The Long Way Home for
By Bjørn Range
Wilja, the corgi and Malvin, the half-grown cat were in a place on earth where they thrived best - the cottage by the sea. Here they could engage in lengthy expeditions in the forests, or roam along the beach and find exciting objects that had been washed ashore. Sometimes they went together and sometimes separately - corgis and cats by nature have different interests.
Christmas was approaching and Wilja had repeatedly told Malvin that this meant there always was lots of good food. "Here? Now?" Malvin asked eagerly. "No, at home. When we come home" Wilja always replied. "Can we go home now?" young Malvin asked. "Yes, soon". "How long is soon?" Wilja had to admit that she didn't quite understand what the word "soon" meant. "When Kristin and Ada go home, we will get good food." "They won't just go away and eat all the food themselves?" Malvin was suddenly uneasy. "Oh no, they would never leave us behind" Wilja reassured him.
On the day they were supposed to go home, Malvin had disappeared without a trace. Kristin wandered about searching and calling for the cat, loyally followed by Wilja. Until she got tired. "Why doesn't Kristin search in places where Malvin usually goes?" Wilja asked herself. When Kristin temporarily gave up and returned to the cottage, the corgi got the opportunity to search for Malvin herself. And quite soon she found him under some trees not far away from the beach. A twig had gotten stuck under the cat's collar and he couldn't untangle himself. "Why do you have a twig through your collar?" Wilja asked. "No, I ... don't ask such a stupid question! I jumped after a mouse and suddenly I was trapped. Can you help me?"
The corgi drew closer and studied the twig, first from the top and then from the bottom. She had found a solution. "I'm going to grab the thin part of the twig with my teeth and then pull as hard as I can. This will set you free." Malvin looked admiringly at the clever corgi. So it was as simple as that. Wilja pulled vigorously, bending the twig steadily backwards until it was under violent tension. And click! With his legs sprawling in all directions Malvin was catapulted several metres through the air in a shallow curve and right through a scrub! Woosh! He reappeared ruefully. "Only eight left" little Malvin remarked dryly. He had heard that cats had nine lives.
Kristin received a text message from her 13 year old daughter Ada who had spent the night with a girlfriend in a nearby cottage. "They are leaving soon. Come and fetch me!" But Kristin didn't want to leave the cottage before Wilja and Malvin had returned. At the same time she didn't want to worry her daughter and so she replied: "If you take the shortcut through the forest, you can be here within 20 minutes." Within seconds she received a reply "omg ays?! no way! come NOW!!!" "Three exclamation marks" Kristin thought. This meant no chance for negotiations. She went around the cottage once more calling Wilja and Malvin. She stood still for a few minutes and listened. Then she got in the car and drove on the gravel track westwards to the cottage where her daughter was. Provided she was alert, she could be back within half an hour.
Wilja and Malvin arrived at the clearing by the cottage just in time to see the tail lights of Kristin's car disappear around the bend. "Oh no, they are leaving without us!" they both thought and ran as fast as they could in the direction that the car had gone. But the car had already disappeared in the dusk. "Perhaps Kristin and Ada got tired of waiting for us and drove home to eat all the good food themselves?" Malvin asked. "What are we going to do now?" "I suppose we are going home as well" Wilja said. "After all we have driven to this place many times - at least I have - and I think I remember where we have to go." And so they set off on the gravel road northwards. A little later they came to the local asphalt road leading to the highway.
Kristin's car skidded on the gravel outside the cottage. Ada was now informed about what had happened and together they divided the area around the cottage between them. Their torches illuminated the forest and they called Wilja's and Malvin's names at regular intervals. By midnight Kristin phoned her daughter telling her that they had to head home. They met by the car and got in. Both were exhausted, desperate and had tears in their eyes. Kristin turned to Ada and was about to say: "If only you had..." But a glance at her daughter stopped her. There was no point.
