Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Something lay shimmering in the tall grass beckoning investigation.
Elodie nervously tapped her bare foot as she stared across the indigo lawn. Was it a fallen star? A faery ring? A firefly in distress?
Curiosity ate at her, but she remained glued to the porch. Who knew what was hiding in the shadowy woods? Wolves, bears, and hairy, brown spiders the size of a beach umbrella lived there.
Night time brought other terrors, such as the bats that fluttered crazily back and forth catching mosquitoes – of which she was thankful, scratching a fresh welt on her ankle with a toe. The lonesome howling of a neighborhood dog always sent chills down her spine. And then there was the unknown... The horrible unknown of the forest. What else lurked in the darkness?
It wasn't that she was afraid of the dark, necessarily. Oh, sure, she had a night-light in her bedroom, but who didn't? That didn't brand her a sissy. Besides, she was a pretty fast runner. Everyone said so. She could make it around the house in less than a minute. She knew she could make it to the middle of the lawn and back in a flash.
The big, fat moon shone like a creamy pat of butter, providing enough light to bolster her courage. It was now or never. Holding her breath she darted from her perch, feeling the prickle of dew-coated grass beneath her feet as she raced to the glinting object.
It appeared to be a charm bracelet. Thrilled by her good fortune and forgetting all about standing in the middle of the garden, she began to inspect it. A fine, silver chain with a delicate clasp held a circular object that ended in a point. At the top was a sprinkling of green stones and the body of the charm cast a lavender glow. As Elodie swirled the charm before her to get a better look she heard the screen door slam and the voice of her younger brother.
“What’re you doing out there?” he asked, starting off the porch. He was fearless.
Elodie slipped the treasure into the pocket of her red, ladybug sweater. “Nothing, just watchin’ the fireflies,” she answered.
Didier turned back towards the house, calling over his shoulder, “You better come in now. Mom says it’s time for bed.”
Elodie raced inside, keeping her hand tucked securely in her pocket.
“Whoa there, whirly girl! Where’s the fire?” her father called as she dashed past him and down the hall towards her bedroom. Elodie leapt over Didier who was struggling to put on his pajamas without assistance or much success and closed her door. Once inside it was safe to remove the object for closer scrutiny.
It was quite beautiful, but she wasn’t sure what it was exactly. It reminded her of something – a radish? A strawberry? Something she had seen at the Farmer’s Market. As she inspected it beneath her lamp she noticed that there was a tiny hinge in the middle. Using her thin fingernail she pried it open and a small key tumbled out. Elodie gasped in delight, “Oh my gosh – what a little key!” She turned it over in her palm and saw a curly letter P engraved on it.
Mrs. Verlaine interrupted her thoughts as she called from the hallway, “Elodie! Have you brushed your teeth yet?”
Placing the key back inside and snapping the hatch shut, Elodie desperately looked around for a hiding place. Beneath the pillow was a bad idea because her mother was a notorious pillow-plumper. Her crumpled sweater, hastily tossed to the floor, was dangerous because it would be gathered for the laundry basket. She couldn’t put it under the bed because of the possibility of monsters. One could never be too careful about monsters!
“Elodie!” her mother called impatiently, heading for the bedroom door.
As the door swung open Elodie tossed the bracelet towards her dollhouse and prayed that it landed safely amidst the clutter.
“Didn’t you hear me calling? Come on, tomorrow’s a big day. You’ll be starting first grade, isn’t that exciting? I want you to get in there and brush your teeth.” She sighed as she surveyed the room, “Oh, just look at this room! Your toys are everywhere. How many times have I asked you to keep this room tidy?” Mrs. Verlaine stared at the dollhouse in disgust.
“I’ll straighten it up, Mom, I promise!” Elodie pleaded.
“Hmmm.” Her mother had already started toward the mess with her hands on her hips. “There’s no time for that now, young lady. Get in the bathroom and brush those teeth. I’ll take care of this.”
“NO!” Elodie shouted in a panic.
Her mother didn’t turn around as she began picking up the dolls. “Don’t shout, Elodie, and do as I ask.”
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. What could Elodie do? Her mother would find the bracelet and wonder why Elodie was keeping something that didn’t belong to her, and suggest putting up signs throughout the neighborhood or calling the police and Elodie would never, ever have a nice bracelet for as long as she lived! Her lip trembled as she fought back tears.
“Why are you still standing there? Hop to it!” Mrs. Verlaine said, holding a doll by her matted hair in one hand and a star-spangled, purple pony in the other. “Honestly, I don’t know why we bother to buy you nice toys when you just destroy them. Look at this doll; her hair is beyond repair.”
Elodie stared toward the dollhouse that was quickly getting organized. Her mother approached and turned her toward the bathroom. With a gentle swat she propelled Elodie down the hall. “You’ve wasted enough time tonight, so don’t fool around in there.”
The toothpaste oozed out shakily as Elodie stood on her stool at the sink. As usual, she had squeezed out too much. She could hear her mother humming as she rummaged through the pile of toys. Suddenly the toothpaste sputtered from her lips as she heard her mother say, “What on earth could this be?” Elodie raced from the bathroom, foam dripping from her mouth, saying, “It’s mine, it’s mine, I found it, it’s mine!” Mrs. Verlaine turned and Elodie could see that she was holding a wrinkled piece of paper with a poorly drawn yellow bear on it. Or was it a cat?
“You found this? Well, it looks like your artwork to me. Oh, now look at the mess you’re making! Get back in there and finish up. I’m tired of repeating myself.”
Elodie finished brushing her teeth and ran back to her empty bedroom. Her mother had finished sorting the toys, the pillow was fluffed, the bed turned down, and her sweater was gone.
She wandered over to the dollhouse, which was now as neat as a pin. The dolls were sitting in a perfect semi-circle, then the stuffed animals, and finally the strange collection of accessories that were essential to the land of make-believe. She looked for the acorns and reindeer moss and found them in a shoebox along with a speckled, blue eggshell, a cracked teacup, pennies, wooden spools, and an assortment of broken crayons. There was also a clump of ribbon that still contained strands of doll hair and a comb with most of its teeth missing. The bracelet, however, was nowhere to be found.
“It’s all there,” her mother said from the doorway. “I wouldn’t throw away your precious robin egg, though goodness knows why you’re saving it. You collect more junk than your brother.”
Elodie jerked her head up in surprise.
“Come on, now.” Her mother patted the bed. “Let’s tuck you in and find a nice story to read.” She grabbed the first book in the night stand drawer.
Mrs. Verlaine had chosen Peter Rabbit, and snuggled next to Elodie so that she could enjoy the illustrations. As she came to the page where Peter was in the garden there appeared a drawing of a vegetable that Elodie recognized as the one that dangled from her bracelet.
“What’s that?” she pointed excitedly.
“That’s a turnip, honey. It’s a root vegetable, like a carrot or a parsnip.”
“What do they taste like?”
Mrs. Verlaine thought for a moment and then said, “Tell you what. We’ll have some for dinner this week, and you can find out for yourself.” She closed the book and kissed the top of Elodie's head.
Lying in the soft glow of her nightlight, Elodie wondered: Could the engraved letter P on the tiny key stand for Peter? Was it possible that Peter Rabbit lived in her garden? Sighing, she closed her eyes and tried to sleep. She'd have to search for the bracelet tomorrow. She wasn't getting out of bed now that the lights were off, that was for sure!
