Archie is Chosen
After Chatter had made first contact, a meeting was held at the beech tree a mile or so from the tower house. The full council had tasked Old Blue to enlist the help of very specific individuals to assist in the transfer of the Wild Ways. Blue had flown from Cottonwood to the beech tree, where he met Chatter and Tambo. Also invited were two others deemed necessary to assist in the task: Knothead, the woodchuck, and Archie, the gopher.
Knothead was chosen because he could dig a burrow in any type of terrain. Rocks? No problem. Knothead would just dig around them and move them to the surface. Roots? No problem. He would just chew through them. Sand? Gravel? It made no difference to Knothead. He figured his mission in life was to dig holes, and nothing would stand in his way. He was meticulous and deliberate in his task, often stopping and backing away to admire his progress.
Archie was another story. He had the well-earned reputation of being the island’s foremost pessimist and most vocal complainer. He was selected because he could dig a burrow faster than any of the other creatures on the island, with the possible exception of Knothead.
Archie just wanted to move dirt. Almost frantic in his actions, he could move huge amounts of soil if it didn’t contain rocks, roots, or buried objects.
He had a tendency to attract and hold vast amounts of dirt and mud on his outer coat. While all of his brothers and sisters spent hours cleaning themselves and each other, Archie never found the time for cleanliness.
He would often show up at family gatherings with bits of root and leaves clinging to his head, shoulders, and back. However, everything he lacked in cleanliness and good manners was more than compensated for by his ability to dig.
“How’s it going, Arch?” asked Knothead as he shook his body to remove traces of his current burrow.
“It’s too hot. I hate it when there’s no wind. A breeze cools things down. I’ll probably keel over in this heat.”
Archie had a long piece of very thin root fiber hanging from his chin, and his coat was matted and covered with earth. “I hope this is important. I’ve got a beauty of a dig going, and I want to finish it today.” There was a single leaf remnant clinging to the back of his head.
“Chik-chikka-chik-chik, this is very important,” replied Chatter from above.
Archie, for the first time, noticed the others. In addition to Knothead, he saw Blue, perched near Chatter, and Tambo, nervously jumping from branch to branch on a nearby tree.
This must really be important, thought Archie, recognizing the fact that Chatter was his family’s representative on the Island Council.
“Well, let’s get on with it before it starts to rain or something. I hate to leave a job right in the middle.” Archie shook his left paw, and bits of earth dislodged, flying in all directions.
Old Blue looked at the dirty gopher with a critical eye. “Archie, couldn’t you clean up just a little before coming here?”
“What’s your problem, you old vulture?”
“We all have a problem,” stated Chatter. “And we need your help. Archie . . . you will be the first animal to understand a human thought in over four hundred years.”
“What! You must be kidding. Not me, brother. You better find another chump. I’m not going anywhere near a human, no matter what you say.” Archie’s small legs began to tremble as he pictured his impending death. “Oh, sweet mother. Not me, not today, not ever.”
“Chik-chikka-chat-chat.” Chatter’s body bounced, and his tail twitched from side to side. Tambo, unable to contain himself, let forth a loud, “CAW-CAW, you must, you must,” and Old Blue, screeching loudly, bounced from foot to foot as his angry eyes locked with Archie’s.
For the first time, the small gopher with the filthy coat began to realize the importance of his future role. Well, I guess I can listen. Sweet mama, I’m gonna die.
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