Autumn had come to the forest, and the trees were full of vibrant yellow and orange colors. The occasional red and brown peeked through, while tall silent pines stood in their usual greenery. The temperatures first stayed warm, but had grown cooler, and more importantly the rains had returned. As the drought finally ended, the plants of the forest had started to recover, just as they prepared to sleep for the approach of winter.
It had been several weeks, since Pudgy returned from his adventure to rescue Angeliki from the Kaiser and his evil forces at Mt. Rainier. After a long period of rest and recovery, the hedgehog had settled back into the normal routine of daily life. Halloween had come and went, with the variety of festivities that were associated with it. Pudgy opted out of his usual scary ghost costume, in favor of a happy jack-o-lantern. Argente really got into the holiday, and laughed while Cobalt had wrapped her in bandages, to become a fox mummy. Cobalt wore the same scary monster as always, and everyone helped him pass out candy to the visiting neighbor children. The night ended with clean up, silly Halloween movies, candy, and lots of hugs.
The temperatures had grown much cooler, as fall progressed. This resulted in many small trips to retrieve firewood, so that the underground home’s wood stove could be fueled to heat the home as well as cook. Each day after the chores were done, and the hoppers were full of firewood, Pudgy would play with his woodland friends. Shortly after his return, Pudgy’s beaver friends had decided to relocate their dam to a spot further downstream below the spot where the water wheel was located. The drought had reinforced what Cobalt had been trying to tell them, and the spot where their pond was located had dried up with scant water coming to refill.
Cobalt helped them relocate the various parts of the dam to the new spot, as well as trench out with a shovel a deeper spot for the various components. He moved in large rocks to form the basis of the pond. The decision to move turned out to be a good one, as when the heavy fall rains returned to Pennsylvania, the creek began to flow once more. The increase of water volume restored the water flow, and the new pond and dam location caught much more water. Their pond became much deeper, and with a greater variety of small trees nearby, the beavers had access to more material to make their home.
The gray fluffy bunnies also helped, though their definition of help was always a bit suspect. They spent much of the time trying to jump across the pond, rather than move material or help the beavers reinforce the dam. They would use the various gathered materials to make a catapult, and then tried to see if they could launch themselves over the pond. The beavers laughed and continued their daily work, as the realization that winter was coming, kept their focus in check. Thankfully, Pudgy and Argente were of more help, and the preparations were soon to be completed.
A couple days later, the critters watched from their respective spots in the forest, as the man walked by and pulled a wagon full of supplies. They knew he was going to Pudgy’s house, but all wiggled their noses trying to determine what activity would happen today? Cobalt visited every other day to his little friend’s home to check on things and bring supplies to prepare for the coming winter season. In the time that had passed, several repairs and upgrades were made to the underground home. The security barricades had been reworked in such a way, that they now resembled storm shutters and doors. The big rocks to disguise the home remained, but now Pudgy had a little stone wall that he could hide behind, as well as host his friends in a courtyard of sorts.
Reaching down, Cobalt knocked on the door. In a couple of moments, the door opened, and Pudgy peeked out wiggling his nose. “Hi Cobalt! Pudgy was baking bread, should be ready soon! Pudgy open up big room doors!” The hedgehog darted back inside of his home and shut the front door. As Cobalt stood and smiled, he looked at the wagon. It was a wooden one, with removable sides, though rarely did he take them out. It was painted a deep green, and the wheels were rusty red ones. It had been in the family for many years, though eventually one day, he may need to get a new one. But the occasional paint touchups and oil, meant that it would stay in operation for a good while yet.
As the man pulled the wagon around by its long black metal handle, the items inside jostled and rolled around. The big doors were starting to open on the meeting room for the underground home. Design limitations meant that he could not add anything to the outside like a set of storm doors. Cobalt had been able to add door reinforcements, as well as a coating of fire retardant as well, in case of further attacks on the home. Inside, he had constructed a series of door supports, that Pudgy could move into place to further prop the door from forced entry.
