The woodchuck was sleeping heavily, her beanbag body a mound of relaxed fur, when she suddenly snorted and sat up. She had been tense when the pandemic started and had decided to try yoga to find some inner peace. At the end of the video, she closed her eyes for shavasana. This was always her favorite yoga position, the one where you lay on the floor of your burrow and don’t move. Unfortunately, she had shavasana-ed a little too hard and accidentally gone into hibernation. She glanced at her iPhone and realized she had been asleep for five months.
“It’s August?!” she screeched. “How is that possible? Didn’t this thing start in March?” Assuming there must be some kind of mistake, she crawled up the tunnel and cautiously poked her head out. Hoping for the chartreuse vibrancy of newly leafed out trees and the floating perfume of cherry blossoms, she instead found parched, yellow grass and dead cicadas, the signs of the end of a long, hot summer. A red leaf floated down, landed briefly on her head and then swirled away, caught in the updraft as an adult rabbit rushed by. The woodchuck watched it in astonishment.
“Hey, when were you born?” she shouted. The meadow should be full of baby bunnies, not hares who rudely ignored you. It suddenly occurred to her what this fully-grown rabbit meant. She had missed mating season.
She fell back into the deep burrow, finally landing with a thump in the TV lounge. She felt unsettled and restless – a whole chunk of her life had passed by while she had been doing yoga (sleeping) and watching Netflix (sleeping). She paced across the dirt floor and thought maybe a little television would distract her. Groundhog Day was on.
She threw the remote at the screen. She HATED Groundhog Day. It was on every streaming channel at all hours of the night. Who was programming this crap? Everything about this movie irritated her, although she did like the part where the groundhog drives.
She decided she needed to put her disapproval in a strongly worded letter. There was nothing more effective than voicing your opinion in a well-written complaint, especially if you had beautiful penmanship, which she did.
A few hours later, she had envelopes addressed to the heads of Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Amazon Prime and Disney Plus. She didn’t really have a subscription to the last one, but she was on a roll and felt like everyone would be interested in her thoughts on this subject. (She had actually watched Hamilton on Disney, but that had been using a borrowed password from her cousin Shirley. She hoped this letter would not cause her cousin to change the password.)
The woodchuck crawled back up to the surface and cautiously started across the field to a nearby mailbox. She stopped in confusion when she got to the spot where she usually mailed her Christmas cards. There was nothing but an empty space and four mangled bolts in the sidewalk. That was strange, but she knew there was another one a few blocks away. She serpentined between parked cars, watching carefully for scooters.
She was relieved to see that the mailbox was still there, and as she got closer, realized that there was something spray painted on the front of it. In white letters, someone had stenciled This Machine Kills Fascists.
The woodchuck had no idea what a fascist was, but she had heard this expression before. Her cousin Woody used to sing this all the time. She had always thought Woody was a dumb name for a woodchuck (would you name a horse horsie?), but the Guthrie side of the family had always been kind of odd.
She noticed there was a leg missing from the mailbox and heard a scraping sound. There was a weasel gnawing at another leg, his razor-sharp teeth causing sparks to fly like a blow torch. If he got through this leg, the whole mailbox was going over.
The woodchuck knew it was up to her to save the mailbox and preserve her cousin’s legacy. As quietly as a rodent with 80 percent body fat can move, she snuck up behind the weasel and bit him hard on the ass. The weasel howled and leapt in the air, smacking his head into the undercarriage of the mailbox. Yellow cartoon stars circled his noggin.
“Why did you do that?!” screamed the weasel, collapsing onto the sidewalk. “You made me break a tooth!”
“Because my cousin says the only way to fight fascism is with this mailbox! Now get out of here, and tell your friend the Fox we won’t put up with this anymore!”
The weasel picked up his broken fang and slunk away. There was going to be hell to pay back at the office — he’d only managed to gnaw down one mailbox so far. Those metal legs were a lot harder than he had thought they would be.
The woodchuck mailed her letters and dashed back to her burrow. She felt a sense of accomplishment as though she was part of something bigger than she was, although she had no idea what that might be. She was also really bummed that she had missed mating season.
(This fable was inspired by a real mailbox with the words of Woody Guthrie stenciled on it. You know what you have to do. Get those ballots in early! And buy stamps!)