Tales from Lavender Island – “The Scam”

Tales from Lavender Island 

“The Scam” 

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.

 

 

THE END

 

Copyright 2000

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Tales from Lavender Island – “Superstition”

Tales From Lavender Island 

Superstition 

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.

 

 

This story takes place in Summerfield, a town on the edge of the Chicapah Forest where open meadows spread out for miles all the way to the coastline below Tyrant’s Mountain.  Three young girls live in this town who were born in the same year and have grown up together as close as sisters.  They are Wendy Wolf, Gracie Deer and Karen Kangaroo.

 

One day they were looking in the window of the Summerfield Mall Fabric Store.

Oooo!  Look, girls.  What pretty satin,” Gracie said.  “I’ll bet it’s expensive, though.”

“You’re probably right,” Wendy said.  “But it sure would make a great dress.”

“Oh, well, a girl can dream, can’t she?” Gracie said.  “Uh, oh.  I feel a sneeze coming on.  Ah…. ah…. ah… ACHOOOO!!!  Excuse me.”

“Bless you,” Karen said.

“Oh, that reminds me of something I’ve been reading,” Gracie said.

Wendy was confused.  “What does?  The satin?” she asked.

“No, no.  My sneeze and what Karen said just now,” Gracie replied.  “It’s superstition.”

“Hmm?  My saying ‘bless you’ is being superstitious?” Karen asked.  “No way.”

“It is,” Gracie said.  “I learned about it in a book.  Back when folks didn’t know better they thought your soul was in your breath.  They feared that if you sneezed too hard your spirit would leave your body and then not find its way back in.  So whoever was around a sneezer would say ‘bless you’ to help keep your soul inside you.  Silly, huh?”

“It’s not silly at all,” Karen answered.  “It’s just good manners.”

“If that’s so, how come nobody says anything after you cough or blow your nose?”  Wendy asked.  “If you ask me, I think all superstitions are dumb.  Let’s go to the music store.”

The three girls started walking.  Karen Kangaroo stopped them suddenly.

“Oh, my.  Let’s go down the other side of the mall,” she said.  “There’s a big ladder in front of us.”

So?  It looks sturdy to me,” Wendy said.  “I don’t think it will fall on any of us.  It’s not a problem.”

I know what’s wrong,” Gracie said.  “She thinks it’s bad luck to walk under a ladder.  That’s another superstition.”

“I am not being superstitious,” Wendy said.  “I’m just being safe.  A tool left on top could fall and hit us on the head if we walk under that ladder.  It won’t hurt to go out of our way.”

To make Wendy happy they avoided the ladder and continued through the mall.  They stopped at a fast-food restaurant, got their meals, found a table and sat down.

“Oh, goody!  I’m glad we decided to eat lunch early,” Karen said.  “All this walking and talking has made me hungry.”

“Karen, will you pass the salt, please?” Wendy asked.

“Sure, here you go,” Karen said.  “Ooops!”

            Karen dropped the shaker, spilling a small amount of salt.  She quickly picked some of it up and tossed it over her left shoulder.  Unfortunately, Pearl Peacock was sitting right behind her and salt grains hit the back of her head!

Gracie and Wendy were shocked!  “KAREN!!!” they both exclaimed.

“What’s wrong?” Karen asked, then turned to look behind her.  “Oh, no!  I’m so sorry, Ms. Peacock!  I didn’t mean to hit you.  I didn’t know you were there.”

Pearl brushed the salt off of her clothes and off of her feathers.  “Well, I never!” she grumbled.  “What were you thinking?  You should learn some manners!  Good grief!”

Karen slowly slid down into her seat as Pearl stormed away, mad as a bee.

“I am so embarrassed,” Gracie said.  “Everyone in here was looking at us.”

“Think how I feel!” Karen said.  “I’m the one who threw it all over her.  But I was taught by my grandmother to always throw spilled salt over my shoulder or something bad will happen.”

“Karen, something bad did happen,” Wendy said.  “You and your childish superstitions.  Enough already.”

“Here’s the true scoop.  People used to think that salt was magic,” Gracie said. “Spilling it meant good spirits were warning you evil was lurking nearby.  Since everyone thought good spirits lived on your right side and bad ones on your left, tossing a pinch over your left shoulder made the evil spirits be nice to you.  Weird, huh?”

“I’ll say,” Wendy said.  “Now listen to me, Karen.  Salt is not magic.  Got it?”

“Okay.  You don’t have to be mean about it,” Karen replied.  “I feel bad enough already.”

People were still staring at them so they put their food back into the paper bags and left.  They headed for the nearest mall exit but Karen once again asked them to stop.

“Oh, my,” she said.  “We’re going to have to go out another way.”

“What’s the problem now, Karen?” Wendy whined.

“Christine Cat walked across our path to that exit,” Karen explained.  “She’s a black cat!  Don’t you know what that means?”

Wendy rolled her eyes.  “I’m sure Gracie is just dying to tell us,” she said.

“Allow me,” Gracie said.  “Long ago folks believed that black cats were very close to witches and that, after about seven years, they actually became witches.  So everybody avoided his or her path.  They feared the ‘devil cat’ might put a spell on them.  Very, very silly.”

“Tease me all you like,” Karen said, “I’m not hurting anybody, am I?”

“Pearl Peacock comes to mind,” Gracie said.

“That was an accident and you know it,” Karen said.

“Let’s drop it,” Wendy said.  “We’ll go out that side door over there.”

“Let’s change the subject and talk about the school dance next Saturday night,” Karen said.  “I can’t wait!”

“Me, neither,” Wendy said.  “I hope they hired a good band.  I want to dance all night!”

“It’s Ramsey Raccoon and the Rebels,” Gracie said.  “I just love their music.  They rock!”

“Great!” Karen said.  “It’s going to be the best party of the year!”

“Let’s go rustle through each other’s closets and pick out what to wear,” Wendy said.

 

From Wendy’s they went to Gracie’s and then to Karen’s house.  As Karen and Gracie tried on clothes, Wendy sat on the bed.  She picked up one of Karen’s books.

“Is this new?” she asked.  “Rosie’s Astrology Guide.  I didn’t know you read this stuff,” Wendy said.  “But after today I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.”

“Don’t tell me you believe that nonsense, Karen,” Gracie said.  “It’s trash.”

Karen got mad.  “Just put it back if it bothers you,” she snapped.  “I’m not making you read it.”

“There’s no need to get upset,” Wendy said.  “Who am I to tell you what to read?”

“Astrology is just like the other superstitions,” Gracie said.  “Since the beginning of time folks were so amazed by the movements of the stars they started believing they controlled their lives.  But it makes no sense to think that where the stars were when you were born can tell you what will happen in your life fifty years later.  Most of those stars are billions of light years away and nowhere close to each other!  There’s no scientific proof for anything in that book.”

Karen was tired of Gracie and Karen picking on her.  “Oh, thank you Ms. know-it-all for yet another lecture!” she said.  “All you’ve done is make fun of me today and I’m really sick of it!”

“But Karen, we…” Gracie began.

Quiet!” Karen said, interrupting her.  “You don’t understand that these things have been passed along for ages in my family and that I don’t really care if you think I’m a fool.  If I want to believe in magic and charms it’s my business.  Please leave me alone now.  I’ll see you later.”

 

Gracie and Wendy left and walked home.  They talked about what had happened and agreed that if it was such a touchy subject with Karen they would just let it blow over.

“She’s pretty upset with us about all that stuff,” Gracie said.  “Let’s not bring it up again.”

“No problem,” Wendy said.  “But if she starts taking it too seriously again I’m going to say something.  What if Christine Cat had overheard Karen at the mall today?  That could’ve really hurt her feelings.  And that’s when this superstitious garbage gets out of hand.”

“You’re right, but for now I’d rather think about the dance and all the fun we’re going to have,” Gracie said.  “I’ve got to go now.  Bye.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Wendy said.  “Bye.”

 

Finally Saturday night came.  Gracie went over to Wendy’s where the three of them had planned to meet up before walking to the school dance.  But after waiting a while they began to worry about Karen.  It wasn’t like her to be late.  No one answered the phone at her house so they went over there. They knocked on her door and Karen finally opened it.

“Well, girl, it’s about time!” Gracie said.  “Get a move on.  We’re already running late!”

Karen looked sad.  “I’m not going to the dance,” she said quietly.

“Not going?  What’s wrong?” Wendy asked.  “Are you sick?”

“No, I feel fine,” Karen answered.  “I know you’re going to kid me again but I have to heed the warnings.  I’d be tempting fate to go to the dance.”

“You got warnings about a dance?” Wendy asked.  “What are you talking about?”

“It’s my horoscope,” Karen said.  “It told me ‘Beware of parties today.  Stay close to home.  This is not a good time to try to have fun.’  Now do you understand?”

“I understand, all right,” Gracie said.  “The stars are telling me that you’ve entered the twilight zone.  Please, Karen, forget about that nutty stuff and get your party dress on.  You’ve been looking forward to this night for weeks.”

“You don’t get it, do you?” Karen said.  “There’s been a great many times when the stars were right about everything.  I’ve got a strong feeling that this is one of those times.  I can’t risk it.”

“Karen, you’re not your grandmother,” Wendy said.  “You don’t have to live like this.  That ‘Rosie’ person who wrote that dumb book doesn’t know you any more than she knew your granny.  All she knows is that you paid twelve dollars for her book.  It’s a joke, Karen.  A joke on you.”

“That’s enough,” Karen said.  “What was good enough for my grandmother is good enough for me.  You two go have fun.  I don’t care what you do.  I’m staying home because I think I should.”

Karen rudely shut the door in their faces.  Wendy turned and started walking away.

“You’re leaving?” Gracie asked.  “Surely we can talk her out of this.”

“Go for it, my friend.  Me?  I’m not wasting another moment on her,” Wendy said.  “It’s like my mom told me.  Sometimes you just have to let them taste their own stale meatloaf.  She cooked it, she can eat it.  I’m going to the dance.  Maybe she’ll show up later on.”

“I hope you’re right,” Gracie said.  “Hold up a second.  I’m coming with you.”

 

The dance turned out to be one of the most exciting ever.  Ramsey Raccoon and the Rebels rocked the gymnasium for hours.  Wendy and Gracie danced with the boys in their class and spent the whole night talking about who had danced with whom.

Meanwhile, Karen spent a sad, lonely evening watching TV, wishing she was at the dance.

The next morning Gracie visited Wendy.  She had stopped by Karen’s on the way.

“Wasn’t last night the greatest?” Wendy said.  “I had wonderful dreams about it.”

“Me, too,” Gracie said.  “But I really wish Karen would’ve gone.  You know how funny she can be when she gets around a bunch of people.  It’s kind of tragic.  I don’t know what to say to her.”

“Maybe that’s the problem,” Wendy said.  “We’ve been saying too much and not doing enough.  Come on.  We’re going to cure her of her superstitious ‘disease.'”

 

They immediately went to Karen’s house.  After Karen answered the door Wendy went inside with Gracie following right behind.  Wendy took Karen by the arm and led her into her bedroom.

“I’m doing this for your own good,” Wendy said.  “You may get angry and hate me for the rest of your life, but I’m willing to take that chance because I care about you.  I’m going to prove to you that your superstitions are false.  Gracie, get all the astrology books you can find and put them in a sack so we can toss them into the trash heap later.”

Karen was shocked.  “What?” she exclaimed.  “Those cost money.”

“Sue me,” Wendy said.  “Now, get your umbrella out of the closet and open it up.”

“In here?” Karen asked.  “But it’s bad luck to open it inside the house.”

“Bad luck is guaranteed if you don’t do what I say,” Wendy said.  “We can do this the easy way or the hard way.  But it’s going to get done.  I knew you’d get mad at me.”

“You were right.  I am,” Karen said.  “But I think maybe you’re bluffing.”

OPEN THE UMBRELLA, KAREN!!!” Wendy shouted.

This even startled Gracie.  “She’s not bluffing,” she said to Karen.  “Do it.”

She shrugged, opened the umbrella, and threw it aside.  Wendy took Karen’s horseshoe from over the door.  Then she took a small mirror from her purse and carried it to the desk.  She put the mirror down and handed the horseshoe to Karen.

“Smash the mirror with the horseshoe,” Wendy ordered.

“That’s crazy,” Karen said.  “If I break a mirror I’m doomed to seven years of bad luck.  But you don’t care, do you?  Fine.”

Karen smashed it.  Gracie carefully put the pieces into a wastebasket.  Next Wendy led Karen into the kitchen.  She made her spill salt on the table but didn’t let her throw any of it over her shoulder.  Then they went outside and found a ladder leaning against a neighbor’s house.  Wendy made Karen walk under the ladder.  Twice.  Wendy spotted Christine Cat coming down the road.  She waited for her to go by, then led Karen right across her path.  By now Karen was furious.

“Have you finished ruining my life?” she asked.  “Or is there more?”

“One last thing,” Wendy said.  “Take everything out of your pouch.”

“Oh, of course!” Karen exclaimed.  “Here, take my lucky crystal, my lucky penny, my lucky wishbone, my lucky four-leaf-clover, and my lucky rock!  Take every charm I have to ward off bad luck.  I guess you’re going to trash them, too.”

“I won’t let that happen,” Gracie said.  “You’ll get them back.  Trust me.”

