Tales from Lavender Island
by Rollie Tom Anderson
Far, far away in the mists of imagination there is a secret place on this earth called Lavender Island, so named because of its magnificent sunrises and sunsets of pink and violet. Most of the island is covered by the Chicapah Forest; a magical wilderness inhabited by every kind of animal there is, as well as a few of the human species. And the things that happen in their lives aren’t all that different from what you may experience in your own.
Our story begins in the busy town of Green Meadows. Busy because it lies in a central location just off the main island road on the way to a major seaport, Ocean Bluffs. All kinds of animals and humans come through Green Meadows to deliver their goods and wares to be bought and sold in the open markets. At the same time, there is also a thriving community that has made Green Meadows home for generations. Cad Weasel is one of those local residents. He’s the town plumber, in fact. He has a small but comfortable house, his work is steady and, all in all, he leads a normal, pleasant life. The problem is none of this is good enough for him. His best friend, Conrad Cardinal, sat in front of Cad’s house, hearing it all again.
“You call this living?” Cad complained. “I call it slow death. I’m so bored with it all.”
Conrad shook his head. “There you go again, Cad. Complain, gripe, complain. You don’t have it so bad, my friend. Remember that,” he said.
Cad rolled his eyes at Conrad. “Oh, yeah? Then why don’t you try crawling around under someone’s musty old house, fixing a broken pipe? Or spend a hot summer day unclogging a stinky drain?” he said.
“But you’re an expert at that kind of stuff and your customers pay you quite well because you do such a good, professional job. You should be proud,” Conrad replied.
“Proud?” Cad shot back. “Proud of what? When it comes right down to it I’m still just a lowly plumber. I’d give anything to be one of those well-dressed businessmen that strut through town every day. Those guys are going places, doing things, meeting important contacts and buyers. Now that’s what I call leading a full, productive life.”
“But you’re only looking at one side of it,” Conrad said. “That kind of career has its drawbacks, too. Those salesmen have deadlines to meet, weeks drag by without ever getting to be at home with their families, and they have serious financial risks involved sometimes. It’s not all adventure and excitement, Cad.”
“You’re just saying that because you’re such a laid-back homebody, Conrad. Not everyone thinks Green Meadows is the one and only place to live. I don’t care what you say. I’d jump at the chance to change places with one of those traveling guys. Almost anything would be better than being a plumber,” Cad grumbled.
Conrad grinned at his friend and said, “Keep in mind, Cad, that the grass is always greener…..”
Cad interrupted him with, “…On the other side. Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard that saying my whole life and I’m sick and tired of hearing it. Stay here if you want to. I’ve got to get away from this house for a while. I think I’ll go to the kangaroo races.”
Cad’s luck at the racetrack was just like it always was. Bad. He’d lost most of the money he’d brought with him and was about to call it a day when he struck up a conversation with one of the very types he so admired. A weasel like himself, the stranger wore an expensive blue sport coat with gold buttons, a brown hat with a small, stylish feather in the band, and a fancy gold-handled cane.
Cad sidled up to him. “Tell me, friend, do you have any luck you can spare me today? I seem to be fresh out. By the way, my name’s Cad.”
The stranger shook his hand. “And I’m Wally Weasel. Glad to meet you. But, to answer your question truthfully, I think my luck ran out the front gate a couple of hours ago and I haven’t seen it since. Sorry, pal.”
“In that case I’m sorry, too, Cad said with a sigh. “At this rate I’ll be stuck in my dismal rut for the rest of my days. I’ll never get out of here.”
“I take it that you live here, then?” Wally said. “Oh, heavens, man. Don’t say that! You don’t know how good you’ve got it. Sleeping in the same comfortable bed every night. Having a familiar roof over your head when it rains. Standing on your very own patch of ground you can claim for yourself. Ahh, the ecstasy of stability! You’re blessed with a great treasure, my friend.”
Cad chuckled. “You’ve got to be joking. You’re pulling my leg, right? You actually think for one moment that being nothing more than a plumber in a small, insignificant town is something to be treasured? Get real.”