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
“I hope we catch a nasty ol’ rat tonight,” said Silas, an older opossum that was revered for his rat-catching skills. “Nothing would give me greater pleasure.”
“Nor I,” agreed Henry, rubbing his tummy in anticipation. “I’ve grown tired of table scraps.”
Beatrice waddled toward the briar patch where she intended to stock up on the last of the juicy blackberries. “Ha! Rats!” she snorted. “This garden hasn’t seen a rat since we moved in and wiped them out. No rat in his right mind would dare to move here now.”
They all shook their heads sadly. “We can dream, can’t we?” sighed Henry. “I was hoping the construction around the corner would drive a few into our hands.”
“No, Bea is right,” said Silas. “Rats know better than to mess with us. I wouldn’t be surprised if word of our success has spread throughout the community and beyond.” Silas had a habit of bragging in an understated sort of way.
“You mean your success,” Bea murmured sarcastically.
Silas continued, “I remember that first night like it was yesterday. Three evil rats were just getting ready to take over our compost heap when I surprised them with a vicious hiss and showed my fiercely pointy teeth.” He showed his teeth to Henry and Bea, as if to illustrate just how fierce and pointy they were. His mouth sprang open like a hungry alligator. “I didn’t waste any time. As you know, rats can be quite slippery. I pounced on this one and then onto that one without any concern for my own safety. It was a bloody battle if I do say so myself!”
“And the third rat?” asked Henry, awestruck by the story, though he had heard it many times.
“Yes, tell us about the third rat, Silas, you fearless rat-slayer, you!” Bea prompted with a blackberry stained smirk on her face.
Silas coughed and cleared his throat. Whipping his tail around, he showed Henry the nasty scar for the hundredth time. “The third rat bit me, mangy cretin that he was. I call this my ‘Scar from Battle Har’, and it is my solemn vow to get even with him one day.”
“Why do you call it ‘Battle Har’?” asked Henry.
“’Cause that’s what the rat said afterwards… Har! Har! Har!” quipped Beatrice.
“Say what you like but this war is far from over!”
Beatrice rolled her eyes and went back to plucking blackberries, most of which she ate.
Cocoa, the opossum that was so named because of his unusual light brown coat and love of all things chocolate, lumbered over to the group and sat down with a grunt. “I’m so very tired of eating vegetables night after night! Don’t these folks ever throw away a nice piece of cake?”
Bea answered, “What about that candy wrapper I got you last week?”
“I’ve licked it clean three times over,” moaned Cocoa, surveying the compost heap with disdain. “It lost its flavor after the first swipe, but I kept hoping I had missed a spot.”
“Miss a spot? You?” Bea looked pointedly at his rotund body. “That would be a first.”
A rustle emerged from the edge of the woods and all four opossums turned quickly to see the intruder. It was only Pinky and her brother Sam. They were the orphans who had recently joined their clan after their mother had been killed by a car while crossing the street.
“You frightened us,” said Henry, dramatically fanning himself with the top of a celery stalk. “There’s a cat that frequents this garden; you two best be careful.”
“And announce yourselves before darting into the moonlight,” agreed Cocoa. “I nearly fainted when I heard you coming!”
“Sorry!” Pinky and Sam cried in unison.
“Don’t be such a pack of lily-livered scaredy-pusses!” thundered Silas to the rest of them, and then turned his kindly eyes toward the cowering youngsters. “There’s nothing to fear when I’m on patrol.”
“You’re no match for a hungry cat,” noted Beatrice.
Silas bared his teeth again and said in a voice just loud enough to be heard within their small group, “I’m not afraid of cats, rats or bats! Bring ‘em on!”
“Bring ‘em on,” muttered Bea under her breath. “He’d be the first to keel over.”
Pinky and Sam giggled and followed her back to the briar patch where she shared her freshly plucked berries. “One for you, and one for you,” she said. “Watch the juice, don’t be messy!” The pair giggled again, taking in the sight of her purple-stained face.
“Oh, looky what I found!” sang Henry from the top of the heap. Using his tiny shovel he unearthed a crust of toast smeared with egg yolk.
“Is it cake?” asked Cocoa hopefully.
“Not cake, ol’ boy, but not vegetable either.” He took a sample nibble and then popped the rest into his greedy mouth.
“Well, what is it then?” persisted Cocoa, his excitement mounting, but making no effort to budge from his comfortable spot.
“It’s gone, that’s what it is,” observed Silas with contempt.
“You can’t begrudge a fella a little midnight snack,” protested Henry, wiping his whiskers in satisfaction. “Besides, Cocoa, if you’re so interested in what’s in this heap climb up here and help me.”
“He’s got a point,” grumbled Silas, poking his stick in the soft pile.
“I’m tired,” Cocoa moaned.
“He’s fat, that’s what he is,” whispered Bea to Pinky and Sam.
“I heard that, Beatrice!” Cocoa shouted. “I’m NOT fat, I’m plump.”
“Plump as a beach ball,” she shot back.
“Well, look at you! You’re not exactly a string bean! Hmmm… String bean… Say, Henry, any crisp string beans up there?”
Henry threw down his wilted celery stalk knocking Cocoa on the ear and said, “You’ll have to make do with this. It’s like I’m standing in a bowl of salad tonight.” No sooner did Henry say the word “salad” did he slip on a greasy piece of lettuce and slid all the way down the heap, landing soundly into Cocoa’s soft belly.
Cocoa grunted and rolled over, which caused Pinky and Sam to erupt into fresh giggles. Even Beatrice laughed to see the two of them lying in a tangle.
“Ooof! Get off of me!” cried Cocoa. “Oh, my tail!”
Henry managed to free himself from Cocoa, whose tail was crushed beneath his massive bottom upon impact.
“Sorry, dear fellow,” said Henry as he made his way back up the heap. “That was sort of fun, I must admit. Felt kinda like skiing.”
“How on earth would you know about skiing?” asked Bea, exasperated with all their bragging.
“I know plenty about skiing! Don’t you remember last December when this compost heap was coated in ice? I was the only one brave enough –“
“Foolish enough,” interjected Beatrice.
“Hungry enough,” added Cocoa.
Henry ignored them, “—to scale to the treacherous top while the rest of you slept snug in your beds. With trusty shovel and burlap sack in hand I gracefully surfed to the bottom like an Olympian!”
“What’s an Olympian?” asked Sam.
Beatrice answered before Henry got off on another self-congratulatory rant, “A nincompoop, I’d say, ‘cause that’s just what Henry is, though I would hardly use the word ‘graceful’ after witnessing that last episode.”
Henry snarled in her direction, “While we’re on the subject of gracefulness, Beatrice, why don’t you share your recent swimming experience with the children?”
Bea’s face turned red with rage. “There’s nothing to tell!”
“Oh, but there is!” Henry said gleefully. “You see, children, Beatrice got the brilliant idea that she would wash the blackberry stains from her face so that no one would know she had been gorging herself again.”
“That’s not true!” protested Bea.
Henry persisted, “So she leaned into the stream, forgetting what a big, fat, berry-filled lummox she is, lost her balance and fell all the way in, face first!”
Cocoa jiggled with mirth as he remembered the sight of Beatrice swirling down stream, calling for help. “Unfortunately Beatrice swims like a rock.”
