The wind finally settled down from a cold front that passed through. Last night I curled up next to Samuel to keep warm, but I still had a chill. After several hours of no sleep, I was just exhausted. Now, all I wanted was to lie in the tall grass and sun myself.
With the air still, I could almost hear the cicadas buzz in the distant trees. The warm rays of the sun made my eyelids heavy. I was glad I was able to find a secluded spot to hide from the boys badgering me about ever problem. The quiet serenity was just what a mama otter needed.
“Mom, Bobbie won’t stop following me around!”
“Mom, Benjamin has my rock!”
“Mom, Benji and Bobbie ate the last of the crawfish!”
I covered my ears, hoping they would settle their differences without my aid. Unfortunately, they continued yelling.
My eyes shot open and I saw the fluffy white clouds floating off to some distant paradise. I sat up and threw my paws into the air, “What is it with you three?”
The boys past right by the spot I was resting and I must have startled them with my imploration from behind. Bradley cowered behind Bobbie, who cowered behind Benjamin. The rock that Benjamin was holding launched into the air when he jerked. For a split second, it hung there weightless, and then plummeted down onto Bradley’s head.
“Ow! Jeez Benji, whacha’ do that for?”
“I didn’t do it on purpose.”
Bobbie threw himself onto the rock as if he was trying to catch a slimy salmon. “That’s my rock!”
The rock was just as slippery as a slimy salmon and shot from his arms off into another patch of tall grass. The resounding cry of a fawn drew all of our attention. We all turned toward the long green blades.
“Way to go, bumbling Bobbie,” Benjamin said.
“It’s not my fault. You were the one who used the rock in the river.”
The blood coursed through my temples and pounded in my ears. “ENOUGH!”
Slapping my paws on the ground, stood, and walked over to the thatch of grass. My temper cooled by the time I saw the victim. Curled up, licking its leg was a tiny fawn, only a couple of days old. She looked up at me with petrified eyes.
“Now, don’t you worry, lil’ bit. I won’t hurt you. Let me look at that leg.”
I inched toward her and placed my paw on her hind leg. She whimpered when I touched it, but there was no significant injury. The skin was intact, and only wet from her own saliva. “You’re lucky you didn’t get hit in the head.”
I shook my head and spun around at my pups. “Boys, you really need to be more careful. You also need to respect each other and those around you. She could have been seriously harmed.”
They lowered their heads, but then Bobbie tried to peak around me. I motioned them over for a closer look at the fawn. The three young otters moved in. Bradley peered over my shoulder and gasped.
“She’s so small, even for a deer. Do you think something’s wrong with her? I don’t see her mama.”
“No, I think she is fine. Her mama is probably off foraging and will return soon,” I said.
“But she’s just lying there in the grass. Won’t a predator get her?” he asked.
“No, she knows not to move while her mama is away. It is something they know from birth. They sit quiet and still until their mama returns to feed them. Something you boys know nothing of.” I checked on her leg one last time and felt it was safe to leave her be. “Let’s go, boys. We don’t want any other creatures knowing she is here.”
We left my sanctuary and walked over the hill to our den. Bobbie hugged his rock the whole way home. Before I crawled into the den, I glanced back to see if the mother deer was anywhere near. The field was empty and I saw nothing through the trees, so I decided to let nature take its course.
“She’s bound to return soon.”
I did get a chance to enjoy some silence as I tidied up the den after dinner with the boys. Bradley was happy to know that his brothers had not eaten the last of the food in the den. Bobbie sat with his rock next to him at the table. After a good meal, I sent them to bed.
Mr. Otter made his way in for the evening and flopped down onto a grassy cushion. Spider webs covered his whiskers and he wiped them clean with his paw. He looked up and smiled at me, then lowered his brow in contemplation.
I stopped my tiding and knelt down by his side, “What’s wrong, Samuel?”
“Did you know there was a deserted fawn in the field?”
“Deserted? I thought that its mama would return for it. The boys and I happened by it today. They accidently hit it with a rock, but it seemed fine.”
He shook his head. “That fawn was there this morning and last night. I haven’t seen a mother near it.”
“Are you sure?” I wrung my paws and tried to remember if I noticed any deer present when I sought out my warm hiding place.
Samuel rubbed the back of his neck. “Pretty sure. I sat out late last night to see if one came ‘round, but there was no other animals. I kinda hoped it would have moved on with its mother by now.”
My paws went to my chin, “What do you think we should do?”
Samuel leaned into me. “I think I better keep an eye on it tonight. I don’t want a predator finding an easy meal this close to our den.”
I clutched his paw, “What if that predator finds you instead? I don’t know if this is such a good idea.”
“I’ll ask Ben if he can spread some scat around. I don’t think a predator will come too close if they know a badger is nearby.” His childish grin gave me a small amount of comfort.
“Fine, but I will take a second shift so you can get some sleep.”
Samuel stood and nuzzled my nose. He quietly padded out of the den and I took his place in the warm indentation he left in the cushion. It wasn’t long before sleep overtook me.
A small paw shook my shoulder, and I peeled my eyes open. Bobbie stood next to me, still holding the rock, with a sad look on his face.
“Mama, I feel really bad about what I did today.”
I cleared the sleep from my throat. “That’s good, dear. It shows you have morals and you know what you did was wrong.” I padded him on his head, but his face scrunched up.
My sleepy pulse quickened. I forgot that I was supposed to take over for him during the night. I did not know what time of the night it was. I decided it was time to check on him. I stood and put my arm around Bobbie.
“Papa is watching over the fawn right now. I have to check on him. Would you like to come with me?”
Bobbie’s eyes grew three sizes, “Sure!”