When the lorry driver passed a soft hill and slowed down, he eased the lorry partly onto the hard shoulder to allow the faster traffic more room to pass. It was snowing heavily and the visibility was bad. Through the drifting snow he suddenly noticed what he believed to be one big and one small fox running in panic along the crash barrier - and he was heading directly toward them! He couldn't turn the lorry back on the highway again because two cars were about to pass. He sounded the horn, closed his eyes for a few seconds and yelled: "Nooooo!" He was never to know what happened.
Malvin turned abruptly when he heard the loud sound of the lorry's horn and saw the headlights approaching. Like a projectile he dashed over the crash barrier and kept running into the forest. Wilja first trembled and stiffened when she heard the enormous noise, but slid under the crash barrier seconds before the lorry's big wheels reached her. She rolled down the slope and remained shaken on her back, watching the enormous lorry passing her at a few meters distance. For a few seconds she was lying there in the darkness before she came to herself. Where was Malvin?
Now Wilja was afraid of the scary highway. It was dangerous and she was afraid of what she could find up there. Therefore she decided to first search in the forest - and quite quickly she found Malvin in a bush shaking with fear. But gradually the fright waned and he was himself again. "This rules out walking further on that road" the corgi said firmly. "We better look for a minor road leading more or less in the same direction." And soon they found a small gravel track running along the highway. They followed this safer road for a long time, repeatedly looking back to see whether scary vehicles should appear. The track finally ended and became a trail that gradually turned eastward, away from the highway. So they had to make a decision. "We both know which way we have to go. Therefore we must leave the trail and go through the forest hoping to find another road" Wilja said and Malvin agreed.
Kristin told her employers about Wilja and Malvin's disappearance and they said: "It's soon Christmas and we don't have so much work in our line of business. We understand - we too have pets. Take off and go back to the cottage. They must be somewhere. Perhaps they have come to a farm and the police was notified?"
Wilja and Malvin had actually tried to approach a farm several times. But there were always large and fierce dogs that chased them away. So they proceeded in the direction they both assumed was correct. From time to time Malvin tried to catch a mouse, but the half-grown cat didn't as yet have enough experience in catching the quick mice. So they went on, silent and hungry.
Kristin and Ada drove down to the cottage again and for three long days they searched the area around the cottage, in ever wider circles. They also phoned the police and others in the district who might know something. But no-one had seen any animals matching the description of Wilja and Malvin. Kristin saw how exhausted Ada was - she couldn't ask for more. But Ada wouldn't give up even though she cried of tiredness - they simply had to find them! In the end, Kristin decided to drive home and hope for the best.
After several days without food and trudging through snow that was getting deeper and deeper, Wilja and Malvin were hungry and exhausted. When crossing a field, Malvin stopped in front of the corgi and said: "Give me food. My mum always gave me food", he said looking hopefully at her belly. Wilja understood. Faintly she remembered a time long ago when she gave birth to five small puppies and nursed them with love and patience. And then the puppies disappeared - one after the other. She looked at Malvin. "It's empty", she said wistfully. "There is nothing left, the puppies got it all." She saw that Malvin kind of sank down. For a while, they went on in silence. Again Malvin confronted Wilja!" "Carry me!" he said "I can't go on anymore." Wilja looked at Malvin for a long time aware of her failing strength. "Come here", she finally said. "We are in this together, and I shall take care of you." Malvin jumped up and put himself at ease on the corgi's back. He adjusted to her rhythm and soon fell asleep.
Thus, with little Malvin on her back, Wilja continued for several hours over a large, snow covered field. She moved at a slackening pace with the extra burden she carried. Finally she continued by willpower alone, hoping she could save them both. But all strength had left her - it was the end. She sank feebly down in the snow. Wilja, with the big heart. Before she lost consciousness, she saw to it that Malvin would not fall off her back. And Malvin slept on, oblivious of the situation. Little by little, the small bodies were covered by the densely falling snow.
"Is there something we haven't tried, something we should have thought of?" Kristin thought aloud to Ada. "I wish they were here again" Ada said. "I love them so much. I shall never again refuse to take them for a walk. I promise." Kristin hugged her daughter for a long time.