“What happened?” asked Pinky in horror at the thought of falling into the rushing water.
“Silas fished her out with his stick!” Henry said triumphantly.
Although Silas loved the stories that depicted him as a hero, he felt the need as the elder opossum to put a stop to their silly feud. “Beatrice thanked me very much for that,” he said.
“How remarkable,” said Henry. “I didn’t think the word was in her vocabulary.”
“You be quiet,” growled Bea, starting for the heap, “before I knock you gracefully from the top of that garbage pile!”
“And miss this sumptuous treat I just uncovered?” Henry asked, dangling something playfully in her direction.
“What is it?” she hissed.
“Yes, what is it?” asked Cocoa desperately.
“Just a tasty blackberry pie crust,” said Henry, swaying it before them like a pendulum.
“Me! Throw it to me, please!” beseeched Cocoa in agony, finally struggling to his chubby feet.
“Go on and throw it to Cocoa,” Bea said bitterly. “You owe him that much after smashing his poor tail.”
“Yes, my poor tail!”
Henry tossed it toward Cocoa, but Beatrice leapt to catch it in mid-air, popping the entire segment into her mouth. “Mmm, mmm! Thank you, Henry!” she said sarcastically. “See? Thank you is indeed in my vocabulary!”
“Oh dear,” said Cocoa, plopping down again. “I was really looking forward to that.”
Henry stared at Beatrice in disbelief. Silas was amazed that Beatrice could move so quickly.
Just then a high-pitched howl came from the edge of the trees and everyone froze in terror. Petula raced into the clearing, her face wet with tears. “My locket! It’s gone!” she shrieked.
Monday, December 29, 2008
Petula fished around in her marsupial pouch and produced an empty hand. “It’s not here!”
“Did you search the warren? Is it in the winter pantry?”
“How could it be? The door is locked!” wailed Petula.
That was staggering news, as the locket contained the key to their storehouse of food. Cocoa began to rock back and forth, “What will we do, and with the nights getting colder and colder?”
“Now Cocoa, calm yourself,” said Silas. “We’ll organize a search this very moment, and you’ll see it will turn up in the most logical spot.”
“Turn up… Turnip!” cried Petula, fresh tears coursing down her cheeks.
“Stop crying, you silly git! You’re not helping. We need you to think where you might’ve put the blasted thing!” said Beatrice angrily. She had personally stocked the winter pantry with the ripest berries, and had no intention of letting them rot.
“Let’s see,” choked Petula, trying to remember all the places she had visited recently. “I was in the flower bed this afternoon.”
“Okay, we’ll start with the flower bed,” said Silas, slowly climbing down the compost heap. “Show me exactly where you were.”
The older opossums headed toward the bed of flowers and shrubs at the front of the human’s house, but Pinky stood frozen in her spot. “Come on, Pinky! This is a real adventure!” said Sam enthusiastically. Pinky wouldn’t budge. “Come on!” Sam called again, giving her a shove.
“Sam,” she whispered, “They’re not going to find the locket in the flower garden.”
“No, because I took it.”
“You took Petula’s locket?” Sam was stunned. “Why would you do that?”
Pinky began to tremble. “I was just looking at it, I meant to put it back, but I forgot.”
“So put it back now,” said Sam.
“I can’t,” answered Pinky. “I lost it!”
“Isn’t it in your pouch?” asked Sam. Pinky showed him her pouch. “Empty!” he proclaimed in a hushed, theatrical voice. “Where did you lose it?”
“If I knew that, it wouldn’t be lost, now would it?” she asked in a huff.
“Guess not,” answered Sam. “Let’s retrace your steps and maybe we’ll find it first. They’ll be searching for a while, and maybe we’ll get lucky.”
Pinky agreed, but she felt sick over losing something as precious as the turnip locket. They began to search all the spots that she loved to frequent: the shed, vegetable patch and sandbox, but to no avail.
“It’s no use, we’ll never find it! I may as well confess and hope they don’t toss us out of the warren forever.”
“What do you mean, ‘us’? I didn’t steal that stupid locket, why should they throw me out?”
“Because,” sighed Pinky, “You’re my brother. They’ll think you helped me.”
“That’s crazy,” said Sam, but he began to worry.
The opossums came back into the clearing, Petula as hysterical as before.
“Any luck?” asked Sam in what he hoped sounded sincere.
Silas shook his head gravely, “Petula said the last time she saw it was when she was napping in the Cozy Room. We’re going to head back and turn that place inside out. You kids come along and lend a hand.”
“Yes sir,” they said, but lagged behind the others. “You’ve got to think of something Pinky! Once they’re finished searching the warren they’ll begin questioning everyone, and I’m not about to lie to Silas. You remember what he did to those evil rats!” said Sam.
“What can I do?” whined Pinky. “We’ve looked everywhere. Maybe a rat crept into the yard and took it. We could always suggest something like that.”
“Never work,” said Sam matter-of-factly. “Silas can smell one a mile away. He’d know if they’ve been hanging around.”
Just then the children heard a sound and turned to look at the house. One of the humans was closing a window. It looked like the Big Lady.
“You don’t suppose…” wondered Sam as he saw the Big Lady move back into the darkness of the house.
“What?” asked Pinky.
“Well, maybe the locket’s inside the house. Is it possible?”
“How could that be possible, Sam? For goodness’ sake, I’m not crazy enough to go wandering inside the human’s house.”
“Yes, but what if one of ‘em found it and brought it inside? That little girl is always picking up things and putting ‘em in her pocket. What if she found the locket?”
“Oh, Sam! Do you think?” asked Pinky, hopefully. “Our problem may be solved!”
“Not so fast, Pinky! First, we don’t know if the locket’s inside the house. Second, we don’t know where it might be hidden. Third, we don’t know how we’ll get inside to find it. And fourth –“
“Okay, okay, I see what you mean,” said Pinky, feeling depressed again. “I know!” she said excitedly. “Let’s go spy on them! Maybe we can see it from the outside.”
Sam shrugged, disliking it when his sister came up with a better plan.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Saturday, December 27, 2008
“Wake up, Curly!” shouted Silas, giving the sleepy opossum a nudge with his stick.
Curly blinked into the dim light and yawned. “What’s the trouble? Is it time to go to bed?”
“Go to bed?” asked Beatrice incredulously. “You’ve been sleeping all day, you lazy fool!”
“Oh, it’s you, Bea,” sighed Curly. “A perfectly good nap has been ruined again.”
“We’re here on official business, Curly,” said Silas in a stern voice. “Seems Petula lost the turnip necklace. The last time she remembers seeing it was in this room so we intend to search it completely.”
“The necklace? Oh dear. What about the key to the winter pantry?” asked Curly, sitting up and revealing a squashed raspberry.
“Isn’t it dreadful?” wailed Cocoa, waddling over to Curly and plunking the damaged berry into his mouth. “It’s gone, and all of our delicious food and hard work are gone with it.” The two opossums began to weep and rock together.
“Look at you two,” sneered Beatrice in disgust. “Two of the laziest opossums I know, crying like babies over food you didn’t lift a finger to gather!”
“All right, let’s not argue,” said Silas, feeling another fight brewing. “Let’s search through all of these cushions. It’s got to be here somewhere.”
