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2011 06 07

Troubling Times
a story for Natasha, August 16, 1974

GEORGIE GIBSON SCAMPERED down the tree he called home and leaped onto the springy moss. He sighed and leaned idly against a tree stump.

Too bad there's so much trouble in this world, he thought. He looked up at the sky, and pushed an acorn in his cheekpouch.

A short while ago, Old Simon had come running past his tree as fast as his old legs would carry him, muttering about the evils of the world in general and the wickedness of the Meadow Dwellers in particular. Georgie had seen him disappear among the trees going in the direction of the abode of William S. Thornton-Buchenmeyer.

William S. had once been Billy Owl, but he had won the Mr. Smartie contest of 1969, and since then had been known by the aforegoing fabrication ~ thoughtfully contrived by Billy himself. The name and the title "Mr. Smartie of 1969" had been hand-lettered in gold on an oak plaque by an enthusiastic follower of the Mr. Smartie contests, and had been presented to Billy / William, who nailed it to his front perch and thus bacame Local Wizard and Dispenser of Justice in the Forest. He was what one might call a self-made owl.

Georgie sniffed a fern and sneezed. Sniffing ferns always made him sneeze, but he sniffed almost continuously. Georgie thought it made him seem interesting and somewhat eccentric. He sniffed once more, sneezed, and started after Old Simon.

Old Simon lived on the very edge of the Forest in constant danger of attack by the Meadow Dwellers, which had made him perpetually jittery. The Meadow Dwellers had never actually attacked but, as Simon pointed out, one had to be always on guard when it came to any dealings with the Meadow Dwellers. Georgie had difficulty imagining anyone attacking a skunk but, as Simon said, anyone who would rather live on the Meadow than in the Forest cannot be considered really in his right mind. After all, what would Georgie do if there were no trees? He shuddered at the thought. It was a complicated matter, better left to greater minds.

He walked into the clearing in which the large dead tree stood which was the home of William S., just in time to hear Simon say, "We've got to do something, William S., those Meadow Folk have gone too far this time."
Mr. Smartie of 1969 meticulously pecked some imaginary dust off the gold-lettered sign, and carefully examined it for further evidence of contamination.
"Good morning, William S. Thornton-Buchenmeyer, Sir, said Georgie.
William S. looked down at him and nodded in a pleasant sort of manner.
The old skunk glanced distastefully at Georgie and, turning to the owl, said impatiently, now really, William S., we have to do something. If we don't show them now that they can't get away with this sort of thing, who knows what they'll do next. Before we know it they'll be invading the Forest, and we will have to fight them off amongst our own trees. He paused to let the full import of his words sink in, and then snorted, "Next thing they'll do, they'll be turning the Forest into the Meadow." He stroked his whiskers and looked around. He was pleased to see that a considerable number of animals had entered the clearing and were listening to every word that was spoken.

William S. cleared his throat. "Ahem . . . , in the face of this, eh . . . , monstrous situation . . . ," he stopped for what he hoped would seem a moment of deep inner consultation. "We shall definitely have to take action to ensure . . . , to ensure . . . , protective measures."
"Yes, yes," he repeated, gaining confidence in his words, protective measures. That is where the problem lies, I mean to say, where the root is, eh that is, the root of the problem." All the animals nodded their heads and said in unison, "Yes, definitely."

Georgie asked, "What is a Protective-Mess-Thing?"
"Measure, measure," hissed Old Simon at him, "Why don't you go eat a nut or something."
And William S. Said, "Yes, why don't you go eat a nut . . . , or something."
Intimidated, Georgie shuffled back into the crowd which William S. turned to face, murmuring, "Protective measures, protective measures."

"We must stop them Meadow Men now," said Old Simon.
"Yes, yes, protective measures."
"If only we had a door or something, then we could simply close it and nobody could get into the Forest," said Simon.
"I know," cried William S., "I have again reached a momentous decision in a time of extreme emotional stress. We shall construct a doorway between the Forest and the Mea­ow."
"You can't build a doorway that big!" someone yelled from the crowd.
"As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted, we shall construct a doorway between the Forest and the Meadow. Of course it would be quite impossible to construct a doorway sufficiently enormous to block off the entire Meadow, so . . . , we will construct a wall with a doorway IN it."

The animals were awe-struck. Simon stuttered, "But, but, build a wall around the whole . . . ?"
With a superior smile on his beak, William S. bent over to Old Simon and said, "Not build, my dear old friend, not build. CONSTRUCT!" He turned to the gathered animals again, "Our Forest Workers will start on the project of the Protective Measure forthwith. And you, Old Simon," he spoke to the skunk, "you can be assured of restful nights without fear of danger. Or is it danger of fear?" With that he turned and went inside his house, thereby clearly indicating that as far as he, the great William S. Thornton-Buchenmeyer, was concerned, the discussion had ended.

The animals left the clearing chattering excitedly. Georgie stayed behind. When everyone had gone, he sat down and thought dejectedly, "Too bad there's so much trouble in this world." He remembered the acorn in his cheekpouch, pulled it out, and nibbled on it. There was nothing quite like nibbling acorns. It made one feel good all over, and filled the stomach besides. It had been a good idea not to eat that acorn right away.

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georgie gibson is on 123 people