The Wandering Feather
Written by: Kevin (KS) Sharbaugh
"William, could you hand me the needle-nosed plyers?" Gadget requested as she hovered over a project.
"Of course," Dee's assistant responded, handing over the proper tinkering implement.
Gadget only half-heartedly glanced at the tool in her paw before stating, "No, I mean the pl-" Quickly looking back at the plyers, she realized she was, indeed, holding what she had asked for. "Golly, these really are needle-nosed plyers!" she remarked.
"Those were what you requested," William replied in his typically nonchalant manner.
"Oh I know," Gadget responded, "It's just that whenever I let Chip or Dale help out on a project I get so accustomed to having to correct them when they hand me the wrong tool or part that I guess it's become a conditioned reflex." William was about to point out that there was no offense when Gadget continued, "I didn't mean to imply that you wouldn't know what you were doing, although I was assuming that I would be handed the wrong tool, but since the assumption was purely subconscious it couldn't be considered intentional, after all, if you didn't know what you were doing you wouldn't be Doohickey's assistant, although not all assistants are fully skilled in their craft..."
"It's quite all right," William assured her, hoping to prevent the rest of the explanation, "The reason Ms Hawkfeather consented to take me on as her assistant was because of my mechanical competence."
"Come to think of it, why are you her assistant?" Gadget inquired, "Have you considered having your own workshop? Not that I'm saying you should..."
"It's a time honored tradition to study under the tutelage of a master in one's chosen field before going off on one's own, and your sister is the most skilled engineer I've had the pleasure of meeting." Then, with a smile and a nod towards Gadget, "Well, one of the most."
"Golly, thanks!" Gadget replied with a slight blush, after having realized William had meant her.
Before William could get any further in his polite flirtations, Chip intervened. "Gadget," he began, "I'm going to be gone for awhile, I have to ask Ms Redtalon a few things."
"Ok, Chip," Gadget replied, "But why are you telling me?"
"Dee's preoccupied with tribal affairs," Chip proceeded to explain, "I figured I should let somebody know where I was going."
"That makes sense," Gadget nodded as she returned to her work. Ms Redtalon, she thought to herself, Oh, one of the Clan Mothers. Mother... wish I'd had a chance to get to know my mother, why she never got back in tough with Dad, or exactly what had happened that she had to leave her home in the first place so that she met Dad. Waitaminute... this is where Mom lived, maybe there are people here who might have some answers... like Ms Redtalon! "William, make sure no one does anything with this," Gadget stated as she began to head off after Chip, "Oh, and let Dee and everyone know where I went... and Chip... well, both of us achally. Bye!"
"Come in," the elder mouse stated clearly in response to Chip's knocking. As the chipmunk entered he was soon greeted by, "Why, hello handsome!"
"Uh, hi," Chip responded somewhat self-consciously.
"Hello, Ms Redtalon!" Gadget greeted as she followed Chip into the residence.
"Hello, Gadget!" was the cheery response, "And you can call me June... both of you." Patting the couch on which she sat, she added, "Sajë:h." Chip didn't need the impromptu lesson Dee had given him in the language to understand the word. Neither did Gadget as they both took seats on the couch and a chair. "Now, what brings you two here?"
"We were hoping you could help us answer a couple questions," Chip replied simply.
"Well I'll do my best," June assured her guests.
After a short back and forth between the two guests, it was decided that Chip should proceed first. "My question has to do with Doohickey," he began.
"I have a question about her myself," June interrupted, "If you don't mind."
"I... guess not," Chip replied, a little surprised.
"Effer since it became public knowledge that she liffs with a pack of wolfes, there haff been all kinds of rumors floating about," began the elder, "Anyhow, I'fe been wondering just how close her relationship is with them... any predator/prey romance or anything like that?" Chip just looked at June for a moment, not quite sure how he should answer such a question. "After all, this isn't the kind of thing you want to walk up to someone and ask," the matriarch clarified.
"Generally, she's treated like part of the pack," Chip opened, "and she... almost had a relationship with the pack leader, like a romantic relationship." June seemed genuinely surprised by the fact. "But they never let it get too far," Chip continued, "they felt it would interfere with their responsibilities in the pack."
June merely nodded as she digested the information. "Not quite as salacious as some of the rumors... some of which I'm sure Carol started," she eventually commented. "Now, what was your question?"
"Ever since hearing that she was chosen as a Clan Mother, Dee's been more than a little reluctant to accept the position," Chip explained, "I was hoping you might have some insight into why she would be so hostile to the idea."