Cocoa and Curly began to creep out of the Cozy Room when Henry stopped them, “You heard Silas, everyone's gotta pitch in.”
“Yes, but I’d just get in the way,” said Cocoa. “And Curly’s no good when it comes to emergencies.” Curly shook his head vigorously in agreement.
“Doesn’t matter,” Henry said, guiding them back inside. “Do what you can, even if it means cleaning out the raspberry baskets.”
Cocoa brightened immediately, “Well, anything we can do to help.” He and Curly ambled importantly to one of the baskets and began tossing berries into one another’s mouths like jugglers.
“What are you two clowns doing?” asked Beatrice after moving her third cushion and just noticing their antics.
“We’re helping, of course,” said Curly, his mouth full of red mush. “The locket could be buried beneath these berries!”
“Not likely,” said Bea, narrowing her eyes.
Daisy entered the Cozy Room from the left entrance and quickly began to assist Bea. “Those two are useless,” she muttered, grabbing the end of a cushion and shaking it.
“Tell me about it,” agreed Beatrice. “You should’ve seen Cocoa tonight at the compost heap. The only job he’s good at is trampoline. Henry went crashing into him and nearly bounced all the way back to the top of the pile!”
“Curly goes from one nap to the other, only stopping to take another nap,” laughed Daisy.
Henry and Silas had finished shaking out the cushions in one end of the room and now joined Bea and Daisy. “Petula is positive that she last saw the locket in this room,” said Silas, scratching his head. “So that means it must be here somewhere, but so far we haven’t found anything.”
Just then Curly shouted, “I found it! I found it!”
The opossums surrounded him with excitement. Curly was beaming from head to toe, as he held out his hand to show the others.
“What the heck is that?” asked Henry.
“It’s my lucky marble,” said Curly, grinning from ear to ear. “It’s been lost for ages, I thought I’d never see it again, but here it is, just as good as new!”
Petula started to cry again. “What good is a lucky marble when we can’t open the winter pantry and we all starve?”
Daisy looked at Beatrice and they said simultaneously, “Useless!”
Friday, December 26, 2008
It was winking and twinkling as brightly as any star overhead, and it was sitting right there on the window ledge. The turnip necklace! She nearly lost her grip in her excitement.
“Sam!” she hissed. “I think I see it!”
Suddenly Elodie’s eyes shot open and she looked directly at Pinky. At first she felt confusion, thinking that a pear or small wasp’s nest had sprouted from the tree. Then she noticed the tiny eyes, glinting fiercely like dark rubies. Elodie blinked several times and rubbed her eyes. When she looked again the vision was gone, but she was so frightened she cried out in terror, “Mama! Mama!”
After a few moments Mrs. Verlaine walked into the room and turned on the light. “What’s the matter now?” she asked in agitation.
“I saw something – out there!” Elodie squealed, pointing to the window. “It was a horrible alien with glowing red eyes!”
Mrs. Verlaine looked out the window and sighed. “Okay, Elodie. Enough with the aliens, and all of the other monsters in your imagination. Every night it’s something else and it’s got to stop. There’s nothing out the window, there’s nothing under your bed and there’s nothing in your closet. It’s all up here,” she tapped her skull. “And if you don’t go back to sleep I’ll really give you something to cry about.”
“But Mom,” cried Elodie desperately. “I SAW it! Its eyes were big and red and coming right out of its feet!”
“Elodie,” said Mrs. Verlaine is exasperation. “Go to sleep, and that’s the last time I intend to say it tonight.”
“Can I sleep with you and Daddy? I’m scared!” Elodie pleaded, eyes brimming with tears.
Mrs. Verlaine took Elodie into her arms and hugged her. “You’re a big girl now, and big girls sleep in their own beds. There’s absolutely nothing to be frightened of. You were just dreaming.”
“Sh-sh-sh,” Mrs. Verlaine soothed, hugging her tighter. “If it makes you feel better I’ll leave your door open tonight, but I expect you to go to sleep. No more outbursts. It’s very late and we all need our rest.”
She turned out the light, leaving the door ajar. Elodie threw the covers over her head and trembled until she finally fell asleep.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Pinky was shaking with excitement. “It was right there on the ledge!” she squeaked. “Oh, Sam, it’s too good to be true! We found the locket! We’re heroes!”
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
The others looked about and Cocoa answered, “Maybe they’re on the heap getting us some dinner. We’ve worked up a powerful hunger with all this searching tonight.”
Henry said, “They’re so tiny they’d barely be a snack for the neighborhood tom-cat.”
The fur on Silas’s back stood straight up at the thought, and he raced from the warren to find them, Henry and Bea following reluctantly.
“Pinky! Sam!” he called into the darkness without reply. He turned to Henry, “Something awful must’ve happened to them!”
“Now Silas,” said Bea calmly, “Don’t jump to conclusions. You know how children are. They’re probably still searching for the locket, bless them.”
“I’m worn out from searching, and now this!” said Cocoa, joining them in the garden.
Bea regarded him with an icy stare. “Yes, stuffing yourself with raspberries can be so tiring!”
Silas intervened, “We mustn’t quibble at a time like this. Two precious lives may be at risk. Cocoa, I need for you to search the compost heap. Bea, you take the garden and briar patch while Henry and I circle the house.”
The opossums broke up, each serious in their tasks and praying for the safety of the children.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
“Huh?” Pinky asked, coming back to reality.
“Did you think we could just knock on the door and ask the humans to hand it over?”
Pinky slumped beneath the tree, her head in her hands. “What’ll we do, Sam? We can’t go back to the warren without it!”
“We’ve got to find a way in there somehow,” said Sam, though he wasn’t looking forward to it. “They usually leave the window on the back porch open and we can crawl in that way.”
The two youngsters headed around to the porch, just missing Silas and Henry who were scurrying toward the front on the other side. They climbed onto the porch and managed with the help of a small stack of firewood to reach the ledge. The window was indeed open, but only a small crack. Sam tried to squeeze inside but found it was too narrow. “Help me, Pinky” he grunted, trying to push the window up a little higher. Pinky pushed with all of the strength she could muster but the window wouldn't budge. Sam sat back in a huff.
“Let’s see if I can fit,” said Pinky, lying as flatly as possible.
“I can’t allow you to go in there by yourself!” Sam said angrily, tugging on Pinky’s tail.
“I’ve got to go, Sam. After all, we wouldn’t be in this pickle if it weren’t for me. Besides, I’m the smallest.”
Sam relented and Pinky began to struggle beneath the sash. She was halfway inside before getting stuck. “Sam, I’m jammed!” she said, breathless. Sam tried to pull her back out, but it was no use, she was wedged in too tightly. “Push me!” she called desperately. “It’s our only chance!”
With one mighty shove Pinky was propelled to the other side and landed –
– into something soft and stinky. She put her hand to her nose and wrinkled it with distaste. “Cat food,” she observed. Brushing herself off, she was thankful that she hadn’t landed in the litter box!
“Well, look who dropped in for dinner,” Miss Kitty purred menacingly, slinking toward the frightened opossum with gleaming eyes.
Pinky quickly recalled the lessons of self-defense that her Mama had taught her and proceeded to blow bubbles from her mouth and nose as though rabid. She staggered a few steps toward the astonished cat before falling over dead.
