Forth chapter in my attempt at children lit.
Spoom sat on his wrinkly butt next to Willy. Hertrude had just finished explaining the blue butter secret to him and he slowly scratched at his chin with one of his long claw.
“Hmmm,” he said. “Uncle Phylt never said anything about that.”
“Well, yeeaah,” Syps said making a face. “That’s because he’s not a blue butterfly. How could he know blue, blue, blue if he’s not a blue butterfly from the Blue Waterfall?”
“I guess,” Spoom said. “I always thought sweetberries were baby-slothmole talk.”
Syps bounced to his feet.
“Can we go now? Maybe the bright-blue butterfly talked to some other bushcat and they’re going there right now!”
“Oh, I doubt that,” Hertrude said crossing her white paws on the grass.
Syps dropped down into a squat in front of her.
“How can you be sure?” he asked her, his fury nose wrinkled in suspicion.
Hertrude smiled. Her eyes glimmered and she wiggled her ears.
“I just know,” she winked at Syps.
“Hmm,” Syps said unconvinced.
He looked at her for a moment, and then he stood back up.
“If you say so,” he grumbled.
He turned his back to them and got on his knees.
“Come ooon, Spoom,” he said. “Climb on, we have to go!”
“Okay,” Spoom said, “But only if we’re back before super. Mom is making beetle soup tonight.”
“Eeew,” Syps and Willy said, making faces.
“You Slothmoles eat the darndest things,” Willy said.
Spoom smiled at that. He was used to his friends making faces when he talked about Slothmoles’ favorite foods.
Spoom was three times smaller than Syps, about as big as Hertrude, and a good four times bigger than Willy. He slowly climbed onto Syps’s back, clinging onto his long, brown fur with his three-fingered paws.
Once he was set on Syps shoulders, in his slow, monotonous voice he cheered: “Good to go.”
“Woo-hoo!” Syps shouted.
He bounced to his feet and Spoom almost fell off.
“Wo-ow, nobody said anything about rodeo,” he complained.
“Sweetberries, here we come!” Syps cheered, oblivious to his friend’s protest.
He took off, jumping in the air every few yards, Spoom hanging on for dear life on his back.
Willy and Hertrude shook their heads at him and go to their feet too.
“Blue, blue, blue, yum, yum, yum,” Syps sang as he ran between the Nude Trees in the direction of the Blue Waterfall.
Willy and Hertrude watched him go for a while and right when they almost lost sight of him, Syps turned around and ran back to them.
“I don’t know where we are,” he said, slightly out of breath.
“This way,” Hertrude said and they started in the opposite direction.
North of the Moly Copse was the Hummingtoad’s Meadow, where Hummingtoads lived. Syps didn’t like the Hummingtoads very much. First of all, they were gooey and the only gooey thing Syps liked was honey. Second, they took a malicious pleasure in hiding in the tall grass of the meadow and scaring him each time he walked through. Last, and most important, they hummed awfully loud and out of tune.
“Do we have to go through here?” Syps whined when they came out of the Nude Trees and in view of the Hummingtoad’s Meadow.
“We could go around,” Herturde suggested. “But it would take twice as long to get to the Blueberry Tree.”
“Humph. I guess through it is,” Syps pouted.
“I’ve never been in the Hummingtoad Meadow,” Willy said clapping his paws together. “I’ve always been too small to be in the tall grass without getting lost. But now I can fly!”
“I like their singing,” Spoom said from Syps’s shoulder. “We hear it at night when we go to sleep. It’s nice.”
Syps frowned and tried to look back at Spoom but his head wouldn’t turn that much.
“You Slothmoles have bad taste in food AND music,” he said.
“Taste is in the taste buds of the taster,” Hertrude purred at him.
Syps squinted at her while he thought about what she said.
“Like flying is in the wings of the flyer,” Willy said.
“Or like hearing is in the ears of the listener,” Spoom added.
A wide smile parted Syps’s lips.
“I get it!” he exclaimed. “Like softness is in the skin of the scratched?”
Syps’s friends inclined their heads at him, a question wiggling on the tip of their furry, or not-furry, noses.
“What?” Willy asked, scratching his little head with a paw.
Syps’s big eyes got bigger with worry that he didn’t make sense and he started rubbing his paws together. He rubbed his paws together when he was nervous or worried. He didn’t like not understanding things. And not being understood wasn’t great either, especially when it came to honey and scratches, his two favorite things.
“You know,” he said in a tiny voice, “like how if you give the same scratches to a treebear and a bushcat, it doesn’t feel the same?”
“Ah, well, yes,” Hertrude purred, “That’s very true.”