The interior of the big room had not changed much. A banquette seat with a green leatherette cushion bench was along the sides and back of the room in a U shape. The man had created little doors on the base of the banquette, which allowed Pudgy to store things underneath the seat. He had reserved one side though and placed a locking metal gun safe inside the bench. They were not going to be caught unprepared once again, should the Kaiser or anyone else come to mess with his hedgehog friend again.
To the inside and right of the big doors were two metal doors with a round top that were split down the middle. That was where the batteries were kept, as well as the electrical system. At first due to the drought, the home was not generating the power it needed. Cobalt had to exchange out the batteries inside on a semi frequent basis, so they could be recharged at his home from across the forest. Now that the solar panel was wired in properly and generating power, the man did not have to exchange out the entire set of batteries. The main limitation was that the home’s primary power was the water wheel. Though now with the return of the flowing creek, the wheel was able to turn thus allowing the alternator to generate power.
Pudgy peeked over the door jamb, and watched as his human friend enter the room, and start to open the power room doors. Sticking his head inside, the man checked on the batteries and panel. Once he was satisfied, he shut the doors, and then quickly grabbed Pudgy to draw him in for a hug. The critter laughed and hugged back, while his friend repositioned himself and sat down onto the banquette seat. Several happy moments passed, and Pudgy looked up. “Pudgy glad Cobalt come over. What is in wagon?”
Cobalt chuckled, “I’m glad to see you as well Pudgy. Odds and ends are in the wagon, but I think we are good for the winter now. I also got the heater for the room, so I need to install that today.” Setting the hedgehog onto the banquette, the man stood up and started to head to the opening. The big room as Pudgy referred to it, was about the size of a small garden shed. It was 5 feet wide, by 6 feet deep, with a 5 feet ceiling height. There was no way to stand up if you were a human, but the visiting woodland critters were all amazed at the giant room in the underground home.
In the warmer months, the big room was fine. However, with the cold of winter approaching, a small supplemental heat source was a good idea. After researching tiny homes, the man was able to locate a boat heater. It was not large and could easily fit on the one wall. After securing a metal fire plate to the wall with his cordless drill, Cobalt started to install the heater. Pudgy watched for a moment, before he returned inside of his home through the interior door. The bread in the oven was still baking, and if the hedgehog left it unattended, it might burn. As Pudgy scampered up, he peeked inside of the wood stove. The scent of fresh bread filled his home, but the loaves were not done yet, so he shut the stove’s door.
The sounds of Cobalt working echoed through the home, and as the critter was just about to turn, he heard a knock on the door. Scampering over, Pudgy opened the door and smiled as the two gray fluffy bunnies were there. “Hi Pudgy! Hi Pudgy!” The two bunnies said, while waving with their paws, and bounced happily. The hedgehog waved, “Hi Beatrice, Hi Bobby, please come in!” Pudgy stepped back and watched as the bunnies hopped through the door into the underground home. As the hedgehog host shut the door, he turned to his new guests. “Pudgy baking bread, which should be ready soon. Let Pudgy make tea. Cobalt here today to work on home.”
While heading to the sink to fill up his tea kettle, the two bunnies settled into an area located on the opposite side of the room with cushions on the floor. They watched the little hedgehog, and Cobalt work through the open interior door that led to the big room. His bunny friends were happy to have the hedgehog friend back. It was agreed upon by everyone throughout the forest that they hoped the days of scary monsters in the forest was soon to be a distant memory. With the water starting to come to boil, he turned to his guests. The bunnies excitedly started to tell all about the forest gossip. The beavers were much happier in their new spot, and the birds were all starting to head south flock by flock. Mr. Bear had been laying in supplies due to the upcoming winter. And the dinosaur’s cave door was seen open as well, with a much smaller creature walking around.