Miss Kitty backed up a few paces and gasped, “How revolting! How thoroughly unappetizing!” Without the pleasure of capturing live prey she stalked off, disgusted and disinterested.
After what seemed like an eternity Pinky came out of her shock-like state and looked about her. Miss Kitty was no where to be seen.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Beatrice had lost focus on her mission as well, surrounded again by the temptingly ripe berries. She ventured further into the brambles and discovered a few mushy apples that were rotting and fermenting nicely on the ground. Taking several bites she settled back into a blissful indulgence that was beginning to make her very drowsy. “One more teensy nibble,” she said, feeling that her stomach might burst, and instead curled up using the soft apple as her pillow.
Henry and Silas didn’t have any luck looking for the children at the front of the house. As they headed back toward the compost heap they spotted Cocoa lying on his back in a delirious state, all four legs poking into the air and his toes waving at the stars.
“Looks like Cocoa’s been eating bugs again,” Silas sighed. “He always acts goofy afterwards.”
Henry nudged him with his foot, but Cocoa refused to open his eyes or wipe the silly smile off of his face. “Have you found Pinky and Sam?” Henry angrily demanded.
Cocoa kept humming, his toes conducting an imaginary symphony.
“Forget him,” said Silas, heading toward the blackberry bushes. “Let’s see how Beatrice is doing.”
They found Beatrice snoring loudly amidst several well-eaten cores, her head propped atop a rotten apple. She had an equally ridiculous grin on her face. “They’d never admit it, but Bea and Cocoa are two peas in a pod!” observed Silas with dismay.
“Shall I wake her?” asked Henry, eagerly grabbing a nearby stick with his tail.
“No, let her sleep,” said Silas. “It’s obvious that they both became distracted and now they’re too bloated to be of use to us tonight.”
Henry dropped his stick, sorry to miss the chance of giving Beatrice a good whack. They headed to the warren with heavy hearts, unable to bring back any good news on the whereabouts of the children or the turnip necklace.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
There were more wires snaked about and wooden tables with towering objects on top. The carpet felt soft and she imagined how wonderful it would be to curl up and take a nap, but she had a serious mission to accomplish with little time to spare. The room was already filling with the gray light of dawn.
She crept down a long hallway with several doors, most of which were closed. Venturing inside the first one she detected a cool, hard surface beneath her feet. This room was small and contained even more unusual structures. Her foot slipped on a soft, pasty substance. “What could this be?” she wondered, reluctantly licking her toes. “Yuck!” she exclaimed, trying to wipe the minty sweet flavor from her burning tongue. “I hope I haven’t been poisoned,” she thought with alarm, searching desperately to rinse her mouth. There were small splotches of water under the sink that she lapped up quickly, but it only seemed to make matters worse. Now her mouth was filled with froth, causing her to gag and cough uncontrollably as she tried to spit it out.
Pinky raced from the bathroom trying to free herself from this ghastly white foam, and there was Miss Kitty watching with horror as if she had seen a ghost. She turned tail and raced out of the hallway, giving Pinky her first chuckle. “She must be one of those lily-livered scaredy-pusses that Silas talks so much about”, she thought, and made her way through the second opened door.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Luckily Elodie was just beginning to awaken and was stretching her arms into the air, yawning loudly. Pinky dragged the clump of ribbon under the bed and continued to untangle the mess. She had never seen such a pretty ribbon and wanted to take it back to the warren. She knew that Sam would disapprove but she couldn’t bear to leave without it.
All of a sudden Pinky heard the thunder of steps quickly approaching and saw two blue pajama-covered feet leap into the air. Next she heard Elodie scream and Didier giggling as he tormented his sister. “You’re going to school today!” he said, trying to tickle her.
“Get off my bed before I tell Dad,” said Elodie, trying her best to sound angry.
Didier tried to get under the covers, pushing her from the bed with his little feet, “Mustn’t be late!” he squealed.
Elodie landed on the floor with a thud, “Ouch! You little brat!” She jumped back onto the bed and was pulling his hair when Mrs. Verlaine entered the room.
“Elodie! Didier! Stop it this minute!” She separated the two and glared at them. “What’s the meaning of this?”
“She pulled my hair!” whined Didier, rubbing his head.
“He kicked me out of bed!” moaned Elodie, giving Didier a shove with her foot.
“All right, Elodie, stop hurting your brother. And Didier, you leave your sister alone. What are you doing in here, anyway?”
Didier shrugged his shoulders and Elodie answered, “Being a brat as usual!”
“I’m not a brat, you're the brat. Brat! Brat!”
“Didier, that’s enough. Get out of your sister’s room, she needs to get dressed for school. Your father will make you some breakfast.”
Didier hopped off the bed and headed out the door before turning and sticking his tongue out at Elodie.
“Mom!” she yelled, pointing, but he was gone.
Pinky cowered in the corner beneath the bed, hoping that this boisterous family wouldn’t discover her hiding spot. What a lot of commotion! Did humans always wake up making this much noise? She suddenly longed for the quiet and comfort of the warren and the pleasant way everyone treated each other. Well, most of the time, anyway.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
“What’ll I do?” she moaned, wringing her hands. She decided to climb to the top of a pale pink backpack leaning against the wall when she fell into the opening and was plunged into darkness. As she scurried to get out she heard someone approach and decided to remain hidden behind a plastic pencil case. She could hear Elodie rummaging around nearby, obviously agitated and turning the dollhouse upside down as she muttered angrily to herself.
“Elodie, hurry up! You’ll miss the bus!” Mrs. Verlaine called from the kitchen.
Elodie became even more frantic, looking under the bed and surprised to see the clump of ribbons in the corner, now shredded. She assumed Miss Kitty must’ve crept into her room while she was sleeping. She hoped that she could convince her mother that the mess she had just created was also the work of that naughty cat.
“Where could it be?” she asked aloud, standing on her bed and surveying the disheveled room. She remembered the spooky alien she had seen last night and wondered if it could have stolen the bracelet somehow. Perhaps the creature beamed it out of the room with its eerie, red eyes, she thought and looked toward the window.
There was the locket!
“Elodie!” Mrs. Verlaine called again impatiently.
“Coming Mom!” she replied, and tossed the bracelet inside the backpack where it struck the hidden opossum. Pinky rubbed her head but soon forgot about her pain as she realized that the thing that hit her was none other than the turnip locket! She reached down to grab it when her world turned topsy-turvy and she found herself tumbling about with the school supplies as the backpack was yanked from the floor.
Mrs. Verlaine met Elodie at the door and tucked a paper bag inside that smelled so delicious that Pinky nearly fainted. The sack was zipped tightly and off Pinky went, bouncing up and down on the back of Elodie as she raced for the bus stop on the corner.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
When Sam rounded the corner of the house he saw something that most opossums only dream of – a fresh pile of sauce-covered spaghetti sitting on top of the compost heap! The Big Man must’ve dumped last night’s dinner before leaving for work.
Sam carelessly climbed to the top of the pile, forgetting that he was without the protection of darkness.
Slurping strands of pasta into his mouth he was oblivious to the hawk that was watching his every move.
Monday, December 15, 2008
The bus made several more stops and each time Pinky was flung from the lunch bag and down to the bottom of the backpack again. She was beginning to get a headache from all the ricocheting about. The children on the bus were getting noisier as it began to fill. She could hear Elodie talking animatedly to another little girl whose feet absently kicked the backpack, increasing Pinky’s annoyance.
