3 – Izzy Beaver
Izzy Beaver was seated in a wicker chair on the deck of his grotto lodge which was situated inside a cave, beneath a cliff, and reinforced by an infrastructure of timber. His self-made home had a most unusual view. It faced a sheer wall of cascading water. This constant fall of water created a humid and misty climate, an atmosphere Izzy enjoyed. The roar of white noise complemented the hideaway ambience of his home. His fingers were crooked around a mug of steaming coffee while the sharp nails of his other paw were clasped to a cinnamon biscotti, being gnawed by his protruding incisors.
His sanctuary was abruptly ruptured by a contraption tearing into the sparkling liquid curtain – accompanied by a garbled yelp – which came and went. Both object and sound were obliterated and drowned out by the waterfall.
Izzy spilled his coffee, dropped his biscuit—lurching to his feet.
“Sun of ‘clipse,” he groused, shuffling across the deck to clutch the railing only a short distance from the downpour of water.
“Tart ‘n feathers!” He grasped the railing and tore his claws into the wood. He ground his teeth, griping incoherently while glaring into the wall of liquid. He was exhausted. He had worked through the night installing another hydraulic wheel to the power grid and was in desperate need of some peace – and sleep.
“Dam–’t–all,” he grumbled, prior to diving into the thundering force of water to rescue whomever it was who had fallen.
After a downward pummeling Izzy regained his equilibrium and maneuvered his way through the rapids. His vision wasn’t the best, but underwater Izzy was adept at swimming around these rock solid obstacles and avoiding collisions. He spotted a whirlpool of light up ahead and surfaced within a relatively calm pocket of shallow water. Which was where he found Angelo Iguana along with the debris of wreckage from some contraption scattered upon an inlet of sand.
Izzy swam up to Angelo whose pale green body was twisted and impelled against a jagged rock. His bright orange jumpsuit was torn, the sleeves shredded. His legs were badly injured and half of his tail was missing. He appeared to be unconscious. Izzy ascertained from the wreckage – spotting fragments of a propeller and segments from what appeared to have once been wings – that it was the result of another failed adventure. To attain flight!
“Rudder sucker,” he cursed. He slapped his tail flat upon the sand, angered by his friend’s reckless disregard for life and limb. The contraption his friend had built was beyond recovery. His breakfast and morning relaxation was also unrecoverable. But ingrained with a commitment to duty and a strong work ethic, Izzy lifted Angelo’s head to apply mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. He cleared the blue tongue from his throat, then placed his whiskered mouth to his friend’s scaly blue lips to blow air into the lungs. Izzy zipped open Angelo’s flight jacket and pumped his chest. He then went back to forcing air into his mouth. Izzy’s efforts after pumping and blowing stimulated a spout of murky water to erupt like a tiny geyser.
Angelo gasped and wheezed. “I’m okay.” He raised a limp arm to wave at the nonexistent crowd of onlookers roaring in a cascade of support for his efforts. “Thank you all for coming.”
“Idiot,” cursed Izzy, “you are not okay.”
Angelo blinked, slowly gaining focus on Izzy’s dripping wet face. “Izzy? Is that you? It worked. I flew!”
Izzy spit into the rocks. “You crashed, ya fool!”
“Only afterwards.” Angelo struggled to sit up. “Oooh-ouch.”
“Look at yourself. You lost your tail. Again.”
“It grows back.” Angelo smiled, wincing as he moved to support his torso against a boulder.
“Doubtful you can stand,” said Izzy.
Angelo examined his torn jumpsuit and mangled limbs. His legs were angled not as they were intended to be, but turned radically inward. “Give me a sec.” Angelo grasped the bolder and struggled to hoist his body upwards. The effort made his eyelids collapse and his body drop like a sack of beans onto the sand bar.
“Suds ‘n a beach!” Izzy wasted no time in lifting his unconscious friend over his shoulder and lugging him across the rocky landscape. The booted soles of his feet were as tough as the uneven terrain and Izzy had Angelo at the gateway of his residence within minutes. The tremendous shower and spray from the waterfall didn’t faze Izzy, in fact he loved it, dripping wet again as they advanced over stepping stones that led to his cave hidden behind the barrier of falling water. He laid Angelo down upon floorboards inside the cage of a hydraulic elevator. The mechanism was constructed from renewable parts of wood and twine and metal. Izzy slammed his fist against the switch. Which shot them vertically into the air guided by a system of pulleys. After zooming several seconds they slowed to a precise stop at the base of a bridge. The entrance to Evolsdog.