“Thanks, Gracie, but it won’t matter by then,” Karen said sadly.  “This is the last time I’ll see you because I won’t make it alive through the night.  Something terrible will happen to me because of what you’ve forced me into doing today.  I’m a doomed Kangaroo.”

“You’re wrong,” Wendy said.  “The sun will rise for you tomorrow morning just like it did today.  And the day will be what you make it, not what a book says it will be.”

“You’re so blind,” Karen said.  “There are powers at work around us that you can’t see.  They’ll never allow me to live.  I have angered the spirits in the worst way.”

“I’ll tell you what,” Gracie said.  “We’ll come by in the morning and take you to breakfast.  It’ll be my treat.  You’ll not only be alive and well, but hungry, too.”

Wendy smiled at Karen.  “Don’t worry,” she said.  “I would never do anything to cause you harm.  We’ll see you bright and early.”

“Yeah, right,” Karen said.  “It was nice knowing you both.  Farewell, cruel world.”

 

The next morning Wendy and Gracie went straight to Karen’s house.  They topped the hill above her home and stopped.  Down below Karen sat on a tree stump, crying.

“Oh, no!  Something bad must’ve happened,” Gracie said.  “What if we’ve hurt her?”

“What do you mean we?  This is all my fault,” Wendy said.  “I went too far.”

They both ran down the hill.  Karen looked up at them with tears in her eyes.

“Karen, what’s wrong?” Wendy asked.  “I feel terrible about this.”

“Nothing’s wrong, Wendy,” Karen said.  “Nothing happened.”

“What do you mean?” Gracie said.  “If nothing happened then why are you crying?”

“I’m crying because of my stupidity!” Karen said.  “I paced up and down all night worrying about what horrible things were going to happen at any moment.  I imagined tornadoes crashing through my roof, earthquakes swallowing me up and floods sweeping me away.  I was jumping at shadows for hours.  And then the most amazing thing happened.”

“What?” Wendy asked.

“The sun came up!” Karen exclaimed.  “And nothing bad or evil had occurred!  I was still alive without a single lucky charm in the house to protect me.  I thought of all the time and money I’ve wasted and I just broke down and cried.  You were right.  I’m a fool!”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself,” Wendy said.  “We all have silly habits.”

“And you have your whole life ahead of you,” Gracie added.  “It’s not too late to realize that you’re free to make your own destiny.  Just stop living in fear.”

“I have to thank you two for making me see the light,” Karen said.  “I feel like having a party.  I know, since I missed out on the dance let’s invite all our friends over this Friday after school.”

Now you’re talking.  That’s a great idea,” Wendy said.  “How about it, Gracie?”

“Hold on, let me check my calendar,” Gracie said, looking into her purse.  “Let’s see, this Friday will be…. oh, no!  We can’t possibly do it.  It’s Friday the thirteenth!”

“So?” Karen asked.  “I can’t think of a better day for it!”

With that, all three girls broke out laughing.

 

Karen never missed another dance or anything else because of superstitious beliefs.  She kept her lucky crystal, clover and rock but only because she liked the way they looked, not because she believed they had special magical powers.  As for her astrology books, she took great pleasure in throwing them into Summerfield’s trash heap herself.  Karen had learned that, outside of the normal accidents of life, she was the ruler of her own fate.  She left behind all her superstitions based on fear and ignorance of natural laws and got on with her life filled with hope, eager to take on the challenges of tomorrow.

 

 

THE END

 

Copyright 2000

Tales from Lavender Island – “A War of Words”

Tales from Lavender Island 

A War of Words 

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.

 

 

 

Summerfield is one of the newest towns on Lavender Island.  The roads are smooth, the buildings are clean and the fashions are always in style.  But the citizens are no different from folks in any other city.  Yes, there are going to be some differences whenever animals of various kinds live close to each other, but the residents of Summerfield have gotten along pretty well ever since the town was created.

Beaver Dam was built sixty years ago, creating Prescott Lake and drying out the plain below it where Summerfield was established.  Families from all over the island moved there to make a new start.  They brought with them high aspirations, but they also dragged along some of their mistrust of other animals.  So deer settled near other deer, wolves built homes near other wolves, and so on.

 

Summerfield grew so fast that soon the city out-grew its tiny school and a solution was needed.  The mayor, Bella Bear, held a town meeting.  The leaders of the animal communities were invited to have their say.

“First, all opinions are welcome,” Bella began.  “Secondly, the final decision will come from your votes on a secret ballot.  Duncan Deer, you’re up first.”

Duncan stood up.  “Thank you, Mayor,” he said.  “We deer live on the outskirts of town.  We find the uncrowded conditions to be most pleasant.  That’s why I suggest a new school be built in our neighborhood.  There’s plenty of room for future growth and the kids will have a quiet atmosphere for learning there.  It’s perfect.”

“Very good, Duncan,” Bella Bear said.  “Stella Skunk, it’s your turn.”

“I’m a skunk and proud of it,” Stella began.  “I live with other skunks in the middle of town.  A new school should go in our neighborhood because it’s the right thing to do.  We always get left out.  Whenever we’ve had a park built or a pothole fixed it’s been in another part of town.  Now it’s our turn.  Duncan Deer says we should put a school in his area but he just wants us to buy his land to build it on.  Greed is his motive, not education.  A new school must be built near the skunks.”

As Stella took her seat Duncan stood up again.

“How dare you say I’m greedy,” Duncan Deer said.  “I demand an apology!”

“Calm down,” Bella Bear said.  “Stella was just voicing her opinion.  No offense should be taken and no apology is needed.  I do suggest we avoid name-calling.  That might cause hurt feelings.  Let’s keep this civil, okay?  Walter Wolf, it’s your turn.”

“Fellow citizens,” Walter said, “Duncan and Stella have strong opinions.  But they’re both wrong.  If anyone’s neglected it’s us.  The skunks and deer together make up half this town while there are only a few wolf families.  Our pups have walked a long way to school for years so we should build the new one in our area.  We’ve always been proud, helpful citizens and it’s time for our reward.  We’ve been slighted long enough.”

As Walter took his seat Stella Skunk jumped up.

“Say what?  I don’t believe my ears!” she said.  “Walter, you wouldn’t know discrimination if it bit you on the nose!  Try being a skunk for a day and then you’ll know what real persecution is!”

“Now, Stella,” the Mayor said, “you mustn’t take any of this personally, either.  We all want what’s best for our kids.  Carolyn Kangaroo, you’re next.”

“I have the solution,” she began.  “Let’s not build it at all!  Instead of a new school that won’t make anybody happy I say we remodel the old school.  It’s a strong building, it’s in the best part of town and a new one would just split our children apart.  We kangaroos don’t mind you coming into our neighborhood.  Let’s just fix what we have.”

As soon as Carolyn sat down Stella Skunk jumped up again.

“You stuck-up freak of nature!” she shouted.  “Our kids walk to school through rain and snow while yours have been hopping no more than a few blocks!  Of course you want to fix up the old school.  Of course you don’t want change.  You can’t stand the thought of your kids going where the skunks live, can you?  Well, that’s too bad!  The days of you ‘roos’ running everything in this town have come to an end!”

“Don’t speak to me that way, you little striped rat!” Carolyn Kangaroo shouted.  “If it wasn’t for us ‘roos’ paying most of the taxes you skunks, deer and wolves wouldn’t have a school at all!”

“That’s enough!” Duncan Deer said.  “As always, the skunks and kangaroos are drowning everybody else out and I’m sick of it.  That’s why we never get anything done.  We should build a school away from this madness and that place is in the deer sector.  Let us show you the right way to do it.”

“So the town would be perfect if deer were in charge, is that it?” Walter Wolf said.  “You’re no better than them.  You’re just rattling more of the ‘give me mine’ attitude that keeps us from finding solutions.  What a bag of gas you are.”

“Really, Walter?” Stella Skunk asked.  “You said the school should be in your part of town.”

“Yes,” Walter replied.  “But not for selfish reasons.”

“Baloney,” Carolyn Kangaroo said.  “You’re just trying to lay a guilt-trip on us about owing wolves something but it’s not working.  We took you in when no one else would.  Remember, we ‘roos’ have the votes to do as we want.  It’d be best for all to remodel the existing school.”

“Is that a threat?” Stella Skunk asked.  “I wouldn’t talk so tough, you overgrown cricket!  You don’t have the power.  There’s enough skunk, deer and wolf votes combined to yank that school right out from under you.  Don’t think we can’t do it.”

Bella Bear pounded on her desk.  “Order!  Order!” she shouted.

“I’ll tell you what, Mayor,” Carolyn Kangaroo said.  “Demand all the order you want.  I won’t listen to a stinkbug like Stella Skunk any longer.  We kangaroos are leaving.”

“So are the deer,” Duncan said.  “We’ll come back when the trash-talkers are kept out and rational minds are allowed to discuss things without being insulted.  Good night.”

“Oh, stick a sock in it, Duncan,” Walter Wolf said.  “All of you would love to run us wolves out of town and we know it.  Nothing changes.  I’m leaving.  It stinks in here.”

 

After they left Bella Bear sat down and sighed.  The three young friends, Karen Kangaroo, Wendy Wolf and Gracie Deer gathered around.  Embarrassed by the adults, they tried to comfort the Mayor.

“Don’t take it personally,” Wendy said.  “You did nothing wrong.”

“I do take it personally,” Bella said.  “I’m the mayor.  I’m supposed to lead these folks, not allow them to insult each other.  I feel useless.”

“We were all disgusted by our parents,” Karen said.  “We’re supposed to look up to them but my mom was a real jerk tonight, acting like kangaroos own this town.”

“Did you hear my dad?” Gracie Deer asked.  “Acting like deer are perfect.”

Nobody’s perfect,” Bella said.  “But all of them are fine folks.  Sometimes age-old bias rears its ugly head when there’s an important issue.  What a shame.”

“They’ll cool off in time,” Karen Kangaroo said.  “Things will get better.”

“I hope they do, Karen,” Bella Bear said.  “I really do.”

 

But they didn’t.  Bella held another meeting two weeks later and things got worse as soon as the meeting began.

“I’ve come here with news,” Stella Skunk announced.  “We skunks say put the school wherever you want or remodel the old one.  Either option is fine with us.”

“Why, Stella!” the Mayor exclaimed, “That’s a great attitude!”

“We don’t care,” Stella Skunk said.  “We’ll start our own school just for skunks.”

Bella Bear was shocked.  “You can’t do that!” she shouted.  “It’s not right.”

“It’s okay, Mayor,” Duncan Deer said.  “We’ll just build a school for deer.  That way our kids get the education they deserve.”

Oh?” Walter Wolf said.  “And what about us?  We don’t have enough wolves living here to afford a separate school.  You call that fair?”

            “May I jump in?” Carolyn Kangaroo asked.  “Walter, your pups will always be welcome in our school.  We kangaroos are broad-minded.”

“Sit on a tack,” Walter Wolf replied.  “You’ll allow us to go to a school we helped pay for?  I think not.  We’ll hold classes in our living rooms if we have to.  The wolf way.  In fact, we’ll allow you to buy back our share of your school!”

“Stop this!” Bella Bear said.  “You’re pulling the town apart.  This is bad!”

Gracie, Karen and Wendy, sitting in the back, spoke up.

“If you won’t listen to the mayor please listen to your children!” Gracie Deer said.  “We don’t want four or five separate schools.  We want to stay together.”

“That’s right,” Karen Kangaroo said.  “Just because you’ve got hang-ups about each other doesn’t mean we have.”

“We beg you not to do this,” Wendy said.  “Nobody gains anything.”

Walter Wolf pointed at Wendy.  “Sit down and behave yourself,” he said.  “Stay out of this.  Someday, when you’re older, you’ll understand.”

“Karen, be quiet,” Carolyn Kangaroo said.  “This is for your own good.”

“Gracie, this is grown-up stuff,” Duncan Deer said.  “I’ll talk to you later and explain it in terms you can understand.  I promise it’ll make sense.”

“Then perhaps you can explain it to me, too!” Bella Bear said.

 

The meeting ended and, once again, Bella Bear found herself with only the three girls for company.

“Separate schools.  How dumb,” Karen Kangaroo said.

“It’s what they want,” Bella said.  “They can do what they think’s best, even if they’re wrong.  Maybe I’m not right for this job.  Perhaps I should step down.”

“Oh, no!” Gracie Deer said.  “It would make things ten times worse.”

“She’s right,” Wendy Wolf said.  “Surely they’ll come to their senses and it’ll be you who’ll bring them back together to fix this mess.  You can’t quit.  They need you.”

“All right.  I’ll stay on for a while,” the Mayor said.

 

Summerfield became less of a city and more like a cluster of small villages.  Each animal community began to school their own kids.  An adult kangaroo wouldn’t speak to a deer; a wolf wouldn’t look at a skunk, and so on.  The three girls met secretly to avoid lectures from their parents.  What had started as a discussion about a new school had turned into a war of words that tore the town into hateful little pieces.

During this time the area got more rain than ever before, filling Prescott Lake and putting a strain on Beaver Dam.  Rising water had already flooded lower parts of the city.  But the residents were too wrapped up in their dispute to pay attention.

 

One day Bella Bear was visited by Buck Beaver, the manager of Beaver Dam.

