Author's note: This is not exactly a story, though I have thought up several plot ideas for these characters and written other pieces. It's simply a dialogue between two characters. It's more of a push to get started with writing again, and to start posting on here. I figured vermin have a culture of some sort too, so I decided to try to discover some of it through my characters Nancy and Taftaf.
Nancy is a fieldmouse who finds herself as a guest (or a privileged prisoner, not sure which yet) in a horde. She befriends a female weasel after quite some time, and here they are washing clothes at a lake (maybe they're on washing duty, or maybe Nancy's teaching Taftaf some sanitary lessons =P).
- “Yore married, aren’t ye, Nance?” Taftaf said with a hidden, embarrassed sort of excitement. “Wot’s it like, ‘avin’ a mate, It nice?”
“Oh, it’s very nice!” laughed Nancy. “If you’ve got a good male of course.”
“And ya’ve got yoreself a good male, I take it,” Taftaf said with a grin.
“Yes, a very good mouse,” said Nancy. “We’ve quite different, too, him and me. He doesn’t talk much, that’s what I do, but he holds the burrow together when I start off on some wild fantasy. Heaven knows how much I’ll need him when the children come! And sometimes he surprises me, you know, with something I wouldn’t have thought him doing. He might bring a gift home from the meadows, or suddenly open up about a thought that entered his mind, and he’s really quite thoughtful now that I mention it. And smart too, and he sacrifices so many little things every day that I fail to realize. Once he put off going to the full-moon meeting just to cook me soup when I was sick in bed. Oh that was lovely! I do hope I thanked him for that . . . " She suddenly grew conscious of how long she’d been rambling when her gaze fell on Taftaf’s face. The weasel’s jaw was opened a slit, and her eyes were narrowed slightly with an expression Nancy couldn’t understand. Disbelief? Bitterness?
“Huh, thah’s a real decent male. I never heard’a that ‘cept in stories. Thah’s somethin’ real decent.”
“Well he’s nothing anywhere near perfect, of course, and just as I’m not,” said Nancy quickly. “I guess sometimes you can just see all the good things or all the bad things, depending what sort of day your attitude wants to have. It had a good day today. I do miss Decca.” She’d added the last line quietly to herself, but Taftaf’s widening eyes betrayed that her friend had heard them too. To the weasel, it was as if hearing a name made this seemingly fictional character become real.
“Now how’d yose ever find a male like that?” Taftaf exclaimed, then added bitterly, “I never seen one, in all my seasons with two mixed tribes. All’s we gots is filthy fleabags.”
“You haven’t had that many seasons in all your life,” said Nancy with a smile.
“Not much younger than you, and here you are with a prince, so’t seems.”
Nancy would have tried to argue that her Decca wasn’t all shining and charming as she’d seemed to make it out, but she realized that compared to what Taftaf was used to, her husband was practically a prince.
“Well that Fenner, he seems to notice you lots. At least, that’s what I’ve seen . . .” Nancy said.
“Wot, with bossin’ me around?”
“Well, you know how males tease the females they fancy, though I’m not saying it’s right or something you ought to find flattering,” Nancy said with a frown, “I’ll admit he can be a bit harsh, but I just thought that was normal for young beasts here, in a horde, you know.”
“Yah, ya don’t know nothin’ ‘bout the horde, Nance,” Taftaf said with a laugh. “That’s young males for ya, ‘round ‘ere.” Then she added with a sideways, hopeless grin, “Darn weasels, them idjits sometimes.”
“So, mice are too,” grinned Nancy.
“Yah, all males are, s’why I ain’t getting’ no mate!” said Taftaf with a laugh. “’Less, o’course, some decent thing like yores come along. Might make some ess’eption then, hehe.”
Nancy resumed scrubbing the clothes (they were rags, really) and raised her brows in agreement. “Yep, can’t say much for Fenner’s decency unfortunately. All this talk about murdering off the horde leader and becoming the greatest and blah blah.”
“Oh, that’s not wot’s so bad ‘bout ‘im,” said Taftaf, wading waist deep into the water to wack the clothes on the lake’s surface. “He’s only talking ‘imself up.”
“I don’t find anything—attractive about such humble and—decent promises,” countered Nancy, following her friend and speaking between the watery smacks.
