When searching for a safe place to nest my soon-to-be-born kits, I couldn’t believe my good fortune in finding such a spectacular tree hollow. Living here would put me close enough to what I affectionately refer to as my restaurant. The restaurant being a large building filled with wrinkly people who put dishes of vaguely fish flavored pebbly things out their backdoors. These fishy bites are mighty tasty. The building also has a dumpster filled with an assortment of delectable treats from creamy corn to flaked tuna to jiggly Jell-O to gooey eggs. They like mushy things there, but I do as well. So many mouth watering morsels that I barely rummage to find them. Yet it’s far enough to keep me safe from the large, fast moving box monsters and screeching people who chase me off their doorsteps with broomsticks.
My dazed admiration of the hollow almost blinded me to an owl perched a few branches away who also glanced longingly at my future home. Luckily, I noticed in time to dash forward, dig my claws into the soft bark and climb my way up. I wasn’t about to give up this gem. After nestling securely inside, I looked out. The hollow came with a stunning view of a wide-open lake that glistened in the sunrise. Fragrant pine trees framed the sparkling sunline that crossed the water. I fought to hold back a condescending smirk. Winning the hollow filled me with pride, but owls are not to be messed with. I took my win as quietly as possible.
The owl’s tan wings spread in an impressive span, and he glided down to scoop a poor unsuspecting mouse from the pine covered forest floor. Perhaps he didn’t need my hollow after all.
I planned to be the best mom to these little kits. My own mother had tried, but she caught rabies when we were young. It turned her into a terrifying thing we had to run from. The images still haunt me. Then that farmer shot the thing into her head that stopped all life instantly with a loud boom. Moving on proved a struggle. We had to learn a lot on our own. I’ve separated from my siblings over time. I scarcely remember how or why. I didn’t want my little ones to go through the same thing. I already loved them dearly and wanted to provide everything for them. Starting with this perfect home. Daydreams of our future life together turned into sleep dreams then to blackness.
I woke up with a start at the sound of human voices.
“Ah, there’s something about being in nature. I feel so relaxed already,” A man said while raising a tiny square towards the water. He looked like the people at the golf course did. I didn’t understand why they all had that look, but that dumpster always had lots of the salty potato sticks they called fries, and the grass felt so soft against my paw pads.
“I can’t wait to come here every August. I never thought I’d be someone with a vacation home,” the woman giggled. Things sparkled all over her. Sparkles on her neck, ears, wrists, and fingers. A shiny thing dangling near her waist.
“We’ll build the boat house right there. The kids will love this. Jet skiing, wakeboarding, kayaking. We’ll get it all.”
“If it actually gets them away from those video games, I’ll be impressed.”
“Then we’ll put the house here.”
“I’ve always wanted a log cabin in the woods.”
“Yeah. I’m excited for the hot tub too. Oh, we should get one of those outdoor showers set up.”
“That balcony on the third floor is going to be amazing for watching the sunset. I hope it doesn’t take too long for them to build.”
“It should be quick. I’ll throw in some extra if it speeds things up.”
“If only we could stay here longer. Kind of seems silly to have our dream house be one we only stay in a week or two each year.”
“Eh, if we stayed here all year, we’d miss the city.”
“We’re definitely have a huge housewarming party the day it goes up.”
“We should make sure there’s space for a bonfire.”
I watched them wave their arms all around my yard. They even pointed directly at my tree when mentioning this hot tub thing. My body curled tightly, shrinking away from the opening. The last thing I wanted was for them to see me and call me those vile names people call my kind. I did not like being called a ringtail, coon, or trash panda. What even is a panda? It confused me to be called Rocket or Meeko or Rascal. I did kind of like Bandit though. The point is most humans aren’t nice. Especially these humans who want to take away my home. Humans don’t go by the rules the rest of us do. They don’t care what you’ve rubbed your scent on or peed on. They snatch it up regardless. They call my kind thieves, but they’re the real thieves. No one ever does anything about it. Maybe that needed to change.
In the coming days I did my best to recruit neighbors to my cause.
“What’s the point? You can’t fight them. They got all these weapons. It’ll never be fair,” the pessimistic squirrel who lived one tree over said.
“We’re just not fighters,” the deer families said.
“We need to focus on finding new homes. They’re hard to come by,” a porcupine said.
“I’m in. Let’s show those humans,” a fisher cat hissed. The look in her eyes scared me. Are fisher cats the best allies to have? They are strong fighters and the people do run very fast when they see one.
“You can’t do anything to the people. One of my boys tried warning one with a growl and got shot down,” a bear said. “That person had no business climbing the outside of his cave. They wouldn’t like it if we climbed the side of their houses.”
“There must be a way,” I demanded.
“Find a new place to live and stay alive,” a skunk said.
“We’ll kill them all. Rip them to pieces,” the fisher cat hissed.
Again, I wonder if this alliance is a good idea.
“We’ve decided to live in their houses. They’re nice and warm and the people never know. Try that,” the mouse said.
“I really like my home though,” I said.
“It’s best to make humans like you. They don’t harm cute ones as much,” a fox said. “Dogs and cats are cute and they are treated better than the humans treat themselves. Chickens are not cute, and they suffer.”
“You’re in no position to start a war,” said the owl. “You have little ones coming that you must care for. Take care of them and live your life. Home is wherever you are together.”
“Give up,” I sighed.
The owl shook his head. “We don’t need more fighting. We need more understanding.”
“How can I make them understand?”
“You can’t make anything understand anything.”
“How does that help?”
The owl stretched his wings and took off with a powerful push. “You can only do right for yourself. Hope time will teach, and I’m certain it will.”
The owl had one thing right. I needed safety for my little ones on the way. I didn’t get to have a mom as long as I needed one. They should have that. I can at least give them that. No matter where we end up, they’ll have the best. I’ll protect them.
“The owl’s right,” I said.
“Oh, fine,” the fisher cat groaned and wandered away. “All this planning was such a bore, anyway.”
I looked up at my cozy tree hollow. My eyes blurred with tears. The little ones would have loved it. We need safety more. I hung my head and dragged my feet away. Then stopped once more to look back. Though, maybe the mice are right too. Let those people build their stupid house. They’ll only be there for one week a year, and the rest of the year I’ll be lounging on that third floor balcony taking in the view. The little ones and I will swim in the hot tub and get cozy in their comforters. It’ll be a nice home indeed.