When Vinci and Sawbuck met for the first time
By Candy Dewalt
Vinci © Candy Dewalt Sawbuck © Albert Temple
With a flourish, the raccoon finished writing next Monday's date on the
whiteboard, just under 'Good Morning!' There. All set for the upcoming
week. He could go home and relax now.
"Pardon me, Mr. Nickelaids, is it?"
Vinci turned to see a parent standing in the door; Jonny's father. He
had only met the giraffe in passing at Open House, but was often
treated to stories about him by his exuberant son, who idolized his
dad. Vinci almost felt like he knew the man. "Hello. It's 'Nicolaides',
actually. The 'D' throws everyone off; it's more of a 'T' sound." He
laughed apologetically, as though embarrassed by the confusion his last
name tended to cause.
Vinci blinked, a bit put off by the giraffe's response. He tried not to show it. "What can I do for you, Mr. Miles?"
"Jonathan tells me you have a new student in his class. A human?" Mr.
Miles craned his neck towards the raccoon, squinting slightly.
"We sure do! Abigail's a great kid. She and Jonny have really hit it off, as a matter of fact."
Vinci blinked again, rapidly. His hands immediately went to his glasses, adjusting them. "Excuse me?"
"Do you mean to tell me, Mr. Nickel-hades--"
"Nicolaides," Vinci interrupted feebly.
"Whatever. Do you seriously think that it is all right to allow a -human- into your classroom with these young children?"
"I don't see a problem with it."
"You must not be aware, then, of what the humans are responsible for, and how they view us."
"Actually, I'm well aware," Vinci said. He cleaned his glasses on his
shirt, just to have something to do with his hands, anything to keep
him calm. The raccoon placed the glasses back on the bridge of his
muzzle. "And I also know that times are changing rather rapidly. We
know it, and the humans know it. We all need to work towards an
understanding, not teach our children more hatred."
Mr. Miles sputtered in outrage. "You aren't helping your students, you're sheltering them from reality!"
Now Vinci did something he rarely ever was able to do. He snapped.
"Sir, one of us is definitely sheltered from reality, and it isn't me."
The giraffe pointed menacingly at the small raccoon. "I came to inform
you that Jonathan is being pulled from your classroom at once. I will
not allow him to stay in such a debilitating environment." Vinci's eyes
narrowed. "And if I have my way, you'll be kissing your license
goodbye." The giraffe flung open the classroom door and stormed out of
the room, craning his neck in to lob one final insult. "You might as
well pack up and head back to your old country."
visibly as the giraffe finally departed with a loud slam of the door.
He sat down on a desk, shaking, whether from fury or nerves, he
couldn't tell. "Huh, frightening. Bigotry's still alive and well."
"And then-- And THEN he tells me to pack up and go back to my old
country! Can you believe the nerve?" Vinci gestured wildly, as he often
did when he talked. The garden hose he held in one hand jerked
precariously towards his partner, who ducked the stream, clutching a
camera to his chest.
"If he wants to be dumb, let him go be dumb. At least he's out of your hair now."
"But Arty, he's just going to take that attitude somewhere else and
it's not going to get better. And his son is such a nice kid, and now
he's gone." Vinci shook his head. "He and Abigail, the little human
girl, were such good friends. What if he grows up and forgets that?"
Arty aimed his camera towards the sky with webbed spotted paws, peering
through the lens. "Sweetie, sometimes you act like those kids'll
explode the minute they leave your classroom. You have no control on
their lives past the school year, Vinci. You've gotta let go and trust
'em. Don't beat yourself up."
"I know," Vinci's ears drooped.
"I don't mean to sound overprotective. I just care about them, and I
worry. I want what's best for them."
"What's best for them is having a teacher who knows better than to let some ignorant jerk get to him." Arty's eyes twinkled.
"He didn't get to me, Arty, I was just telling you what he said."
"A-HEM." Arty pointed behind the raccoon, where in his frantic, angry
gesticulations he'd doused the garden and the side of the house until
they were sopping wet. The streaks of water almost appeared to spell
out the word 'GRRR!' Vinci's ears flopped even further down, and he
ducked his head.
"Ok," he said in a small voice. "Maybe I was a -little- gotten to."
"Your problem," Arty decided, again wielding the camera. "Is that you
care -too- much. You're always worried about what other people think of
you. You should really relax." The yumar puffed proudly. "-I- don't
care what other people think of me. I -know- I'm perfect."
Vinci rolled his eyes. "Oh, mother of Zeus."
"You should think more highly of yourself. Like me."
"Dear heart, if you thought any higher of yourself, they'd be able to
use you as a satellite. Besides, I can't think very highly of myself.
For one, I'm short. For two, I haven't always been a very good person-"
"Oh, knock it off, Vinci. I don't wanna hear that 'blah blah I
don't like myself' spiel. -I- like you, and I'm always right, so stop
arguing. Anyways," the yumar continued. "Guess who's going to Canovia
"What?" Vinci jolted. "Canovia? You? Why?"
Arty gleamed, holding his camera up. "Lifetime Magazine liked the
samples I sent in of my work; they asked me if I'd be willing to go
take some candid shots of the Canovian people."
his proud feline partner. "Wow! I'm so proud of you, Arty! They picked
the right cat. You're a wonderful photographer! Will you be gone long?"
"Two, three weeks, maybe? I'd have to doublecheck. My flight leaves on Monday."
Suddenly, it seemed all too quick for Vinci. "Oh. I'm going to miss you. I wish I could go too."
"Don't look so sad. I'll bring you back something shiney."
"I don't want something shiney. I want you. You'll be careful, right?"
"Aren't I always? Besides, it's Canovia. What's so dangerous about it?"
