Renard Argente’ : Chapter 7: Unexpected Friends

The hedgehog was safely on board the Natchez and being attended to by the ship’s medical personnel.  That resulted in the coast guard escorting the awake member of the tiny ship crew to another office nearby in the large steam vessel’s mechanical room.  In the hours that passed, Argente the silver fox was grilled by the coast guard officers.  After an intense round of questioning, she was escorted to Pudgy’s battle scarred ship, and ordered to remain in the ship.  Another officer had set up a flood light and had torn the ship apart looking for any sign of contraband.  Many notes were taken, and photos obtained of the ship.  The spent flare cartridge was removed, along with samples of the coal and foodstuffs for testing.  The fox collapsed tiredly onto the deck and looked up at the ship.  Her concerned eyes soon fell shut, as she immediately fell asleep.  The coast guard officer was standing on the dock, and watched, while another coast guard vessel pulled up behind the ship and began to moor to the pier.  The locals along the shoreline all were starting to stare at the scene unfolding along the shoreline.    

Hours passed in the blink of an eye, and Pudgy wearily opened his eyes.  He was in a breadbasket, similar to that one would use in a restaurant, covered by a soft piece of white cloth.  Scanning the room, he could tell he was in some sort of medical place.  A tired looking man smiled and adjusted his black circular glasses on the bridge of his nose.  The long white beard hung just shy of his chest.  “Good, you are awake Pudgy.  How are you feeling?”   Pudgy smiled but his chest hurt as he breathed, “Pudgy chest hurt, but much better.  Thank you, mister doctor,” he trailed off, as the white bulkhead door opened behind the doctor.  A coast guard officer was standing there, with a pistol strapped to his hip.  “Doctor, is the hedgehog awake?”   The doctor nodded, and politely excused himself as he exited the room.  The medical area was no bigger than a small janitorial closet, but for the ship’s purposes it sufficed.   The officer nodded and entered the room scanning the area with steel gray eyes. 

As the officer sat down, he pulled out a tape recorder and turned it on.  Producing a clip board, he started to write, “What is your name please?”  Pudgy pointed at his chest, “Pudgy Hedgehog.  Who are you?”  The officer’s gruff facial expressions did not expose his mood.  His skin was tanned dark, and he was clean shaven, “Senior Chief Petty Officer Smith.  Pudgy, you have been on our radar for awhile now, since you entered the Braddock lock on the Monongahela river in Pennsylvania.  Your journey took you down the entirety of the river system to this point.  That is well in excess of 1,600 miles, in a tiny steam ship.  Your friend Cobalt has been contacted, and he has informed us of many things.  But there are questions that my superiors have, that I have been sent here to ascertain what exactly happened.  So, please be honest and truthful, it will be beneficial to you in the end.”  Pudgy looked confused, “is Pudgy in trouble?”  The officer did not change expressions, “Please start from the beginning.”  Pudgy swallowed and nodded, “Pudgy woke up, and saw Momma smiling.  Pudgy was just a little hedgehog.”  The officer coughed, and that caused a smile to crack his stone-faced demeanor. “Not that far back, please,” the older man trailed off. 

So, Pudgy realizing how much trouble he was in, started from the beginning of his adventures.  He described Doomcock, and the silly show he saw on Cobalt’s television set.  Pudgy’s decision to go find the future ruler of the earth in the center of the earth, and his travels down to the center of the planet and back.  The officer’s jaw dropped and started to fill up a second notebook.  Questions about this future ruler filled a separate notebook and resulted in many follow up questions.  Pudgy also revealed his adventure to Santa clause, the events that led to his trip to the moon, the Kennesaw trip, and finally the trip to New Orleans.   The stories took hours, and soon the entire ship was down in the service hallway listening.  Three more coast guard officers had arrived and joined in the questioning.  Pudgy had never seen officers with so many insignia before, meaning that the highest parts of the local command structure were there.   When Pudgy started to speak about the events on Lake Pontchartrain, that resulted in a more intense line of questioning.  After a particularly tough line of questioning, the room grew incredibly quiet.  The officers stopped recording and wrote more notes on yet another notebook. 

