by Barefoot Bob
A story meant to be read to young children.
|The Shy Porcupine
In the middle of a dense forest stood a clearing. When the day’s work was finished, many of the animals loved to meet at the clearing for fun and games.
One warm summer day, Prissy Porcupine decided to join in the fun. She had heard shouts and laughter coming from the clearing. But Prissy Porcupine was a shy porcupine. Mother had told her that porcupines are not always accepted by the other animals. Before Prissy left for the clearing, her mother spoke to her.
“Please be careful,” her mother warned, tenderly. “Many of the other animals do not understand that our sharp quills are there to protect us from harm.”
Prissy pricked up her quills and shuddered in terror. “My quills are so sharp!” she exclaimed. “I certainly do not wish to hurt anyone.”
“Of course you don’t,” soothed her mother. “But sometimes we hurt others without wanting to.”
“I’ll be careful,” she promised her mother. So Prissy tucked in her quills as flat as possible and headed for the clearing.
When Prissy arrived at the clearing, she peeked timidly over a tree stump. All the animals seemed to be having fun running, jumping, rolling, and hiding with joyful giggles. Prissy smiled with excitement.
But suddenly Prissy was startled by a deep voice.
Prissy ducked down, frightened.
“Don’t be afraid,” said the strong but gentle voice. It was Barney Bear, and he was motioning to her. “Come on over,” said Barney. “Join in the fun, Prissy.”
Then Freddie T. Fox chimed in: “Well I’ll be… Look who’s here… It’s Prissy Porcupine.” The fox was his usual clowning self. “Hey, Prissy,” he called. “Needled anyone lately?” Freddie pretended to be stuck by quills. “Ouch! Ouch!” he said, and everyone laughed—everyone except Prissy, who ducked back down.
“Aww, cut it out,” said Barney. “Can’t you see that she is a shy porcupine?” Barney took Prissy gently by the hand. “Don’t pay attention to that nutty fox,” he told her. “You might as well play with the rest of us. It’s better than hiding alone in the woods.” Barney led Prissy to the clearing, where all the animals were waiting.
Prissy felt better when many of the animals welcomed her.
“Hi, Prissy,” greeted Samantha Squirrel. “Welcome to the games.”
“Hello, there,” said Ronny Raccoon. “We can always use another player.” Prissy smiled. Ronny Raccoon looked like a bandit with the black fur around his eyes.
“Who? Who?” said Oliver Owl.
“This is Prissy Porcupine,” said Barney.
“Who?” said the owl.
“I said this is… Aww, never mind,” said Barney. “Oliver Owl, you ask so many questions.”
Freddie T. Fox was getting impatient. “Hey, gang,” he shouted. “Come on… Let’s go… The sun is getting low.” Then he tipped his derby hat and said. “Hey. I’m a poet… And I know it…” Everyone laughed at Freddie.
“Okay, kids,” said Ronny Raccoon. “Hide-and-go-seek… And Prissy can be it.”
“What is an it?” asked Prissy, innocently.
The animals laughed with delight. Barney Bear explained. “To be it is a great honor, Prissy. You must first close your eyes and count to ten slowly. When you reach ten you may open your eyes and try to find us. The first animal you find will then be it.”
“I understand,” said Prissy, excitedly. “I would love to be it.”
“Fine,” said Barney. “But remember you must not peek,” he cautioned.
“I promise not to peek,” said Prissy. She then closed her eyes and counted to ten. When she opened her eyes, no one was in sight. All that she could see was the ocean of tall grass, waved by the soft, warm wind. And all that could be heard was the sound of birds chirping in the trees. The birds chirped secrets to each other. Prissy wondered what they were saying.
“Those animals are good hiders,” Prissy said to herself. She began to shuffle through the grass, bewildered. Where are they? She thought. Maybe she would never find them. Would she be it forever?
It seems like a long time. But finally Prissy’s sharp eyes caught sight of a patch of red at the end of a hollow log. “Hmm,” said Prissy, as she crept closer to the log. Sure enough. There was someone hiding inside that log! Waving in the breeze at the end of the log was a brownish red tail.
“What fun!” thought Prissy. Quietly, she tip-toed up to the log. The excitement she felt made her quills stand on end.
