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Monday, November 15, 2010

Wolf Pine – The Mouse

By Miles Vernon

Chapter 1
The losing

My name is Wolf Pine, and my whole story begins on a rainy day in New York City on a small island just off of Manhattan, called Randal’s Island. By this time, I have already lost my parents on a dark and spooky night two months ago. Let me start from the beginning of my story – My mothers name is Jessie Sherman and she was born on October 31, 2000 on Halloween morning in the subway that heads to the Bronx. She has a skinny pink tail, reddish brown cotton- like fur, small black beady eyes, and a pink nose that seams to Glow. Her family comes from a long line of mice originally from Colorado, but her great grandfather had stowed away on the back of a delivery truck and arrived in New York City many years ago. My mother tells me that we are not originally city mice, but actually western field mice by heritage. My father, Chaz Leverton, had eleven brothers and sisters and was from the countryside of Utah. He and his family were transported to New York on the back of a horse trailer that was headed from a farm in Utah to a dairy farm just outside of New York city. His family arrived in Long Island and walked for months until they arrived in the big city. He had black bristly fur with white speckles, a thin brown tail, green marble-like eyes, and a small brown nose. All the mice heard about great opportunities in the big subway, so my Pa and Ma met in the subway and began their relationship as teenagers. They didn’t have much in common but my dad made it happen. He was a big stud back then, very charming and handsome and polite which was what the ladies liked best. The night they met my mom was being bullied and pushed around by a group of no good RATS. My dad being a good mouse, stepped in. “Is there a problem here Miss”, My dad said gently to his future wife, ignoring the group of rats. “Keep walking, superman. You don’t want to make a scene”, One of the rats said in a sarcastic tone. Like all Levertons he thought of a plan unlike the rats who used general brute strength. He saw a string to his left and lunged to it. When he pulled it a bucket dangling from the ceiling tipped and mucky water covered the rats. Luckily his plan involved pulling my mom out of the way or I might not be here right now. One week later they had their first date at Central park under the fountain near the duck pond. Dad had his hair slicked back and wore a black bowtie around his neck that had been trimmed to be perfect size for a mouse. Mom had covered herself in a rose scented perfume and draped a Lavender (her Favorite color) piece of cloth around her like a dress. They sat on the rim of the fountain’s bowl, chatted, and ate bread until the sun went down. My mom spent her days working at her own store called the Dusty Orb. It was located on Grove Street in the village where humans rarely past by and animals “own” the area. Her store sold beautiful flora like Lavender, Roses, Hydrangeas, Tulips, Snapdragon, and Zinnias. It was held under a fire hydrant where she drilled into the pipes and set up a water system with has flowing water to feed her plants. She also dug tunnels to a water grate where she kept her plants so they could get speckles of sunlight to grow. Mice and small animals do not use money like humans but they trade instead so my mom would sometimes trade food for her flowers and then she would not have to go to the dump.

They had me on Randall’s Island in a woody area just outside of town on June 3, 2008. My mother’s first litter included, me, my six brothers and seven sisters but sadly they all passed away with the flu. To a human the flu is just a tiny sickness but to a small animal it is a deadly disease. I faintly remember my siblings but visualizing their faces and personalities is hard. I am sad about losing them and becoming an only child, but you can’t lose what you never had or in this case never remembered. Now I am the only one that survived because the day that the flu spread through my siblings I was kept in a separate room in our house. It was October and the snow was melting with orange, red, and yellow leaves rustling on the busy roads. Underground in our den it was warm with blankets, the heat of my family, and a street light is planted right above are den which acts like a heating duct. That sad day I was reprimanded by my mother and father for leaving the den and exploring the streets of Manhattan. I now realize my parents were just trying to protect me, but back then I was angry. I always loved to explore with my siblings but it was very dangerous. It was that day that my mother had entered the children’s room and found them (My brothers and sisters)sick with high fevers. We did all we could to treat them but it did not work.

My parents taught me everything I know, and we had a great life on Randall’s Island. It was extremely sad to lose my parents that day at the carnival, and I hope to find them again soon. Everyday when my Mom got time off from work she would go off to the dump and get clean food such as, dried fruit, nuts, crackers, or bread, and bring them home for food. My dad took me through fields where there was this weird black spongy crumbs on the ground that my dad called “astro turf”, but one day a group of boys came and were kicking a round object back and forth to each other. We hid in the tall grass and watched that when they would kick the object into a square box, one group of humans would jump up and down and cheer. My dad said that the humans were dangerous and to stay away from them, but I like something about them that I find interesting. I have not always liked being a mouse, but it has some great advantages, like being super small so you can squeeze into some tight spaces. Most of my family is quite speedy. The disadvantages are that other humans try to poison us, put traps out to catch us by luring us with great cheeses and other items, and one time an old woman with spiky white hair hit me with a broom and knocked me to the ground. Therefore, it can be quite dangerous being a mouse.

On a thunderous rainy day, when I was only a few months old, my parents took me to a place they called, the Barnum and Bailey Circus. It was an exciting place to see lots of action and under each seat there were great snacks such as popcorn, cotton candy, funnel cake, caramelized apples, and Corndogs. It was a great afternoon, as we ran from seat to seat filling out tummies with these treats and taking in the big show in the ring below. The walls where draped with bright red tarps and orange ropes hung from each corner of the tent. The performers I saw included a lady on a unicycle riding on a thin cable, a man with a tiger that had to jump through flaming hoops, a small blue train filled with clowns and an Indian elephant balancing on a enormous rubber ball. It seemed cruel but the humans found it entertaining and hilarious.