The medical doctor arrived once more to check on the hedgehog in the packed tiny room, informing the officers that Pudgy was well enough to move.  The younger petty officer picked up the basket and carried Pudgy through the doorway and down the corridor.  The other senior officers remained behind, and Pudgy could heard loud talking echoing behind them.  The officer headed quickly through the Natchez, to reach the pier.  The humid air was thick, though it was a sunny day.  Pudgy wiggled slightly, “Feels like rain coming.”  The officer nodded and continued to head towards the ship.  Upon reaching it, the fox’s ears perked up and immediately looked at the approaching man.   Kneeling on the dock, He helped Pudgy out of the Basket, and back onto the ship’s deck next to Argente.  The fox’s white tipped tail curled around Pudgy, and she smiled at him.  The young officer stood back up, “lease remain here.”  As the man walked away, Argente snugged with Pudgy. “I was worried about you.  Those men asked me so many questions, and they tore your ship apart.”

Pudgy looked up at Argente, and her brown eyes were looking down at him with a concerned but happy expression.  Her silver tipped fur, had black roots, and was so warm.  The hedgehog yawned, and wiggled closer.  “Please tell Pudgy everything,” The fox sighed, and started to explain her part of the story.  After her mother had been run over by the car, she wandered the land heading east. She originally was from far away, in some place called Washington.  It was when she had lost the will to live, she was approached by a green ghost.  He spoke of punishing the humans who killed her mother.  At first, she had dismissed the ramblings of the ghost, but soon they started to make sense.  Every day they travelled, becoming friends, and it spoke sweet things that made her happy.   Over the mountains they went, and down the plains, to reach a wide flat area called Texas.  The ghost said that they needed to find a man named Doomcock, who dwelled in a certain area.  So, weeks were spent to find the man, until one day she ascertained his position.  There was a house, like any other that humans live in, that he would emerge from on a semi regular schedule. 

Her mother had trained her well at not being seen, and over time learned his schedule of movements.  The ghost was growing impatient, but one day she was able to tie a band around his ankle without him realizing it.  The Ghost had instructed her how to craft a doll, and enchant it, so she could control him.  The trio then travelled in a vehicle to the city of New Orleans.  Using the man, they were able to secure the materials, as well as the coast guard dredge barge to head out to the lake.  It was weeks of work, which was done at a speed that made the ghost growing more agitated.  Pudgy listened and nodded, as she spoke, and added his story where it would make sense, which made her nod as well.  After she was done talking, the two critters sat quietly on the ship.  “Pudgy, please forgive me, I didn’t know.” The fox whimpered.  Pudgy patted her chest gently and looked up at her. “Pudgy forgive, Pudgy once listened to Harvey too.  His lies seem so nice,” the hedgehog trailed off as he yawned again.  

The daylight faded, and soon the night started to approach.  Pudgy headed to the wheelhouse and got out some of the remaining food.   He made a supper for the two of them, making a mental note that the return trip would require more supplies.  The Natchez was all lit up, as jazz music played loudly.  As the two critters sat nibbling, Argente spoke. “I wonder what the humans are doing?”  Pudgy nodded, “we could go find out, but sometimes best to let them alone.  Pudgy loves Cobalt but know when to stay home sometimes.  Argente, will you come back with Pudgy?”  The fox blinked and smiled at her new friend, “Pudgy, are you sure, given everything I have done?”  The hedgehog bounced happily, “Yes, Cobalt made Pudgy a great home.  You can live with Pudgy till Cobalt builds you a home too.”  The fox grinned, and then started to ask more about Cobalt.  The stories the little hedgehog told her were a stark contrast to everything Cthulhu had said.  “Yes, I would like to see your home Pudgy.” The fox said happily and started to drift off to sleep.  Pudgy looked up at the stars above, and too fell fast asleep. 

