THE WEAPON Dec 3, 2012 10:35:48 GMT -5
Post by huronna on Dec 3, 2012 10:35:48 GMT -5
By Paul E. Jamison
Part 1 of 2
Groups of children, human and ferret, love to play let’s-pretend games, like Cops and Robbers, Cowboys and Indians, Good Soldiers and Enemy Soldiers. And whenever they do, the littlest child almost always loses out and is saddled with the role that nobody else wants and that he certainly doesn’t want, like the Robber, the Indian (or, more often nowadays, the Cowboy) or the Enemy Soldier. There’s normally no malice involved, but that’s the way it is with big and little children.
That was the way it was with a particular bunch of ferret kids this day, but this time the role in dispute was different.
It was a lovely spring day in Manitoba. A perfect day for a rousing game of Cops and Robbers, and four young ferrets were trying to organize just that. But the youngest one, a small Sable, was balking at his part in the game.
“No! I don’t wanna be a Good Guy! I wanna be a Bad Guy!”
The oldest boy, a Panda Blaze, tried to reason with him. “But why not? You’re the best one for a Good Guy role. Your dad is a Mountie.”
“I don’t care!” He stamped his foot. “I don’t wanna be a Mountie! I’m always a Mountie! I hate being a Mountie! I wanna be a Bad Guy!” He stamped his foot again.
The boys turned at the sound of the voice. The Panda Blaze said, “Hello, Mr. Gordon.”
Constable Gordon of the RCMP, Ferret Division, stood straight and tall, like he always did, in a clean and bright red serge uniform. He’d always been told by his parents to stand up straight, sit up straight, since he’d been a little kit, and that had remained with him all of his life. Everyone treated him with respect, even the rowdiest of children.
Almost everyone. Murphy didn’t look up at his father.
“Playtime’s over, son. Time to go home, now.”
“But I wanna stay and play some more!”
“No, son. It’s time to go. Follow me. See you boys later.”
Gordon turned and left. Murphy reluctantly followed him. The three boys waved and said goodbye to the Mountie and to Murphy. Murphy didn’t return their goodbyes.
Constable Gordon would have liked to have walked faster, but Murphy was sulky and lagged behind, and his father was forced to slow down so the boy could keep up. A fox peeked out from behind a tree and studied the two ferrets passing by. They looked tempting. The fox, however, like many of the wild predators in the Canadian wilderness, had learnt the hard way not to mess with these creatures that stood on their hind legs and talked. It turned and slunk away, hoping to locate a rabbit or something else that hadn’t climbed so far up the evolutionary ladder.
Father and son didn’t share any conversation for some time. Murphy walked along, staring at the ground, ignoring the forest around him. Constable Gordon wasn’t talkative in the best of times, and if he noticed how awkward the silence was, he gave no sign. Finally the Mountie spoke.
“It’s Tuesday, son. You know what that means, don’t you? You’re supposed to meet Uncle Benton –“
Murphy muttered, “He’s not my uncle!”
Gordon ignored the interruption. “You’re going to spend some time with him while I go off hunting Notchear and his gang. I’ve told you about him. He and his bunch are pretty nasty. Robbers and cutthroats. They killed a Mountie. Actually, there’s not many of his gang left. We’ve caught almost all of them but three, including Notchear himself. They’re in the vicinity, probably only a few miles away, and the RCMP wants me to track them down. While I’m gone, I want Benton to teach you a few things to prepare you for the RCMP Academy –“
“I don’t wanna be taught things! I wanna go back and play!”
Constable Gordon walked a little faster now. “Son, we’ve talked about this. You’re a bright boy and I think you’ll do well in the Academy. It’ll be a few years before you’re old enough to enroll, but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared.”
“I wanna go play! I don’t wanna learn things!”
”Now, look, it won’t be as bad as all that. I want Benton to tutor you on a few simple things like maths. Nothing really difficult. And it won’t be long before he can instruct you a bit on the use of a gun. Set you up with some basic target practice –“
Murphy raised his voice. “I don’t wanna shoot a gun! I hate guns! Guns are loud and nasty!”
“Murphy, don’t be that way! A Mountie has to be proficient with a gun!”
“I don’t wanna be a Mountie!”
Constable Benton stopped and stared at his young son. “What did you say?”
Murphy scowled at his father. “I said I don’t wanna be a Mountie! I’ve never wanted to be a Mountie!”
“Murphy! How can you say that? I’m a Mountie. Your grandfather and his father have been Mounted Policeferrets, going back for over a hundred years! It’s in the family!”
