That night, with her mind overflowing with worries and sleep nowhere in sight, Myrna entirely forgot about her acquaintance of the night before. While she was preoccupied with her worries, Erwin appeared suddenly in front of her cage, nearly causing Myrna to shed her skin. Once Myrna recovered from this surprise, she was able to greet Erwin.
“Oh, hello, Erwin.” She said, a bit out of breath. “I’m sorry, but you scared me. I wasn’t really paying attention.”
But Erwin wasn’t paying attention, either. He was busy trying to decipher the sign on Myrna’s cage. He squinted his eyes and scratched his head, but couldn’t figure it out. When Myrna noticed this, she told him what the sign said.
Limited time exhibit!
Snake will retire by the end of the month.
“There are only three days until I retire.” Myrna said with a bit of hysteria in her voice. “And I don’t even know what ‘retire’ means.”
Little Erwin thought for a while. Finally, he spoke.
“I don’t know what retire means, but I know what expire means. Retire and expire might mean the same thing. They sound the same.” He suggested.
“Well, what does expire mean?” Myrna asked impatiently.
“I think it means that something is really old and you can’t use it anymore, so you just throw it away.” Erwin replied.
Myrna’s eyes grew wide. “So you think that since I’m too old, the zoo keeper will just throw me away in a few days?” Myrna asked in alarm. “I’ve got to get out of here; escape is my only chance.” Myrna continued, not waiting for his response.
“Calm down, Myrna.” Erwin told her. “We need to plan, not go crazy. Just get a grip and then we can start to think.” Slowly, Myrna calmed herself down.
“Okay, I think I’m ready to plan. What are we planning, anyway?” she asked.
“Your escape.” Erwin said dramatically.
After two long hours of discussion about tactics and plans and timing, they finally had everything under control. Myrna was tired, but confident in their plan’s success. Suddenly, she wondered what she would do once she had escaped. Finally, she asked Erwin about his own life.
“How do you live on your own, Erwin? Isn’t it hard?” Myrna wondered aloud.
“Well, it is hard, but it’s also worth it.” The little skunk answered. And he started to tell her a few of his own stories. Surprisingly, Myrna learned a lot from the seemingly small and defenseless little Erwin. Some of his tales made her wish for freedom more than anything else, but most made her grateful for her own life of ease in her cage. When he told about the time when a very large owl pursued him for two days, trying to eat him, she shivered. He also told of times when food was scarce. He would go days at a time without any food, sometimes nearly starving to death before finding food.
The more Myrna heard, the less she wanted to be a part of such a life. She had no idea how to hunt for food or camouflage herself from predators. All she knew was that her cage was a safe place where she was always fed and taken care of—until now (maybe). She still didn’t know if retire meant expire, and she also didn’t know how to survive in the wild on her own. All of a sudden, escape didn’t sound as good as it had earlier.
“Erwin,” Myrna began, “I don’t know if I want to do this anymore.” Myrna took a deep breath. “I probably wouldn’t be able to survive in the wild and I don’t have anyone to help me to learn how.”
“But you can’t back out now!” Erwin protested. “We made a plan and everything!”
“I know we had a plan, but it won’t do me any good if I just escape and die in the forest.” Myrna argued.
“Well, it won’t do you any good to just lay around in this cage, either!” Erwin shouted angrily. “And if you don’t consider me to be good enough to help you learn how to survive in the forest, I guess your plan won’t work after all!” he shouted, making his way back to the forest and ignoring Myrna’s pleas for him to come back.
Myrna’s helpless cries went unheard in the otherwise completely still night air. After what seemed like hours, Myrna fell into a fitful sleep.