By Patty Juliano
Roscoe Raccoon had a terrible problem, nobody trusted him. Why? Because he wore a mask. As we all know that’s just a raccoon's coloring, but when some folks see a mask they think of bandits and trouble makers. And that’s how the tiny town of Cherry Creek saw Roscoe.
I still remember the first day he wandered into the town, and into my life. He was carrying everything he owned on his back. Why he looked like an OK kind of guy to me, but to the village, that was a different story.
He first went to the Inn owned by Jasper M. Horse. Jasper grew up in Cherry Creek and was very stubborn, I think the M stood for Mule. All I know is, he didn’t like Roscoe.
“Excuse me sir, may I have a room?” Roscoe asked. Jasper looked at him straight in the eyes and said, “Nay”. Then without another word he turned to his friend Beven, the town pig, and they both laughed. Beven turned to his friend Jasper. “You sure have a way with words, boss!”
He next tried the Canary Café, big mistake I thought. You see the Canary café was owned by Jonas J. Katzen and his sister Amie. Jonas was also the town sheriff, and didn’t take kindly to strangers. A tough cat, I once saw him arrest a chicken for laying eggs, said she was littering. Amie ran the café, she was a good cook but not very friendly, even to people she liked! Roscoe approached the door. “My it smells good in here.” he remarked.
“We’re closed!” Shouted Amie, slamming the door with her paw.
Jonas followed him down the street. “Why are you following me Sheriff, I’ve done nothing wrong.” Roscoe asked. “This town doesn’t like strangers, especially ones with masks. You seem like a smart fellow, maybe you should move on.” With these words Jonas turned and went back to the café.
Roscoe stood at the edge of the town, all alone. He bowed his head and sighed. It was enough to make you cry. I couldn’t stand it anymore; I knew I had to do something. “Hello!” I shouted.
Roscoe looked up, “No DOWN here,” I directed. He looked down at the ground squinting his eyes, “Who are you?” he asked.
“I’m Sigfried Spider, Siggy to my friends, if I had any. Do you want to go down to the creek with me?” I asked.
Roscoe followed me to the creek. I must admit I was much faster then he was. He was huffing and puffing as he sat himself down under one of the cherry trees that lined the shore. He turned to me and asked; “what did you mean when you said, if I had any? Don’t you have friends?”
“Not really.” I told him
“Why? You don’t wear a mask.”
“Oh, but I’m a wicked spider. See my hairy legs. I scare people, I don’t mean to, but I do.”
“I’ll be your friend, you don’t scare me.” Roscoe said proudly.
“And I’ll be yours; you look like a person I can trust.”
We both laughed, then, we rolled and rolled in the grass. We talked all day, mostly about our hopes and our dreams. Roscoe told me about his poetry and his dream of writing a book. He was a wonderful new person in my life. I knew Roscoe had no place to stay so I took him to my house, a hollow log not to far from the creek. He squeezed himself in as best he could. We both realized we’d need a bigger place if we were going to be roommates. The next morning we set out to find wood and stones to build our new house. As we worked Roscoe recited some of his poetry to me. It was very good. We passed some mother ducks swimming in the creek with their ducklings.
“Good Morning Ladies.” Roscoe shouted from the shore. One of the ducklings swam over to us.
“My name is Lulu and I just learned to swim. I have 3 brothers and 2 sisters, and my mom says I’m the loudest of them all! You got any kids?”
“No honey, I don’t.” Roscoe told her, “But if I did, they’d be just like you!”
Mother duck came swimming over in a panic, “Lulu you shouldn’t be talking to them. We don’t associate with their kind!”
“Why not Mama, he was nice.” She turned back to Roscoe, “When you learn to swim, come visit me.” Her mother pushed her along with her beak.
Within a few weeks we had built the perfect cabin. A home for kings! Every night we’d build a fire in the stone fire place and play cards. During the day Roscoe would work on his book. But, something was missing, a sense of belonging. How we both wished to be accepted by the town of Cherry Creek.
One day while searching for food, I came across a sign hanging on one of the trees. I scurried up to see what it said. In big letters it read: COME ONE COME ALL TO THE ANNUAL TALENT CONTEST. SING, DANCE, RECITE POETRY, PLAY AN INTRUMENT…my eyes went back to the words, RECITE POETRY! I pulled the sign down and hurried back to the house.
“Roscoe look, a chance to do your poetry!” I screamed shoving the flyer in his face. He read it. “Why this is tomorrow. Do you think they’d let me in?”
“It says come one come ALL, we’re an ALL,” I reminded him.
“Yes we are an All, all for one and one for all!” He jumped up and ran into the house. “I’m going to do my favorite piece.” He seemed so happy, finally, something good.
The next day we got to town early so Roscoe could sign up. A crowd had already gathered. There were tap dancers and tuba players, singers and baton twirlers.
“Who’s the dog?” Roscoe asked.
“That’s Mayor Murphy McMuffin. He’s the MC, he thinks he’s a comedian. His ancestors where the first dogs to arrive in this country on the Mayflower. A lot of pedigree there.”
