Josh was late for school…again. He was running faster than usual, taking his usual shortcut through Mr. Binkley’s yard and only had to duck under that low branch on the maple tree when . . .
“Ooooowwww!! That . . . hurt . . .” Josh put his hand on his head, felt a very sore lump the size of a small egg, saw stars and dancing chickens and then . . . everything went dark.
“Hey buddy, are you ok?” Josh thought he heard someone say and then he felt a big, wet tongue on his face. When he opened his eyes, he saw Howie; Mr. Brinkley’s dog licking his face.
He pushed the dog away and sat up.
“Ok that’s enough, boy.”
“Alright, I’m just makin’ sure you’re ok,” he heard someone say.
Josh looked around and saw no one.
“Ok, who said that?”
His hand went back to the sore spot on the top of his head.
“Ouch! That must have been some conk on the head! Now, I’m hearing things.”
Just then a small voice came from up in the tree. “I don’t think he heard you, Howie.”
The dog looked up and saw a robin up in the tree. “I know, Hawthorne. They always act like they don’t understand.”
Josh looked first at the dog and then up at the robin and then back to the dog. “Are you guys talking?”
Howie and Hawthorne looked at each other and then at Josh and both said, “Yes! Are you…?”
They both stopped at the same time and then Howie continued, “You could understand us?”
Just then Mrs. Abernathy’s orange cat Norman came into view, “Hey guys, what’s up. This kid conk his noggin’ on that low branch?”
Josh looked at Norman and his mouth fell open and he started scooting himself back quickly with his hands. “Whoa! I must be dreaming! This can’t be real!”
Josh started to shake his head, as if to shake off this strange new reality, but quickly grabbed his head with both hands. “Oh! That hurt and made me dizzy at the same time!”
Howie moved closer to the boy, “Maybe you should just rest for a few minutes, Josh.”
Josh’s eyes widened as he looked at the dog, “Y…y…you know my name? H…h…how come I never heard you talk before?”
Howie sat down, looked at the boy and cocked his head to one side. “Well…”
Hawthorne flew to the ground and said, “Maybe you just never listened before.”
Norman came up and sat next to Josh opposite Howie, wrapped his tail around his paws and said, “I think he’s got an attention span problem.”
“Joshie, why you layin’ down in the grass?”
Josh turned toward the house to see little Lizzie Brinkley, rag doll hanging from her chubby little hand. “Hi Lizzie, I was cutting through your yard and hit my head on the low branch and was just…”
“I was on my way to school, Lizzie.”
“Oh. Who’re ya’ talkin’ to, Joshie?”
“I was talkin’ . . . talking to . . .”
Howie emitted a soft “leave us out of this” that sounded like a low growl.
“I was talking to myself. I do it sometimes when I’m alone.”
Josh jumped up, careful to avoid the tree branch.
“I’m going to be late for school if I don’t hurry. You should go back inside, Lizzie.” he said as he rushed off.
He looked back and saw Lizzie waving goodbye, he waved back at her.
All the way to school he wondered about what had happened.
“Maybe I was delirious. Animals don’t talk, that’s just crazy.” he said to himself.
Josh heard other voices as he rushed to school. His head rotated like a bobble head doll each time he heard a new one.
“No it’s not, I found it first!” He saw two birds arguing over a worm.
There was a dog sniffing all around a grassy yard and mumbling.
“Where did I leave that juicy, tasty bone?”
Then he heard laughter. “It looks like the old, hound dog lost his bone again.”
Two cats were sitting on a fence, laughing at the dog.
All morning long in school, Josh wondered about what had happened and just when he thought he was feeling normal again . . . he heard a small, strange voice.
“So, I hear you can understand us when we talk.”
Josh looked around to see who was speaking.
“Hey! Look down here, it’s Louie…you know…the hamster!”
“Oh no, not you too! How did you find out about me?”
“Easy, the windows are open. I heard it from a little birdie! Ha ha ha, I heard it from a little birdie. I am sooo funny!”
Josh looked down into the hamster cage and saw Louie rolling around laughing and holding his sides.
“Shhh! Somebody will hear you!”
(Still laughing) “Who cares? Nobody can understand me but you. Hahaha, this is too good! I heard it from a little birdie!”
Josh rolled his head back and looked up. “Oh man! This is NOT happening to me!”
“Hey, Josh, who are you talking to?” said Scott in the next row.
“Oh…um…nobody…just talking to myself.”
“That’s right, pretend you can’t hear me.” said the Louie.
Josh put his hand over his ear in attempt to not hear Louie.
“Just thinking out loud Scott.”
“You’re seriously in denial, that’s what you are,” said Louie.
Josh turned toward the hamster cage and tried to whisper, “I am not! I didn’t ask for this. I don’t want to hear or understand animals when they talk. Now, leave me alone!”