So I was walking home tonight, in my multi-coloured scarf and hat, feeling very spiritual whilst channelling my Joseph and the Multi-coloured Dreamcoat style. I had to wear the hat you see, my hair had turned an odd shade of purple and my roots are growing out. My roots! My roots I tell you! (I’m going grey, but that’s another matter entirely – or is it?)
And there he was: Barry. But he wasn’t in his usual get-up of armour and shield, and god knows where his axe was.
“Barry, mate. Oh honey! How long has it been since we last met?”
“I’m not in the mood for this tonight, Eleanor. I feel my powers dwindling, I’m a joke, a laughing stock of my tribe. I’m weak.”
Never in all my days had I seen this momentous creature so glum and depleted. We stayed in touch since our first encounter via letters, on beautiful parchment with curtainous spirals down each paper. Fantastical pink, sonnet-like words of poetry about the world, society, Feminism and The Simpsons.
“Dear friend, is there anything I can do to ease your pain?”
“Lend me an ear. We shall walk to the enchanted green bench and have a heart to heart; I feel it is time.”
To the enchanted bench we sauntered, Barry carrying the weight of his shoulders. He was naked head to foot, you could have mistaken him for any ordinary badger on the street. But I’d recognise my old friend in whatever state he was in. He daintily hopped onto the bench and shrunk over, like a snail. I sat beside him and waited patiently for him to begin.
“There was a reformation within our fleet,” he sighed. “A group of soldiers had declared that in this day and age it was unjust to comment on peoples’ hair, or appearance whatsoever. Derek said it was a shameful business, that we were ruining peoples’ reputations and destroying their self-esteem.”
His eyes welled up with tears here. “All I had ever wanted was for the world of hair to be beautiful, and to fight anyone who stood in the way of my dream. Hairdressers who cut hair too short, built a dodgy fringe, or stripe hair orange with the power of bleach. I never meant to offend anyone, or judge anyone on appearance. You understand this, Eleanor?”
I took a moment to cherish Barry’s openness and honesty.
“Barry mate, It’s a new world now. We are restricted in what we say and what we think. Orwell would relish the way we now double-think, or abhor it – I’m unsure. But it benefits society and lets us be free and whimsical in a way we have never been before. You see that I have now cut my hair short, as a fuck you to society and conventions and lads that pull your head down whilst you suck them off.”
Barry turned to me and raised his shoulders. “Eleanor, dear, I hate it. You look like dyke-bait.”
“Barry, you cannot say that in this day and age. It’s fundamentally wrong and adverse.”
He wept before me, soaking his fur. “I no longer know how to conform. What do I do now? How can my tribe accept me?”
I shuffled on the bench, to be sat further away from Barry, but still turned to face him. “Barry. Listen to me. You have been a loyal friend of mine for many years and have fought against disastrous haircuts with chivalry. You have always been there to big me up and have my back. That is your duty now.”
“But what if the hair is ugly, like yours? It looks almost green…”
“If the hair is ugly…” at this point I shake my head and let out a loaded sigh, “then give your advice and help to lift the spirits of the victims of hair cruelty.
“I know that my hair is not the colour that I want, but I am happy. This ‘new world’ is awfully scary; yet incredibly liberating. I have felt more myself than I ever have before.”
“I am pleased for you, Eleanor,” he paused. “And how is your good friend, Bert?”
“Bert is good thank you. And so are you. I have missed you dearly.”
Barry scooted over for a dainty cuddle. His fur was still wet from his tears. I embraced him and it was beautiful.
“Eleanor,” he retracted his hug. “I guess this is the part where I tell you that I have found someone. I have found the one.”
I grinned, like the Cheshire Cat, a full smile from each corner of my mouth, all teeth on display. Not the bottom teeth, because that would be creepy, but the top set. White (a little off-white from smoking, but fantastical none the less) and perfectly formed.
“So, who is she?” I asked.
“He,” Barry replied after a slow pulse. “He’s…” Another slow pulse, “a rabbit.”
“A rabbit? Fantastic! Do tell me your meet-cute,” I insisted.
Barry pointed up his nose to show me his smile. It’s quite unusual for a badger to smile, and often unseen due to their large snouts. It wasn’t gorgeous necessarily, but was kind of him to show me. He was obviously very happy.
He loosened his jaw and lowered his nose.
“His name is Hugo. And he wants to run away with me,” he said, trepidatiously.
“What’s holding you back?”
“My duty. My job. My life. This is why I came to you tonight, Eleanor.”
“For my opinion?”
He steadied his breath and looked me in the eyes. “Not for your ‘opinion’, for your advice. You’ve gone through many hair-related mishaps. You are the damsel that I have seen the most in my career.”
“…I haven’t finished.” He turned his eyes away from me and focussed on a dwindling leaf. He looked bashful. “You, yourself, have gone through many many boys…”
“…not that many…”
“…Many. And none have stuck. How do I know that this one will stand by me? We all know about the badger/rabbit divide. I will be truly disowned.”
“Barry. For starters, forget about the divide, it is nothing compared to true love. Secondly, I have not been through many guys. I’m living my life for me. Styling my hair for me. And I am happy. My only aim in life is for happiness. Which bears me to ask: what makes you happy?”
Barry brought his paw to his face and pondered.
“My work gave me duty and a purpose, but now that it’s gone, I am lost.”
At this point he unwrapped an Apollo bar and chewed on the end slowly.
There was a scuffling sound from the trees nearby. A dishevelled rabbit hopped over and draped over Barry.
“Barry, my knight in shining armour. It is time to head home, to see Fred and Daisy, and live out the rest of our lives in peace and frolic.”
Barry gently kissed Hugo’s fur.
“I feel that is time for me to leave,” I said to the entwined couple.
“I need a moment alone,” Barry said to Hugo, “with Eleanor.”
We strolled off together to the woods, on the outskirts.
“How do I know, for certain? How do I know that he’s the one? Or just another one?”
“When you know you know. It’s a spark between you that cannot be defined and a moment together that lasts a lifetime. In him you see the best parts of yourself, and he in turn will relish your every being. When you know you know… you just… know.
“It may not be easy, it may be frought with danger and twists and turns. Yet it’s the path your sure to stay on and follow, wherever it goes. So long as it makes you happy.”
Barry took a strong inhale of air. Walked away from me. And whispered in Hugo’s ear.
I walked back towards Barry.
“Eleanor, dear, it is what it is. I am my own badger. I don’t need Hugo to feel strong, I may just cut my mane short and dye it orange. As Lord Drake once said, you only live once. And I am happy that I lived out my best years protecting and serving you. I have stood by your side through thick and thin and it has brought me joy beyond all else. You no longer need me, but other girls (and boys) do. I must continue my duty and embrace the 2020 culture.”
I took a moment for myself. Then spoke the gospel words…
“Fuck the patriarchy.”