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The Poison Medicine


     Rita the Raccoon lived in a small hollow log, at the edge of the woods. She had lived many years (for a raccoon) with her husband, Rudolf the Raccoon, and they had raised six little raccoons, who dwelt in remote parts of the forest. A few months previous, Rudolf had become ill with a mysterious ailment. When Koko the owl gave him a check-up, he announced that there was no chance of recovery at all for Rudolf. In despair, Rudolf lost all appetite for food and refused to eat the mussels and other dainties, that Rita and others brought him. Within days, he had passed away, much to the great grief and shock of Rita and their friends and family.
     Rita found it very hard to live without Rudolf, as they had spent very many years (for raccoons) together. She valiantly strove to adjust to living without Rudolf, as did her children and friends. Rudolf had been a devoted husband to Rita and had planned ahead for her to live without him, having elaborately carved out their log with many amenities and saved up many unique shells, which were used by the forest animals for trading.
     Koko the Owl suggested that Rita visit Vance the Vulture, because she had high blood pressure for a raccoon and they thought she had weak kidneys. Rita had been taking a special clover leaf every day, and it calmed her and made her blood pressure normal, and Koko had recommended this remedy. However, Vance the Vulture would have none of that! He told Rita to forget about the clover leaf. “What you need is the newest, most modern remedy—mudpoppy!!” Mudpoppy was a mud, which the otters dug up from the bottom of the river.
     “Why do I need this mud?” asked Rita with disgust, “the clover worked fine.”
     Vance the Vulture smiled broadly and said, “At the Forest Medical Institute, where I earned my medical wings, this mudpoppy was the newest, most modern remedy for raccoon high blood pressure.”
     Rita reluctantly took a fancy shell and went to visit the otters, to trade for this special mudpoppy. However, when she asked Otto the Otter for a spoonful of mudpoppy, his eyes nearly popped out of his head, “Is that for you?” he asked in shock.
     “Why, yes,” replied Rita. “Vance the Vulture told me to take a spoonful of mudpoppy a day to relieve my raccoon high blood pressure.”
     “NO WAY!!!” shrieked Otto the Otter, “That dose is way too high for you!!! That dose is only allowed for Matt the Moose, who is many, many times larger than you are!!!”
     “Oh,” murmured Rita in surprise. She turned and scurried off to the clearing by the jagged cliffs, where the vultures lived. There she met Vicky the Vulture, Vance’s wife and secretary. Vicky strutted elegantly toward Rita and cocked her head and peered at Rita curiously and with some derision. Rita said, “Vance, your husband, sent me to buy mudpoppy from the otters and to take a spoonful a day for my raccoon high blood pressure. But Otto the Otter said that that dose is much too high for a little raccoon, like me, and is more correct for a large moose, like Matt.”
     “Nonsense, “ cawed Vicky shrilly, as she flapped her wings. “I am going to tell Otto a thing or two.” She flapped her wings and flew off in a rage and a whir. Rita saw her circling in the sky, a black form heading for the river.
     As Rita sat in her cozy log home, there was a rap on the door. She opened the door and Melvin the field Mouse scurried inside and set a large pouch on her kitchen table. Melvin squeaked, “That will be twenty blue mussel shells, please.”
     "What is that?” demanded Rita tersely.
     “This is the mudpoppy, that you are supposed to take. Vicky the Vulture sure told off Otto the Otter for being so ignorant and stupid. Everyone knows you raccoons need to take a spoonful of mudpoppy for high blood pressure.”
     “Oh,” wailed Rita the Raccoon reluctantly, “Well, I guess Vance the Vulture should know best—after all, he went to the Forest Medical Institute of Animal Health, I guess.” She wobbled slowly to the back of her log den and opened a tiny door, just her size, leading into an underground tunnel. A few minutes later, she emerged and scurried back with a pouch and handed it to Melvin. He turned it over and poured out the contents—a shiny pile of blue shells spilled out and he counted them one by one, twenty, altogether. He carefully piled them back into the pouch, slung it over his shoulder and nodded at Rita. “I’m sure you will be satisfied,” he slurred, grinning widely, and clicked his shiny mouse shoes together at the heels and scurried out the door and down the forest lane. Rita peered out the door and watched him disappear.
     What Rita did not see was that Voko the Vulture, the brother of Vance, swooped down from the sky, spreading his wings and landed in front of Melvin. Melvin squeaked in fright, “I delivered the mudpoppy, like you said, and here are the blue mussels.”
     “Good work, Melvin,” sneered Voko, “And now, I’ll take the blue mussels and you to my brother, Vance, for dinner.”
     Melvin caught the sarcasm in Voko’s voice and knew that he was the intended dinner. He saw that he had been betrayed, duped and fooled. With is quick wit, he shrieked, “Eeek …. They are too hot!” and threw the pouch of mussels behind Voko, where they tumbled down a rocky embankment, into a stream. Distracted, Voko turned around and swooped to get the pouch, but it was too late. The blue, shiny mussels, valued so much to the forest animals, spilled out of the pouch, into the fast-flowing ravine. Melvin took advantage of Voko’s confusion and scurried into the dense underbrush, where he quickly found refuge in a hollow tree. Voko was enraged, having lost both the blue mussels and the “dinner guest”. He did not dare to face the anger of his brother at his miserable failure and flapped his black wings and took off for the rocky crags, on the distant edge of the forest, where the eagles lived.
     Rita the Raccoon observed the pouch of mudpoppy, lying on her table. She measured a spoonful and poured it into a small gourd and mixed it with pond water and drank it.
