Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Great Bonbon Bamboozle

After a morning of laundry and dusting, sweeping and mopping, and scads of other chores, Momma Benson had worked up a powerful hankering for a gooey chocolate bonbon. 
         She bustled through the family room to the cuckoo clock, which hung upon the wall beside the couch.  She unlatched a little door on the side, which swung open to reveal the soothing whirs and clicks of the brass clockwork within, and a little space underneath of the gears where a crumpled paper sack lay tucked away.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

“Darn The High Water, Full Speed Ahead!”

Barley Benson sat on the porch, looking as glum and as lonesome as a whippoorwill, while Mister and Misses Benson loaded the suitcases into the station wagon.  For the next three days, Barley’s parents would be on vacation and he would have to stay home with Granny. 
Ordinarily young bears are thrilled to stay with their grannies, but not Barley, for he hardly knew the old girl.  Last time she’d come for a visit, Barley had been a dinky little fellow, crawling around in his diapers on the floor. What if Granny was one of those old biddies who peep at you over the top of their glasses so you don’t get into mischief?

Barley sat with his head in his hands and waited for the worst.
Pretty soon, a big red car rounded the corner and puttered up the lane, coming to a stop in front of the cave.  An old gray bear climbed out of the car, smoothed the wrinkles out of her purple dress, and straightened her shawl.  She didn’t look very scary, but you can never tell with old ladies.  
There was a whirlwind of hugs and goodbyes, perhaps a sniffle or two from the porch, and then Barley’s parents climbed into the station wagon and hit the road.   
 The old lady looked at Barley over the top of her glasses. 
“Come over here,” she beckoned. “Come right over here so Granny can have a look at you.” 
Barley shuffled down the steps and stood before the old bear. 
Granny squatted down until she was eye-level with Barley, and studied him through her spectacles the way someone examines a cantaloupe for squishy spots.         
 She shook her head. “Land sakes, Child, you look like you’re on the brink of starvation.”  This was a fairly ridiculous thing to say because Barley was quite husky as bears go, but grannies aren’t satisfied until you’re big and round, so it is pointless to argue with them.  “Granny’s going to put a little meat on your bones this weekend.  What do you say we go pick a few Molly Moochers for our dinner tonight?”
            “What are Molly Moochers?” asked Barley in a bashful voice.
             “Why, they’re great big mushrooms that grow high in the mountains.  And this time of year they’ll be big and plumpy for Granny’s stew.”
            Barley helped Granny carry her luggage to the spare room and then they climbed into the big red car.  The engine roared to life.  That’s when Granny did something that got Barley’s attention.  First, she pulled on a pair of motorcycle gloves.  Next, she put on her sunglasses.  Then, with a sly old twinkle, she looked down at Barley and said, “Let’s boogie.”
He’d scarcely had time to buckle his safety belt before Granny stepped on the gas like a drag racer.  Dust and gravel sprayed from under the tires as they rocketed down the road at a break-necking speed. Wee hoo!  The old girl drove like a hot-rodder.  The car skidded this-a-way and slid that-a-way, around the hairpin turns that led up the mountainside.
Barley clung to the ceiling strap and cried out, “How’d you learn to drive so fast, Granny?”
 “Don’t you know?” she asked, over the roar of the engine. “Granny grew up in the circus; and her family was all daredevils.” 
The car shot up a little hill and caught some air going over the top.
 “Great Grandpa Benson rode a unicycle blindfolded,” she said impressively.  “…While juggling chainsaws on a tightrope.”
            Barley’s eyeballs grew as big as tea saucers.
            “Then there was Great Grandma Benson.  She would shoot out of a cannon at the end of every show for the grand finale….” 
Pine trees rushed by in a blur of green and brown as the car sped along a flat stretch.
            “And what did you do in the circus, Granny?”
            “Granny had the most dangerous job of all.  She jumped motorcycles and hotrods over fire pits.”
            Barley’s parents had never breathed a word of these circus folk.  
“I could never be in the circus,” he mumbled.
             “Why ever not?” asked Granny with a note of surprise.
             “I don’t like heights,” said Barley into his lap.
            The old bear looked confused for a moment and turned up her hearing aid.  “Afraid of heights, you say?”
            Barley nodded with embarrassment.   “I can’t even climb the pie cherry tree in the backyard, ‘cause I could fall out and bust my arm.”
            Granny shook her head.  “Oh horse feathers,” she said.  “There’s nothing to climbing trees.  Granny’s clumb trees for nigh unto seventy years.  You just get a little sand in your craw and then up you go, lickety-cut.”
 Suddenly, the car skidded to a halt on the crest of a hill.  Barley sat up straight and goggled out through the windshield.  The road up ahead was as steep as a ski jump and led right down to the edge of the Raging River.  The water was high and muddy from the spring thaw and almost overflowed the banks.  Worst of all, the river had shattered the bridge to smithereens and swept the wreckage over the falls. 
 “We’ll have to go back home, Granny,” Barley’s voice quavered. “The bridge is gone.”
“Hogwash.  Granny’s not afraid of a little gully-washer.  Just you hold on to your button-hooks, and Granny’ll show this river who’s boss.”
Granny stomped the gas pedal all the way to the floor and the car hurtled down the slope, gaining tremendous speed.  Barley was scared spit-less as the rushing waters grew nearer and nearer.
When they were almost to the riverbank, Granny pressed a big red button on the dashboard and hollered, “Nitro-Boosters!” Flames roared out of the tailpipe.  The car leapt forward like it was stung by a wasp and doubled its speed within seconds. The car reached the riverbank and then—Jumping Jiminy! It launched into the air like a missile.
Barley felt weightless as they sailed in a long, smooth arc over the gushing river.  The mighty waterfall thundered below and its awesome power shivered his timbers. If they landed too short, they’d be swept over the side, as helpless as driftwood.
The nose of the car tipped forward and rushed toward the ground.  Then with a bone-jarring KA-BUMPIDDY-BUMP, they landed on the opposite shore.  The old bear straightened her sunglasses, which had lurched to the end of her nose, and shifted the car into a low gear to climb the hill beyond the river.
 “That was awesome!” Barley said, beaming.  “We could’ve been killed!” 
Granny just smiled serenely.
 The car sped along the winding roads that led high into the mountains, and came to a stop at a grove of elm trees.  Barley’s legs felt weak and rubbery when he stepped out of the car and he had to sit on a stump while Granny rummaged through the trunk for the buckets.
When they’d ventured into the shady grove, Granny hunkered down and pointed a claw toward a fat brown mushroom whose wrinkled top poked up among the dried leaves.  This was a Molly Moocher and Barley could see others like it scattered here and there.  Then a dark look spread over Granny’s face as she pointed to a big orange toadstool, which grew on a soggy dead log. Directly in the middle of its broad flat top was the shape of a skull.  This toadstool was never to be eaten, for it was more poisonous than a hundred rattlesnakes. Just one bite of this mushroom, only the tiniest nibble—yea even the merest taste of it on the end of your tongue—and you’d keel over, dead as a doornail in five seconds.
For the next few hours Barley and Granny combed slowly through the dry leaves, examining each mushroom carefully, plucking the brown ones and staying well away from the orange ones. 
When their buckets were full, they motored back down the mountain again.  After a dinner of plump and hearty stew, it was time for beddy-bye.  Granny tucked him in and kissed his forehead and switched off the light, but Barley couldn’t sleep.  He climbed out of bed and opened the window so his pet bat could flitter into the night to eat mosquitoes.