Izzy kicked open the cage door. With Angelo hoisted over his shoulder he walked onto the cobblestone street and deposited him in a heap at the base of a monolithic tower. A totem pole housing a polished bronze bell at its spire. It rang noisily as Izzy yanked its chain. The clanging racket roused the town and soon all residents were emerging to peer from their storefronts and homes. As well, it jolted Angelo out of his stone-cold state of unconsciousness.
Awakening at this way station, a place Angelo had become all too familiar with of late, he shifted his head to rest upon a groomed patch of moss and waved his arm at the crowd assembling. “Thanks for your support. I’m okay. I’ll be fine.”
“Says you,” said Izzy, spitting in a flower bed. “Look at yourself. You used to be somebody. Now look at ya.”
“I am still somebody, Izzy.” Angelo smiled, though feeling dazed.
Why his fans who supported his efforts kept moving past him like he was yesterday’s garbage made him curious, craning his neck – which took great effort since his legs were not working properly – to see the phenomenon himself.
A little girl!
She was standing at the foot of the bridge beside Wyatt T. Frog and Riley Crow. Even Izzy promptly abandoned Angelo to enquire about the source of this commotion.
“Mother pumpkin!” Izzy exclaimed.
“Go on without me,” Angelo encouraged with a wave.
Izzy pushed his way through the crowd of idle watchers to get right to the point of the disturbance by walking up to this anomaly. He pulled at his whiskers and tucked the claws of both paws around the straps of his overalls and declared, “Well if eggs don’t beat all. Where in torn nation did you come from?”
“Excuse me?” said Kat.
“Kat, I’d like you to meet Izzy,” said Wyatt.
Izzy gave Kat a no nonsense once-over assessment. “Good glob – if you aren’t a wee bit of a thing-a-ma-gig.”
His words baffled her. “Are you… a beaver?”
“Would it make a hill of bees if I was or wasn’t? No.”
“You’re not?” “Of course I am! What are you?”
“A girl.” Kat rubbed the fabric of her dress with her thumb and fingers to calm herself while she looked toward Wyatt for help.
The frog gave her a thin smile and a squint of reassurance. “Izzy has a unique relationship with words.”
“Hats ‘re a fact,” said Izzy. “Never seeds the likes of somebody with your kinda growth.”
“I woke up here,” said Kat. “Which was a surprise for me.”
“Fingers as much.” Izzy rubbed his teeth with a fingernail.
Kat braved a smile and stared at the assemblage of creatures – rabbits, possums, skunks – who looked as shocked to see her as she was to see them. All were standing upright, wearing clothing and strangely the same height as herself. Among the crowd she saw the long face and shadowy eyes of a baboon who was studying her as he puffed smoke from a pipe. Several mice, looking like schoolchildren, one holding a soccer ball, were outfitted in matching jerseys and all tittering. A skittish-looking tarsier with its wide eyes was clutching flowers that shook. The white-feathered cockatoo sporting a yellow mohawk widened her black beak to let out a screech.
What kept Kat calm was the warm surroundings of the village. It was an equally bright and shady place nestled among redwoods at the base of a hill that rose from trees into a spiraling steep mountain. Kat stood on cobblestones that appeared to be the main street which led through an assortment of quaint buildings constructed from river rocks and timber. Each structure appeared unique and yet there was an overall feeling of uniformity. She saw the many arched windows, slated roofs, shingled walls. She noticed an ornate spiral staircase ascending into a tree. The cobblestones cut a path through the town to form a valley. Beyond were streets that branched off and wound uphill past homes adorned with flower boxes. From this valley floor two slopes emerged to spiral into a mountain peak. Spangled leaves from dark green oaks and golden poplars adorned the foothills. Far above, upon the mountain ridge, Kat saw a cluster of color.
She gazed overhead into the sky, a place more familiar than this quaint little village. She recalled lying on her back upon the slanted roof of her home, her mind drifting with the white cumulus clouds overhead and realizing her body too was as mutable as a cloud. When she looked back down from the sky, Kat was struck by an odd sensation. It was as if she was standing inside a storybook.
Izzy whistled. “Somebody sure done cats a spell on you, girl.”
“Excuse me?” said Kat.
“Her name is Kat,” said Wyatt.
Izzy expelled another whistle. “If rats don’t take the cake.”
“And,” Riley announced, “she is under arrest!”
Kat blinked. “I am?”
Izzy yawned. “I too could use some rest.”
“I said arrest!” said Riley.
Izzy rubbed his eyes and blinked.
