A Chapter by Peter Rogerson

Penny is left alone in the Forest in her search for the girl on the tandem


It might have been predicted, but wasn’t because they’d all drunk heartily of the good ale back in The Snowman’s, which is what they affectionately called the pub in the village that was not so far from the edge of the Forest. But it didn’t take long for the crowd of angry drinkers to start melting away and going back home.

I need the toilet,” said Mildred Mopp, “and behind a bush won’t do, not for a woman of my age needing a new hip, and anyway I’m wearing tights...”

And my watch has stopped,” muttered Gordon Gonorrhoea irrelevantly. “I need to know what the time is or a might miss a nice piece of totty if one chances to come by,” he added, equally irrelevantly.

So you can pass something nasty on?” sneered the Landlord.

Piss off,” grated Gordon.

Okay,” said the Landlord, and he did.

And so it went on until there was only Penny Popsickle left, with Farmer Brandyface lurking unseen in the shadows, trying not to look as if he was urinating.

Now Penny, she was a nice girl. Everyone said it, even Gordon who had been attacked firmly in the groin by her knees more than once in the past. She was a nice girl who didn’t know when to give in if something decent needed to be done.

And she hadn’t given in now even though absolutely everyone else quite obviously had.

If I were you I’d give in,” said a voice.

Who are you?” she asked when she couldn’t see anyone.

Me?” came the voice, inquisitively.

Yes. You,” she replied obstinately even though she felt like lifting the hem of her skirt with one hand and fleeing back the way she’d come with both legs racing as fast as they could.

I’m called Prickly,” said the voice, proudly, “friend of Maisy Wickles,” he added with a huge amount of feeling enveloping his voice with a warm something or other.

Who’s Maisy Wickles?” she asked naively.

The love of my life,” he said, “the very, most wonderful, love of my life.”

Then you are indeed a lucky fellow,” she said warmly, “but where are you? I can’t see you and have no idea what is the nature of the gentleman I’m talking to.”

I’m here,” he replied, “not so far from your feet, so I would beg you to be careful where you tread. A person like myself doesn’t appreciate being squashed!”

She looked down and gasped, and took a step backwards. “But you’re a hedgehog!” she exclaimed, “and you can talk! Well, fancy that!

Of course I can talk!” he said indignantly, “we can all talk, here in the forest, but few are my friends and colleagues who can actually speak the tongue of men, for its is considered crude and callous and unworthy.”

I suppose it is sometimes,” she admitted, then she furrowed her brow and continued, “but other times it’s beautiful. I mean, have you read Wordsworth at his romantic best? Or Byron or Keats? Shakespeare even? And Dylan Thomas angry at his father for dying? Or listened to the gentle lyrics of Bob Dylan? Our language can be so rich, so filled with beauty...”

I suppose we have our poets too,” grunted Prickly, “but we don’t like to boast about them!”

I wasn’t boasting, sir.”

Maybe you weren’t.” A moment's silence then he said rather nervously, “you called me sir?”

I was always taught to be polite to strangers,” she said defensively.

That’s nice, then,” he sighed, and asked, “so what are you doing in the forest so far from the paths of men?”

There were many of us, sir,” she said, “and the others, for one reason or another, have gone back home. We were after a girl called Red who was seen riding her bicycle made for two with a wolf on the back seat, and we were going to save her from certain death, but there is only me left and I suppose it is left to me to save the girl, who everyone says is lovely and innocent, from the big bad wolf.”

Ah, the big bad wolf,” sighed Prickly, shaking his quilled head sadly.

You know him, sir?” asked Penny Popsickle, “you know the danger she is in?”

Prickly shook his head sadly. “That I do, my sweet young human,” he said, “for she is in the company of Wolfy who might at any moment, take her by the hand and give that hand a whopping great kiss! He might, if his passions are sufficiently aroused, tell her in no uncertain terms that he will protect her from all evil for ever and ever! It is even possible that he might stroke her hair and croon a gentle lullaby to her before encouraging her to continue with her mission, which is to try and save her wicked uncle, who carries both chainsaw and twelve-bore with him, for that uncle is, as we speak, on the point of death and it is said by the wise that he will certainly die today or tomorrow, for he has partaken of the very poison that he himself placed in our streams of pure water to bring a tragic end to all those who drink it, which is just about everyone in the Forest, I’m sorry to say.”

Penny looked at him, eyes open wide. “That is shocking!” she whispered, “I know him and that he is a greedy fiend who will stop at nothing to enrich himself, no matter what the cost … but to be so indiscriminate, to try to kill innocent creatures, it is worse than evil!”

Less of the creatures if you don’t mind,” murmured Prickly.

I’m sorry, sir,” breathed a contrite Penny Popsickle.

Then that’s alright,” he said, smiling, though she had no idea what a hedgehog smiling looked like and thought he might be grimacing.

But I must find Red,” she decided, “and offer her whatever help I can!”

Then you’ll need this,” came an unexpected and familiar voice from out of the shadows.

It was Farmer Brandyface, buttoning the flies on his trousers and looking relieved, and he held before him a small flask of something aromatic which penny took and examined, sniffing it.

I boil it up it from the most toxic toadstools I can find, and if anything on this world is going to help the wretched brute of a Junkface at his hour of need it’s this. Here, take it, and put a drop or two in his tea. I’ve got one hell of a thirst on me and I’m going home before the blood in my alcohol stream rises to a dangerously high level and I get the dreaded sobers, so goodbye!”

They say Junkface is called Faceless now,” said Prickly, helpfully, “on account of him losing his face...”

© Peter Rogerson 31.10.18

© 2018 Peter Rogerson

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I am enjoying this story! I do want to let you know, however, that Popsicle is spelled without the K. Write on, it's very...absorbing.
I especially liked the part about the blood rising in the alcohol stream!

Posted 2 Years Ago

Peter Rogerson

2 Years Ago

Popsickle, as a proper noun, can be spelled just about anyway, in much the same way as Mannering can.. read more

2 Years Ago

Indeed; I stand corrected. I have learned something today! Thank you, Peter.
Peter Rogerson

2 Years Ago

That's okay and a pleasure! Quite often my names for characters happen almost accidentally by some s.. read more

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1 Review
Added on October 31, 2018
Last Updated on October 31, 2018
Tags: Forest, hedgehog, innocence, Farmer, alcohol, toadstools


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 77 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..