Wally’s eyes widened. “Excuse me, Cad, but did my ears actually hear you right when you said you’re a plumber? Oh, how I envy you! Did you know that ever since I was a child I’ve always been absolutely fascinated with pipes and fittings? Drains and U-joints? Valves and traps? The art of controlling the flow of water as it makes its way through homes and businesses? And Sewers! Wow! Incredible stuff. You’re a very lucky man to possess such a wonderful skill.”
Cad was shocked. “Mercy me! I don’t guess I’ve ever met anyone who felt that way about plumbing. But believe me, Wally, it gets real old real fast. On the other hand, you seem to be the one who’s living the good life. I mean, just look at you in comparison with myself. You’re dressed like a king, you probably travel the entire island wheeling and dealing with many others just like yourself, and you get to meet new faces every day. No week is the same for you. Ever. No, my friend, it is I who envy you.”
“Well, now. Isn’t that amazing?” Wally mused. “We’re about the same age, the same size and shape, the same color fur, but each of us yearns to walk in the other’s shoes. Life’s funny like that, I guess.”
Cad nodded. “You’re right about that. By the way, where are you staying while you’re in Green Meadows?”
“As a matter of fact, I was about to ask you directions to a hotel,” Wally replied.
“Hotel? I won’t hear of it,” Cad said. “I have an extra room at my place and you can stay there. I’d love to hear some of your “travel” stories. You must have a million of them.”
“I’ll accept your offer only if you’ll show me your plumbing tools,” Wally said.
They shook hands again. “It’s a deal, Wally. Come along.”
With Wally astride his handsome, strong pony and Cad on foot, they trotted to the house where Cad prepared a delicious meal and lit a warm fire. After much conversation Wally retired to the spare bedroom while Cad stayed up late into the night, thinking. Before dawn revealed its first faint glow in the eastern sky, Cad made his mind up. He’d switch identities with his new friend. He wrote a note that read: “Since we both expressed a deep longing to be like the other, I’ve taken the liberty of trading my plumbing profession, this house and everything in it in exchange for your clothes and your pony. Good luck in your new career. I’m off to make my fortune as a successful businessman. Sincerely, Cad Weasel.”
When Wally awoke hours later he found the note and let out a triumphant laugh. “Ha, ha, ha! Am I good, or what? I set it up perfectly and he took it hook, line and sinker. Me? A plumber? Ha! I’d have to have a major clog in my mental pipes before I’d ever get my hands dirty like that. Ha, ha, ha!”
Wally took his time, cooking up a hearty breakfast while chuckling softly to himself. Then he went through Cad’s clothes and picked out the only decent suit in the closet. He sat on a chair, rolled down one of his own socks and pulled out a huge wad of money. His grin was as wide as his face could hold.
“So much cash! So easily acquired! I do believe I’ve committed the perfect crime. Perhaps I should be ashamed of myself……. NOT!!! Ha, ha, ha.”
Wally saddled up Cad’s old horse and left Green Meadows at a leisurely pace. He breathed in the clean, crisp morning air and smiled as the warm sunshine caressed his happy mood. A few miles down the road he came upon a law officer who was keeping watch over somebody seated at the side of the highway handcuffed. Wally came to a stop next to them. The officer was Sheriff Jacob Jaybird of Ocean Bluffs.
“Good morning, officer. Can I be of any help?” Wally asked.
Jacob smiled at him. “Good morning to you, sir. Thanks, but I’ve got everything under control here. My prisoner is restrained.”
Now, the one in custody was none other than Cad Weasel. But, because of where he sat, the bright morning sun was shining directly into his eyes. Wally Weasel was unrecognizable in the blinding glare.
“May I inquire as to what crime this fellow weasel has committed?” Wally inquired.
“Well, he’s innocent until found guilty, but he fits the exact description of the culprit who robbed Sam Weasel over in Ocean Bluffs, where I’m the town sheriff.” Jacob stuck out his hand. “My name’s Jacob Jaybird, by the way.”
“Oh, where are my manners? I’m Randall Weasel of Summerfield. You mean he’s a thief? Heavens! How on earth did you track down and apprehend such a dangerous criminal so quickly?”
“Well, the suspect was last seen heading towards Green Meadows. He was this weasel’s size and age, he was wearing Sam’s expensive blue sportcoat with shiny gold buttons, a brown hat with a feather, a fancy cane, and riding on Sam’s pony. A perfect match. Oh, this is him, all right.”
