by John Wyatt
copyright Jan, 2009
“Hello, and welcome to the Dream Café!”
Hmmm… maybe a little deeper.
<Dropping my voice more deeply> “Hello, and welcome to the Dream Café!”
Better, but still not quite right.
<Brightly lilting voice> “Hello! And welcome to the Dream Café!”
That’s it! I’ll just save that to a file and … oh, darn.
“Jon!” I yelled. “How do I transfer sound files to the answering machine? I’m changing our greeting!”
“Again?” Jon yelled back. “That’s the third time this week!”
“Yes, well, I just want it to be perfect!”
“As if you could do anything less.” Jon chirped as he strolled in and leaned over my shoulder. “Here, you just need to save it to the format that the answering machine wants ... like this.”
“Thanks, Jon. This is so much easier than standing next to the machine and talking into the microphone.”
“So, are you going to e-mail me new greetings while you’re at camp?” Jon smirked.
“Noooooooooooo,” I drawled, “I don’t think soooooo. They probably won’t have e-mail access at the camp. Well, at least I don’t think they will. Hmmm…..”
“Forget I said anything! Just go and have fun! We’ll be fine here without you.”
“Do you think they’d let me take my laptop computer?”
“No! Absolutely not!”
“I’d only use it in the evening, or when I’m bored.”
“No!” Jon commanded. “You won’t be bored – believe me. Camp Unicorn will be a blast. You won’t be one little bit bored.”
“Well, ok. If you say so. You’re my brother and I’m sure you wouldn’t steer me wrong. Even if you did try to get me eaten for my birthday!” I winked impishly.
“Hey! That was an accident! I was trying to order those ‘Croc’ shoes! How’d I know they were live crocodiles! Besides, they’re vegetarians so you’re perfectly safe.”
“As long as I’m not a cat!” I retorted. They still think cats are vegetables. You’ll be sure to feed them while I’m gone?”
“Yes, as long as they don’t try and eat me. I still don’t quite trust them.”
“Oh, that was just an accident. You were hardly even scratched. They’re just kids still – they aren’t really dangerous. Besides, having a pair of crocodiles is fun!”
“Well, you won’t find any crocodiles at Camp Unicorn and I’m sure we can survive for a week until you get back. Oh – before I forget, I have something for you, for while you’re at camp.”
“I hope it’s not more mosquito repellant. Mom and Dad gave me practically a whole gallon of the stuff.”
“No, it’s this.” Jon handed me a small, oblong box, wrapped in pink flowery paper and topped with a blue ribbon. I untied the bow and peeled back the tape. The paper wrapping fell away, revealing a brown leather book with a gold script title: “Journal.”
Jon smiled. “It’s so you can keep notes during camp.”
I squealed “Thank you!” wrapping my arms around Jon and giving him a big hug. “It’s just wonderful! It’ll get lots of use! I like paper a lot better than that MP3 audio journal.” At times like this I’m glad I didn’t sell Jon on e-Bay. He’s turned out to be a pretty good brother after all. And with a sister like me, I’m not surprised!
“Oh, Mom and Dad planned a big going away dinner for you,” Jon warned. “It’s only a six-day camp, but you’d think you were going away to college from the way they’re acting.”
“Thanks for the warning. I’ll act surprised. I guess they just worry, what with it being my first time off on my own.”
“Oh, and please make sure those crocodiles are well fed before you go. Dad wants to put koi back into the pond and I don’t want them getting eaten by your ‘vegetarian’ friends.”
“Ok. I’ll take care of that right now.”
“OW!! OW!! OW!!” Nick’s cries echoed over the pond.
“Hoy, Nick? Whot’s goin’ on over there?” Nate swam towards the heavy splashing sounds. “Who’s givin’ ya the whatfer?”
“OW!! OW!! Oh – hey Nate. What’s you doin’ over here? I though you was scarin’ up some sweets?”
“Quit knockin’ about and just gimme the duck’s guts – just the facts, as they say over here.”
“Oh, just puttin’ on for next time when that Sheila throws rocks at me – like she did yesterday. Just ‘cause she likes cats don’t give her no right to starve us poor fellows! Whot you thinks about this?” Nick rolled over onto his side and began wailing “OW!!! OHHHH!!! OWWWW!!!!”
“I think you’s a few picnics short ‘o a sandwich. Hoy – here she comes now!”
“That must be Nick I hear.” The Sheila what calls herself ‘Jennifer’ was walking over to the water’s edge.
“OWWWWW!!!!!” We both rolled over and began wailing. “OOHHHH!!!” “OOOWWWWIIIEEEEEE!!!!” “AAARRRGGGHHH!!!”
“Oh, you’re not hurt, so stop pretending.” This Sheila was sharp as a tack.
“Well,” Nick moaned, “You wouldn’t say that if you saw my empty belly! Ooooooooo!!! I’m soooooo hungry!!” Tears were rolling down his face.
“Mmpphh!” Jennifer stood there, hands on hips, glaring like we was havin’ her on – which we was, but there’s no point in lettin’ her know that.
“Hey! You gonna put some more of those veggies into the pond? They was real scrumptious.”
“If you mean the koi – Dad’s going to restock the pond – but you CAN’T EAT THEM! I’ll get you some proper vegetables to eat.”
“Ohhhhh, not those ‘squashes’ again? ‘Dem’s whot’s got my tummy in such knots!” Nick was such a whiner! ‘Course, it could be worse; she could give us ‘broccoli’ again! That stuff is just plain evil!
“Well,” Jennifer pondered, “I could get you more broccoli. I just love broccoli!”
“NOOOO!!!!!” We both cried! “How about some cats? Them’s yummy!”
“No cats!” Now she was getting mad! “Cats are people! You can’t eat them! Anyway, I came out here to let you know that Jon’s going to be feeding you next week while I go to camp. And you are NOT to eat the koi, the cats, or anything that doesn’t just jump into your mouths! Got it?”
