Jo Ann McDonald
...where Mz Possum and Ashley compare progress and continue to plot for an even better future
A little known fact of life at Legacy Ranch, was the fact that Mz Possum and Ashley were very good friends. Luigi knew it, but few others did. The two were so seemingly different from on another, and their basic lifestyles appeared to be totally opposite. Nobody ever even stopped to think how many commonalties they might have, which, in fact, outweighed their differences.
What Luigi knew, and helped keep a secret, was what Ashley, in a theatrical moment called... "The Great Conspiracy!"
Legacy Ranch was what some societies might call "matriarchal." Many animal clans, and many subspecies within clans, especially humans, are obviously matriarchal. They just don't often admit it! That's where the women make the primary decisions and think they do the bulk of the work, and that the men don't realize it. In some cultures, like bees, it's obvious. In others, it's bit more subtle.
Like many subtle females before them, Mz Possum and Ashley tried not to flaunt their self-endowed status at Legacy Ranch. Unfortunately, it didn't always work. Those were the instances when worldly gentlemen, like Luigi, and their ever-faithful bodyguards, like Spike, Jabbo, and Rocky came in handy. Marty Mocker was also an especially effective ally when it came to getting a point across... quickly and accurately! Luigi was a master at making people pay attention to what the ladies wanted them to understand, and usually do. The term do their bidding took on special meaning when Luigi said it. Strong-arm tactics were, however, reserved for Matters of Extreme Importance, to use Ashley's specific terminology.
Luigi looked out from his kitchen at the two strong, capable young ladies. He felt proud of them, and honored to be their trusted friend and confidant. These two tireless women were always there when needed, selflessly serving others and feeding the hungry. Between Ashley and Mz Possum, nobody ever went hungry at Legacy Ranch. It was good when they had a night out to themselves, letting someone serve them for a change. They deserved it.
In addition to feeding their friends and those in need, the two also had an underlying mission in life and worked hard to help make life better for everyone around them, especially the children. The charter of The Great Conspiracy was to teach the young ones, especially the most promising, to be responsible, energetic, and productive people, and to honor truth, and... most of all... to have fun being themselves! Over and over they taught the children to believe that: "The place where you live is a Very Special Place, because... it has you!" Due to their efforts, self-esteem was no longer a problem for the young people at Legacy Ranch.
The two women dining with him this evening were good people, thought Luigi. They were also great cooks! "Obviously good cooks are great people," laughed Luigi to himself and worked the phrase into his singing, which he did in his native language, which just about nobody understood. He looked over to see if they might be ready for the next course, the pasta, but there was no hurry. The night was young and his nights were always long, especially when hosting a lovely dinner for his two favorite gourmet activists.
"How is the reading program going, Penelope? Have all the little wild ones signed up?" Ashley was all ears for news that their reading program was succeeding.
"Yes, but some have had to sneak away from their clan elders to get there. I can't believe how some people don't want their kids to even read! Superstitious old foggies! And some of the worse aren't even old yet!" Most people thought Mz Possum was herself an "old foggy" like them, but the children knew better.
In fact, Penelope Possum was a talented storyteller, an excellent actress, and very intelligent, although she hid it behind the typical wild accent, that purposely mispronounced words and left off the endings. "Purposeful or out of ignorance, it suffices to distinguishing them from others, and I'm one of them," she tried to explain to Ashley. It's kind of a cowboy thing. But Ashley and Mz Possum wanted everyone's children to be capable of speaking well and being totally literate. They could always pretend if they needed to talk "cowboy." In the meantime, if they learned to talk like the rest of the world talked, they could go anywhere, understand anyone, make themselves clearly understood, and thus be able to do anything their species makeup allowed them to do. Ashley and Penelope figured that would be so much more fun than Being Limited!
Their projects were proving them correct...
"So how is your WildLife Internet Service project going, Ashley?"
"Surf's up, Penny. You must sneak up to the house with Joie and me one evening and log on. She and Lefty are so clever with their mechanical mice. They've set up an entire broadcast station, called WLIS for WildLife Internet Service. Mary Jane is learning to be a reporter, with Marty. She's doing especially well and can touch type with each little claw. But Marty still just hunts and pecks out his stories. WLIS is not on the web, mind you. The spiders wove that just for humans. We have a separate wildlife access all to ourselves.
"It sounds exciting. Will you have it ready by the time my kids are good at reading? They're getting good fast!" Mz Possum's students were, indeed, doing well.
"We have a basic framework put together, and we're talking now about how it should be structured. Our goal is to interlink all the wild animals in the entire world in some way, but that's a tall order, and most of us are short!" The girls laughed at that one. Luigi was approaching the table with a lovely pasta dish and fresh garlic bread with bits of rosemary and cheese sprinkled on top. He refreshed their drinks and left them to their private talk, listening in, intently.
Ashley smiled warmly, invited him to sit down, he refused politely and went back to his cooking. She went on with her accounting.
"For now, whomever logs on, has to have access to the humans' computers. Very soon we hope to be self-sufficient. The lab rats in the research labs are working through the nights when their humans have gone home. They're trying to get the entire system down to a simple microchip. It takes such small, intricate little claws to make the connections at that microscopic level. Even enzymes have been called in to help! When we get the translator and processor chips down to scale, and the tiny displays just right, we hope to install them in even the smallest burrows and portable enough for little insects to take on special missions, whether on land, in the air, or on... and even in the water. The turtles are lobbying already to do the underwater version so that they can be the service providers for the underwater animals. Doris and Boris Tortoise and the girls have staked out Turtle Pond, Corn Creek, Stoney Brook, and Spring Creek. Their boys will try to manage Catfish Pond out back, but we have our doubts about that. As you know, things can be especially wild way out there." Ashley had indeed much to tell Penelope. She was so excited, and had so much to tell, she wasn't even speaking in capitals!
"Are you sure you aren't pulling my hind paw. Ashley? Can you really do all that? I've been reading on some of that greasy paper that wraps up the vittles the human's put out for us about these computers and the Internet, but are you really in the midst of it all?" Ashley had a fertile imagination, it was true, but this Really Was True!
"It Really Is True!" Ashley was serious. She was again speaking in capitals, to prove it. "I'm Serious, Penelope! I intend to See to It that all the wild and domestic animals in the Entire World are adaquately interlinked before I'm through, even if it means bringing humans into the loop." Ashley didn't capitalize the part about humans. Not that she didn't like them. She especially liked the ones that lived at the Cottage on the Knoll. As a species, however, she didn't totally trust them. No self-respecting wild animal would! The more she learned surfing on the human's World Wide Web, the more her convictions proved to be correct. If she had anything to say about it, there would be a lot more Truth and Reliable Facts available in the world, especially about and among wild animals.