My mom was quite slow then because she was pregnant with her second litter and the weight of her tummy made it hard for her to scamper quickly across the dirt floor. Whether she liked it or not she had to come with me and my Pa, because my future brothers and sisters needed to eat. My parents would warn me to not be seen, but I could not help myself from focusing on an acrobat swinging from the ropes in the big sky. I was watching with my chin propped up in my paws when my mother grabbed me by my tail and yanked me under the seat. She scolded me again and said she would not want me to get hurt. I apologized and caught up with my father. We scampered toward the entrance of the large tent, and just as we left the tent, I was scooped up by a net held by a human. “Gotcha little fellow”, the boy said with a smile on his face. He had orange hair with freckles and buck teeth. I tried to climb out but the mesh netting entangled my arms and legs. I looked through the netting and saw my parents below, staring helplessly and scared. My mother was worried, and my father looked furious. The boy obviously did not see my parents, and walked back into the tent. My parents chased wildly behind the boy back into the tent, dodging the feet of many passerby’s who were leaving the circus. All of a sudden, a stage crew employee walked up and rolled down the flap door, leaving my parents in a panic outside the tent. Usually they could have easily run under the flap but metal rods were place by the foot of the entrance to keep out rats and small animals. I am now trapped in this net with a boy who obviously has a plan. He took a small glass jar and was poking holes in it with a screw driver, and suddenly I was put inside with the top screwed on. It was a small space, but luckily, the holes allowed me to breath. The glass was slippery so I got down on the floor so I wouldn’t fall. He stared at me, watching every detail about me. I was curled in a ball, worrying. All of a sudden, I hear the jar open and I’m clunked on the head with a block of cheese. I start to nibble and it is Swiss cheese, my favorite. I hear the jar screwed back on. All of a sudden, the ground moves and I realize I’m being moved off the desk. He brings me out of the tent flap, and unscrews the top and lowers the jar horizontally to the floor. “Go on little fellow, I just wanted to give you a snack”, he says and lets me run away. I bolt into the reeds, and darting through the grass desperately trying to find my parents in the rain. I slipped repeatedly on the soggy grass. A rustling sound comes from behind me and I hear a screech. I keep running in the dark hoping I will bump into my parents. I see a shadow lurking behind me and I spot a big gray and black alley cat heading in my direction. His green snake-like eyes are glowing in the rainy darkness, and he chases me down a steep hill where I am starting to slip in the mud. I feel like I cannot breath and this must be what it feels like to drown. I spot a wooden dock to my right and run towards it and with the rain in my eyes, I can barely see, but there is something big floating in the water just passing the dock. I can feel the grass turn to wood I know I’m on the dock. I jump with all my strength and land on the back of this moving plastic white object floating on the water. I slide on my side until I hit something hard. Lobster cages and water buoys surround me and I feel like I’m being watched. I turn around and see the cat is trying to jump as well, and his claws cling to the side of the boat, but I bravely stomp and gnaw on his front paws, causing him to lose his grip and fall into the deep water. I am proud of myself and whip my tail in his direction proudly staring him down as he flails in the water hissing. Phew!

As I start to run on the slippery floor and realize that, I am on a fast moving large boat, like a ferry. My dad told me about boats before and said they were for transporting humans or cargo on the water. I think that maybe I can jump back to the dock and get back to my parents, but it is too late because the boat is already out in the middle of the Hudson River. A man in a bright yellow rain jacket, huge black rubber boots, and a short gray beard appears from the back of the boat makes an ugly face at me. I’m running in his direction when I try to stop but the plastic floor is to slippery and he kicks me hard in the gut, sending me flying through the air. I hit the deck hard and all of a sudden, everything goes black.

Chapter 2
Begin the search

I wake up slowly and my whole body is aching. I feel like I have just been trampled by a stamped of cattle. Nevertheless, luckily, the man who kicked me with his boot is gone. I am free to run behind the cargo on the side of the boat. I gaze out the side of the boat and see a sign that says WASHINGTON DC 3 MILES. We must be heading down the coast away from New York. I am in a panic because I’m getting farther and farther away from my parents. I have to make a plan to get back to New York. I scamper into the booth where the man that drives the boat is sitting and I hear him speaking to a man “Hey Pete, I’m going to the bathroom, can you watch the boat”? the man answers sleepily, “sure no prob”. I have a few seconds where the guy is gone, and run as fast as I can up the back of the chair and jump into an opening, but smash into the glass wind shield and slip down, falling into a hot cup of coffee. Plop. I am inside the brown sauce. The man supposedly called Pete sits back into his chair and grabs the wheel again. I lost my chance. I slowly shake and painfully climb out of the mug, trying not to make any noise, but when out of the cup, I pull back my coffee stained fur and my skin is ruby red. I squeak because of the pain, but luckily the human doesn’t hear me. I hide on the other side of the cup and recover from my shock. I see a glass of ice water on the other side of the room. I cough up some coffee and dart across the desk on all four legs in a canter like run towards the water to try to cool off my burns. I see the man is driving, and he has a bald, shaved head, blue jeans, a white coffee stained shirt, and a cigar clenched in the left corner of his mouth. He is now snoring, sleeping on the job. I climb up the slippery glass and plop in to the cool water and removes the pain from my skin. Now I must get out of the glass and get out of the command deck. I climb out of glass and canter across the wooden desk. I jump down each cargo box, using them as stairs. I am now completely beat up, and lie down and curl up in a ball on the cold hard ground when I feel the boat engine go quiet. I lift my head slowly and see the boat is loading onto the dock. I canter onto the dock, running between the legs of many humans who are carting boxes. This must be Washington DC. Judging from the sign I read earlier. All I know is that I must head South, back to New York City, at least that is what I think. So, as I hide behind a bush safely on land, I hear people talking. I hear two ladies say to each other, “Let’s get on the GREY HOUND bus , we have to go west anyway”. I am so happy and start following behind them, hiding in the grass. After they climb the stairs to the bus, and the bus door starts to close, I only have seconds. I scamper quickly up the stairs and hurry under the driver’s seat. Phew! The doors close and once the engine starts, it lulls me to sleep. As my eyes start to close, I look at the clock on the dashboard and it says, 12:34 A.M. I have a wonderful dream that I am back in New York City, and eating a dump lunch of mozzarella, Lettuce, and tomatoes out side our favorite Italian restaurant on a sunny day with my parents, and watching the bright yellow taxis go by with different advertisements on the top of the triangular roof.