The next day came quickly, with a strong sun overhead.  As Pudgy wiped the sleep away from his eyes, he saw a coast guard officer standing on the dock.  The hedgehog waved, and the officer waved back and smiled as he approached.  “Pudgy hedgehog, you are cleared to return home to Pennsylvania.  However, you will be subject to regular coast guard inspection, understood?”  The hedgehog nodded “Pudgy understand.”  The officer tossed a piece of coal back into the hopper and returned a couple items from the ship which included the river maps and his cell phone.   Pudgy bounced, “Pudgy will need to buy supplies, is that ok?”  The officer nodded and waved as he walked away.  The fox had woken as well, though kept her eyes shut and listened.  She turned her head and opened her eyes looking at Pudgy.  The hedgehog smiled and started to put things back to their various places within the ship.  After a shirt period, various parts were back in their regular places.   The fox tried to help, but the wheelhouse was so small, she could only get her snout through the doorway.  “Pudgy, I can’t get inside, I’m too big.” 

Pudgy rectified that but taking out part of the wall around the doorway.  The glass windows had been cracked and shattered during the violent waters during their escape.  The extra wood allowed the hedgehog to make some accommodations for his new fox friend.  The two critters chatted while working and decided that they should leave the next day.  Ass Pudgy opened the secret panel under the control platform, the money was still there, rolled in tight bills.  The money was almost gone, and Pudgy had $40 dollars left.  Looking at Argente, “Cobalt gave Pudgy money for trip, but almost out.  We need supplies but can’t spend a lot.”  The fox nodded and motioned for Pudgy to climb onto her back.  The hedgehog put the money into his little vest, and then scampered over to his friend.  The fox was about 12 inches tall standing, 24 inches long, with a thing build.  She giggled when the hedgehog got on, and soon they were off at a fair pace.   Pudgy navigated, while curious onlookers saw the two critters travelling once again in the city. 

Soon arriving at the Italian grocery store, Pudgy got back onto the ground, and walked beside Argente into the store.  The nice Italian lady with the long black hair waved at the two entering. “Buongiorno Pudgy, welcome back to the store!”  She smiled, and noticed the fox, “who is your friend?”  The fox timidly spoke up, “Argente, miss.”  An older bald Italian man behind the counter called out, “you’re about 40 years too late on that….”  The woman shot a look at the man and started yelling at him in Italian.  Pudgy narrated, “Bad …husband…. noodle …. Cobalt only know so many words tot each Pudgy.  If he does not say Strega, we will be ok.”  The arguing married couple started to laugh as the woman spoke again, “yes, he knows better. How can we help you today?”  Pudgy held up his money, “Pudgy need to buy supplies, going home to Pennsylvania tomorrow.”  The two humans nodded, and soon a flurry of activity began.  There were other human customers in the store, but they too got in on the fun helping.   After paying for the goods, Pudgy had $3 left, which he put back into his vest.  The two critters carried back the goods, though with Argente, it was a lot easier.   Pudgy had also bought a muffuletta, as well as some cannoli’s, so for a short time they would eat very well.

After another short uneventful travel concluded, they were back to the ship docked in the pier’s service slip.  The two friends put the groceries and supplies away.  It was during this time, the crew of the Natchez started to appear one by one up on the main pier, looking down at the hedgehog and fox busy working.  Captain Jacob had disembarked from the large steam vessel and had wandered over to look at Pudgy’s little ship.  Pudgy waved, and narrated the various parts with pride, as the human captain smiled.  Pudgy bounced, “Captain Jacob, thank you for all your help.  Pudgy is going to go home tomorrow, and Argente is coming with Pudgy.”  The fox smiled and looked up at the captain, watching him nod and smile.  “I fully understand.  I wanted to stop by and say goodbye as well.  The Natchez will be leaving soon for Baton Rouge.  We will see you on the way back.”  Pudgy scampered off the ship, and hugged the Captain’s ankle, looking up a long black uniform pant leg.  Captain Jacob laughed, and knelt to pat his hedgehog friend on the head gently.  After a few quiet moments, he stood back up, and left the service dock, to head back towards the ship.  Throughout the day, more crew members of the ship would stop by to say goodbye and offer well wishes. 