“I’m worried,” Buck said.  “The dam wasn’t built to hold so much water.  The lake is full and we’re in for more rain.  You need to start thinking about putting up flood barriers in case the dam starts to leak or break apart.”

Bella was startled.  “Break apart?” she said.  “That would be a disaster.  Surely there’s something you can do to keep that from happening.”

“I’m doing everything I can,” Buck said.  “I’ve got crews working day and night to strengthen the dam but if the rains keep coming things could get bad real fast.  A town meeting might be a good idea.  How prepared are you for disaster?”             “I couldn’t get citizens to meet even if I gave away free cake and ice cream right now,” Bella Bear said.  “All the animals refuse to have anything to do with each other.  It’s a mess.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Buck said.  “The town could get swept right off the island if the dam fails.  You must get ready.  Some families are going to have to evacuate no matter what.  I’ve got to go back to the dam now.  Good luck, Mayor.”

 

Bella thought about why she had run for mayor.  It was because she loved the town and wanted to give it strong leadership.  The war of words was her greatest crisis and it sickened her.  She decided to stop the hatred that had taken over her city.  She went to each of the area leaders, inviting them to a private meeting in her office.  The next day they arrived at the same time and were not happy about others being there.

“Good morning,” Bella Bear said.  “Thank you for coming.”

“This was to be private,” Stella Skunk said.  “Why are these idiots here?”

“This is private,” Bella said.  “Private between me, you, Duncan, Walter and Carolyn.  It’s time you put aside your petty differences and start acting like good citizens.  We have a serious crisis on our hands that threatens our whole town.”

What crisis?” Duncan Deer asked.  “The school?  We’ve got a solution for that already.”

“And what a great solution it is, too,” Bella said.  “You’ve turned this town into a war zone, destroying friendships that have lasted years.  Well done, all of you.”

“I don’t have to listen to this,” Carolyn Kangaroo said.  “Excuse me.”

Bella Bear got angry.  “Sit down, Carolyn!” she shouted.  “I’ll tell you when you can leave.  Reports say Beaver Dam could fail.  As it is, we’ll have more flooding because of the heavy rains.  We have to take action.  Now!

“Here’s the wolf plan of action,” Walter said.  “We’ll take care of our own.  One of our families had to move already because their home has a foot of water in it.  We took care of them.  Just like the school issue, we wolves will be fine, no matter what.”

“Wrong!” Bella shouted.  “None of us are going to be fine.  If the dam goes so does Summerfield!  It wasn’t made for this much rain and more is on the way.  We have to put up a flood wall and we have to do it now!”

“Nice try, Mayor,” Stella Skunk said.  “But nothing’s going to make me work next to a kangaroo, wolf or deer.  They’ve never done anything for me.”

“Is that so?” Bella Bear asked.  “When your husband went to the hospital, who brought food to your kids and made sure they were looked after?  Carolyn Kangaroo, that’s who!  Carolyn, when that hailstorm put a hole in your roof who patched it up and never asked for a dime?  Walter Wolf, that’s who!  Duncan Deer, when fire damaged your house who loaned you money to repair it?  Stella Skunk did!  Walter Wolf, when one of your pups was lost who found him in a snowstorm?  It was Duncan Deer!”

“Things were different then,” Carolyn Kangaroo said.

“Why?  Because it was before you disagreed?” Bella asked.  “Look around you!  She’s not just a skunk, that’s Stella with the heart of gold.  Walter’s not just a wolf, he’s a good man who’d do anything for anyone.  Duncan’s more than just a deer, he’s a hard-working guy who cares about all of us.  Carolyn, you’re not only in the kangaroo family, you’re in our family.  You make sure everybody is cared for.  We’re friends.  Without each other we’re just wild animals.  We have a good city and it’s time to save it.  We can’t do that if we don’t forget what color our fur is and start working side by side.”

Walter scratched his head.  Stella stared at the floor.  Duncan shifted nervously.  Carolyn began to cry.

“I feel so… So stupid!” she said.  “You’re my friends and I’ve been horrible to all of you.  I’m so very sorry.”

“I’m guilty, too” Walter Wolf said.  “I apologize.  I hope you’ll forgive me.”

“I take back the hateful things I said,” Stella Skunk said.  “I’m really sorry.”

“That goes for me, too,” Duncan Deer said.  “I love this town and I forgot it’s all of you that make it the greatest place on Lavender Island.”

“I couldn’t have said it better,” Bella said.  “Let’s get busy.  Get everyone to the north end of town.  Walter and Duncan, get wood and sandbags out there.  Stella and Carolyn, stock the shelter with food and blankets for those who have to move from their homes.  If the dam breaks we’ll get no more than a few minutes warning and it looks like rain outside.  Go, people, go!”

 

The plan was to build a five-foot-high wall across the end of town, from the tree line to the river.  A team spirit grew in the town.  Wolves worked next to skunks.  Deer and bears worked next to kangaroos.  The young filled bags with sand and the old helped at the shelter.

It started to rain but the work continued.  By day’s end the wall stood two feet high and all were exhausted.  Bella Bear told everyone to get some rest.

Early the next morning she was awakened by a call from Buck Beaver.

“Sorry to wake you,” Buck said, “but I don’t think the dam will last through the day.  I hope you’re prepared because if it breaks apart you’re going to get a whole lot of water roaring straight at you like a runaway freight train.”

“We started building a wall yesterday,” Bella said.  “How much time do we have?”

“I wish I knew,” he said.  “It could go any time.  I’ll give as much warning as possible.  I’ll also say a prayer for you.”

“Thanks, Buck,” Bella said.  “We’re going to need all the help we can get.”

 

By sunrise the town was back at work.  Word had spread quickly and the people, despite being tired and sore, gathered at the wall and started building again.  By noon the barrier stood at four feet.  They had just taken a break when Gracie Deer came running.

Mayor!  We just got a call from Buck Beaver,” she panted.  “The dam has broken.  What do we do now?”

“We pray,” Bella answered.  “And we each get a wooden pole to brace the wall.  If it holds we have a chance.  Get ready, it’s going to be scary.”

 

As the last pole got set in place they heard a low rumble that grew into a loud roar.  But it wasn’t thunder, it was water crashing over the land, destroying everything in its path.  They nervously watched as it sped toward them.  It struck the wall like a giant’s hammer.  The barrier shook as some of the water poured over, sending a wave rushing into town.  But the wall held.  Most of the water flowed around the sides of the barrier into the river and woods.

It was nearly dark when the water finally started to recede.  It was then they knew Summerfield would survive.  Bella Bear gathered Stella, Duncan, Walter and Carolyn around her.  Damage reports were coming in from all parts of the city.

“We lost four houses but no one was injured,” Duncan Deer said.  “We’re taking the families into the shelter.”

“Downtown got lots of water but we’re okay,” Stella Skunk said.  “No injuries.”

“Some homes on the river were damaged but no one got hurt,” Walter Wolf said.  “The same story here,” Carolyn Kangaroo said.  “Our prayers were answered.  But we couldn’t have done it without you, Mayor.  If you hadn’t brought us to our senses Summerfield would be at the bottom of the lagoon right now.  We can’t thank you enough.”

“We saved our town by working together,” Bella said.  “We got this wall built and we took care of those in danger.  It’ll take the same effort to clean up the mess.  Let’s vow to never get caught up in our differences again.  Let’s focus on what we have in common.  We’ve still got so much to do.  Walter and Duncan, you stay here at the wall and watch for leaks.  Carolyn and Stella, come with me to the shelter so we can start planning the clean up.  Let’s go.”

 

A year later Prescott Lake had a new dam.  This time they made it twice as strong.  Summerfield had more flooding from time to time while it was being rebuilt, but the wall stayed up and never gave way.  The near-disaster ended the war of words and caused the people to count the blessings they shared together.  Plans for a new school were completed, and it was being put where the most would benefit, not where one neighborhood would gain an advantage over the others.  Variety in a town can create good ideas and dreams, but it can also create problems.  The leaders in Summerfield realized they needed open minds to keep their town healthy.  They had learned that everyone has a valuable place in society, and that is more important than the color of their fur.

 

 

THE END

 

Copyright 2000

Tales from Lavender Island – “Wild Rumors”

Tales from Lavender Island 

Wild Rumors 

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.

 

“May you live in exciting times” is an old saying.  But life in a small town like Oakdale is usually not exciting at all.  Day-to-day living is very predictable, and that was the gripe of some of the youngsters one cool autumn day.  They were Mike and Maggie Mouse and their best friend, Sandy Squirrel.  They were tossing rocks into the creek.

“Is there any town on Lavender Island as dull as Oakdale?” Mike asked.  “I don’t think there is.  Nothing ever happens around here.  It’s so boring!”

“Summer flew by, fall’s here and winter’s just around the corner,” Sandy said.  “Soon it’ll be too cool to play outside and we’ll be stuck inside our houses for months.  What a drag.”

“I hope they get some new books at the library,” Maggie said.  “I love to read but I think I’ve read everything they have at least twice.  There should be some good movies coming out around Thanksgiving we can see, but that’s weeks away.”

“Speaking of movies,” Mike said, “ever since I saw that detective flick last month I’ve been trying to improve my private eye skills.  Trouble is, I know everything about my neighbors already.  Everybody in this town has lived here for ages and there are no secrets to uncover.”

“That reminds me,” Maggie said.  “I’m warning you again about snooping around in my room.  Take your detective skills somewhere else.  I deserve privacy and I don’t want you looking in my journals and stuff.”

“I didn’t mess anything up,” Mike said.  “How am I supposed to get better if I don’t get to sneak around?  I have to practice on somebody!”

“It’s still not right,” Sandy said.  “I know how Maggie feels.  She has to know that her diary and private things are safe from being looked into by others.  You have no business doing that.  Besides, that’s how ugly rumors get started.  If you only get part of the truth it can easily turn into a destructive lie.  You can’t let yourself be part of something like that.  You can ruin somebody’s reputation.”

“Gee, lighten up,” Mike said.  “I’m not going to spread lies about my own sister!  I’d be a real creep if I did.  I just think it’d be fun to be a real detective, solving cases.”

Just then Freida Fox and Dolly Duck joined them.  They had interesting news.

“Hey, guys,” Freida said.  “Have you seen the newcomers?”

Newcomers?” Sandy exclaimed.  “Someone moved to Oakdale?  Where?”

“The old place near Bringham Bear’s house,” Dolly said.  “They’re terriers.  Amos and Abigail Airedale.  It’s about time somebody bought that house.  It was starting to fall apart.”

“I love that house,” Maggie said.  “Have they got any pups our age?”

“Not that I know of,” Freida said.  “No one knows much about them.”

Hmm,” Mike mused, “this sounds like a job for Mike Mouse, Private Eye!”

“Uh, oh.  I don’t like the sound of that,” Maggie said.  “Remember last week when you thought Toby Toad was a robber because you saw him hopping away from the bank?  And it turned out he was just late for a dentist appointment?”

“And the time you thought Beth Bear was a spy just because she was using a telescope?” Sandy added.  “There are such things as star-gazers, Mike.  You need to check your facts first.  These people probably moved here to get away from city life and we don’t need to be prying into their business.  Keep your distance and let them get settled in peace.  Please!”

            “I never heard such worry-warts in my life!” Mike answered.  “I’m not going to break into their home, I’m just going to do some snooping around.  They won’t even know I’m there.  If they’ve got nothing to hide they’ve got nothing to fear, right?”

Maggie sighed.  “Just be respectful, okay?” she asked.  “Or I’ll tell Mom and Dad what you’re doing.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Mike said.  “Don’t worry so much.”

 

Mike got out his detective kit consisting of a pair of binoculars, a notepad and a tiny camera.  He put on his sunglasses and took off for the new neighbors’ house.  When he got there he crawled until he got to a row of thick bushes about forty feet from the front porch.  There he sat peering through his binoculars and taking pictures for a while.  He saw nothing unusual.  But that didn’t discourage him because a detective has to be patient in order to discover secrets.  He was willing to stay all day.

Finally, something happened.  Beth Bear showed up carrying a freshly baked cake.  She knocked on the front door and Amos and Abigail Airedale come outside to greet her.  Mike could see just fine, but hearing everything they said was difficult from that distance.  He strained his ears but only got bits and pieces of their words.

Amos smiled.  “Abigail, would you look at the cake Beth brought us!” he said.  “It looks and smells delicious.  What a nice thing to do.”

“Thank you so much, Beth,” Abigail said.

“No trouble at all,” Beth answered.  “Everyone in town is so pleased to have you move into this house.  I’m sure others will be coming by over the next few days to introduce themselves and welcome you to Oakdale.”

Mike was unable to hear what they were saying.  He got the part about the cake, but the rest was a mumble to him.  He wanted to get closer but, with them standing right there on the porch, he knew they’d see him.  He’d just have to listen harder.

“We’d ask you inside,” Abigail said to Beth, “but it’s such a mess it’s almost dangerous!  There’s hardly a place to sit.  Too many boxes!”

“Believe me, I understand,” Beth said.  “Did the move go smoothly?”

“For the most part, yes,” Amos answered.  “But I had a hard time draggin’ the washer down to the basement.  It looked smaller at the store but when they delivered it here it was monster-sized!  A real beast!  It barely fit through the door.”

“Goodness!” Beth said.  “Oh, I see you’re painting.  What color will the kitchen be?”