I wake up to the sound of lots of footsteps and people are walking off the bus. The clock reads, 10:16 P.M. I slept almost ten hours, and since I hadn’t slept in days I needed the rest. We must be back in New York. I walk outside and realize that everyone is screaming, “Mouse….mouse, mouse” and running in every direction. I am still half asleep and do not realize what is going on. “Where you guys going”, I say to the screaming people. One lady hits me with her purse, and I am knocked into the road. A big taxi is heading in my direction. I try to jump out of the way of the wheels, and the car goes over me, but the wheels miss me by an inch. I run away as fast as I can, but am happy to be back on New York soil again. I look over head and see a sign that reads “Welcome to Savannah, Georgia”. I am confused. It must be an area in New York, but as I start to walk around, the sights are very different that where I live. As a matter of fact, it is sweltering hot too. I see a stand with a man in a costume selling balloons. It is across the street from me and he is also selling pretzels and kettle corn and so I cross hoping to snatch a snack. The balloons come in every color and light up the sky. There is red, blue, pink, yellow, green, black, white, gold and even silver. The strings attached are all tied in a knot and the human is holding them high in the air and yelling out “Balloons for sale, Balloons for sale, get your nice colorful balloons for sale ”. I have a plan. I climb up the back of the balloon stand, lift up a huge soft pretzel with all my strength, and lay it down next to the bundle of balloon. I gnaw at the balloon strings to make them loose. I grab the pretzel under one arm and hold all the balloons with the other, and there must be at least twenty balloons. The strength of the balloons start to lift me off the stand, and I begin floating above the ground with my feet dangling in the air. The balloon salesman is looking up at his empty strings and sees me floating up into the sky. Everyone in the area starts to look up and stares and points and start to scream. A fat lady with curly orange hair in a pink flower shirt and white jeans starts to take pictures of me, so I smile for the camera. I tie the pretzel to each string and make a seat out of my lunch. I sit on my pretzel and for now I cannot eat it. I can even lie down and look up at the wonderful collection of colorful balloons over my head. I start to get scared and wheezy (I was always afraid of heights) but then I calm myself and think of my parents. I must be heading south to New York by now. It is like sitting in a chair in the middle of the sky. I put my left hand over my brow, and look out over the clouds and the horizon. The people below look like little ants, so I must be quite high in the air. For a few hours, I sail straight into the hot sun. The weather seems to get hotter. We float downward taken by a gust of wind and I can see the trees below, but suddenly I realize these trees look very different than the oak and maple trees at home. These look like Palm Trees. I can see the ground a lot clearer now and realize that I am floating down toward the ground. My balloons are looking smaller, and seem to be like a prune, all shriveled up. Finally, I know that I’ll be hitting the ground soon, and land in a soft palm tree, next to a large coconut. This can’t be New York, but where am I. I rip the pretzel from the strings and eat my lunch savoring every bite. The balloons are a pile next to me on the palm tree. I guess I lost my airplane. I eat the pretzel and lick my salty snout. I will be full for a whole day at least. I climb down the palm tree and hit a hard cement ground.

I am in a very busy intersection, and the sign above me reads, “Miami - two miles”. Miami? I remember hearing that is in Florida, but must be close to New York. I am lost. I wander the streets, dodging domestic animals such as cats, dogs, and even a ferret. A few people yell when they see me, but I scurry away out of their sight. I hitch a ride on a truck that is about to take off, holding onto the back license plate, I look at the different street. The license plate says: W3S5T6E in rusty letters. Suddenly, my paw slips and I tumble down the road. I hit the hard pavement of the street. I run across the road, avoiding car wheels. I scramble in the streets and I finally admit to myself that I am lost. At the end of the road, another mouse stands on all fours helplessly unaware of his surroundings. For the second time, I scurry across the road to meet him. He calls himself Magnet. This guy has grey fluffy hair that sticks up like he had been electrocuted. He has two bright artic blue round eyes and cut out notch in his left ear from a prior accident, leaving a scar. He has a wiry figure, and has short, stubby limbs. He is about my height but the color of our fur is different. Mine is an orangey-dark brown color. We he lived in a house in the Florida keys, but when the owner found out they had a mouse problem they called the Exterminator. After that he has been wandering the streets searching for a place to stay. We team up together and travel south. If I help him find a place to live he will helps me find my parents. We canter down a the streets. while we sniff down a dark alley Magnet hears a rustling behind a crate strait ahead. “Whose there” we hear coming from around a corner. “it coming from behind that crate”, I whisper to Magnet. We canter over and to our amazement another mouse appears. As we soon learn, his name is Pipsqueak. He has huge ears, one blue eye and one brown eye, long skinny whiskers, a fluffy white underbelly, a thin beige tail that often curls up into a swirl and butterscotch colored fur with swirls of dark caramel circling his upper body. Spending two seconds with him, I learn that he is a fast talker and is very energetic. Now I have a new recruit to the team, a house mouse and a meadow jumping mouse. I tell Pipsqueak my problem about my parents, and Magnet tells his problem. Pipsqueak says he’s to small to travel alone and needs a team. He doesn’t care where we go as long as we watch each others “tails”.

