Badboy Badger caressed his martial black coat with some satisfaction, as he surveyed the fauna gathered below him in the greenly grassed hillside. “My dear colleagues!” He boomed. “My fellow Recoverers! Word has come down from Headquarters about a new, most important, most thrilling mission, so I need critters three, to brave death with me! Be bold and be free: I need critters three!”

Rat and hare and bat and hen, goose and hedgehog shouted then:

“Me! Me! Me! I’ll Recover!”

But Lousey Mousey and Wacko Mole and Nobull Frog had already scampered and tunneled and hopped up the hill. Badboy Badger greeted the volunteers, and the rest of the Army of Recoverers knew to retreat back to warrens and burrows, to dens and to ponds. As they departed, Badboy Badger fare-welled them:

“You’ll be called upon too! Wait your turn. The sun waits its turn, and so does the moon; if your chance won’t come now, then it’s going to come soon. For the world always needs something Rescued, something Borrowed, or something Saved.”

And he is right as the light is bright, because it is up to the Army of Recoverers to do the small-but-decisive deeds that humans (those pesky humans, those pitiful humans) cannot do.

So Lousey Mosey loosened his needling sword from the scabbard and emitted an enthusiastic squeak: “What can I do for Headquarters, Badboy Badger?”

“You can listen to the call of adventure,” Badboy Badger said. “Swing your hammer, Wacko Mole! Leap after me, Nobull Frog! Up and over, we’ll recover!”

The trio followed Badboy Badger down the far side of the hill, then into increasingly unwelcoming brushes that suddenly parted to reveal a purple plain where the wind was whipping the rain into a frenzy. Through the sodden plain they went on, until their march came to a halt by the banks of a turbulent river.

“There it is.” Badboy Badger was solemn in his announcement, and a tremulous claw pointed toward a brambly shrub some yards from the river’s run. Something white and red and ragged, like a surrender flag spotted by war, was caught among the thorny leaves.

“Someone’s croaked,” said Nobull Frog.

Badboy Badger, always aware of the necessity of ceremony, stood on his hind legs: “Headquarters has sent word that there’s a fallen comrade here. It appears to be none other than Post-person Whitedove. It appears that Post-person Whitedove lost contact with Headquarters mid-flight and tragically, well, DOVE to his doom (Or HER doom, I can’t tell with Post-people Birds!) I will not worry any of you with the delicious matter of the body’s disposal. What concerns Headquarters is that this Post-person Whitedove was the carrier of a letter, a highly important missive that must be recovered, must be retrieved, it MUST reach its destination. Why? My cherished colleagues, when Headquarters calls on the Recoverers, what do we say?”

“Kick ‘em in the nads!” Wacko Mole raised his hammer against the enemy hosts he always persisted in hallucinating.

“We DON’T flicking say that,” Nobull Frog blinked in disapproval. Lousey Mousey, (who was already using his sword to saw down the dove from its brambly shroud) tactfully said:

“Why don’t you remind us, oh wise Badboy Badger? What DOES one say when Headquarters calls?”

Pleased by Lousey Mousey’s manners, Badboy Badger said: “Well, one can say quite a lot! For instance:

‘Why say “nay,” when we can obey?’ or

‘Recoverers don’t ask! They’re too quick to the task!’ or

‘A question in the head is what got the cat dead!’”

And he finished saying this just as Lousey Mousey and Nobull Frog extracted the dove from its vegetable grave. (Wacko Mole was busy tramping around and testing his hammer’s heft; so given to his business, in fact, that he nearly fell into the nearby river.) The Recoverers (two of them anyway) proceeded to Recover a satchel from the dead bird’s side. Within the satchel was an envelope. Within the envelope was a letter that Lousey Mousey proceeded to recite:

Dear Mrs. X:

I am writing this epistle to notify you that I can not fight this feeling any longer, and yet I am still afraid to let it flow. What started out as friendship has grown stronger. I only wish I had the strength to let it show. Even as I wander (as I am wont to do), I am keeping you in sight. Seems to me you live your life like a candle in the wind. No. Wait. Different song. You’re a candle on a window on a cold dark winter’s night. I do believe I am getting closer than I ever thought I might. And I can not fight this feeling anymore. I have forgotten what I started fighting for. I intend to bring this ship into the shore, throw away the oars, crawl upon your floor, come crashing through the door. Baby. I can not fight this feeling anymore. Sincerely, Mr. R. E. O. Speedwagon.