“I haven’t decided,” Abigail said.  “It’ll be yellow or green.  I can’t decide which.”

“Either color would look nice,” Beth said.  “Is that a piano in the living room?”

“Yes, it is,” Abigail said.  “Amos is a musician, you know.  He can cast a spell over me when he plays.  I’m sure you’ll be hearing it soon.”

Wonderful!” Beth exclaimed.  “I love music.  Well, I guess I should be on my way and let you get back to your unpacking.”

“What’s your hurry?” Amos asked.  “Please stay and have some of your delicious cake with us.  There’s fresh coffee already made.  Abigail made a pot of her famous brew and it’s a strong potion.  We need a break, anyway.  Have a seat here on the porch if you can find a spot.”

 

Amos went inside for the coffee and the two women searched for chairs to sit on.  They didn’t see Mike as he scurried back to where the girls were.  Mike was sure he had the “scoop of the year” and he couldn’t wait to tell them what he’d discovered.

“Well, well,” Maggie said, “If it isn’t Super Spy himself.  What earth-shaking things did you find out about the Airedales?  Are they aliens from the dog star?”

“It’s a lot weirder than that, Sis,” Mike said.  “He’s a magician and she’s a witch!”

“Oh, I’m sure!” Sandy said.  “They’re likely just normal folks like the rest of us.  Where did you hear such nonsense?”

“I heard it with my own ears!” Mike answered.  “They were talking to Beth Bear.  And get this!  The lady told Beth her husband casts spells.  And he said she brews potions!  I’m not making this up.  Here’s the real kicker!  I heard him say he has a monster dragon in his basement!  Can you believe people like that are living here?”

“No, I don’t believe it,” Freida said.  “I do believe your mental motor needs new spark plugs.  That’s crazy, Mike.  What about Beth?  Why didn’t she run away when they told her all this wild stuff?”

“I don’t know,” Mike replied.  “Maybe she’s one of them, too!  How well do we know Beth Bear, anyway?”

“I could almost believe witches and magicians,” Dolly said.  “But a dragon in the basement?  It’s going to take solid evidence to convince me of that.  Where’s your proof?”

“You want proof?” Mike answered.  “I’ll get you proof.  Then you’ll see I’m right about those two strangers.  Mike Mouse, Private Detective, is on the case!”

He rushed away, determined to get the “goods” on the new couple in town.

 

It turned cold that afternoon so the girls gathered at Sandy’s house to study in front of the fireplace with plenty of hot cocoa to drink.  They were just about to end their homework session when Mike burst through the front door, out of breath.

I’ve got it!” he exclaimed.  “I’ve got an eyewitness to prove my theory!  Me!  I’ve seen the dragon myself.  If any of you are brave enough, come see for yourself!”

Maggie was the first one up.  “Girls, this I’ve got to see!” she said.  “I’m going.”

The rest of them rose, too.  “Fine,” Sandy said.  “Let’s go see the evil beast!”

 

Mike led them to the Airedale’s house.  It was after eight o’clock and there were only a few lights on inside.  They went to a ground-level window on the side of the house that let them see into the basement.  The window was covered with grime, but they could make out blurry shapes.  Although Mike told them to be quiet, the girls couldn’t help but giggle about spying on their new neighbors.

Just then Amos opened the door at the top of the stairs inside and walked down to the basement floor.  It was dark, but they saw him pick up some kind of large tool.  Suddenly, what looked like a huge mouth filled with fire opened on the other side of the room, casting a dim light on Amos.  He bent over to scoop up something and tossed it toward the flame.  The five spies gasped as hot, yellow fingers of fire leaped out at Amos.  At that moment a loud roar echoed through the house.

They all had seen enough.  The girls felt no need to see more of the dragon under the Airedale’s house.  They ran like the wind back to their safe, secure homes.  Mike was right behind them the whole way, pleased that he’d been proven right.

 

The next morning Sandy’s parents, Solomon and Sheila, noticed she looked tired at the breakfast table.

“Sandy, is anything the matter?” Sheila asked.  “You don’t look well.”

“I’m fine, Mom,” she answered.  “Just tired, that’s all.  I didn’t sleep much.”

“Really?” Solomon said.  “Were you cold?  You should’ve asked for a blanket.”

“It wasn’t that,” Sandy said.  “I kept waking up from nightmares and it was hard to get back to sleep.”

“Nightmares?” Sheila said.  “About what?”

“Dragons and witches.  Stuff like that,” Sandy replied.  “My friends and I saw something really scary last night and I’m not sure what to think about it.  Will you promise not to laugh if I tell you what we saw?”

“You have our word on it,” Solomon said.  “No laughing.”

“Mike Mouse thinks he’s a private eye and he told me and my friends he heard a conversation between Beth Bear and the new canines that moved in recently,” Sandy said.  “He said the woman’s a witch and the man’s a magician and they have a fire-breathing dragon in their basement.  Sounds dumb, right?  Well, last night Mike said he had proof so we went and peeked in their cellar window.  It was dark and the window was dirty, but we could still see inside.  And guess what!  Mike was right!  Really!  We all saw the dragon’s fire as the magician fed him and we heard his loud roar.  Then we ran away.  So last night I had dreams the monster was coming after me.  Crazy, right?”

“Not at all,” Solomon said.  “I’m sure you thought you saw a dragon.  But do dragons exist?  You know they don’t so there has to be another explanation for what you saw, right?  The power of suggestion can be strong when the facts, not to mention the windows, aren’t clear.”

“You’re right, Dad,” Sandy said.  “I should know it can’t be a dragon.  I’m ashamed to admit my imagination ran wild like that.  But now I’m real curious to find out exactly what we did see.  I’ll pay them a visit this morning.”

 

Sandy finished breakfast and set out to meet the Airedales.  On the way she passed Mike and Maggie’s house.  They came outside to see where she was going.  She told them.  They said she was nuts.

“I’d stay clear of the witch’s house if I were you,” Mike said.  “It might be close to feeding time for the dragon and you could become part of the menu!”

“Nonsense,” Sandy said.  “I’m going over there to meet the new couple and see if they need help getting unpacked.  There’s no such thing as a dragon and you know it.”

“But we saw it with our own eyes!” Maggie said.  “It’s real and it’s hungry!  Don’t go.”

“It only exists in your imagination,” Sandy said.  “I’m going to find out what it really is and I’ll come back to tell you all about it.  I can’t live in fear of make-believe monsters.”

“I hope you know what you’re doing,” Maggie said.

“It was nice knowing you,” Mike added.

 

Mike and Maggie followed Sandy.  They watched from a distance as she went inside the house.  They sat behind a row of bushes for an hour waiting for her to come back outside, but no trace of Sandy was to be seen.  They feared the worst had happened to her.

“I knew it,” Mike said.  “She’s dragon chow.  We should never have let her go.”

“Why didn’t she scream or something?” Maggie said.  “Sandy’s no fool.”

“Don’t you see?” Mike said.  “The magician cast a spell on her or the witch put a sleeping potion in her milk or something.  Poor Sandy, she never had a chance.  I’m going to miss her.”

“Don’t talk like that!” Maggie said.  “I’ve got to do something.  I’m going to get Sandy’s father and see if he can rescue her.  Stay here and keep an eye out.  Don’t try to be a hero and end up being the next meal, okay?  When in doubt, run!”           

 

Maggie ran to Sandy’s house.  Solomon came to the door.

“Hello, Maggie,” he said.  “What’s up?”

“Something awful,” she said.  “Sandy’s in grave danger.  She went in the magician’s house an hour ago and she never came out!  The new people are evil!

“All right,” he said.  “It’s time to stop these wild rumors right now.  Let’s go.”

 

Solomon and Maggie went to where Mike was hiding.  There was still no sign of Sandy.  Solomon told Mike to come with him and Maggie.  They were going to meet the Airedales together.  They walked up to the front door and knocked.  Amos answered.

“Hi, folks!” he said.  “I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure of meeting you.  My name is Amos Airedale.  Welcome to our home.”

“Nice to meet you,” Solomon said.  “I’m Solomon Squirrel and this is Mike and Maggie Mouse.  I understand my daughter Sandy is here already.”

Mike spoke up.  “Yeah!” he said, “we saw her come in so don’t deny it.  What have you done to her?  Did you feed her to your dragon?  We know about it, too!”

Amos was puzzled.  “Excuse me?” he said.  “Did you say dragon?  I don’t understand.  But yes, Sandy’s here.  She’s such a pleasant young lady, too.  Won’t you come in and join us?”

They went inside.  Just then Sandy came out of another room with Abigail Airedale right behind her.

Mike’s eyes got big.  “Sandy!  You’re alive!” he exclaimed.  “How did you escape?”

Sandy laughed.  “Escape?  Escape from what?” she asked.  “Mike, you’re silly.  But Dad, why are you here?”

“I came to make some new friends and end a wild rumor,” Solomon said.

“Was the witch showing you her flying broomstick in there?” Maggie asked.

Sandy rolled her eyes and shook her head.  “Maggie, you can stop now,” she said.  “Like I tried to tell you, Amos and Abigail are plain folks like everyone else in this town.  What she was showing me was her antique doll collection.  It’s really neat.”

“I’m sorry, but I’m still confused,” Amos said.  “First a dragon, now a witch?”

“I’ll explain,” Solomon said.  “Mike’s been working on his detective skills and yesterday he thought he heard you tell Beth Bear you’re a magician and Abigail’s a witch.  And they all think they saw you feeding a dragon in your basement last night.”

“It’s the truth!” Mike shouted.  “Five of us saw it through your cellar window.  Don’t pretend the dragon doesn’t exist.  We know better.”

Amos smiled.  “Oh, I won’t deny feeding a real beast down there,” he said.  “I’ll be glad to introduce you to it.  By the way, I’m a musician, not a magician.  I play that piano in the living room.  And the only witch’s brew Abigail makes is her great coffee.  Solomon, would you like a cup?  After that we’ll go downstairs and meet the dragon in person.”

While Solomon and Amos chatted over coffee Abigail offered to show Mike and Maggie the doll collection.  Maggie and Sandy went with her but Mike refused, staying near the front door.  He didn’t trust them.

Finally they all went down to the basement.  To Mike’s surprise there wasn’t a dragon at all; only a big, iron contraption with a steel door on it.  Amos went over to it and opened the door, revealing a smoldering fire inside.

“Here’s the only dragon in this house,” Amos said.  “It’s a coal furnace that you don’t find too often anymore.  You see, these old houses are heated by burning coal and letting the hot air rise into the house.  When I shovel in fuel the flames blaze up and outward through the steel door.  I have to be careful not to get too close.  If you were looking through those dirty windows I’m surprised you saw anything at all.  But if you’ve never seen a furnace like this one you could easily mistake it for some kind of monster.  As you can see, though, it’s nothing to be scared of.”

Mike still wasn’t convinced.  “What about the terrible roar we heard?  What was that?” he asked.

“That, my friend, was something called coincidence,” Amos said.  “That’s when two or more things having nothing in common occur at the same time for no reason.  Like last night.  When I was down here Abigail was washing dishes in the kitchen.  Every time she turns on the hot water these old pipes make a loud, groaning roar.  It’s awful.  It’s something I’ll get fixed as soon as I find a good plumber.”

“I can help you with that,” Solomon offered.  “I have a friend who’s a plumber and I’m sure he’d be glad to come by and take a look.  I’ll call him today.”

“Great!” Amos said.  “Now, are you kids satisfied there’s no dragon?”

Maggie was embarrassed.  “Mike, this is all your fault!” she exclaimed.  “I can’t believe you talked me into thinking evil things were going on over here.  Witches, magicians and dragons!  How stupid of me.  I feel like an idiot.”

“Now, Maggie, take it easy on your brother,” Solomon said.  “It was an honest mistake.  He just misunderstood what he heard and his imagination filled in the blanks.  No harm done.”

“Yeah, Sis,” Mike said.  “I didn’t twist your arm to make you spy through the window.  You were wrong, too.  I wasn’t trying to give them a bad reputation.  I just have to fine-tune my detective skills, that’s all.  I’m sorry if I caused any hurt feelings.”

“No apology needed,” Amos said.  “Now, if we’re finished learning about old furnaces and bad pipes I suggest we go back upstairs.  Beth Bear brought over the yummiest carrot cake and there’s plenty left for everyone, along with hot cocoa.”

 

They sat around the table in the kitchen for the rest of the morning and had a wonderful time getting to know each other.  It turned out that one of Amos’ friends was a genuine detective with the Oakdale Police Department and he promised to take Mike to meet him soon.

Mike and the girls learned it’s easy for wild rumors to get started without any real proof involved.  From that day forward they tried not to jump to conclusions, especially when the rumors were hard to believe.  When someone told them something odd or strange about someone else, they always tried to find out the whole truth before believing it.  Thanks to Sandy and her father, and their willingness to get the facts, the reputation of the newest residents of Oakdale was spared from a stain that could’ve caused all the people in town to fear and avoid them.

 

 

THE END

 

Copyright 2000

Tales from Lavender Island – “Running with the Pack”

Tales from Lavender Island 

Running With the Pack 

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.

 

On Lavender Island there are two types of wolves.  The wild and dangerous kind that roam the countryside in packs and the “city wolves” that live peacefully among other animals in various towns.  Many of the latter are a mixture of domestic dogs and wolves.

