Dan and Canon, A Story of Friendship

17 01 2012

“The world is so full of a number of things. I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.” Dan turned to his friend and fixed him with one beady eye.

It didn’t matter that twenty of Dan’s eyes would have fit inside one of Canon’s. Size is immaterial to all creatures of good sense. Dan and Canon are nothing if not sensible.

“You are right, of course.” Canon commented in the slow and ponderous speech of a creature larger than a semi truck. “But are we happy, I wonder.”

“Do you mean “we” sentient creatures or “we” you and I?” Dan spoke quickly, punctuating his words with quick tail flicks.

“I meant the word to reference the world at large.”

“You’re pretty large. Are you happy?” Dan chittered at his small joke. All his jokes were small, as indeed was everything that he did.

“Why yes. I think so. In general.” Canon moved his flippers in slow circles, blowing air noisily out his blowhole.

“CANON!” A soaking wet Dan strode to the edge of the dock and bellowed at his retreating friend. “I asked you not to do that when we’re talking! It’ll take me hours to dry off.”

“My apologies, Dan. I forgot.” Canon swum apologetically nearer to the dock.

“I thought whales were supposed to remember everything.”

“I believe that colloquial wisdom refers primarily to elephants. As you know, whales and elephants share only the most tenuous of biological connections. No-one expects whales to remember anything.”

“Well I do. And I, for one, am NOT happy.”

“At this moment or in general?”

“In general.”

“Whyever not?”

“Because, Canon. I am a squirrel. We have a very limited scope, you know. There’s no ADVENTURE in my life. I want to travel.”

“Dan, I had no idea.”

Dan sunk his small face into his smaller paws and stared out over Canon’s broad back to the horizon. “I know. No-one thinks squirrels care about that stuff. We’re supposed to store nuts and climb trees and run away from dogs. But I’ve done all that and now I want something more.”

Canon’s large face was incapable of much expression, and he had no paws with which to hold his face but he did have a warm heart. He loved his small friend very much. Since they had met several seasons previously they had often met to talk and share thoughts on the world. Dan spoke of the sunlit tree tops and Canon told stories of the deep mystery of the sea. Both friends regretted that they could never see life through the other’s eyes.

But Dan’s latest words struck deep in Canon’s very large heart. He excused himself and swam out to sea, thinking hard all the while.

Dan retreated sadly to the trees.

It took Canon three days to come up with a plan. He was a slow and deep thinker and his plans formed slowly. Good plans took at least a day and great plans took longer. He spent several weeks gathering driftwood and pulling apart shipwrecks to find nails and a hammer. Early in the process he recruited three seals, four crabs and a pair of eels. Between all of them they managed to build a platform to Canon’s specifications. The rest of his pod helped him attach the apparatus to his broad back.

A month or so after their initial conversation Canon swam proudly back into the bay. Attached to his back was a platform with a cask for water and a box for food.

“Dan!” Canon’s sonorous tones echoed around the bay.

Dan came running, bounding down the dock to it’s furthest edge. “Canon what IS that thing?!”

“You said you wanted to see the world. I can’t swim quite that far but we could certainly go on an adventure or two.”

The squirrel’s tiny face almost cracked from smiling. Joy radiated from his nose to the tip of his tail. “I’ll grab some food and a handkerchief and we’ll go. Can we go now?”

“As soon as you are ready.”

It was the work of less than an hour for Dan to fill the box with snacks and spare handkerchiefs. Sunset saw the two friends heading out of the bay.

A watcher would have seen only the silhouette of a squirrel, pushing forward to the farthest edge of the platform, watching his fondest dream come true.



24 12 2011

With thanks to Timothy for the idea and many more thanks for his continual kindness toward me.

Never is an intolerable word. To a scientist it is blasphemy. To me it was a challenge.

Genetics was not then the flourishing field it is now. When I walked away from school with my PhD I decided to venture into the highly experimental field of animal genetics. My motivation was a combination of genuine academic curiosity and rebellion. At the time there was no glamour or respectability associated with the study of genetics. Especially in regards to animals rather than people.

I’d been a good kid all growing up. Respectable, bookish, without attraction or charm but with more brains than my teachers knew what to do with. Even in my post-graduate work my professors largely left me alone to do my own work. Mousy looks and painful shyness ruled me out for extra attention. Of course, I didn’t mind. At a young age I’d accepted my lack of glamour and over the years I began to embrace it. My life was molded around study and academia; my isolation was purposeful.

My colleagues will tell you that I was anti-social, devoted to my Project. They aren’t wrong. But that isn’t the whole story.
Read the rest of this entry »

“High Tops and Graffiti”

12 11 2011

For Levi, with great affection for one of only a dozen people with whom I have had dance parties in front yards in Illinois.

I swear, I didn’t mean it to happen. I was just a nice kid from the suburbs, transported to city life by a combination of cultural expectation and parental pressure. The big University was the only “acceptable” choice for the son of a successful businessman and an Ivy-league graduate. I’d have given anything if they’d let me go to art school in England but a biology degree from a prestigious university was my only option. At least as far as THEY were concerned.

I’m getting off-topic. Like I said, I never meant it to happen. All I wanted was to keep my head down, get done with my four years and get OUT. Once I had a job they wouldn’t be able to tell me what to do. I have never had the illusion that being a college student made me in any way independent. A host of teachers, RA’s and my ever-present parents made college another gilded cage. And the gilding was flaking off with dangerous rapidity. Read the rest of this entry »

“The War With the Raccoon People”

12 11 2011

I have a feeling of creative energy and the desire to write a story. I asked the all-knowing facebook and my friend Tim came up with “The War With the Raccoon People” so here ya go. Dedicated with nerdy affection to Tim.