“I know a Heron named Tetrid by crab bay, which is just outside of town. she can help us fly to New York,” says Magnet. “Cool, so we leave tonight,” I end. Magnet says if we are going to go on this long journey we are going to need some food. That night, we scamper through the dark town and run into a lit gas station. I find a hole in the wall of the convenient store and we squeeze in. We climb up the shelves when the owner of the store is in the back room and steal some Doritos, Pretzels, Gold fish crackers, and Peanuts. We lag the large bags of snacks to the harbor where a large Blue heron stands on one leg wrapped in her wings. Magnet knocks on the large birds leg and she looks down slowly with her fierce Yellow eyes. Pipsqueak gulps and dives behind me in fear. “hey Magnet, what’s up”, Tetrid the heron says. “Who‘s your friends”, Tetrid says as he looks at us. “I‘m Wolf Pine and this is Pipsqueak”, I say pointing to Pipsqueak. “We kind of need a ride to New York”, Magnet says. We tie the snacks and food we salvaged from the gas station to the feather tail of the heron. Her frown turns into a grin and she stars to take off. “Grab onto the legs, quick”, Magnet yells. I handle Pipsqueak by the tail with one hand and grab a feather on the birds underbelly. We took of into the air and Tetrid’s wings beat the hard ground. I begin to be worried about the height we are flying in, but then I remember I flew on a pretzel in the clouds and if I can do that I can surely ride on a Blue Heron. I climb up the leg of Tetrid and cling to her back with Magnet and Pipsqueak. The buildings and cars soon turn into Weeping Willows and shrubs. We enter marshlands where mists blind us and a faint howl “leaps” across the air. Magnet and Pipsqueak falls into a light sleep as we soar across the fluffy white clouds. On the balloons the flying was choppy but on Tetrids back its like floating in the air. Wind flows against our faces and the howl strikes again but this time It’s closer. “What‘s out there“, Tetrid says. “I don‘t know but whatever it is it cant be much bigger than you. Your the biggest bird I‘ve ever seen”, I say changing the subject. “thanks. I guess. Is that a complement. ”,She says. “Definitely. It could save. Even though you might not be the toughest fighter you look tough.”, I say as I scoot up her back to her neck. “So how did you meet Magnet”, I ask “Well, it was a foggy day like today and I went to the water for a drink. An alligator sprung from the water and I took off. He bit my foot and trapped it in his mouth. That day Magnet was not in a house but he was traveling through the everglades to get to Miami. He stopped, saw me in trouble, and pounced on the alligators eyes and bit his snout. Out of pure bravery I still have my legs and my life.”, She says. “Wow, that’s an amazing story, I was….“An Owl” Magnet yells. I look up and a white Barn Owl glides for us like a ghost. The Owl stairs at use like where dinner at a buffet and lunges toward us. He darts at us but the Tetrid doges his attack. We hang on for dear life as Tetrid swoops through the air speeding away from the Owl. The Owl is much smaller than Tetrid but he is faster too. The Owl takes one final dart and hits Tetrid’s wing. We spin out of control like a helicopter with a broken blade not to mention we cant see in the mist. We crash land in a bog with weeping willows and moss covered logs and branches that stick out of the water.

Chapter 3

A Swamp

Strangely the Owl has disappears and Tetrid the Heron has a broken wing and is knocked unconscious. Even with all our strength combined its not enough to lift Tetrid out of the water. We know we have to levitate her head so she can breath. Luckily we crashed on a thick patch of weeds that gives us a temporarily sort of raft, but her head is still in the water. I swim across the marsh to a lily pad and bring it back to the weeds. I’ve always been a great swimmer, but the thoughts of alligators after Tetrids story worries me. I stick the lily pad under her head to keep it out of the water. “Look, over their.”, Pipsqueak says as he points to six tadpoles passing by. “Can you guys go get help”, I say to the small tadpoles. “We go get mawwwatee”, the tadpoles says as they scurry of through the water. A huge gray lump emerges from the water with the tadpoles at his side. I soon see it’s a manatee who lets us on his back. I know realize when the tadpoles said mawwwatee they meant to say manatee. We pull Tetrid on the manatee’s back and glide away across the swamp. The toads jump, woodpeckers peck, and the bugs buzz through the air. He brings me, Magnet, Pipsqueak, and Tetrid to a bank were we see a single light at the end of the reed covered path. I’ve never seen a manatee before and up close they look quit large. “Welcome to Glaze Swamp ”, the huge manatee says in a deep voice as he submerge back into the water. When we canter to the end of the path an old green tree frog with the name of Muck Nut with a twig as a cane in one hand and a torch in the other greets us. We tell him our friend, Tetrid needs medical attention and has a broken wing. “Julian these animals need help” Muck Nut says in a loud but controlled voice. In a couple of seconds a River Otter bursts out of the bushes and runs toward us. “Hi, my name is Julian Paros and I am the Doctor of Glaze swamp”, the large otter says casually. “I will take care of your friend the….. Blue Heron until he gets better”, he says as he carries Tetrid away on a sled made out of logs. “If you are looking for me go to room 172 in the kings palace”, he says. “What King?”, I say in my head. Muck Nut tells us that we are free to travel through this swamp as long as you do not harm or brake any wild life in this area. We accept his rules and he shows us our camp for the night. A canopy like tent with a triangular frame made of twigs and maple leaf tarp , is waiting for us with a small fire. We eat our Peanuts which is the last food we have (the other food got wet and saggy when we crashed In the bog) and wrap the tarp around the frame to make a sort of tent. Muck Nut tells us that tomorrow we will meet the king of Glaze Swamp and he will let us stay here until our friend can fly again. “My friend will stay to protect you from the wild creatures that roam Glaze swamp”, Muck Nut says while a long Tailed Weasel bursts from a berry bush. “Ello Mate”, the weasel says in a friendly Australian accent. I’ve heard an Australian accent once before when my dad’s friend Arnalis the Kookaburra came over to dinner straight from Australia. “I am Barrabock”, the weasel says loudly in a happy tone with a blue jay feather behind his ear and an Tetrid top on his head for a hat. “I‘ll watch over you so the critters don‘t get ya, Mate”, The weasel says. Barrabock drags a tortoise shell around by a strand of yarn that is filled with supplies. Inside the shell is a Lilac flower, a spoon, three shards of glass, twigs, maple leaves, a strand of buck wheat, a falcon feather, a dragonfly tail, a glow stick, a fish hook, a tooth brush, paper clips, a silver stop watch, a dental pick, animal bones, a nail clipper, a fork, a branch of a thorn bush, and a puzzle piece. We all pick our sleeping spots in the tent and say goodnight. Muck Nut gives us some cloth for blankets and a few beanie baby stuffed animals for pillows. The night is long and cold and the sound of hungry animals surrounds our tent. A slight rain covers the ground and a mist comes from the south. The silence is broken by a roar and I run to the door. Outside a Raccoon charges at our tent when all of a sudden a brown blur smashes into the side of the Raccoon sending it to the ground. The brown blur is Barrabock! He lunges on the Raccoons back and rides it in circles tiring it down. He finishes it of with a smack to the face with a spoon sending the Raccoon squealing into the forest. He then sits back down in front of the fire acting like nothing ever happened. The worries about my parents enables me to sleep and I pace back and fourth through the tent. The hard freezing dirt ground sends shivers down my spine. Before I know it I fall into a dark worried sleep.