“No, no, a thousand times no,” Cad whined. “How many times do I have to tell you, sheriff? You’ve got the wrong guy! You’re making a gigantic mistake.”
“Quiet! That’s enough out of you,” Jacob said. “Just sit still while we wait for the paddy wagon to arrive.”
“Are you sure he won’t give you any trouble?,” Wally asked. “He seems a bit hostile.”
“Oh, he’ll be a good boy, trust me,” Jacob said. “I’ve arrested much worse than this scalawag.”
“Okay, then. I must be getting along,” Wally said. “Have a good day, but don’t let him out of your sight for a single moment.”
Jacob nodded. “Don’t worry, I haven’t lost one yet. Good day, Mr. Weasel.”
Wally sauntered away slowly. But as soon as he was out of the direct sunlight, Cad could finally see whom it was that had been talking to the sheriff. He jumped up and gestured frantically.
“Sheriff!! That’s HIM! Don’t let him get away! He’s the one you’re looking for. I just traded for these clothes and the pony with him! Arrest that weasel!”
Jacob was getting annoyed. “Okay, that’s it! I told you to keep silent. Now you’re going to have to wear a strip of tape over that loud mouth of yours all the way back to Ocean Bluffs. Hold still!”
Jacob struggled to stretch the tape over Cad’s mouth but he kept on protesting. “But…. but his name’s not Randall, it’s Wally. Wally Weas… mm..mm..mm!!!” he cried.
Cad was now speechless. Literally. The sheriff had muzzled him with a wide strip of thick, sticky tape. Wally heard the commotion behind him and stopped a short way down the road. He looked back over his shoulder at them and called back.
“Is that criminal causing you trouble, sheriff?”
“Not anymore,” Jacob replied. “That’s one of the oldest tricks in the book. Blame the first animal like yourself that happens along. They never learn, though. We’re good. Continue on your journey, sir.”
Wally nodded at the sheriff, then rode on. Sheriff Jacob turned his attention back to Cad, who was glaring at Wally as he rode away, free as a breeze. Wally turned around once more and gave Cad a sly wink. This infuriated Cad, who struggled angrily against his tight restraints.
Now Jacob was getting mad at Cad. “Hey, you! Calm down or you’ll find yourself riding to jail in a Billy Club-induced coma! I’m not going to wrestle with you any more!”
Cad watched helplessly as Wally Weasel rode away. Soon the police paddy wagon arrived and Sheriff Jacob cautiously loaded him inside, locking the steel door. Once they got to Ocean Bluffs Cad was placed in a cell and questioned at length. He told everything he knew about what had happened, but the sheriff remained skeptical and unconvinced. Soon the office door opened and Sam Weasel stormed in, furious as a stirred-up hornet’s nest.
Sam spotted Cad. “That’s the one, sheriff! Let me at him! Where’s the money you stole, weasel? Tell me, you rotten thief!”
“Simmer down, Sam, simmer down,” Jacob said. “He’s not going anywhere.”
“Make him tell us where the money is!” Sam demanded.
“I’m innocent, I tell you,” Cad pleaded. “I’m not who you think I am. Please listen to me. This is all a big mix-up.”
Jacob was fed up with the whole matter. “All right! That’s enough out of both of you,” he said. “We’re going to get some answers as soon as you start acting like civilized animals. Now, Sam, I want you to tell me exactly what happened yesterday. Our friend in jail over there says he’s Cad Weasel of Green Meadows, an honest plumber who’s lived there all his life. He claims he was wearing your clothes and riding on your pony because he’d switched identities with somebody named Wally Weasel who he met yesterday for the very first time. He now believes he was conned by this fellow weasel in order for him to make a clean getaway. He also says he never saw any money and he’s never even been to Ocean Bluffs.”
Cad said, “That’s the truth, sheriff. That cheat bamboozled me!”
Sam wasn’t buying Cad’s tale. “A likely story. You’re the one. I’d recognize you a mile away.”
“Okay, Sam. I took off after the thief the minute I heard about the robbery,” Jacob said. “Therefore I’m pretty much in the dark about a lot of this. It’s time you told me everything that happened to you. And I want details.”