Taftaf laughed, a sweet sound. “That’s cuz ya don’t get the horde, Nance. Ya kin either talk yoreself up, or you talk somebeast else up. I tink it’s more creddible ta talk yoreself up, ‘cause it shows ya got—wot’s thah word—‘mbition and bravery. Yah, ya play it safe kissin’ up ta some other beast, but ya ain’t got no pride left for that. It’s plain dangerous ta talk yoreself up, so ‘e wouldn’t do it unless he meant something.” Taftaf paused between thrashings. “Tha’s bravery, right there.”
Nancy shot her friend a sideway glance. Her view seemed so twisted to the mouse, but she had a point. If there was no honor in helping others, setting high goals for yourself rather than letting someone else do the dirty work seemed best value of all for these beasts. The mouse cocked her head. “So then why not a good potential mate?” Now he seemed half-decent compared to everyone else in the horde. “You can choose, right? Parents don’t arrange things here, do they?”
Taftaf threw her head back to let out a roar of laughter. “Naw, silly! Where are the parents? Half us don’ even know who gave birth to us, even’f they’re still inna same tribe! Everybeast fends for theirselves here.”
“So why not Fenner,” Nancy repeated with an arched brow.
Taftaf looked at her mouse friend for a few seconds, then across the water’s surface. “I dunno. I seen too much. He might be brave for ‘imself, but that don’ mean he’ll really care ‘bout anybeast else. ‘Sides, he jus’ treats all the females like that.”
Nancy watched her friend closely, trying to read her voice and eyes. She couldn’t tell if there was a tinge of jealousy in her tone or not, but she assumed there was. She couldn’t tell anything with anybeast here.
“I jus’ don’t rotten know 'bout anyting,” Taftaf groaned hopelessly. Then her ears snapped back. “What am I even sayin’? Lissen, Nance, you tell anybeast we were talkin’ ‘bout—mates and stuff, I’ll be class’fied as the love-sick, softy, ‘pendant on some male ta take care o' me, so watch yer trap—"
“Taf!” Cried Nancy, throwing her paws up, “Do I look like that kind of friend to you?”
It was then that Taftaf seemed to remember who she was talking to. “Ah. Well, no. But I’m dead serious, Nance, I’d be crow meat. Us females don’t talk ‘bout that stuff. The only time we talk ‘bout mates is boastin’ ‘bout how we could get anybeast in the tribe we wanted to.” Taftaf resumed beating the rags on the water. “Yah, you woulnd’ last a day in the horde if’n you weren’t a guest, Nance. Ya gotta act like ya don’t care. ‘Bout anything, ‘cept yore own skin.”
Nancy could only watch the weasel beating the water with rags. She felt so—useless. Why should her friend have to act like a selfish, ruthless vermin to stay alive? Wouldn’t she do the same growing up in this horde, too? Were vermin real, or was it all just a show? If you live like that long enough, thought Nancy, a dark weight growing steadily on her heart, is there a point you stop…a point you stop pretending? Of course there were beasts that didn't pretend to be evil. They just were. But... “But you do care.”
“If you have to act like you don’t care, it means that you do care after all.” Nancy took a rag from Taftaf to begin ringing it dry. “What do you care about, Taftaf?”
“Stayin’ alive, Nance.”
“No, what do you care about? Every day, what’s important to you?”
Taftaf grinned. “Stayin’ alive.”
“You care about this lake.” Taftaf’s eyes narrowed at Nancy’s words, as if they had made her vulnerable. “I know that because you take your time washing and gazing at the water. And you don’t like it when a lot of other beasts are here, I can tell. You want it to be your place, is that right?”
“I like the lake,” said Taftaf nonchalantly.
“And you care about that little rat, Wibblow.”
“Wot on earth makes ya think—"
“You protected him this morning, from the other little beasts,” said Nancy, with a triumphant smile.
Taftaf snorted. “He was bothering me, and I nearly took ‘is head off for it. Or did you miss the part where I tol’ ‘im to buck off and help Masir clean the dirt place?”
“But that’s how you help each other, here, isn’t it!” said Nancy. “You act like you don’t care so no one’s reputation gets hurt, but then you find ways to keep the person you care about safe. And everybeast knows you’re doing this, but it’s accepted because that’s how it works around the horde! Right?”
Taftaf finally broke into a grin. “You’se smart, Nance.”
“Fenner seems to do the same for you often, doesn’t he, Taf?”
Taftaf rolled her eyes back at Nancy as she waded to shore. “Naw, that’s just a male bein’ an idjit. Therr’s nothin’ else ‘nderneath.” But Nancy would have betted anything Taftaf’s ears were growing warm.
(Let me know of any posting errors. ;)