Wendy Wolf had some Collie, some German Shepherd, and a lot of wolf in her genes.  In fact, she was so wolf-like it was hard to tell her apart from her wilder relatives.  But that’s where the similarity ended.  Wendy was as friendly and well behaved as any young animal in the town of Summerfield.

 

One day her cousin from Wheatland, Wanda Wolf, was visiting her.  They sat under a big pecan tree with Wendy’s friends, Gracie Deer and Karen Kangaroo.

“The other day in school I took a test where they try to find out what your future plans are,” Gracie said.  “Did any of you take that, too?”

“We all did,” Karen answered.  “I’ve always wanted to be a doctor.  I like helping others stay healthy.  I treat my dolls like patients, so I guess that’s what I was meant to do.”

“I’ll be a ballerina or an artist,” Gracie said.  “I love to dance, but I also like drawing and painting.  I want to be creative.  What about you, Wendy?  What do you want to be?”

Wendy shrugged.  “I’ve never been sure.  I change my mind all the time.  Mom says I have lots of time to decide, but it bothers me that I don’t even have a clue yet.  And you, Wanda?”

“Don’t feel alone, cuz,” Wanda replied.  “I’m the same way.  But I’m not worried, I’m still young and beautiful!  I do know one thing.  I want a lot of F-U-N in my life!  Good times and thrills.  Girls, I don’t see how you can stand the boredom here in Dullsville.  I mean Summerfield.”

“Wait a second, Wanda,” Karen said.  “Things aren’t any more exciting in your town of Wheatland.  We’re not the backward hicks you think we are.”

“Don’t get mad,” Wanda said.  “I was really talking about Wendy.  Her and her family are the only wolves in this town.  I just think she needs to get out more, that’s all I’m saying.”

“I disagree,” Gracie said.  “I’ve known Wendy as long as I’ve been alive and she’s no different from the rest of us.  There’s nothing wrong with our town.  It suits us just fine.”  Karen took a look at her watch.  “Oh, my! Come on, Gracie, we were supposed to be home by now.  See you girls later,” she said as they ran away in a hurry.

“No offense, cuz, but your friends are a couple of nerds,” Wanda said.

“No, they aren’t,” Wendy said.  “I love my friends.  Why do you say that?”

“Oh, they’re okay, I guess.  What I’m saying is that they’re not wolves like me and you,” Wanda said.  “That makes a difference whether you believe it or not.”

“I don’t understand,” Wendy said.

“Exactly my point!” Wanda replied.  “You need to visit me.  I’ve got friends who are genuine wolves and we can hang out together.  Then you’ll know what I’m talking about.”

Wendy thought for a moment.  “Okay, I’ll ask mom and dad first.  A change would probably do me some good,” she said.

 

The next Saturday she traveled to Wheatland.  Wanda showed her around the town.  At the movie theater they ran into Wanda’s girlfriends, Roxy and JoJo.  They were 100% wolves and new to Wendy in more ways than one.

Wanda introduced them.  “Roxy, JoJo, meet my cousin Wendy.  She’s from Summerfield.  Wendy, this is Roxy and this is JoJo.  They’re cool,” she said.

“Uh, Wendy, do you always stare like that?” Roxy asked.

“Yeah, like take a picture, dude.  It lasts longer,” JoJo added.

Wendy’s face turned red.  “I’m sorry.  It’s just…” she started to say.

Wanda interrupted her.  “You have to understand she’s the only wolf in the town where she lives.  She can’t help being a little out of touch with reality,” she said.

“No kidding, baby,” Roxy said.  “Step out into the modern world, girl.”

“It’s just that I’ve never seen a wolf with a ring in her nose before,” Wendy said.  “Or with her fur cut the way yours is.”

JoJo struck a pose.  “Cool, huh?  I’m thinking of getting a tattoo this summer on my ear or on my leg.  I haven’t decided where yet,” she said.

“Me, too,” Roxy said.  “So, where are you two headed tonight?”

“Nowhere special,” Wanda replied.  “It’s been years since Wendy’s been here.”

Roxy sighed.  “You haven’t missed a thing, Wendy,” she said.  “But once you get outside the city limits and into the wild lands things are quite different.  Right, Wanda?”

Wanda smiled.  “Oh, yes.  Very different, indeed,” she said.

“What do you mean by different?” Wendy asked.

“You’ll see,” JoJo answered.  “Come on she-wolves.  The moon’s coming up!”

 

The full moon rose to the top of the sky.  As soon as the four young wolves got away from the lights of Wheatland they began to run through the woods like bolts of lightning.  A few hours later they stood in a circle on a ridge in the shadow of Tyrant’s Mountain and howled joyfully at the bright moon.  Then they chased chipmunks that scurried away in fear.  Next they went to a stream where Wendy learned how to catch fish with her bare teeth.  She was having fun.  All the running, howling, and hunting had brought to the surface urges she’d never known before.  For the first time in her life she felt like a wild, untamed animal.  Just after midnight they started back to town.

Wow!” Wendy exclaimed.  “I’ve never known what freedom was until tonight.  I don’t think fish will ever taste the same now that I’ve eaten them fresh out of the stream.”

“I know,” Wanda agreed.  “I felt the same way my first time, too.  It’s great!”

Roxy laughed.  “Listen to you guys,” she said.  “That was nothing.  Wait until you run with the pack.  Then you’ll know what true freedom is.”

“You mean a real, out-in-the-wilds wolf pack?” Wendy asked.

Duh!” JoJo said.  “The pack’s where it’s at, Wendy.  They do as they please.  They go where they want.  No school.  No curfews.  Living for the moment, every moment.”

Wanda nodded to Wendy.  “They’re the coolest, cuz,” she said.  “The real deal.”

“But my folks warned me about packs,” Wendy said.  “They get into a lot of trouble.”

“Lies, baby, all lies,” Roxy said.  “Parents are just jealous of their freedom.”

“We’ve hung out with packs before,” JoJo added.  “No games, no nonsense.  What we did tonight’s nothing compared to what they get into.  Don’t repeat this, but we’re thinking of running away from home and joining up for good someday.  Aren’t we, Roxy?”

“You got it,” Roxy replied.  “You two should think about it.  It’s a real blast!”

“Maybe next time Wendy visits you can introduce us to the pack,” Wanda said.

“No problem,” JoJo said.  “You’ll be impressed, believe me.”

 

For the rest of the visit all Wanda could talk about was Roxy, JoJo and the wolf pack.  Wendy was thrilled over her night out in the wild and, while not sure about the pack idea, she was looking forward to their next night out.  Back at home Wendy found Gracie and Karen.

“So, Wendy, how are things in the wild, wild town of Wheatland?” Gracie asked.  “Do they really have anything there that we don’t have?”

“No, not really,” Wendy replied.  “They have a mall, a movie theater and a few parks to hang out in but nothing all that great.”

“That’s what I thought,” Karen said.  “So what did you and Wanda end up doing?”

“She introduced me to her friends, Roxy and JoJo.  They’re wolves, but they don’t look like any wolves I’ve ever seen.  They’ve got nose rings!” Wendy exclaimed.

“Rings through their noses?” Gracie asked.  “Ouch!”

“Oh, yes!” Wendy said.  “Plus they’ve cut their fur real short in places and they’re thinking of getting tattoos this summer!”

“I don’t know,” Karen said, “they sound like losers to me.”

“But they’re not,” Wendy said.  “They look tough, but they’re nice girls when you get to know them.  No different from us.  The best part was when we went out into the countryside and ran wild.  We howled at the moon, ate raw fish right from the stream, and ran and ran and ran!  I’ve never done anything like that before.  Just letting myself go.  It’s amazing!  Next time they’re going to let me meet some guys in a real wolf pack!

Gracie’s mouth dropped open.  “I hope you’re kidding,” she said.  “Are you nuts?”

“Not in the least,” Wendy replied.  “What’s wrong with a pack?”

“What’s wrong?” Karen repeated.  “Everything’s wrong, Wendy.  Haven’t you heard about the trouble they’ve been causing lately?  They’re bad news, girl.”

“But those are just false rumors,” Wendy said.  “Roxy and JoJo said so.  It’s in a wolf’s nature to run in packs.  They aren’t hurting anybody, they’re just having fun.”

“The wrong kind of fun,” Gracie said.  “They’re dangerous, Wendy, and that’s a fact.  If you don’t believe me, ask your mom.  She’ll tell you the same thing.”

“Okay,” Wendy said.  “But I think you’re both mistaken.  Not all packs are bad.”

“Just be careful and use your head,” Karen said.  “That’s all we’re saying.”

 

Wendy was very confused.  On one hand, she’d had a ton of fun running free with Wanda and her new friends.  On the other, her oldest and dearest friends were warning her that that kind of freedom could be dangerous.  Of all the opinions she could ask for she knew her mom’s would be the best.  That night they discussed the situation.

“Mom, I really like Wanda and her strange wolf friends,” Wendy said.

“I’m glad,” Wilma Wolf said.  “It’s energizing to experience new things, isn’t it?  When I was a young pup I did some ‘romping about,’ too.  That’s what we called it back then.”

You, mom?” Wendy asked.  “Wow.  Then tell me.  Did you ever, well, run with a pack?”

“No, I didn’t,” she replied.  “But, like everyone who has a little wolf in them, I dreamed about it and wondered how it would feel to be a wild animal.  When it came down to it, though, I knew it wouldn’t get me anywhere I wanted to go in life.  It didn’t feel right to me, so I stayed away from the packs.”

“I don’t see what’s so bad about them,” Wendy said.  “They’re just doing what comes naturally.  Gracie and Karen act like I’m going to rob a bank or something.”

“They just care about you, honey,” Wilma said.  “I do, too.  I can’t always be there when you have to make some of the harder choices in your life.  I’ve done my best to teach you right from wrong, but now you’re going to be out there on your own sometimes.”

“And it’s not always going to be easy, right?” Wendy asked.

“No, it’s not,” Wilma said.  “Just be loyal to your highest sense of truth.  All of us are tempted by our basic animal urges from time to time.  You have to assert your will and only do the right thing.”

“Ugh.  This ‘growing up’ stuff is confusing,” Wendy said.

“It can be,” Wilma said.  “But I believe in you, Wendy.  When the time comes, I think you’ll know which is the right path to take.”

 

The following weekend Wendy went to visit Wanda and they joined up with Roxy and JoJo again.  Wendy was eager to do the same fun things they did before.  But Roxy said tonight would be a little different.  They went out into the open countryside like before, but this time they ran up to a hilltop where a wolf pack was standing around.  Some of them seemed to know Roxy and JoJo, but most just eyed them warily.  Wendy stayed close to Wanda.

“These wolves are so freaky and different they make Roxy and JoJo look normal!” Wendy said.

Just then a very rough-looking wolf walked by.  An overwhelming odor wafted in the air behind him.

Ugh!  Who was that?” Wendy asked.  “He smells terrible!”

“JoJo told me that’s Fang, the leader of the pack,” she replied.  “He got into a fight with a skunk a while back and the skunk won.  He’s just now getting to where other wolves can stand to be around him again.  I think he’s cute.  Look, he’s going to speak to the pack.”

Fang jumped up on a big rock.

“All right, gang, listen up.  We’re going on a raid,” Fang announced.  “Nothing big, just a henhouse near Summerfield.  I’m in the mood for fresh eggs.  Let’s go!”

 

Quick as a flash, the pack took off at a gallop.  As they ran, Wendy stayed near Wanda.  She was nervous.  She wasn’t crazy about being part of a ‘raid’ so close to home.  She wasn’t even sure what a ‘raid’ was!

“Doesn’t Duncan Deer own the only henhouse in Summerfield?” Wendy asked.

“How should I know?” Wanda replied.  “And who cares, anyway?”

I do.  That’s Gracie’s home!” Wendy said.  “She’s my best friend.”

“Come on, Wendy.  Don’t wimp out on me,” Wanda said.  “We’re going to grab a few eggs, that’s all.  Get into it.  You’re a wild animal tonight.  Stop being such a goody-goody prude.”

Just then Fang came running up beside them.

“Hey!  What’s all the yapping about?” he snarled.  “Is there a problem?”

“Wendy thinks she knows the family that owns the henhouse,” Wanda said.

So?  Listen up, city girl.  When you run with the pack, the pack is your family.  You have no other friends or relatives.  Only the pack, got it?  The pack takes care of you and provides you with everything you need.  Change your way of thinking, baby.  Get with the program already.  Show us you’re one of us, okay?  I’m going back to the front.  Later, girls,” Fang said.

 

Wendy thought about what Fang had said.  Would it be so bad to be with her own kind, even if she wasn’t a full-blooded wolf?  She decided to relax and see what a night out with the pack would be like.  Finally they came to the crest of a hill near the henhouse.  Fang told everybody to sit still while he went down and took a look inside.  Wanda and Wendy waited together.

“Isn’t this exciting, cuz?” Wanda whispered.  “What if your nerdy little friends could see you now, hanging out with a real wolf pack!

“I was thinking that very same thing,” Wendy replied.  “But I have a bad feeling about this.  Something’s not right.  I can feel it.”

“Chill out, will you?” Wanda said.  “Please don’t embarrass me.  Just go along.”

Fang soon returned.  “Everybody listen up.  Forget the eggs and chickens.  What we have in there is a tender, helpless, young deer!  Who wants a snack when we can have a feast?” he said with a smile.