“Wake up!” said Riley, “I caught Wyatt trying to smuggle this creature in here. But I intervened – stopping them!”
Izzy scratched his whiskers. “But you’ve let the girl inside.”
Riley stiffened, tucking back his wings. “That is here nor there, she is now under my surveillance.”
“Okay, swell, then I’m off to take that nap,” said Izzy.
“No!” said Riley. “There could be an insurrection!”
“An insurrection?” said Izzy.
“She could blow up the entire power grid.”
“The power grid!?” Izzy shook off his drowsiness and reassessed Kat with a vigorous squint. “You’d do that?”
“Yes!” said Riley.
“No,” said Kat.
“What’s a power grid?”
“See how clever she is?” Riley stomped. “So sly! Insidious.”
“I am not insidious – or harmful,” said Kat.
“Says who? You?” squawked Riley.
“It’s Riley’s paranoia talking,” said Wyatt.
“Stop saying that!” Riley ruffled his cape of wings.
“Feather ‘t down,” said Izzy. “Who’s this Para Nora?”
“Nobody,” said Wyatt. “This girl is simply lost.”
“How’d you become this wee bit-a-of-thing?” Izzy asked.
“Honestly,” Kat said, “I wish I could tell you.”
“Because,” said Riley, “she refuses.”
“No! Because I don’t know,” said Kat.
“Hell’s bells,” said Izzy. “Then where’d ya come from?”
Wyatt interjected. “I saw her fall from the sky.”
“She fell from the sky!?” said Izzy.
“Like a comet!” Riley dashed Kat’s head with his wing.
“Hey!” Kat straightened her mussed hair.
“Smack dab into Twain River meadow!” Riley gave a nod to Izzy who gave Wyatt a suspicious squint.
“Why’d ya vent yourself so fur beyond the gates?”
Wyatt clenched the top of his pine needle. “I went to paint.”
“Paint?” spat Izzy. “Ain’t no homes need of paint’n out there.”
“On a canvas. I’m an artist. Remember?”
Riley said, “So show us this supposed art you painted.”
“I left it all there. My brushes, paints, along with the easel.”
“Why’d ya take the weasel?” said Izzy.
“An easel. It holds the canvas.” Wyatt tipped his walking stick toward Kat. “I left everything there to help guide this girl here.”
“I saw his canvas. It’s true,” said Kat with a tentative a smile.
“Who asked you?” said Riley.
Izzy tapped his incisors with the tips of his pointed fingernails. “You don’t belong here, young lady. Not like this, you don’t.”
“Like what?” Kat appealed. “I only want to go home.”
“So do I.” Izzy stretched and yawned. “Been up all night.”
“Are you the Prime Minister?” asked Kat.
“No, Wick is,” said Wyatt. “Izzy’s the Chief Engineer.”
Izzy tugged at his overalls. “I run the works around here.”
Riley lifted his goggles. “But who protects the works? Me!”
Izzy huffed. “I’m a fixer. Things break, I fix ‘em.”
Kat asked him, “Can you fix, I mean, help me get home?”
“Are you broken?”
“I don’t think I am.”
“I can’t fix ya if ya ain’t broke.”
Izzy pulled out a hammer from his tool belt like it was a pistol. Held by its claw, he brandished and pointed the wooden shaft down the street. “You bust a gut, you go see Doc Owen. You aim to break a leg on stage, you go see Scarlet. You lose your nut, go see Hazel. To unravel your mind, ya go see Zhena. But stay clear of Camille, you hear?”
“She’s a shade of something not quite there. Ya can’t fix that.”
“She means well,” said Wyatt. “We think.”
Izzy holstered his hammer. “Little girl, not only did I build the grid, I invented it.” He took out a tape measure to scratch the hook against his forehead as if erasing something, then extended its blade to point with it up the hill. “If truth be gold – which it certainly is – the source of wisdom came from Prater, the professor. Who lives up yonder, inside a gold box.”
Kat glimpsed a golden sparkle at the top of the mountain.
Izzy added, “But it’s me, I tell ya, who created iconometric.”
Kat asked politely, “What is that?”
“Negative mixing with the positive. Yin-yang. Heard ‘f it?”
“Yes, but… that makes no sense.”
Izzy groused, “Nor do you. How’s you get to be so small?”
“I was born this way.”
The congestion of onlookers was tightening around them.
Izzy took from his tool belt a slab of stone to spit on. He pulled out a buck knife and held it aloft. The crowd backed away. With a chuckle he began to grind the blade. “You hit the snail on its head. Things don’t happen with no reason. It’s gotta rhyme. Make sense to the dollar. Knows how I mean? Needs to fit. Together.”