“Gulp! Uh…ok.” She could shrivel stones with that glare!
“Is that the ‘dinki-do, as you say?” she leaned forward, glowering.
“Uh…yeah, ok. Fair dinkum.”
“Thanks! I knew I could trust you. Now, be good for Jon and don’t try to eat him or anything. He’s really a very nice brother. He wasn’t really offering you his hand the other day – he was offering the carrots he was holding. Fershtay?”
“Uh, yeah, fershtay, or whotever.”
“Ok, well, I’ll see you in a week! Bye!” And off she pranced.
“well…” Nate mumbled “I barely even nicked him .. and he didn’t taste good, anyway.”
“I declare, that girl would forget her head if it wasn’t attached!” I picked up her red tennis shoes and packed them into her suitcase along with her other gym clothes, just in case she needed them. I’d asked her to pack yesterday, but she’s been too busy saying farewells to all her friends. I know she’s only going to be gone for a week, but I’ll still miss her. This will be the longest that we’ve ever been apart.
“Mom, can you help us pack?” Kaylee was standing in the door holding a pile of clothes. At least, I think it’s Kaylee. I can never tell her from Julie. For girls that aren’t twins they sure do look alike!
“No, I’ve got my hands full with Jennifer’s packing. You’ve known about Camp Unicorn for a month now – why did you wait until the last minute to pack? And I’m not really your mom – you and your almost-twin cousin just live here.”
“I know,” she giggled, “but we still like calling you ‘mom’!”
A strangled voice came from the hall, “Can someone puleeeease help me?” I could hear the sound of something heavy being dragged along the floor. I ran out to see Julie dragging a bulging suitcase.
“Here let me help.” I walked over and tried to pick it up by the handle. “Urrggggghh .. this thing weighs a ton! What have you got in here … bricks?”
The two girls stood and stared at the floor in silence.
“You’ve got to be kidding me.” I unzipped the suitcase and found a few clothes amidst a pile of large, reddish-brown bricks.
“How did THOSE get in there?” I asked acidly. The girls kept staring at the floor. “I suppose they just walked in by themselves?”
“yeah .. something like that. They didn’t want to be left behind.” It looked like Kaylee was trying not to laugh.
“Well, bricks don’t have feet, so someone must have helped them.” I gave them both my best ‘angry mother’ glare. Unfortunately, it rarely works since it’s just so hard to get mad at these silly girls!
“Ok, I guess they must have somehow crawled in on their own.” I started unloading the bricks. I could swear I heard sobbing as I unloaded them from the suitcase. “Now please help your sister finish her packing – and NO BRICKS! I can’t have you spraining your backs carrying these things around!”
“Then who’ll keep them company while we’re gone?” they cried in unison.
“Take them down to Gary – he like to make brick arrangements. Maybe he can do something with them.”
“Ok! While we’re gone, can you please finish our packing? Thanks, mom!” They gathered the bricks and dashed off. I wonder if I could talk the camp into keeping them for an extra couple of weeks?
Hmmmm, the pond should be able to hold another fifty or so koi. I wish I knew what happened to the last batch. Jon said I didn’t have the right kind of plants in the water. Well, I still think it was the kitchen runoff water that was getting into the pond. In fact, I’d better go check the drainage again. I don’t want the pond to get poisoned by leakage again.
It’s a nice day for a stroll around the pond to the garden, so I’ll take the long way around, past the new orange trees. Mom keeps asking for fresh oranges, but I expect it will be at least another two years before we get usable fruit.
<grmmmble … mmmmmble>
What was that? Probably just one of Jennifer’s pets. I declare that girl has more animals in the garden than the San Diego zoo! It’s a wonder she doesn’t get eaten by them!
<grmmmble … mmmmmble … mmmmphhh>
I’m sure I heard something! Hmmmm… nothing over here. Well, there are the new orange saplings and they’re looking good. I …. Wait .. what’s this? Well! A nice little tomato plant! And where did you come from? Hmmmm, mom sometimes tosses the kitchen scraps out here as fertilizer. I’ll bet some tomato seeds sprouted while we were in Spain. I’m surprised I hadn’t noticed it before.
Well, little tomato plant, you’ve grown up around … well, and here’s some more … you’ve really managed to grow yourself up around the tree trunk. And here are some tiny little tomatoes! They look nice and healthy! Mom will be happy to get fresh tomatoes!
<grmmmble … mmmmmble … mmmmphhh … arrgle …>
Ok – what’s making that sound …oh no! No! NOOO!!! AAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!!!!!!
“All right men, stand at attention!” the Sergeant-Major barked.
“We are standing at attention, Sergeant-Major. We can’t do anything else!”
“Right! Now listen up, men. Jennifer and her friends are going off to some kind of camp for teenage humans. We need to arrange for her protection while she’s there. Any ideas?”
“Blow up the camp! Then she’ll have to stay here!”
“Good thought, good thought – but Jennifer might complain. Apparently she actually wants to go to this camp thing. Let’s hold that in reserve in case nothing else works. Any other ideas?”
“What about the Multi- Organism Recreational Outfitters for Nymphet Species?”
“Hmmmmm… MORONS – good thought. They’re a tough, no-sense group and Jennifer’s just the right age for them. Good idea, Creak.”
“I’m Crack, Sergeant-Major. Creak’s sunning himself on the veranda.”
“Whatever. Do any of you IDIOTS know how to contact these MORONS?”
“Actually, I think they already have agents here at the café. I heard Jennifer’s sibling referring to those crocodiles as a bunch of morons.”
“Great! We’ll ask them to go. Uh…… any of you IDIOTS know the way to the pond?”
“Bye, everybody! I’ll miss you while I’m gone!”
