Spring hunger

Manjula Padmanabhan | Updated on April 27, 2018 Published on April 27, 2018

My eyes are still shut when I hear a raspy voice. “Hello! Hey! Hi! There's a crisis!” I open my eyes. “Rocky?” I ask. It’s been months since I last saw my wild raccoon friend. “Is it really you?”

“Who else?” he replies, irritably. “Get up! What’s happened to my cookies?” He’s already been in the kitchen and emptied all three shelves onto the floor. “I’ve looked EVERYWHERE—“ he says, diving into my big roomy shoulder bag, with his striped tail poking out. “I can’t believe you’ve forgotten me so completely as to have NO COOKIES!” He pulls himself out once more. I realize with a shock that he's lost so much weight I barely recognize him. “Why're you looking so shocked? I’ve just come out of hibernation! I’m HUNGRYYYY!” he snarls.

“Wow,” I say, hurriedly rolling out of bed. “Sorry - I’m only human, you know? We’re unfamiliar with the hibernation thing.” Rocky grabs a kernel of un-popped corn that he finds under the oven. “Good thing you’re such an untidy human,” he says, gnawing on the kernel, “or I might die of starvation while you waste time boiling water for tea for yourself instead of finding a cookie for ME!” He pretends to fall over in a dead faint, but revives a moment later. “Ooh! What's that? Bread? Mayonnaise?“ He doesn’t wait for me to put the slice on a plate but instead leaps up, grabs the thing from my hand, stuffs it into his mouth and swallows without even bothering to chew.

Four slices later he finally slows down long enough to wipe the mayonnaise off his whiskers and breathe. “Whoo,” he says. “That was a close call. I almost didn’t make it this time.” The late arrival of Spring has meant that many creatures have woken late. “We can’t afford to just go on sleeping, you know,” says Rocky, when we're both curled up comfortably in our respective seats back in my sitting room. I’m on my bed, while Rocky has a cushion to himself, on the faded red Shyam Ahuja dhurrie that covers most of the floor. I’ve given him a cup of hot chocolate to warm his paws on, as I sip my first cup of tea for the day.

“I thought the whole point of hibernation was exactly so that you lot didn’t have to worry about eating during the frozen months of winter,” I say. Rocky rolls his eyes. “Humans are SO ignorant!” he sneers. “Machines use no energy when they’re switched off. We’re not like that. While we're asleep, we still using up our stored fat reserves. When Spring comes too late ...” he shuts his eyes and sticks his tongue out. “We’re done for. Totaled. Deceased.”

But the sparkle is back in his eyes. “So! Where’s my buddy?” He means Bins. “He'll be back next week,” I say. “Oh good,” says Rocky. “More cookies for me. Where are they by the way? Haven’t got them yet? Wah. You humans! Such a lazy species!”

Manjula Padmanabhan, author and artist, writes of her life in the fictional town of Elsewhere, US, in this weekly column


Published on April 27, 2018
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