“I don’t care! You’ve always told me I’d be a Mountie! You said that when I was a baby! You said that when I was a little kid! You never asked me what I want to be when I grow up!”
“Murphy, it’s an honor and a duty to serve the RCMP –“
“I don’t care! Being a Mountie means you’re never around! You’re always off hunting a criminal! You’re never here for me! Other kids’ dads are there to play with them, to take them to hockey games or to go camping in the woods! Not for me! My dad’s never here! I don’t wanna be like that! I *don’t* wanna be a Mountie!”
Gordon was shocked. “Murphy, if your mother could hear you –“
“You were never there for Mama, either! We were alone most of the time!”
“You weren’t there for her when she died!”
“MURPHY! That’s enough!”
The words cut through the air like a bullwhip and Murphy shut up. Constable Gordon was very angry now, but he didn’t show a shred of emotion. He stood stock still and his voice was like ice. “You are going to do as I say, young man, and I will brook no more argument. I was going to walk home with you, but I’ve changed my mind now. You’re walking back by yourself and you’ll meet Benton at the cabin. The Notchear Gang is around here, and I have to go after them. Go to the cabin. You know the way.”
Murphy said nothing and didn’t move.
Murphy finally turned and trotted down the trail. His eyes and his throat burned with shame. Constable Gordon watched his son until the boy had disappeared around a bend. He continued to watch the trail for a few more moments before he turned around and headed into the woods.
Constable Gordon’s home was a simple three-room log cabin. There was a gas generator in back to supply what little electricity necessary for lights and appliances, but there was no telephone hookup. If the Constable needed to make a call, he traveled to the nearby RCMP station to use the phone there. The cabin had two bedrooms, for Murphy and for his father, and a big common room, with the simple kitchen in one corner next to the dining table. Two comfortable wooden chairs fronted the small fireplace.
Constable Benton wasn’t there. Murphy found a note left by someone from the Station. Benton had business in a nearby village and he had to postpone the tutoring session until a later date. Murphy read the note again and tossed it into the wastebasket. He sat down at the dining table and sulked some more, staring at one corner of the living room.
He didn’t have to be a Mountie if he didn’t want to. Papa couldn’t make him go to Academy. Murphy sniffled. Just because Grandpa had been a Mountie didn’t mean he had to be one. Grandpa would’ve understood.
Something on the floor next to the fireplace caught Murphy’s eye. He wiped away the wetness and looked more closely.
His Choo-Choo toy. Murphy got up and went over to pick it up.
It was a toy train made of wood carved in the profile of a steam engine, with a smokestack and the engineer’s cabin in outline. There were two pairs of small wheels in the front and two larger pairs in the back. He couldn’t remember much of what it was like when he’d been a baby, but he sure remembered getting this toy for his first birthday. Mamma had said that he’d squealed with glee when he saw it for the first time, and the only thing he could do with it was wave it around and drop it. But soon he was crawling around on the cabin floor, pushing his toy and going “choo-choo-choo”.
Murphy sat back down at the dining table. He rolled the toy back and forth on the tabletop.
He’d broken his Choo-Choo toy a few years later, and he remembered that quite well. He’d wanted to go play outside, but it was raining heavily that day and Mamma said he had to stay in. But Murphy was being contrary that day and he threw a tantrum.
“NO! Wanna go outside play!”
“But, sweetie, it’s raining.”
“Wanna go outside NOW!”
Papa was sitting in front of the fireplace reading a book and didn’t pay much attention to him. Mama said, “Here, here’s your Choo-Choo. You can run it around on the floor. That’ll be fine, won’t it?” She gave Murphy his toy train, but he threw it across the room as hard as he could.
The toy train hit the corner of the fireplace and one of the big wheels snapped off of the axle. That got his father’s attention. “Murphy! You know better than to throw things in the house!” Gordon picked up the broken pieces of the Choo-Choo. “Now look what you’ve done! That’s no way to treat your things! You should be ashamed of yourself!”
His father continued to scold him quite loudly until Murphy was in tears. He was then sent to bed early where he cried himself to sleep.
The next morning, he’d gotten up and found that his Choo-Choo had been fixed, good as new, and nothing more was ever said about it. But after that, Murphy hadn’t played much with his toy.
Murphy stopped rolling the old toy train back and forth. Papa had fixed the broken wheel, of course, and he’d done a good job. The toy still rolled just fine. But it occurred to Murphy for the very first time that his father must have carved the toy in the first place.
Murphy looked over at the fireplace. It was sturdy and well-built. He didn’t think that the wooden toy had put a chip in the stone. If it had, he couldn’t tell where.
