By Rachel H.T. Mendell
The weather was perfect for grapes, so Fox took the long hike to the farmer’s vineyard to appease his appetite.
This was the last step in his recovery.
On his way, he imagined meeting his new friends, Rabbit, Mouse and Crow. He hoped he’d see Badger as well. Badger was the reason for his new-found freedom.
The vineyard was quiet. None of his friends were there. Disappointed, but hopeful, Fox walked the rows to choose the best bunch of grapes.
And there it was, full and red, high yet approachable. He barked for Mouse. He knew Mouse loved grapes. There was no answer. Mouse must still be in bed.
He was hungry and couldn’t wait. Using his front claws to walk up the thick, ancient vine, Fox planted his back paws firmly into the soft earth and stretched, his tail flicking for balance, inching toward the luscious fruit. But it was just out of reach.
He relaxed to the ground and pondered. Maybe Rabbit could help. He yipped for Rabbit. There was no answer. Rabbit must be in the cow pasture eating clover.
He found a tree branch and pulled it over. Balancing his rear feet on the log, he made himself longer and longer. Almost there. His fluffy tail wagging in effort, pushing him still higher.
But no, there was still a few inches to go. He found an old piece of a pallet and pulled it on top of the branch. He carefully mounted his perch, but the piece of wood slid off the branch. He jumped to the ground to avoid an injury.
He called for Crow. There was no answer. Crow must be in the cornfield.
Frustrated and a little angry Fox headed home. There was food in his den given to him by his friends.
Along the way, he found some lettuce. He ate it, but his stomach still rumbled in hunger. He was foraging, he thought to himself, but the grapes were what he really wanted.
Badger said there would be days like this. The MEA had a mantra to use in just such a situation, “A new life takes time. You’re not gonna die.”
At home, Fox ate leftovers from a meeting meal, potatoes and onions. As he ate, he thought of his decision to join Meat Eaters Anonymous. He was tired of being a loner, tired of being the bad guy, tired of being misunderstood. Badger said MEA worked. All you had to do was stick it out.
It had been the hardest twelve weeks of his life.
But if Bear could do it, he could. He spent the afternoon thinking about the friends he had made at Meat Eaters Anonymous.
That night he lay in his den dreaming of joining in the annual harvest parties. How he wanted to share the fun and laughter. He couldn’t wait to taste the squash and pumpkin, the corn and the beans. He knew if he could stay clean, his dream would come true.
He fell asleep with a smile on his face envisioning the warm welcome he would one day receive.
The next morning at dawn Fox ate some radishes and set out with renewed hope. Perhaps he had grown stronger. Badger said it sometimes happens to carnivores in the MEA. Maybe he could find a bigger piece of wood. Click To Tweet
Someone had trimmed and cleared the vines. His pieces of wood were gone.
He went in search of new things so he could reach the grapes.
Suddenly, he heard a loud squawk above him.
“Friend Crow!” Fox called, excited to see him. “Could you help me?”
“No, you don’t need my help,” said Crow alighting on a branch. “You eat better than I do.”
Fox was hurt. Crow must have forgotten about him joining MEA and all the work he had accomplished, the planting, the harvesting, the foraging.
“But Crow, if you help me I will give you something in return.”
“You don’t have anything I need,” replied Crow.
Crow remained in the tree watching. Fox remembered the lesson on being kind to others, especially those he had once considered prey. Fox said, “Your voice is as beautiful as your ebony feathers gleaming in the morning sun.”
Crow cawed in laughter and flew off.
Fox felt the sting of rejection. Then he remembered. Badger had said, “Give your new friends time to adjust. Some may resent that you have changed.”
Fox refused to give up. He went off in a different direction to find something to make him taller when he spotted Mouse.
“Friend Mouse,” cried Fox, “Isn’t it a beautiful day? I need your help. Could you spare a minute?”
Mouse spat in the grass with his hands on his hips. “Spare a minute? And help you? Like crawling on your nose to see if there’s anything stuck between your teeth? Yeah, we heard what you did to Miley.”
“No. No. For that I am sorry! That was my old self. Please forgive me. I have changed Mouse. All I need you to do is knock some of those beautiful grapes off the bunch for me.”
Mouse went to hide in a hole. He watched Fox and chuckled. “Tell me another one. This is the best laugh I’ve had all week!”
Fox tried to shake off the insult, but it was so hard. How long would it take for others to accept his new self? He felt a tinge of guilt. This was his challenge to complete after all.