The fox was in amazement that the humans came over and were so nice to Pudgy.  The little hedgehog had endeared himself amongst them and was a focal point of much wonder.  The Natchez once again was loaded with passengers, and soon the big ship took off for a river cruise.  The two critters watched the big ship pull away, and continued work on the small vessel, and munch on the pieces of the large Italian sandwich wrapped in white butcher paper.  It was a couple different kinds of spicy meat, cheese, and olives spread all over inside.  Argente was in amazement at how good the sandwich tasted.  Soon the daylight faded once more, and as she laid on the deck, the fox looked at Pudgy.  “Good Night Argente, we need to leave early tomorrow, so it’s bedtime.”  The fox nodded, and soon fell asleep curled around Pudgy.  She was growing happier, and while the pain of her loss never would fully go away, she was tired of being angry all the time.  This pleasant time was a welcome respite, and without warning sleep overtook her.  The two friends slept a deep dreamless sleep. 

As Morning came, Pudgy was up early, watching the sun just start to come over the eastern horizon.  “Hmm red skies… what did Cobalt say about those?  Pudgy can’t remember….” He trailed off, as Argente padded off the ship to take care of something.  The hedgehog nodded, and started to load the boiler’s firebox with coal, and began to light the fire.  As he checked the gauges, and safety valves, the boiler started to build pressure.   Soon a black smoke started to puff out of the smokestack, and the fox scampered quickly back to the ship. “Are we ready to go?” Argente asked, with Pudgy nodding.  She scampered over to start to untie the mooring lines, which was hard as she did not have any hands, but she was able to pull the lines with her teeth.  The river water had soaked the lines, so they had a unique taste.  She spat out the taste from her mouth into the water, and then hopped up the gang plank.  Pudgy pulled it back into the ship and stowed it away.    The current started to pull the ship out of the slip, and as before, the hedgehog throttled up and steered hard to turn the ship. 

With Pudgy in the wheelhouse, he set the throttle to full speed ahead, and started to navigate out into the channel of the river where the smaller ships would travel.   Curious humans who were running along a river walk park all waved at the ship.  Pudgy and Argente waved back, as the VHF radio crackled.  The commercial traffic was busy talking about strange storms, and the coast guard being more active than usual with their patrols.  Pudgy decided to push the transmit button, “Hello everyone, Captain Pudgy is going home to Pennsylvania.”  The other commercial Captains all started to one by one talk excitedly, wondering who would be the first to spot the hedgehog.  Argente had been given a crash course on how to work the boiler, so she was busy looking at the pressure gauge.  Unlike the trip to New Orleans, the return trip was going to be slower, as they were now going against the current by going north by north west.    But the two critters did not care, as they had no timetable to meet.  The little ship chugged along, with a black puffy smoke cloud coming from the smokestack.

The hours passed, as the river wound back and forth, and the rhythmic sound of the engine running in the stern of the ship was a gentle sound that was soothing to the fox.  Pudgy would check on her and scampered back to his wheelhouse to steer the ship.  If one were to drive by car, Baton Rouge was not that far away from New Orleans, about 85 miles.  However, it was a long distance on the river, due to the Mississippi’s various bends.  The skies which had been bright and full of sun, soon began to cloud over and darken.  The hedgehog could not tell if it were going to rain but recognized it would be best to find a place to moor for the night.  The radio crackled, and a man began to speak with an authoritative tone, “Captain Pudgy, come in.  The is the coast guard.”  Pudgy pushed the transmit button, “Yes, this is captain Pudgy.  How can Pudgy help?”  The man coughed, “You will submit to inspection, please follow our craft to the USS KIDD docks.  You will see the destroyer on the starboard side of your vessel.”  Pudgy nodded, and called back to Argente, “keep eye out for coast guard boat.”  The fox nodded, and pointed, “I see it Pudgy.”  The small gray vessel with its orange hull came barreling up behind them at a very quick pace.    Soon though it slowed and fell in behind their ship.  The fox wiggled her ears at the two men looking at her from their wheelhouse. 

