LONGLEAF STORIES

full circle in the hundred acre wood

I’VE BEEN THINKING about Enzed The Urban Hedgehog for a couple of years. Doing nothing, but thinking. Way back in January of 2001, I started writing about Enzed. It was a cold, gray day in Pensacola, Florida. . .

Life is so ironic. Yesterday I stopped in at Barnes & Noble, mainly to get a cappuccino for the ride home, but also for the pure pleasure of wandering among the books. Checking out, I exited, but hesitated when I saw a display of sale books in the foyer. One of them caught my eye. It was A Guide To Children’s Books. I returned to the same young woman who had checked me out before, a small, owlish girl, and said, “This is just the book I’ve been looking for, but didn’t know existed. I’m working on a children’s book about hedgehogs. . .”

“Hedgehogs?” Owl eyes blinked.

“Yes, you see, my husband and I were in Queenstown, New Zealand, and we saw a cat cross the road to investigate something, and it went all Halloween cat and ran back across the road. We went to investigate, and found this young hedgehog. . .”

“But I love hedgehogs.” Owl eyes blinking, she had become strangely still.

“. . .and we realized he ought to be hibernating. You see, it was Winter there, snow all around. Yet here he was, frightening cats in the middle of Queenstown. so I thought, what a great idea for a kid’s book: a young hedgehog, always where he/she shouldn’t be, having adventures — a bit like Paddington Bear. Locals call the country NZ (en zed), so I thought about call it Enzed, The Urban Hedgehog. . . ” words tumbling out, a line of people wanting to buy books forming behind me.

“I used to raise hedgehogs.” owl eyes pronounced, blinking solemnly. “They’re sweet.”

That stopped me. “You raised hedgehogs?”

“Oh yes. At one time I had seven. Now, I don’t know about the European hedgehogs,” her voice lowered, “but I’ve heard they can be like raccoons.” At this, she made an unpleasant face. “Although I’m sure once they get to know you, they’re quite nice. But the African Pigmy hedgehogs,” she sighed, “they’re so cuddly.” Blinking rapidly now. “I miss them.”

End of discussion. She’s peering around me now at the line of restless customers. I wander off toward the exit, muttering. “European? African pigmy?”

Until spotting Enzed that afternoon in Queenstown, I had spent an entire lifetime never once thinking about hedgehogs. And now I discover that a young bookstore clerk in Pensacola, Florida raised them as pets, as though this were the most natural thing in the world. Did you know there are hedgehog websites, hedgehog home pages and hedgehog fan clubs?

If someone had suggested to me a few days ago that there exists an international hedgehog subculture, I would have laughed.  “Yeah, right.”

It’s been awhile, but I’m thinking about Enzed again and wondering what adventures he/she might have by slipping into a traveler’s backpack and somehow ending up in Los Angeles or New York or Miami? Maybe Enzed turns out to be female and pregnant and has babies during her travels?

I have a slightly out of focus photograph of the real Enzed on my desk.

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