEAR hands (or...paws...as it were.)
The "Nothing very exciting is happening" continued through the first half of his year in Mrs. Calvert's third-grade class. Being that she was a sloth, there was a general opinion that she was lazy. This was hardly the truth. By nature, she moved slowly, but Mrs. Calvert made provisions for her apparent handicap by employing not one but two TA's (aka "Teacher's Assistants") to keep the class on task. If anything in Quest's life during these months could be said to be exciting, it would be Mrs. Calvert's two TA's, the ferrets, Run and Ran.
Mrs. Calvert needed only to make the slightest eye movements and Run & Ran would pass out class papers and take them up again before the children had time to write their names on their papers. Mrs. Calvert would frown and go squinty-eyed, making Run & Ran stare at each other with jaw-dropped "O, My Goodness" expressions, exclaiming, "Oh? Class, you mean your not done, yet? How can you not be done, yet? We gave you the papers like five seconds ago! Whatever are you doing with the TIME! MOVE! MOVE! MOVE! Time is a-wasting! We have things to do and people to see!"
At this Mrs. Calvert always motioned with one slow finger for the two ferrets, Run & Ran, to come to talk with her. When they arrived, she held up her neatly printed poster (because after all, she had to have this conversation with them multiple times every day.) As they read her poster they sounded like AD/HD children, who had just finished off two dozen doughnuts because, for all practical purposes, they were just AD/HD children, even though they had somehow graduated from college. Be that as it may, these were the words of the poster.
"Run & Ran, please slow down a bit. It takes third grade children about 30 to 40 times as long to do anything as it does for you. You see the children were not weaned on triple-strength Espresso. Most of them have not even had their first cup of coffee by this stage of life. If you need to dance around and bounce off the walls, then please run down to the gym (Oh,...and Ran should go, too,) visiting the room, boldly labeled, "The Ferret's Room." Express your energy in that room only and be back in our classroom in exactly 15 minutes,...not one second earlier. I want the children to be able to concentrate on their seat work."
To this Run & Ran screamed in unison, "O, Yes, Ma'am! Yes, Ma'am! Yes, Ma'am! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THAN..." Before they could finish the last "Thank You!" they were through the door like two blue streaks with a dust devil of completed student papers flying off the teacher's desk after them.
Mrs. Calvert raised her eyebrows at Quest and at another boy in the front, Quest's friend, Tim, the Tiger. Quest dutifully responded, "Yes, Ma'am. We'll pick up your papers as we always do. Then, we'll get right to work on our class assignments." Quest chuckled as he always did during this multiple-time-per-day activity. "Those ferrets are so funny."
One might question this premise, but even excitement can become quite boring, if it happens with too much regularity. At least that's what happened in the heart of Quest, regarding the two ferrets after the first couple of days. ZOOM, ZOOM, ZOOM! Out the door! SPIN! Papers in the air! Pick up the papers! Do seat work! Get ready for the next planned emergency!
It was just like sleeping on a roller coaster. One can sleep quite well, being quite bored, when one knows the steady rhythms of the emergencies. Zzzzzzzzzzzz...
Day dragged into sleepy day until finally, school let out for the three months of Hibernation Holiday, which began with too much eating on Thanksgiving and Christmas Days. (For bears these two days were always the first two days of the three-month holiday. It just made it more convenient to blubber up and settle in for a long nap throughout the winter each year. Bears had no need for brightly-wrapped gift boxes, filled with trinkets and the like. The food was a wonderful surprise every year, even though it was always expected.)
As is often the case in the lives of individuals, who make the Big Choice in favor of D'Oso Reimi, their thoughts become quite a bit more sober, making them more settled, while thinking more deeply about life in general. Casa was no exception to this rule. Living on a bed of limbs, leaves and evergreen needles was fun for the short run, but over long periods of life a settled, substantial home place is always recommended, especially when young children are in the picture.
That being said, Casa had realized it was time to find a new cave for him to call, "Home," for the benefit of his son. It had taken him a relatively short time to find this cozy little domicile, where he and Quest were now bedding down for hibernation. A few tears of remembrance moistened his facial fur as his thought of his dear wife, Ossie, but he comforted himself that she would be proud of him for the way he was taking good care of their son.
"Come over here and curl up with me, Quest. It's time to get our annual Big Long Sleep. Are you ready? Do you have Manny, your soft and plushy man-shaped pillow? You know Manny always helps you sleep better when you and he sleep in the crook of my arms."
"Yes, Papa. Manny and I are ready. Aren't we Manny? He shook his head, 'Yes.' We're ready, Daddy."
"Then, time to sleep. (yawn) Zzzzzzzzz..."
A few nights later a screaming wind howled with fury through the cave, blowing air so cold that Quest's teeth chattered, even in between his Dad's arms. Chilled to the bone, he shot up to a seated position, instantly awake. Looking around he listened, straining to learn more from the voice of the wind and its frightful, scary breath. Soon the sound was more like a muted trumpet than a cougar on the prowl. At the same time, the cold breath of winter had stilled to the smell of a musty closet.
