Some experiments are better left undone. Raccoons are cute, but they lack certain social skills.
There's these two raccoons who keep bugging me. At least twice a week I've gone out my front door and found them hanging around holding paws. The she-raccoon wears a mobcap and apron; her mate has a bowler hat and a jacket with collar and tie. The first time I found them sitting on one of the roots of the front of my house I was rather surprised by the get-ups -- clothed raccoons are something you'd tend to see after too many rounds of the Fart Sisters' moonshine.
"We would like to sublet part of your house from you," the bowler-capped creature says to me by way of introduction.
"Get lost," I tell them. "I don't deal with raccoons."
"Why not, Shaman? We can pay our way," the raccoon assures me.
"You're vermin. I don't deal with vermin. You guys can't keep your hands off anything and you never put anything back where you found it. Go find your own tree."
"Then can we have the bones in your planter?" the she-raccoon pipes up.
"It's not a planter, it's a grave that someone dug up and didn't put back, and no, you can't. Besides, I have herb seeds sown in there, don't disturb the soil. Now scram."
A couple days later I come back from the market and there they are again. The apron-clad raccoon is sniffing the oak barrel with the defiled bones in it, and the other raccoon is on the roots of the tree, trying to peer in the little window to the side of the door.
"Get out of there!" I roar at them. "What are you doing back again?"
"Look, Shaman! We brought first month's and last month's rent to show we can pay to sublet space in your house from you." The raccoon holds out a little burlap bag with a couple of small fish and a freshwater clam in it.
"You're not subletting anything from me. Give the food to her to eat, and go out to the forest and find a nice den! Get out of here!"
"Are you sure you need all those bones?" the lady raccoon asks wistfully, rubbing her paws together. The don't leave until I raise my staff and threaten to help them rapidly on their way.
Now it's been three weeks and I'm tired of keeping watch on that damned tub of bones to make sure the bergamot and the mint haven't been disturbed, not to mention the remains. The raccoons are out there again, with another sack of crayfish, and the same questions. Raccoons are really, really persistent.
"Look," I tell the peculiar creatures, "before I open my little neighborhood up for a hunting season, I want you to leave and stay gone. I am never going to sublet to raccoons, not now, not ever. Why aren't you in the forest where you belong, anyway?"
"We don't like the forest anymore," Ms. Raccoon says, arranging her apron. "We don't like all the animals around."
The other raccoon takes off his bowler and fans his face with it. "The skunks were the worst. You have to be so careful not to startle them."
"What do you mean, 'anymore'?" I ask, feeling a tingle of suspicion.
"We were magicked," replies the beast equably. "An apprentice to the mage Rocklift was practicing making animals talk. We received the talking spell, and then we understood that we were people now."
"So why doesn't Rocklift find you a home, or let you sublet from her?" I don't like the sound of this.
"Oh, we accidentally emptied a cabinet of formulas and charms while we were hunting for our breakfast," the raccoon sighed, "and the apprentice told us we couldn't live there anymore."
You know, I understand well the search for knowledge, and the benefits of experimentation, but I really worry about what this world is coming to in its quest for control over every aspect of life. It's bad enough that there are dimensional holes and rifts from wizards conjuring things from parallel universes, but when you add in the sorcerers and mages and half-trained spell hucksters, there are days when you think the world is standing on its head.
I remember the time this wizard over on the desert side of the mountain was fiddling around with a village who had problems with their well not being up to the capacity of the growth of the population; rather than just tell some people they'd have to move to a different area, the wizard came up with the idea of making the people less thirsty. It worked, all right, except that now the village is peopled by creatures so leathery and thin and desiccated they look like animated mummies. And some spells you just can't put back into the bottle, so to speak.
Just have a look at the list of research being done these days and you will be shaking your head in wonderment at why such things are being done.
I've relented and gotten a big box hauled over to the outskirts of town where the forest meets the tilled lands and there is a stream with a nice pool. I've given the raccoons a blanket and a doormat, and they seem content for now. I think it's time to pay the mage Rocklift a visit and find out if she knows what her apprentice has done.
The Piker Press moderates all comments.
Click here for the commenting policy.