Forth chapter in my attempt at children lit.
The Hummingtoad Meadow was wet. Almost like a marsh, but not quite. Syps shook his muddied paws after every step, hopping on one foot with Spoom swaying from side to side on his back.
“Muuud,” he grumbled. “It’s so goo-ey!”
He gave his foot another shake before flattening another paw-full of the long, green grass.
“Warm muuud,” he said and he made it sound like the worst thing ever.
Hertrude followed behind Syps. Her white paws were spotless as if she was walking above the earth instead of on it. Syps turned around and titled his head at her.
“How do you do that?” he asked.
“Do what?” Hertrude purred.
“Walk on the ground without walking on it.”
Spoom on Syps’s back giggled to himself.
“She walks on it without walking on it,” he repeated.
“It’s all in your head,” Hertrude told Syps.
“In my head?” Syps asked rubbing his head with his paws while he slowly sunk into the mud.
“Your head’s making you sink,” Hertrude purred.
With all her purring, it made it difficult to understand her well and Syps couldn’t tell if she’d said ‘think’ or ‘sink’.
Maybe she said both, he thought.
Ever since Syps started climbing trees, Willy started flying, and Spoom started digging, Hertrude had been getting stranger and stranger. For one, she didn’t used to talk to butterflies. And she didn’t used to talk like that either, only making half-sense most of the time.
Syps thought about what she’d said. His head could not be lighter, but maybe if he held it up, then it wouldn’t weight nearly as much on his shoulders, which would be kind of like being lighter. He grabbed his head with both paws and started pushing up on it. He made Hgnn sounds and Agnhh sounds for a moment. Then he stopped and threw his arms up in the air.
“It’s not working, I’m still sinking,” he said.
He looked up at Willy who was playing with Bertun so high above them that he was just a tiny spot in the sky.
“I’m the only one sinking,” he pouted.
“It’s okay,” Spoom said. “I’d be sinking too if not for you.”
“That’s true,” Syps reflected.
“We better go before we do sink too deep,” Spoom suggested.
Syps started stomping the grass down again and Hertrude followed quietly, her paws stepping on the flattened grass without pushing it down into the mud.
Syps did his paw-shaking routine, complaining as it bubbled between his toes.
“I don’t remember it raining so much lately,” he said after a while.
A big glob of mud stuck to his foot. He shook it but it wouldn’t come off.
“Me neither,” Spoom said.
“What’s so funny,” Syps asked, hopping on one foot while he shook the other.
“It’s. because. I live. under. the earth,” Spoom said his voice rising and falling in rhythm with Syps’s hops.
“Ha, true, there’s no rain down there,” Syps said.
The ball of mud finally came off his foot and it went splashing between the tall blades of grass.
“Finally,” Syps said.
“Finally,” Spoom agreed.
Syps looked up at Willy again. He was playing leapfrog with some fluffy clouds now.
“I wish I could fly too,” Syps said. “It’d be so much easier to get honey AND sweetberries.”
Spoom rested his wrinkly face on Syps’s shoulder.
“Sometimes, I wish I could walk faster too,” he said. “But then, I remember that I can dig real well, and that it’s okay that I’m slow.”
“Hmmm,” Syps said, his nose still pointed up at the sky.
He thought about it for a moment. At least he wasn’t slow like Spoom AND he could climb trees really well too.
“I guess, it’s okay I can’t fly,” he said after a bit. “I know Willy sometimes wishes he were bigger too.”
“You can’t have it all, I guess,” Spoom said.
Syps nodded his agreement. He turned back to Hertrude.
“Say, Hertrude, what do you wish you could do?” he asked her.
Hertrude was a few feet from them, sitting on two blades of grass like she weighted nothing. Her pink nose was turned up to the sky as well, but she wasn’t looking at Willy; it was pointed at the sun. When Syps turned around, she looked at him and Spoon with her big blue eyes that seemed to get bluer all the time. She smiled. It was one of those feline smiles she’d started smiling when Syps started climbing trees, and Spoom started digging, and Willy started flying. It said so much, and almost nothing at all too.
She smiled, and then she inclined her head like she was going to answer him, but instead she licked one of her spotless, white paws and rubbed it over one of her ears. Syps looked at Spoom over his shoulder. Spoom shrugged so Syps shrugged too. Hertrude started cleaning her other ear.
“Bushcats clean themselves a lot,” Syps whispered to Spoom from the corner of his mouth.
“They sure do,” Spoom whispered back to Syps.
They didn’t know what to do with that, so Syps turned around. He started forward again, one step, then two, when suddenly a faint Hummmmm came from the grass and Syps suck in a breath and froze.
“Did you hear that?” he asked Spoom.
Before Spoom could answer, a loud Himmmmm came from behind them and Syps jumped in fright and made a squeaky Harglgagl sound. Then very loud Hommmmms and Hammmmms rose from all around them and Syps let out a growly squawk that was more of an aroooo than a grrr. He jumped left then he jumped right, then he jumped in circle and finally he tripped over some of the tall grass blades he’d just flattened and he fell backward.
“Aaaah!” Syps went.
“Woho, woho,” Spoom went.
And then Syps fell on top of Spoom. There was a great Splash followed by lots of splishes when mud rained back down around them. The hummmms and hommmms and hammmms turned into humms humms humms and hamms hamms hamms and homms homms homms. Spoom and Syps wiggled back to their feet. They were covered in mud, especially Spoom who now looked like he had grown a brown coat of fur over his wrinkly skin.
“Every time,” Syps complained, shaking his arms, “they get me every time.”
Spoom looked at his mud-covered arms, belly, and legs.
“Look at me,” he exclaimed with a big smile, his teeth looking really white in his mud-covered face. “I’m a Treebear too!”
Syps looked at him. Except for his face being too flat, Spoom did look like a fuzzy Treebear.
“Ha,” Syps said, forgetting about the mud that caked his fur and the Hummingtoads for an instant. “You do look like a Treebear!”
Hertrude, who somehow had managed to not even get one drop of mud on her fur, walked up to them. She looked at Spoom and then at Syps, her blue eyes full of laughter.
“By the Blue Waterfall,” she said. “You do look like cousins.”
The humming laughs around them intensified, and then the meadow erupted into croaking.
End of Chapter V.
To be continued…