Not all the tunnels the children made were of the hands-and-knees variety. Of the half-dozen children who frequented the green space behind the suburban sprawl, only two liked their tunnels low and close. Anna built her pathways high and wide, Jeff used tree limbs to make bridges over nothing instead of tunnels through the brush. Zach liked to make small corridors through the thorniest bushes and slimiest mud. Nobody followed Zach for long. Alyssa (“Lyss” to all but her mother) refused to use anyone else’s paths and instead followed the animal trails. It was Lyss who first saw them.

The green space was a last bastion of earth, stone, and tree in a city which expanded daily, throwing itself onto new ground with every exhalation of smog and cement. Covering something like five square miles the forest had been early claimed by deer, squirrel, rabbit and coyote. No other animal stayed long in a place so near the stink of human.

No animal, that is, until the raccoon came.

Raccoon are scavengers. Clever with their paws and more clever still when faced with the challenge of outwitting humans. It took only a couple of raccoon to lay claim to the entire green space before they moved their entire clan. Lock, stock and weapons they came, bringing their intelligence and their long-standing hatred of the humans whose blind power sought ever to kill all creatures but themselves.

Unfortunately, the humans were too big to be fought off by even the smartest raccoon warrior. At least, the adults were.

Lyss saw one. A glimpse only and that too quick for recognition. Drawing herself up and squinting she followed the line of waving ferns until they moved no more. It took one long whistle to call the other children to her. Read the rest of this entry »

45 Keys (short story)

2 04 2011

At the top of a New York apartment building, above the crust and stale despair of a dark and dilapidated neighborhood there is a room. To reach it you must walk up six flights of stairs for the building has no elevator and looks as though it could not sustain the shock if an elevator were to be introduced into its’ decaying superstructure. The stairs are tired and sag to prove it. The walls were papered once but the pattern has faded into a dim memory of itself. Occasionally, if you happen to attempt the climb, you meet rats and mice who greet you in the manner of very small and velvety doormen. Sometimes a particularly bold rat will escort you all the way to the top floor.

There is a landing above the uppermost step, but no hallway. The other floors have hallways but even passages cannot be bothered with sixth floor walk-ups. Instead you get a landing and a green door with a tarnished placard that reads only “Mr Sharpe”.

The tenant’s name is not, it may be observed, Mr Sharpe.  Read the rest of this entry »

Story Time!

20 07 2010

To my mind there is nothing more useless than riding with my father’s trade caravan. I am the youngest daughter and, while I am by no means unintelligent, I am of no help on these trips. Father brought me only to sweeten up the buyers with my beauty and tea-pouring skills. To make a five week journey on the back of a recalcitrant horse only to pour tea for fat old men is demeaning. Especially this year, as I am forced to leave at the height of the Season.

More importantly, though, I leave mere weeks after becoming engaged to His Lordship Sir Delmonte. Sir Delmonte is the most handsome and most influential young man at Court. Some think that he will be the next King and he will if the Council is not a gaggle of idiot geese.

My father is smart. He knew my two half-sisters would never catch His Lordship’s eye. They are overtall and not blessed with surplus intelligence. Moreover, it is well known that Sir Delmonte favors fair complexions and green eyes. My stepmother is dark complexioned in the tradition of our people and her daughters take after her. My skin is white and my eyes are jade and, as I have said, my father is no fool. Read the rest of this entry »

Peter and Penny

11 07 2010

First there was Peter.

Not because Peter was more important than Penny but rather Peter’s parents decided that he must be born and so he was. Penny’s parents had less resolve and were younger so she was a little behind.

For the first dozen years Penny was taller but she didn’t mind because she hadn’t met Peter yet. Without Peter to measure herself by she didn’t have to feel gawky. No girl likes to feel gawky, especially when she is very young. About the time Peter started growing Penny began taking piano lessons.

Peter’s parents bought him a red truck on his seventeenth birthday. They were not wealthy people but Peter’s father had certain ideas about what growing boys needed. These ideas included things like lots of protein, a dog of no small size (Peter’s dog was name Archie), tennis shoes and a truck.

Peter put a toolbox and his dog in his truck and was content. For a while, anyway.

Penny spent a lot of her time doing odd jobs like babysitting and lawn mowing and the occasional afternoon in her parent’s bakery. By the time she was eighteen she had saved up enough money to buy herself a piano.

The parent’s of Penny, who were supportive but not visionary, told her she must keep the piano in her own room. Penny’s room had been on the second floor but she gladly took up residence in the smaller downstairs room in order to have the piano near. She painted a daisy on the music stand and was glad.

Peter first saw Penny as he was driving through her neighborhood one summer afternoon. He was twenty and home from college and she was eighteen, still giddy from the novelty of her new piano. He glimpsed her as she fetched the mail. A flash only, of a bright smile and lean, freckled face.

Peter drove through that neighborhood a lot that summer.

Luckily Peter’s best friend Jeff also lived in the neighborhood so he didn’t have to think up many excuses to be in her general area.

September loomed on the horizon before Peter finally met Penny.

It was at a neighborhood barbeque. Jeff had mentioned it to Peter and Peter had shamelessly begged that he be invited. Jeff laughed at him and told him to bring watermelon.

So Peter came. He was late and a group of the younger kids had turned on some music and were dancing in the cul de sac. Penny was right in among them, swinging a pig-tailed little girl around in circles. She swung to a dizzy stop and laughed, wrinkling her nose at the kids.

She straightened and brushed her hair back, the kids swirling around her like water.

Like a man in a dream Peter shoved the watermelon into someone’s waiting arms and walked right up to Penny. His knees were curiously gelatinous but determination kept him moving.

“Hi.” The laugh was still in her voice.

“Hi.” He smiled.

They’ve been Peter and Penny ever since. We celebrated their fortieth anniversary last month.