The Great Forest was dying. The Mole sat alone basking under the summer sun. All his friends died many years ago. The Black Curse had come like an inferno taking everyone in its grim embrace. Only the Mole had escaped, to live a life of lonesome melancholy.
Today he was sadder than usual. His bones ached from the sorrow that never left him. The furrows on his face were like the scars on the Earth after a mighty quake.
“How I miss Cat, Rabbit, Squirrel, and Monkey! The perfect hour of the day to go for a romp in the glade!” said the Mole, drying tears from his cheeks.
Then he heard whistling in the distance. Whoever he was, he was drawing closer.
“The road’s long
But I’ve my song
Though I’m alone
I don’t moan
For this journey
Keeps me happy.”
The merry singer came into view. Bronzed from years of wandering, he was gaunt as an aged tree. But on his face was the glow of all the twinkling stars in the night sky. He looked like an old pilgrim of the ancient roads, a wayfarer full of the wisdom of faraway places. A tattered jacket covered his frail body, and a hat perched on his head sideways. He walked with a jaunty step singing a melody that made even the saddest of hearts shudder with bliss.
When he came near, the Mole got up and bowed.
“G’day, Mr. Dog! I see you’re a rambler. Where have you come from?”
“Greetings, Mr. Mole! I come from the East. From beyond the horizon where the sun rises,” said Mr. Dog. “Can I sit, please? My paws are cracked, and my legs are sore.”
“Do take a seat. My pleasure to be of service.” The Mole dashed inside his home to get the visitor a tumbler of cool water.
As Mr. Dog sat sipping the refreshing drink, the Mole felt an excitement which he hadn’t felt in a long time. His melancholy left him, at least for the moment.
“Oh, the sweet pleasures of being home at last!” said Mr. Dog, and thanked the Mole.
“Home is no longer like it used to be. The Black Curse took everyone away. I wish I could be a vagabond like you,” said the Mole, with a bittersweet look in his eyes.
“I know of the Black Curse. We all lost so much in its wake. But there’s no place like home. After years of being on the highway, I know this for certain!”
“Tell me about it. I too want to be like you!” The Mole’s eyes were already dancing with dreams.
“A hobo’s life, my dear friend, is hard on the heart. Though it frees the mind, the body suffers.”
“Is that so? But tell me about your adventures!”
“In my youth, I went where the winds blew me. I remember the first time I hit the wide open road. Oh, the delight of freedom! Unbridled and untainted! Pure as the gurgling waters of the crystal streams that so often quenched my thirst! The grasses in whose caresses I used to sleep! That burst of colors at dawn, the everyday renewal as the inky night changes into the day! As though a great painter in the sky is rubbing the pastels for our blessed sakes!”
Mr. Dog’s voice ebbed and faded away. His eyes had the distant look of reveries. He had fallen asleep. He slept through the rest of the day and the night.
When the Mole woke up the next morning, his eyes were still closed. The Mole decided it was time to awaken the traveler. He nudged him. There was no response. Then he shook him. Yet there was no reaction.
“Mr. Dog, wake up! You’ve slept one whole day and night. Wake up, Mr. Dog!
It was then the Mole realized that the weary pilgrim had passed away. Mr. Dog had found a home, at last, to lay down his head and go to eternal sleep. And though the Mole tried to stifle his sobs, the tears kept gushing forth and he sat down and cried his heart out.
In the afternoon, when his eyes had become dry, he buried Mr. Dog in the only remaining meadow in the forest. Then he dusted his old raggedy coat with the gold buttons and got dressed. He donned his favorite hat and grinned at himself in the mirror. He had decided to follow in Mr. Dog’s footsteps. With his few belongings packed in a bindle, he marched leaving the Great Forest behind. When he reached the bend, he couldn’t resist taking one last look at his beloved home. The graveyard of his friends and his memories. The Mole wiped a tear from his cheeks and walked ahead.
He sauntered along the highway singing. He felt happy taking in the changing scenes by the road. His face beamed and shone like the sun peeping from behind the dark clouds.
“Unlike the tree
I wander free
Happy as a song I go
Where the winds blow
Even though I‘m alone
I’m the king of my throne.”
The Mole was already feeling like a true hobo. He savored every step he took along the highway. By and by, he began to feel hungry and remembered he had forgotten to pack food. The western horizon blazed with crimson, orange and scarlet splashes of splendor. The breeze moved through the green fields in inviting waves of delight. He decided to rest for the day and repose in the lush arms of verdure before him.
The Mole’s hunger was soon satisfied as he found himself in a field of potatoes. He feasted on them and dug some more for the next day’s journey. And before he knew, the fey of sleep had kissed his eyes. That night he slept like a child who had played from dawn to dusk.
Next morning, he woke up to a loud voice. A man, holding a cane, was glaring down at him.