I peeked in on the other pups, which were fast asleep and crawled out of the den. Bobbie followed close behind the whole way. He followed me out of the den and through the trees. He followed me over the hill and into the field. I imagined that this must have been what annoyed Benjamin so terribly. I found it sweet.
Near the small thatch of grass, Samuel and Ben sat quietly talking. A small head was poking out from the grass. Bobbie scrambled over to them. Ben raised an eyebrow and gave Bobbie a stern look and Samuel glanced up with a smile.
“Hey, shouldn’t you be in bed, young pup?”
“Yep, but Mama let me come to see you and the fawn.” Bobbie straightened and saluted Ben. “Colonel Badger. Private Bobbie, here for duty, sir.”
Ben stood and grunted. Mr. Badger was a burly creature with a cantankerous demeanor until you got to know him. After that, he was nothing but a softhearted pushover. Of course, he would never let his guard down around the pups. He once told me that I was “too light on them.” He said, “They need to learn respect for their elders.”
I giggled as I approached him, “I forgot you enlisted the boys for ‘duties,’ Ben. How big is your den now?”
Ben lowered his gaze, “I only borrowed their services one time.” He cocked his brow at me. “The den is lovely though; you should stop by and say hi to Rachel.”
I leaned in and gave him a hug, “I’ll do that. For now, I want an update on our current mission.” I looked down at the fawn and she smiled back at me.
Samuel stood, “Ben was just saying that some hunters came through here. All the animals have kept their distance since then.”
Ben scratched his backside and nodded. “There’s been a lot of hunter activity lately. Rachel’s fearful the children are in danger.”
I furrowed my brow and gave him a sideways glance. “I thought all your cubs left the den long ago.”
He placed his clawed paws on his hips. “Well, yeah, but you know how she gets. She still calls on her great grand cubs from time to time. She really likes the big family.” He scratched his chin and shook his head.
Bobbie placed his paw on the fawn’s back, “Mama, the fawn is shivering.”
I felt her side and noticed she was shaking. “Hmm, her mama would normally keep her warm at night.”
“Maybe I can do that,” Bobbie said.
Samuel moved in and placed his paw on Bobbie’s shoulder, “How so, son?”
“Well, I can sit next to her and keep her warm. I can even put my arm around her.” He sat down in the tall grass, right behind her. Snuggling in close, he put his free paw around her shoulder and fumbled with his rock in the other hand. He held it out to me, “Here, Mama. I don’t need this anymore. It only causes trouble anyhow.”
I took the rock and smiled at Bobbie. I did not think he would every give up that rock, yet alone to help another. I noticed Samuel beside me puff up with pride.
A noise from behind us, made us all turn in alarm. Ben bristled his fur and sniffed the air. I could not smell anything myself, but I was concerned about a predator. All we saw was the dark and a large shadowy figure moving closer.
“Jenna?” said a voice in the darkness.
“Mama!” bleated the fawn.
A female white-tailed deer came into sight and stared wide-eyed at the unlikely guests. “Jenna, are you alright?” She looked each of us over.
As a mother, I knew how this must look. My only child surrounded by strangers in the dark. I had to say something. “It’s alright. We noticed your baby was alone for some time, and we were worried about her.”
The deer stepped closer. Her ears swiveled and her muscles relaxed beneath her hide. “Oh, that’s very kind of you. I tried to get back as soon as possible, but there were multiple hunters between Jenna and me. I had to walk the long way around.”
Jenna stood up and hobbled over to her mother, “I missed you.”
“I missed you too, dear. I’m back now. You’re safe.” The deer smiled at me, “I’m Faline, by the way. I think I recognize you from the river’s edge.”
I placed my paw on my chest, “I’m Sarah Otter, and this is my mate, Samuel. This is Ben Badger. He mentioned hunters could be the reason Jenna was by herself.”
Ben tipped his head and gave a small smile, “Mam.”
I felt a light tug on my arm and looked at Bobbie. He looked back and forth between Faline and me.
“Oh, I am so sorry. Faline, this is my youngest son, Bobbie.”
“I was keeping Jenna warm while you were gone. Now she’s not shivering anymore,” Bobbie beamed, and smiled from ear to ear.
Faline lowered her head to Bobbie, “Well, aren’t you a kind gentleman. How nice of you to look out for a young lady. If it’s fine with your mother, you may stay with us and keep her company during the night.”
Bobbie turned toward me and bounced on his toes. “Did you hear that? She called me a gentleman. Can I stay, Mama? Please?”
Samuel moved in and put his arm around my shoulder. “You’ll have to keep a keen eye for danger, and give pleasant conversation.”
“Oh, yes, Papa. I will.”
“Very well,” I said. “It seems you have a new friend Jenna. Faline, I’ll return in the morning for him.”
Bobbie scooted over to Jenna’s side, bumping into Faline’s legs. Faline lurched and then nodded. “I’ll keep an eye on him.”
Ben strode up to Bobbie and growled. “Private, be on your guard. Don’t let your Colonel down.”
Bobbie jumped to attention and cocked his paw in salute, “Sir, yes, sir.”
Ben ruffled the pup’s hair on his head. “Faline, it was nice to meet you. I’m glad Jenna is safe.” He turned to leave and called over his shoulder. “Don’t forget to stop by, Sarah. If you don’t, Rachel may gather her extended family and head on over to your den.”
Samuel and I kissed Bobbie good night and left the three to settle in for the evening. As we walked, he pulled me in close. His body was warm and comforting next to mine.
“That boy is growing up fast,” he said.
“Yes, he his. My baby is growing up.” I turned the rock in my hand while we walked.
“What is with that rock, anyway?” he asked.
“I honestly have no idea.” I pitched it over my shoulder. A small thud on the ground, followed by silence told me that it did not harm anyone. The only other sound was the chirping of crickets, which would soon serenade us off to sleep.