One morning the good mole was turned out of his bed by two ravens in uniform. They told him to get out of his hole immediately. When he asked for their identification they sniggered a little, made jokes about his blindness, and then said: ‘We have a weekend contract, a gig, badly paid, so do us a favour and leave your hole.’
Without further discussion they roughly pulled him outside.
‘Any family members indoors?’
The mole shook his head and mumbled: ‘Divorced.’
‘Good,’ said the first raven. ‘Listen, you had the temerity to dig underneath the king’s flowerbed which had been especially created for this weekend. Therefore the chances are that it is about to collapse. And the king has already such trouble with his back. So clear off! We’ve given you more than enough notice now.’
‘But I was not given a temporary digging restriction at all,’ said the mole in defense of himself. ‘Therefore I am not guilty of anything!’
‘Ah,’ said the second raven, ‘who’s talking about guilt. You won’t get a fine you know. C’mon, have a good look around you and explore this spacious land. You wouldn’t make a fuss about a bit of land, would you?’
The good mole was getting nervous because of the bright sunlight and did not protest any longer, and a little further up he disappeared under the ground again. The ravens fitted a sign on the flowerbed which said N0 TRESPASSING, drew their swords and stood sentinel on either side of the hole.
That night the good mole could not get to sleep. His new hole, dug in a hurry, did not meet the regulations of containing at least one emergency exit. Worried about this defect he started to dig all over again. But once he got going, he came upon a thin obstruction which instantly ruptured. He heard the shrieks of a woman, a man swearing and then a call for help. Barely had he recovered from the shock when he was grabbed by the collar, taken outside and given a whack on his head by two feathered men.
When the sun stood high in the sky he regained consciousness in a hollow tree flanked by the two ravens. The ravens were of the opinion that the mole should be on trial for a disturbance of domestic peace. The good mole, however, appealed on the grounds that circumstances beyond his control had forced him to dig without preconceived plan.
‘The case is very precarious. Notwithstanding your circumstances you shall at least have to be arrested and charged with voyeurism. You caught the king with his mistress, didn’t you, and what’s more, in a compromising position,’ sniggered the ravens.
‘But I haven’t seen a king at all, let alone his mistress!’ said the good mole in defense of himself.
‘Hmm ye-es, we didn’t take your blindness into consideration a moment ago.’
Relieved the good mole made a move to leave the hollow tree.
‘Hold on, just you wait a minute! Now that you know about the whole affair… You only need to make a phone call to a journalist and the king hangs.’
‘That’s what I would never do. I swear! And isn’t it because of your thoughtlessness that I came to know about it?’
‘Well, yes, it’s distressing, but it can’t be helped,’ they decided shrugging their shoulders.
It was a long trip to the sea and to relieve the boredom the ravens took turns in hurling the mole to each other. When they dropped him, somewhere over the water, they said to each other: ‘It was well worth the trouble. The king’s mistress looked superb.’
And chortling they tossed their stained tissues after him.
De Volkskrant, 4 jul 1984
Mikado pers, Den Haag: 1984. Bibliofiele oplage van 75 genummerde & gesigneerde exemplaren. Illustraties: Alfredo Prein
Copyright © 1984, Alfred Birney
From Fantasia, a collections of stories. Amsterdam: Contact, 1999
Translation by Amy Horn. No reproducing allowed in any form without written permission from the author