The grouse at the Nookton Settlement rarely celebrate their eggday because it reminds them how short their lives are. But occasionally, a grouse will celebrate a particular milestone. Celebrating seven stacks-of-bundles of cosmic cycles is one of those rare milestones that grouse will willingly rejoice over. The usual form of celebratory activity is to officially declare that you are to stop collecting cycles of the cosmic ovum into bundles and to stop stacking those bundles. Snut has reached such an age and wishes to declare that he no longer wants to count the passing cycles of the cosmic ovum and wants to enter the last-bit.

In Nookton, few grouse ever reach the last-bit. For many pious grouse, reaching the last-bit is a deviation from the Sacred Walkway to the Cosmic Flower. It is written, in the Sacred Chronicles that, ‘the Cosmic Flower will turn her back on those who live beyond the count of seven.’ This is why those who do reach that age stop counting their bundles and stacks in the hope that the Cosmic Flower does not notice.

Snut’s chief weasel Doddel is busy preparing invitations while Snut’s other weasel Moses, is cleaning the glug-basins and will need to get some repaired before the celebration, which is just two cycles away. Stick, Moses’ dad, is an expert in repairing most things including glug-basins which can break when too many grouse try to glug from the same basin at once. This puts pressure on the feet of the basin which have a habit of snapping.

Moses rushes over to his dad’s burrow to get him to come over to Snut’s den. Stick is a free weasel and lives near the Whiteheaps Dam. Stick is almost legendary having reached nearly nine stacks-of-bundles. He has done much with his life and has overseen many of the important engineering projects that have been the driving force of Nookton’s recent success and that have earned the colony an entire, full-page article in the Daily Gargle.

One of the projects Stick has been involved with, is the Hidden Hall, an underground walkway that stretches from the Nookton’s Central Hub to the really-big hole. Few grouse ever use the Hidden Hall as grouse don’t like being underground. This fear of being out of the sight of the cosmic ovum comes from a simple verse written in the Sacred Chronicles. In a chapter of the Sacred Chronicles where the Cosmic Flower addresses grouse she says: ‘I will punish those who hide from the sky and dare set their eyes upon my roots. For I am easily embarrassed.’

In recent stacks-of-bundles, the Hidden Hall has served as an excellent escape route from raptorial attack as there are many entrances into the Hall from the Whiteheaps Walkway, a favourite hunting area for hawks and falcons. In recent bundles, there has been an attempt by several raptorial representatives, to have their quota of grouse chicks increased. During the last nesting season, there was an upsurge in illegal raptor related chick-seizing.

Stick agrees to repair Snut’s glug-basins despite his dislike for the old grouse. Moses is grateful and assists Stick in loading his work trailer with his tools and some spare wood. ‘In my nine stacks-of-bundles, I’ve never known a more vain and ungenerous grouse than Snut. Why does he need two den-domestics? He’s had more hens laying his eggs than the King himself. And he’s as heartless as tarmac. What’s his appeal? I’ve seen better grouse than Snut never find a true mate or see an egg laid.’

Moses listens to his dad and wonders if getting old makes a weasel more intolerant and grumpy. To reach Snut’s den, Stick passes through the Hidden Hall with Moses trailing behind. ‘I don’t know why grouse don’t use this Walkway, it’s so practical and safe and we’ve cleared all the roots, not one in sight,’ says Stick, as he admires his engineering work. ‘I’m not a spiritual sort of weasel and I don’t care for Sacred Books, they get in the way of progress.’ Stick stops for a moment to put a piece of peat-gum into his mouth. ‘It’s a bad habit I know,’ he mutters, ‘but it’s never done me any harm.’

When they reach Tumble Den, which has been Snut’s place of residence for many stacks, Stick gives out a big sigh. ‘This used to be such a grand place,’ he says, ‘now it’s just another neglected memory.’ Snut’s time and resources are spent mainly on his ambitions to become Patriarch of Nookton. He sees Tumble Den merely as a place to sleep, to plot his way to power and to watch his many eggs incubate.

Snut arrives and watches Stick repair the glug-basins. ‘Mind you make them stronger this time, you know how boisterous eggdays can be,’ says Snut, as he preens his feathers. ‘I’m hoping to sell Tumble Den and I’m going to make an announcement when my guests are here. I’m going to move into the Really-Big Den near the fallen tree by the grassy-bit, they never burn the heather there. The place is in ruin and is cheap, but it’ll serve my purposes.’ Snut then moves closer to Stick and whispers. ‘How much do you think I’ll get for this place? I’m asking for thirty stacks. What do you think?’

To Be Continued…

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By Adam Lee
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