Lovemore Flynn: A very grim tale by D S Nelson
Lovemore Flynn is a fox; a fine looking fox. He is always well groomed and not a hair is out of place. On the end of his long, distinguished nose is a pince-nez with a tortoiseshell frame, to compliment his auburn pelt. He sculpts the bright white fur of his jowls into points, a little like a horseshoe moustache. It’s fair to say he is a dapper fellow. Lovemore is a late riser, a man of leisure, the twilight is his domain. On nightly prowls he wears a fine grey coat, and melts into the half-light of the evening.
With an air of infinite superiority he stalks the fields and hedgerows, where smaller creatures cower; but this has not always been the case. There was a time when Lovemore had shown compassion for his smaller neighbours. Now, with many acquaintances and few friends, Lovemore is a solitary man.
In the neighbouring field lives the Colonel, an old badger with a set to run. It is an unspoken rule that Lovemore does not interfere with the Colonel’s day-to-day business; you see Lovemore is trouble, a gentleman yes but trouble nevertheless. For many years this has been so. Neither has bothered the other, until one fateful day last spring.
Lovemore was courting a rabbit named Marianna, not a particularly unusual start to the season. The silver-tongued fox, despite his reputation, had no trouble with the ladies and had many admirers. Marianna was not the first rabbit to fall for Lovemore’s charms, but with her beautiful doe eyes and perfect pelt, Marianna too was difficult to resist; surely she could not possibly have been taken in by the fine words and luxurious manner of Lovemore Flynn?
After what appeared to the neighbouring animals to be a whirlwind romance, the couple were married. Marianna lived in the lap of luxury in Lovemore’s capacious den, but she often missed the comfort found in her many siblings and snuck out during her husband's absences to visit them.
Marianna’s mother was a renowned cook, and the other rabbits would often visit to feast on her grass seed muffins and dandelion stews. Marianna herself had been taught the art of these delights, but Lovemore forbade her to cook or even enter the larder.
Each night when he came home from his evening’s business he would go to the larder, select the finest ingredients and cook Marianna beautiful pies and stews fit for any queen. He was an exceptional cook, but despite the lengths Lovemore went to, Marianna missed the art.
On her visits to the warren she would speak of this to her mother. In turn her mother would counsel her on the authority of men. She encouraged her not to go against Lovemore’s wishes and to think herself lucky to have such a devoted husband.
It soon became known amongst the hedgerows that Marianna was not allowed to follow the family tradition of haute cuisine and that she pined for her mother’s dandelion stew. So it was a surprise to no one but Marianna that, on her way back to the den one night, a Magpie stopped her:
“Marianna,” cackled the Magpie “why do you bow to your husband so?”
Startled, for it was a dark night and he was a dark bird, Marianna stopped in her tracks and thought a while. “I love him dearly Magpie, and this is his only wish. I must respect it.”
The Magpie let out another cackle, “But have you not seen in the larder?”
“I am forbidden,” Marianna replied, a small tear appearing in the corner of her beautiful doe eyes.
The Magpie hopped a little closer, “I have a key Marianna, would you like it?”
Marianna knew that Magpies loved shiny things and knew he must speak the truth. She did very much long to see inside the larder, to smell the herbs and spices once again.
The Magpie saw the longing in Marianna’s eyes. “You can have it if you want, I have many keys, I shall not miss this one.” He squawked.
“I must not!” Marianna replied, “he is my husband and I must respect his wishes.”
“Very well Marianna, but you should look more closely at the coat he wears. Then perhaps you will want the key.” The Magpie flew away into the tree, high above her and Marianna ran on home.
Concerned with getting back before her husband, and then with smoothing her appearance before he arrived, she forgot what the Magpie had said until Lovemore returned.
“Good evening my darling!“ Lovemore announced on his arrival and as he spoke he removed the grey hunting cloak and placed on the end of their oak bed. It was then that Marianna remembered what the Magpie had said.
She smiled and kissed him on the cheek as he went off to cook dinner. He went straight to the larder and as he did Marianna touched the coat. That comfort she found in its familiar feel and smell had always puzzled her, yet she had never troubled to ask her husband where it came from. As she stroked the fabric she noticed it was larger than the last time she saw it, longer in length.
She pushed the Magpie's cackling to the back of her head; notoriously cruel birds, she knew this one was no different. A troublemaker sent to spoil her peace. She sat down to dinner with her husband and thought no more of it.
A week later she saw the Magpie again. This time he was waiting for her by the old chestnut tree. She pretended not to see him and hurried on past the tree.
“Marianna” squawked the Magpie after her. “Did you look at the coat?”
She hopped on, hoping he would fly away.
“Don’t you want to know what’s in those lovely pies he cooks for you?” The Magpie goaded.
She did. She did very much so, and she stopped and turned back towards the tree.
“I thought so,” he crooned.
“I will have the key, Magpie, but you must not tell my husband. He will surely beat me and then he will find you,” she replied.
