Misery Between the Pages

Joseph Vaughn

"What a miserable morning," the old badger moaned as he looked out the door of his shop at the snow piled beside the street. He unlocked the door and turned the open sign over. 'Not like it will do me any good,' he thought to himself as he ambled back to the counter.

The morning mists swirled as the sun rose above the horizon and the town slowly awoke. Shadowed figures moved through the fog with their coats and their tails held close about them. A fat rat walked up to the bank across the street and unlocked the door. He turned to wave good morning to the badger he knew was watching before going in to prepare for the day.

'Bah!' the badger thought. 'Why is he so cheerful to someone I know he despises. Not a sole around here likes me. They are afraid of me and for good reason; the lazy sods.' He looked up at the picture of his wife hanging above the door and sighed.

The bell on the door tinkled and he looked down to see a pair of gray rabbits enter, smiling. Behind them, the fog was lifting.

"Good morning," the doe piped.

The badger nodded a greeting, but kept his gaze on them. There was no one in this town he could trust anymore. The door stuck again and he grunted as he got up to close it. 'Nobody can do anything right around here,' he grumbled to himself.

He looked up at the clouds that had drifted in and the rain beginning to come down. The large drops came slowly, bouncing off the small awning over the door. He looked down and saw a small fox kit huddled, shivering, at his feet.

"Please help me," the kit whimpered.

"Hey!" he shouted, "Get out of here you filthy mutt!"

The kit scampered fearfully away down the street and around a corner.

'Lousy freeloaders,' the badger grumbled as he shut the door and turned to see the rabbits staring at him.

"Found what you want, yet?" he snapped.

"N-not yet," the buck stuttered.

The boar returned to the counter, grumbling. He looked up to his wife and sighed. Then his gaze fell on the book hanging beside her picture. Its title still taunted him, mocking his pain, the blood on the pages, a grim reminder of the tragedy.

'And Peace Shall Sleep' he read and thought, 'Forever, my love, forever.'

"What's that one about?"

The shopkeeper was pulled back to reality by the rabbit pointing to the book on the wall. "I've never read it," he responded.

"Then why've you got it up there?"

The badger snapped a pinching glare at the rabbit. "Have you found what you want?"

"Do you have a copy of that book?" the rabbit asked, pointing to the wall.


"Then can I have that one?"

This infuriated the shopkeeper. "GET OUT!"

The rabbits looked at each other in confusion.

"GET OUT!" he repeated.

The rabbits dropped the books they had and raced out the door.

Staring out the door as the rabbits scrambled away, tears welled in his eyes. He dropped his head to his paws and sobbed, "Oh, my Seianna, what has become of me?" He looked up at the picture.

"In losing you, I have lost myself. Your cheerful sweetheart has turned into a grouchy old boar. Why did they have to take you from me?"

His head fell back to his paws and his memory returned to that horrid afternoon.

* * *

"Are you hungry, my love?" the young boar asked as he smiled at the lovely badger beside him.

The sow looked up from her book and smiled back. "I was wondering when you were going to ask."

"Am I that predictable?"

"Of course," she teased, "but I love you anyway," and gave him a tender kiss.

"I shall return shortly with your lunch," he announced.

"Don't be long, fleetfeet," she chuckled.

The badger smiled and scampered out the open door, playfully. He smiled in the warm sun and trotted next-door to order her favorite, the chef's salad with raspberry vinaigrette dressing. She loved the tomatoes and the croutons. He got a turkey club for himself and had it toasted.

When his order was finally ready, he paid, dropped the change in the tip jar with a smile and headed out to return to his sweetheart, thinking the whole time about her smile.

Suddenly, he heard two shots and looked up to see a duck and a rabbit running from his bookstore. He dropped the food and dashed to the doorway to see his only love collapsed on the counter.

"NO!" he screamed and dashed around the counter. "Somebody help!" He picked up her bloody body and held her, but she was already gone. "Help, please!" He saw the rat come to the door of the bank across the street, but dash quickly back inside.

As he sat with his wife's blood seeping into his fur, he began shouting curses at the town and himself. He cursed the two that killed her. He cursed the rat for not leaving his precious bank. He cursed the restaurant for taking so long. He cursed himself for getting his sandwich toasted and leaving her alone too long. He cursed the town for not stopping the thugs before they killed her. He cursed the fates for taking her away from him. He cursed himself for cursing in front of her.

His tears fell on her face and he wiped them away carefully. "I am sorry, my love," he whispered and held her close.

An officer appeared in the doorway and an emergency team not long after, but he would not let them take her. He shouted, "You're too late!" and cursed them for it.

* * *

The bell on the door tinkled to draw him back. He blinked in the sunlight at a beautiful badger walking in.

"Seianna," he whispered.

"Good morning," the sow smiled.

He watched her walk among the shelves of books, marveling at her shiny fur and lovely little ears.

"Can't be," he thought to himself, "but so perfect."

The sow chose a couple books and came up to the counter. He tried not to seem like he was staring at her or avoiding looking at her. He rung up her books quickly and she smiled and left, seemingly without noticing the picture hanging over the door that looked remarkably like her.

The boar watched silently as she left and stared at the door after she had gone. He looked up to the picture and whispered, "Seianna?" as a tear slid down his cheek.