©2022 Michael Raven
A body won’t have noticed the hollow in the tree, had they just walked by, ambling as most folks do through forests, sticking to established forest trails. No. It wasn’t something that would have drawn attention at all, and that suited Stuart just fine. It was his secret hollow, a door to other places and times, something not given to being understood, especially by the old men and women.
If you were out of school, Stuart reckoned, you earned classification as “old man” or “old women”. Most people, he reckoned, and just by observation alone, were old well before that point, someplace and when around the age of thirteen by his estimation, but his judgments and proclamations trended to wide margins of forgiveness.
Stuart was quite content with the arrangement, being just shy of eleven himself and figuring he still had a good thirty years or more before he got old. He’d made a promise to himself, he did.
And so, every afternoon he sat in that hidden tree hollow with Bernard, the small red fox who lived nearby, and Hopping Joe, the crow who seemed to live everyplace and nowhere and they listened to the secret lives of the many people walking by. Bernard and Stuart asked many questions; Hopping Joe, well he seemed to have answers for it all. Meanwhile Lucas “Fuzzy Rat”, the local squirrel would shake his head in the branches overhead and make chirping noises in disgust at Joe’s answers. Stuart thought most of it was cow-pies, but Bernard accepted what Joe said, and that seemed to be enough. Every once in a while, Hopping Joe would tire of Lucas’ chirps and chase him off, but Fuzzy Rat never stayed away too long.
Perhaps he learned something about the world from Joe, in spite of his disagreeable sounds.