 

While the pack mumbled excitedly about their good luck, Wendy looked closely at the henhouse.  What she saw terrified her.  Fang was talking about Gracie!  She realized that this was one of those hard choices her mom had told her about.  She had to make a big decision on her own.  Should she stay back and let them corner and mercilessly attack her defenseless friend or should she listen to the voice in her heart that had always told her the right thing to do?  Wendy saw that the pack, including Wanda, had silently surrounded the henhouse.  Wendy took action.  She began to howl as loudly as she could.

AWOOO!!!  AWOOO!!!  AWOOO!!! she cried out.

Fang glared back at Wendy.  “Hey, you!  Stop that noise, you idiot!  Stop it!” he yelled.

But Wendy just howled even louder.  Lights flashed on at every home around the area and folks came streaming out, alarmed.  Gracie nervously peeked out of the henhouse door, holding her basket of eggs.  She heard the sounds of scrambling paws as the pack hurriedly retreated into the Chicapah Forest.  The wolves ran until it was safe, then stopped and gathered around Wendy.

“You’re no wolf, you’re a traitor!” Fang yelled at her.  “Who brought you along on this raid, anyway?  You’re a disgrace to your kind!”

Wendy stood her ground.  “But it was wrong!” she yelled back.  “I couldn’t let you attack a helpless animal, even if she hadn’t been my friend.  Wrong is wrong!

“Oh, forget it!” Fang said.  “Come on, gang, she doesn’t understand us and she never will.  Forget you.  Go home, little city-puppy, you don’t belong out here in the wild.”

With Fang in front, the pack slunk away disappointed.  Wanda stayed behind for a moment to confront Wendy.

“Well, I hope you’re proud of yourself, turncoat.  Thanks a lot.  Did you forget that I have to live around Roxy and JoJo?” Wanda asked.  “I’m a joke to them now.  You could’ve stayed back and not taken part in the raid, you know.”

“It doesn’t work that way,” Wendy said.  “If I hadn’t done what I did my friend might be gone forever and I would have been just as guilty as the rest of you.  Don’t you see that?”

“All I see is the creep who ruined my reputation!” Wendy replied.  “Get away from me!  Leave me alone!  I don’t want to know you anymore.”

 

The next day Wendy went to see Gracie Deer.  She wanted to make sure her friend was all right.  Gracie excitedly told her about what had happened the night before.

“And were they ever sneaky!” she said.  “I didn’t hear a thing as they surrounded me!  So there I was, all alone in the henhouse, picking up eggs, humming a song…”

Wendy interrupted her.  “…Wearing your red hat,” she said.

“Of course!  It’s my favorite!” Gracie said.  “Anyway, I was grabbing those eggs and putting them…”

Wendy broke in again.  “…In your blue basket,” she said.

Gracie gave her a strange look.  “Right,” she said.  “Hey, wait a second.  How could you know that unless… it was a wolf pack!  That was you howling, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, but I should never have been out there with them,” Wendy said.  “I’m sorry, Gracie.  I really am.  It was a very stupid and reckless thing to do.”

Sorry?  Are you kidding?  You saved my life!” Gracie said.

“Maybe,” Wendy said.  “But if I hadn’t been with the pack I probably would have been in that henhouse with you.  They would never have tried anything with both of us in there.  They’re really cowards when it’s anything close to being a fair fight.  Plus, I know I would’ve smelled Fang, the leader.  He has a bad odor problem.”

“A really, really awful stink?” Gracie asked.

“The worst,” Wendy answered.

Gracie began to laugh.  “Ha, ha, ha!  That’s super funny!” she said.

“I don’t get it,” Wendy said.

“It was so dark that I didn’t see them, so when mom and dad got to the henhouse and asked me what happened I told them I had almost been attacked by a group of crazy, wild skunks!”

 

Weeks later, when Wendy’s mom asked her why Wanda hadn’t called lately, she told her about her night out with the pack.  Wilma said she was proud of her for the choice she had made, even if it cost her her cousin Wanda’s friendship.  She said it also made some sense of the news that Wanda had recently gotten into some kind of trouble and was now grounded by her parents.  In the end, Wendy had learned that, while she could not always have a say in the decisions others might make, she alone had control over the choices she made for herself.

 

 

THE END

 

Copyright 2000

Tales from Lavender Island – “The Bully”

Tales from Lavender Island 

The Bully 

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.

 

This story takes place in Serenity Springs, the peaceful hometown of Roscoe Rabbit.  Roscoe is the oldest of the children belonging to Ralph and Rachel Rabbit and, therefore, is expected to set an example for all his brothers and sisters.  And what a fine example he sets.  He is polite, responsible and honest with a friendly, outgoing personality.  In school he was elected class president and is respected by all his fellow students.  All in all, there’s no finer youngster on Lavender Island than Roscoe Rabbit.

 

One sunny autumn morning Roscoe and his best buddy, Sidney Snake, were on their way to class.

“By the way, how did you do on Ms. Porcupine’s math test?” Sidney asked.

“I don’t really know,” Roscoe replied, “It was pretty hard.  I hope I made an ‘A’ on it but I won’t be surprised if it comes back with a ‘B’ at the top.  How did you do?”

“I think I did okay.  Math isn’t my problem, though.  Spelling is what really stumps me,” Sidney said.  “Hey!  I almost forgot to ask you.  Have you heard that there’s a new kid starting school today?”

“Yes, but I don’t know much about him,” Roscoe said.  “My dad told me he’s a nephew of Gabriel Groundhog.”

“I heard he’s from a town called Summerfield and that his mom and dad aren’t getting along or something like that,” Sidney said.  “Evidently, Gabriel offered to let him live with him while his parents try to work things out.  I think his name is Greg.”

“Poor guy.  He’s probably feeling lonely and confused suddenly being in a new town with no friends to hang out with,” Roscoe said.  “Let’s try and talk to him during lunch break today and find out what kinds of things he’s into.  You know, make him feel welcome.”

“Good idea, Roscoe.  His home life can’t be much fun.  I can’t imagine having to live under the same roof as that old grouch Gabriel Groundhog,” Sidney said.

“Come on, Sidney, that’s not a nice thing to say.  He’s not a grouch.  He’s just…. Just getting old and set in his ways, that’s all,” Roscoe said.  “Anyway, just because they’re related doesn’t mean they’re anything alike.  Everyone’s different.  Greg could turn out to be good company for Gabriel.”

“True, true,” Sidney agreed.  “I guess we’ll find out.”

 

All morning in class Greg Groundhog slumped down in his desk chair at the very back of the room while Ms. Porcupine went over the math problems from the test.  When she had introduced Greg to his new classmates earlier in the day he had acted bored and disinterested.  After lunch, when all the children were playing outside, Roscoe noticed Greg sitting all by himself down by Potter’s Pond throwing rocks into the still water.  Roscoe thought this would be the perfect time to get a “welcome committee” together and introduce themselves.  He rounded up Sidney, Dave Duck, and Brenda Bear to join him.  They walked down to where Greg sat.

Roscoe spoke first.  “Hello there.  It’s Greg, right?  My name is Roscoe Rabbit and this is Sidney Snake, Dave Duck and Brenda Bear.  We want to welcome you to Serenity Springs.  Mind if we join you?”

Greg looked at them and sneered.  “Mind if we join you?” he mimicked.  “Yeah, you creeps, I do mind.  Why don’t you all go soak your heads in that pond if you’re looking for something to do?  Just leave me alone.”

“Whoa!  Hold on there, friend,” Sidney said.  “There’s no reason to be rude, dude.  We were just coming over to…”

But Greg interrupted him.  “Hey, who asked you, scale-head?  Are you deaf and arm-less?  If I needed company I sure wouldn’t hang out with a webfoot, a woolly rug and a dumb bunny.  Do you understand what I’m saying, serpent-breath?  Huh?” he asked.

“Okay, Greg, that’s quite enough with the name-calling,” Roscoe said.  “Look, we know it must be tough coming to a new place full of strangers and everything.  It’s okay to feel a little scared and all.”

Greg got to his feet and stood in front of Roscoe, glaring at him.

Scared?  Are you saying that I’m scared of you?” he asked.

“No, no.  Not at all,” Roscoe answered.  “You know what I mean, though.”

But before he could say another word, Greg grabbed Roscoe by the front of his shirt and began to poke his finger into his chest.

“Look, Mister Welcome Guy,” Greg growled.  “Don’t mess with me.  I’m the toughest, meanest kid in this school and you’d better start walking the other way when you see me coming down the hall from now on.  I once put a guy in the hospital!  The next time we meet I won’t be so pleasant.  I’ll tie those funny, long ears of yours into a knot!  Am I making myself understood?”

“Sure.  Loud and clear.  Whatever,” Roscoe said.

Greg shoved Roscoe and stormed away, knocking Brenda Bear’s lunch box out of her hand in the process.  The four of them stared at Greg in wordless, shocked surprise.

Finally, Dave and Brenda shook their heads and walked back toward the schoolyard, leaving Roscoe and Sidney standing by the pond.

“Greg’s a jerk!”  Sidney exclaimed.  “What a bully!  Who does he think he is?”

“I have no idea, but that kind of attitude is not going to win him a lot of friends around here,” Roscoe said.  “I’ll tell you one thing, though.  That’s the very last time he threatens me like that.  I’m not going to take it.”

“There you go,” Sidney said.  “If he picks a fight with me he’s going to discover what a snakebite feels like.  Come on, Roscoe, let’s go back inside before we’re tardy.”

 

Having heard about his bad attitude, everyone at school avoided Greg for the next few days.  But finally, one afternoon when classes were over for the day, Roscoe and Sidney came upon a ruckus in the schoolyard.  A group of kids had gathered around Dave Duck and Greg.  Greg was teasing Dave.  He had taken his prized baseball cap from him and was wearing it on his own head.  Dave was angry.

“Hey, man!  Give me my cap right now.  I mean it!” Dave yelled.

Greg danced around.  “But I like this cap, Davy.   It’s my favorite color and I think it really looks good on me.  Take a look, everybody, doesn’t it fit me perfectly?  I think I’ll keep it,” he said.

“Oh, no you won’t!” Dave shouted.  “It’s mine.  My dad gave it to me for my birthday.  Give it back, Greg.  Right now!”

Greg smiled at Dave.  “Hey, all you have to do is take it from me, you cute little ducky-wucky!” he taunted.

At that point Roscoe felt that things had gone far enough.  He stepped in between them, facing Greg Groundhog.

“What’s the problem here, fellas?” Roscoe asked.

Greg stopped dancing and stared at Roscoe.

“Oh, we’ve got no problem.  No problem at all,” Greg said.  “Now why don’t you hop off somewhere and mind your own business, bunny boy?”

“That’s my cap he’s got, Roscoe!” Dave said.  “He stole it off my head and now he won’t give it back.”

“Okay, give the cap back to Dave, Greg,” Roscoe said.  “It’s his and you know it.”

“And what if I don’t feel like it?” Greg asked.  “Are you going to take it from me?  Boy, I’d just love to see you try.”

Roscoe sighed heavily.  “Now, Greg…”

But before Roscoe knew what was happening, Greg knocked his feet out from under him and threw him to the ground.  They wrestled and clawed in the dirt, but because Greg had jumped on top of him Roscoe got the worst end of the fight.  By the time the dust had cleared they both had some scratches and bruises, but Roscoe had a swollen eye and his ears were tied in an embarrassing knot.  Greg stood over him.  He threw Dave’s baseball cap into Roscoe’s face.

“There, Mister Hero,” Greg shouted.  “Like I warned you before, don’t ever, ever mess with me.  Next time I’ll take a rabbit’s foot for a lucky charm.  Starting to understand me yet?  See you around, chump!”

Greg walked away as Roscoe slowly got to his feet.  Sidney, Dave and the others helped to brush the dirt off of him while protesting loudly that Greg had blind-sided him unfairly.  Some of the children wanted to chase after Greg and throw rocks at him, but Roscoe told them to forget it and just go home.  He said that there had already been enough violence for one day.

 

On his way home Roscoe decided to get some advice from someone he trusted– his dad.  He went to his father’s office in downtown Serenity Springs to see him.  Ralph Rabbit was working at his desk when Roscoe entered the room and he rose to greet his son with his usual big hug.

“Why, hello, son.  What a nice surprise it is to… My goodness!  What happened to you?” he exclaimed, seeing Roscoe’s black eye.

“Oh, I kinda sorta got into a fight, dad,” Roscoe explained.

His father was shocked.  “What?  I don’t believe it!  You?  In a fight?  With whom?” he asked.

“A big bully.  That new kid, Greg Groundhog,” Roscoe replied.

“Gabriel’s nephew?  What could possibly cause you to get into a fight with someone you hardly even know?  That’s not like you at all, son.  You know I don’t approve of that kind of behavior,” Ralph said.

“I don’t either,” Roscoe insisted, “but he started it.  I was just trying to defend myself after he attacked me.  He’s been a troublemaker ever since he got here.  He keeps telling everybody how tough he is, he tries to copy off other kids’ test papers in class, he steals things out of our lunchboxes and lockers, he talks back to all the teachers and he picks on the smaller children constantly.  What I’m saying is if you grownups really want us kids to do well in school, why do you allow somebody like Greg Groundhog to stay?  He’s nothing but a nasty bully.  Please do us a huge favor and send him back to where he came from.  All he wants to do is make everybody scared of him.”

