COARSE – Permanent Guest (Promised Bliss)
Let Me Be Your Guest
Raccoon thought he was going to die. He had gotten lost — first in a city filled with cars and then atop a mountain far up in the clouds. For weeks he had tried to find his way back home and now here he was in the middle of a desert, his legs about to give way beneath him. Yes, I’m really going to die, he thought, a lightheaded moment of clarity amid the confusion of the days that had led him here. He would die without ever again chasing his brothers up trees, without ever again feeling his mother’s paw stroke his fur as he drifted off to sleep on a cool summer night.
And then he saw something.
It appeared to be water. But Raccoon knew all about mirages. He knew better than to trust his own eyes, but sometimes his appetite betrayed him. “Water,” his parched mouth tried to cry, but only a weak wisp of air escaped him.
Raccoon ran across the sand, using every last bit of strength inside him to reach the lake or the pond or the false promise of either. Like a stray dog he scurried toward it, his tongue limp outside of his mouth.
No, Raccoon thought. It cannot be.
But Raccoon’s eyes did not deceive him. It was water, and more. Sitting in the baking heat of the desert sun was a bathtub carrying a fish. Raccoon did not know which he wanted first—the water or the meat. Saliva spilled off his tongue and sizzled on the hot desert sand. Better to consume both at once. With one final mote of energy, Raccoon held his paws up, licked his lips, and leapt into the air.
“Wait!” Fish screamed. “You don’t want to eat me!”
Raccoon recoiled. “Why not?” he protested.
“I’m poisonous for animals like you. Don’t you know that?”
Raccoon had never hunted for fish before—it was his older sisters who caught them from the stream near his family’s home—and he was immediately humbled by the both Fish’s knowledge and his willingness to share it with him.
“I’m sorry,” Raccoon apologized. “But I’ve been walking for days. I’m lost, you see. I’m hungry and I miss my family.”
“Well, why don’t you go see what those vultures are pecking at over there? They’re quite the culinary creatures.”
“What’s a vulture?” Raccoon asked, suspecting it might be a tumbleweed bouncing by.
“You don’t know what a vulture is? Kid, you’ve never left your forest, have you? Those are vultures.”
Fish pointed his fin at three enormous black birds squawking and flapping their wings on the ground. As raccoon walked over they backed away, revealing the skeleton of a snake. Raccoon dove to the ground, licking the bones. Hardly any meat remained but the flavor was still there, and that was enough to sate him for the time being.
“So what are you doing out here anyway?” Raccoon asked, returning to Fish.
“I’m trying to reach the ocean,” Fish said. “The river where I come from is no longer clean enough to live in. Chemicals flow through waters that were once blue. Fish less savvy than myself mistake plastic for food, and their bodies rise to the river’s surface. Sometimes the bodies of so many fish float up there that they block out the light from the sun.”
“That’s awful,” Raccoon said, furiously licking the bones of the snake.
“What’s especially awful is that we aren’t just ordinary fish who are dying.”
“Because you’re poisonous?”
“Not just that,” Fish said, splashing water onto his warm face. “We are a very special type of fish. We can grant wishes.”
Raccoon dropped the snake’s skeleton and his eyes grew wide. I wish to sit at the banks of the river and help my sisters catch minnows. I wish to fall asleep beneath the ancient branches of the old oak tree beside my mother and father. I wish to go home.
“The wishes come at a price, of course.”
“That’s right. For you, the cost of one wish is pulling me to the ocean.”
“Yes, the ocean—where I can swim in a straight line until the day I die. An ocean with food so plentiful and so rich that all I’ll need to do is open my mouth and a meal will swim right in. Yes, the salt might sting my eyes, but better salt than chemicals. Better sharks than plastic.”
“But the ocean is so far,” Raccoon sighed.
“And so is your home, it seems.”
Fish was right. Either Raccoon could walk toward his forest—or, more precisely, the direction he thought his forest was—or he could tug the bathtub all the way to the ocean, ask for his wish, and be granted it. Besides, no one had ever entrusted Raccoon with a task like this before. Reveling in pride, he puffed out his chest, jumped up, and saluted Fish.
“I’ll do it!”
“Perfect,” Fish crooned, a deep unfriendly laugh bubbling out of him.
Raccoon was about to grab the rope when he twisted around. “Hey,” Raccoon said, finding himself very clever. “If you’re from a river, then how did you end up here in the desert?”
Fish paused longer than necessary for such a simple question. “Someone else was pulling me before,” he finally said. “Another animal. And…um…well…” Fish began to fumble for words, and the water in his bathtub sloshed around as he searched for an answer.
“You granted him his wish?” Raccoon asked, hands clasped beneath his chin.
“Exactly!” Fish cheered.
“What was it?”
Raccoon nodded eagerly.
“His wish was…to fly. Now, we better get going before it gets dark. We have a long day ahead of us.”
Raccoon grasped the rope in his hands and focused on the horizon before him. He knew his forest was somewhere in the opposite direction, but if traveling to the edges of the earth meant going home, then that was what he had to do.
Fish lay back as Raccoon pulled him, a nice breeze cooling him down the faster Raccoon began to trot. Yes, Fish thought. A stronger animal will get me there faster. I’ll need someone better than the raccoon, but for now he’ll do. He certainly is better than that snake ever was.
1 in stock