I waved to Mom and Jon as I got on the bus. Kaylee and Julie were already onboard and bouncing on the seats while the driver shouted at them to sit down!
“And Jon – don’t forget that you promised to wipe the tables down every morning!” I shouted.
“I won’t forget.”
“They like plain soapy water. Don’t use detergent – it makes them itch.”
Jon just stared at me with a puzzled look.
“I wonder what happened to your Dad?” mom queried.
“He said something about checking the plumbing behind the kitchen” Jon commented. “He probably lost track of the time. You know how he gets when he’s on a project.”
“That’s ok.” I replied. “Just tell him I love him and I’ll write from camp! And thanks for the tomatoes!”
Mom and Jon looked puzzled. “What tomatoes?” Mom asked.
“Oh – maybe Dad put them in. I found a box of cherry tomatoes in my luggage. Well, thank Dad for me!”
“I will!” Mom shouted to be heard over the screams of the driver as he tried to quiet a bouncing busload of ten to thirteen year olds. Being a kid is great!
After a four hour bus ride I finally arrived at Camp Unicorn. The ride was long but fun! The bus had very bouncy seats and echoed nicely as we sang and played. It was fun making the bus sway by jumping across the aisle, especially on the mountain curves. The driver said he had never seen a group of kids like us before! He scowled and mumbled a lot, but I’m sure it was just his way of having fun!
The camp sat in the middle of a forest in the southern California hills and was filled with low forest sounds. It was mid-summer and still very warm. It was dark by the time we arrived so I didn’t get to see much of the scenery. After a quick sandwich supper I finally settled down in the cabin and popped out my new journal.
“Dear Diary ..” just then the pencil lead snapped. “Oh – drat! Where’d I pack my pencil sharpener?” I rummaged through my suitcase until I found the manual sharpener that Jon had given me. I really prefer electric sharpeners, but the manual one was smaller and easier to pack. I slowly turned the pencil, trying to sharpen it without breaking it.
“Mmmmppphh … arrrrggghhhh….” The sharpener complained.
“Oh be quiet!” I admonished, removing the badly chewed up pencil. “Please just sharpen the pencil for me. I wish you did a better job.”
“And I wish you’d feed me better pencils! You keep feeding me those cheap ones! How do you expect me to stay healthy on those cheap recycled pencils?”
“Well you’ll just have to do your best,” and I shoved the pencil back into the sharpener.
<uurrrggle … shhhhh… she’s not looking now ….>
“Who’s there?” I looked about the room, but no one was there. I was sure I had heard something. Oh well. Dear diary… oh, I already wrote that…
<crinkle … crackle … thump>
“Is somebody there?” I rose and walked to the door, checking behind the beds. Nobody there. “Hmmmm. Well, this is a forest. Maybe it’s just the trees.” I plopped back onto the bed and noticed that the box of cherry tomatoes were missing. I thought I had put the box on the nightstand by the bed? Oh, there they were, sitting on the chair by the nightstand. The box looked a bit crinkled – I hope it hadn’t been damaged. I must have knocked it over by accident.
<crinkle … wiggle>
Was the box … moving?
<time to break out, men…>
“HI JENN!” The door smacked open as Kaylee and Julie ran into the room. Kaylee leaped onto one of the beds while Julie flopped into the chair – right onto the box of cherry tomatoes!
“JULIE! I cried, half laughing,”you just squished my cherry tomatoes!”
“I did?” she stood, revealing a crushed box that was oozing red liquid.
“Oh! I’m so sorry! Well, maybe they aren’t all squashed.” She opened the box and gazed at the mangled mass inside. You could almost hear the poor things groaning. “Well, maybe we can still use them as ketchup!” She closed the lid and shook the box vigorously, then threw it to the floor and stomped it repeatedly. Julie was never one to walk lightly on the earth!
“Hmmmmm,” she opened the mangled box carefully as red liquid ran out. “I guess there’s more to making ketchup than just stomping tomatoes. Oh well! Maybe if we bury them we can grow new ones!”
“Never mind,” I grumbled, taking the box from her hand and throwing it into the trash can. “I’m tired from the long ride and just want to lay back and write in my new journal.”
“Oh,” Kaylee picked up my journal and began reading.
“THAT’S PRIVATE!” I yanked it from her and stuffed it under my pillow. “Maybe we can go to the lodge instead. I heard they were going to have music later on.”
“I thought you were tired?” Kaylee queried.
“That’s before you wanted to read my journal! Come on, let’s go see what’s going on at the lodge.”
“OK!” they cried in unison as we all pranced out the door.
<oooooo…. casualty report men … i don’t think we’re going to make it home, boys …>
She’s only been gone an hour and I miss her already! Maybe I should get dinner started; it’ll help get my mind off of Jennifer. Let’s see what the pantry has for me. I never like to plan these things – I just like to let the food inspire me!
“oooooo … that’s nice!
A little scrub here and
A little scrub there,
Wash my nose and
Ruffle my hair … oh – I don’t have hair!”
“Hello? Oh, it’s just you.” The large coffee pot was washing itself in the sink. Honestly, I don’t know what ever possessed me to buy a self-cleaning coffee pot.
“Rub-a-dub-dub! I’m sitting in the tub!
Hot soapy water for a good clean scrub!”
It did have a nice singing voice, but that thing could sit in the sink for hours just scrubbing itself down; and it never puts the soap back, either.
“Ok,” I commanded, “time to finish up! Dry yourself off and put the soap back!”
“ooooooo … the Queen commands, I must obey! I do as I’m told or – oy vay!” Too late I tried to dodge as the pot jumped onto the counter and shook itself violently, shaking off water like an old dog. Next time I go shopping, I’m getting a plain, old-fashioned coffee pot!
“MOM!” I heard Jon yell from the back yard. “Have you seen Dad lately?”