“I guess. But…” Kat looked at Wyatt for help.
“But you do not!” Izzy pointed the knife at Kat.
“That’s enough,” said Wyatt, stepping between them.
Izzy leveled his knife at Wyatt’s throat. “Whose side ya on? Stay away from me ya green-horned toad.”
“He’s a tree frog.” Kat quickly regretted saying it.
Izzy swung the blade at her. “I’m a dam site exhausted, Missy, and liable to burst. So don’t open my flood gates! Riley, keep this frog from hopping in my face again. And do your due diligence and instigate a measure of crowd control around here! Pronto!”
Riley squawked at his squad of crows who descended from the trees to land beside him. Four hustled back the crowd. The other two flew off with Riley after a brief consultation.
Izzy rubbed his eyes with the back of his paw, then refocussed his fuzzy eyesight on Kat. “You think you can just waltz into our world where you don’t belong? It ain’t proper. It ain’t!”
“But I didn’t—”
“What!?” said Izzy. “Come here to infiltrate?”
“No,” said Kat.
“Blow up the power grid?”
“No. I don’t care about your stupid power grid!”
A collective gasp arose from the crowd which startled her.
Izzy stabbed his knife into a sign post. “What’d ya say?”
“Nothing. I didn’t mean anything.”
“Every cog has to fit to function,” said Izzy. “To have a purpose. No, not you. You fell from the sky – like a lose cog – like a – like a – a wench thrown in to bust my gears.”
Kat cried, “But I don’t want to even be here!”
“Poppy-talks!” Izzy dug his claws into her arm.
“Ouch,” said Kat, “that hurts. Let go of me!”
Izzy tugged her through the congestion of onlookers who parted as his other arm pointed this way and that. “Gardener. Merchant. Seamstress. Cook. Carpenter. Crook!” Izzy aimed his forefinger at a skulking skunk. “You owe me big time, Stinky.”
The skunk scuttled off. He lifted his tail in a rude gesture.
“Waste collector,” explained Izzy. “But you, little girl—”
“My name is Kat,” said Kat.
“Cat?” said Izzy. “You ain’t no cat. If Riley has his eye on you, then so do I. I aim to find out why you came, what it is you want, and who sent you.”
“Ouch, you’re hurting me!” Kat looked for Wyatt.
More town creatures had come to gather and ogle.
Izzy growled, “She’s under my jurisdiction! So back off!”
Riley flew down to land beside Izzy. He scampered and hopped to keep up with the beaver’s fast pace. “She’s mine, Izzy! You have no right to keep her! Finders keepers.”
Izzy swiped his metal ruler at Riley. “Be useful. Go get Wick!”
“Wick? Wick’s useless. He has no opinions. He—”
“That’s why we need him,” said Izzy. “Now go!”
Riley griped but pulled down his goggles and flew off.
Izzy clutched down on Kat’s arm. She cried out as he trudged her down the street. Wyatt was pushing to get past the throng who were trailing behind Izzy and Kat like debris from a comet. The mob was so thick and tightly bound Wyatt had no room to bend his legs and leap above them.
Angelo Iguana was on a collapsible gurney as the horde passed, being lifted onto a flatbed cart by two raccoons in white uniforms. One of the paramedics stayed in back to secure Angelo while the other hopped behind the wheel into a buggy seat. The driver wrung his paws compulsively, cleaning them, before he powered up the steam engine, sending puffs of billowing white smoke into the air.
“What about him?” asked Kat, pointing to the iguana.
“What about who?” huffed Izzy.
“If everyone here is a cog that fits,” said Kat, “then—”
“Village idiot,” snorted Izzy. “Every town needs one.”
Wyatt landed on his feet a few paces in front of Izzy, pleased with his acrobatic feat, but was pushed aside by Izzy moving fast.
“That lizard calls himself an inventor. Haugh—I say!”
“What does he invent?” Kat was trying to make conversation while being yanked along, hoping this beaver would take pity on her.
“Nothing. Not a dam thing that’s ever worked worth a dam.”
“Angelo’s a risk taker. Takes risks. Risky. I admire that.”
“Ouch,” said Kat.
“Am I hurting you?”
“Good. Life is supposed to hurt. According to Angelo.”
“Ya got bats in your ears? That crazy lizard. Used to be right in the mind,” chided Izzy. “He’s ill equipped, yet determined to fly. Angelo’s that thing who thinks he has feathers.”
“Oh,” said Kat. “I know. From that poem?”
“Poem? Who we talking about?”