The next morning when we pull the flap door open, Barrabock is gone and Muck Nut waits out side. “How’s Barrabock”, I say quickly! “He‘s great, after he scared all the creatures away from your tent he went back to the kings palace”, Muck Nut says in a calm voice. Muck Nut drops off a large sack in front of our door and signals us to open it. Soap, clean washcloths, a comb, and two sponges lay in the sack. “The nearest water supplies is Ova’s springs.”, Muck Nut says. “Walk straight until you get to a purple rock where you turn eight feet to the left and the spring will be there “,Muck Nut says. “Wash up you do not want to look scruffy when meeting the king”, Muck Nut says in a formal tone. “Thank you very much”, I say to Muck Nut as he wobbles back into the underbrush. Magnet finds the Krystal clear water and we scrub our fur with the rags and soap. I comb my hair and whiskers to look my finest for the king. We set off up the dirt trail to the king, empty handed with many thoughts on our minds. The trail is lined with pebbles and reeds and it is extremely steep. Muck Nut meets us at the end of the trail and drops off three suit cases. Magnet gets the biggest, I get the one right in the middle, and Pipsqueak gets the smallest. They look to be pieces from a potato sack that were sewed together to be the perfect size for small animals. Muck Nut gives each of us a carrot and says they are gifts for the king.

When the trail ended a monstrous wall made of tree bark, twigs, branches, logs, and stones stood before us. Magnet looked to the left. “It never ends”. “Sure it does, but it is mighty long”, Muck Nut says. Muck Nut pulls a small horn from his pouch and blows a honking tune. In a few seconds bell hops surrounds us taking our bags for us. Most of them our moles or shrews, but one is a badger. Also like the manatee I’ve never seen a badger before and they look like small bears. A huge gate opens slowly with a creak. We follow Muck Nut and the Bell hops through the door way and a village with small houses of all type are inside the walls. Children playing, picnics, festivals, and parties are held, and at the top of a boulder three gophers are singing a loud tune as they rock there heads back and forth with animals clapping and singing along. “This is Butter Nut Valley where the people of Glaze swamp live”, Muck Nut says as he points to our surroundings. Here the grass is bright green, pink flower petals flutter through the air, and a warm feeling surrounds me. A little ways down we pass through another gate into the headquarters. In this part of the village many animals in armor with weapons made of bone, wood, or metal are lined up in rows of twelve and are all doing the same movements over and over. A Porcupine also covered in armor stands before them shouting and slashing what looks to be a sword made of bone. This must be the villages military. Flags with the symbol of a maple leaf are held high into the air. Farther down garden patches cover the ground with farmers digging away at the soil. Finally we come to huge stone stairs that lead up to a wonderful courtyard with a marble fountain in the shade of a otter. As we run across the courtyard we realize it leads to a palace with golden cloth draped on the marble walls and a long red carpet beneath our feet. “This fine lady will show you to your room while I will meet with the king”, Muck Nut says happily as he puts his hand on a vole’s shoulder. “Hello, my name is Danaious and I will be your personal servant”, the vole says formally. “Servant? How about friend”, I say kindly as I hold my hand out. “Oh, very well… friend”, she says as she shakes my hand. “I‘m Wolf Pine, this is magnet and Pipsqueak“, I say pointing to my to friends.

Danaious walks us down a hall with bronze doors lining the red walls. Each door is the same except there are different numbers on each door. We walk seven doors down and Danaious pulls out a small copper key and clicks it into a keyhole on door number 153. With a snap the door unlocks into a room with red walls and floors, three golden colored beds and a small wooden desk. “This is where you will be staying until your friend gets better”, Danaious says. She lights a few candles and sets a golden pocket watch, our copper key to are room, and a horn (just like the one Muck Nut used to call the Bell hops) on the desk. “Blow this if you need any assistance”, she says as she points to the horn. “Wow, everything is perfect size for a mouse.”, I say. “Oh, Yes the king tries to accommodate all sizes of creatures”, Danaious says. “The king has invited you to a feast in the dining hall at five o’clock“, Danaious says. “If you need directions to the dining hall blow the horn …. Oh and don’t forget to bring the carrots that Muck Nut gave you”, Danaious says as she leaves the room. “Wait, will I sea you at the feast” I say to Danaious. “No, no, no, servants are not allowed at the feast, but I will see you tomorrow morning for breakfast”, she says. “All right, see you tomorrow then”, I say cheerfully. “Yes tomorrow”, Danaious says as she turns the corner out of my sight.

Chapter 4

The Feast

That night we grab our carrots and blow the small horn for directions to the Feast. A small Mole arrives in green vest lined with golden strips. “I am Daisy, can I help you”, the little mole says in a tiny voice. “Yes, can you tell me where the dinning hall is ”,I say looking down at her. “Follow me”, the mole says as she quickly walks down the hall way. At the end she takes a right and we enter the lobby of the palace. She opens a sealed golden door at the back exit and crisp air fills our lungs. The lobby red carpet turns to smooth cement ground and we enter a flower garden with, brick walls covered in coral colored trumpet vine. “This is the courtyard where we grow our flora.”, The small mole says. Again the ground changes, from cement to soft soil and Freesia, Orchids, Daffodils, Peony, and geraniums grow tall over our heads in clumps of eight. Dusk has fallen and fire flies fill the air and flash speckles of light on the flowers showing their true colors in the dark. A white Pergola covers the garden with candles fastened to each support post. “It‘s amazing”, Pipsqueak says as he runs through the giant stem like forest. A cobble stone path swerves through the garden lined with torches to see your way. An open circular door way with three flights of stairs awaits at the end of the garden. “Climb the stairs, take a left, and the dining hall will be behind the wooden doors“, The small mole says as she points up the stair case. “Oh, and the kings name is Mud Glaze ”,The mole says as she runs back to the lobby. “Thank you very much”, I say.

