Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Short Story: The Price to Pay

The man panted to a stop, then looked back over his shoulder. He had foolishly taunted a beaver at work and was now being chased for his blunder. Suddenly, the beaver himself crashed through the thicket, running as if his life depended on it, barreling through bush and brush alike. The man shot a quick glance at him and began to run. But it was in vain, for the beaver had already spotted him. At the last minute, the man scrambled up into a tall oak and was temporarily safe. Thanking the tree for its shelter, the man began to look around. All he saw was the fuming beaver, pacing and growling as if he wished to tear him apart. In his hurry, he had neglected to think about a way to get down. Now, he wished he had. Thankfully, after a while, the beaver appeared to have calmed down and went away.

 The angry animal, though, was far from through with harassing the man; his mind was on the tree, which had helped the man make his escape.  He had a different plan on his mind.

The man, who was relieved to be alive, was about to climb down when he heard a incessant chopping sound that got louder and louder, ever increasing. He payed no attention until, four minutes later, the sound hadn't ceased.  Looking back on the moment later, he realized he had faintly noted the remote noise of a tree swaying, its leaves brushing against each other, but had not associated this with his present predicament.   But now, to his horror, he looked down on an awful sight.

The clever old animal had devised a plan that was bound to prevent the man from ever again having the audacity to venture in to the dark forest, and he meant to go though with it.  The fearsome animal had set about resolutely gnawing on the trunk of the rebellious tree that kept him from his revenge on the man who had so rudely interrupted his important work.

The man looked down on the undaunted animal with awful realization.  Only now did he fully begin to grasp the consequences of teasing nature.  If only he could get down from the tree, or convince the beaver to let him free.......

The beaver however, was in no such mood to discontinue his ferocious onslaught on the tree.  One thing was clear: he would not let this intruder disrupt the forest and get away with it.

His mind racing, the unfortunate individual competed with the beaver, desperately willing his mind to come upon a plan worth taking.  As he looked down on his enemy, his foot slipped into a hollow, and while he struggled to regain his footing, an idea came to him.

With the sun well overhead, both beaver and man were tiring.  The tree now had a fair-sized dent in them, and strewn around the chipped trunk were piles of splintered chunks, the result of the faithful beaver's effort.

The beaver looked up at his quarry, hoping to see him suffering in the brutal heat, but the man was nowhere in sight, and the branch upon which he had been resting had been well in the open, impossible to hide on.

The man, cramped and aching, glanced around in the dark, his sore neck bruised from the arduous work of bracing himself.  He was listening for the telltale signs of a certain beaver beginning to get anxious.

The beaver, sure enough, stopped his work for the first time in hours.  It was significant, this, that something would succeed in halting is tireless toil.  He cautiously circled the tree, wary of attack.  But there was no sign of the man, no trace of his scheming whereabouts.  The beaver was incredulous, could the man really have snuck off while his mind was bent on felling the tree?  It was possible, but not likely.  His senses highly alert, and his nose pasted to the ground, he reluctantly began to prowl the surrounding area.

Adjusting to the dark, the man could make out the figure of the beaver, wandering away from his faithful post.  He contemplated the easiest way to get out, and decided on the forthcoming action.

Shortly, a shaggy head was seen protruding from the tree, which turned to each side, cautiously, and then raised revealing the rest of the form.

 The man emerged from the hollow trunk, bruised, but alive, landed softly in the wood shavings, and sprinted off to his little cottage, where he was safe.

By and by, the beaver heard the noise of running feet, in the direction of the little house and knew he had been outsmarted.  Resignedly, he trudged back to his river home, and went back to his work.

Both man and beaver went to bed that night peacefully, each with new knowledge and a fresh understanding of certain consequences.

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