Without warning the pack filled with light as Elodie unzipped it and dug inside. Pinky barely missed being grabbed as Elodie snatched the plastic pencil case to show her companion. The girls were so engrossed in the assortment of colorful markers and pencils coated in sparkles that they never noticed Pinky making her escape, the lunch bag clutched tightly in her tail.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
The hawk eyed Sam curiously. “Such a perfect snack,” he mused. “A tiny opossum stuffed with pasta. Delightful!” The hawk flapped his wings, and began his descent. He was sailing toward Sam like a bullet, talons splayed and his beak open when suddenly Sam heard Beatrice screaming as she raced up the compost heap.
“Duck, you fool!” she yelled, pushing Sam from the top of the pile, causing them both to roll all the way to the bottom, their fur coated in red sauce and other food particles. The hawk missed them both and gave an angry cry as he swooped back into the trees.
“Bea!” Sam exclaimed, though neither was recognizable now that they were covered in slop. “What was that?”
“That was the Grim Reaper,” Beatrice answered, breathless. “And you were going to be his next honorary guest!”
Beatrice struggled to regain her breath, “It was a hawk. Don’t you know what a hawk is?”
Sam shook his head.
“It’s a dangerous creature that just happens to like young opossums like you. You’d make a very tasty dinner for him.”
Sam began to tremble but he managed to say, “Thank you, Bea. You saved my life! If you hadn’t come along…” Sam’s voice trailed off as he imagined the possibilities.
“What on earth were you doing up on that pile in broad daylight? You know better than that!”
“I’m sorry, Bea, but I was hungry. I haven’t eaten for hours and I guess I lost my head.”
“You certainly almost lost your head and everything connected to it,” said Beatrice with bitterness, attempting to wipe the goop from her body. “Oh, this is awful. We look like sewer rats.”
They began to clean themselves when Beatrice said, “Mmmm! This tastes like spaghetti sauce.”
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
The moment he was out of sight Pinky didn’t waste time and scurried down the steps, each level causing her to squeak with fear. The last step to the ground seemed especially steep yet she had no choice but to leap and hope for the best. Tossing the candy packet first she plunged toward the gravel driveway, holding her nose as if she were doing a cannonball into the stream. She landed on her bottom and gave another painful yelp. Much like Cocoa, she had crushed her tail beneath her. My, that hurt!
Brushing the dirt and gravel from her fur she gripped the candy packet in her aching tail and decided to explore her surroundings.
The house looked like all the other houses in the area, just a flat square box painted pale yellow with bright, white shutters. Some of the other houses were blue, gray or green. She thought she had even seen a pink one. The house that stood in front of her warren was a periwinkle color with pretty purple shutters and a long, wooden porch out back.
Pinky decided to check out the back of this yellow house and discovered that it also contained a porch, but it was enclosed in mesh screen. There was a doghouse but Pinky couldn’t see a dog anywhere, thank goodness. There was a line of trees, just as in her neighborhood. This was very encouraging and Pinky dragged the candies with her as quickly as possible.
Once inside the coolness of the woods she felt very drowsy and looked for a safe spot for a nap. She decided she would sleep for a few minutes and then resume her journey homeward.
Presently she came upon a hollow log loaded with termites. Ordinarily this would have been the feast she had been dreaming of, but for now she just wished to lie down. Besides, she was stuffed with peanut butter and couldn’t imagine eating another bite for quite a while. Clutching the candies in her arms she snuggled deep within the log and fell sound asleep.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Bea glared at him, “Is that supposed to be a wise crack?” she asked, eyes narrowing.
Sam quickly assured her, “No, no, no. I didn’t mean anything by it. I just thought it would be the quickest way to clean off.”
She considered his suggestion and then shrugged, “Why not?”
The pair ambled toward the stream and Beatrice began to unload her pouch. She had several dead bugs that she’d been saving for a mid-afternoon snack and some shriveled mulberries. She also had another candy wrapper that she had decided not to share with Cocoa, and a melon rind nearly nibbled clean. Sam watched in fascination as she placed everything carefully on the bank.
“What?” she asked accusingly, noting his attention.
“I had no idea you carried around so much stuff,” remarked Sam with awe.
“Well, I do. Quit staring, it’s not polite,” she snapped, and began to wade into the water. Sam followed closely behind and then began to swim out into a shallow pocket less dangerous than the rushing center. Bea sat daintily on a rock and splashed herself, refusing to go out further lest she prove what a horrible swimmer she was. Sam floated on his back and was having a very good time, kicking his feet and using his tail as a rudder.
“You know, Bea,” he said, paddling closer to her rock, “What you did this morning was truly brave. It was the bravest thing I ever saw!”
Beatrice blushed and said, “Don’t be silly. Anyone would’ve done the same.” Then she became angry with herself, thinking she sounded as pompous as Silas and added, “What’d you expect? Silas isn’t the only courageous one in our clan.”
“I can’t wait to tell the others how you saved my life,” said Sam, crawling to the shore and shaking his fur dry. “Only, they’ll wonder what I was doing on that pile this morning. ‘Course I could tell ‘em how I was attracted by the spaghetti.” Sam murmured to himself.
She interrupted his thoughts, “Yes, Sam, why were you on that pile and not in bed? And where’s Pinky?”
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
“Humph!” snorted Bea, joining him on the shore and putting her belongings back in her pouch again. “I know how children are, and we searched for you two all night.”
“What were you doing out by the compost if you had been searching for us all night?” he asked suspiciously.
“Insolence! Never you mind,” Beatrice answered sharply.
They entered the warren and Henry snapped awake. “Sam!” he exclaimed with joy. “We’ve been so worried about you and Pinky. Where’ve you been?”
Sam crept into the Cozy Room hoping not to disturb Curly who was still fast asleep. Beatrice followed and said over her shoulder to Henry, “Pinky’s not with us, and I found Sam on the compost heap making himself available to a hungry hawk.”
Sam winced and looked guiltily toward Henry whose eyebrows were raised in surprise.
“It’s true,” said Sam. “I was on my way back here and was so hungry that I forgot myself and climbed to the top of the heap.”
Henry beamed and slapped his arm around Sam, “My boy!” he said proudly. “You’re just as crazy brave as I am!”
“You got the ‘crazy’ part right,” muttered Beatrice, plopping down onto a cushion.
Henry ignored her and said, “Tell me all about it. Were you standing on the top, playing dive-bomber? Were you waving your arms about trying to get his attention?”
“Um, not exactly,” said Sam quietly, not sure where Henry was going with this line of questioning.
“Actually he was eating spaghetti,” said Bea, giving Henry a bored look. “If I hadn’t come along he would’ve become hawk chow.”
“Don’t give yourself so much credit,” said Henry. “The bravest thing you’ve ever done is forage for food during a terrible, ice storm while the rest of us cowered inside, hungry and scared. Oh wait… That wasn’t you; that was me! Then it must’ve been the time that you attacked those evil rats single-handedly, risking life and limb. Oops! That wasn’t you, either. That was Silas! I guess I can’t think of a single incident where you were brave.”
“But Bea was brave! She saved my life!” said Sam, jumping between the two opossums before they broke into a fistfight.