Murphy looked down at the table top. His anger was gone, and he felt ashamed now. He shouldn’t have said those things. No, he didn’t want to be a Mountie, but it had been wrong to say those things about Mama and Papa. He’d said those things to hurt Papa, and now he was sorry. That wasn’t right.
What should he do now?
Murphy knew. He had to apologize to Papa.
That made him fell better. He’d tell Papa he was sorry and maybe he wouldn’t have to go to the Academy after all. Papa might change his mind.
Murphy got down from the dining room table. Papa was several miles away now and Murphy had no idea which direction he’d gone. But that didn’t matter. He could find his Papa.
Murphy walked along the woods, feeling rather cheerful. It was fun to track people, He could recognize his Papa’s pawtracks easily enough, and he could catch his scent. There were a few misplaced twigs and a broken branch or two. It was enough. Papa had gone this way.
About an hour after he’d left the cabin, Murphy came up to a grove of trees and he thought he could hear some voices just beyond a ridge. Rough, harsh voices. But he didn’t pay attention to them. He saw a ferret, dressed in a red uniform, crouching behind the ridge.
Murphy walked right on up to him and said, “Hi, Papa.”
Constable Gordon turned around and looked at his son in shock.
“Papa, I’m sorry –“
Gordon hissed and frantically tried to shush Murphy.
“Hey, did I hear something?”
“I think we’ve got company, boys!”
Constable Gordon pulled out his revolver. Murphy suddenly felt very, very scared. “Papa?”
Gordon made a big mistake in turning around to look at his son. Someone came up behind him and kicked the gun out of his paw.
The gun went flying through the air and landed at Murphy’s feet. Murphy stared at it for a moment and then looked up at the three ferrets that had appeared from behind the ridge. They were standing right above his Papa.
The three ferrets looked evil. It was easy to see why the one ferret had gotten the nickname of Notchear. There was a big wedge missing from his right ear. Some of the other Mounties were of the opinion that he’d deliberately cut out a piece of his own ear, just to prove how tough he was. His body carried scars and cuts from several dirty fights. There was meanness, anger in his black eyes. His two companions were little better, just as scarred and just as mean-looking.
“Well, how about that? A Mountie! Do you know how much I hate Mounties, Mountie?”
Constable Gordon growled, “Yes. You killed one.”
“Yes, I did. And here I find one spying on us! Don’t do anything stupid, Mountie! We’ll be all over you like wolves! Just get up, stand up straight – that’s it. Keep your arms where I can see them! You know, boys, this snoop can be useful to us. The Mounties are on our trail and we need a hostage. What say?”
“You leave him alone!”
Notchear looked around and saw a small kit, pointing a gun right at him.
Murphy was shaking and his eyes were wide with terror. The gun was so heavy that it was all he could do to lift and point it in the general direction of the three criminals.
Notchear took one look at the kit and burst into laughter. He two companions joined him and roared in glee. Murphy’s vision was blurred with tears as he stared at the ferrets. His father looked back at him with a face carved out of stone.
Notchear called out, “What’re you gonna do, boy, shoot us? Blow us away with your cannon? You ready to shoot, huh?”
The gun barrel became too heavy for Murphy and it sagged down to point at the ground.
Notchear snarled, “Get out of here, boy! Get out and run away, fast as you can! Let the grownups do the fighting! Run away before someone slaps your naughty little fingers!”
It was too much. Murphy couldn’t listen to the laughter or look at his father’s eyes any more. He clutched the gun to his chest, turned and ran down the trail.
After the kit had disappeared, Notchear turned and glowered at Constable Gordon. “Tracking us down, are you, Mountie? Well, you found us and you’re gonna be sorry you did.”
Gordon said nothing. He just glowered back at Notchear and didn’t flinch.
“But not yet, Mountie. We need to get out of this country, up to the Territories, and you’re coming with us. You’ll be our shield, and if the Mounties do come after us…” He held up a knife. “Well, you can guess.”
Constable Gordon grumbled, “You won’t get away.”
“Yeah, well, that’s what the other Mountie said, and look how far that got him! Okay, one of you, take his bracelets and cuff his paws behind his back.”
“Okay, boss.” Constable Gordon, like all Mounties, carried a set of pawcuffs in his belt pouch. One of the other ferrets took them out and jerked the Mountie’s paws behind his back. The cuffs were snapped on his wrists painfully tight. Gordon didn’t make a sound.
“Right, now get marching. We want to cover some miles.”
To be concluded.