What was so dangerous about Canovia? The raccoon closed his eyes,
memories flooding through his head. Suddenly, he was a boy, the
youngest kid in his class, on a field trip to the Canovian capital from
Greece, and his first time so far away from his parents. The teacher
was leading them through a busy marketplace, pointing out sights and
landmarks. Vinci wasn't paying attention; he was gaping at a line of
guards, armed and in full Canovian uniform, marching down a side street.
"Look at that!" whispered a classmate, a young dog known as Arcos.
"I want one of those hats they wear," cried Nikos, a beaver.
"Well then, go and get one."
"What? Arcos, are you nuts?"
"Are you chicken? Just go run over there, nab a hat, and run back."
"I can't do that!"
"Cluck cluck cluck cluck.. CHICKEN!"
"I'll do it for you, Nikos," offered Vinci. The dog and beaver turned
to laugh at the scrawny, homely little raccoon, whose oversized ears
flopped down the sides of his head, too heavy for him to perk.
"You? HAHA! And how will -you- get a hat from off of their heads, small fry?"
"Bet he'll try to ask them, all polite and proper!" Arcos snorted,
sashaying around Vinci mockingly. The little raccoon tended to use
overly polite and proper Greek, which the rest of the class often
teased him for.
"They don't understand Greek!" laughed Nikos.
"Bet he'll just scare a hat off their heads with his ugly face!"
Vinci was off like a bolt, darting towards the soldiers at full speed.
He'd show them! He wasn't just a little pipsqueak! Tearing through the
crowd, he caught up to the end of the line of guards, trotting after
them, his heart pounding in excitement. He wasn't sure how he'd get a
hat, and right now, he didn't care. He almost felt as though he were
part of the guard, marching in uniform alongside them, proud and tall
and part of the Canovian--
"STOP!" Vinci flinched at the
unfamiliar Canovian word, and felt a large hand roughly grab him by the
back of the shirt. He was yanked around to face a large, angry looking
bird in uniform. The bird snapped at him, and he began to shake. He
didn't understand a thing the man was saying, only that he was very,
"I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" Vinci cried in Greek,
over and over again. Surely he understood that? But the bird only
seemed to get angrier. Vinci reached his arms out to the man, pleading,
but with a quick movement, there was suddenly a knife pointed at the
raccoon child's face.
The man yelled something again. Vinci
was paralyzed in fear, and the bird shook him, repeating the angry
words, knife pressing closer to Vinci's throat. Time slowed, and the
raccoon wondered how much it would hurt to die.
more guards descended on the bird, a bulldog and an antelope. The
antelope clapped his hand tightly on the bird's shoulder, his tone of
voice threatening. The bird began to argue, and the antelope replied in
a mocking tone. Again, the bird yelled angrily, but the antelope's eyes
darkened, and his voice took on a threatening air. After looking from
the antelope to the bulldog, the bird sneered, and let his knife drop.
Vinci felt himself shoved towards the antelope, who caught the child in
his arms as the bird stormed off. He shook violently, terrified.
But the antelope
wasn't like his comrade. He spoke in a gentle, soothing tone, his eyes
kind and concerned. Vinci couldn't help but stare. The man was young,
perhaps somewhere in his late teens, with just the smallest buds of
antlers poking out from under his hat, a bulbous nose and a spotted, warm coat. His voice took on a
questioning tone, and although Vinci couldn't understand the words, he
thought that perhaps he was being asked for his name. The raccoon
pointed to himself, "Vinci," and then tapped the antelope's shoulder.
"Vinci? Vinci," said the antelope, pointing to the raccoon, who beamed
and nodded exuberantly. He pointed to himself. "Sawbuck."
"Sawbuck!" chirped Vinci. Sawbuck's bulldog companion said something
then, and Vinci pointed to him, looking at Sawbuck curiously.
"Roars," Sawbuck said.
"Yia sas!" Vinci was delighted. He had made two new friends. Wait until
he told his classmates about his adventure--his classmates! Vinci
looked around frantically, and caught a glimpse of his class in the
distance, huddled together. His teacher, a panicked look on her face,
was approaching the guards at a run; she must have found out from Nikos
and Arcos about his detour.
"That your teacher, kid?" Vinci
couldn't understand Sawbuck, but he saw the antelope gesturing towards
the woman, and nodded. He had to go. But first...
arms around the antelope, he hugged him tightly. "Sawbuck, efxaristo."
Thank you. The antelope was slightly taken aback, but he smiled. And
then, with a flourish, he took his hat off and placed it on the
raccoon's head. It slipped down over Vinci's eyes, and he shrieked with
laughter. Planting a kiss on Sawbuck's nose, he hopped out of the
antelope's arms and ran to join his teacher and classmates, whooping
and waving his new hat with delight.
"Vinch? Vinci? Yo! Earth to Mr. N.!"
"Wha?" Vinci snapped out of his reverie. "Sorry, I guess I spaced out."
"Yeah, no kidding," said Arty. "Anywho, I was asking if you wanted sushi for dinner?"
"Great! I'm ready, are you?"
"I think so. Could I run into the house for just one moment?"
"Make it quick, the sushi train awaits!"
Vinci opened the patio door and scooted through the house, almost
tripping over a cat or two as he bounded up the stairs to his bedroom
closet. Reaching behind a few shoeboxes on a shelf, he pulled out a
slightly worn out Canovian armed guard hat. The raccoon smiled, tracing
a finger across the fabric before hugging it to him. Lucky Arty, going
to Canovia. How he wished he could go too, if only to try and find that
antelope man who had saved him so many years ago.
"Sawbuck," Vinci said the name fondly, hugging the hat to him. "I wonder what ever happened to you?"