THE EARTH'S KIDNEYS: THE ADOLESCENT ADVENTURES OF CASTOR CANADENSIS
ISBN-13 : 979-8691922336
Copyright © 2016 Russ Williams
This short novella follows Castor Canadensis, a young beaver leaving home for the first time, as he travels downstream in search of his own mate. Along the way he must face the many dangers of the Canadian wilderness as well as his own inner battles.. that is, if he can keep his mind off lonely females...
Beautifully written, enabling me to vividly picture the story. I want a second book where they find their forever home!⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ -JessicaWin, Amazon customer
The Natural Order
Betula Pond wakes to a bitterly fresh morning sometime during the mournful days of early spring. The surface is eerily placid, a finely-frozen ghost of its former self. Along the banks, sad willow trees weep into the murky depths, staring coldly at the Betula Pond Gang Lodge, itself a stronghold sitting quietly in the middle of the pond. The sky is pink and the air thin, the surrounding woodland silent and void of life. Close to the banks lie the frozen corpses of fallen trees, their gnawed trunks standing sorrowfully nearby. Between them lie systems of small canals, each one ending near the forest’s edge.
Suddenly the silence is broken when a small head breaks through the thin layer of ice on the pond’s surface. The creature wades there for a moment, steam rising from its thick coat as it quietly observes its surroundings. A short black nose twitches vigorously, pink sunlight shining brightly on the tiny droplets that hang onto its whiskers. Then just as unexpectedly as it arrived, the creature vanishes.
In the other world beneath the surface, she drifts elegantly beneath large roots, along muddy boulders, underneath twisted roots and over slimy tree trunks. Every now and then a swift flick of her paddle-like tail sends her shooting off into the cloudy depths.
Clawing her way up a system of underwater tunnels, she emerges in a dark chamber of sorts. Shaking the water from her furry brown coat, she follows a scent into the next room. There she is greeted by her family; her mate-for-life and their two kits.
Sluggishly, the young kits stir from a deep sleep, their father shushing them gently as he gathers food from the pantry- the family favourite, water-lily. Gathered from the bottom of Betula Pond itself, the cabbage-stack-resembling delicacy is often savoured for festive occasions. To compliment, he brings a selection of bark gnawed from the community’s finest birch, poplar and willow trees.
Yawning, the eldest of the pair opens his eyes.
“Good morning, Castor.” His mother smiles at him. “It’s time to get to work; spring is here!”
Grimacing, he manages to smile back at her, but his mother’s guilty eyes remind him of an inevitable fate...
“Eat up,” his father says with authority. “We have a lot of work to do. Idle claws have no place in the lives of Nature’s Engineers. We have a duty to keep true to, an ecosystem to uphold, and a community that relies on us…”
He squares his chest as though reciting some learned ideology, twenty-five kilograms of noble pride. Castor has heard it all a million times before, and rolls his eyes as he stretches his aching legs. “I know Dad,” he groans, recalling the community’s motto; “’All in a day’s work!’”
His mother smiles half-heartedly at him, then claps her hands enthusiastically. “Right! Let’s get this place back on track- I’ll go wake up the muskrats!”
Castor acknowledges her attempts to sustain a sense of normality to this day with a timid smile, then eats quietly.
Warmer weather was most welcomed in Betula Pond. Pink skies turned blue and within days the ice melted and green grass emerged. Pretty soon after that the Betula Pond Beaver Gang began seeing the arrival of some familiar faces.
Year after year, sand hill cranes and white pelicans travel from as far as Mexico to enjoy the benefits of life at their fruitful community. Canadian geese and golden-eyed ducks also fly from neighbouring communities in search of a better life. But whether they fly great distances or just a few kilometres, they all seek a good place to nest, and that’s exactly what the willow-lined banks of Betula Pond has to offer.
The Peace was only briefly disturbed one idle Tuesday, when a mother bear and her three cubs came wandering by. Having awoken from a six-month sleep, the bears were hungry and opportunistic, and would have eaten anything that was available. Luckily, they went on their way without bloodshed...
But the welcome change was short-lived, for the snow on the mountaintops soon melted as well, and the river unleashed a powerful wrath on the pond. Weakened by the neglect of winter, the Dam eventually fell short of resistance and collapsed beneath the weight of ice-cold torrents.
The next day Castor’s mother looked out at her domain with tearful eyes.