Pudgy rubbed his chin, “Mister Dino is back?” The bunnies nodded, and Billie spoke excitedly. “It was him, but he is much smaller now for some reason. We did not go say hi. He was busy moving large rocks around for some reason.” The tea kettle started to whistle, which made Pudgy turn around again to the stove. Taking a small towel from the counter, he picked up the hot metal handle of the tea kettle. Pulling it aside to a stone plate on the counter, he opened the tea kettle’s top. There was a little ceramic jar with a smiling bear on it, that the critter kept his tea leaves. Carefully he opened both lids and spooned in the right amount of loose tea leaves into the kettle. Sealing each accordingly, the hedgehog turned with the tea kettle and carried it over to a small round table beside the gray fluffy bunny rabbits,
The trio of critters sat happily in Pudgy’s underground home and listened to Cobalt finish up his task. Soon the man found 2 bunnies and a hedgehog trying to squeeze around his legs to look at what he had installed. Laughing, he connected a small green tank of propane to the heater and clipped it into place. “With this Pudgy, your big room will be heated when you have guests over. For obvious reasons, please do not touch this, I need to be here.” All the critters nodded, and Pudgy wiggled his nose. “Does this mean, you can sleep over more?” Cobalt smiled, and then gently picked up each critter to show them what he had been up to. Pudgy got a hug too, a fact the bunnies noticed and pouted when they realized they did not get a hug. That resulted in another round of hugs, but Pudgy was still one hug ahead.
After setting the critters down onto the concrete floor, he reached into the wagon to get out a liter bottle of cola, and then sat down onto the banquette seat. “I think I heard a tea kettle go off Pudgy?” Cobalt said, which prompted the hedgehog to scurry back inside of his living area of the home. The man smiled, and then reached over to the gas valve, and opened it. Pressing the striker button, a spark ignited the flame, and soon a series of dancing flames were flickering within the glass front of the heater. The day was cool, though not enough to warrant the heater, but he still wanted to test it out first. When the bunnies and hedgehog returned with their cups of tea, everyone looked up and noticed the heater. The room was already starting to warm, despite the big doors being open.
As everyone sipped their drinks, Pudgy looked up at Cobalt. “Cobalt, can Pudgy ask you a question?” His human friend smiled and nodded. The hedgehog took a sip of tea, and swallowed quickly, “Can Pudgy host Thanksgiving this year?” The man nodded, “Yes that sounds good to me Pudgy. My family is going to be away this year, and we cannot do the big get together as normal. Who are you thinking of inviting?” The bunnies bounced and said in unison, “we want to come!” Pudgy nodded, “Beatrice Bunny, Bobby Bunny, Mr. and Mrs. Field Mouse, Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, Argente, Mister Bear, and Mister Dinosaur. Pudgy would invite Angeliki, but unsure if she wants to come, given everything that has happened.”
Cobalt smiled, “I think that would be an exceptional idea. I can get the ingredients, and then cook it on a fire outside. Just like your last party,” the man said with a contemplative look as his mind trailed off to the past. Pudgy bounced, “and Pudgy can make stuff too! Pudgy already have many things stocked away.” The visit continued throughout the afternoon, and after shutting down the heater, the room was closed when Cobalt left to head back to his home. The hedgehog excitedly made out lists on little pieces of papers, trying to plan out the menu and place settings.
In the days that followed, Pudgy made little invitations, and all his nearby friends accepted. Argente bounced, as she had never heard of Thanksgiving, and was curious what it was. The silver fox helped Pudgy deliver the invitation to Mister Bear. Unlike the last trip to their friend’s cabin, it was uneventful in the cool forest. The cabin was being secured for the winter, with piles of firewood tacked around it. Mister bear was sitting on his porch, smoking from a long pipe, when the fox and hedgehog arrived. The large brown bear happily accepted when the invitation for dinner was made by Pudgy. The hedgehog’s parties were fun, and such an event not to miss in their forest. Thanksgiving was soon approaching, and the bear waved as his two friends said their goodbyes.
There was one more trip to make, as they headed off to deliver the final invitation. With the sun quickly heading towards the southwestern horizon, Argente and Pudgy travelled to the large cave where Mister Dinosaur lived. They found the door open, and a wall of sorts had been built from large rocks, just as the bunnies had described. Pudgy called out, “Hello Mister Dinosaur!” At first there was no response, but soon the tyrannosaurus walked out of the cave, though his appearance had greatly changed. The dinosaur was now only 7 feet tall when standing, and he was shorter in length. The Dinosaur grinned as only he could, “Pudgy, what are you doing up here today?”