Pudgy saw the bright blue and gray painted destroyer moored to a permanent dock that had been built into the river.  However, a new set of voices were on the radio, “unidentified ship, you are not cleared to moor here, please stay in the main channel.”  Pudgy had to follow the coast guard, so he continued to steer towards a large series of metal pilings that were on the port side of the KIDD.  So as the tiny steam ship started to pull up, the fox saw US Naval personnel standing on board the ship looking down at her with various fire warms pointed at them.   However soon they were joined by the coast guard patrol boat, and the weapons were holstered.  Once Pudgy exited the wheelhouse, the sailors noticed the hedgehog was wearing a captain’s hat.  The fox helped the hedgehog throw a mooring line to tie the ship against the steel pier pipe sticking out of the water.  Then watched the coast guard officers begin to inspect.  “Do you know why we stopped you Captain Pudgy?”  The coast guard officer asked, as he folded his tanned arms.”  Pudgy shook his head no and looked up at the stern looking man.  The officer laughed, “You didn’t say goodbye.”

Pudgy waved and bounced as he recognized the three officers were the same ones he had spoke with before.  As a cursory inspection commenced, the fox watched as a small black rubber craft with an outboard engine was approaching as well from ahead of the ship.  More human men dressed in differing uniforms from the Naval branch, were coming out to see what was going on.  It was to the Naval officer’s surprise when they found a talking brown hedgehog, and a talking silver fox in a steam ship.  The little ship was surrounded by two large boats, and several men asking questions.  Pudgy was bouncing happily, and excitedly answering questions.  Argente for her part was being quiet and kept a wary eye on the events unfolding around her.  After a whirlwind of activity, the larger boats soon departed, and the tiny ship drifted with the current.  The front mooring line taught, which necessitated a second mooring line at the stern of the ship.  The fox helped Pudgy tie up the second line, and then returned to her spot on the deck looking at the river. 

“Pudgy, is it always like this?” Argente asked, as she watched her new hedgehog friend scamper slowly towards her over the mountain of coal in the hoppers at the stern of the ship.  The hedgehog nodded, “Most people are very nice, and are just curious.”  The fox nodded, “but some are bad, and you have to be careful.”  Pudgy nodded, “the bad people are not that many, but yes you are right.  Pudgy stay away from them, and Cobalt also keep Pudgy safe.”  The hedgehog hugged her gently, and then scooted inside to get out the remaining pieces of the muffuletta sandwich that was remaining.  It was holding up particularly well for not being refrigerated.  Of course, the amount of salt in it could also be a deciding factor as well.  Again, night quickly fell, and as the commercial barges sailed past, the two critters fell asleep.   A light rain felt, causing ripples to form on the water’s surface, while the ship gently swayed back and forth.  The hulking destroyer beside them, stood silently, with its heavy guns pointed towards the northern skies.  If there were ghosts on board, they did not bother the tiny ship and its furry occupants. 

The next day followed a familiar pattern: wake up, light boiler, wait for pressure, untie the mooring lines, and head off.  With the huge destroyer passing quickly behind them, the little ship was chugging once more.  Argente spoke with Pudgy about his travels, who Cobalt was, and other things.  The topic of Lord Doomcock was the elephant in the room so to speak and was being avoided.  Neither wanted to ruin the pleasant voyage, with unpleasant talk.  In what seemed to take forever, the little ship started to approach Memphis.  There was a huge red steel pier with a big white riverboat moored up.  Its smokestacks were quiet, which meant it was not yet ready to travel.  As Pudgy navigated beside it, the fox waved at some crew members with her paw.  The crew waved back and pointed at the little ship passing by on their port side.  As Pudgy was staying out of the commercial lanes, he steered the ship to the inner side of a huge island called Mud Island.    There was a big series of walking trails, parks, and a museum on the island.    This was also a launching point for many boats of all sizes, as well as a terminal for the Memphis Queen river boat line.  Several steam ships were docked here, all being serviced.   So as a large ship was starting to approach, Pudgy steered closer to the island.  As what appeared to be an amphitheater approached on the port side of the ship, humans along the shoreline waved. 

