“The Lemming Sisters”
by Toni M. Todd
It’s a common misconception that lemmings are suicidal. That Disney movie from the
1950s? A construct. False. To be a lemming? Nothing finer. We are adorable, prideful, horny.
We want to live!
Our elders had done it. Now, was our time. That Spring morning, the colony felt
crowded. On impulse, the dawn’s light our starting gun, we ran, Clara, Peaches, Betty and I —
best friends, like sisters — plus thousands more. We ran, toward dreams of frenzied fornication
with strapping males, resplendent with thick coats, clear eyes, strong teeth, lemming men among
lemming men, the kind you ache for to father a brood. We were willful, flirty fluffs of brown and
gold, tight tails, twitchy ears, randy as rabbits. Scratch that. Rabbits are prudes. Lemmings are
breeders extraordinaire, the envy of all rodents. Our utopia was across the river, where grass
grew tall and sweet and the best mates were not our brothers.
Stay close to rocks, the elders said. Avoid unnecessary exposure. But we were restless,
and in our adolescent minds, invincible. We ran, swift, true, but not so swift as the hawk who
caught sight of us moving, en-mass, an unstoppable lemming tide toward the river. I heard a
chirp and looked up. Clara dangled above me, tiny legs flailing.
We ran on, all out, full-throttle, Thelma and Louise, Peaches in the lead. She had always
been the fastest among us. She would be first to the river.
Peaches’ scream faded as she dropped over the edge. We had expected a placid stream, a
gentle, sandy entry. We’re all excellent swimmers. But a canyon swallowed Peaches whole,
three-hundred vertical feet onto the flicking tongue of class-five rapids. We heard her cry, but
ran faster, driven by forces of lemming lust and amour-propre, not to mention scary predators
determined to eat us for lunch. Adrenaline flowed like the river.
We neared the edge and insanity ebbed. I changed my mind, resolved to go home, screw
cousin Frank if I had to. All four feet jammed into the dirt, skidding, skidding, but my
momentum — our momentum — was too great. I was flung, like shot from a sling out and over,
limbs pinwheeling frantic, reflexive circles. An invisible pillow of warm, rising air lifted me
upward to float, flying, a sensation of pure joy! But something had come to block the sun, a
shadow, looming wider and wider. A cloud? A jetliner? A blimp?
An eagle snatched me from the sky. Lemming brethren plummeted from the precipice toward the water and rocks below. I listened as my own peeps blended in echoes of solidarity with theirs. For all my carnal ambition,
my confidence and pride of species, I had to admit, dangling there, above the cliffs, ravenous
river below, hungry hawk above, talon poking me in the ribs, yes, I had to concede; sometimes, it
sucked to be a lemming.