The pie cherry tree loomed darkly in front of the moon.  A warm wind sighed through its leaves.  It was a dangerous old tree, full of bees and dry twigs and widow-makers and he could bust his arm if he fell out of it. But that mysterious urge that makes little boys and girls into daredevils began its magic upon Barley Benson. Someday very soon, by golly, he was going to climb that tree.  


*Illustration By:      

Argha B., Teodora H., and Jeremy E.

Monday, January 26, 2015

"Go On Sweet Bird, and Soothe My Care"

The badger sat at his desk and used a pair of tweezers to carefully fit a diamond into a necklace.  His nerves were hot and twitchy, for it was difficult to focus on his work with a chirping canary in his shop.  His temper simmered like a pressure cooker, and might explode at any moment if he didn’t get a little peace and quiet.
         Agreeing to babysit the Buttercup’s canary while they were out of town was the most brainless thing he’d ever done.  Now he would have to listen to that blasted canary chitter from now till Kingdom come. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

It’s Christmas Whether You Like it or Not

The badger dozed in his easy chair while a knot of lightwood blazed in the fireplace. Great flurries of snow swept across the countryside.  Every once in a while, when an icy current whistled around the windowpanes, he rousted from his slumber and peeped through the window at the snow. Sometimes he would hear the jingle of harness bells and snatches of merry laughter as travelers shushed along in pony carts.

          Bah, Christmas Eve. Everybody hurrying hither and yon, over hill and dale, off to one party or another.  Thinking of merry-making, and nog-guzzling, and hall-decking gave the old badger a stomachache.  No sir, he would never be caught at a Christmas Eve party, with all of the noise and fuss, for he was Emmanuel Grimsley, the grumpiest badger in the entire countryside.  He had a reputation to uphold.
          Just as Mister Grimsley had closed his peepers for a snooze, there came a sharp knock at the door.  Good Heavens above, who would come knocking at this time of night.  Feeling very put out, he hauled himself up and muttered all the way to the door.  Whoever it was had to be the brazenest creature imaginable to come unannounced, a-ratta-tat-tattering upon his door like some kind of crazy woodpecker. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Monster That Lurked in the Cellar

Barley Benson sat at the kitchen table reading his comic book while his mother spread mayonnaise onto some bread slices for lunch. 
 “Barley Dear,” she said. “Go down to the cellar and fetch me a jar of pickles.”
Barley’s eyes were wide with panic.  “You mean down in the root cellar! But it’s dark down there!”
“Take the flashlight with you,” his mother replied. “Besides, it’s about time you got over your fear of the dark.”

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Incredible Inflating Hen

One morning as the hens were laying eggs in the henhouse, Geraldine set down her coffee mug and shook her head at an old hen across the aisle.  “Bernadette, dear,” she said. “It fairly breaks my heart to see you strain every day, trying to lay an egg.”
            Bernadette looked up and smiled patiently as she knitted a scarf.
“Geraldine is right,” said Henrietta, setting down her crossword puzzle.  “It’s been almost a year since you’ve laid an egg.  Don’t you think it’s time to admit your egg-laying days are over?”
The henhouse grew quiet as everyone tried to hear what Bernadette would say.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Lionel Rathbone’s Incredible Growing Nose Hairs

The sidewalks of Mapleton were crowded.  Lionel Rathbone, an impatient rat, wished the old lady mole that waddled in front of him would giddy-up so he wouldn’t be late for work.  He wore his navy blue leisure suit, his mint green shirt, and his red tie.  The item he most adored, the centerpiece, the very crown of his outfit, was of course his fine orange toupee.  It was a dignified hairpiece and it gave him a sense of power as he strode along. 
            A yellow canary, which flitted above the rooftops, spotted Rathbone’s fine toupee.  At once the bird tucked its wings and shot like a dive-bomber straight for it, and snatched the hairpiece right off of the rat’s head.