“My mother used to recite it. The thing with feathers? It means someone who has hope.”
“No it don’t,” muttered Izzy. “It means he’s a dam fool.”
The vehicle transporting Angelo chugged past them and the injured iguana seemed at peace, as if traveling to his coronation, or funeral, and gave Kat a dignified yet restrained wave since his wrists were synched down by straps.
Kat waved back with her free hand.
As the ambulance ventured up the hill, from behind it appeared a most unusual apparition. It appeared to be dressed entirely in blue. Body and face too, in similar hues. Izzy stopped in his tracks and blurted out a garbled expletive and changed his trajectory.
“Oh, you–who, Izzy! I’ve been looking all over for you!”
Both Izzy and Kat stopped. The crowd behind them too. Which allowed Wyatt to hop up beside them.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
Kat said, “Does it look like I am? Who or what – is that?”
“Hello, Camille,” said Wyatt, touching his beret.
“Where are we all traveling to in such a mad rush?”
Kat realized this blue thing was a woman. The sheer gown she wore flowed and floated like an ethereal cloud nestled around her body. She had a svelte physique with delicate, if not anorexic, limbs. Her movement seemed unsteady, her arms wavering as if to help her navigate through a sultry breeze. Yet there was no wind. Her face was obscured by a veil of fabric attached to her hat that resembled a tiny wedding cake. Her head was disproportionately larger than her slender body. Except for her long tail coiled tightly like the swirl of a fern shoot. Yet her eyes, Kat realized, were the most disconcerting, moving and protruding independently like gyroscopes.
Izzy stammered, “C-c-can’t you see I’m busy, Camille?”
“Izzy, you are always on the move. Slow down and accompany me on my next grand excursion.”
“A tempting offer. I’ll be sure to con fritter it.”
“And who—pray tell—is this?”
“This is Kat,” said Wyatt.
“A cat?” said Camille. “How very curious. I suppose you could be. I do see a resemblance.”
“Are you…” said Kat. “Aren’t you a chameleon?”
“Camille.” Her gloved hand, shaped like a claw, touched Kat’s chin. “I am many things, darling.”
“That we know,” said Izzy. “Nice to see ya, gotta go.”
“Always in a rush.” Camille rolled her eyes and unfurled her tail, turning her head to address Kat. “To be elsewhere. Except with me. I travel, you see. Yesterday I was in Venice.”
“Italy?” Kat was pleased to hear someplace she recognized.
Wyatt quietly shook his head at Kat.
“The length of my stay, who can say. But it was magnifique!”
“She’s never been anywhere,” whispered Wyatt.
“Greece, Spain, Moscow, next a safari. In Africa—imagine that! My itinerary is over-booked. Overly full.”
“That sounds… exciting,” said Kat to be polite.
“But I want to hear about you. Where did you come from?
She glanced at Wyatt. “I fell from the sky.”
“Are you from the moon? I have been meaning to go there.”
“No surprise,” grumbled Izzy. “Now, excuse us—”
“Gravity here can be so overwhelming. Don’t you agree?”
Izzy pulled Kat by the arm. “Like I told ya, gotta go.”
Camille snapped, “Don’t you walk away from me!” Izzy shouted back, “I can—will—and am.” Glancing over her shoulder Kat saw Camille change color from a placid aqua to a vibrant green. Her hands were balled into fists. And her eyes whirling before realigning on Kat. “And—why—her? Why—is—she—here!?”
“It’s best we keep moving,” said Izzy.
Kat was struck on her neck by something sticky – which pulled her backwards.
Izzy dug his claws into her arm. “Hold on!”
Kat panicked when she saw a wad of purple attached to her.
“Camille! Dam you! Let her go!”
Izzy lost his grip on Kat. She screamed, dragged backwards over the cobblestones until stopped by Wyatt who leapt in front of her to prevent further movement. Suctioned to Kat’s neck was Camille’s tongue and he yanked it off. The wad of flesh sprung like a rubber band pulled taut and released – whipping through the crowd. Until sucked back into the chameleon’s mouth.
Shocked by the ordeal, Kat felt her neck. She examined the claw marks to her arm. Blood was oozing from her skin.
“You’re hurt,” said Wyatt.
“It’s not that bad,” said Kat.
She was much more concerned and curious about this creature, Camille, who was now sauntering away. Her entire body had turned a mustard yellow.
Wyatt helped Kat to her feet.
Izzy came back to repossess her arm.
Kat asked them, “Why did she attack me?”
The beaver pulled her along. “Cause ya don’t belong here.”