This week, the friends embark on a grand experiment, much like we are as many places around the world ease pandemic restrictions. Change is scary, but just follow that wise slug Ario’s advice, and “Have faith, bro.”
Everything will work out, if we take things as they come and work hard for equality, like our favourite mouse and slug. All it takes is faith, trust and a bit of slug slime.
Wire excused himself after dinner, claiming exhaustion after his first day on the long-distance route, and his visit with Gran. Once his aunt and uncle were busy with bedtime and evening chores, he slipped out of the burrow to meet Ario at the crossroads. He felt a pang of guilt, but Cobble’s warning snuffed out those feelings. The day was slowly bleeding into night. The sun just above the horizon, the sky a delicate lavender.
Gran was right. He was in a unique position, to right the wrong done to Ario, and maybe change Balsam Creek for the better. The nocturnal creatures and non-rodents like Ario deserved equality. The night delivery service would be a step towards that.
The waning light provided enough light for Wire as he scampered down the path. Ario was munching on a patch of fresh grass off the side of the crossroads. He lifted his head mid-munch when he sensed someone approach.
“Little dude!” Ario cried, the sound muffled by his mouthful of greens.
“Hi Ario!” Wire smiled.
“Bro, I’m so glad you made it. I’ve got a ton of ideas to share with you!”
“Me too,” Wire said, gesturing to a bench next to the path. “You go first”
“First gotta make some posters and advertise. Then, we find a drop off place, probably up by my place in Tanglebank for critters to bring their packages. Once we have a few deliveries lined up, you, or me, or both of us can set out to deliver the packages. Boom!”
“Boom?” Wire asked. “It sounds so simple, when you say it.”
“Well, I thought it would be best to start small. Once more creatures hear about us, we can get more messengers involved. A permanent spot, that sort of thing. What do you think?”
“I guess it could work.” Wire noticed Ario’s eyestalks droop. “I mean, it’s great. Really. We’d have to let creatures know we’d only be available for drop off till a certain time, but we could put that on the posters. Why Tanglebank?”
“Two reasons, bro. First, more of our target creatures live up there. Lots of voles, spiders, moles, etcetera.” Wire suppressed a shudder at the mention of spiders. Ario continued. “Second, it’s far away from M.P.S. Until we’ve got our business built, it’s be better if they didn’t know about us.”
Wire nodded, remembering his conversation with Uncle Cobble. “Agreed. What can I do to help?”
“I was hoping you could make the posters. I’m not so good with pen and paper.”
Wire smiled. “Sure. I know a few mouselings who’d be thrilled to help. Anything else?”
Ario bent his head and swayed a bit. “Do you know where I might find a messenger bag, like the one you have?”
Wire glanced at the well -loved satchel where it rested on his hip. He never left the house without it. “You leave that to me.”
“Dude, that’s awesome! When do you think we could do our first delivery?”
Wire glanced up at the moon. Counted the days on his paw. “I’d say we could be ready for the new moon, next week.”
Ario nodded, eyestalks bouncing. “Totally! I am so stoked!”
Wire felt a current of excitement move from his toes to the tip of his snout. “Me too. When should we hang the posters?”
“When can you have them ready, little dude?”
“Outstanding. I’ll start spreading the word. We’ll meet two nights from now to have posters. Sound good?”
“Definitely,” Wire said. “What we want the posters to say?”
As soon as Wire finished his last delivery, he headed to Tanglebank to meet with Ario. Tucked into this battered messenger bag were the posters the mouselings had made for him over the last two days. They had been over the moon excited when he’d asked them to help.
“We get to make the posters?” Pansy had squeaked before jumping up to get the box of art supplies from the cupboard in the playroom.
“These will be so cool!” Bran said once Wire explained what information needed to go on the poster. “They’ll be the best posters ever!”
Wire had to admit that they were great. Professional looking, in an arty sort of way. As he climbed the hill, he stopped occasionally to post one, getting curious glances from the few residents out in the mid-afternoon sun. He found Ario’s place tucked under the biggest rotting log at the top of the hill. Wire took a good look around. He could see almost as far as Gran’s place he was so high.