Weeks of work, gone. The river flowed at such a speed she almost declared it unfit for work. But a beaver’s compulsive instinct is stronger than any current, and she soon had the whole gang on deck. After all, the birds were relying on them to keep the community running, each engineered corner of it!
Considering her increasingly limiting condition, she took to light lumberjack duties on the banks, and spent the remainder of the day dissecting trees, dragging the branches across the banks and into the pond, then down into a safe chamber in the Lodge.
Meanwhile, Castor and his father got to work repairing the Dam. The current was too strong for Castor’s younger brother, and his mother had decided that he was to stay inside.
“This is a big year for you, Boy.” Castor’s father shouted over the sound of rushing water. He pushed his weight against the Dam, keeping it upright as he struggled to wedge a heavy branch between two boulders. “The Canadensis have a long history of moving away from home; I did it, and my father did it. And if it all works out for you, then your son will do it. It’s the Natural Order of things, and when the new kits arrive then the time will come for you to leave home. There’ll be no room for you here. Do you understand?”
Castor tugged at a long string of pondweed, tearing at it with his rabbit-like teeth. “I know Dad, I know! I’m ready for it. All the males my age are leaving home, it’s time Castor Canadensis builds his own Lodge!”
“You just be careful, Boy! The world is a big place, and in order to find a place where you feel safe enough to call it ‘home’ then you must build it. Choose your location wisely, and remember; an abandoned pond is abandoned for a reason, you need to build your own community…”
Castor turned to face his father, an irritated yet grateful expression written on his face.
“…watch out for wolves and coyotes, and keep clear from grazing moose, they are large and easily startled!”
“Dad, cousin Fiber wrote to me last fall telling me of his own journey. He spoke of nothing but lonely females and warm nights in vacant Lodges. The world is different from where you were two years’ old, you know!”
“Fiber lives in a land without enemies, son; North American Beavers have much more to fear than our Eurasian cousins!”
“We’re Canadian Beavers, Dad. Have some pride in your roots!”
He turned away.
“Canadian, North American, it makes no difference!” his father stressed. “You have a long and perilous journey ahead of you Boy, and you must be prepared for it!”
“I am prepared!” Castor’s ego snarled at him. “I don’t have a choice; why I can’t build my own home nearby escapes me. Why can the muskrats stay and not me?! They aren’t even family, and I contribute far more to this community than they do!”
“It is the Natural Order,” his father assured him. “You have a duty to uphold the Canadensis name, and to preserve Canadensis values. To give to the world the gift of your own working community, an oasis in the wilderness; to fight Solidarity for Community and Society, to never be alone and hungry in winter...”
“Well I’m ready to get started, so don’t doubt me.” Castor turned away.
“I hope you are, Son.”
Within a week the Dam was fully-functioning again, and the calm ambience of Betula Pond was restored. In the Lodge, Castor’s mother lay on a bed of bark. Clutching her stomach, she twisted her frame and writhed uncomfortably in the sweaty dark.
The time had come.
Father stood by, clutching her paw against his chest. Castor tended the care of his younger brother, grooming his coat and whispering goodbyes.
“You be a good worker to Mother and Father,” he said. “Remember the community’s motto; ‘All in a day’s work!’ Take one day as it comes, no matter how hopeless things may seem. And never forget that you’re Canadian! Good luck, little brother...”
The young kit stared up at him blankly, and watched as he dived into a water tunnel, vanishing with a loud slap of his tail.
Unceremoniously, with no farewell to Mother or Father.
The three of them watched the water until it settled.
In the tunnels, Castor flicks his tail madly and shoots through the water like a bullet, emerging into the murky open mass of the pond in a bubble of anguish. The cold water engulfs his tears before they have time to surface.
The pond is exceptionally dark, it being the latest hours of night. Castor has always been something of a Night Owl, preferring his own company as he patrols the outer limits of the pond under the cover of darkness. But tonight, the murky water intimidates him more than usual...
Oh! it pains him to leave, and a part of him longs to turn back and beg for mercy, to bombard his parents with hopeless pleas and negotiations. He already regretted leaving without saying goodbye, but he was angry and upset at the time… then he considers his cousin’s brave tales of sexual promiscuity and of the scent of lonely anal glands, and very quickly feels like a Champion once more.
Soon it will be summer, and he will gorge on fresh berries instead of miserable bark. The rivers will flow smoothly, and the evenings will be warm. It will be a good summer, and for the first time in his life he’ll be free of work and community, of duties and obligations, of mottos and reliability...
And he’s just getting started!
Russ Williams, 2016