At Our Hen House, we do our best to bring you the latest from the world of animal rights. That said, when it comes to telling you about books, there are just so many amazing new ones that cover all kinds of animal issues, and we simply don’t have time to review them all (but don’t miss the ones we have reviewed). That’s why we thought long and hard and decided to bring you this exciting program. From time to time, we’ll publish excerpts of the author’s choice — highlighting the best in new animal rights books (both fiction and non) — right here on our online magazine. We hope you dig this service!
One general note about OHH’s intention to publish excerpts: We do our best to choose excerpts from books that reflect our values to change the world for animals, and to end their exploitation altogether. However, we are not able to read all of these books in their entirety, and so please note that the books we choose do indeed intrigue us, but might not fully be in line with our ethos — though we hope they are. In other words, vet these for yourselves, and feel free to share your thoughts with us at by emailing info [at] ourhenhouse [dot] org.
Today we bring you an excerpt from the debut novel Persimmon Takes on Humanity by Christopher Locke (which Ari Solomon reviewed on episode 268 of the Our Hen House podcast). Flock members — read on past the except for your chance to win a copy of this book! (Not a flock member yet? Join us!)
What would you do if you saw someone committing unimaginable acts of cruelty? Turn the other way or defend those in need — no matter the cost? That’s the dilemma thrust upon Persimmon, a clever and compassionate raccoon, and her loyal forest friends. Instantly, the courageous critters spring into action, risking their own lives to rescue any animal whom they see suffering at the hands of humans. What the team doesn’t know is just how rampant this violence really is, and soon their exciting rescue missions turn shockingly dangerous and deadly. Will they succeed in saving the animals of the world from humans’ brutality, or will they fall victim to the powerful system of abuse they’re trying so desperately to end?
And to contextualize the following excerpt for you:
Persimmon, her younger brother Scraps and their opossum friend Derpoke have been challenged by the arrogant raccoon, Rawly, to follow him deep into a dangerous part of the woods to investigate a mysterious creature they’ve never seen before. The group has just come upon a large wooden building where, to their surprise, the mysterious creatures inside are crying out for help.
Excerpt from Persimmon Takes On Humanity
by Christopher Locke
Persimmon, Rawly, Scraps and Derpoke listen intently to the cries pouring out of the wooden building. Persimmon focuses her hearing on one particular animal and listens ever so carefully. Her heart breaks a little at what she hears. She can just barely make out one word being repeated over and over: “Mommy!”
Rawly shrugs. “These creatures cry like that every time I come here. So what?”
Persimmon shoots him a nasty look. “How can you be so callous? They’re calling out for their mothers, obviously in pain. Or maybe they’re crying because you’re eating all of their food.”
“Oh please,” Rawly laughs. “They never have any food in there. They just sit in these wooden stalls whining all the time. I eat the food from the main burrow where the humans reside.”
“Well then, have fun gorging on your feast,” Persimmon remarks disdainfully. “I’m going to check on these injured creatures.”
Scraps speaks up. “I’m coming, too.”
Persimmon looks directly at her little brother. “Scraps, it’s too dangerous. If they are hurt, they could be like that fox in the trap and scratch at you even though you’re trying to help them.”
“I didn’t come all this way not to see them.” Scraps holds his ground. “Besides, if they’re in pain, I want to help, too.”
Persimmon gives in. “Fine, but stay close.”
She and Scraps start down the hill. Derpoke turns to Rawly. “Now who’s cowardly?”
Rawly starts to respond, “I’m not afraid of…”
Derpoke doesn’t stay to listen. He rushes to catch up with Persimmon and Scraps. Rawly is left squatting on top of the incline by himself—feeling foolish, although he keeps his head held high so no one will notice how foolish he feels.
The three critters crawl stealthily through the grass toward the building. No humans are in sight. They hoist themselves onto the wooden fence and when they get to the side of the building, Persimmon notices a hole in the wall up near the roof. She turns to her companions. “Ready?”
Derpoke and Scraps nod.