Pudgy hit the steam whistle button and sent a cloud of steam into the area.  That drew some cheers, and as Pudgy locked the steering wheel, he scampered out to the deck to wave with Argente.  It was then when he saw a familiar face.  A taller woman, with brightly colored red hair and dressed in a white blouse with blue jeans, was frantically waving from the shoreline.  Pudgy waved back, as a faint voice called out, “PUDGY!”  Pudgy could see it was his friend Samantha Jo, who was from around Galveston when he first visited Doomcock during his first adventure.  The hedgehog pointed ahead, since he could see a dock ahead with a huge boat launch approaching.  The hedgehog scampered back to the wheelhouse and started to steer towards the dock.  Argente watched the woman start running along the shoreline, “Pudgy, that woman is running along the shore?”  The hedgehog nodded, “That’s Samantha Jo, Pudgy know her!” The fox blinked and nodded and waved her paw at the woman.   As The ship approached a white metal dock, several fishermen waved and walked up towards the approaching vessel. 

Argente waved with her paw, and then grabbed a mooring line in her mouth, and hopped off the ship and onto the dock.  She quickly tied the line around the mooring cleat.  Pudgy in turn throttled down and put the ship into what served as neutral.  As the fox was about to hop back into the boat, the woman made it to the dock, and leaned on a white safety rail wheezing.  Pudgy scampered out of the wheelhouse and saw his friend and waved as he bounced. “HI SAMANTHA JO!”   The woman approached, with her bright red lips curled into a huge smile.  She approached, and scooped up Pudgy out of his ship, and promptly hugged him tightly.  The hedgehog hugged back, and he looked up at her with his little captain hat covering part of his eyes.  “Pudgy, what on earth are you doing in Memphis?”  The hedgehog was hugging her still, “Pudgy had to go to New Orleans to save Doomcock and stop Harvey.”  The woman laughed happily and noticed the silver fox sitting in the ship on the deck.  As Samantha Jo smiled, “Hello, and who might you be?”  The fox was cautious at first, “Argente, I’m Pudgy’s …. friend.”  The human woman nodded, “a pleasure to meet you Argente.  I believe that means silver in French if I do believe.  It is a certainly apt name, as your coat of fur has silver.  To be accurate though, it would be Renard Argente, or Silver Fox.”

Soon a crowd of curious onlookers were arriving to look, as well as a picture or two at the steam powered ship.    Pudgy was busy telling his human friend everything that had happened, which the crowd was struggling to hear.  So, she set Pudgy on top of the wheelhouse, so he could start over.  He had sailed all the way from McKeesport Pennsylvania to New Orleans, and now was returning home.  Grand tales of the eldritch god trying to escape from Lake Pontchartrain drew the most attention, especially by Samantha Jo.  As she smoothed the winkles of her blouse, she listened intently.  The numerous coast guard inspections, and the fact that he was now going up stream against the current, was slowing his progress.  A fisherman in the back called out, “you need a stronger engine, maybe gasoline?” His cohort nudged him laughing, “where would he put that much fuel?”  The men laughed and wandered off, while Samantha knelt to gently pat Argente on her head.  The fox was hesitant but closed her eyes when she was petted. 