When we get to the doors I take a deep breath and nod at Magnet and Pipsqueak. “Are you guys ready to meat the King. What if he‘s angry or disappointed that we are here.”, I say to the two of them. “Don’t know, if he is angry we’ll have to leave. I am ready through, but what about you”, Pipsqueak says. “I‘ll be fine, just follow my lead”, I say as I push open the doors. The room is filled with Laughter, chatter, and amazing smells. Hedge hogs play instruments, with classical music filling the air. The room is decorated with maple wood walls, a long oak table with red cushioned seats, and On each side of the room there are miniature red sofas, Deer antlers mounted on the wall, and Pictures of animals probably former kings of Glaze Swamp.

At the head of the table a large Snow shoe hare sits in a golden throne. A red with golden spotted pin cushion sits on his head with needles and a pawn chess piece sticking out almost like a crown. His ears stick strait in the air and his buck teeth sparkle in the dim lighting. “He must be the King”, I say in my head. All the creatures turn their heads in our direction and the whole room goes silent. “King Mud Glaze we are honored to be at you palace and we thank you for inviting us to your feast.”, I say as I kneel in front of his throne. Pipsqueak and Magnet Kneel as well on either side of me. “Son, state your name and busyness ”, King Mud Glaze says in a friendly yet serious voice. “My name is Wolf Pine Leverton and my busyness… well I actually I came here by accident. My friend was flying me when she crashed into your swamp and a tree frog named Muck Nut- who you probable know- let us stay here until my friend gets better“, I say. “Aha, I see. So you’re a guest. ”, King Mud Glaze says. “Yes. Me and my friends. We don‘t mean to barge in and we will leave as soon as our friend gets better“, I say. “No, you can stay here as long as you please. My home is your home and do not feel obligated to leave”, King Mud Glaze says as a smile covers his face. “Oh and we brought you three carrots as a gift for letting us stay here”, I say as we place the carrots on a pile of vegetables. “Thank you, carrots is one of my favorite snacks. Come, sit down and relax”, the king says as he points to three empty chairs. “Thank you king Mud Glaze”, I say as I walk towards one of the empty chairs. When we sit down familiar faces are all around us. First I see Barrabock. “Barrabock! I never got to thank you for saving us from that Raccoon”, I say. “Don‘t worry Mate, it‘s what I do”, Barrabock says with his Australian accent. Then I see Julian. “Julian, Hi, how is Tetrid”, I say. “She‘s great. Already she has healed three of her eleven fractured bones with the help of a granite, sand, and plaster cast for her wing. Plus Vaseline and healing remedies were placed on her cuts from the crash. Lastly I made her hot herbal tea that will give her a full supply of vitamins. ”, Julian says enthusiastically using hand gestures. Lastly I spot the same Porcupine I saw training the military in the headquarters. ”Hello ser, are you the Kernel of the town “, I say to the large Porcupine. “Great observation little fella, but I am actually the general . I also manage the barracks, organize the troops, and forge the armor and weapons. The armor is made of flat stones or reptile scales and the weapons are made of animals bones, scraps of metal, shards of glass, and pieces of wood”, The general says as he counts on his fingers. “You can call me General Canzastan the third or just General”, He says with a smile.

Then I see some unfamiliar faces like a butterfly, an Armadillo and a grasshopper. “Hi, I‘m Rose, but you can call me Rosy. I am the gardener of Glaze swamp”, the Zebra butter fly says in a sweat voice. “I’m Wolf Pine and it’s very nice to meet you. My mother is very interested in flowers and also has her own garden.”, I say to Rose. “Excuse me son, I don‘t believe I got your name.” A wise sounding voice comes from behind me. I turn and see a green grasshopper with a golden lined monocle on one of his eye three seats down. “Hello I‘m Wolf Pine”, I say. “I‘m professor Frost Moss and I teach all the children in Butter Nut Valley about astronomy, English, science, and literature”, the small yet efficient grasshopper says in a confident tone. “Wolf Pine, I would like you to meet my assistant teacher, Ms. Thornavos”, Professor Frost Moss says as he points across the table to a young Armadillo. She -the Armadillo- looks to be middle aged, eight inches tall, and still her brown and sandy yellow outer shell is glossy with a shine. “Yes Prof. Frost Moss taught me everything I know and now I teach right beside him. I do teach different subject of course like art, music, poetry, photography, and dance to the children. “ Ms. Thornavos says. “Ms. Thornavos, wait a minute, did you say photography?”, I say. “Oh yes, we have the highest technology of cameras that animals have ever seen. We got them from humans of course, but after time flew by we -the animals-learned to use them our selves. There is a energy problem though, because we use the cameras so much there batteries runs out and we have to find more cameras or if where lucky we find more batteries.”, Ms. Thornavos says. This picture was painted by one of my students”, she says showing us a picture of a green valley covered with white and pink flower. At the other end of the table a smaller snow shoe hare sits forward eager to add his thoughts to the conversation. He has dark green eyes, beige ears, a pencil resting to the side of his chair, and dark brown scruffy fur covering his body. “Hi, uhhh, Wolf Pine, I am Rebound and the king is my father. I was wondering, why where you flying on your friends back in the first place.”, the young hare says as he pulls his chair closer to the table. “let me start from the begging of my story”, I say. Everyone listens intently to my story and the king cups his hand over his ear. “It was like every other day except that day me and my parents were going to a circus. When we started to leave we where cut off by a human and I was captured. Luckily the human was nice and let me free, but my parents were no where to be seen. I was ambushed by an alley cats, forced on a boat, and traveled to a place called Washington D.C. From there I took a bus to another unknown place called Georgia, flew to Florida on a bundle of balloons, and met Magnet and Pipsqueak. After that I was introduced to a blue heron named Tetrid, flew south on his back to get to New York and was attacked by a Owl which made us crash here in Glaze Swamp. Although when I first arrived I was not in Glaze swamp, not until a friendly manatee drove us to a near by river bank. ”,I say. Everybody‘s mouths drop open and a storm of questions shoots at me.