Quest crept out from between Casa's forearms, examining every inch of the den with his forepaws since the sun was obviously not up, yet. From one side around the back and along the other side of the cave everything seemed to be in order. Waking provisions were in place, untouched. Additional bedding materials were in place just in case one of them woke during hibernation, needing more warmth. Best of all their own personal bubbling fountain was available to quench their thirst if they should awaken during the Big Sleep.
When he came to the door of their cave, Quest screamed, "Oh! NO!"
Casa was immediately awake and at the ready. "What's wrong, Son?"
"Dad, the cold winter wind breathed on me and screamed at me, and it woke me up. But when it stopped screaming and breathing its cold breath at me I began to explore the den. Everything seemed to be okay until I got to the door of the den. Daddy, there's not one."
"What do you mean, 'Not one'?"
"Put your paw right here. Feel that?"
A soft, powdery object covered the opening that was the door to their cave when they went to sleep three nights ago. "Quest, it's not all that. It's soft and powdery. We should be able to push through easily. Let's try."
"UNGGGH. ARRRRRRR. MMMMM. UNGGGH," they grunted together until they were out-of-breath.
"Dad, I don't think this is working."
"You're right, My Boy. Whatever this is,...is deceptively heavy. What say we try to scratch a couple of small holes right in front of each of us."
"It's worth a try, Dad."
(scratch, scratch, scratch...scrape, scrape, scrape,...scratch, scratch, scratch,...) Over and over and over they tried, but still, there was even more soft powder. Now, their paws were starting to feel very cold and numb.
"I think we're going to have to wait and be patient. Besides, we have provisions and plenty more nights to sleep before the Hibernation is over."
Our Boring Life
"But what is that stuff, Dad?"
"It's called, 'snow,' Son. I've seen it a few times during my life. It's always soft and powdery and cold, but I have never felt it this thick. It should be gone by the time we wake up in the spring."
"But why is it keeping us captive in here?"
"Quest, the snow is not blocking us in on purpose. It's just frozen water. Actually, if the temperatures were warmed, then the same stuff that is blocking us in right now, would be rain. It might even be flooding our den, waking us up with the desire to breathe. Thank, D'Oso, for the cold. I think the snow may be making our den warmer overall since the air is still. This glorious snow is acting as insulation for our often cold and damp cave. Isn't this wonderful?"
"If you say so, Dad."
"Let's make the best of it, My Boy. Let's go back to sleep. What a wonderful sleep we will have now."
"Dad, I can't go back to sleep right now. My heart is racing. I'm feeling a little scared. Can we just talk? I might feel better if we did."
"Okay, Son. What do you want to talk about?"
"What about this boring life we've been living, since The Big Choice? We gave our lives to D'Oso Reimi, and all of a sudden life is just not very exciting."
"What about this snow, Buddy? You said your heart is racing. That sounds like excitement to me."
"That's terror. That's not excitement."
"Au contraire, My Little Bear. I have heard from some of my scientist friends that the body responds to terror and excitement with the same chemicals of the autonomic nervous system. Put another way, 'There is a terror in your excitement and an excitement in your terror.'"
"Are you serious?"
"Alright. Point well taken, Dad, but I don't feel very excited in my heart about all of this snow. School has been boring, even the two ferrets have become tiresome in their funny antics because the antics are always the same and their movements are always fast. It's like they have two speeds, Sleep and Overdrive, and I'm not completely convinced that they ever sleep."
"I see what you mean. Over-stimulated or consistently-stimulated adrenaline can make the body feel constantly tired and sleepy. In a word, 'Too much adrenaline makes the body bored because it has no time to rest, and boredom is the body's demand for rest.'"
"But I thought The Big Choice or The Big Change would make things really start happening in our lives. As it is it looks like nothing is happening at all."
"'Nothing happening'? O, Quest, let me give you a little perspective. Have you ever been at the edge of the forest, when a farmer is sowing seed in one of his fields?"
"Yes, Sir. I saw a man with a large, heavy bag, draped over his shoulder. He stuck his hand in the bag every few steps and threw little things all over the ground."
"Exactly. Those little things were seeds. The seeds fell into the newly furrowed rows and the rain watered the seeds into place, covering them with dirt. And the ground looked the same for weeks after that, right?"
"Right. Why was that? The farmer did something with the seeds, but the seeds returned the favor by being lazy, doing nothing for weeks."
"That's not exactly right, Son. The seeds were doing something. They were growing from seeds into plants under the ground, where you couldn't see what was happening."
"Are you saying that D'Oso planted a seed inside of me and that it has been growing inside of me for all this time, without me realizing it?"
"That's exactly what I'm saying, Son. Seeds take time to grow, just like children take time to grow. The fact that we can't always see the growth, doesn't mean that nothing is happening. There is more growing in D'Oso Reimi's Garden than meets the eye."
"So, growth is to be considered exciting, even in the waiting. Is that right, Dad?"
"That is VERY right, Son. I'm VERY proud of you."