Ernest and Célestine build a garden
It wasn't often that Ernest worried about going hungry; he’d been through the cycle enough to know he'd live through it, and it would pass. Street money only stretched so far, but it was always enough to get by on.
But now he had Célestine; how they got by that first Winter to Spring was a mystery, but they had (mice were really good at sniffing things out, it would seem) and Ernest really didn't want her to have to ever deal with the sort of hunger he had.
Luckily, although the Bear Townsfolk mostly still had disgruntlement towards them, they were allowed back into town.
They had actually set up a routine (legally, of course); there was a place where they built an open stage and Ernest would perform, whether acting or music, and sometimes Célestine would take part as another actor or a dancer. Primarily she helped build the sets, and some days she'd showcase her art or offer to do portraits. They made better money than Ernest’s early days, and after the circle of a full year knew they'd do well during the coming Winters.
But now with his friend ( she was more like a little sister or niece ) he couldn't help but let the new worry creep over. He found himself saving food, just a little.
Of course Célestine, sharp as ever, caught on to the act. He of course didn't want to answer her, but when he did, she sat and pondered and thought and decided.
“Ernest, I decided; we’re going to build a garden!”
“I think you mean grow a garden, Célestine.”
“But you need to build a garden box first, don’t you, Ernest?”
“Ha ha; that you do, Célestine. That you do.”
All in all it was a brilliant idea.
They cultivated a patch of ground at the backside of their house, all the way up to the wooden walls. The garden hose was back there, and the dirt was easy to prepare. Ernest set up the wooden planks to surround the area, hammering away (and hitting his thumb once or twice, which Célestine apologized for giggling at). And his mouse companion painted it a lovely shade of soft summer green.
After the few days of preparing, they went to town to pick up some seeds. Célestine stood upon his shoulders (she'd often clamber back and forth from left to right and back again, chatting excitedly as she did so. Ernest didn't complain, if he noticed.) Bears would swivel their heads and stare, or glance out of the corner of wide eyes, but the two companions didn't notice - nor would they care if they did.
The little bell dinged when they entered the store, and they greeted the shopkeeper, who gave a polite smile and waved. “Hello you two; what can I do for you today?”
“We’d like to buy some seeds,” Ernest said.
“For our garden!” Célestine said right after, hopping with excitement.
He tapped her lightly to get her to settle down, as the Shopkeeper asked, “Well what kind were you wanting? Flowers? Vegetables? Fruits? I also have grasses and herbs among many others.”
“We’re looking to grow foodstuffs,” Ernest replied. “Like carrots, turnips, beets -”
Célestine cut in, “- celery, spinach, lettuce, potatoes-”
“-Rutabaga, squashes, cucumber, zucchini-”
“Ooh, and don't forget fruits! Strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, -”
“-blueberries, can't forget blueberries; and currants. We’d also like some herbs for soups and such.”
“And for cheeses!”
The Shopkeeper blinked rapidly, then chuckled. He wasn't unused to such large orders, but the enthusiasm for it and rapid delivery had him bemused.
“Well then, I can get that all for you, just give me a moment. You sure you'll have room in your garden for it all?” he had begun to bundle it all together.
They both nodded, smiling.
“Well then,” he shrugged. He handed them their order, and accepted the money in return. “I wish you both luck with it.”
They left promptly, the bear shopkeeper shaking his head and chuckling. “Such strange creatures to be sure.”
It wasn't long before they were home, stood by their garden and reading the packages of the seeds.
“Hmm, it's a little too early to start these ones,” Ernest said, scratching his head.
“And a little too late for these,” Célestine said, looking at a packet as big as her.
“Well these ones seem good to go,” Ernest said as he scooped up a few packets. “We can start on these ones, and then when the time comes we can do the others.”
Célestine was quick to dig little holes for the seeds, which Ernest sprinkled in. Then Célestine would cover them back up, and Ernest would water.
They kept at it until subtle shade darkened and the sky lengthened from blue to sunset hues of buttercream, orange, and red. And still they stood there, surveying their work and drinking water.
When the horizon started to bruise deep plum and carmine, then they finally went inside.
“You can go take a bath first,” Ernest told Célestine. They had a pair of washtub a in what had once been the basement. Though they were both uncomfortably filthy from the hard work, they both felt accomplished.
“You sure Ernest?” Célestine asked, eyes glittering more so beneath her dirt-smeared face.
He tried not to chuckle. “Yeah you go ahead; you're smaller and can get cleaned faster. I'll start on some dinner, and you can finish cooking it when it's my turn to scrub this grime off.”
She nodded and then scurried down to take a nice, warm and bubbly bath.
Ernest had shook himself as best as he could outside, but his fur was still a darker, duller brown from the soil. He scrubbed his paws and arms best as he could in the sink, and then got to work.
When Célestine came out they switched places, and finished watching and stirring the soup. Ernest came out just as she had turned the stove off, and they both filled their bowls to eat. Dinner was meaninglessly meaningful chatter; the soup was good, and the house was comfortably cool due to the early summer air.
When they finally retired to their beds, Célestine couldn't help but ask, “Do you think the seeds will grow by Tommarrow?”
“Hmm, not for a couple more days, maybe,” Ernest replied.
“Oh. Well, goodnight Ernest.”
It was quiet as slumber began to take him.
“. . . how many days, Ernest?”
A sigh. “I dunno, Célestine. But it'll be a little while.”
“But how long of awhile?”
“ Goodnight .”
And then the house descended into silence once more.
A few days later, as the sky began to lighten to blue but when the sun had yet to fully come over the horizon, one could see little shoots had begun to push through the soil in a simple garden.
And later that day, one could hear a mouse’s happy squeaks, and the delighted chuckle of a bear.