Third chapter in my attempt at children lit.
Hertrude had just finished telling Willy about the blue butter secret when the leaves in the branches high above them ruffled.
Syps, Hertrude, and Willy looked up.
“Bertun,” Syps exclaimed a note of annoyance in his voice, “is that you?”
Syps didn’t like the breeze so much. It followed them everywhere and always made a mess of things, especially during fall. Plus, it could never stand still, which Syps enjoyed tremendously, particularly after a nice meal of nuts and honey.
But it wasn’t Bertun in the trees. Wilp’s black-furred head surrounded by his big, muscly shoulders popped through the fluffy leafage.
“Hey, looser,” he smirked at Willy. “We got the last sournuts from the grove. What are you going to bring back for Grandp’ Walo’s yearmark now, huh?”
He let out a mean laugh and then his head disappeared back behind the leaves. The trees shivered in cadence as Willy’s cousins made their way back to Grandma Walia’s.
“Pfff,” Willy said under his breath. “You’ll see what I bring back.”
He turned to Hertrude and Syps who were still looking up at the tree.
“So what do we do now?” he asked.
“We go get sweetberries,” Syps said impatiently.
“No,” Hertrude said. “First we get Spoom.”
“Aaah, do we have to?” Syps asked. “He is sooo slow!”
“Yes we do,” Hertrude said without explaining why.
“Humf,” Syps grumbled and he kicked at the grass with his foot. “I always end up having to carry him, not fair.”
“Come on,” Willy said. “He’s our friend. I would carry him if I could, but I’m too small.”
“I know, I knooow,” Syps said. “Let’s just go find him. I want to get the sweetberries already.”
They headed out in a single file, Willy coming first, then Hertrude, and then Syps who hung his head and dragged his paws all the way to the Moly Copse.
They trudged through the Sournut Grove and crossed the River of Thumps and its many tumps and humps by taking the Willow Bridge. Then they walked up and then down the small Hill of the Mice with its busybody army of ant-mice and their tall and chubby nest-colonies of earth, straw, and leaves. They passed through the Feather Holes, a small collection of shallow lakes with three dozen, maybe even four dozen, bird flocks that liked to fly in rainbow formations above the blue waters. During summer they shed and the lakes were covered with their colorful feathers. Finally, Hertrude, Willy, and Syps arrived at the Moly Copse, just north of the Blue Waterfall, where Spoom and the rest of the Slothmoles lived.
The Moly Copse was a special place. Not only because that was where the Slothmoles lived, but also because the trees there were of the nude variety. Nude, as in completely leafless, utterly bare, shamelessly naked, and, to Syps’s profound chagrin, immensely free of flowers, and thus bees, and thus honey. Since the Nude Trees had no leaves, the ground had no shade but for the ones painted there by their skinny trunks.
They stopped in the middle of the copse. Syps thumped the ground with his foot and bent over at the waist.
“Spoom,” he shouted at the earth. “It’s us. Come out.”
Then he straightened up and looked at Hertrude and Willy.
“Now we have to wait,” he grumbled.
Slothmoles were leisurely creatures who spent most of their time underground except for when the need arose, like when they had to go to the bathroom or when their non-Slothmole friends came around.
Willy, Hertrude, and Syps sat by one of the Nude Tree to wait. After a bit of just sitting there in silence, Syps put his ear to the bark and knocked on it.
“I wonder if its leaves are inside,” he said.
Willy stood up, scratched at the trunk with his small claws, and then licked where he’d scratched.
“I don’t think so,” he announced.
“How can you tell by licking it?” Syps asked.
“Oh, you can tell. It doesn’t taste like leaf. It would if they were inside.”
Syps pondered that for a moment and then he scratched the trunk as well. A bead of sap came out of the scratch and he wrinkled his nose to it.
“Hum,” he said. “I guess not. It doesn’t smell like leaf.”
“So where are they, then?” Syps asked as he sat back down.
Willy sat back down too and they went quiet for a moment as they mulled over this important question. Hertrude lied next to them, eyes closed, face turned up to the sun. She purred contently as she waited.
The copse was silent. A couple of birds flew across the sun and spread their shadows over the trio. Then Syps gave up on finding an answer. He slapped the ground with his paw again.
“Spooom, come ooonnn,” he complained. “The longer you take the less I eat sweetbeeerries.”
“He’s coming,” Hertrude said without opening her eyes. “Just a bit longer now.”
“Ah-ha!” Willy said, springing to his feet. “The roots, that’s where the leaves are.”
“The roots,” Spyps said slowly. “Could be. But how can we tell for sure? They’re under the earth.”
“Well, we dig,” Willy said with a shrug of his little shoulders.
Syps considered that for a second and then he and Willy jumped on all four and started clawing at the ground side by side, Syps making a big hole and Willy making a small hole. They didn’t have time to dig very deep before Spoom popped his shiny, bald head from the ground five feet behind them. He had a big smile on his flat face. He slowly waved at his friends with one of his three-claw paws.
“Heeey, feeellaaas,” he said lazily -Slothmoles speak just like they move, which is very slowly- “What brings you here?”
Syps spun around and waved his dirt-covered paws at Spoom.
“Spoom! We’re getting sweetberries!” he exclaimed.
“And the blue butter secret too!” Willy said.
Hertrude just kept on purring, a smile on her furry face.
End of Chapter III.
To be continued…