“Enough,” Nobull Frog said.

Lousey Mousey lowered the letter. “That’s just the front. There’s something in the back about ‘Keep on Loving You.'”

Nobull Frog practically leapt with anger: “What the flicking fly is WRONG with humans? A good dove wasted on this?”

Badboy Badger waved his paws: “Hold on, good fellas. Hold on. It’s best to have gumption and not jump to an assumption! Sure, this seems like the most pathetic of all possible love confessions. But maybe we’re being tested by Headquarters. I mean, this could be a very important encrypted war communique’!”

Wacko Mole said, “Or he’s got no nads! The guy’s got no ‘nads!”

Lousey Mousey said, “It sounds honest enough, Boss. Cheesier than the moon and with twice as many holes, but stinking of sincerity!”

“This is the kind of mission they flicking give us? Retrieving love notes?” Nobull Frog was turning an apoplectic shade of green, (which was barely distinguishable from his usual, more pastoral shade of green.) “Sacre cuisses de grenouille!”

At this point a coo was heard, a lugubrious sound. Then a shudder of wings. Wacko Mole turned around and joyfully said:

“The pigeon isn’t deceased! It hasn’t passed on! It has not expired! It has returned from meeting its maker and it is alive and well! It is loose! It is suddenly lustful for life! If it wasn’t for the brambles it’ll have taken right back to the heavens! Its metabolic processes are fully functional! It should be back up on the branch! It’s come down from the gallows! It’s pepped up and gotten a second wing! It has an encore in him! It is FULLY RECOVERED!”

Lousey Mousey, who was more practical, had knelt by the dove’s fluttering breast. “The heart is still beating, Badboy Badger. Faint, but I can hear it. What should we do?” He spoke into the Whitedove’s ear: “Can you hear me, colleague? We are the Recoverers!”

The agonizing Post-Person Whitedove said, “I… I passed out mid-flight. But I think I can… I think I can make it again. Broke wings on crash landing. But. Let’s be optimistic. I was told… It was a very important letter, see. A boy is in love with a girl and he wants to express his feelings and although it is unrequited…”

“Unrequited?” Badboy Badger ran up to the dove’s prostrate body. “Enough feathery talk, is it dead or not?”

“He’s practically dead, Badboy Badger. And he’s only got a stupid unrequited love letter to deliver. This was a waste of our time. I say we put him out of his misery!”

“When you’re right, you’re right, and that’s bright as light! So, how do we do this one?”

Wacko Mole yelped, “Hammer to the ‘nads! Hammer to the ‘nads!”

The dove thrashed, with the last few frantic contractions of its heart: “NO, PLEASE! I AM A MESSENGER OF LOVE! HELP ME! LOVE WILL FIND A WAY!”

“Shut your beak,” said Nobull Frog, as Lousey Mousey stuck his needling sword into the dove’s terrified eyeball.

After it was all over, Badboy Badger wiped his mouth and said: “My dear colleagues. I will never understand unrequited love. It’s such a dumb, misplaced emotion. A drunken dance of one, a delusion, a mirage. Perhaps we should spare some sympathy for it and move on.”

“For flick’s sake,” Nobull Frog said. “Let’s hop away from this sad scene. What say you, Badboy Badger?”

And since Badboy Badger agreed that what’s simple and true doesn’t have to be new, the four good friends set out for yet another exciting adventure – but that, as Lousey Mousey would say, is a tail for another day.


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