Pudgy bounced and pointed, “What happened to Mister Dinosaur?” The tyrannosaurus nodded and motioned to his short right arm. There was a device of some sort attached to it, and seemed to glow softly red. “Do you remember the dinosaurs that you met on the moon Pudgy? Well, they came to visit me many months ago. They were quite surprised I was here and wanted me to return to the moon colony. I did and had a long discussion with their leader.” Argente looked at the tall dinosaur with her ears perked up and giggled when Pudgy placed a paw on her leg. “Oh wow, Pudgy glad they wanted to come visit. Oh, Mister Dinosaur, this is Argente.” The fox nodded and waved her paw at the dinosaur. “I am glad to make your acquaintance as well Mister Dinosaur.”
The dinosaur nodded, “a pleasure to meet you. Pudgy, they gave me this device, I can control my size now. You would be amazed how much easier it is to be smaller.” Pudgy laughed, “If Cobalt give Pudgy chocolate bar, it lasts whole month at Pudgy size.” The hedgehog wiggled happily, and waved again, “Mister Dinosaur, Pudgy going to host Thanksgiving dinner at Pudgy house. Would you like to come?” The dinosaur nodded, “Yes, most certainly. Thanksgiving is in a couple of days, correct?” Mister Dinosaur grinned once more and waved when the hedgehog and foxed started to leave. It had been far too long since everyone got together. Just like the trip to Mister Bear’s home, the return trip from the dinosaur cave was safe and happy. The trees continued to lose their leaves, and as the night quickly came, the two friends headed for their respective homes.
In the days that followed, the hedgehog had baked all manner of hedgehog sized things. Breads, cookies, pies, and many other wonderful things. So, when the sun first rose on Thanksgiving morning, Pudgy woke up excitedly, and lit his wood stove. The hedgehog watched as Cobalt was heading over in a heavy red and black wool coat, with the wagon full of supplies, as well as the big blue cooler on wheels. The hedgehog excitedly opened his door and scampered out to meet his friend in front of the underground home. “Hi Cobalt!” The man smiled and knelt to scoop up his friend and hug him gently. “Hello Pudgy, today is the big day!” The hedgehog bounced happily in the man’s hands. When he was sat back down on the ground, he scurried inside to open the big bifold round doors to the meeting room.
Cobalt pulled the wagon and cooler up to the spot outside of the doors, and then retrieved his long axe. After locating several recently fallen trees, he chopped and gathered a good pile of firewood to start the cooking fire. After several trips to make the wood pile and gather the round stones to form the fire ring, the man got to work to build the fire. Pudgy would check on his friend occasionally, and head back inside to prepare for dinner. Pudgy did not understand what Cobalt’s mother had said, when she said that Thanksgiving was the meal with the most work. Now the little hedgehog knew, as he used every pot, pan, and dish to cook. He was now having to wash things, to be able to continue.
With the fire roaring, and a good bed of coals starting to form, Cobalt got out the Dutch ovens he brought over from the wagon. The field mice were the first to show up at Pudgy’s home and were bouncing excitedly. They stayed away from Cobalt, with the large fire crackling. However soon the hedgehog and mice were sitting nearby Cobalt on a flat rock, and watched him setting up the ovens, as well as a tripod with a chain to hang pots from. The first order of business was a pot of coffee, which was quickly prepared and hung over the fire. The top of the cooler had a cutting board, and flat surface to work from, so the man started to prepare the various foods, and tossed them into their respective pots or ovens.
Soon the bunnies arrived with Argente, who scampered around with Pudgy around the fire ring at a safe distance. Everyone would stop occasionally, watching Cobalt prepare the turkey. As there was a dinosaur and bear coming over for dinner, the man had bought the largest turkey the store had in stock. After checking the inside for mysterious treasures, and getting out the gravy packet and giblets bag, he added a good amount of liquid inside the oven, before moving the lid on top. Using a shovel, he added coals to the top of the oven, and started writing things in chalk on a large flat slate stone. Ordinarily he would use his various electronic devices and timers, but he only had his phone and one timer. The silver fox padded over and pointed, “what is that Cobalt?”
