Monday, March 23, 2015
Digger had fallen into the habit of gazing out his kitchen window while he waited for his morning coffee to perk. Sometimes he got lucky and spotted a gopher or a squirrel. One quick shift and bang, breakfast. Today, however, all he saw was his neighbor Lorelei, staring forlornly at the bare patch that would be his garden come spring.
What the hell, he still had a good five minutes before coffee. Digger went outside. “What up, bunny?”
“This won’t do at all,” Lorelei said. “I need green. Where’s all the green?”
“It’s March. The ground’s like concrete. I won’t be able to plant for another month at least. What do you need greens for?”
Lorelei stared at him. “Hello? Spring? Fresh shoots and leaves? I want to make an edible outfit for Bobby. He loved that Romaine dress I made one year. I was hoping you’d have something.”
“Not this early in the season. What’s wrong with the grocery store?”
“Your greens taste so much better. You can’t beat garden fresh.” The bunny peered around the side of the house. “I thought you’d have a greenhouse by now. Why don’t you have a greenhouse?”
“Do I need to remind you yet again why I started the garden in the first place?”
She sniffed archly. “You don’t even need the meat any more. You can get all you want in trade with your veggies. I thought you were doing that as a sideline.”
“Not year round. Anyway, nothing beats a fresh kill. The thrill of the chase, the taste of hot—”
Lorelei slammed her hands over her ears. “I can’t hear you lalalalalala…”
The back door opened. “Coffee’s ready,” Digger’s human mate Laurie called out. “Hey, Lorelei. Are you all right?”
“No. Your carnivore boyfriend’s turning my stomach with tales of his disgusting eating habits. Not to mention I need leafy greens and he doesn’t have any. Why hasn’t he built that greenhouse yet?”
“We don’t need a greenhouse,” Digger insisted. “We dry enough herbs in the fall to get us through the winter. We’re not that big on veggies—”
“Speak for yourself,” Laurie said.
“Yeah. Sorry, babe. But c’mon, we’re covered there too. Mam loves canning, and she puts up a ton of—”
“Your mam cures game for jerky,” Lorelei cut in. “She ages venison in her attic. Bobby and I know elk who check out her house, make sure none of their relatives are in there.”
“How many times do I have to say this? My family doesn’t eat sentients. Never did, never will. It’s real game animals all the way. We always make sure our meat can’t talk back.”
“Your cousin Alf—”
“Is getting treatment. He should be out in five years, tops.”
“Lorelei’s right, you know,” Laurie said. “We should have a greenhouse.”
“We don’t need—”
“But wouldn’t it be nice if we had fresh herbs for cooking all year round? And green veggies. And tomatoes for sauce.” Laurie eyed Digger’s gut. “I know how much you love my tomato sauce. And I could experiment with flowers. It’s a hobby of mine,” she told Lorelei. “I like developing new strains. The growing season here’s too short, and they won’t let me play around with the stock at the garden center.”
“You’re talking about starting an entire home-based business,” Digger said. “I don’t even know if we’re zoned for that.”
“I’m sure Mayor Gil would okay it,” Lorelei said quickly. “Anything that benefits Talbot’s Peak gets his seal of approval. And face it, Digs, what you’ve started here is benefitting the Peak. There are more herbies than carnies around, and they all love fresh organic veggies.”
“And you’ve been talking more and more about starting your own business,” Laurie added. “Construction was never your dream job. Gardening lets you dig more.”
“I don’t believe this. You’re ganging up on me and you’re not even the same species. Why do shes always do this? And before I’ve had my coffee, yet.”
“We could have fish,” Laurie said. “Back in high school, the Ag Department had one of those hydroponics systems with fish added. The fish swam around and lived off the plants, while the fish poop provided nutrients for the veggies. At the end of the semester the kids harvested both. We could have fresh fish all winter long without you having to go out and get it.”
“They tried that at our high school,” Lorelei said. “It never works for long. As soon as the fish get big enough, somebody breaks in and eats them. The otters and the raccoons just can’t help themselves. And the bears—don’t get me started. But the lettuce always makes it through the semester.” The bunny sighed in recollection.
Digger had gone quiet at the words “fresh fish.” Now he licked his lips. “Indoor fish hatchery, eh? I could get behind that. Next to red meat, I could go for fish. You eat fish too. I’ve seen you.”
“I need the protein,” Laurie admitted. “So do a lot of the herbivore shifters, to keep their human selves healthy. Fish solves a lot of dietary problems.”
“You’d be a hero to the community,” Lorelei said. “Providing food for hungry children when foraging’s tough.”
“Hungry herbie children, you mean. That’s not how it’s supposed to work between wolves and prey animals. What about my reputation?”
“Carnie boy, you dig in the dirt like a dog, live with a human, and pal around with bunnies. Everyone knows this already. How much worse could your reputation get? Look at it this way: you pull this off and you’ll be eating better than everyone else in your pack. You won’t even have to chase it. Where’s the downside there?”
“I suppose you’ll be wanting a job in this hypothetical greenhouse? To be paid in produce?”
“I’m willing to invest in a startup business,” Lorelei said. “In exchange for produce.”
“How about you? Are you in?” Digger asked Laurie. “If it takes off, you may have to leave your job at the garden center. Aw, scat. I might as well marry you. Make it a family business.” Suddenly his words caught up with him. “Did I just propose?”
“You did! You did! I’m a witness!” Lorelei hopped up and down.
“I accept,” Laurie said, and kissed Digger before he could retract his offer. The kiss got longer and longer, and more enthusiastic.
“So that’s settled,” Lorelei said. She tapped her finger thoughtfully against her lips. “Now, about beehives … ”