“I would not do that Marianna. I value my tail feathers,” the Magpie cackled as he handed her the key. It shone in the moonlight winking at her slyly. She tucked it behind her ear and hurried home. She had time before her fox came home.
Opening the door of the den she called to her husband, fearing an early return. There was no reply. She walked over to the larder, pausing outside the door. Once she had entered, she knew there would be no going back. She had dreamt of cooking for months now and yearned for the smell of garlic and onion frying in a pan. It couldn’t do any harm surely? She could surprise Lovemore by cooking him a meal. He couldn’t be angry with her for that.
She took the key from behind her ear and placed it in the lock. A reassuring clunk told her the Magpie had not lied. She pushed the heavy door and peered inside. The smell was intoxicating and she instinctively leaned back, closing the door again.
She had to look; she wanted to know what Lovemore used to cook such delicious meals. Closing her eyes she pushed the door wide open in one quick movement. As she opened her eyes again, terror gripped Marianna as her gaze fell upon the contents. From floor to ceiling was a mass of tiny grey lifeless bodies. Now she recognised the smell.
Slamming the door shut, she locked it behind her. A sick feeling began to rise in her stomach and she wished with all her heart she’d never listened to the Magpie. How could Lovemore do this? Now what would become of her?
Marianna looked at the clock, she should still have time before Lovemore returned and a plan was forming in her head. He mustn’t find out, she had to escape. She couldn’t just leave now, he would come after her and she needed a head start. She couldn’t run to the safety of her mother’s; she would endanger the whole warren. She needed to get far away and quickly. Diving under the bed, she began to dig a hole.
On his way home from his nightly jaunt, Lovemore's thoughts turned to his wife and how content he was with his life. His coat ruffled in the wind and he drew it closer. His creation was almost long enough to keep the elements out completely but it was taking him longer to complete. He was painfully aware of the precarious nature of his marriage and the fine line he trod every night. She was a good woman and he was very much in love with her, but a fox couldn’t change his ways forever. Since marrying Marianna, he’d had to hunt in a different area. She might notice her relatives disappearing, but losses from other warrens wouldn’t be noticed. She would surely leave him if she knew, and he could not let that happen.
“Lovemore!” came a bellow interrupting his thoughts. Lovemore stood stock still searching out the familiar voice in the velvet black night.
“Colonel?” Lovemore replied, “And how are you this fine night?”
“Disturbed, Lovemore, disturbed. And I don’t like to be disturbed! I thought we had an agreement?” The Colonel barked.
“We do Colonel” simpered Lovemore. “Now tell me, what is troubling you?”
“Your digging Sir. It is impinging on my set and I can’t have it I tell you!”
“Digging Colonel, I assure you I have not been digging!”
“Then who has been digging for the last hour, because someone is? There is loose earth in the east tunnel of my set”.
“It is not me Colonel, but if anyone has been rearranging my den, I’ll be sure to find them and give them a piece of my mind.”
“Very well, you see to it then. I cannot have disturbances Lovemore, I simply won’t tolerate it!”
With that the Colonel disappeared into the night, with only a slight snuffle as he went. Lovemore drew his coat tighter again and continued on his way home, perplexed by the meeting. It couldn’t be Marianna; she knew not to dig in that direction surely.
Back at the den, Marianna became aware of the time and knew her husband would be home very soon. She pushed a beech leaf rug into place over the dirt, to disguise her work. She would sneak some valerian into his meal later and start again as soon as her husband succumbed to sleep. Only then could she escape and be well away before he woke.
She had just got the rug in place when the door closed behind Lovemore.
“Good evening, my darling!” called Lovemore as Marianna emerged from the bedroom. “Are you hungry my dear, shall I cook for us?”
Now that Marianna knew what was in the larder, she found it hard to muster enthusiasm for her dinner. She smiled, “Of course dear."
As Lovemore passed the bedroom to enter the kitchen he noticed the rug had been moved. “What have you been doing on this fine night my dear?” He smiled.
“Just tidying,” replied Marianna.
“But you know that I like things just so,” said Lovemore as he slipped past her into the bedroom, “This rug is out of place.”
“But don’t you think it looks better there dear?” Marianna proffered, holding her breath as her husband leaned down to tend to the mat.
“No, I don’t” came the reply and as he stood from pulling back the mat he felt dirt on his paw.
“Your standards are slipping dear,” he said, looking at her sideways. Then remembering the Colonel’s complaints he took her paws in his and saw the dirt under her nails.
“What is this my lovely, have you been digging?”
Marianna was silent. She looked up at her husband and her eyes grew wide. He reached down to stroke her ears and his paw fell upon the key.
The next evening, Lovemore Flynn went out as usual. This time though his fine grey coat reached to the ground and he had a new glossy black feather collar. As he barked at the new moon, tears filled his eyes and the animals of the hedgerow cowered once more.
©D S Nelson All Rights Reserved 2012