The man smiled, and rubbed her back gently, “Oh cooking times. The turkey will take the longest to cook, so this is when I put it in. The Dutch ovens cook very efficient, so it will be quicker than my oven back home.” Argente nodded, and then scampered back to the other critters, who all started to wave as Mister Bear was walking up to Pudgy’s home, pulling a wagon behind him. As the critters waved and scampered around him, Cobalt turned and waved. “Hello Mister Bear!” The large brown bear smiled and unhooked the straps from around his back. Inside of his wagon were two exceptionally large freshly baked pies. One was an apple pie, complete with a lattice of crust, as well as a traditional pumpkin pie. The man smiled, “ok, pies are here, we can start dinner now!”
The bear laughed happily, and sat beside the crackling fire, looking at the various pots bubbling. “I see Pudgy is hosting, but you are the chef, Cobalt.” The man laughed and nodded, “yes, but I gladly help him host these get togethers. I heard Mister Dinosaur is coming as well?” The bear nodded and pointed with a paw at the hillside. The two looked up and noticed that a much smaller dinosaur was walking through the forest with a huge log in his mouth. In a short series of strides, he was soon upon the campfire, and dropped the log by the fire. The man waved, “Hello Grumpy, I see you brought firewood. Thank you, I will need it soon.” The Dinosaur laughed, “Yes, I can’t cook, so I thought fuel was best to bring.”
As the hours passed, the hedgehog was passing out little cakes and breads to everyone. Hedgehog sized treats were fun and did not interfere with one’s dinner. Well, except for the field mice, who quickly filled up when they would be offered their yummy treat. Pudgy had silly games, and the catapult came out to launch the bunnies over the creek. Mister Dinosaur had to explain several times why he was much smaller, and what happened on the moon. However, when Cobalt pulled the lid from the main oven, to check on the turkey, a waft of smells filled the air. All eyes snapped to the fire, and everyone headed over.
The man sliced a tiny bit from the turkey and tasted it. “Turkey is ready,” he called out, and Mister bear bounced excitedly. The Dinosaur saw the size of the turkey, and had he been his normal size, it would not have filled him up at all. However, that turkey almost looked a little too big for him now. Cobalt set up a long folding table, that was low to the ground, and began to arrange things. The table was not to eat at per se, but for assembly of dinners. He had made all manner of yummy foods: roasted turkey, bread stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, corn, carrots glazed with brown sugar, and maple sticks that were coated with syrup.
The beavers had been last to arrive, which was silly as they were the closest to Pudgy. While the other foods did not interest them, the syrup coated maple sticks were all theirs to much on. Using the plates that Pudgy had, he made tiny plates of food for the assembled critters. They would wait patiently, and then take their plate to sit nearby to the fire. Mister Bear and Mister Dinosaur’s portions were much larger and placed on metal platters. Cobalt placed the tray higher up on a nearby rock ledge, so the Dinosaur would not have to bend over as much. He served Pudgy, and then himself, then turned to the assembled group. “Bless us, Oh Lord, and these thy gifts which we are about to receive from thy bounty, through Christ, Our Lord. Amen. I hope you like it, go ahead and eat. Hey, we have enough for seconds as well, so don’t be bashful.”
Just as Cobalt was about to sit down on a rock by the fire, he looked up and watched as a woman in a long white dress, with a feathered shoulder piece was approaching. She was leaning on a white oak staff and had soft blue eyes. Cobalt waved as she approached, “Angeliki, I am glad you could make it!” Hecate’s daughter had arrived and waved at the assembled group of woodland critters. She giggled when Pudgy scampered up and hugged her ankle, then watched as he scampered back to munch on yummy things. As she reached a nearby spot to sit by the fire, Cobalt served her a human sized strong paper plate worth of many yummy things.