“HOW MANY TIMES HAVE I TOLD YOU NOT TO YELL LIKE THAT!”
“ONE MORE THAN THE LAST TIME YOU ASKED ME THAT!” Jon hopped onto the patio outside the kitchen and peered into the window. “Have you seen Dad lately? I was supposed to drive him to the fish store to get more koi.”
“No, I haven’t. The last I saw him was a few hours before Jennifer left. He was going to check the drainage to make sure the pond wasn’t being polluted. He didn’t want kitchen runoff to kill the koi again.”
“Oh, it wasn’t the runoff that killed them, it was… oh, well, probably … something else. Uh, say, maybe we should plant more vegetables by the pond – they could use the water.”
“You know I don’t like walking that far to tend vegetables. Well, I’ll go see if I can find him. Could you please clean up after this pot? I don’t mind a self-cleaning pot so much as I wish it would clean up after itself.”
“I clatter and toil
Till the water I boil,
And all for a drink
From the kitchen sink!”
“And maybe you can teach it some new songs.”
Wha….what happened…where am I? I….I can’t … can’t move … arms and legs are pinned …
I slowly opened my eyes. I…I was … nooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!
“DAD? WHERE ARE YOU?”
“I’M GOING TO THE STORE FOR THE KOI!”
“I’LL PROBABLY CRASH THE TRUCK … AGAIN!”
Wait… what was that? I thought I heard something over by the orange trees. Honestly, I don’t know why Dad let Mom talk him into planting those orange saplings – it’ll be years before we get any fruit, and Jennifer will probably just talk to them and insist we be nice to them! She even asks her food for permission before eating it! Sometimes I think that girl’s losing her mind.
<arrgle … grmmmble … mmmmmble … >
Sounds like Dad’s working over there. Wow! Where did all these tomato vines come from? They’re climbing up over the orange trees! Oh – there’s Dad. Hey? What the heck? How’d you get there??
<grmmmble … mmmpphhhh … mmmmmble … >
OH NO!!! RUN! I gotta warn Mom!
Morning in the forest is fantactful! That’s a new word I just made up. Fan-tastic, spec-tac-ular, and wonder-ful – all rolled into one! The sunlight sighs through the trees and wafts gently to the ground, settling on the undergrowth and making the morning dew sparkle! I’m going to sit here on the cabin porch for a bit and watch the morning before going to the lodge for breakfast.
“Hola, leetle lady! You’s in my way and I’s going to run you down eef you’s doesn’t move!”
I looked around, but saw no one.
“Ok, leetle lady – doesn’t you go sayeen that I doesn’t warns you! Arriba!”
I thought I felt something tap my foot. Looking down I saw a little green lizard standing by my foot, tapping his head on my shoe.
“oooooooo I’s gonna take you downs leetle lady! Just you waits!”
I reached down and carefully picked him up – he was only about four inches long.
“oooooo – Me surrenders! I geeves up! You weens, leetle lady! Pleeese no hurts me!”
<Giggle> “You’re so cute! What’s your name?”
“ooooo, please, amigo, not be telling me that I’s cute – I’m is ferocious! I’m is a mighty dragon!”
“Of course you are!” <giggle> “And you nearly had me, too.”
His little head perked up. “I..I deed? You means it?”
“Oh yes!” <giggle> “Why, I felt it all the way through my shoe and … and up my leg. Yes, I could really feel your strength! Please, Mr. Lizard, if you don’t eat me, I’ll be your friend.” <giggle>
The lizard strutted himself in the palm of my hand. “Well, I accepts your surrender! Besides, I doesn’t wants to eats you anyway. Me likes leetle crunchy bugs … and caterpillars, and those leetle orange melons if I cans gets them.”
“Well, my name is Jennifer. What shall I call you?”
“You can calls me Rodriggo. I was held captive by a leetle one, not much smaller than you’s. But when he broughts me here I escaped and I been leeeving here ever since. Thees is my kingdom!”
“Then I guess that makes you King Rodriggo! I humbly bow.” I dipped my head, trying not to giggle too loudly.
“Well, theen I’s gonna be nice to you’s. I is gonna let you be my body guard. Ahem! Not that I needs one.” His little head darted about.
“Of course you don’t’ need a bodyguard – you’re a powerful dragon! But I’m honored and I accept your offer. I’m going off to breakfast. Would you like to come along?”
“Oooooo, can I? I be very quiet! I maybe hide – I meen – ride inside you’s shirt pockets? Is good view from there!”
“Ok!” I carefully slid Rodriggo into my shirt pocket. He nestled in, poking his head out to watch the scenery as I walked to the lodge. Yes, this was turning out to be a fantactful day!
Kaylee (or is it Julie?)
“Hey, Julie! Come look at this!”
“I’m not Julie, I’m Kaylee!”
“No you’re not! I’M Kaylee!”
“Oh – that’s right! I just get used to saying it automatically. What’s up?”
“The sky!” <giggle> “Come look at the stream, it’s got gold freckles!”
Julie skittered over and peered over the balcony railing. The lodge has a big veranda overlooking a small stream. Flower pots are scattered along the veranda and some kind of vines climb up the rails from the ground below. It’s only a few yards down to the stream, so it’s easy to see the rocks on the bottom.
“Those aren’t gold freckles – those are tiny fish! They just sparkle in the light.”
“Oh. Well, they’re cute, anyway. Maybe we could take some back to the Dream Café and they can live in the pond?”
“I don’t know; they might be mistaken for vegetables.”
“Oh, you’re right. We should stock the pond with something big enough to defend itself!”
“What are all these little pots over here?” Julie ambled to the left end of the balcony.
“I heard somebody say that we’re all going to get little yellow pear tomato plants to take home and raise. We’ll all get to grow our own little yellow pear tomatoes!”
“And just what are ‘little yellow pear tomatoes?’ Are they pears or tomatoes?” Julie looked puzzled.