“You where captured by a human, were you frightened”, says Ms. Thornavos. “Yes I was scared at first but then I realized the human was kind and not destructive unlike most humans when they encounter me”, I say feeling quite proud of my story. “What about the cat did he catch you” Julian says. “No, I was lucky I managed to push him into the water where he swam out of sight”, I say. “Why were you traveling south from Washington D.C. if you need to go to New York?”, Rebound says. “Because Washington D.C. is North of New York or at least I thought it was.”, I say as I start to second guess myself. “I am sorry Wolf Pine, but Washington D.C. is South of New York, not North”, Professor Frost Moss says who after all is an expert on astronomy and directions. “So, I’ve been traveling the wrong way all this time.”, I say. ”I‘m afraid so”, Prof. Frost Moss says. Magnet looks at me with a face of disbelief which soon turns to a face of acceptation. “Well we cant change anything now, but as soon as Tetrid gets better we will travel North“, I say with a better belief of finding my parents. “I have one question”, I say to the hole table. “If I wasn‘t in Glaze swamp when I crashed where was I”. “You where in no mans land, in the middle of the swamps no particular area except the wild.”, Prof. Frost Moss says. “Swamps, how many swamps are there?”, I say emphasizing on the S at the end of swamps. “Four, four swamps in the everglades. Glaze Swamp, Gold Blossom Swamp, Storm Ravine Swamp, and Scar Hollow Swamp”, King Mud Glaze says pulling a map from the wall.

“You told us a story, now I will tell you one.”, King Mud Glaze says. “A long time ago our ancestors believed in gods. One of them was a bear, he represented Glaze Swamp. Another was the Elk who represented Gold Blossom swamp. And the last was the Wolf who represented Storm Ravine swamp. Their father was the eagle which was a god of gods. The eagle was the master of all gods and ruled them too. The eagle was an amazing dictator until he became overcome by greed and power which he learned from the humans. The gods did not approve of the eagles new rules which angered the eagle to trapping the gods. The bear final broke out and overpowered the eagle not with strength but with minds. He pleased the other gods who eventually favored the bear which drove the eagle-their once glorious king- to insanity. He then plotted against the bear with his own followers and created Scar Hollow swamp.” the king says. “Wait are the gods real?”, I say. “No one knows but Scar Hollow swamp is and they are our enemies to this day.”, king Mud Glaze says. “Is that why you have gates and a military?”, I ask. “Yes, so that what we’ve created, this peaceful valley, will stay out of harms way. “, The king says. “How did you say you crashed again?”, Rebound says. “I was attacked by a Owl“, I say starting to realize what rebound is catching onto. “Owls especially Barn Owls, are not aggressive creatures, why would he attack us unless… He works for the king of Scar Hollow Swamp ”,I say. “He would want revenge on us or any passerby of Glaze Swamp” The King says. “this could be the beginning of a new conflict between us and Scar Hollow swamp.”, the King says. “Excuse me, King Mud Glaze, but the food is ready and you would not want it to get cold.”, A gopher says as he pushes through two red Saloon doors. Bull Frogs in mini suits with black slacks, white long sleeved shirt, a black blazer, small black loafers and long black ties surround us holding golden plates. The Hedgehogs leave to the back room and come back with a enormous golden harp. The bull frogs pour us ice water with slices of lemon in small glass mugs.

“The first dish is shaved Asparagus ribbons soaked in a lemon and lime juice, with spiced smoked red peppers, chopped boiled egg bits, and wild red raspberries mashed together in a salad mixed with crisp fresh ice berg lettuce. Next a smoked breaded salmon stuffed with blueberries and blackberries seared in a mushroom, honey and lavender glaze, with a side of white rice and grilled cherry blossoms. The third dish is a Swiss, American, cheddar, and brie cheese fondue drizzled over a mashed potato puree covered in caramelized wild onions and a side of white wild rice. For the fourth dish we have prepared an green apples, wild carrots, and oat cake covered in maple syrup, cinnamon, brown sugar, a cherry and mint leaves. The last dish is a watermelon, pineapple, and pomegranate tart with a walnut, hazel nut, and pumpkin seed crust, and a cocoa chocolate filling.”, The gopher says as his bull frog waiters bring platters covered with the food he’s describing. I chow in with full cheeks and as I swallowed a chunk of raspberries I taste the burst of flavors hidden in the “mountains” of food. “This is amazing food”, I say. “Yes the best food in the everglades“, King Mud Glaze says.