Many trips were made by the critters, asking for a little more of something, which Cobalt would stop eating and serve them happily. Angeliki giggled, though the turkey was so moist, and had a unique brine to it. She did not know what the recipe was, but she would ask Cobalt later about it. The turkey did not last long, and soon the stuffing disappeared shortly thereafter. Cobalt had miscalculated the amount of food for leftovers, but that was also due to having to plan for a Dinosaur and Bear food requirements. Laughing Cobalt remarked, “Ok Mister Bear, you are in charge of Christmas dinner.” The large brown bear was rubbing his belly with his paw, “I like that idea, I just might do that.”
As the food disappeared, there was only one thing left: pie. So, the man started to serve the wonderful pies that the Bear had made this morning. Cobalt also brought tubs of whippy cream, which everyone enjoyed, even the beavers. As Angeliki was looking at the pumpkin pie with a Pudgy sized (5-inch-tall) pile of whipped cream, “Umm Cobalt, I think you put too much cream on it. But I shall persevere,” she said with a giggle. Turns out, there is never too much whippy cream, when it comes to pie. Pudgy had a full belly, and so did all his friends. The bunnies were laying on the ground, round full bellies out, and feet in the air, “best party ever Pudgy!”
As the sunlight started to fade, the large log that Mister Dinosaur had brought, was cut down, and added to the fire. Soon the fire began to roar once more and cast its light and heat all around. While Pudgy checked on his guests, everyone was sitting and laughing. Tales were being told of the various event s in the forest, and Angeliki was sitting quietly while listening. After all the horror that had happened recently, a fun get together in the woods was in order. Cobalt was cleaning up the various ovens and pots, using a bucket of heated water from the creek. Though inside the wagon, a glass bottle caught her eye. “Cobalt,” Angeliki said while pointing, “what is in the bottle?”
Laughing, he turned and reached into the wagon to retrieve a bottle of wild turkey bourbon. He handed her the bottle, with a couple of metal mugs of various sizes. “Yes, I know there are better brands, but it was all I had, and I do not drink that often. I prefer pie with whippy cream. But go head, and pop it open. Hey Mister Bear, Mister Dinosaur, you want a drink?” She nodded, and opened the bottle, starting to pour the various mugs provided. The bear’s mug was almost the size of a beer stein, while the dinosaurs was a giant tankard, with a straw. Cobalt returned with two shot glasses and sat beside Angeliki.
After pouring, Cobalt handed the two larger animals their drinks, and then sat back down beside her. With a shot poured and in hand, he raised the glass, “To Pudgy.” The others nodded and sipped the strong liquor. The bottle was quickly emptied, and Angeliki was laughing. Pudgy stopped by and sniffled the bottle, “eww, it’s that icky stuff.” Cobalt laughed and patted his friend on the head, “Yeah, I don’t drink it often. Only one shot for me, I’m walking home.” The group of adults laughed heartily and smiled at the hedgehog who was scampering around behind them with the other guests.
As the night progressed, soon one by one, the guests of the party began to depart. As full critters scampered home, Pudgy found himself at the fire with Cobalt and Angeliki, watching Mister Bear and Mister Dinosaur head to their respective homes at the opposite ends of Pudgy’s forest. “Pudgy glad everyone could come and had good time.” Cobalt nodded, “Yes Pudgy I agree, after everything, we all needed this.” Angeliki had fallen asleep and was leaning on Cobalt. “I see she is a power drinker like myself.” Pudgy bounced, and then snuggled up beside his friend on the opposite side. They watched the fire as it danced on the logs, and the stars shone in the clear skies above. Pudgy yawned sleepily and fell asleep beside his friends, his belly bull, and his mind at ease. Cobalt smiled at the two of them, and hugged both gently, drawing happy sounds from the hedgehog and woman. “I’m thankful for my friends.”
One reply on “Christmas Catastrophe: Chapter 1: Thanksgiving”
Great chapter sir! Very pleasant & warm I love these critters and their world. I was also happy to see Mister Dinosaur aka Grumpysaurus.