“Both, I guess. I don’t know.” Kaylee gingerly picked up one of the little fiber pots. Two tiny shoots had sprouted up, their tiny stems wiggling in the morning breeze. Each sprout had a pair of tiny leaves opening up at the end.
“Well, they’re cute, anyway. I don’t know about the ‘pear tomatoes’ though.”
“They‘re yummy.” Jennifer had snuck up behind us! “Have you ever had a little yellow pear tomato?” Jennifer didn’t seem to be talking to us; it looked like she was talking into her shirt pocket.
“We’re over here, Jenn.” I corrected her.
“Of course you are! What’s for breakfast?”
“Hopefully not tomatoes. I still feel bad about squishing your cherry tomatoes. It was an accident.”
“I know. That’s ok, if Dad’s started growing tomatoes, I’m sure he’ll be up to his armpits in tomatoes by the time we get home!”
“Get back into the kitchen, Mom! You can’t fight them all!”
Mom stood on the patio swinging her broom around in circles like a drunken baseball player, swatting at the charging tomatoes. They had already taken Dad captive and buried him up to his neck in the middle of the vine patch. I think they plan to use him as fertilizer! I had tried to free him, but there were too many tomatoes.
“Jon!” Mom shouted. “Open the kitchen door!”
I yanked the door open just in time as Mom ran inside. I slammed the door as fast as I could, but not before two huge tomatoes had rolled inside.
<arrgle … grmmmble … mmmmmble … > the tomatoes charged at me!
Now I wish I’d taken up soccer instead of Aikido!
WHACK! Mom’s broom connected with the tomato just inches from my face. It flew into the sink.
“Get it!” I yelled. The coffee pot leaped into the sink and began scrubbing the tomato.
“Yummy, sploshy, let’s get sloshy!
Nothing goes to waste!
I’ll rub and scrub until I get
Some fresh tomato paste!”
For the record – I hate singing coffee pots.
Only one tomato left, but it had backed Mom against the pantry door. She kicked and stomped, but the tomato dodged her every attack. She reached onto the counter, trying to grab a knife, when a salt shaker practically leapt into her hand. Not realizing that it wasn’t a knife, she swung at the tomato. Salt sprayed everywhere! Stunned, the tomato fell back. If only I had some mozzarella cheese sticks.
Crash! The kitchen window shattered as more tomatoes hurled themselves at the house.
“Mom! Into the dining room! We can’t get trapped in here!” We both ran into the dining room, slamming the door closed just in time as dozens of ‘thumps’ hit the door. As if on cue, two of the large, iron tables rolled over and blocked the door. I’ve never quite trusted those things ever since Jennifer said they had attacked her. Still, I wasn’t going to argue with Providence. The door shuddered under the tomato attacks, but those heavy tables held the door firmly shut.
“Mom,” I said as calmly as I could, “Dad’s ok for now, but I don’t know for how long. I think they want him to decompose, like plant food. He may be able to wiggle his way out.”
“I hope so. I’m just glad that Jennifer’s not here. I’m glad that she’s safe at camp – away from danger.
Dear Diary - It’s official – everything here is out to kill me! Canoeing on the lake was fun, until I tipped over the canoe and nearly drowned. Several small streams feed the lake, and they all have slippery rocks that try and trip me. Then some of the boys talked me into climbing trees – I nearly broke both arms when I fell. Then the camp counselor talked about how beetles and grubs make good eating if you get stranded in the wilderness. Yuk!
I lay in bed writing in my journal, while King Rodriggo stood guard over the little yellow pear tomato plant that I had been given. It wasn’t a fresh sprout – it had already grown several leaves and someone had put an old chopstick in the pot for it to climb.
“Just you wait…” the little leaves whispered. “I won’t go quietly…”
“Oh, shut up or I’ll make you into ketchup!” I snapped. Honestly, you’d think that a baby plant would have better manners.
“Oh, and what will you do? Feed me to this monster of yours?”
“He isn’t a monster. He’s King Rodriggo and he happens to be a mighty dragon – well, a small one, at any rate. Don’t worry, he likes to eat bugs, not tomato plants. He’s just waiting for bugs to land on you, so he can have supper.”
“Bugs? He eats bugs??? Well, then maybe I can delay my plans to squash you and eat you” the little plant quipped.
<giggle> “And how will you do that, exactly? I mean, you are stuck in that pot all day!”
“Ah … but I’m growing and soon I’ll be popping out little yellow pear tomatoes! And they’ll eat you to pieces! They’ll kill you to death! They’ll …. <mmmpphhh>”
“Rodriggo! Stop eating the leaves!” I shouted.
“Ok, leetle miss. I wasn’t wanting to eats them – I just wanted to shuts them up!” Rodriggo released the leaves and sat back.
“Well, lets’ read the ‘care and feeding’ sheet that they gave us." I picked up the yellow care sheet they had given out. "It says to make sure your plant gets plenty of exercise. Well, it’s a plant! How is it going to get exercise?”
“Oh, you are sooooo smart, you animal person.” The tomato plant quipped. “We know how to grow towards the sun. Just rotate us every day, so we get to grow this way, then that way, grow left, grow right… Lots of exercise! Good for our strong, growing stems! Then we stomps on you!”
I leaned over and gently stroked the tiny leaves.
The leaves quivered. “That tickles! Stop it!”
<Giggle> “I’ll bet you’re a really strong plant, too.”
“You bet I am! Why, I could beat up your big dragon there!” The leaves quivered as they tried to flap onto King Rodriggo.
“I’ll bet you could fight off just about anything!” I said in awe.
“Anything! You bet! My gardener watched ninja movies all the time! I saw martial arts every day! Just you wait and see!”
The leaves fluttered more as they tried to mimic karate motions.