Lost in thought, Wire nearly jumped out of his fur when he felt something tap his shoulder.
“Whoa, little due, take it easy. It’s just me,” Ario said, beaming.
“Sorry,” Wire panted, his paw pressing against his racing heart. “I was just admiring the view.”
“I know, right? Killer view! It’s why I like this place. Ready to get to work?”
“Yup,” Wire said, pulling the last few posters out of his satchel. “I put some up along the path from Forestside. Where should we put these”
Wire held out the poster out so Ario could see it. Pansy had done this one, so she’d coloured it with rainbows and had drawn hearts along the top and bottom of the page.
“Wow! The mouselings did a wicked good job! Kudos to them!” Wire smiled proudly.
“Are you sure this is this where you want our headquarters? It’s kind of hike up here.”
“Yeah, but everyone in Tanglebank knows this spot, so it’ll be easy for them to find us. Why don’t you post that one next to my door?”
Wire walked over and posted the colourful sheet onto the towering log. He could see into Ario’s place. “Looks cozy,” he remarked. “Lived here long?”
“Almost my entire life,” Ario said. “So, about three summers. Nice and warm in the winter. So how should we set up the drop off point?”
“We’ll need a desk of some sort,” Wire looked around the hilltop, spying an enormous piece of cedar bark lying in the grass next to where Ario’s log was lying. “This is perfect. Now, if only we had something to rest it on…”
“There are a couple of roots sticking up over here. Would that work?”
Wire dragged the piece of bark over to the roots, three slug lengths down the length of the log from the door. It bridged the gap perfectly. Wire fished another poster from his bag, this one by Bran featuring drawings of a little grey Wire, complete with a brown satchel on his hip, and a bright yellow Ario at the bottom. He posted it above their new cedar-bark desk.
“Great! I think maybe you should show me around Tanglebank. That way I can figure out the routes we can follow.”
The sun was now behind the human houses west and Wire’s shadow grew longer along the grass-tufted ground. As he followed his friend around his neighbourhood, the sky grew rosy and more and more creatures woke up and hit the paths of Tanglebank. Ario knew everyone.
“Evening, Mrs. Vole. Lovely night,” he remarked to an elderly vole shaking out a blanket in her yard. “Dude!” Ario called out to a red squirrel racing down the path, in a hurry to get somewhere. The squirrel waved and disappeared down the path, his busy tail flouncing up and down.
“Sammy is always late,” Ario explained to Wire.
“Do you know everyone?”
“Pretty much. I’ve lived here a long time. And I’m a remarkable dude.”
Wire laughed, “Yes, you are!” He remembered meeting the friendly slug. Had it only been two moons ago? “Why were you all the way over in Bright Pond that day? It seems a long way from here.”
“I was looking for my family. I was born in Bright Pond.”
“Oh. Did you find them?”
“Nah. But I made some outstanding friends.” Ario winked at the little mouse. “Hey, lets head that way. It’s a shortcut back to my place.”
By the time the moon was peeking over the hill in the east, Wire had seen all Tanglebank. The eager mouse and well -connected slug headed back to Ario’s log.
“So, you think we’re ready?” Ario asked as they rested. Wire’s stomach fluttered like butterflies dancing over a field of daisies.
“I guess,” Wire mumbled.
“Bro, what’s wrong?”
Wire sighed. “I’m just nervous, I guess. I mean, this is big!”
“Don’t think of it like that. It’s just an experiment- just enjoy the ride, little dude. Everything’s gonna work out- you’ll see. Have faith, bro.”
Wire’s stomach settled down. He found he just couldn’t resist Ario’s enthusiasm and confidence. “Okay. I trust you. I guess we’ll just take it as it comes.”
“That’s the spirit!” Ario crowed. He waggled a lower tentacle and Wire raised a paw for a low five.
“I’ve got to get back. Violet covered for me over dinner, but Uncle Cobble will get suspicious if I’m not back for bedtime. I’ve got to get a good night’s sleep to be ready for tomorrow.”
“Goodnight, little dude.”
“Night, Ario. See you tomorrow once I’m done with my day route.” Wire waved and set off down the hill.
He waited till he knew he was out of sight before he wiped the slime off his paw.