Don’t Feed The Animals

The leaves had just begun to blaze gold and vermilion. A crisp breeze nipped. Snuggling in her warm shawl, Bjorn sniffed the air. She took a hearty gulp of her honey sweet tea. That’s when she noticed the odd foot prints. She scanned the trees and then left her porch to investigate. She bent down, peering.
“What is it Momma?” Armel shouted inches from his ear. Bjorn jumped and spillt her tea. She chased him around their yard, swatting at his bottom laughing.
That night, her partner and her son, rough housed in front of the fireplace while Bjorn finished dinner.
“Anything exciting today?” Humbert asked as he carried Armel upside down to the dining room table.
“Yes, Papa, yes,” Armel squealed.
Bjorn coughed and gave her son a meaningful look.
“So what’s today’s adventure?” Humbert asked.
“Momma dropped Grammy’s handmade mug and then she couldn’t catch me even though she tried.” Armel shook his head in mock sadness.
“Well she is pretty, pretty old,” Humbert said, “Gave her a break.”
The trio roared with laughter.
The next day there were more tracks and weird spoor. Next, the trash had been gone through. Bjorn cleaned up the mess and searched the woods. Nothing. That night, she left a few carrots, apples, and a chunk of honeycomb. In the morning, the food was gone and in its place her mother’s mug filled with wildflowers. Bjorn’s heart was warmed.
The days grew cooler. To the bundles of food, Bjorn added thick blankets and Armel’s old sleeping bag. Each day she walked the forest edge. She knew you were not to feed nuisance animals. It encourages them to populated areas. They could carry disease. They were dangerous. She knew she should report this strange unseen creature to the Council. She knew they would set up traps, cruel metal mouths. When she had been young, Bjorn remembered the screams of a captured creature deep in the woods. Bjorn shook the nightmare from her memory and returned home.
The woods were under a shimmering blanket of snow. Armel was up with the sun. He bounded out the house to see if the lake had frozen over. With a boisterous whoop, Humbert ran after him. Bjorn put breakfast to simmer on the stove and headed to the lakeside with an armful of towels and hot lemon balm tea. A half hour later the three were walking back home. The lake was not frozen solid. Swaddled in towels, Humbert and Armel drank their tea and laughed over who was to blame for cracking the ice. Bjorn was heart heavy, thinking of her wild animal, hoping it has found shelter.
The three stopped dead. Their front door was wide open. They approached slowly. Who would dare to enter their home uninvited? Raising a warning arm, Humbert went in first. Big and silent, he explored. Bjorn heard him gasp in Armel’s bedroom.
There it was. Curled into a ball at the foot of their son’s bed, the wild creature slept. With a big head and skinny arms and legs, it was clearly a youngster of some sort. Dirty and hairless, except for matted locs of yellow fur on its head, the thing was barely bigger than Humbert’s two paws.
“It sure is ugly.” Humbert was eyeing the creature, bemused.
“You knew.”
“Like I’m not going to notice a steady stream of my food going out the back door,” Humbert said rubbing his snort with hers, “besides Armel is a terrible confidant.”
“Yeah Momma I’m rubbish at keeping secrets. Can we keep it? I promise to take care of it. I can make a soft bed with hay in a box. I’ll walk it everyday I promise. Pretty, pretty, please.”
The trio watched the wild animal turn in its sleep and then opened its weary big eyes. The three bears held their breath waiting. The creature stretched, yawned, and recurred into sleep. Humbert covered the poor thing with the bed’s comforter. Armel tucked his favorite dolly under its arm.
“I will get the porridge.”

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on

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