The hedgehog bounced off the wheelhouse roof, and scampered up to his new fox friend, and hugged her. “Harvey lied to Argente, and Pudgy knows how that is.  She is friend fox now and coming home with Pudgy.”  The human woman smiled, “that was a grand tale Pudgy, but I have to ask … what happened to Lord Doomcock?” Pudgy’s ears started to fold down, and he whimpered.  Argente spoke next, explaining that she had made a voodoo doll, which controlled Doomcock.  He had hurt Pudgy, unknowingly, and did things he would not remember.  As the ship sped away, she saw him get out of the water, as the huge green light beam engulfed the sky.  When the barge sank, she could not see him anymore.  The trio of friends grew silent, as the boiler started to lose pressure.  It was Samantha that spoke first, “Pudgy, Doomcock is on YouTube again, making videos and doing live streams.  He said he had some family business to take care of, but he was just on last night.  So …… it would appear…… he is alive and well.”  Pudgy nodded, “Pudgy glad, but …”  The fox nodded, “Pudgy, first I controlled him, and then Harvey did.  Doomcock didn’t hurt you on purpose.”  The hedgehog whimpered, while he did understand, the trust was lost for now.  He feared the future ruler of the earth, and while that would fade over time, he did not want to go on any more Doomcock adventures.

“Pudgy want to go home, and not go on another adventure for a good long time.”  The human woman smiled her red lips at him again and scooped up the trembling hedgehog.  She hugged him again, “Pudgy, I think you should forgive Lord Doomcock, when you get back home.  I can understand why you are sad.  Take some time to think about it, do not make any rash decisions.  But the long rest, would be a good thing.  I am sure Cobalt misses you too.”  Pudgy nodded, and hugged her tightly back, and bounced when she sat him back down into the ship.  Her white clutch purse was strapped across her body and was buzzing loudly.  Laughing, she opened the purse, and took out a cell phone with a nifty dragon case on it.  “Hello, yes I am all right.  I met a friend, yes I will be back soon.”  Pudgy nodded and looked at Argente.  The fox made her tail sweep back and forth along the deck, and the two critters looked up at Samantha Jo.  As she hung up, and put away her phone, “That was my friend, she was wondering why I ran off.  Pudgy, are you going to be ok?”  The hedgehog sniffed, “Yes, Pudgy be ok.  Have long trip back, but also have friend to talk to and hug.”  The fox covered her brown eyes with her paw, looking bashful, “aww, Pudgy…” 

Samantha smiled, “You will be fine.  I’m glad I could bump into you again Pudgy.”  The woman smiled and watched as the hedgehog started to fire up the smoldering boiler, to regain pressure.   Pudgy waved at his human friend, “Pudgy glad to run into you too Samantha.”  She smiled back from the floating dock, and helped to untie the mooring lines, and toss them into the ship.   As the ship started to drift backwards, Pudgy scampered back into the wheelhouse.  Waving through the tiny glass windows, he throttled up causing a bit of a wake behind the ship, and the vessel was off once more.  The woman waved happily as the tiny ship departed and had quite a story to tell the other Valkyries in her group.  She snapped a picture with her cell phone’s camera, and sent a post out letting everyone know she bumped into Pudgy in Memphis.   This drew many comments and likes by many of her friends online, with Bionic Belly Button the most excited, as she had been offline for a while and was unsure if Pudgy had been up to anything as of late.   The woman turned when the ship passed around the edge of the island and started to head back to the amphitheater. 

Pudgy was being noticeably quiet, and the throttle was at flank speed.  Argente watched as the large island speed by, with a row of apartments starting to pass by on the port side of the ship.  It was when the boat suddenly turned Argente looked up at the hedgehog, “River is dead end, we have to go back out to the main channel.”  The fox nodded, watching the dock pass by once again, and then the amphitheater.  Samantha was there sitting beside a woman in blue jeans and a red colored flannel style shirt on a bench along the riverbank.  The two were talking and saw the ship pass by once again, Samantha Jo pointed, and the friend stared with mouth agape.  Pudgy and Argente waved and within minutes, the ship had reached the Mississippi river once more.  As the city of Memphis sped by, and they passed under an exceptionally long bridge that spanned the entire width of the river, Argente looked up at her friend.    The hedgehog was steering the ship, and he looked back at her and smiled while he twitched his nose. 