Just then Sam’s wife, Gertrude, came into the office. Sheriff Jacob motioned for her to take a seat, then told Sam to go ahead with his story. Gertrude ogled Cad with a suspicious eye as he spoke.
“Ahem. Let’s see. I met this smooth-talking weasel the day before yesterday while making my rounds of the boat docks in the harbor. My boss, Mr. Pelican, has me check on all the loading and unloading of his cargo. I’m his right-hand man, you know. Well, anyway, I run into this fella. Says his name’s Frank and he’s the nicest, friendliest guy you’d ever want to meet. Just has a happy-go-lucky way about him, you know? He even treats me to lunch. Tells me I could do a lot better than being a gofer for Mr. Pelican, that I’m talented, under-appreciated, stuff like that. Now that’s when I think he found out I sometimes have to deliver cash payments to the ship captains from time to time.”
Jacob was surprised. “You told him that?” he asked.
“Um, I’m not positive, but I might have,” Sam said. “We talked about a lot of things.”
“The man doesn’t have a brain in his head!” Gertrude snorted.
“Shhh. You’re going to have to stay quiet, Gertrude,” Jacob cautioned. “Go on, Sam.”
“Well, the next morning I get dressed, go by the office, pick up a thousand-dollar payment for the captain of the “Matilda” and start out for the harbor. There I was, just riding along, minding my own business, when somebody hits me from behind, on top of my head, with a hammer! I fell down in a daze, but just before I blacked out I managed to get a good look at the bushwhacker. It was the same weasel I’d met the day before.” Sam gestured at Cad. “And that’s him right in there!”
“What happened next?” Jacob inquired.
“It was almost dark when I came to. I was in the dark woods so no one saw me lying there at any time. My pony, my clothes and, most importantly of all, Mr. Pelican’s money was gone. That’s when I came and told you.”
“How’s your injury?” Jacob asked him.
Sam seemed confused. “Hmm? What injury?”
“Your head, Sam, your head!” Jacob said. “ You just told me he hit you on top of the head with a hammer.”
“Oh! Right! It still throbs a little, but I’ll be okay in a few days,” Sam said. “He must’ve hit me in just the right spot because I was conked out all day.”
“Hmm. That’s quite a story,” Jacob mused.
Sheriff Jacob couldn’t put his finger on it, but something was beginning to stink about the whole mess. For one thing, if Cad was the criminal, where was the money? He surely wouldn’t have left the area without at least some of it. And if the robber hit Sam hard enough to knock him out for that long, shouldn’t there be a lot more than a small scratch on his head? Sheriff Jacob had enough experience to know when things didn’t add up. At that very moment there was a knock on the office door and in walked Conrad Cardinal from Green Meadows. Cad jumped up and ran to the cell door.
“Conrad! Thank heavens you’re here at last!” he exclaimed.
“I left home as soon as you called. Hopefully I can clear this up,” Conrad said.
“You’re a close friend of the suspect?” Jacob asked him.
“Yes, sir,” Conrad replied. “Known him since he was a baby.”
“Where was he yesterday morning?” Jacob asked.
“I saw him and Steve Snake working in Pearl Porcupine’s yard, repairing her broken sewage pipe,” Conrad testified. “They were busy with it till the middle of the afternoon. Plenty of witnesses besides me, Sheriff. He never left town. You’ve got the wrong weasel.”
“Just like I told you,” Cad said.
Jacob was convinced of Cad’s innocence. He turned to his accuser.
“Now, Sam, it looks like he’s telling the truth after all. The real culprit conned him into some kind of switch. I’ll bet that clever critter hid the money in a sock or something so when Cad took his clothes he wouldn’t take the loot, too. He sure played it cool on the road this morning. He even fooled me.”
“Well, what are you waiting for?” Sam shouted. “Get up and go find him, sheriff. You just said you saw him yourself!”
“Sam, by now he could be anywhere on Lavender Island,” Jacob said. “I’ll put out a standard alert to the other law enforcement agencies but if this shyster is as wily as I think you’ve seen the last of him and that money. He knows all the tricks, I’m afraid. But Sam, are you sure he didn’t con you, too?”