<Giggle> “Very impressive! I’ll bet there’s nothing you can’t defeat! I’ll bet you aren’t afraid of anything!”
“You bet! Not afraid of anything!” The little plant stem stood straight upright.
“Not even aphids!” I commented.
The stem wavered a little.
“Or crickets!” I added.
The stem drooped a little more.
“And not even caterpillars! Why I’ll bet that caterpillars won’t dare try and eat your mighty leaves!”
The stem drooped even lower, practically wilting.
“Luckily,” I chirped, “King Rodriggo loves to eat aphids.”
The leaves picked up a bit.
“And he also likes crickets.”
The stem perked up a bit more.
“And I hear that he’s slain and eaten hundreds and hundreds of caterpillars!” I proclaimed.
The stem stood up straight.
“Of course,” my voice dropped, “that wouldn’t happen if you killed him.”
“Oh no..” the little plant wavered.
“And he wouldn’t stay if anything happened to me…”
“Ahem…” the little plant stood tall in its pot. “Of course, I was just speaking hypothetically. I mean, if I really wanted to kill you both, I would.”
“Of course.” I agreed.
“But as it just so happens, I could use someone to, uh, well, keep the bugs from bothering me. They make such a mess, and, well…”
“I think that King Rodriggo would consider it an honor to keep you bug free! Wouldn’t you, King?”
“Oh, yes leetle Miss! I can’t wait to get a nice, juicy caterpillar into my mouth!”
“So, do we have an agreement, little yellow pear tomato plant?”
“Ahem … yes, we do. A mutual defense pact.”
“And would you even be willing to share some of your little yellow pear tomatoes with me – I mean, when they’re ripe?”
“Well, I suppose so. As long as you eat them nicely.”
“Oh, I would! I would! I just love little yellow pear tomatoes!” I giggled.
“Leetle yellow psycho tomatoes, more like.” King Rodriggo muttered.
I returned to my diary and began continuing the saga of my day’s captivity, when the cabin door slammed open, Kaylee and Julie flying in like the wind.
“Look what we’ve got!” they cried in unison.
They plopped onto their beds, pieces of paper in hand.
“What is it?” I inquired.
“A questionnaire! See? We got you one, too!”
Kaylee handed me a paper titled “Personal Life Questionnaire – For Girls ONLY!”
“Is this from the camp?” I asked.
“No, it’s from one of the other girls. It’s a personal questionnaire!”
The giggling twosome grabbed pencils and immediately started answering the questions.
“Don’t think that I’m going to sharpen theirs as well.”
“Oh stop complaining,” I snapped at my pencil sharpener. I had tried to find better grade pencils to feed it, but all they had here were those cheap golf pencils made from recycled wood. I jammed one into the sharpener to keep it quiet.
Ok, lets’ see what kind of questions they have. Hmmmm…
Name: Jennifer Jones.
Favorite Color: purple.
This looks like the camp questionnaire, except for the favorite color question. Oh, wait…
Ever been kissed by a boy? ___________
Why do they want to know that!
If so, did you like it? __________
Did you kiss first, or did he? ____________
Ok, this is getting a bit too personal! Who made this thing up, anyway?
“Oooooooo” Kaylee moaned, peering over at her cousin’s sheet. “You never told me that!”
“Mind your own questions!” Julie snapped, shoving her sister away.
Oh, here’s a less personal one:
What’s your favorite sport? Snow skiing
How long have you being doing it? 6 years.
Have you ever been kissed while doing this? ___________
Who wrote this stupid thing!!!!! Why do they care if I’ve ever been kissed??? Honestly, you’d think a bunch of 13 year old girls had better things to think about than kissing! Well… maybe not… I’ll just do this later, or let Kaylee finish it for me. I’m just glad that Jon’s taking care of stuff at home. At least that’s one thing I don’t need to worry about.
“Don’t worry, Mom! I’ll save you! Just keep piling stuff in front of the door!”
I had tried to tell Mom that climbing out the window onto the roof was a bad idea. Now the tomatoes had her trapped in an upstairs bedroom closet. I had no idea those darned tomatoes could grow to such size, let alone leap onto the roof! Those psychotic vegetables must be at least 3 feet wide! The tables were heavy enough to keep all the downstairs doors closed and Gary had gotten here just in time to move the big china cabinet to the foot of the stairs, blocking their way down from the upstairs. The downstairs windows all had wooden shutters, which were thumping from the regular attack of frenzied tomatoes.
“They’re coming down the stairs!” Gary yelled. Soon I heard the heavy ‘thump’ ‘thump’ of pounding on the back of the china cabinet. If only Jennifer were here! Somehow I have a feeling that she wouldn’t let herself get trapped by a bunch of carnivorous killer tomatoes!
I’m starting to feel like I’m in a ‘B’ movie.
Dear Diary – I can’t believe how stuff keeps happening to me! I wish I were back at home, in the Dream Café. At least there I’d be safe. Ok – let me try and describe today’s craziness.
It all started with that stupid questionnaire. I had left most of the questions blank – at least the ones about kissing. I gave it to Kaylee to turn in, and apparently she filled in the rest of it for me! The next thing I knew, all the boys were hanging around trying to get my attention. Then came the big race.
It was the last full day at camp and we were all supposed to do something athletic. Since it’s summer and there isn’t any snow here, somebody decided that ‘skiing’ was the basically the same thing as ‘racing’ and now everybody was saying what a great runner I was! That’s the last time I give personal information to either of those two girls!
So the next thing I knew, there I was in a borrowed running outfit and wearing my old red sneakers, lined up with a dozen other runners for a 3-mile trail race. I guess my first goal will be just to avoid being eaten by wild animals.
“Ok, runners! Now don’t worry about the forest – the trail is clearly marked and there aren’t any dangerous animals there.”