     The days went by and every day, Rita took a spoonful of mudpoppy with water with her breakfast of minnows, that she caught in the brook. One day, her son, Ricky stopped by to bring her a crab that he had fished out of the brook. “Mama, “ he observed,
“You look quite odd—very plump and pale. Is something the matter?”
     “I don’t know, “ squeeked Rita weakly, surprised that she could hardly talk. She tried to form another sentence, but the words would not come out. Ricky saw that debris was covering the usually spotless log floor of his mother’s den, but she seemed to pay no attention and just sat in the chair, with a glazed look in her eyes.
     “What is the matter with you,” he demanded with apprehension. Rita stared at him with a dull expression and said nothing.
     Suddenly Ricky spied the pouch of mudpoppy on the kitchen table. He sniffed it and said, “Mudpoppy? Where did you get this?”
     Rita then, with great difficulty, managed to whisper an account of the story about Vance the Vulture’s prescription of one spoonful of mudpoppy and Otto the Otter’s warning.
     “That’s weird,” drawled Ricky, “You seem kind of sick to me. Why did he tell you to take the mudpoppy instead of the clover, which you were taking since I was a little raccoon?”
     “He said it was a more modern medicine,” Rita managed to whisper.
     Ricky grabbed the pouch of mudpoppy and scurried out the door. He ran deep into the forest brush and hurled the contents of the pouch all over the ground. Then he scurried away to the meadow, where clover and wild flowers grew among the grasses and he gathered a bouquet of clover and an healing herb, rose-thorn, for his mother and brought it to her.
     Rita was dosing in her moss-covered armchair and weakly thanked Ricky and went back to sleep.
     The word spread through the forest that Rita was not well. Her friends made sure that her table was daily stocked with mussels, clams, minnows or crabs, but she barely nibbled at them. Though her tummy was swollen and painful, she was getting thinner and weaker by the day.
     Koko the Owl visited her and looked into her mouth and eyes and said that she had contracted a serious disease for raccoons, called “mangu” and recommended that she visit Vill the Vulture, who happened to be a distant relative of Vance. Rita was uncomfortable to see another vulture graduate of the Forest Medical Institute, but Vill was known for having success in treating the disease, “mangu”. Rita’s friends took turns pulling her in a little cart, that Rudolf had made her years ago, to visit Vill the Vulture. Her performed different tests on her. Ricky took her on one visit and Vill told them that her case of mangu was mild and could easily be treated with doses of crab apple seed. The only problem was that crab apple seed would make her feel sick and weak, but also cure her from mangu, if she survived the treatment.
     Rick the Raccoon was very concerned that his mother would be able to tolerate the crab apple seed and survive this harsh treatment. She barely ate anything now and often forgot where her things were. He decided to move in with her mother for awhile. Every hour, he insisted that she eat a tasty crab or healthy herb, even against her protestations. Days passed, day by day, and slowly, Rita began to eat more regularly.
     Rita’s forest friends had been so helpful, bringing her dainty foods, which she did not eat, and dragging her carriage to visit Vill the Vulture for his treatments. But they were very worried about Rita’s forgetfulness and weakness, and also Ricky’s great concern and worry. Often when Ricky waddled to the river to catch minnows, Barb the Badger approached him, wailing, “I am so worried about your mother!! What will become of her, when you go home? Oh! Oh!” she wailed and ambled away. Wanda the Weasel cornered him on the path, “You young folk are all the same, “ she screeched, “Why, the Forest Council will nail you for not caring for your mother! How could you let her get so sick? You need to get more help for her, or else the Forest Council will fine you and throw you in jail for the rest of your life!! There are laws about things like this!”
     Despite these verbal attacks, Ricky managed to find food for his mother and clean the den. Wanda and Barb often came by, to visit Rita and bring her food and they gave advice to Ricky.
     One day, Wanda and Barb both came together and demanded to visit Rita. They all sat down at the little kitchen table and Ricky served the ladies mussel tea. Wanda and Barb both chimed in together, “Rita, we are so worried about you. You can’t live like this. You must either go live in the oak forest with Ricky and his family or you must move into the huge redwood log, with the other elderly forest folk.”
     “Yes,” continued Barb, “and maybe you should not continue the mangu treatments, because it is too hard for you.”
     Ricky became angry and silent and Rita began to weep. Ricky said, “Thank you for your concern and all the help you have given my mama. However, she wants to stay in this grand old log home, that my father and she built together and where they raised my brothers and sisters. I intend to make sure that she does.”
     Barb and Wanda looked at each other doubtfully. They cared for Rita and Ricky, but they were so worried. The forest animals did not think that Rita would recover. In fact, Vill the Vuture had spread the word that he did not expect Rita to recover form mangu, even with his treatments. However, Ricky believed that Rita would recover. He made sure that she had healthy foods every day and when he could not be there, he hired a troupe of opossums to bring her food and keep the log tidy. Pretty soon, Rita’s other children visited, one by one, eating meals with her and helping her—the whole raccoon clan—Robby, Rachel, Ryan, Rodney and Rosco and their families came.
     Every day, Ricky bowed his raccoon head and prayed for healing and good health for his mother, Rita. Rita continued the mangu treatments and the side effects made her sick. But she grew stronger and stronger and eventually was completely cured of mangu and lived many years, to see her great-great-great grandchildren.
     As for the final outcome of the Vulture doctors and mudpoppy, this will have to be for a future story….