“What’s going on?” asked Silas, lumbering into the Cozy Room wearing a silk robe and carrying a freshly filled pipe. “Can’t an old fella get a wink of sleep around here?” His face brightened into a big grin the moment he spotted Sam. “Well, well! I’m delighted to see you, Sam. You and your sister certainly gave us a fright last night. Where’s Pinky?”
“I’m not sure, sir,” answered Sam meekly. “I was hoping she was here.”
“We haven’t seen Pinky since the locket hunt,” said Henry. “Bea said she found Sam at the top of the compost heap, taunting a hawk.”
Silas looked at Sam with concern, “Is this true?”
“Well…” Sam started softly.
“Speak up, Sam, and tell Silas everything,” said Bea with enthusiasm.
Silas pulled up a velvet cushion and proceeded to light his pipe. Soft pink light shone through the magnificent glass radish globes that hung from the ceiling in the Cozy Room. Daisy emerged from the kitchen and began passing around a silver tray of blueberry tarts.
“Ooh, tarts!” cried Cocoa with ecstasy as he entered the room, grabbing one in each hand. “I just adore blueberry tarts.”
“You’d eat anything,” observed Beatrice. “Especially if someone else prepared it.”
“I won’t deny it,” he said, his teeth turning purple with each bite. “These are outstanding, Daisy. Yum! Yum!”
“Petula made them last night,” she answered, looking sadly at the empty platter and wishing she had gotten one before Cocoa was awakened by their tantalizing aroma.
Beatrice handed her one of the bugs from her pouch and Dasiy accepted it graciously, though she would’ve preferred one of the sweet tarts instead.
Curly was awake now and blinked around the room in bewilderment. “What’s happened? Has the locket been found?”
“The locket’s been found?” asked Petula with exuberance as she scurried to join the others, her cheek caked with jam. She offered another tray of tarts to the assembly. “Where is it?”
“Over here!” called Cocoa waving his hands in the air like a madman. Petula quickly went to him where he helped himself to two more tarts.
“Let me see!” she squealed, pushing a third tart into his lap.
“See what?” asked Cocoa, his mouth full of pie filling.
“He doesn’t have the locket,” Beatrice said with irritation, swiping a tart from Cocoa’s lap and tossing it to Daisy. “He was just summoning a waitress.”
Petula gave him a severe look and stomped to the other side of the room, carrying what was left of the tarts with her.
Silas had heard enough of their silly banter and posed the question to Sam once more, “Where’s Pinky?”
All of the opossums stopped eating and bickering and turned to look at Sam who squirmed beneath the spotlight of their shining black eyes.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
“Oh my goodness!” she stammered.
“It’s quite all right, my dear,” said the kind voice. “I didn’t mean to frighten you.”
Pinky noticed that the opossum had four wee babies clinging to her back, all eyes fixed on her.
“It’s alright children,” said the opossum gently, and the babies hopped down one by one to get a better sniff of Pinky. One was almost as big as Pinky herself. “I’m Fiona,” she said shyly, “And that’s my mama and brothers.”
“I’m Mrs. Mim and this is Joey, Boo and Carl,” she said introducing the others.
“I’m Pinky,” she said.
“What in the world are you doing in these woods all by yourself, little one?” Mrs. Mim asked, but there was tenderness in her voice so that Pinky wasn’t afraid.
“I got lost,” Pinky said, her eyes filling with tears as if she finally realized all that she had been through in the past twelve hours.
Mrs. Mim hugged her tightly and stroked her head, “There, there dear. Don’t cry,” she said soothingly. “We’ll help you get back home again. Tell us where you live. Is it behind the Farmer’s Market? Do you live under Gunther’s barn?”
“Hey Mom, look at these!” squealed Joey, holding up the packet of candies.
“Put that down Joey! You know better than to touch something that doesn’t belong to you.”
“It’s all right,” said Pinky, drying her tears. “I was planning on bringing it back home to Cocoa, but I can’t figure out how to open it.”
“Oh, we know all about candy wrappers!” bragged Boo stepping forward. “We live behind the dumpster at Louie’s Super Thrift.”
Carl and Joey grabbed either end and soon the paper burst open showering everyone in multi-colored chocolate pieces.
“Boys! Boys!” shouted Mrs. Mim, desperately trying to put the pieces back in the ruined package.
“Help yourselves,” Pinky said. “I’ll just save a few for Cocoa. He’s so big, he won’t need to eat the entire bag.” She tucked several pieces in her pouch and then popped one into her mouth. Her eyes shot open in alarm, “Say! This is yummy!”
The other opossums laughed, “You’ve never had chocolate before?” asked Fiona with surprise. “We have candy all the time.”
“Finona…” Mrs. Mim began.
“Well, as often as Mama allows it.”
Mrs. Mim began biting the heads off of the termites and putting the bodies into her pouch, while her children happily ate the candy. “Your journey must’ve made you hungry,” she remarked, handing a writhing termite to Pinky.
“No thank you, Mrs. Mim. I had an amazing lunch on the bus.”
“How on earth did you get on the bus?” Mrs. Mim asked in disbelief.
“I got trapped in a backpack and the next thing I knew I was riding on the school bus with a bunch of unruly children. I found a fabulous sandwich, but I have no idea what it was made of.”
“Oh, that’s peanut butter! We have that all the time!” Fiona exclaimed after sniffing Pinky’s whiskers, and then hastily added, “Or at least as often as Mama allows.”
Mrs. Mim cocked an eyebrow in Fiona’s direction and went back to gathering bugs.
“If you live behind a dumpster why are you all the way out here in the woods?” Pinky inquired politely.
“Diversity!” Mrs. Mim cried enthusiastically. “One gets very tired of eating scraps day in and day out.”
Pinky nodded, “Cocoa says that all the time, but he never seems to get so tired of them that he’d venture out to find his own food.”
“I like grape jelly, but I don’t like mushrooms,” said Joey, crinkling his nose.
“I’d have to say that my favorite food is cheese,” Boo piped in. “And cookies and pizza.”
Pinky laughed thinking that Boo would some day grow into a perfect Cocoa.
“We don’t usually venture out in the day time, only on Mondays,” said Fiona. “That’s when the big truck comes and empties the dumpster.”
“Not that there’s much left in it by Monday!” exclaimed Carl.
“Yeah, we’re pretty thorough,” added Joey.
“So, Pinky, where’s your home?” asked Mrs. Mim.
Pinky described the abandoned rabbit’s warren in the woods behind the shed and the pretty periwinkle house. Mrs. Mim raised an eyebrow and said, “Periwinkle?” Pinky explained, “The Big Lady’s an artist.”
“Ah,” said Mrs. Mim, shaking her head. “Oddly enough, I’ve never heard of such a place.”
“We live near a stream!” Pinky remembered, trying to be as helpful as possible.
“Then it should be easy to get you back home. We’ll follow the stream. Come along children, climb aboard!” said Mrs. Mim, her pouch bulging with the dead bugs she had gathered.
The children scrambled onto her back. “Do you live downstream or upstream?”
Downstream or upstream? Pinky struggled to remember, but didn’t have a reference point since most of the journey on the school bus was spent inside the dark backpack.
“Come now, Pinky. You must know a little more about your address than just the color of the house you live behind.”
Pinky was embarrassed that she hadn’t a clue. To her it was always just the warren in the woods behind the shed.