As June thought for a moment, Gadget added a question, "What exactly does a Clan Mother do, anyway?"
"Well," June began, "We're responsible for electing the Chief, we are responsible for approving adoption of outsiders into the tribe and our clan, we preside over various ceremonies, and we're responsible for resolving disputes between members of our clans." There was a brief pause before she turned to Chip with a slightly different subject, "That reminds me, you never told me what a Rescue Ranger does."
"Well, let's see... " Chip began.
"We're a small but efficient battalion or do-gooders dedicated to helping those in trouble," Gadget sprightly railed off.
"Actually, what we do covers a wide variety of matters," Chip began, "Our first case was to clear the name of a human police detective and stop the criminal that framed him from stealing the city's gold reserve, we traveled to England to prevent a feline crime lord from stealing the Crown Jewels..."
"We recovered a kid's model train set after it was stolen... and in doing so foiled a bank robbery," Gadget added, "Coincidentally, one being carried out by that same feline crime lord who was after the Crown Jewels."
"We rescued a booby egg after it had been stolen from it's nest by a poacher," Chip continued, "We went to the South Seas to rescue the animal passengers of the Lucitania when it sank, we also traveled to Paris to find the cause behind a strange whining noise that was driving out the city's dogs."
"You certainly get around, don't you?" June marveled.
"We have to be ready to go at a moment's notice," Chip stated proudly, "wherever we're needed, whenever we're needed."
"Maybe that's her problem," Gadget piped up, "Dee is afraid that her responsibilities to her tribe as a Clan Mother would interfere with her relationship with Chip!"
"Just as her responsibility to her pack prefented a relationship with her wolf," June agreed.
"And her interest in creating a Rescue Rangers branch here," Chip speculated further, "She thinks she has to choose between her duty or her desires."
"Well, now that we have that cleared up," June declared in reference to Chip's query before inquiring of Gadget, "What is plaguing your mind?"
"I was hoping you might have some idea why my mother had to leave her home," Gadget pointed out, "All I've ever heard is that she had a falling out with her in-laws." There was a slight pause before she added, somewhat sheepishly, "And, maybe why she never got back in touch with me and Dad."
June leaned back on the couch as she tried to recollect the events of twenty-seven years ago. "I can help you with that first part, at least," the wizened matriarch began, "Uh, Chip, could you get me a cup of water, dear?" Once the chipmunk returned with the refreshment, June continued, "Most of the details about how this got started I got from one of my nieces, she was a friend of your mother. Anyhow, one of their friends decided to haff a little get-together just for her immediate circle of friends, unfortunately, Carol- your sister's aunt, your mother's sister-in-law- decided to infite herself and her sisters, a set of twins that followed her efrywhere. Shortly after they arrifed, the good-times left.
"Your mother and my niece had tried to console their hostess, who had retreated to her bedroom to cry. From what my niece told me your mother was particularly upset about all this... she and Carol neffer really got along in the first place, if anything they only barely tolerated each other. When they left their friend to return to the party, such as it was, your mother told her sisters-in-law, You weren't infited, you're not wanted here and the owner of the residence wants you to leafe.' My niece told me that their friend had neffer asked to haff Carol and company to leafe..."
"She shouldn't have had to," Chip remarked, "Something like that kind of goes without saying."
"There's no doubt she wanted them to leafe," June replied, "But she wouldn't haff tried to press the issue, efen through a second party... she didn't want trouble, and that's exactly what Carol was going to cause if anyone tried to get her to leafe." Turning back to Gadget, she continued, "But your mother had just had enough of Carol's attitude and something was going to happen. Carol spouted off something to the effect of We'll see about that!' and began to head on back to the bedroom, at which point your mother blocked her path and all but ordered Carol and her sisters to leafe." June shook her head to emphasize the next point as she went on, "Carol neffer liked being giffen orders, least of all from her otherwise quiet little mousewife of a sister-in-law... so she just shuffed her aside. That's when your mother tackled her... and it wasn't long before Carol's sisters joined in.
"Efen outnumbered three to one, your mother knocked Carol's lights out!" June declared with obvious pleasure, "and once Carol was out of the fight her sisters backed off. As they were dragging their sister out the door they were warning about how once she was back on her feet they were going to be back to do in your mother."
"Just because she beat them in a fight?" Gadget asked incredulously.