“You’re it!” she cried, and touched the tail. But when she did she accidently brushed against Freddie with her sharp quills. In a red blur, Freddie T. Fox slid out from inside the log.
“YeeOww!” he cried, holding his tail, painfully.
“Heads popped up from everywhere. All the animals ran over to see what had happened. Barney Bear came out from behind a fat tree and the edge of the clearing.
“What happened?” he asked.
“Oww,” said Freddie. Prissy stuck me with her sharp quills.” Then Freddie became angry. “I told you,” said the fox. “I told you so… Porcupines are mean. They will stick you when you’re not looking.”
Now, Freddie,” said Barney, sternly. “I am sure that Prissy did not mean to stick you with her quills, did you, Prissy.”
Prissy was frightened. Everyone stared at her, waiting for an answer.
“Well?” screeched Freddie.
The little porcupine tried to speak, but a lump formed in her throat. She glanced from one animal to another. Then, terrified, Prissy scurried quickly away. She ran faster and faster, as if being chased by the wind. Prissy didn’t stop or even look back until she had gone far from the clearing. When she finally stopped to rest by a noisy creek, Prissy found herself in the thickest, deepest part of the forest.
Prissy sat on a rock and thought of poor Freddie. She did not mean to stick the fox with her sharp quills. In the excitement of the game she had forgotten her mother’s words of caution: “Please be careful, Prissy. Sometimes we hurt others without wanting to.”
Tears formed in Prissy’s eyes. The dark woods around her seemed strange and unfriendly. She knew she was lost.
“Mom…” she called out. But the only one who answered was a distant crow.
“Mommy,” she called again.
As the last rays of sunshine shown meekly through the tree tops, Prissy wept, sadly.
The forest grew dark. Prissy knew that her mother would be worrying. She looked at the un-familiar woods. It was hard to tell just where in the forest she was. She had been too upset to pay attention to where she was going. Spooky shadows danced all about her. Prissy knew she would have to find a place to sleep. Perhaps she could find her way back home in the morning.
After much searching, Prissy found a small cave in some rocks. She crawled cautiously inside. Suddenly, there was a rustling sound coming from one dark corner of the cave.
“Who’s there?” someone growled.
“P-Prissy P-Porcupine,” she said, meekly.
“P-Prissy P-Porcupine,” mocked the voice. “Can’t a wolf get a good night’s sleep?” it complained.
A large, gray wolf stepped out of the shadows. He was wearing a funny night cap and a pair of dark glasses.
“A wolf!” cried Prissy. Her quills stood on end, and she trembled in the corner.
“Now wait just a darn minute,” said the wolf, backing away. “There is no need to prick up your quills at me. I’m not going to hurt you.”
“But you’re a wolf,” said Prissy.
The wolf removed his dark glasses. “Yeah. I’m a wolf… And you’re a porcupine. So what?”
The wolf edged closer to Prissy, careful to avoid her sharp quills. “I don’t understand you animals,” said the wolf. “The moment any one of you see me you run away—like I’m the bad guy or something. How’s a fella suppose to make friends when no one gets near him?”
“I don’t know,” said Prissy. She guessed she had the same problem as he. Prissy relaxed a little when she realized the wolf had the same trouble making friends she did.
“So, little porcupine,” said the wolf. “I suppose you are afraid of me, too.”
Prissy thought a moment. “Not if you aren’t afraid of me,” she said.
The wolf watched closely as her quills settled down. “There,” he remarked. “That’s better… You know, you porcupines aren’t bad people when you let your quills down.”
Prissy smiled. “I thought wolves were mean and nasty,” said Prissy.
“You silly porcupine,” said the wolf. He tilted his night cap and wrinkled his nose. “Do I look mean and nasty?”
“You certainly do not, Mr. Wolf,” laughed Prissy.
“Besides,” added the wolf. “I, with all my courage, used to be afraid of porcupine, that is, until I met you, Prissy.”
Said Prissy: “I guess we both learned something tonight.”
“Fine,” said the wolf. “Now, if you let me get some sleep I’ll help you find your way back home in the morning.” He looked closely at her. “You are lost, aren’t you?”
“How did you know?” asked Prissy.
