TWENTY-EIGHT, 2.0

There was a huff, and a puff, and the walls shook and Petey held his head in his hands, bent over and curled into as big a ball as he could make with his tiny, fat body.

The shimmying walls soon became still, and the sound of the wind died.

Petey slowly looked up just as the shadow passed by the window.

He cowered lower, even though he know Wally couldn’t see inside.

Back when Petey lived with his brother, Paul, the house was unstable.

It was weak, made of shoddy craftsmanship and didn’t stick together very well.

Funny, because Paul had been the best builder of them all.

Even better than Benny the Beaver.

Poor Benny, he was Wally’s first victim.

Though Benny could blend in, his tail was instantly recognizable, and betrayed him one last time.

Paul always laughed about it, though Petey believed his laughter was more out of anxiety than actually thinking the situation was funny.

When Paul was pulled through their destroyed house and swallowed whole by Wally, Petey couldn’t find a laugh.

He still had a tough time getting a joke even now, two years later.

His new home was reinforced, thick wood, prime cuts of all the trees in the forest.

Pat, their oldest brother, lived miles away in a stone cave he’d discovered just after the destruction of Paulie’s hut.

No chances, that was Pat’s motto.

Take no chances, live forever.

“Ha, forever, now that’s a laugh”, thought Petey, even as he realized it might be best to call on Pat in any case, to make sure Wally hadn’t come looking for him.

The phone rang for an hour before he picked up.

Petey gave a sigh of relief, but instantly clammed up when Pat insisted he come right over.

“Wally’s heading east for the winter, you have time to get here safely.”

Petey couldn’t find the words, but knew that his brother wouldn’t suggest such a thing unless he actually meant it.

In all their years, from litter to adulthood, Pat never hesitated to protect his brothers and wouldn’t take chances on their well-being if he could help it.

Petey tied his red cape around his neck, packed as much as he could for the day-long journey, and stepped into the world to see his brother, and live without fear for the first time in his life.

He looked back at his shack, for the first time noticing it was leaning over, falling apart where the wood beams used to be nailed together. Another huff and puff from Wally the Wolf, and he would’ve been a mighty filling dinner.

Good thing ol’ reliable Pat had called him for safety’s sake.

He kept this thought in his head that night even as Wally sprung from the cave and bit down on his neck.

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