June nodded somberly. "As I mentioned to you at the Powwow, Carol built her image on fear, and to be beaten in a fight when the odds were in her fafor three to one was unforgiffable... it just couldn't stand. In Carol's mind, your mother had to be made to pay dearly for humiliating her... otherwise, other people might get it into their heads to stand up to her. Of course, because of this, most of the people at that party didn't want your mother anywhere near them, as if she had the plague. But they also wanted to salvage what they could of the evenings festifities, so they figured she should be the one to leave... that way efen if Carol did come back she wouldn't stay long."
"You mean they kicked her out?!" Gadget indignantly asked.
"In cases like that you find out who your real friends are," June replied, "and at that party, she only had two. Ann Southmont and my niece were the only two to stand up for her, but they were outnumbered and the owner of the residence was absolutely terrified, so they left. From what my niece was told by one of those who stayed was that Carol and her sisters did return, armed to the teeth, but left when they couldn't find your mother. But that wasn't the end of the indignity forced on your mother," June went on, "She tried to get her husband, Bob and Dee's father, to talk some sense into his sister... but Carol had been bullying him since the day he was born so he wasn't about to say boo' to her. Your mother divorced him on the spot, grabbed her baby boy and whateffer clothes she could carry and left for her mother's. My niece stayed behind to misdirect Carol when she showed up."
"Was my grandmother a Clan Mother at the time?" Gadget inquired, remembering some of what Dee had told her during previous discussions.
"Yes she was," June answered, "and that's the only reason, when Carol found out where your mother had gone, she didn't march right ofer, break down the door and drag your mother out. As much of a bad-**s as Carol was, she wasn't about to break into the residence of a Clan Mother. In the days after that, Carol made it clear that if your mother stepped one foot out of her mother's place she was going to go for her throat. Ideally, your grandmother would have talked to Carol's Clan Mother and she would'fe put her foot down, told Carol to drop her ridiculous fendetta. Unfortunately, there was some pre-existing bad blood between the two, so Carol's Clan Mother refused to step in and put an end to things. The other Clan Mothers could haff stepped in and imposed a solution for the sake of maintaining ciffil order, but they didn't want to make it look like they were taking sides in that little grudge match between the other two."
"That's ludicrous!" Chip protested.
"I agree," June almost laughed, "and if I'd been a Clan Mother back then I wouldn't haff put up with it, but I wasn't. Eventually things got so bad that Amanda left... She left Bob with her mother because she didn't want him with her in the event Carol caught up with her, and since Bob's care-giver at that point on was a Clan Mother, Carol didn't dare lay a finger on him."
"Unless that Clan Mother took ill," Chip presumed, remembering Dee's previous statement that her mother returned when her in-laws were demanding custody.
"That's what brought her back," the elder acknowledged, "No one wanted to see Carol get her paws on that child, and the only way to prevent that was if Amanda came back to claim him. And it wasn't just the custody issue... By the time she got back, her mother was in such bad shape that she had to help care for her. It was at that point that the other Clan Mothers finally put their collectiff feet down. They took Carol's Clan Mother aside and explained to her that if any harm befell Amanda as a result of Carol's lust for refenge they were going to take it out of herhide. Dee being a young Clan Mother is a rare exception, most of us, especially the ones back then, were getting on in years and didn't want to set the precedent that someone responsible for their well-being was fair game to any lowlife thug with an axe to grind."
"I get the feeling Carol didn't take the news well that she couldn't have her revenge," Gadget supposed.
"Nope," June replied, "It just infuriated her more. She couldn't touch your mother, but that didn't mean she couldn't find some other way to get back at her... I imagine if she found out your mother'd had a child with an outsider no one else knew about, she would haff jumped on that in an instant."
"I guess Mom was afraid that if she tried to get in touch with Dad, Carol might have found out about it," Gadget openly speculated.
"I'm sure that was weighing on your mother's mind quite a bit," June reasoned.
"It would also explain why she never told anyone but the Southmonts about meeting Geegaw and having a child with him," Chip added. "You know," he began thoughtfully, "I'm not sure Dee knew the specifics about the rift between her mother and her father's family... Maybe knowing the role that indecisive Clan Mother's played in her mother's life could help her make a more educated decision about the matter."
"You might want to be careful about that," June chimed in, "Depending on how it influences her decision, you could wind up without a fiancé."
"In any case, I think she has a right to know what happened between Mom
and her Aunt Carol," Gadget pointed out.
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