Only Malvin was somehow visible in the snow when he woke a couple of hours later at the sound of hoofs, harness and snorting right next to him and looked up. What he saw was an enormous animal with big horns and with a shining red nose bending over him. He flinched and arched his back still standing on Wilja's back. "How are you? Are you in need of help?" the large animal asked with a nasal voice as he pawed the snow with his hoofs. Malvin hissed, making himself bigger and dug his claws in Wilja's body. The pain made her wake up abruptly and she dimly noticed a hissing Malvin jumping sideways in the snow with his back in a big arch. And above her she saw a red light. "Now we must stop and wait for green men", she thought slowly. "How are you? Are you in need of help?" the voice asked again.
A little further away she heard another voice - a deep, resonant tone: "Why have we landed, Rudolph? We are in a hurry and must leave again! We have lots to do this evening!" "OK, boss" Rudolph, the reindeer with the red nose, replied. "Just some minor adjustments, boss, and we are off again." Rudolph knelt down. "Jump on my back both of you and I shall carry you into safety." Malvin ignored the offer and kept his distance. Wilja, completely confused and frozen stiff, made a courageous attempt at jumping up but fell down again. "Try once more, my little friend." Rudolph bent even lower and now Wilja managed to get up on Rudolph's broad back. "Come on Malvin" she said quietly. "I know he just wants to help us." Malvin let himself be persuaded, jumped up and settled in front of Wilja. "Just one thing more, kitten" Rudolph said. "If you want to clutch at something, clutch at my harness and not at my neck - do you understand?" Malvin obeyed immediately. The two reindeers right behind Rudolph had witnessed everything, but understood that in this case the leading reindeer was proficient in his decisions and said nothing. Rudolph shouted to all the other reindeers in the team: "Everyone ready? Let's go again - one, two, three!" And with a lurch they all rode up in the air. From somewhere behind, Wilja heard again the resonant voice laughing: "Ho, ho, ho!"
Kristin and Ada were decorating their home and preparing the Christmas dinner in silence. There was nothing to say. Their thoughts were not concentrated on the tasks they carried out. Finally Ada sat down and said: "Why are we doing this? Actually?" Kristin responded: "The guests are coming soon. We have invited grandma and granddad - don't you remember? We are going to have a pleasant evening." "Argh!" Ada burst out, stomped to her room and slammed the door.
Wilja and Malvin soon regained their warmth on Rudolph's back and felt more cheerful. What a fantastic flight and view! Below they saw the splendid landscapes passing by, illuminated by towns and street lamps. At regular intervals they landed and waited while the resonant voice visited all the homes where children lived. And then they continued. Again and again they heard the loud and jolly laughter. "I guess this is what staff chiefs call Promoting Successful Personal Growth and Motivation?" Wilja wondered. And then she shouted to Rudolph: "Look down there, that's where we live!" "No problem, corgi - we will go down close by" Rudolph replied.
Safely back on the hill, when the "jolly voice" had disappeared to distribute gifts for all the children in the area, Rudolph knelt down and said kindly: "You little stowaways will be home soon. Jump off whilst the boss is gone for a moment, and you will find your way home". Young Malvin elegantly jumped down and landed on all four as cats do and waited for Wilja. The corgi slid down from Rudolph's back, saw that Malvin was OK and turned to the reindeer. "Thank you, Rudolph! This evening you saved lives." After a little kiss on the reindeer's shining red nose, Wilja and Malvin disappeared behind the nearest snowdrift. The place was familiar, they would soon be home and so they hurried along. Suddenly they spotted a middle-aged, nicely dressed couple in the light of the street lamps going in the same direction - there was something familiar about them. Yes, it was them! Both corgi and cat ran happily towards the two humans!
"Ding dong" the doorbell rang. "It must be Mum and Dad" Kristin thought. She cast a quick glance at Ada's room before she opened the door. And there stood her parents with the long-awaited, dearest and most beautiful Christmas gifts she had ever seen!
From Corgi Post 4/2021, the Norwegian Welsh Corgi Club's newsletter.
Translated by ANo with kind permission of the author.
Graphics by ©Béatrice Quinio 2022