Sam turned red. “What? Con me? Nonsense! Why… why do you ask such a thing?”
Sheriff Jacob rose and unlocked the cell door, allowing Cad to come out and sit by the desk. Sam was beginning to squirm in his seat as everyone looked at him.
Jacob sat back down and said, “Well, for one thing, scam-artists aren’t usually violent. Why mug someone if you can get them to just hand the money over? And another thing. That stretch of road where you say he attacked you isn’t exactly off the beaten path. In fact, I’m very familiar with it and I happen to know, as you do, there’s a lot of traffic on it at that time of the morning. I’m wondering why no one else witnessed your robbery?”
“Um…. I don’t know, either,” mumbled Sam.
“Also, if the assailant was on foot and you were on your pony, how did he manage to hit you on top of the head with his hammer?” Jacob asked. “Seems like he would’ve had to jump up on the pony first, yet you stated you never heard a thing. How do you account for that?”
Sam was starting to sweat. “Umm…. Umm…. I know! Maybe he threw it!” he said.
Sam was really nervous now. He could tell his explanations were getting more and more far-fetched. His wife, Gertrude, walked over and glared at him.
“You know, something else is strange about all this,” she said. “When I got home from work yesterday there was a whole pan of fresh trout in the fridge. I smell something fishy here in more ways than one.”
“Ahem.” Sam said. “Well, uh….. maybe he, uh…. Oh, what’s the use? I can’t lie about this anymore. Okay, okay, okay. I fell for one of that creep’s scams, too!” he confessed.
“Just as I thought,” Jacob said. “All right, Sam. Let’s hear the truth this time.”
Sam gathered himself before speaking. “What I told you about meeting him was true. But over lunch I told him how I love to fish and he told me the trout were so plentiful in the Jasmine River lately they were practically jumping onto the banks! Well, I thought about that, then started to complain about how I never enjoy free time with my job and all, and how I’d love to take a day off to fish. So he offered to do me a “favor.” He suggested we meet up early the next morning. He’d put on my clothes and take the pony and the money and, since we were about the same size and shape, he’d fill in for me. He said no one would know the difference. Now you’ve got to understand, this guy seemed so honest in the way he talked and acted that I decided to trust him. Well, I had a great time at the river, went home, put the fish in the icebox, and then went to meet him at the spot we’d agreed on earlier. I waited and waited for what seemed like forever. Then it dawned on me that maybe I’d been….. tricked.”
Jacob nodded. “I see. So who put the scratch on your head?”
Sam stared at the floor “I did. I was so mad at myself for falling for such a stupid scam I could’ve beaten myself to a pulp!”
Cad spoke up. “Why, you little creep! You were going to make me take the blame for it! But you knew I was telling the truth all along!”
“Yes, and I’m sorry, Cad. I panicked. I began to realize the money was long gone. I got confused and scared. Believe me, though, I couldn’t have let you take the blame much longer. My conscience was killing me. I feel so ashamed!”
Jacob wasn’t happy. “Sam, I ought to throw you in that cell right now. But, unfortunately, there’s no law against being stupid, so I can’t. You do realize I’m going to have to tell Mr. Pelican you gave his money to a criminal who’d gained your trust, don’t you?”
Sam looked up at Jacob. “No, Sheriff, you’re not. I’m going to be a man about this and tell him myself. He’ll probably fire me but that’s what I deserve for being so gullible.”
Jacob let out a heavy sigh. “Look, Sam, I’ll talk to him anyway and tell him just how sly and crafty these characters like Frank, Wally, Randall or whatever his real name is really are. I think I can get him to go easy on you. Now all of you go back home. I have a lot of paperwork to fill out.”
There’s not really a happy ending to this tale. Sam and Cad learned the hard way that if something seems too good to be true it probably is. They also learned you should always get to know someone thoroughly before you place a lot of trust in them. There’s always a fine line between being friendly to strangers and being vulnerable to dishonest scam-artists. And, of course, making up lies to cover up your own mistakes never makes things better. Sam was fortunate. His boss allowed him to pay back the lost money a little at a time and keep his job. As for Cad, he realized a professional crook can lure you into his trap as easily as catching fish in a stream. All he has to do is find the perfect bait.