Story:Unspooled/Drafts/Segments/Eleventy Gambit

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Originally posted at Hive.blog's Ink Well (November 2020) and r/furry_wordsmith (26/6/2021). Original Aground day counter: 3072/MN #412.

Original notes

  • Below are the first 1300+ words of the new first-draft manuscript of the first volume of Unspooled, a project that began life as Marigot Magic during NaNoWriMo 2012. The forthcoming Unspooled series concerns two raccoon cousins living in Dominica, whose great-grandrelative once appeared in a locally shot, Canadian-made 1931 colour adventure named Ironstone. One of them, Alfred, is the protagonist of this first volume. In this segment, he is in the midst of interviewing Maurice, a solenodon vagrant-turned-sidekick whose once-lost passport he recently retrieved. (Solenodons are shrewlike animals native to Hispaniola and Cuba.) Maurice delivers the first line of the segment, an amazing fact that Alfred never knew about the relative.

In the title of this preview, "eleventy" is a fancy word for 110, found in Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring, and a gambit is an opening move (i.e. in chess) or a remark which leads into a conversation or chat.

Skyline of Roseau, Dominica ("giggel", 5/3/2012)

Trying to get a suitable photo for this entry was no easy task—but this contributor found one via Google's image results for Fond Colé, Dominica (where this opening extract is set). Not directly within Fond Colé itself, but close enough thanks to the skyline camera (from a cruise ship) facing its direction.

Enjoy your New Year, folks, and I'll see you in 2021 with more sneak peeks and selections from my recently opened anthro commission line. Veloma!

——

(Updated 31/12/2020 from the original November 2020 writeup, which read thus:

Below is the opening extract of the draft of Volume 1 of this contributor's forthcoming children's book series, Unspooled. The initial version of this entry was rushed in to beat a midnight deadline (a day late); more commentary to come in a subsequent revision or two. Until then, happy reading...and happy Thanksgiving!)

(An early version of the New Year's Eve revision stated that "eleventy" was found in The Hobbit, when in fact it was in the first Lord of the Rings instead and not in the Tolkien prequel. Fact-checked on behalf of any Middle Earth devotees coming across this item now—a copypasted artifact from last month's correspondence to the upstate New York aunt.)

Text

"She's turning eleventy."

"Really? I never thought she was so old. I always thought she was much younger."

"She's one of a kind, too. Famous, generous, and brewstered."

"Brewstered?" doublechecked Alfred the boy raccoon. "Like the guy who had all those millions?"

"Correct." The solenodon compadre, Maurice, rose for a while and pulled his chair a bit closer.

"So how come the Chronicle never ran a story on her? She's my great-grandaunt for crying out loud."

"And how come I didn't reunite with her in Carriacou," complained Maurice, "any sooner till now? You're talking about my dear mentor right here."

Alfred stretched his forepaws towards the table, a bit fatigued two hours into the interview. They'd been partners for the past three days—but his parents, Victor and Louise, would crush him to peach pulp if they found out. They never trusted the likes of "armed snakes" like him—even if they turned out to be hard-working, well-meaning, outgoing, and straight to the point. Still, he was determined not to let his secret assignment go to waste. Especially not with a ton of Dictaphone equipment, Polaroid snapshots, and art supplies at his disposal—and all of it was bundled next to him on either side. It was going to take him a deal of work carrying all of that back uphill to outer Stockfarm. No matter what, the evidence was still important—part of the reason he bore an "H." as his middle initial. (But it didn't stand for what you'd most likely assume.)

Linda, I owe it to ya—and you owe me a new suitcase.

Between the two creatures inside the drawing room of that Fond Colé cottage, was it coincidence—or destiny? Neither could tell yet.

"Well," said the raccoon, "guess we can take a breather, right?"

"Right."

"We've both gone without a meal for hours anyway."

They could both hear it in front of them, not mere milliseconds later: Alfred's stomach was growling loudly. "Not that I needed to," Maurice said with a chuckle.

Out of the fridge, they both had to settle for day-old leftovers of… "Carrion—from Carrie Ann," joked the solenodon. "That's all she and her kits eat every night for dinner. It's in their instinct."

Hardly appetising in the least, but still barely tolerable—but the Orchard boxed drinks would try to make up for that.

Fifteen minutes later, the duo returned in their hot seats. Literally hot, as the emerging afternoon flare had quickly passed upon the vinyl cushions before they knew it. Why couldn't it stay cloudy the whole day anyway?

"And for land's sake," said Alfred, "why isn't there a fan?"

"There is, too," said Maurice. "Next to you, edge of the cabinet."

Is this what have to settle for?