“It is?” Syps asked his eyes getting even bigger in surprise; he wasn’t right very often.
Hertrude nodded at him, and her kind eyes glittered.
“Woo-hoo!” Syps shouted. “I was right, I was right.”
Syps jumped around and Spoom complained, his voice squeaking in rhythm with Syps’s jumping.
Willy and Hertrude looked at them go back and forth for a moment.
“Ha!” Willy exclaimed. “I get it too.”
He flapped his arm-wings quickly and rose above the ground. Then he did a couple of flips in the air before landing next to Spoom on Syps’s back.
“Oh, Hi, Willy,” Spoom said over Syps’s shouts.
Syps was so excited he didn’t even notice when Willy grabbed onto his fur.
“I get it,” Willy told Spoom.
“You get what?” Spoom asked.
“Look,” Willy said.
He scratched Syps’s back with the tiny claws of his tiny paw. And nothing happened. Then he scratched at Spoom and Spoom giggled.
“Oh, that tickles,” he said
“See,” Willy said. “Same scratches, different scratchees.”
“Ho, ho, ho,” Spoom laughed, his furless face wrinkled in a big smile. “I get it too!”
Syps stopped jumping and whirled around. His snout in the air, he sniffed loudly, his nostrils getting as big as Willy’s head. He made a smacking sound with his lips like he was chewing on something.
“Who’s there,” he said.
“It’s just me, Willy,” Willy said.
“I know that,” Syps said. “There’s somebody else here. I can taste it.”
The three of them started looking around. In the Nude Trees, there was only Hertrude strutting toward them. In the Hummingtoad Meadow there was only the blanket of tall, green grass, half as tall as Syps and stiff like the fur on his feet.
“I don’t see anyone,” Willy said, his little nose wiggling as he sniffed the air.
“Me neither,” Spoom said. Though that didn’t mean much; Slothmoles don’t have the best eyesight since they rarely have to see farther than a few feet.
Suddenly the grass in front of them swayed from side to side.
“Ah-ha!” Syps said. “I knew it!”
“What is it?” Spoom asked just when Hertrude joined them on the edge of the sea of grass.
“Bertun, come out!” Syps growled. “I know you’re out there!”
“Bertun’s here?” Spoom asked from Syps’s back. “How swell!”
“No, not swell,” Syps said. “I told him not to come.”
The grass had gone still when Syps called out for Bertun, but now it shivered slightly.
“Ah-ha!” Syps said again, pointing with a claw at the grass. “See the grass. It’s Bertun.”
Willy shrugged his small shoulders.
“Maybe the grass is cold,” he suggested.
“Or the Hummingtoads are jumping around,” Spoom said.
“Or the grass is happy to see us,” Hertrude added.
“No, no, and no. It’s Bertun I tell you.” Syps said.
The grass went still again and then Bertun erupted from the Meadow in a great whoosh. He dove to the ground, grabbed dead leaves, and rolled them into a face with its tongue sticking out.
“Bertun!” everyone exclaimed.
Well, everyone except Syps. Syps exclaimed: “I knew it!” instead.
Being a breeze, Bertun did not speak, at least not with words. He made noises and sometimes plenty of them, but they were not words. Bushcats were the only inhabitants of the Sweet Shire that understood winds and breezes. It had something to do with their whiskers picking up vibrations.
“He wants to come with us,” Hertrude translated Bertun’s whooshes and whurlees to the others.
Everyone expected Syps to be unhappy about it, so they were surprised when he just rolled his eyes, sighed loudly and said:
“Okay, okay. But can we go now. The sweetberries are waiting!”
Bertun swooshed in happiness and the face of leaves exploded in all directions, showering everybody with bits of grass and leaves.
“Careful there, Bertun,” Willy said.
“He always does that,” Syps grumbled.
“How did you know it was Bertun?” Spoom asked Syps.
“The air tasted like leaves,” Syps said. “Bertun always tastes like leaves. He spends too much time in the trees.”
Spoom pressed his flat nose against Syps’s furry cheek.
“You’re clever,” he told his friend.
“Thanks,” Syps said.
He tried not to sound too content and quickly added:
“Can we go now?”
But this time he didn’t grumble.
Hertrude, who was sitting, stood up and yawned into a stretch.
“I think we’re ready now,” she said and her blue eyes wavered in the sun like they were full of blue water.
Spoom tightened his grip on Syps’s fur, Willy flapped his arm-wings, and lifted up into the air, Syps pointed a paw at where he thought the Blueberry Tree was, and with Bertun doing whirls high above them, they entered the Hummingtoad Meadow.
End of Chapter VI.
To be continued…