After the feast we stroll back to the Palace. The air is damp and muggy because it just rained an hour before, A fog fills the sky, and I can’t see a few inches in front of me. Blindly I feel my way through the garden- using the cobblestone path-to the golden door. When we get to our room I jump on the bed signing. My eye lids droop and I lower my head. Pipsqueak squeezes under the covers of his bead and magnet -who is use to sleeping on hard house floors- lays on the soft feather mattress happily. With full tummies we fall in to a deep sleep. I dream of running up and down park avenue with one of my sisters, Kala. We’re playing tag with are tails up in the air and laughing so hard. After fun we scamper home to our parents and our brothers and sisters and find Arnalis, my dads friend the kookaburra- sitting in our underground den for dinner. We all sat around telling stories of our day and playing a game where everybody at the table tells their best part of their day and worst part of their day. Suddenly I am woken up by the sound of screaming animals and the roof of our room is caved in and cracking. “What’s going on”, I yell over the hollering of the animals in the other rooms. No one answers my call, but I do here the screeching of a different animals which sounds like a BARN OWL! Pipsqueak is on the floor squished by one of the fallen beams from the ceiling. Magnet is now where to be seen and I start to worry. I grab the beam that is crushing Pipsqueak and rip it of him freeing his body. I now have three problems one I don’t know where Magnet is, two Pipsqueak in unconscious, and three the door- which is our only exit-is blocked by a ceiling beam. The walls cave in and I grab Pipsqueak and jump through a opening in the wall. Smoke fills the air and I am blinded once again. I yell for help, but no answer just the screaming of animals in the palace. I see a wiry shadow of a creature through the blankets of smoke. Magnet appears, and carries Pipsqueak to a light at the end of the destroyed hall way. I breath for air, but all I inhale is a cloud of smoke. Growing weak I fall to the floor and crawl down low toward the opening. As I look around I see everything is getting dizzy and my fur is stained black from the soot. The building is split in half, collapsing, and I still don’t know what’s happening. Debris covers the ground as I push through the glass doors into the courtyard. The brick floor is molten hot and I burns my feet as I run to meet Magnet out side of the destroyed palace. The foundation starts to shake and the pillars crack into pieces. “What’s going on”, I yell frantically. “THE EAGLES”, Magnet yells.

Chapter 5

Collaboration

“What Eagles”, I yell with frustration. “The warrior eagles from Scar Hollow Swamp”, Magnet says with a cough. “Are you okay, any injuries”, I ask. “I‘m fine except for a few burns, but the whole kingdom in butter Nut Valley and the animals in the palace are in trouble”, Magnet says as his voice switches from scary to determined. “I don’t have any contact with the king and I’m not sure what to do but my best guess is we split up. I‘ll go to butter Nut Valley and round up the Villagers”, Magnet says as we stand over Pipsqueaks limp body. “Sounds like a plan, I’ll go to find the animals in the palace and we meet back here in an hour”, I say as I run back into the flames. When I dart back in the room is covered in flames that seem to scream with their loud bursts. The ceiling collapses behind me cutting of my exit but I hear someone yell. There is no turning back now. I run through the hallway to the lobby where I kick open the sealed door that leads to the garden and open all the windows. This lets the smoke pour out of the building so it’s easier to get around without not being able to breath. I run down the hall opening each door checking for animals in trouble. I hear the yelling again and find a family of groundhogs. I run the Groundhogs out of the building along with Barrabock and Daisy . “ Is that everybody.”, I yell. “No. Julian and Tetrid are still inside”, Barrabock yells. “ Barrabock bring them to butter Nut Valley”, I yell. All of a sudden it hits me like a car and I remember what room Julian said he was staying in. Room 172. I scurry to the second floor where the door 172 is locked from the inside. I try busting it down but I just hurt my shoulder. “Is anybody there, I can help you. Are you stuck”, I yell in to the other room. “Julian… Tetrid”, I yell. I hear nothing but screaming and the screech of an owl. Finally when I crash through the door Julian lay on his knees gasping for air. I run over to him and put my hand on his shoulder. “I‘m hear. Julian It’s me Wolf Pine. I’m hear to save you ”, I yell over the roaring flames. “Were is Tetrid”, I yell looking around. When he doesn’t answer except a quite mumble I take matters into my own paws. “Don‘t worry buddy I know a short cut ”, I say winking to Julian’s closing eyes. Then I stomp on the weak burned floor boards and with a loud crack the ground falls from beneath our feet and the floor engulfs us. We fall conveniently right into the lobby. Then I drag Julian outside to the soft tiled courtyard. I give him a hard push to the chest and with a puff of smoke his eyes open and he gasps for air. “Tetrid, Tetrid”, he yells suddenly. I see Magnet run up the stone stairs to the courtyard. “The fields are charred and the village houses our burned to the ground”, Magnet yells as he catches his breath. “The King was Captured by them” Pipsqueak yells as he runs up behind Magnet.

When we get to the valley the military is lined facing toward the entrance of Glaze Swamp. After a head count we realize we lost five animals. Tetrid, King Mud glaze and three villagers. “What do we do”, I yell to General Canzastan. “Fight”, the general says as he grinds his teeth, pulls a quill from his back, and charges into the crowd of military animals. As I look into the horizon I see an army of Barn Owls and Eagles flying at full speed strait toward us. “How did they start the fires”, I yell. “ they dropped Torches on the grasslands but the bigger question is how did they get past the night guards”, The General says as I catch up to him.

As the Bald eagles come in contact with Glaze Swamps Military a roar of injured animals launches over the mountains and echo through the fields. The bashing of shields with the clashing of talons and beaks shrieks through the air sending shivers down my spine. I sit back and watch from the balcony- which is the only thing left from the palace- of the king palace with Pipsqueak and Magnet wondering what to do. “Do we fight”, Pipsqueak asks in a timed voice. “Against eagles, that would be suicide”, Magnet says sadly. All of a sudden a loud voice breaks the silence. “Over hear”, Barrabock says waving us as he squats next to a hatch in the ground. When we run over he opens the hatch, jumps in, and disappears. “Barrabock”, Pipsqueak yells. “Down hear”, a small voice calls from the hatch. We look down and see Barrabock with Daisy, Julian, and the family of groundhogs looking up as us. “Go ahead, jump”, Barrabock hollers up. As we jump a pile of mud at the bottom cushions are fall. “You told me to get these animals to Butter Nut Valley but the valley is on the other side of the battle and how do you expect a family of groundhogs to get past a brawl of eagles and mammals ”, Barrabock says. “It’s impossible without someone getting hurt so we can use this underground tunnel built a long time ago to shelter Glaze Swamps animals when a water spout sprung from the everglades and rips our homes to shreds to go under the battle and pop up the other side right into the Valley .”, Barrabock says with a grin.

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