Then he remembered what Bear had told him, “I’ve been in MEA for a year. Some guys still do not talk to me. I have accepted the fact that it is possible they never will. Be at peace with the process.”
He moved farther away in search of a height enhancer when he spotted Rabbit nibbling on the clover growing beneath the ancient vines.
“Rabbit, Friend Rabbit,” declared the Fox. “How are you this fine morning?”
Rabbit froze mid-munch and stared.
Fox continued, “You jump so high, it amazes me. I wonder if you could help me?”
“EEK!” screamed Rabbit and whisked himself and his fluffy white tail into the tall weeds on the other side of the vineyard.
Crow was croaking, and Mouse was tittering. Badger and Bear were nowhere to be seen. Fox felt more lonely than he ever had in his life.
Dejected, depressed and starving Fox wondered if his decision to become a vegetarian had been such a good idea. He trudged back to his den hearing the voices of the other MEA members in his head about the discipline of fasting. They said eventually he would see the light.
He knew he wasn’t supposed to visit friends without an invitation (an MEA rule), but he chose a path past Badger’s rocks. Perhaps he was home.
Badger was sitting in the late afternoon sun gnawing on a bone. Fox stared. Badger spotted him, gave a short wave and rushed into his crevice.
Fox was horrified. Something twisted inside his heart. He decided to say nothing. He was so close to graduating.
Fox had gone without meat before, but somehow this was different. Determined to endure, he filled his belly with dandelion greens, but his stomach still grumbled. He felt a little panicky.
He read his MEA manual and tried to find peace.
He slept poorly.
The next morning he awoke to the crow of a rooster. He imagined the taste of chicken in his mouth. His stomach hurt.
His eyesight was keen. His sense of smell intense. The instinct to attack was uncontrollable.Fox ate the old carrots Bear had given him days before. They tasted like dust. His self-restraint was waning as he imagined hunting Rabbit and Mouse and satisfying his former self. He pushed the thoughts away. Click To Tweet
Badger had called this “The Crisis.” Fox recognized it as his final challenge.
With fresh determination to be faithful to everything the MEA stood for, he started back to the vineyard. If he could just eat some grapes, he knew he could make it. He would win over his addiction.
He took a different route to the vineyard, an old habit from his old life. He was surprised to see Bear sitting on a log. He approached hoping to receive a little encouragement. He realized with a punch to the gut Bear was popping baby mice into his mouth.
He greeted Bear. Bear shrugged his shoulders and smiled.
“End of berry season,” said Bear. He patted his belly, laughed and said, “takes a lot of work to keep up this physique.”
Fox could not reply. His jaw hung open. Bear went back to popping mice.
Fox was troubled deep down in his heart. If long-time members couldn’t keep the tenets of MEA, how could he?
At the vineyard, Fox was relieved to find many of the grapes were overripe and falling to the ground. He fell upon them and gobbled them up. He ran around the vineyard eating every grape he could find. He had dreamed of the sweet juiciness in his mouth, but the experience was disappointing.
Then a disturbing noise met his ears. The crow guffawed. The mouse giggled. The rabbit snickered.
Something deep and primeval rose up in the fox’s heart. He felt more himself at that moment than he ever had in his life.
Swift as lightning he grabbed the rabbit and broke his neck. All laughing ceased. The vineyard was as quiet as a cemetery.
Fox filled his belly for the first time in many weeks. Then he paused to clean his whiskers.
Breathing a heavy sigh of relief he realized, it is better to be feared and misunderstood, than to try to be something you are not.
Bio: Rachel H.T. Mendell
Rachel H.T. Mendell writes freelance from home in her office that she grabbed when her sixth child moved out, which is much nicer than the converted closet she wrote in for almost 20 years.
Rachel writes novels, poetry, plays, essays, columns, articles, short stories, long letters, devotionals and experimental allegory.
She has been published in various magazines: Galion Inquirer, The Morrow County Sentinel, the Crestline Advocate and online at Richland Source.
You can find a few of her articles in Heart of Ohio Magazine and floating around cyberspace. She keeps a blog, Domestic Mobility (http://domesticmobility.blogspot.com), and has recently started a website (http://www.rachelhtmendell.com).
Rachel happily answers emails at firstname.lastname@example.org.
She is married and has seven children and one grandson. When Rachel is not writing, she’s gardening, caring for chickens, rabbits, and cats. She lives with her family in Morrow County, Ohio.
Published posts on Two Drops of Ink:
Two Drops of Ink: The Literary Home for Collaborative Writing
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