“It’s a 3-mile race, so don’t try to be the fastest – just focus on your rhythm and breathing. Stamina will win this race, not speed.”
Drat. I’ve never been that good at stamina. At least when I ski, gravity gets to do all the work. All I have to do is avoid the trees on the way down. (Trees don’t have feet, so they can’t jump out of my way.)
“You’ll be great!” Julie and Kaylee cheered. I smiled weakly. Two of the boys must have thought I was smiling at them and waved back. I ducked my head.
“Don’t worry, leetle lady. You’ll do fine!”
“Thanks, Rodriggo.” He was riding in my shirt pocket. I figured he’d be good company and he’d probably enjoy the ride.
What the heck was THAT?
“You’re supposed to run!” shouted the camp counselor. “That’s the starting gun!” I looked up and saw everyone else running down the trail.
“Oh!” I ran after them as fast as I could. I can run fairly fast, but not for long distances. Pretty soon I was alone on the trail. Well, at least I can slow down and just enjoy the view. Actually, forests are very beautiful. The undergrowth was light, which made for a very wide trail among the trees. The wind sighed through the branches, creating a light shower of tiny leaves and mosses. In many ways it was like the garden back home – only much bigger and far wilder. At least it doesn’t have any crocodiles.
Then I came across Jeanne. She was one of the 14 year old girls at camp. She was picking herself up from what looked to be a nasty fall.
“Are you okay, Jeanne?” I helped her to dust herself off. “Anything broken?”
“No, I don’t think so. And shouldn’t you be running to beat me?”
“Oh, that’s ok. I’m not really that good a runner. I’d rather help you.”
“Thanks, Jennifer. I was running along and tripped over this stupid brick! I don’t know where this thing came from.”
Looking down I saw an oddly familiar looking brick. It had taken up position right in the middle of the path.
“I should just throw it into the river.” Jeanne reached for the brick.
“That won’t work – I mean; here, I’ll take it and thrown it in. I’ll make sure it doesn’t crawl out.”
“What? No matter. Thanks for the help!” and off she ran.
“Put me down!” the brick cried.
I dropped it into the dirt. “And what are you doing here, anyway?”
“Keeping an eye on you, bubbala! And just in time. That nudnick was going to beat you in the race.”
“There are a lot of people ahead of me in this race – like all of them! You can’t help me by tripping one of them.”
“I know. That’s why we got the whole team up ahead!”
“The whole team? You mean, there’s more of you?” I shrieked.
“Of course! Their all real mensch, just like you, bubbala. They got all farpitzs for this.”
“Well, don’t think I’m going to take you home in my luggage. I don’t know how you got here, but you’re on your own.” With that I ran off along the trail.
“Right! So, I’ll just lay here, then! Right! Hmmmmm… 99 bottles of beer on the wall, 99 bottles of beer…”
I kept jogging along the trail, this time speeding up a bit to try and catch the others. I didn’t have far to go – the whole lot was huffing uphill, having somehow gotten off the trail. Several bricks were scattered about the ground.
“Did you knock them down?” One of the boys asked; I think his name was Timmy.
“Uh – no, I found them like that.”
“Well someone had put up this whole brick wall! We all thought it was a detour. But all it did was take us down to the stream, and now we have to come slugging back uphill.”
Everyone sat down for a few minutes, out of breath from their uphill trudge. The consensus was that some of the other kids had stacked the bricks here as a practical joke. I kept my mouth shut. Eventually, most of them got up and continued the race. It was just Timmy, me, and a loose pile of bricks.
That’s when I saw the crocodiles.
“Yes?” he was looking at me with a strange look. I hoped he wasn’t going to be sick.
“There are two crocodiles sneaking up behind you.”
“Sure there are! And there’s a dragon sneaking up behind you!”
“No – he’s in my pocket.”
Timmy cocked his head and just stared at me.
“There really are two crocodiles behind you” I warned. “I have no idea how they got here, but they look pretty hungry.”
The two familiar looking crocodiles were now about 15 feet away from the unsuspecting boy. Timmy showed no signs of alarm.
“I really don’t want you to get eaten, Timmy, so maybe you’d better run along.”
“That’s ok” he cooed. “If there are any crocodiles out here, I’ll protect you.”
Now they were only about 6 feet away! They both winked at me, but I just scowled back. Honestly, how am I ever going to enjoy a vacation on my own if everyone keeps following me?
I jumped up and shouted “See if you can catch me!” and I ran off, casting a venomous glance at the two crocs. Timmy leapt to his feet and ran after me. I guess he just couldn’t stand being beaten by a girl!
“Hoy! That one was really puttin’ on an act” I heard behind me.
I’d deal with those two later. Right now I had to get Timmy out of danger. I didn’t think they’d actually eat Timmy; Nick and Nate are more or less vegetarian. But there’s no telling what they might do just to scare Timmy.
Soon I heard more cries ahead. “Ow!” “Ouch!” “Where did those come from?” I arrived in time to see the whole pack of runners stuck in a mass of brambles. A small brick path had led straight into the thicket.
“Who the heck lays a path into sticker bushes!” “This camp stinks!” “Quit stepping on my foot!” “I’m not stepping on your stupid foot!”
“Ahem” I glared at the bricks and stamped my foot. “And just what are you up to?”
“Kvetch, kvetch, kvetch! We only try to help, and all we get is kvetching!”
One of the bricks quivered and started moving. I reached down and picked it up, revealing a horde of ants beneath.
“Hoy!” one of the ants squeaked. “Don’t go makin’ it harder for us! It’s tough enough schleping these things all over the place without you mucking things up!”
“Sorry” I put the brick back down. I’d always wondered how these things got around without feet. Timmy was standing behind me with an odd look. Behind him I could see Nick and Nate crawling up the path. No point trying to make explanations.
