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Sugar Bush Friends

Jackie Nieman Ontario, Canada


By Jackie Nieman

(c) Copyright 1996, by Jackie Nieman

Once upon a time, there lived a little hedgehog named Harold. Harold was not the prickly sort of hedgehog. Being a hedgehog of the stuffed variety, Harold was very soft and cuddly. Now Harold was small and very timid.

Shortly after he was born, he and his parents, brothers, sisters and the rest of the hedgehog community were taken away from their home in an Eastern Country and put in a dark place which was very crowded and which was placed somewhere very noisy. Harold was used to the noise of the factory where he was born, but this noise was quite different. It was so loud it seemed to go right through him and it roared so that Harold was convinced there must be 10,000 lions and tigers about ready to devour him for tea. The place where Harold and the rest of the hedgehogs were was very dark so that Harold couldn’t even see who was beside him. Everyone was chattering to try to find members of their families and some of the women and girl hedgehogs were crying. It appeared that no one in the dark place knew what was going to happen to them.

After some time, the dark place began to move a little...shifting this way and that. This motion did not make Harold comfortable at all...and neither did the way his ears felt, full one minute and popping with pain the next. Poor Harold. He was convinced that the world was about to end. He just snuggled in a corner of the dark place and hoped that it would soon be over. He fell asleep with the horrible thought that in this dark place with the world about to end, he would never see his family again.

Harold woke up to the chattering of the other hedgehogs in the dark place. It seemed different somehow...then he realized!!! The horrible noise had stopped!!! Harold then felt the dark place he was in being jostled about again. The hedgehog whom Harold had been sitting next to, growled at poor Harold as the dark place was turned and Harold almost ended up in the other hedgehog’s lap!!

The next thing Harold heard was another loud noise. This was not nearly as loud as the previous one, but it sounded somewhat similar. This experience wouldn’t have been nearly as bad as what he’d gone through the last few hours, except that the dark place was being bumped and banged so much that it hurt Harold’s rump to sit down for any length of time. He would have loved to be able to run about a little--his legs were quite cramped--but the dark place was so crowded, all he could do was stand in one spot. At length, the noise stopped.

A few minutes later, Harold heard shrieks from some of the other hedgehogs. He tried to see what was happening, but had to shade his eyes because of a bright light that flooded into the dark place. As Harold became accustomed to the light, he searched longingly for his family, but couldn’t see a familiar face anywhere. Harold shrieked as he was picked up by a giant. He had only seen giants once before, at the factory where he was born. His mother had explained to him that they were, for the most part, a good lot and not to be afraid. The giant placed Harold on a shelf...a long way from the floor. Harold didn’t like heights, but there were some of the other hedgehogs from the dark place on the shelf already, so he felt relatively safe and occupied himself by looking around.

They appeared to be in a large room. It wasn’t as big as the factory, but was much more crowded. There were shelves everywhere holding things Harold had never seen before: rectangles with strange squiggles on them, which some of the giants were holding and looking at; creatures of various kinds (but nothing which Harold could identify) which stood very still and didn’t move at all (they weren’t fuzzy, like Harold, but looked stiff and shiny), and other creatures which didn’t look like Harold, but were soft and cuddly like him.

All of a sudden, Harold turned and, to his horror, saw a large something on the next shelf. It wasn’t nearly as large as the giants, but it was larger than him. The something roared at Harold and Harold trembled.

"I am a scaremouse," thundered the something. "My job is to keep mice away. How dare you little mice invade my room!!!"

"BBBBut," stammered Harold.

"SILENCE," roared the scaremouse. "There are no "buts" about it. I look like a very large mouse in order to scare all the little vermin away. What business have you here, and why haven’t you run from the sight of me, yet?"

Poor Harold the Hedgehog was so frightened, he couldn’t utter a sound.

"SPEAK," commanded the scaremouse.

"I-I-I, I’m not a mouse, sir," started Harold. "I’m a hedgehog. See?" said Harold pointing to his rump, "I’ve not got a long tail like you have."