“We’ll head upstream, since that’s the way to our home. Maybe something will look familiar to you. Of course, you’re welcome to stay with us if you’d like.”
Fiona clapped her hands, glad to have a new playmate at last.
Monday, December 8, 2008
“Pinky?” he asked, as if he had never heard of her.
“Pinky.” Silas intoned.
“Your sister,” Curly prompted.
“Oh, that Pinky!” said Sam, and all of the opossums chuckled toward each other, as if a great confusion had been settled.
“Well, let me see…” said Sam, stalling for time, hoping his sister would burst into the warren at any second, the turnip necklace slung triumphantly about her neck.
Presently Cocoa stood up and cleared his throat importantly. All the opossums turned their attention to him. “I think this occasion calls for a poem,” he stated.
Daisy started to clap her hands until she noticed the withering glare from Beatrice. “Don’t encourage him,” she hissed angrily and Daisy sat on her hands obediently.
Cocoa waddled to the middle of the room and gave Sam a tender smile. “I’ve entitled this poem ‘Thankful Indeed’,” he said and cleared his throat again. The opossums bowed their heads solemnly as they were genuinely thankful to have Sam back safely.
“Here we live in our warren so snug
Sometimes we’re lucky when we find a nice bug.
Sometimes we’re lucky if there’s fruit to be got
Or out in the garden when the vegetables rot.
Each night we search for that tidbit sublime
Hoping for cake or piecrust -- divine!
But today I am thankful for a lovely new treat,
It’s something so heavenly, which I love to eat.
I’m talking about tarts smeared with blueberry jam
And for those I am thankful, in-deed I am!”
Curly jumped to his feet and clapped enthusiastically, “Bravo, Cocoa! Bravo!”
“Oh brother,” groaned Beatrice, rolling her eyes.
“One track minded bozo!” shouted Daisy, hurling the crust from her tart at Cocoa’s head.
“What sort of nonsense was that?” asked Henry. “We thought you were going to recite a poem to honor Sam’s return!”
“A poem about Sam?” asked Cocoa in disbelief. “He’s hardly a tasty treat.”
“Of course he’s not a tasty treat, you loon!” growled Beatrice. “If there’s something to be thankful for it’s that your poem was short.”
“Thankful indeed!” added Daisy sarcastically.
“Sit back down so Sam can tell us about Pinky,” said Petula.
The opossums turned back to Sam who had hoped that everyone had forgotten the previous inquisition. Now he felt his stomach churning again and said meekly, “I think I ate too much spaghetti this morning. May I please be excused?”
“Make way for the lad,” thundered Silas noticing that Sam suddenly had a very green look about him. “I think he’s going to be sick!”
“It was probably that stupid poem,” said Daisy to Beatrice.
“Don’t listen to those ol’ sour pusses, what do they know about art?” said Curly as Cocoa plopped back down, patting his shoulder. “Your poem was simply brilliant. I especially liked the part about the warren being snug. You summed it up beautifully!”
“No one else seemed to like it,” moaned the crestfallen Cocoa.
“Don’t be silly! Daisy obviously liked it – she threw you a piece of tart,” said Curly, handing the mashed segment to Cocoa.
“Well, so she did, so she did!” said Cocoa happily, stuffing it into his mouth.
Sam raced out the left entrance into the sunlight and breathed a sigh of relief. He scanned the back garden for Pinky but only saw the little boy playing quietly in his sandbox.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
“You saw me put your lunch in the backpack,” said Mrs. Verlaine. “For goodness’ sake, Elodie, what did you do with it? Did you put it down somewhere? Stop crying, it’s okay. I’ll drive another one over to you. What are you saying about a bracelet? Elodie, you’re not making sense. Please stop crying. I’m on my way.”
Mrs. Verlaine hung up the phone and went outside to retrieve Didier who was busy pushing his toy truck into a sand barrier.
“We have to drop off some lunch to your sister,” she said as she dusted the sand from Didier’s pants. “She was all upset about her bracelet. Do you know anything about it?”
Didier shook his head.
“I don’t understand how she could’ve lost her lunch. I put it in her backpack,” muttered Mrs. Verlaine.
Sam watched the humans get into a car and drive away. Feeling that the coast was clear, he scurried toward the back porch in search of Pinky.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
She abruptly stopped and said, “Joey, now you know you never swam in the creek! Why would you make up such stories?”
Joey’s cheeks turned bright red and Boo said, “He wants to impress Pinky!”
“Do not!” said Joey, giving his brother a swat with his tail.
“Mom, they’re fighting!” said Fiona.
“Off! All of you!” Mrs. Mim shouted, and her children slid off her back guiltily.
She whirled on them angrily and they shrank under her stern gaze. “I don’t approve of fighting,” she began. “Nor do I approve of lying. What must Pinky think of you children with your behavior?”
“Boo started it,” said Joey defensively. “He’s the one who said he went inside the Super Thrift to get a slice of pizza.”
“I said that I wanted to go inside,” protested Boo. “You’re the one who said you swam all the way to the ocean on your back!”
“Neither of them liked that Pinky rode on the school bus,” offered Fiona. “They were just showing off.”
Carl shoved one of the candies up his nose and began to hop around on one foot like a jumping bean to get Pinky to laugh, which she did.
“Carl, stop goofing off this instant! None of you are off my back long enough to engage in these wild adventures,” said Mrs. Mim angrily. “Why worry over riding a bus when you’ve got dear old Mom to hitch a ride on? If you’re all so grown up and ready to take on the world then you can find your own way home.”
“NO!” cried the children desperately.
“Just as I thought,” she clucked, softening at the sight of their terrified faces. “You’re my little scaredy-pusses after all.”
Pinky smiled as they climbed back onto Mrs. Mim’s back. “Silas uses that expression all the time, I thought he had invented it. It’s so funny to hear it all the way out here in these woods.”
Mrs. Mim ambled along cheerfully; glad to have her children settled down at last.
“Once there were three rats that tried to take over our compost heap and Silas attacked them single-handedly. He was telling the story the other night when my brother and I accidentally frightened everyone. Everyone except Silas, that is. Nothing could frighten him! Not rats, cats or bats! He called them all lily-livered scaredy-pusses!” laughed Pinky, and then suddenly felt despondent for being so far from those that she cared about.
“Ah, the famous battle between Silas and the evil rats from Har. I had no idea he was still alive. I’ll be darned,” said Mrs. Mim with surprise.
“You know Silas?” Pinky asked excitedly.
“Silas is legendary!” said Mrs. Mim with genuine reverence. “Every ‘possum has heard stories about his great bravery. He must be ancient by now. Would you say he’s one hundred years old?”
“I don’t think so,” answered Pinky who couldn’t count all the way to one hundred. “He kinda looks old, though. He’s got big, bushy eyebrows and his fur is pure silver, and the longest whiskers I’ve ever seen!”
“My, my,” mused Mrs. Mim. “Ol’ Silas still alive. Extraordinary.”
“I live in the same place as Ol’ Silas,” said Pinky and then remembered herself and quickly added, “I mean, Silas.”
“Well, my dear, someone is bound to know where you live.”
“Don’t you know?”
Mrs. Mim laughed softly, “I’ve only heard the stories, child, I was never fortunate enough to meet Silas personally.”