The intruder

In the dead of the night, in a tent, on a hill, in an olive grove above the sprawling vista of terracotta rooftiles in Florence she sits bolt upright.

“Did you hear that?”
“Yep, it’s been making that scratchy sound for hours”
“Well what is it?”
“Dunno, maybe we should check”
“You think?”

Sister A reaches for the torch and shines it in the vicinity of the rustling sound in the corner under the bed. Sister B gingerly moves away piles of clothes, books and bags. A frantic yet cautious scan under the bed and over passports and shoes and other traveller’s flotsam reveals a twitching, tubular mass of fuzz, presumably the tail attached to a rather large animal… under the bed and blocking the tent’s zipper and only opening.

“omgod- what do we do?” Older Sister B, wise, all-knowing, 7-year-older-well-travelled-sister-B pleads with sister A
“I dunno..
“omgod omgod omgod it’s MOVING…”

The tail twitches and sashays underneath the canvas cot bed. Only thin layers of fabric stand between the sisters and this beast. Thoughts flash before Sister B’s eyes, of embassies explaining death by cougar or lion or whatever the heck the Italian equivalent is to a hysterical mother in Australia. Sister A is satisfied with pannacotta gelati as her last meal, and tries to deny that this bump-in-the-night has her rattled. It moves again, it’s turning around, the moment of reckoning is upon them…

“awww it’s soooooooooo cute” Sister B squeals on seeing the critters tiny squinting, blinking eyes in the spotlight, its pointed button nose fringed with whiskers nonchalantly scanning the area for the morons who interrupted its midnight snack of biscotti con quattro formaggi. What seemed like a tail was actually the entire animal, a tiny, spikey animal. It stands for a moment and almost audibly harumphs before making a bee-line for the zippered door. “waiiiiiiit!” Sister B is now frantic, searching her pack for the paper and pen. “Here- we need an identikit” she thrusts the art supplies into her illustrator-sister’s bed- “DRAW!” The creature ambles on.

“it’s a hedgehog” Sister A explains
“It’s not a hedgehog- because it has no tail”
“they don’t have tails”

Sister A, swearing under her breath puts pencil to paper and sketches the intruder from  prompts from Sister B.
“It had a smile”
“a what?”
“a smile- it smiled at me”
“it did NOT smile at you”
“yeah- it DID- DRAW A SMILE!”
“can I go to sleep if I draw it a smile?”

Sister A upturns the lines on the illustration’s mouth and calls it a night.

“His name is Russel- because he was rustling” older-wiser-more-sensible-sister-B says.
“Yep” Sister A has had enough.

The following day Sister B proudly shows the camp ranger the picture, and in broken Italian asks its name. “Is hedgehog” he answers.

Sister B makes her way over to the table of fellow travelers and proudly announces that the mystery creature is in fact, a hedgehog … Who knew?




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