“That’s easy,” said the wolf. “What else would a porcupine be doing in a wolf’s cave at night?”
“Hmm, I see what you mean,” said Prissy, and giggled.
The wolf straightened his night cap and slid his dark glasses over his nose. “I simply must get some sleep tonight,” he remarked. “I’m an insomniac, you know.”
“A what?” said Prissy.
“In-som-ni-ac,” repeated the wolf. “That is someone who has trouble sleeping.”
“Oh,” said Prissy.
“I wear dark glasses to help keep any light out of my eyes,” said the wolf. “And I tried counting sheep. I heard that counting sheep can help you get to sleep. But counting sheep always made me hungry,” he said, and smacked his lips.
“Brrr,” Prissy quivered.
“Don’t worry. I don’t eat friends,” said the wolf. “Your quills would be much too tough, anyway.”
But the thought of the wolf getting hungry as he counted sheep frightened Prissy. She turned and ran towards the cave’s entrance.
“Wait,” shouted the wolf. “Come back here,” he demanded. He had crossed his arms and was stamping his foot. “Come-right-back-here,” he said, sternly.
Prissy crawled meekly back.
“Are we not friends?” asked the wolf. His voice had softened.
“I guess so,” said Prissy.
“And aren’t friends suppose to trust each other?” added the wolf.
Prissy nodded in agreement.
“So, little porcupine,” continued the wolf. “Trust that I won’t hurt you.”
Prissy’s face was perplexed. She thought a long moment. “But Mr. Wolf,” said Prissy. “Counting sheep makes you hungry.”
“No problem,” said the wolf. “If it bothers you, I’ll count ice cream cones instead.”
“Counting ice cream cones makes me hungry,” said Prissy, giggling
So Prissy slept easily that night. And with his dark glasses, his night cap, and a friend nearby, so did the wolf.
When Prissy awakened in the morning, the wolf had disappeared. Prissy felt a sadness come over her, for her new friend was no where in sight. Then, suddenly, she heard a shrill voice coming from outside the cave.
“Prissy!” she heard the wolf shouting. “Help me! Save me from your friends!”
Terrified, Prissy ran outside. In the bright morning sun, her eyes beheld such an awful sight that she gasped, and her quills stood on end. All the animals were gathered around a tree where the wolf hung upside down. The animals had tied a stout vine around one of his paws. A bow from his dark glasses had slipped from an ear and dangled down with his night cap hooked to it.
“Please help me,” begged the wolf. “Protect me from your friends.”
Mr. Wolf looked very frightened hanging upside down, with all the animals clapping and cheering.
“Don’t worry,” said Ronny Raccoon. “That mean wolf isn’t going to hurt you.”
“No! No!” cried Prissy. “Let him down. Mr. Wolf is my friend.”
All the animals stopped clapping and cheering. Everyone was silent and stared at Prissy with puzzled expressions.
“Your friend?” said Freddie T. Fox. “How can a wolf be your friend? Wolves are always bad. No wolf was ever anyone’s friend.”
“But Mr. Wolf is my friend,” insisted Prissy. “He gave me shelter for the night. He was going to help me find my way back home.”
“A likely story,” said Freddie. “That old wolf was just pretending to be your friend… fattening you up so he could…”
“No,” said Prissy. “Mr. Wolf is my friend, and I trust him. If you want to be my friend, you must also try to trust the wolf.”
Barney Bear raised his arms. “Hold on, now,” he said. “Maybe Prissy has something. Remember we did not trust Prissy because of her sharp quills. Yet she did not try to hurt anyone. It was an accident.”
Freddie looked at his tail and added. “That is true, Prissy. I know now that you didn’t mean to stick me.”
“Let’s give the wolf a chance,” said Barney. “What do you say?”
It was decided to let the wolf down, cautiously at first. Then the animals became more and more confident in their trust.
“Thank you, Prissy,” said the wolf. “Thank you for being my friend. And thank you, too, he said to the other animals. Thank you for letting be yours.”
So there were two new friends playing in the forest that day. A shy porcupine, who tried ever so hard to keep her quills tucked in flat. And a wolf that no longer had trouble sleeping. The forest smiled that day, as did Mother Porcupine.