Persimmon climbs to the hole with ease and peeks her head inside. It’s dark, but her eyes adjust quickly. She examines the interior and sees long rows of narrow wooden enclosures. Inside each one, she can make out shorthaired creatures with white and black patches. She squeezes through the opening for a closer look. Scraps and Derpoke climb the wall and follow close behind.
They scamper along the rafters high above the creatures. The putrid stench is unbearable. Scraps whispers to his sister, “How do they stand this smell? My nose is…” He stops mid-sentence, looking fearful. “Don’t move. They’re watching us.”
Persimmon, Scraps and Derpoke peer down at the creatures, some of whom are now staring back at them. The creatures are bigger than they had imagined—five times the size of raccoons—and they each have four long legs. Their tails are longer than raccoons’ tails and bushy only at the end. The trio is filled with a combination of excitement and anxiety. Their presence has been discovered. Now what?
Persimmon calls out with trepidation, “Hello?” Her voice gets lost among the moaning, though. She exclaims to her companions, “I’m going in closer.”
She crawls down a wooden pole toward a set of crates. There are around a hundred in all, each containing one creature. She notices that the stalls are so narrow that the creatures cannot turn around. In fact, they can barely lie down.
Persimmon talks calmly to the two creatures she is crawling toward. “I’m not going to hurt you, okay?”
The creatures step back in fear as Persimmon approaches, but there’s not much room for them to move. One of them slips on the messy wood slats and cries out as his back hits the wall.
“It’s okay. I’m a friend.” She sees that he has slipped on his own droppings. To her disgust, the wood below him is smeared with the foul substance, as is his black and white fur. “Goodness, sweet one, you need a dip in the stream.” She notices that the creature beside him is also covered in his own droppings.
Now that Persimmon is closer, she realizes how big and soulful the creatures’ eyes are. One of them whimpers in her direction, as if he’s trying to say something.
“I’m sorry,” Persimmon exclaims. “I don’t understand you.” She calls up to her friends. “I think he’s trying to speak to me but doesn’t know how.”
Derpoke calls down. “Do they seem dangerous at all?”
“No,” Persimmon remarks. “They seem scared. I… I think they’re babies.”
“Babies?!” Derpoke is stunned. “But they’re enormous.”
She gazes at the gentle giant. She half-whispers to herself, “There’s just something about them. They seem so innocent.”
The creature cries at her again.
“Are you hungry?” Persimmon asks, perplexed. “I’m sorry. I don’t have any food.”
Persimmon sees that he has a rope tied around his neck, connected to the wooden stall. “That’s odd. Why would you be tied up? It’s not like you can escape.”
The creature moves toward her, whimpering.
Derpoke screams. “Persimmon, he’s trying to eat you!”
“I’m fine.” Persimmon dismisses her frantic friend.
The creature keeps crying as he nears her. Persimmon is slightly intimidated but she doesn’t run away. Something in the creature’s eyes makes her trust him. He moves his head—which is about half the size of her entire body—toward her.
“I’m sorry, sweetness,” Persimmon apologizes. “I don’t have any food. I don’t even know what you eat.”
The sad creature moves his head closer and closer, and for one second she fears he might bite her, but instead he rests his head against her soft fur. By instinct, as if he were her own little pup, she caresses his head by his ear. He lets out a sigh, closes his melancholy eyes, and unbeknownst to her, for the first time in his miserable life, he is calm.
“You just wanted a hug.” Persimmon’s heart aches. She rests her head on top of his and begins to hum a lullaby that her mother used to sing to her when she was a pup. And as she holds this sad creature close to her, she knows that she must help him. She doesn’t know how yet, but she knows that somehow, some way, she must.
Christopher Locke is an avid animal advocate who enjoyed a fruitful career in the television industry for more than a decade before pursuing his passion project, Persimmon Takes On Humanity, which is the first book in The Enlightenment Adventures series. Visit him online at Christopher-Locke.com, on Facebook.com/LockeAuthor and on Twitter at @LockeAuthor.
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