Did you think I was done writing about raccoons? Surprise.
The Myth of Todd
When Ben Didn’t Come Back
When Ben didn’t come back. Many years later, just as “remember when ben” was basically a greeting, “when Ben didn’t come back” became a farewell. They said it at first as a warning. Don’t go there, Ben didn’t come back from there. Then they said it to honor him.
When Ben didn’t come back the raccoons were not that worried. Not at first. It wasn’t too uncommon for Ben to disappear for a day or two and come back talking about how he’d once again outwitted the humans. But when a week had gone by, the raccoons knew something had to be done. Luckily there was a volunteer.
Todd was Ben’s quite concerned nephew. Todd had grown up in a world where the best and most common way to prove your bravery among the young raccoons was to listen to Ben. Todd had gained untold fame among the cubs as The Guy That Woke Up A Hibernating Bear. (Todd was not later sure it was worth it, but there’s no sense worrying about the past, his mother told him).
But despite all the danger his uncle had gotten him into (because of it, possibly), Todd was very fond of his uncle, and I can only wonder what he’ll do when he finds out what happened to Ben. Something reckless, probably.
On to the adventure. Todd set out at the crack of dusk. It had been confirmed Ben had attended a party immediately before his disappearance, so Todd started there and worked his way towards Ben’s home, thinking, where would I go if I was Ben? Todd soon found himself standing at the edge of an area he had not intended to go. Where Cousin Kyle disappeared. Who’s cousin Kyle was is not clear, but it was not advisable, if you were a raccoon, to step foot anywhere near a place a fellow raccoon had disappeared. Disappearance usually meant death.
Todd stood there a while. War was raging in his head. Should he go onward, into certain danger, to find what out happened to Ben? Or should he say he did his best and leave? After several long minutes, during which he made as if to leave, or go on, several times, he decided. He decided to go on.
Todd made his way warily through the weeds. He sniffed as hard as he could, but he could smell no sign of Ben. If he had been here, it had been too long, the scent had dissipated. Todd was about to turn and go another direction when he stumbled out of the underbrush and found himself looking at a shed. And he smelled marshmallow.
I believe you have an idea as to what is going to happen.
Todd cautiously walked towards the source of the smell. He stopped in front of a small metal cone. The marshmallow was inside. Todd could not resist. Few raccoons could. Todd reached his hand in, grasped the marshmallow, and attempted to pull his hand back out. I say attempted because it didn’t work. It only took a second or two for Todd to realize what had happened to him. Then, twisting around, he saw what happened to Ben. A pool of blood lay next to a second metal cone.
“Uncle Ben….” Todd stared wide-eyed in horror. Uncle Ben was dead. How…..he could not form any coherent thoughts. The one word running through his mind was dead. Dead. For many long minutes, which seemed an eternity to Todd, he stared at the pool of blood feeling his heart break.
The loud hoot of a nearby owl startled him out of his melancholy thoughts. Looking at the metal cone, he realized he needed to begin the work of escaping. He almost didn’t try. If the great Ben could not escape from this terrible trap, how could he? Eventually, however, his instinct for survival won out. Todd began tugging at the cone. He tugged and tugged, yanked and yanked, but the only thing he succeeded in doing was pulling the cone out of the ground. The cone was still attached to a large stake drove deep into the ground.
Todd sat back and stared emptily at the stake. There was no way he could get that out. None. Jumbled thoughts and memories ran through Todd’s mind. Uncle Ben laughing at a joke while a very young Todd sat perched on his knee. The sight of a sleeping bear waking up. Growing up Ben’s nephew, always known, never in the background. The way grass looked peeking out from the last bits of snow in spring. The one thing Uncle Ben told him constantly, above all else.
“Don’t give up,” Ben admonished his nephew. “Don’t give up, it’s exactly what them humans want ya’ to do. You give up, and you’ve lost the battle before it’s begun.”
“Don’t give up.” Todd said. His voice seemed unnaturally loud. He blinked. Don’t give up. He looked at the stake. Don’t give up. Under different circumstances, he would have smiled. He had a plan.
Alternately digging and pulling, Todd began to work the stake free. It was slow progress. It was hours before he was done. With one last yank, Todd pulled out the stake. He ran off without a backward glance as the sun started to creep over the horizon. (When That Guy came out later, he was extremely puzzled as to why one of his traps had disappeared).
The trap dangling from his paw hindered his progress. Many times the trap got caught on sticks or tangled in weeds, and Todd had to work the trap free. But, finally, he walked into his parents house. It was daytime, so they should have been asleep, his mother was, but his father was getting a midday snack. Once Todd had told him what happened, he, in this order, woke up his wife, woke up all the raccoons nearby and told them to wake up more raccoons, and then stopped on his way home to go to the bathroom.
Soon all the raccoons in the area, all the raccoons for miles in each direction, all the raccoons that knew Ben, were gathered in front of Todd, who sat on a tree stump looking very much like a raccoon who had just escaped the jaws of death, for he had.
When the last raccoon had arrived, Todd began to speak. At first in a low, quiet voice that all had to strain to hear, then gradually talking so loud as to be almost shouting, he told them what had occurred, that night, and the night that Ben…..
When they heard of Ben’s fate, the raccoons wailed in sorrow, and the sound was heard as far away as That Guy’s house, where That Guy sat on the porch telling his wife about the raccoon that got away. Dozens of raccoons in the daytime, mourning, was not a usual sight, and before long the raccoons agreed they must all take their leave, before some curious human came to see what was the matter.
Todd’s parents took him to the doctor, a old gray raccoon who looked at his paw with a serious expression on his face, “hmm”ing every so often.
“Yes, I’m afraid it’s the only thing to be done,” said the doctor, shaking his head sadly.
“What’s the only thing to be done?” asked Todd’s mother nervously.
“I can’t get the trap off his paw. But I can get his paw off his leg.”
“What!” Todd’s mother screeched.
“It’s the only possible way,” said the doctor. Directing his attention to Todd, he said, “Son, do you want to go around in life with four paws and a trap stuck to one of them, or three paws and no trap?”
Todd did not like either option. It did not matter what Todd liked. I shall skip over this part, as I am sure you understand what transpired.
The next night, Todd sat on a rock at the edge of a clearing, looking at the stars and trying to ignore the throbbing pain where his paw used to be. Todd had lost both a paw and an Uncle, and gained a new nickname, Three-Paw Todd, in the same night. As Todd gazed up at the sky, his sorrow turned to cold anger and hatred, hatred for the one that had taken his uncle from him, That Guy! Standing up on his hind legs, Todd reached his remaining paw to the sky and vowed, “I shall avenge you uncle! If I have to travel to the ends of the earth, I shall avenge you! That Guy will paaaayyyyy!!!!” Todd’s voice rang out over the countryside, and all who heard it shivered, for raccoons don’t break promises. Unfortunately for That Guy.
To be continued.
Thanks for reading this, I hope you liked it. I do think That Guy has an interesting fate ahead of him. A raccoon just declared war on him. How do you think Todd will get his revenge? I have some ideas. But the real question is, who is That Guy? I shall leave you to ponder that.
The Tales of Ben the Raccoon: Volume One
“Surprisingly, while the craziness of the plan was not disputed, all immediately agreed to carry it out.” -Kylli Berg