“Bye!” and off I ran. Timmy tried hard to catch up, but somehow managed to trip over another brick. Behind me I heard Nick and Nate growling, followed by more screams. I hope those two don’t frighten the other kids much.
It seemed like forever, but I finally reached the finish line! I was even first! Everyone cheered as I crossed the finish line. Kaylee and Julie were jumping and cheering wildly! There didn’t seem any point in telling them what really happened – they wouldn’t believe me.
“You won! You won!” Kaylee and Julie shrieked while leaping on me, wrapping their arms around me and picking me up! A short time later the other runners came down the trail at a halting lope, looking somewhat the worse for wear. I didn’t want to stick around for the stories, so I claimed personal needs and headed for the lodge.
“Leetle Miss, you sure are one fast runner! You won!” I gently petted King Rodriggo on his head.
“Come on, let’s see if we can find some melons in the lodge kitchen.”
So, diary – that’s how my day went. Nick and Nate are asleep in the stream behind the lodge and King Rodriggo is standing guard at the window sill. As a fellow reptile, he feels it’s his duty to protect me from the crocodiles. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that Nick and Nate were just friends.
I had no idea that camp could be so – busy. It’s exciting, too. I guess things are probably pretty boring at home, what with the bricks and crocodiles out here keeping me company.
“Push! Push harder! Put your back into it!” Gary and I pushed the heavy dresser in place to bolster the crumbling china cabinet. The pounding was so loud that I couldn’t hear Mom anymore. I hope she’s still ok.
“Look out!” Gary shouted as one of the shuttered windows broke open.
<ARGGLLE … MMMBBBLEEEE… GRBBBLEE…>
It’s been a fun camp, but now it’s back to the bus and time for home. We have a different driver; the last driver had some sort of nervous breakdown. I can’t image why. King Rodriggo sat in my pocket, eager to see new lands. George was sitting peacefully on my lap in a carrying box – that was the name I had given the little yellow pear tomato plant. He was much happier now that King Rodriggo ate any bugs that bothered him.
Early this morning I had helped pack the bricks into some bags for Nick and Nate to carry back. I wasn’t going to have those poor ants schlepping bricks all over the place, as if the Pharaohs had returned. The ants all cried “freedom” and ran off to start their own colony, while the bricks just grumbled. Still, all’s well that ends well.
The 4-hour return trip was filled with singing and games, but no one had enough energy left for much bouncing. The driver joined in the singing and generally had a good time. I’ll bet Mom, Jon and Dad didn’t even notice I was gone.
“Mom! Dad! Jon! I’m home!” I left my suitcase where the bus had dropped me off and walked into the café with Rodriggo in my pocket and carrying George.
The place looked like a bomb had hit! Honestly, can’t anyone keep the place clean without me?
<arrggle … mmmpphhhlle … she’s almost here … look .. she’s holding a hostage … she might hurt the little pear tomatoes … get back … better let her get by … gggrrrmmmmphh>
“Mom! Dad! The place is a mess!” I headed for the kitchen, still carrying George. The remains of our big china cabinet lay on the floor by the stairs. What had happened?
“Hoy!” I could hear Nick and Nate out back. How had they gotten here so fast?
“Say, Nick, you sure our Sheila’s ok after that iron box ate her?”
“Sure – she’ll be just apples. Those ‘bus’ things eat kids and spit them out miles later – but they never keeps ‘em.”
“Well that was quite a trip back blocks. Say, what’s those red jumpy things over there?”
I walked out back to see what the brothers were doing. I arrived in time to see them chasing tomatoes! The two boys were charging after some quite large, bouncy tomatoes, who were apparently trying to escape.
“Hoy, Nick – how’s you tell the difference between an elephant and a tomato?”
“Dunno, Nate. How?”
Nate jumped, landing square on a large, rolling tomato. “Stomp on ‘em! If you gets ketchup, it was a tomato!”
The two crocodiles were having fun stomping and eating tomatoes. Some of the tomatoes were quite large, but Nick and Nate must have been starved after such a long trip and gorged themselves on the rolling vegetables.
“Well, I guess it’s ok – tomatoes are vegetables” I sighed.
“We’re fruit!” George complained.
“Whatever. At least I’m home and the boys have found some new friends to play with.”
Nate swallowed two large tomatoes in one gulp.
“I hope some of their friends survive” I commented dryly. Well, I’d better clean this place up before Mom and Dad get home. They’ll probably blame it all on me.
“Hoy – Sheila!” Nate slid onto the kitchen patio, tomato juice dripping from his mouth. “Them new veggies are the bees knees! Where’d you get ‘em! They’s fast and tough! Better’n cats! Real challenge!”
“I don’t know. Maybe Dad found them. You’ve been asking for a vegetable garden.”
“We’re fruit!” George cried.
“Oh, Sheila – we found your mum, dad, and them other humans down by some orange trees. They must have fallen in some hole or other – they’s all buried up to their necks and wiggling something fierce. They was yelling at us something awful; and they’s a bunch of tables tied up back there too. Looks like a bonzer party going on! Should we join ‘em?”
Sigh. I’m up at camp for a week being attacked by psychotic tomatoes, lizards with delusions of grandeur, stared at for hours by boys I’ve never met (I’ll never let Kaylee or Julie fill out questionnaires for me again), while bricks and crocodiles ambush everyone in sight; and all this time everyone here at home just goofs off and lets the place go to pieces!
“No, leave them alone for now” I sighed. “I’d better clean up this mess first. Besides, I’m sure they don’t want to be disturbed. They’re probably just yelling at you to leave them alone. You do look kinda scary to most people.”
“Ok, Sheila. You’s a real knocker!” and off he slid. I presumed that it was a compliment.
I gently set George on the kitchen window sill where he would get plenty of sunshine. I picked up a broom from the mess on the floor and began sweeping. Why couldn’t my life be simple and quiet, like it must have been for my family this past week?