While I slowly query agents for my first book I’ve started on a new one about a Racoon named Dot. The characters are all based on animals that (more or less) live in my alley. This scene is based on a true story (that time I accidentally threw my keys into my dumpiest only to discover two racoons inside).
The sharp sound snapped Dot awoke. She froze. Her whiskers went wide tingling as they and her curious nose softly sensed for danger. She made eye contact with her twin sister Molly who was doing the same. Dot braced her body wth her ringed tail for extra leverage if she had to fight or flee.
“It will be okay,” she let Molly know.
“I hear a waster,” Molly told her.
Dot did too. She could hear thumping and vocal noises on the other side of the crusty green metal wall of the food bin.
“It’s a male.”
“He threw these in with his waster bags,” said Molly, motioning to a bunch of shiny metal sticks attached to a ring lying next to a couple of bulging plastic bags.
“Wasters are like crows, he’s going to want those shiny sticks back.”
Dot eyed their surroundings. They shouldn’t have fallen asleep in the food bin, but that meaty pizza, and those mushy blueberries had been irresistible. They’d sat around telling stories, scarfing waster food, and making jokes until they passed out. Now it was well past dawn and they were in for it.
There was some banging and short, sharp vocalizations from the other side of the wall. Wasters basically only used their mouths to talk, so silly.
The waster’s forepaw appeared at the top of the metal wall. Molly and Dot locked eyes again.
“Cute or fierce?” asked Molly.
The waster’s head popped over the edge.
Dot’s fur and tail fluffed huge, she barred her teeth, and growled. Fierce!
Molly froze making her eyes even bigger and curling her luxurious tail around her body. She looked like a giant ball of fluff with big eyes. Cute.
Shoot. Fierce and cute. This was not a united front.
The waster’s head popped over the edge of the wall. ‘Gosh they’re big,’ Dot thought.
“Ah” yelped the waster, “racoons!” His eyes almost popped out of his head then he disappeared.
“Cute-fierce,” said Dot, “didn’t think that would work.”
“He’ll be back,” said Molly motioning to the ring of sticks.
“We probably confused him. Did you see how big his eye’s got?”
“Ya, total fear response,” said Molly. “Should we just give him back his shiny sticks?” she asked.
“If he wants them he can come and get them. I just hope he’s not after that last slice of pizza.”
The tip of a red plastic stick slid over the edge of the bin.
“He’s got a weapon.”
“Let’s do cute-fierce again,” said Dot. “Just move away from the sticks so he can get them.”
The stick slide further into the bin. The waster’s forepaws came back into view.
“Hide the pizza,” said Molly slipping away from the metal sticks. Molly had great priorities.
“I got this.” Dot put a protective paw on the slice sliding it under her tail.
The waster’s head came into view. He stabbed into the bin with the stick. Dot was about to hiss.
“Wait,” said Molly holding her cute pose, “I don’t think the stick is for us. I think he’s trying to use it to get the ring.”
“They’re so good with their stupid paws and their stupid tools,” said Dot, exposing more of her sharp teeth. Wasters were terrible with their teeth.
“Uh, sorry, little racoons,’ said the waster. “I, uh, I just need to get my keys. Please don’t bite me.”
“What did he say?” Dot asked Molly.
“How am I supposed to know?” said Molly, “What am I a dog?”
Suddenly, the waster’s glossy black foot covering smacked the lip of the bin.
“He’s coming in!” hissed Molly.
“Get over here. We’ll do cute -fierce again. It’s too late to run.”
The sisters wrapped themselves in their puffed tails, made their eyes big, and barred their teeth. Together they growled.
The waster clomped down into the food bin.
“Ah, disgusting. Uh, hi.” He said holing up his forepaws to show they were empty and clawless. “I, I just need these keys. Sorry! Please don’t bite me.”
He bent down into the pile of bags and left over food, his striped leash drooped into something wet. His incredible forepaw grabbed the stick ring as if picking things up was the easiest thing in the world, then he leapt out of the food bin.
“I didn’t know they could move that fast,” said Molly.
“Yeah, that was almost cat level,” said Dot.
“You mean racoon level,” said Molly.
“Ha! Yes I do. Let’s finish this pizza and get out of here before more of them come for their stuff.”
The sisters rubbed foreheads.
“Dot,” said Molly.
Molly started licking Dot’s hind paws. It tickled.
“DOT!” Why was she so loud?
“Hellooooooo,” Molly’s voice was different, she was licking so much Dot’s paws were wet.
“Molly,” she thought.
“Dot! The tide is coming in!”
Dot’s eyes blurred open. Water lapped over her hind paws. She could smell the Skunks, Brenda and Shirley, behind her. She held a clam in her forepaws.
She remembered where she was. She had come at low tide looking for Molly.
Molly loved clams more than anything, even more than mice or eggs, maybe less than Marshmallows (they didn’t count because you only found those if you were really lucky). But Molly wasn’t hunting in the tide pools, or taking in the breeze smells. Molly wasn’t in any of their favourite dens, or scavenging in their alley. Molly wasn’t there to nuzzle or groom. Molly wasn’t anywhere.
Molly was gone.
And Dot was drowning in her loss.
“Dot?” called Brenda.
“Hi,” Dot called back without turning. She didn’t want the skunks to see her crying. ‘Animals don’t cry,’ her mom had always said before… “Just taking in the view,” Dot choked out.
“Oh the view,” said Shirley, “wouldn’t that be nice. A bit blind for that myself. Nice smells though.” She quietly said to Brenda, “She’s okay.”
“Well, you know how we worry dear. But as long as you’re okay we’ll twaddle along,” said Brenda, “There are some lovely grubs in the short grass with the plastic holes if you’d like to come.”
“Thanks,” called Dot without turning. She held the clam up. “I’m stuffed on clams. Let’s dig for grubs tomorrow.”
“Oh, won’t that be lovely,” said Shirley.
“Good night dear,” said Brenda.
“What lovely kit she is,” Shirley said quietly to Brenda.
“She very much is. Shame about her mom,” said Brenda.
“Such a shame,” clucked Shirley, as they waddled their way to the par three golf course.
Dot turned back to the great salt water. The spray misted memories of her missing sister across Dot’s mask blending with the tears she wasn’t supposed to cry.