“You little thief! How much did you gollop? Tell me or I’ll make you vomit everything inside your belly!” he screamed.
The Mole was terrified. He didn’t understand why the man was so enraged.
“I…I didn’t eat all the potatoes. There’s plenty left for you,” he mumbled.
The Mole’s words angered the man further. He whipped the cane down on the Mole. He scampered away in time, barely escaping a beating. And although he couldn’t get his bindle, he was glad to get away from the wicked man.
So the Mole was on the road again. The morning incident didn’t bring down his spirits. He was whistling away his tune once more.
In a while, a yellow taxi carrying children to school passed by. When they saw the Mole, all dressed up with a coat and hat, they laughed and jeered at him.
“Once a dandy mole
Went to the great city
They mistook him for a troll
Oh my, oh my, what a pity!”
The Mole raised his hand to doff his hat to the children when a stone struck his head. He saw one of them making faces at him, and of a sudden, the Mole felt very sad. His joyous spirits left him.
The taxi disappeared leaving the Mole down in the dumps. Dejected, he dragged himself along the road, trying to be a true hobo. Before long, he came to the Great City full of hustle and bustle.
The afternoon sun burned in the sky like a fierce warrior battling the clouds. The scent of freshly baked bread wafted through the air. The Mole realized he was hungry again. He trudged on gazing at the stores and stood before the bakery.
“G’day, sir! What will you’ve today?” said the baker.
“I’ll have this one here,” said the Mole, eying the brown cookies, pointing a finger at them.
“That will be two pounds an ounce, sir. How much shall I pack?”
“Two pounds? An ounce? What’s that?” asked the Mole, scratching his head.
“Is that a joke, sir? No dough, no chow! Now move on, sir. You’re coming in the way of our regulars,” said the baker.
The Mole left the place, his belly rumbling and his body feeling weak. He settled himself by the pavement where there were no people and tried to think. A tramp came and sat next to him.
“Do you’ve dough?” the Mole asked him.
Hearing that question, the tramp was in stitches. When he stopped laughing, he said, “If I had dough, I wouldn’t be a hobo.”
“Oh! I am pleased to meet another hobo!” said the Mole, doffing his hat.
The tramp was in stitches again. When he stopped laughing, he said, “If you want bob, go get a job.”
When the Mole heard his words, he thanked the tramp and left. He was determined to make dough, so he can have his hands full of the brown cookies. The memory of their aroma made his belly grumble more than ever.
As he walked along the road thinking of where to go, a man in a yellow taxi hollered at him.
“Hey mister, where are you headed? Hop in for a ride!”
The Mole was happy for the offer of help and jumped into the taxi.
“Where to, mister?”
“To the place where I can get a job,” said the Mole.
“Right on, mister!” said the driver, as he changed gear and picked up speed.
In a short time, the taxi was out of the city and racing through the countryside. The Mole watched out of the window and smiled thinking of the job and the dough. He imagined his mouth full of brown cookies.
The sun was setting in the sky. The birds were flying home. The taxi came to a screeching halt in the middle of nowhere. The driver got down, walked around and opening the door grabbed the Mole by his neck and pulled him out.
“You little rascal! Where are you fleeing with those gold buttons? Hand over your coat to me, or else I’ll make you regret the day you were born!” he bellowed.
Frightened out of his wits, the Mole peeled off his coat and tossed it to the driver.
“This won’t look good on you anymore,” said the driver as he snatched the Mole’s hat, along with the coat. Then he shoved the Mole to the ground, climbed into the taxi and roared away into the encroaching darkness.
The Mole sat by the roadside, tears streaming down his face. He wanted to be back in the Great Forest. He didn’t want to be a hobo anymore. He wished he had never left home. As he sat whimpering and rueing his misadventure, he heard screaming in the distance. It came from the woods beside the highway. It sounded like a cry for help. The Mole forgot his sorrows and dashed towards the source. Presently he came to a pond and saw a kitten drowning in the waters. Without thinking twice, the Mole jumped into action. He grabbed the kitten and swam ashore, rescuing the little one from the jaws of death.
When he stood on solid ground again, wet from head to toe; he found himself surrounded by strangers. He couldn’t see their faces because it was already dark.
“Get a light! He’s safe! A hero saved him! God knows where he came from! If not for him, the little one would’ve drowned!” There were voices all around the Mole.
Soon lights appeared, and the Mole was able to see. Standing before him were a Cat, two Rabbits, four squirrels, and two monkeys. The kitten snuggled next to him.
“Welcome! Welcome! We’re indebted to you, Mr. Mole! Stay with us. Be our guest. Let’s go home!” said everyone together.
A big grin spread on the Mole’s face. All his sorrows were gone. Though he was far away from the Great Forest, he felt he was home with his friends at last.
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