Ralph listened to his son carefully, paused to think for a moment, then took a closer look at Roscoe’s injuries.

“Well, you don’t look too bad,” he said.  “Just some bruises here and there.  You’ll sure put a fright in your mom when she sees you tonight, though.”

He sat down on his desk in front of Roscoe.

“Your eye might be a little sore for a few days and it may turn a shade darker but, other than that, are you hurting anywhere else?” he asked.

“No, sir, I don’t think so,” Roscoe replied.  “We got scraped up rolling around in the dirt but no real damage done.  Nothing feels broken or anything like that.  I’m okay.”

“Well, that’s a relief,” Ralph said.  “You know, son, I would never tolerate for a single second someone who really tried to hurt you.  I’d have someone like that restrained or arrested immediately.  In this case, however, I think we’re dealing with a person who’s got a lot of anger inside of him.”

Roscoe touched his eye and winced in pain.  “Boy, you can say that again.”

“Exactly.  From what I hear, Greg has moved from town to town ever since he was born and now he’s staying with Gabriel while his parents try to solve some of their issues.  I don’t think he’s stayed in one place long enough to develop close friendships.  He’s frustrated, I’m sure,” Ralph said.

“Maybe so, but that’s not my fault,” Roscoe said.  “I tried to be nice to him.  We all did.”

“I’m sure of that, son.  But, since you know the ways of kindness and you value mercy, perhaps it was meant for Greg to come here so that you might be able to have a good effect on him.  You say his meanness and bullying has made you fear him.  Why not turn things around and let the power of goodness take over?  I think the good in you can overcome the bad in him if you’ll give it a fair chance.  As much as you care for the well-being of others, surely you won’t want to stand by and watch Greg be destroyed by his own misguided attitude,” Ralph said.

“No, I’d really like to see him make some friends here,” Roscoe said.  “But what if he starts beating me up again?  Am I supposed to high-tail it like some coward?”

“No, not at all.  Do the unexpected.  Turn the other cheek.  Show him that you’re not afraid of him but don’t fight back with more violence.  It takes much more courage to take a stand for your beliefs than to give in to your baser urges.  That’s my advice.  Meanwhile, I will have a word with Gabriel about Greg’s behavior,” Ralph said.

“Thanks, Dad,” Roscoe said.  “I feel better already.  It’s good to talk to you about stuff like this.  I sure do love you.”

Ralph hugged him.  “I love you, too, son.  Come talk to me anytime you like.”

 

The next few days passed without any serious trouble from Greg, but finally there came another showdown.  Roscoe walked out onto the playground and found Greg picking on Sidney Snake.  Greg had Sidney’s math book held high in the air, urging him to jump for it.  Of course, being a snake, Sidney could only huff and puff as he tried to somehow reach his schoolbook.  A crowd of children had gathered around them and Roscoe had to push his way through to help his friend.

“Come on, you reptile runt!  Jump higher.  Higher,” Greg said, laughing as he teased Sidney.

Sidney was mad.  “I’m warning you, Greg, give me back my book or I’ll sink my sharp fangs into your big, fat backside!”

At that moment Roscoe stepped in between them.  “Stop it!  That’s enough!” he shouted.

“It’s all right, Roscoe,” Sidney said, “I can take care of this clown without anybody’s help.  I was just getting started.”

Greg tossed the book back to Sidney and got right up into Roscoe’s face.

“Well, well, well,” he said, “If it isn’t Captain Cottontail coming to the rescue once again.  There, snake boy, you can have your precious book.  My fight is with this rabbit who keeps sticking his nose into my business.”

“You’re wrong about the fighting stuff, Greg,” Roscoe said.  “We don’t beat each other up around here.  Nobody’s challenging you or anything.  Lighten up a little.”

“Oh, yeah?” Greg shouted.  “How about I light you up a little?”

With that, Greg punched Roscoe right in the stomach.  Roscoe staggered back but didn’t fall down.  He bent over to catch his breath.  Then he remembered what his father had said.  All the kids were screaming for him to hit Greg back, but Roscoe just stood up straight and walked back over to Greg.  He signaled for the others to be quiet.

“I’m not afraid of you, Greg,” Roscoe said.  “None of us are.  We’d all really like to be friends with you.  Why not give up on projecting the tough-guy image?”

Friends?” Greg said loudly, “Who needs weak little punks like you hanging around?  I don’t need you.  I’m stronger than all of you put together.”

Greg then slapped Roscoe right across the cheek.  Roscoe flinched from the sharp, stinging blow but stood his ground.  He looked into Greg’s eyes, then offered him the other side of his face to hit.  Everyone watched in stunned silence as Greg raised his paw again.  But instead of striking Roscoe he slowly took a look around at all the kids staring at him.  He glanced back at Roscoe, then lowered his arm.

“It’s over, Greg,” Roscoe said.  “I won’t fight with you anymore.”

Greg began to stammer nervously.  “You…. You coward!  Scared to death, right?  I thought so.  It’s because I’m the baddest…. The meanest…. The most… most…”

Greg didn’t finish speaking.  He backed away, then took off running as fast as he could into the nearby woods.  The kids gathered around Roscoe to make sure he was okay.  They all told him how brave he’d been to stand up to the bully, but Roscoe didn’t feel very proud at all.  He was worried about Greg.  His tummy was sore and his face still stung a little, but he had a feeling that the hurt Greg was suffering was much worse.

 

The next day Greg didn’t show up at school.  Gabriel Groundhog was worried because he hadn’t come home the night before, either.  A search party was formed and all the children and their parents fanned out into the forest to look for him.  Roscoe was following a trail by himself when he heard a loud “pssst” from somewhere nearby.  He glanced upward to see Greg sitting on a tree limb overhead.

Greg?  Is that you up there?” Roscoe called.  “What are you doing?  Everybody in town is worried about you.”

“I’ve been up here all of last night and today,” Greg said.

“Really?  You must be very uncomfortable,” Roscoe said.

“Sorta.  I’ve been thinking a lot,” Greg said.  “Trying to figure things out.  Things like why you didn’t hit me back yesterday.  Everybody else has always hit back.  You had every right to, you know.”

“I won’t lie to you, part of me really wanted to.  Believe me!” Roscoe said.  “But a bigger part of me saw no point in adding more violence to the problem.  It wasn’t solving anything.  Why don’t you come down out of that tree and we’ll talk as long as you want to.”

Greg thought for a second, then carefully climbed down and sat next to Roscoe.  Roscoe had brought along a few carrots and he offered to share them with Greg.  Being more than a little hungry after a long night in the woods, Greg eagerly accepted.

“Roscoe, when you stood up to me and didn’t hit back I felt something I’d never felt before.  I was ashamed and embarrassed.  All I knew was that suddenly I had to run away before I started crying or something.  Can you believe that?” Greg asked.

“It’s okay, Greg.  I know it hasn’t been easy for you these last few years.  What you need is understanding, not fistfights,” Roscoe replied.

“But why would someone like you want to be friends with a big bully like me?  I’m not a very nice guy to be around.  I guess you noticed,” Greg said.

“Are you sure about that?  Have you ever tried being friendly?  We can’t solve all your problems, but friends can help you get through the hard times by being there beside you.  Ease up, man.  Nobody here wants to hurt you in any way,” Roscoe said.

“Now, I know this is going to sound really stupid, but how do I go about making friends?” Greg asked.  “I mean, it always seemed easier to make enemies.”

“Look, there’s a bunch of us who have a group called the ‘Friendship Club.‘  We get together once or twice a week and plan out things to do to help our town and each other.  Simple stuff, really.  Sometimes we clean up trash, sometimes we bake cookies or

cakes and take them to the old folks, and sometimes we just sit around and talk about what’s bugging us without any grownups around to preach at us.  Believe me, it helps,” Roscoe said.

“That sounds pretty cool,” Greg said.  “Too bad I went and made such a fool of myself in front of everybody.  They all probably think of me as a maniac by now.”

“Oh, I don’t know.  I think you’ll be surprised at how quickly they can forgive and forget,” Roscoe said.  “Let’s go back into town.  Everyone will be very happy to know you’re okay.  But first, how about a paw-shake?”

Greg offered his paw to Roscoe.

“Sure.  I’m sorry I hit you, Roscoe,” he said.

“It’s okay,” Roscoe said, shaking Greg’s paw.  “No damage done.  You have to remember that we rabbits are very well padded.  Don’t give it another thought.  Let’s go.”

 

Greg made apologies to everyone, especially Brenda Bear, Dave Duck and Sidney Snake.  He became an active member of the “Friendship Club” and revealed a natural talent for playing the piano.  Eventually he helped organize a children’s choir that could perform at the hospital and for community events.  Greg made a lot of friends in a very short time.  As for Roscoe, he’d discovered that it’s always possible to overcome evil with a strong belief in the power of good and a willingness to stand tall behind that belief.

 

 

THE END

 

Copyright 2000

Tales from Lavender Island – “Scare Tactics”

Tales from Lavender Island 

Scare Tactics

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.

 

 

Some of the most beautiful parts of the Chicapah Forest lie in the areas that surround the small village of Cedar Valley.  The animal families that live there have always tried to preserve and protect the natural environment that exists in harmony with their community.  That’s why, when it was discovered that some humans had made a mess of a nearby campsite, leaving candy wrappers scattered about and a dangerous, still-smoldering campfire, Celeste Cat and Oscar G. Shepherd became very concerned.

Celeste had smooth, silky fur as black as a moonless night.  Oscar was a stately, handsome German Shepherd dog.  Their families had lived in Cedar Valley for a long time and they both took pride in carrying on the tradition of keeping the forest as clean as possible.  After tidying up the campsite until it looked as if no one had ever been there to mess it up, they rested on the banks of nearby Turtle Creek and talked things over.

“From studying the tracks they left behind, it appears that our careless visitors were three humans in their early teens,” Celeste said.  “I’ve never known them to come this far into the forest and I sure hate to see it, Oscar.  I think I’d rather deal with wild wolves than humans.”

“Oh, now, Celeste,” Oscar said, “I think you’re over-reacting.  They probably hiked up from Progress, that town about ten miles from here.  It was only a matter of time before some of them found out how nice this part of the woods is for camping out.”

“Is that so?” Celeste asked.  “Well, if they thought it was so nice why didn’t they bother to pick up after themselves and put the fire out before they left?”

“I’m not sure, Celeste.  All I’m saying is let’s not judge them too harshly yet,” Oscar replied.  “It could be that they don’t know any better.  Maybe they’re just unaware of the rules of the forest.”

“I see.  You think they need lessons.  In that case perhaps we should have them enroll in ‘Oscar’s School of Woodland Manners’,” Celeste said sarcastically.

“Now you’re being snarky,” Oscar said.  “But, you know, maybe a few well-placed signs would help.  Face it, humans tend to be a curious, exploring species of animal and we’re going to have to find ways to share nature’s blessings with them.  In other words, I think they’ll be back.  We might as well get used to the idea.”

“I guess you’re right,” Celeste said.  “My parents always tell me to make the best of every situation, no matter how bad.  Let’s get some paint and brushes and get to work on some signs.  However, I still think we should stay alert for any further abuse.”

Celeste and Oscar found some flat pieces of wood and used shades of green paint that helped make the signs blend in with the forest.  The messages were things like “Help keep our woodlands clean,” “Please don’t litter,” and “Only YOU can prevent forest fires.”  Satisfied that they had done their best, they returned to Cedar Valley.

 

Two weeks later Oscar and Celeste came back to the same part of the forest, only to find a disgraceful scene that once again outraged and alarmed them.

“Oh, no!” Celeste shouted, “Just look at this place now!  See what’s left of our signs?  They used them for firewood!  What a rotten bunch of jerks!”

“And take a look over here,” Oscar cried out.  “Broken bottles.  Rotten banana peels.  Soft-drink cans.  More candy wrappers.  This is terrible!”

Celeste sat down in the middle of the mess.  “I don’t believe this.  Look, they even carved ‘The Bad News Boys’ into this tree trunk with a knife!  What savages!  So, Oscar, what do you think of your ‘curious’ humans now?  Huh?” she asked.

“I… I don’t know what to say,” Oscar replied.  “It’s quite clear that I was wrong about them.  It’s as if they tried to destroy this place on purpose just to show us that they could.  That’s evil.  I’m sorry, Celeste, really sorry.”

You’re sorry?”  Celeste asked.  “What do you mean?  You didn’t do anything wrong.  It’s not your fault.  It’s all theirs.”

Oscar sighed.  “I know.  But if the signs won’t help, what will?  We can’t watch every part of the forest all the time.  It’s way too big,” he said.

Celeste stood up.  “That’s for sure.  Well, let’s clean this place up again and put our thinking caps on.  We should talk about this with our friends back in town.  This is the kind of thing that could threaten our whole way of life!” she said.

 

Frustrated, discouraged and tired, Oscar and Celeste slowly walked back to Cedar Valley.  They decided to pay a visit to their older and wiser friend, Gerald Giraffe.  They told him about the bad things that had been happening out near Turtle Creek.

“So, Gerald, now that our sign idea has gone down in flames, so to speak, what are we going to do?”  Oscar asked.  “We feel helpless.”