The city passed by, and soon the river was wild once more, with its twists and turns.  The sunlight started to fade, and white puffy clouds floated by carried by the wind.   The fox looked around, “Pudgy, I see an island, should we stay there for the night?”  The hedgehog nodded and steered towards a small island to the starboard side of the ship and coasted into cove of the island.   Throttling down, he hit the button to drop the anchor, causing a splash at the prow of the ship.   As the boiler began to cool, Pudgy scampered out with a pot of water.  He opened the fire box and set the pot inside to warm the water. The hedgehog sat down and handed Argente a ship’s biscuit.  As she nibbled the dry bread, she watched Pudgy eating.   The two looked at the quickly emptying coal supplies, while Pudgy pulled out the pot of water, and add a tea bag to make tea.   “Tomorrow, we need to start to cut wood, which luckily this island has.  The boiler means that we can use anything that would burn.  Coal works the best, but Pudgy used wood all of the way down, till Pudgy ran out of fuel outside of Memphis.”  The fox nodded while yawning slightly, looking around the quiet area.  Once the tea was ready, Pudgy poured two cups and watched as the fox take the cup with both paws sipping the hot liquid gingerly.  Once supper was over, Pudgy washed the dishes, and then put cookware away.  The fox stretched out, and then promptly fell asleep.  The hedgehog smiled, and crawled into his bunk bed, and soon was asleep as well. 

The night passed once more, and soon the two were awake at the first light of dawn.  After a brief breakfast, the two critters swung out the gang plank, and let it drop onto the shoreline.  The fox padded down the ramp, and then started to scamper through the tall grass to explore the small island.  As Pudgy got out his small saw, he too scampered down the ramp, and started to locate scrub trees.  The hedgehog began to saw the tree branches, causing a pile of trees to begin to form.   Argente soon was back and helped Pudgy move the cut branches back to the ship.  The fox moved at a fair pace, steadily moving the supplies to the ship.  Just like with the firewood for his home, when the two critters thought they had enough wood, they cut more.  After several hours of work, the two crawled back up the ship’s gangplank, and tied down the huge pile of wood supplies.  They sat down and nibbled lunch, with a question forming in their heads.  “Pudgy, should we spend another night here?”  The female fox cast a questioning look to her hedgehog friend.  The smaller critter nodded, “I think so too, lets use the rest of today to rest.  We can leave tomorrow at first light.”  She grinned, and then looked back on the island, “I saw some mushrooms earlier, so after lunch we can explore.” 

After a leisurely lunch, Pudgy followed Argente back to the shoreline, and then scampered around with her in the tall grass.  It felt good to be on solid ground once again, and Pudgy started to miss his home in the forest.  It would be good to have Argente there and show her the area.  Pudgy was sure Mister Dinosaur and Mister Bear would like her and would come to another Pudgy party if invited.    The two furry friends played hide and seek and found those mushrooms that the fox had spoken of.  They returned to the ship, and climbed back on board, having a small supper, before falling asleep on the deck while looking up at the stars in the clear sky above.  The faint sound of an engine was in the distance, as a commercial barge was approaching, but their island was sheltered, and the cove’s water still.  The two were thankful for the rest, and soon would start their travel anew once more.  Argente snuggled up closer to Pudgy, and smiled ear to ear as she slept.  The fox was happy and content, a far cry from how her journey started.  

However, unbeknownst to the two sleeping critters, someone was watching them from the shoreline.    The unseen watcher had been following for miles, skirting the edge of the water staying just barely out of sight.  As the moonlight spread over the grassy lands beside the river, a set of glowing blue eyes peered out from the darkness of a tall bush with white flowers.  A crackled hiss could be faintly heard, as words too quiet to hear were spoken to parties unknown on the other side.  A faint shimmer of refracted light shimmered as another joined the glowing eyes, and soon joined the watch.  But who pray tell was watching, and why?

By Cobalt

Cobalt is a normal guy that goes to work. Pudgy is his hedgehog friend who lives in a hobbit style home nearby, and goes on epic adventures. All Pudgy stories are copyrighted to Cobalt. Doomcock, Harvey Cthulhu, and Xanadoom is copyrighted to Overlord DVD.

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