We made our way to the table where the sign ups were taking place. Behind the table sat Rusty Fox, he was talking to Reggie Weasel, who was standing there holding 3 hamsters, “You juggle what?” Rusty asked him. “Well, if it’s OK with them.” The hamsters nodded. “Next!” He yelled.
“Ok, name and act.” Rusty asked looking down at his book.
“Roscoe, and I’m going to recite poetry.”
“OK Mr. Roscoe,” he looked up, “It’s you! Just a minute.” He went over to Mayor McMuffin, the Mayor looked over at Roscoe and shook his head, no. Rusty went back over, “I’m sorry we have enough acts, no more sign ups.”
“But it said come one come all, I only need 2 minutes. Surely you can fit me in?” Roscoe pleaded.
“No more acts!” he shut his book and walked away.
Roscoe seemed down, then, his eyes lit up, “I’ve got an idea. I have to go back to the cabin.”
“Hurry Roscoe,” I shouted. “The show starts in 20 minutes.”
I waited outside the theater as the rest of the crowd went in. Minutes passed and no Roscoe. I could hear the show starting. The Mayor was warming them up with some of his bad jokes. Then I saw a stranger coming down the street. He wore a long sweater, a hat and a pair of sunglasses.
“Well, how do I look?” the stranger asked.
“Roscoe, is that you? I was amazed.
“Of course it’s me. I better hurry.” We went into the theater. Roscoe approached Rusty, “Is it to late to sign up?”
“Of course not,” Rusty let him sign in.
We sat in the back of the theater, Sheriff Jonas was on stage doing his gun twirling act. He had the audience on the floor, “I hope they’re not loaded,” Roscoe remarked. We sat through act after act. Then came a bright spot in the show. Lulu and her sister got up and sang. It was good to know there was some talent in this town.
Then the Mayor came on stage and introduced the last act, A Mr. R. Roscoe stood up, I looked at him, “Mr. R!” He climbed on stage and approached the mike. “I’d like to recite a poem of mine called, A FRIEND.”
What is a friend, now let me see,
A friend is someone dear to me.
They make you happy when you’re sad,
And make you better when you feel bad.
A friend is someone we all need,
To talk, and laugh, and disagree.
I had some friends, but they’re all gone,
Please don’t ask me what went wrong.
So now I start to look again,
For someone new to call a friend.
But as easy as it might seem,
To find a friend has become a dream.
They look at you and turn away,
Before they hear what you have to say.
But I am Strong and I know again,
I will find someone to call a friend.
He was brilliant, the audience started to applaud. Roscoe seemed very overwhelmed as he left the stage. Mayor McMurphy came on stage with Rusty. “We made or decision, and the winner of this years contest is, MR. R.” Roscoe went on stage to receive his prize. As he past Rusty, the old fox grabbed Roscoe’s hand and shook it so hard his glasses and hat went flying off. The audience gasped as they saw it was Roscoe.
“This can’t be.” yelled Scout the goat.
“Who let him in? This was supposed to be for town folks.” remarked Reggie the Weasel.
Sheriff Jonas tried to calm the crowd. “Sit down everyone, the Mayor is looking into this matter.” The mayor turned to the audience. “Since Mr. Roscoe wasn’t officially entered in this contest, we will have to disqualify him.”
“But I did enter.” Roscoe claimed.
“You lied about who you were.” Rusty argued.
“He just shortened his first name.” I piped in.
“He deceived us, and made us look like fools.” The crowd yelled.
“I just wanted to read my poem. I had no intention to make you fools. I did what I had to do and, for a minute there you liked me. But, I see now you really didn’t listen to a word I said. Come on Siggy, let’s go home.” Roscoe headed out the front door. I stood there for a minute, then turned to the town, “You’re wrong about him.”
When I got outside Roscoe was half way up the street. It had started to rain, “Slow down big guy,” I screamed trying to catch up with him. “Forget about this.”
“Maybe it’s time for me to leave, Siggy.”
“Leave! You can’t leave, where would you go? These people will come around. Now let’s get out of this rain.”
By the time we got home the rain had gotten fierce. It rained all day and it rained all night. It rained so much the town became flooded. Sirens started to sound. “What’s that for?” Roscoe asked.
“I don’t know?” We went outside, Mrs. Hen came running by.
“What’s going on?” I asked her.
“The floods are here, we have to get to higher grounds.” She went off running not even looking at us.
“Higher grounds, that would be the school house,” I told Roscoe. We followed everyone up the hill. Panic set in as everyone was trying to get into the safety of the school. Soon we were all inside. Roscoe and I kept to the back. A roll call was taken to see if everyone was there. When they got to the Mole family there was no answer.
“Why their house is underground.” said Mrs. Hen. “There’s no way they could have survived, Poor Mole family.”
“Poor, poor Mole Family,” they all echoed.
“How do you know they didn’t survive?” A voice asked. They all looked around. Roscoe stood there; “how do you know they didn’t survive?”
“Don’t bother us troublemaker, don’t act like you care.” They all yelled at him. They continued the roll call. Suddenly from the back we heard Mrs. Duck, “My baby, my baby isn’t here. My Lulu is missing. Someone needs to find her.” She begged.