"Her electric one shorted out yesterday. She'll get a replacement.

"So," said the solenodon as they settled down uneasily, "all these 30 years, I've been yearning to meet her again."

"Pity all you had to go through after David," said Alfred.

"And right now," said Maurice, "I don't once want to think about it. Too much stigma as it is."

After a two-minute pause, he resumed his testimony. "So, as I was about to say…Carrie Ann's done well helping me out since the time I went hunting alone in Laudat. So well, we're working on the next phase as we speak."

"What, may I ask, is it?"

But just as Maurice opened his mouth, about to answer…one of Carrie Ann's kits came out of his room, an iPad in his hand.

"Remind me," asked the little one, "what's the Wi-Fi again?"

"Don't look," Maurice told Alfred. "Only his mom and I know. You're fine already." The raccoon turned 90 degrees away while the solenodon typed it in.

"O.K.," said Maurice. "If it disconnects again, then just let me know, O.K.?" To the procyonine interviewer, he whispered, "He's in the middle of last-minute homework research. Assignment's due tomorrow, and he can not afford to miss Grade 4. He's the rambunctious one of the litter—Mom's already concerned."

"Anyway," he raised his voice, "as I was saying…"

But then, another interruption suddenly emerged right at the front door—in the form of Carrie Ann herself. Carrie's slender arms were full to the brim with groceries and whatever-else-have-you, after a two-hour visit to Whitchurch downtown. She was panting a bit, all thanks to the long steep staircase she had to take to bring them all up.

"And trust me, they didn't call that part of Fond Colé 'Propugnaculum' for nothing," she pointed out to them.

"Pro-pandy-ga-what?" the two guests went.

"And trust me, I've got a dictionary big enough for you guys to look that one up…Say, who's that handsome guy with ya?"

"It's my new friend, Alfred," Maurice answered. "He's doing a project for school or something."

"Film school, even? We don't have any on this island."

"But he's already a pro regardless. Beats us how he did it before Grade 6."

"It's a long story," said Alfred. "Don't tell anyone I courted Linda for all of this," he told the lady fox in a whisper.

"I'll keep it a secret, too," Carrie Ann snarked. "All right, folks. I helped him out—now it's you guys' turn."

Ten bags of goods didn't sound like a bad idea…until they realised how extra-large they were. This was all she was buying for the next two or so months—she had ten kits who ate far more than they could chomp—and it definitely showed. So much work went into the unloading, it was sunset by the time they were all through. And sunset meant only one thing: Alfred had to leave pretty soon. He was not going to disappoint Victor and Louise again.

The clock had not yet struck six when the giggling, laughing, and cheering of Carrie's other nine—and the loud hum of the bus engine—filled the air before them. They scurried up the steps, all in their school attire, and took off their shoes; Carrie preferred to keep her front rug tidy.

"Evening, kits. How was your play?"

To which they replied with a ton of yays and nays and whatevers. (Some of them appreciated the value of Shakespeare and Ben Jonson; others could care less.) The last one, Terry, opened his door and joined them in the crowd.

"If you'd focused more on your work like you were supposed to," his sister Dana remarked, "you would've had a good time with us at the Arawak."

"You missed out on a lot of treats," added another sibling, Opelika, as she brought forth a big bag of trinkets. "Next time, we'll share some with you."

Terry was sobbing at the sight of Slim Jim inside. This was still his favourite munchaway!

"What they all said," his mother told him. "Face it, we're not keeping you inside here one more month if you act on like that. Oh, and…Alfie?" she turned her head and attention towards the raccoon, a honking horn in the distance. "Alfie?"

"Yes?"

"Your bus is leaving. You'll meet Maury tomorrow."

"But the interview—"

"Sorry, I know. It's getting much late. Now say goodbye, kiss the kits, and we'll see you back. O.K.?"

Alfred's muzzle was visibly shaking away as he whimpered like the cub he once was. "O.K."

After doing as told, he boarded the bus, and the fox loaded up the vehicle with his supplies. After the last loud slam of the back door, the cottage dwellers waved farewell as HA113 drove down the hill en route to Stockfarm.

During that short ride back, Alfred was taking comfort that he'd managed to get as much information on the "Lone Agouta" as he possibly could—so far. He was but a toddler when DBS News ran a story on Agatha's star-studded centennial—a very impressive feat for his species—and his parents never once told him the whole tale as he grew up, just smatterings of career moments during weekend "limedowns" with friends from as far as Yampiece, Tarish Pit, Belle Vue Rawle, and upper Goodwill.

She was once a fantasy—now become reality. But he was a long, long way off yet.

Victor is sure not going to like this.

And…I should've never found Maurice's passport.