Edgar stepped out of his cottage and headed towards the town bridge. He looked all around before crossing the stone bridge, then disappeared into the forest on the other side of the river.
It was spring and Edgar's village had just endured an unusually harsh winter. Food had been scarce and some villagers didn't survive. Edgar wanted to see how his woodland friends fared during the winter. He arrived at a large, hollowed-out tree. He looked up into its dead branches, hoping to see something. Seeing nothing, Edgar turned to leave.
“Where are you going?” asked a deep voice. Edgar turned back to the tree and saw his friend, Herman, the squirrel.
“I thought you may have been out digging up some of your nuts,” Edgar replied. “How are you, my friend?”
The squirrel scratched his ear uneasily. “I am fine. There is much to be done now that Spring is here.”
“I want to thank you, Herman, for warning me about the winter. You were correct, it was long and cold. Many supplies dwindled. If I hadn't gathered more food and wood than I normally do, I would not be here.”
Herman nodded. “You were wise to listen.”
“How is everyone else here in the forest? Is your family intact?”
The squirrel shook his furry head. “No, not all of my children listen as well as you do, Edgar. I lost Chuck and Bev because they forgot to gather enough. In the middle of the sleep, all of their kits came to be with me and I had additional mouths to feed. It is good that I am an over-planner.” Edgar nodded. “I lost someone too. My best friend, Freddy, laughed when I told him to gather more wood. During that real cold spell, he had to resort to burning his furniture and he still froze to death. Now, you forest folk are the only ones left who are willing to talk to me.”
“Why is that, Edgar?” the squirrel asked.
“The people in my village think I am either crazy or possessed. They don't want to have anything to do with me. Those who listened to me when I warned them last fall are grateful, but still a little scared of me.”
“I am sorry to hear that, my friend. Humans are fickle.”
Edgar nodded. “Herman, I shall leave you to your Spring chores. Perhaps I will talk to you tomorrow.”
“Good day, Edgar,” replied the squirrel right before he scurried off.
Edgar walked deeper into the forest in search of Queeny, the fox. He had been a little concerned for her after finding out she had raided the Kindra's chicken coop. He found her near her den.
“I am glad to see you are still with us,” he said to her. She snarled. “That farmer is a fool. How many times do I have to teach him his fence isn't designed to keep foxes out?”
Edgar shook his head. “It is not your job to teach people, Queeny. They do not want to be taught.”
“Well, you should talk. You are always trying to teach them things about nature and they ignore you. Stop trying.” The fox walked over to the man and rubbed against him. He bent down and petted her soft, reddish fur. “OK, I will stop trying,” he said. They stood that way for a long time, the fox against the man's leg and the man petting her. Finally, the man straightened up. “Darling, I should go now. I need to get back to the village.” The fox nodded, then jumped onto a dead tree stump. “Good day, Edgar,” she said. He nodded, then walked back to the stone bridge.
As Edgar emerged from the forest, he could see that his cottage was on fire. In front of the burning building were his belongings thrown onto the muddy ground. People were standing around the structure, watching it burn. Edgar ran towards his cottage.
“What happened here?” he demanded as he ran to them. Samuel, the village Elder, turned to face Edgar. “Young man,” he said solemnly, “you are not welcome here anymore.” Edgar stopped short and looked at all of the people gathered. “How can you throw me out? My family has lived in this village for 5 generations? I warned you all of the harsh winter and I turned out to be right. Why are you sending me away?”
Jessica stepped forward. She was the same age as Edgar and knew him well from school. “We are afraid of you, Edgar,” she said kindly. “We do not know what sort of magic you are using and it scares us. Do yourself a favor and find somewhere else to live.”
Edgar stepped back from the crowd, shaking his head. “Where will I go? This is the only place I have ever known.” He turned and looked at his belongings strewn on the ground. He saw the quilt his mother had made for him when he moved out of their house. It lay in a puddle. A pained look crossed his face. Then, he turned back to the crowd. “If that is the wish of the entire Village, I shall leave.”
Samuel nodded. “We took a vote,” he said, “you must leave.” Edgar sighed. “Then so be it.” He walked over to his things and began to pick them up. He had a cart nearby and started putting them into it. Jessica came over and began to help him. He smiled at her uncertainly. She looked down at the ground, then continued helping.
Soon, all of Edgar's meager belongings were placed in the cart. Without looking back at the people, he pushed the cart towards the old stone bridge and out of the village. The people watched him leave, glad to be rid of him.
The road wound up a hill past the bridge and Edgar struggled to keep the cart moving. Herman scurried across the road in front of him. “Why are you pushing a cart, Edgar?” the squirrel asked. The man stopped and put the handles of the cart down onto the ground. He fought back the tears that came to his eyes. “The villagers burned down my house and kicked me out. I have nowhere to go,” Edgar sobbed. Herman gestured towards the forest. “Edgar, you are always welcome here,” he said. The man looked at the squirrel. “I hadn't thought of living in the forest.” He looked up into the cloudy sky. “If I am going to live here, I should find a place to build a shelter fast, before this rain starts.” Herman volunteered to help him find a suitable place to build.
In a short time, Edgar had found an empty cave to put his things into. It would be sheltering enough from the rain. He and the animals unloaded the cart and dragged the items into the cave. Edgar put a blanket over the entrance to keep the cold and wind out, then built a fire to warm the damp space. He then placed his bedding onto the ground to make a place to sleep. Herman and his family brought Edgar some food to eat. Queeny had taken a few water skins to the creek and filled them with water for Edgar. Edgar had never felt so loved as he did that night.
Edgar settled into forest life and made many friends among the animals. Once in a while he would sneak back to the village and leave something for Jessica because she had been nice to him that day he left. She never knew who left her flowers, or an occasional mushroom delicacy, but she hoped it was Edgar and he was doing well.
Edgar lived a long and happy life in the forest, a much better life than the one he would have lived in the village. But, you knew that. All fairy tales end with “And he lived happily ever after.....”