“No one can go out there.” Sheriff Jonas told her. “It’s too dangerous.”
Roscoe walked up to The Sheriff, “I’ll go, someone has to try.”
I stood next to Roscoe, “I’m with you buddy, let’s go.”
“Please find my little girl,” Mrs. Duck pleaded.
We left the school house and took the rode that lead to the Mole’s house. The water started to get deeper and deeper, finally we had to stop. The entrance to the Mole’s burrow was completely underwater.
“Now.” Sighed Roscoe, “We can say, poor Mole Family.” We stood staring down at the water. Suddenly we heard something.
“Hello, is someone there?” A voice inquired. Roscoe looked around, there floating on a log was the entire Mole Family, Papa, Mama, and 3 babies. “Who is it?” Papa yelled.
“It’s us, Roscoe Raccoon and Siggy the spider.”
“Can you help us?” Being Moles we cannot see above ground, our eyes are not made for that. We can only hear your voices. Please help us, friends.”
Friends! A word Roscoe and I were not use to hearing. I crawled on to Roscoe’s shoulder and we swam out to the log. Once there Roscoe guided the log back to the shore. Roscoe helped the mole family off the log.
“Why thank you, you saved our lives.” Papa mole said.
Suddenly we heard a cry. There in the middle of the creek was Lulu trying to fight the rapids. Her little body couldn’t handle it. Roscoe dove into the cold muddy waster and swam out to her. When he got there she was nowhere to be found. He dove and dove in the water. He’d come up and go back down again. He went down one more time but this time, he didn’t come up. The moles and I stood there waiting, but we all knew to much time had past. Then I saw something, there floating on a fallen branch was Lulu. The branch got to shore and Mr. Mole helped her off. She was weak, but I knew she’d be fine. “He helped me onto the branch, but then he went under.” She cried.
I waited a few more minutes. “We must go before we too are swept away.” I told them. Lulu and the Mole family all held hands as I guided them back to the school house. I did take one more look back.
As we entered the school everyone cheered, ‘Hurrah, it’s the Mole Family, and Lulu!”
“Yes we are safe.” Said Mr. Mole, “But I’m afraid to say we have lost a gallant friend.”
“Who?” They all asked.
“A Mr., Roscoe Raccoon.” Mr. Mole told them.
“Oh him, he was nothing but a trouble maker.” Amie said.
“How come?” Mr. Mole asked.
“Didn’t you see his mask?” Amie replied. “And now you stand there with his only friend that wicked spider.”
“I couldn’t see a thing, but I could feel the presence of a very caring person who wanted to help, not harm. Do you always judge people on how they look of the outside? For that is not where the heart is. That’s not where kindness starts. A person starts from within. Thank god I am blind above ground for it has helped me to see well. I can pick my true friends. You dear neighbors have no hearts and no kindness. You can only see what’s on the outside. My family and I will always remember Roscoe as a kind person, even though the meeting was brief. I am also thankful for Mr. Siggy here.”
“He saved my life Mommy.” Lulu turned to her Mother.
“Yes I know, my heart is breaking right now.” She said to her daughter. The town bowed their heads for they felt ashamed.
“You are shedding tears,” Mr. Mole said looking around, “For I can hear them, but it’s late, much too late.”
The water went down and everyone headed home. I headed back to the shore; I sat there for hours hoping to see something. Then I too went home. Everyday I went to the creek. Lulu and I would sit and talk about Roscoe. One day the Mayor paid me a visit, in honor of Roscoe’s heroic deed and his love for poetry, they wanted to rename the Library after him. I said he’d be honored.
They whole town showed up for the ceremony and they had asked me to give a speech. My heart was heavy in my chest as I stood there on the library steps. “Roscoe was my friend, my best friend. You never got to know him he wanted you to like him, that’s all. He’d be happy to know you are doing this for him. I still remember the first day I saw him. He was walking down the street, right there by the Inn.” I pointed in that direction. As I did I saw someone coming down the street He got closed and closer, the crowd turned to look. It was ROSCOE, or my imagination! I leaped down the steps and ran towards him.
“It’s you, it is you! What happened? Where have you been? Are you alright?”
“Hold on, one question at a time. The rapids swept me away, when I awoke, I had no idea where I was. I’ve just been wondering for weeks. Then I meant a friend and she helped me get back.”
“I’d like to meet this friend she’s made me very happy.”
“She’s right here.” He pointed behind him, “Siggy meet Jennifer spider.”
There stood the most beautiful spider I had ever seen.
“Hello Siggy, I’ve heard a lot about you.” She said
“It is Roscoe, and he’s alive!” the Mayor yelled. The town started to cheer. Roscoe looked totally surprised. “Am I dreaming, or did I hit my head harder then I thought.”
“I think things are going to be a lot different now Roscoe.”
And different they were. Roscoe was awarded a medal for bravery and worked full time on his book of poetry. It was later published and became a huge success. Lulu is now the town’s lifeguard and is determined to get Roscoe in the water. And me, I settled down. I married Jennifer we moved in next door the Mole family and now have children of our own. And as for Cherry Creek, It’s now known as, The Friendliest Place in the world.
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