"And in school we learned about prairie dogs and they live underground!" Chauncey told his parents over dinner. "Mrs. Hill said..." They were keeping his schedule as normal as possible in this changed world, so dinnertime was still the time to talk about their days. "Their tunnels go all over, down in the dirt," he was carrying on, "Did you know they live here? I mean, not here in town, but..."
"I know where they are," said his dad. "I got to see them when I was a kid, once."
"Really? Was it so cool? Can we go?" He turned his innocent eyes to his mom. "Can we, Mom?" He knew nothing of things like "immune deficiency" or "pandemic". Dolores smiled at him first, then turned to look at her husband.
"Well, not yet, Sweetie. Rick, when we're able to get out on a family vacation? What do you think?" Chauncey didn't know what was happening in the wider world. Didn't know his mom had been laid off. If they could make a vacation happen sometime, it would be all up to Rick now that they were a single-income family.
Dolores was at home with Chauncey most of every day. It was a relief that he was so excited by learning new things. When he latched on to an idea, they could work that into other activities, videos, or online games. Prairie dogs were the latest passion. "Sure buddy," Rick ruffled his son's hair. "As soon as we can take a vacation, we'll go see prairie dogs. You can even help me plan the trip!"
Good idea. Dolores smiled. That would be a good way to help occupy his down time.
That night when they went to tuck him in, they found his canvas retractable tube tunnel stretched from the door to his bed. He was in bed, sitting up and looking at them with a grin. "I'm a prairie dog! That's my tunnel!" Dolores was slim enough to get down on hands and knees and crawl through. Rick was broad across the shoulders. He tried, but only pushed the first support ring into the next before backing out and shrugging at Chauncey.
"It's okay Dad. You're human. You have to walk."
The next day Rick had some boxes in the bed of his truck when he got home. Dinner was late, but much the same. "...And there are all these rooms underground. They call them burrows. But burrow also means to dig..."
At bedtime they could see Chauncey had burrowed his way to poke his head out of the blankets way down at the foot of the bed. "I'm a prairie dog! Mom, you're a prairie dog too. Come into my burrow! Dad, you have have to sit on top." So Dolores crawled through and got under the covers while Rick sat on top and read a new book he'd found about a prairie dog town. "Wow!" Chauncey said at the end. "I can't wait to visit the prairie dog town!"
"Well, maybe you'll see it in your dreams tonight," said his mom as she moved him up to his pillow for final night-nights.
As they went back downstairs she asked her husband, "What's in the truck, hon?" Dolores had seen the boxes when Rick was backing into the garage.
He gave her waist a squeeze. "Let's make a burrow," was all he said as they crossed toward the garage door.
Hours later, Dolores looked around, aghast. "It's a labyrinth! I live in a labyrinth."
"It's a burrow and he'll love it." He had bought or bartered for more crawling tunnels that they'd arranged throughout the house leading to all the rooms Chauncey used: bathroom, kitchen, living room... they had one that led right up to the seat of his chair in the "formal" dining room where his school computer was set up. Rick had even arranged random dead-ends filled with favored toys or piles of books. Where there were no tunnels, they had built faux walls by moving furniture, to keep the labyrinthine feel of a prairie dog's burrow.
"He'll be entertained all day. And you know it's only until the next thing comes up." Rick was grinning with pride at their in-home Labyrinth.
Dolores put an arm around him. "You're crazy, you know that?" She kissed him on his cheek. "Maybe on the weekend you should at least *look* at possible trip destinations." They couldn't set a date but they could at least keep their son's hopes alive.
Thanks for visiting my #AtoZChallenge! All month I'll be writing flash fiction, with the theme "Audience Participation".
Now it's your turn, lovely audience member. Do you have a writing prompt to suggest? Don't worry about choosing a letter of the alphabet, just leave me a word, a thought, a place, a concept... anything! and I'll add it to the list.
My "The Labyrinth" story came from the prompt "Labyrinth" provided by Anstice Brown of Curious Daydreams, in a comment left on my F post, here. I must admit, I let the story write itself, so if you're a little lost, so am I!