Realizing he had made a mistake, but being too proud to admit it, the scaremouse just said, "Hhhrrummph," and turned to look about the room.

But Harold had had no one to talk to in a very long time and, although he was frightened of the scaremouse, he ventured to continue the conversation.

"My name’s Harold. What’s your name?"

"Hhhrrummph," replied the scaremouse. "I’ve not got a name. I’m not a cute, fuzzy, little one like you. I was born to do a job that requires me to be mean and, therefore, no one bothered to give me a name."

"Not even your mother?" asked Harold.

At this, the scaremouse started to cry. "I don’t have a mother. Or, at least, if I do, I never knew her. I was taken from my home as soon as I was born to be brought here. The worst part is, there haven’t been any mice to scare away!! So, not only am I frightening to look at, but I’m also useless!!!"

"Don’t be silly," said Harold, who couldn’t tolerate others getting down on themselves, especially when it wasn’t true. "You’re not frightening-looking!"

When the scaremouse looked at him in horror, he added quickly, "At least, not to ME. I’m sure you’d frighten away mice very well!!! In the mean time, perhaps we could be friends."

"You’re such a nice little hedgehog," said the scaremouse, drying his tears. "No one’s ever wanted to be friends with me before."

"Well, you’ve got a friend now," said Harold, pleased that he could make the scaremouse smile. "Perhaps I could even give you a name. Would you like that?"

"Oh, yes. Please!!!!"

Harold thought for a minute and then said suddenly, "how about, ‘Simon’. Yes, I think you look like a ‘Simon’."

"‘Simon’," the scaremouse said slowly. "Yes, I do like that. Oh, thank you, Harold for giving me a’re a true friend!!!"

Well, Harold and Simon spent all of their time together from that moment on until one day when a young giant came into the room. He picked up Simon and took him to a counter where another giant put him in some kind of a white container that made a crackling sound when it was touched, was slightly shiny and had handles. Then the first giant walked out of the room with the white container inside which, since the sides were shaking, Harold knew Simon was trembling.

Harold was terribly sad that his friend was gone. First, he’d lost his family. Now, he’d lost his best friend. He was beginning to wish the world had come to an end in the dark place.

Then, a few days later, the giant who had taken Simon away came back into the room. This giant talked with the giant behind the counter for a few minutes. Then the first giant handed the one behind the counter a white container identical to the one he had taken Simon away in. The giant behind the counter opened the container and took out Simon!!!! The giant placed Simon back on the shelf next to Harold.

Harold was amazed. He hadn’t dreamed that he’d see his friend again. After all, he had hoped to find his family after leaving the dark place, and that didn’t happen, but here was Simon sitting next to him again!!! The two friends hugged and, after each shedding a few happy tears, Harold asked Simon what had happened.

"I was so terribly angry and disappointed at being taken away from you, that I refused to scare away any mice. This morning, an ugly live mouse (not the stuffed kind, you understand) came scampering across the floor. I saw it, but I just sat there and didn’t even growl. I figured if I didn’t do my job properly, the giant would have to bring me back to you...and I was right!!!!!"

"Oh, let’s not let anyone separate us again," cried Harold.

The next day, a young female giant came into the room. She picked up one of the hedgehogs on the shelf, put it down, then picked up Harold.

"It’s very cute," she said to the giant behind the counter. "I’m thinking of getting it for a friend. Do you know if they have hedgehogs in England?"

The other giant replied that she wasn’t sure and then picked up Simon.

"We just got these in last week," she said. "I think it’s so cute. I love the way it’s made."

"They’re both cute," said the first giant. She looked at Harold and Simon and finally, she said, "Decisions. Decisions. You know, when I first talked with my friend in England, he said that they had had a mouse infestation in his office recently. Maybe this mouse would keep the real ones away. Yes, I think I’ll take them both."

Harold and Simon couldn’t believe their good fortune!!!! As they were placed in another white container (but, this time, together), Harold said to Simon, "I guess some friends are meant to be together forever."


(c) Copyright 1996, by Jackie Nieman