Winter had come and the residents of the riverbank watched as the children from the village came to the fields to find pumpkins. Otter peered through the reeds and watched as a human cub tottered away with a round orange vegetable nearly as big as herself clutched to her chest. She whiffled her whiskers and thought that cubs of all sorts were a bit the same. She glanced across at her two fine boys, growing nearly to adolescence now. They would stay with her for another few months and then she would have to start chasing them away to make their own life so that she and her mate could make new babies and the cycle would start again.
Dog otter joined her, his shoulder pressed to hers and she turned her snout to sniff his musky scent, rubbing her head under his chin. They were paired now, they would mark each other as “belonging” every day. He had a soft spot for humans these days and was perhaps less wary than he should be. Otter nipped him playfully on the throat and lolloped away to slide into the river. He followed, as he always would.
That evening, Farmcat strolled along the lane, patrolling her territory, Queen of all she surveyed. “Big eats moon” she observed. Frog looked up at her, uncomprehending and gulped a few times. “What is?”
“Big eats. Come, show. All come”. Creeping through the dark countryside, all the animals followed her to the hedge behind the farm.
Granny Wytcher ate her solitary meal and lit a candle. The children had called around in their costumes asking for their sweets and that was that. Now her own celebration could start. She wasn’t sure why she did it, but her mother and her grandmother had, so she blindly continued the tradition. The photos normally on the sideboard were arranged on the table and as she munched on her stew she looked at each one and named them. “Right, gran. Right, gramps. Right Uncle Bert….” the litany went on til she came to her son who had died at sea in the Navy. Her breath caught in her throat and she whispered “Bless you, Frank, bless you.”
Her meal finished she completed the last part of the ritual, just as she had done all her life. She took up metal bowls and filled them with things she had bought in specially. In one she put milk and bread. Lastly she chopped up some fish and made a third offering. Carrying them outside, she placed the bowls on the ground, looked up at the sky and said “Gifts of the Mother go back to the Earth”. It was the same words that had been used for generations and even if she didn’t understand them, she still said them. Whistling to Tiny to come indoors she shut them in. He wouldn’t disturb the other creatures and his bowl was in the kitchen.
A family of badgers was the first to arrive and they tucked into the dog food, jostling each other and laughing their wheezy chuckles. A lone hedgehog ambled through the yard and joined them, his spines deterring anyone from jostling him. “Good slugs” he observed as he munched on a chunk. The other animals all found their preferred food and ate.
Tiny put his paws on the sill and looked out of the window. He watched the wild creatures feasting and thought that sometimes there were disadvantages of being domesticated. He’d have liked to join in the big eats …. but he couldn’t.