The beavers had come in the night, but so far the barricade was holding. As much as they’d tried to buzz saw their way in with formidable razor-sharp buckteeth, they hadn’t done so quickly enough to avoid incineration by the Castle’s defense lasers.
So did the sombre morning replace what had been a calamitous night. The few surviving beavers retreated to the relative safety of their dam to take a wait-and-see approach beneath the willow trees.
“Well, that couldn’t have gone more tits up,” muttered Theo, “than if we’d grown tits then thrown them at the walls like water balloons.”
A sigh escaped Theo’s lips. Jensen could never bloody let one go. “Thanks, Jensen. What would we do without your penetrating pedantry?”
Jensen looked at him with the world weariness of a furry, pint-sized Sisyphus. “Sarcasm is the last refuge of fools, you know.”
“Just so you know, Jensen, Dostoyevsky never said that.”
“I’m not quoting Dostoyevsky!”
Theo pulled a pocketbook of quotations from beneath his tail and thumbed through it. “Here we go… ‘Sarcasm: the last refuge of modest and chaste-souled people when the privacy of their soul is coarsely and intrusively invaded.'”
“See?” crowed Jensen. “Nothing alike!”
“Holy Jesus, guys! What are you doing arguing over quotations when all our womenfolk have been wiped out?”
“Shut up, Teskey!” growled Jensen. Theo nodded with him. They were both annoying to be sure, but Teskey more so.
“No! I won’t!” insisted Teskey. “The future of our tribe hangs in the balance, or haven’t you noticed?”
“I don’t need bloody women!” snorted Theo. “All I need is a pair of clean socks and some warm milk before bedtime!”
“Just because you’re a ‘love celibate’, Theo, doesn’t mean the rest of us need to be!”
“Oh, Teskey, you poor hormonally overburdened fool! Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it!”
“Well, I guess I have no choice now, do I?” snapped Teskey. “My wife’s probably a rotting corpse in the Castle now, with no way for me to give her a decent burial! Tell me how that’s okay?!”
“Well…” spluttered Theo, taken a little aback at the outburst. “Get over it? It’s just a bloody woman after all…”
“I bet Dostoyevsky never said anything like that.” Again, Jensen had to dig at him. “Check your little book, Theo!”
Teskey grabbed his head and howled. “Jesus hyperventilating Christ, guys! We need a plan! A solid, fucking plan that works!”
“To do what, exactly?” shrugged Jensen. “I mean, I agree we should have a plan.” He shot Theo a look. “I bet Dostoyevsky would’ve had a plan!”
“Here’s an idea,” interjected Theo. “First, you shut the hell up about Dostoyevsky. Only I get to talk about Dostoyevsky, okay?! And, second, we dump some sucklings near the Castle walls.”
Jensen and Teskey goggled at him, eyes wider than a giant’s grandmother’s finest dinner plates.
“Yeah, you heard me. Sucklings!”
“Are you sure you don’t mean ducklings?”
“No, Jensen!” Theo rolled his eyes. “Sucklings!”
Teskey shook his head, and then comprehension dawned. “Oh, you mean children, right?”
“Then why didn’t you say sodding children, you boob?!”
“You’re a boob!”
“Anyway!” yelled Jensen. He had to break this up or they’d argue for hours. “What’s your plan?” He looked at Theo with a squinty eye that promised trouble if the plan wasn’t up to snuff.
“Well,” said Theo conspiratorially, “there must still be some women left in the Castle. So, we dump the sucklings outside, said women hear them crying, their motherly instincts kick in, they unbuckle their bras and come running with naked boobs flopped out ready to feed the poor creatures. Then we capture said women and make them ours! Erm… yours.”
There was an uncomfortably long silence as Jensen and Teskey tried to process this.
“Boobs?” asked Teskey at last, his tone telegraphing a lack of enthusiasm for the plan.
“Yeah, Theo, I’m surprised you didn’t call them udders or teats. Wouldn’t Dostoyevsky have called them that?”
“Shut up, Jensen! You’re testing my patience!”
Jensen blinked oh-so-innocent eyes. “You have patience?”
“Hold on.” Teskey stroked his whiskers. “Wouldn’t they be more likely to burn our babies to a crisp with the defense lasers?”
“Yeah!” chimed Jensen. “Our bubbas can be little shits but even that’s a bit much! And anyway, we can always look for women elsewhere.”
“Oh, come on!” roared Theo. “Haven’t you heard of honour in war? The enemy won’t shoot helpless sucklings! It’s just not done!”
Jensen frowned like his brain was about to explode.
“That’s the beauty of this plan!” Theo pushed on. “Use the sucklings to get more women without us having to bring down the barricade or them firing a single shot!”
“I guess…” And now Teskey was frowning too. “I mean, why look elsewhere if we’re already at the Castle? It’s the note that led us there in the first place!”
“Regardless, we should leave the babies out of this. Show me the note again,” he sighed, snapping his fingers at Teskey. “What did your wife write exactly?”
Teskey pulled a handwritten note from beneath his tail.
Jensen took it and cleared his throat. “She writes: ‘Dear Teskey wesky, having a girl’s night out at the Castle. Twig kebabs in the fridge. Microwave three minutes each. Tuck kids in at seven. Don’t wait up. Love, your Fanny wanny.'”
“See? That was last night. Which means they must all be horribly dead by now!”
“Teskey…” Jensen’s eyes narrowed. “Please don’t tell me that almost all of our tribesmen died in a tragic attempt to overtake the Castle because… well, you can’t turn on a microwave.”
He hovered over Teskey like a foreboding headmaster with an angry god complex.
Theo stood there looking on, dumb with astonishment. He’d forgotten about Dostoyevsky and boobs for now.
Teskey lowered his eyes.
Back at the Castle, the night club doors swept open and a covey of giggling, tipsy female beavers started on their way down to the river…