“He’s right,” Celeste added.  “These humans are stronger and meaner than any of us around here.  They could be carrying guns for all we know.  One of us could get killed!”

Gerald thought for a moment.  “That’s possible, but not likely.  If they’re that young I really doubt if they have guns with them.  But you’re right to be alarmed.  We all should be concerned,” he said.

“There’s just got to be a way to make them leave and stay away,” Oscar said.  “We shouldn’t have to put up with stupid fools trashing our woodlands.  Not now.  Not ever!

“I agree'” Gerald said.  “So let me give you some advice, if I may.  Whenever you find your problem is bigger and stronger than you are you must try to become more clever and creative in order to gain an edge.  Many times you’ll find that those who are violent and mean-spirited are just trying to cover up weaknesses and fears.  For example, find out what scares these guys.  Find out what gives them the ‘heebie-jeebies.’  Find out what kinds of things show up in their worst nightmares.  Those are things you can use to your advantage if you’re wise enough and brave enough to discover what they are.”

Celeste wasn’t convinced.  “Uh, I don’t think they’re going to just come out of the blue and tell us what spooks them,” she said.

“Ah!  That’s where the resourceful part comes in,” Gerald said.  “Remember, they don’t know who you are.”

Oscar sat up.  “Hey, that’s right!  But we know who they are and we have a pretty good idea about where they live.  I’ve got an idea.  Come on, Celeste, we’ve got some old-fashioned snooping around to do.  Thanks for the advice, Gerald,” he said.

Gerald Giraffe watched them leave.  “You’re welcome,” he said.  “And be sure to let me know if I can be of any assistance.  I’d really like to help.”

 

Oscar and Celeste immediately set out on a fact-finding mission that took them to the outskirts of Progress.  As they neared the edge of the humans’ city on the coast they could hear the loud noises and smell the stinky exhaust fumes from their cars, trucks and buses, making them long for the peace and quiet of Cedar Valley.  Quickly enough, however, they found what they had come looking for.  Near a row of houses standing near some trees stood a crudely-built clubhouse.  Over the front door was a sign that said “The Bad News Boys” in red paint.

While Oscar stayed back to act as a lookout, Celeste silently crept up to one of the windows of the clubhouse and took a peek.  Inside, sitting around an old table, three boys were playing “Go Fish” with a deck of cards.  Celeste sat on an overturned bucket just beneath the window and listened in on their conversation.  They were talking about an upcoming holiday.

The blonde-haired boy spoke first.  “Well, if you ask me, Halloween’s just for little kids.  Do grown-ups really expect us to be scared of cardboard witches and skeletons and jack-o-lanterns these days?  Give me a break!  I’m not frightened by anything anymore!”

The red-haired boy spoke next.  “Me, neither.  Except I did just finish reading a book about vampires and it sure gave me the creeps big time!  Just imagine.  What if some dude turned into a bat and flew up and started biting on your neck!  Yipes!  Got any sevens over there, buddy?”

The black-haired boy smiled back.  “Nope.  Go fish.  Yeah, and what about that movie we saw last week about the werewolf?  What if you were just walking along and some weird guy jumped out at you with great big, sharp teeth and hair all over him like some kind of crazy dog?  Now that would be scary!  Hey, man, you got any threes?”

The blonde-haired boy pulled out a card.  “Yeah, one.  But a wolfman or a vampire’s nothing compared to a ghost, though.  They just hover in thin air and follow you wherever you go.  Through walls and stuff.  And you never know what horrible things they might do to you, either.  You can’t kill them because they’re already dead!  But, hey, what are we talking about?  We’re way too old to believe in ghosts, vampires or werewolves any more.  You got any fives?”

The red-haired boy grinned.  “No way, loser.  Go fish.  Still, I think it would be pretty freaky to sit out in the middle of some deep, dark woods at midnight on Halloween, don’t you?  Any eights over there?”

The black-haired boy looked at his cards, then frowned.  “Aww, rats!  I had two eights, you thief.  Here, take them.  Am I hearing you right, though?  Are you saying you don’t have the guts for that kind of thing?”

The red-haired boy picked up the eights and put them in his hand.  “Uh…. Well, no.  I’m as brave as you two are.  That’s for sure.”

The blonde-haired boy smiled.  “Oh, yeah?  Then it’s settled.  Halloween night we skip the trick-or-treat stuff and hike way out to that place in the Chicapah Forest where we set fire to those dumb signs.  And we stay out there all night.  No adults, just us.  Unless, of course, you’re chicken.”

The red-haired boy stood up.  “Who are you calling chicken?  Not me.  I’m in!”

The other two stood, as well.  “We are, too.  ‘The Bad News Boys’ aren’t afraid of anything or anybody.  Right guys?” the black-haired boy asked.

All three each made a fist and stuck it straight up in the air as they shouted together, “Right and double right!”

 

That was all Celeste needed to hear.  She jumped off the bucket and ran back to where Oscar was waiting.

“Well?” he asked, “Did you have any luck?  Hear anything useful?”

“Oh, yes.  Plenty,” she answered.  “Let’s head for home.  All this talk about seafood is making me really, really hungry.”

Oscar scratched his head.  “Seafood?  Who said anything about fish?”

Celeste giggled.  “Never mind.  I’ll tell you everything I heard as we jog along.  Let’s go,” she said as they started up the trail into the forest.

 

Celeste told Oscar all the details on their way back to Cedar Valley.  Soon after they arrived home they went to see Gerald Giraffe again.

“Gerald, we took your advice,” Celeste said.  “We’ve learned a few interesting things about those little brats that have been ruining our woods lately and we’ve come up with a plan we think will work.  It includes you if you still want to help us out.”

“Oh, I’d be honored,” Gerald replied.  “Will it be just the three of us?”

“No, we got Billy and Bobbie Bat to help us, too, so there will be five of us in all,” Oscar said.  “Now, for starters we’re going to need some ketchup, some dark sunglasses, and some human clothes,” he began.

 

Halloween arrived a week later, and what a perfectly haunted October night it was.  The moon was so full and bright it wouldn’t have surprised anyone if a witch riding on a broomstick had been seen flying right across its huge face!  Celeste, Oscar and their three partners hid patiently in their places all around the campsite.  Shortly after eleven o’clock “The Bad News Boys” arrived, built a small campfire and settled in for the night.  To pass the time, they began to tell scary stories to each other.  At exactly midnight Celeste and Oscar put their well-rehearsed plan into action.

Celeste went first.  She slipped out of the shadows and strolled, unnoticed, toward the campfire.  As she passed silently behind the red-haired boy she rubbed up against his back.  He leaped straight up into the air.

Yipes!” he screamed.  “What was that?  Something hairy touched me!”

His two friends laughed out loud and pointed at Celeste.

“Look, you lunk-head, it’s just a stupid cat.  What’s the matter, little baby, did our spooky stories make you jumpy?” the black-haired boy asked.

Oh, man!  You should’ve seen your face!” the blonde-haired boy added.  “Funniest thing I’ve ever seen!”

The red-haired boy blushed red in the face.  “Yeah, yeah, yeah.  Real funny, you guys.  Dumb cat.  Where’d it go?”

Celeste circled the boys cautiously, staying on the very fringe of the firelight.  She stopped in front of a big oak tree and spoke to them.

“The three of you should be very careful out here by yourselves.  This isn’t a safe place for you.  Not on Halloween night.  Especially if you’ve been disrespectful of the spirit of the forest.  Heed my words, humans, you have been warned!  Meow.” she said.

“What in the world?” the blonde-haired boy exclaimed.

“Scat, cat!” the red-haired boy yelled.  “Get out of here!”

The three nervous boys picked up rocks and hurled them at Celeste, but she was much too quick for them.  The stones bounced harmlessly off the oak tree.  They looked all around but she had disappeared like a wisp of smoke.

The black-haired boy went over and looked behind the tree.  “Here, kitty, kitty, kitty.  Come back out.  We want to show you what ‘The Bad News Boys’ do to rude animals who have the nerve to threaten us.  Here, kitty, kitty, kitty.”

“Uh… Let’s forget her and go back over by the fire,” the red-haired boy suggested.  “She was a black cat, after all, and she did cross our path.  Bad luck, you know.”

The blonde-haired boy agreed.  “Yeah, he’s right.  We ran her off, anyway.”

The black-haired boy stopped suddenly and pointed.  “Shhh!  I think I heard something over there on the other side of our campfire.  Look!”

At that very moment Oscar stepped out from the shadows.  He stood upright wearing trousers, sandals, a shirt and dark sunglasses.  Standing near the flickering fire he smiled broadly, exposing his long, sharp teeth to the three boys who stood frozen with fright as they stared at him.

“Ahem,” Oscar said, clearing his throat politely.  “Excuse me, fellow humans, I hope I’m not interrupting your marshmallow-toasting, but I must know if there is going to be a completely full moon tonight.  You see, I have this nasty habit of turning into a mean, blood-thirsty wolfman on those occasions and,…. Oh, my…. I see I’m too late!  Too bad for you, I guess.  Well, now, whom shall I eat first?  Let’s see.  Eeny, meeny, miney, moe….”

The boys looked at each other, their eyes wide.  “Aughhh!!!  Werewolf!!” they screamed.

 

They took off like scared rabbits, running to the far end of the campsite where the trail led into the woods.  But as they neared the path they suddenly screeched to a halt.  Blocking their way were Billy and Bobbie Bat as they hovered right in front of the boys’ faces.  Both bats had smears of red ketchup dripping from their mouths.

“Tell me, Boris,” Bobbie asked Billy, “being a vampire and all, do you prefer walking about in human form or flying freely as a bat?”

“I don’t know,” Billy replied, “but it’s nice to have a choice, isn’t it?  In this particular situation, though, I’m glad we’re winging it.”

“Yes, these boys will never be able to outrun us,” Bobbie said.  “Have you noticed what healthy-looking necks they have?  Yummy!”

“Perfect for biting,” Billy said.  “Shall we?”

“Of course!  You first this time,” Bobbie said.

The boys looked at each other and screamed as one.  “Aughhh!! Vampires!!”

Grabbing at their necks, they spun around only to find Oscar still standing in the firelight, licking his lips.  The last escape route led down to Turtle Creek, so they ran in that direction.

 

Now it was Gerald Giraffe’s turn.  With his body hidden behind a row of tall bushes, he stretched his long neck around in front of the boys.  Over his head he wore a long bedsheet with two holes cut out for his eyes.  With the breeze blowing slightly and the moonlight eerily lighting the white cloth, the terrified boys believed they were seeing a pale ghost floating in the air.  They stopped in their tracks and huddled together, shaking with fright.

“Oooo!  Oooo!” Gerald groaned.  “And where do you think you’re going?  Don’t you like my friends?  Don’t rush off, the fun’s just beginning!”

“Who… who… who are you?” the blonde-haired boy stuttered.

Silence!” Gerald shouted.  “I didn’t give you permission to speak!  I am the spirit of the forest and I am angry.  Very angry with those who would dare to trash my trees and clutter up these sacred grounds with their garbage and their careless fires!  I am angry!”

“B-b-b-but we wouldn’t do anything like that, sir,” the red-haired boy stammered.

“Not us.  No way.  Honest,” the black-haired boy added.

Liars!  All of you!” Gerald screamed.  “And I hate liars!  The midnight council that stands behind you finds ‘The Bad News Boys’ guilty of willful destruction of the Chicapah Forest.  And I, as the acting spirit-in-charge, sentence you all to…. Death!

Horrified, the boys turned around slowly to see Celeste, Oscar, Billy and Bobbie coming towards them, growling.  They spun back around, only to find the ghostly shape barely inches from their faces.

“By the way, boys… BOO!” Gerald said.

Once again, the boys screamed together.  “Aughhh!! Ghost!!”

This time they came unglued.  Feeling they were completely surrounded by monsters, they took off running right through the thick, thorny bushes of the woods crying out in terror.  Loud crashes could be heard as they ran into trees and branches along the way in the darkness.  Celeste, Oscar and their three friends stood together and smiled as the wild shouts from the panic-stricken boys echoed and faded away in the distance.

“Gosh, I never thought they’d deliberately choose to run right through a big patch of poison ivy like that,” Celeste said.

“Me, neither” Oscar said.  “But the important thing is that they’re gone.  Best Halloween I’ve ever had.”

“I haven’t had so much fun in years,” Gerald said.  “I don’t think they’ll ever visit us again.”

Celeste turned back toward the fire.  “Hey, don’t look now, but I think they forgot some of their things.  Anyone care for a toasted marshmallow or two?”

I do,” Oscar said.  “It’d be a shame to let them go to waste.  By the way, do wolfmen, ghosts and vampires ever get to go trick-or-treating?”

“Well, who’s going to stop them?” Celeste asked.  “Frankenstein’s monster?

They all shared a good laugh as they gathered around the cozy campfire.

 

“The Bad News Boys” were never seen anywhere near Cedar Valley again.  Celeste and Oscar had learned that teamwork, sage advice and a clever imagination can often overcome brute strength and long odds if applied in a positive, creative way.  They were willing to accept humans into their part of the forest, but only as long as they treated the woods with respect.  They knew all too well that any damage done to their homelands, whether by fire or vandalism, would take years and years for nature to repair.  And they didn’t intend to ever allow that to happen.

 

 

THE END

 

Copyright 2000