The Garden Gate – Part One

It was one of those days. You know the kind I mean. One of those days in late summer that you can actually smell summer in the air. That heavy, sweet smell that hangs thickly over the ground as you walk. Amanda found herself thinking that a small breeze would be as welcome as an ice cream cone. She was out taking a long afternoon walk and had decided to look for some wildflowers to put on the dinner table. Her mom always liked to do that when she was alive and when Amanda did it, it made her dad smile. She loved making her dad smile. He did far too little of that these days.

Thinking about her mom made her sad. Thinking about seeing her dad not smiling because he missed her mom so much, made her even more sad. She tried to pray when she felt this way. Somehow, talking to God, even without words, helped to ease her sadness. She began to sing an old hymn that she had heard and sung in their little church.

There is a balm in Gilead

To make the wounded whole;

There is a balm in Gilead

To heal the sin sick soul.

Some times I feel discouraged,

And think my work’s in vain,

But then the Holy Spirit

Revives my soul again.

This is what she found herself doing today, walking, singing and talking with God in the summer sun.

She wasn’t actually paying attention to the time as she walked this afternoon. School wasn’t going to start up again for another few weeks and she was relishing the freedom to waste an entire afternoon. She had left the house shortly after lunch to find the flowers, so she was just wandering in the fields east of the house along the edge of the woods the bordered their property, picking flowers as she went.

Something drew her in the direction of the tall trees, perhaps it was the thought of some shade and cool breezes. Perhaps, it was something else. She never really thought about it. She just found herself headed toward the woods and when she entered the shadows of the forest, the coolness of the air nearly caused her to shiver. It was like entering a different world. One that was fresh and green. Those were welcome feelings on such a hot sticky afternoon. It was also lush with sounds that she had not heard just a minute before.

As she walked through the thick woods, she saw the most unusual thing. There was a garden gate. It was just a little, simple white wooden garden gate, slightly open with no fence on either side. Curious, she thought to herself as she walked over to it and looked for just a minute. Though not freshly painted, it did not look neglected. Then she touched it, just to make sure it was real. She swung it all the way open, then back and forth. There was just a slight squeak. Finally, she walked through it and, instinctively closed it. The woods seemed different on this side of the gate and there was a path that she hadn’t seen just a minute before. She decided to follow it. She was curious now.

She distinctly heard the call of an owl and then the sound of the breeze moving the branches of the trees that surrounded her on the path. Now there was the sound of the creek that bordered her farm and provided them with water and many fish suppers. She could not recall ever having seen this part of it before. That struck her as a little odd, but it was surprisingly restful and Amanda began to feel just the slightest bit tired. As she came near the creek, she decided to sit at the base of a gigantic tree and rest. No sooner had she sat down and leaned up against the tree that her eyelids became very heavy and she drifted off to sleep, a very deep sleep. She could hear the hooting of that owl again as she passed into unconsciousness thinking that it was odd to hear an owl in the daytime.

Oliver Rides the Bus

Because it is baseball season …

Oliver Rides the Bus

Oliver tried to focus on the geography of Peru but kept thinking about well-hit doubles, strikeouts and close plays.

Mr. Franzen’s voice filtered into his brain during a 5-4-3 double play, “Oliver…Oliver…Mr. Winslow!”

Oliver slowly realized it was not the play by play announcer calling his name, “Um…huh…yes? I’m sorry.”

“Thank you for joining us. Tell us about the Nazca lines in Peru.”

“They are…glyphs, drawings on the ground you can only see well from the air that no one understands.,”

“Excellent. Who discovered the glyphs….”

Her voice faded into the cheering crowd after Oliver hit a homer, winning the championship.

At dinner, Oliver’s mom said, “My car broke down today. I can’t drive you to your game tomorrow. I’m sorry, you’ll have to miss it.”

Oliver choked on his milk. “But Mom, it’s the first game of the season. The team is counting on me. I’m the starting shortstop.”

“It’s just a game.” She served the peas.

Oliver looked at his mom as she put a slice of meatloaf on his plate. “Maybe I could take the bus. The #82 runs up Meridian to Green Lake. If you give me some change, I can…”

“Now hold it right there, I have not given you permission to take the bus by yourself.”

“But, Mom!”

“No! I’m sorry about the game, Oliver. It can’t be helped.”

Oliver had a hard time sleeping that night. He dreamt about baseball, striking out or dropping a line drive or a missing a deep fly ball. His team kept losing, and it was all his fault.

He woke up early, tired, but excited.

“Ok, I know what I need to do.”

He went straight to his coin bank and found four dollars and seventy-six cents.

“I’ve got just enough money for bus fare both ways.” He smiled.

He checked the bus schedule.

“Let’s see, where is the ball field?” he ran his finger up the route until he found it.

He looked at his clock. “Just enough time to get ready.”

Oliver dressed in his uniform, grabbed his money and his glove. Then he slipped down the stairs, careful not to wake his mom.

“Ok, all set, here we go.” Oliver let himself out the back door.

Once on the bus, his mind filled with fantastic catches and hits.

“Kid … hey, Kid!”

Oliver looked up to see the bus driver standing next to his seat. “We’re at the end of the run, you gotta get off.”

Oliver looked around. “Where are we? I wanted to go to the ball fields at Green Lake.” Oliver felt sick to his stomach.

The bus driver chuckled. “You must have been daydreaming. We passed by there a half-hour ago.”

“How can I get back? It’s too far to walk.”

“Relax kid, there’s another bus stop across the street where you can catch a bus back to Green Lake. I’ll give you a transfer so you can ride it. I played some little league when I was a kid, I know how important the games are.” The driver smiled.

Oliver thanked the driver, crossed the street and waited for the bus. This time he asked the driver to let him know when they got to Green Lake so he could get off at the right place.

Oliver thanked the driver, got off the bus and ran to the field where his team played. The game had already started, so Oliver put his stuff with the rest of the team’s things and went into the dugout.

“Hey, coach! I made it—uh, oh.” He saw his mom and coach Bradley standing with their arms crossed, looking at him. Oliver attempted a sheepish grin.

“Oliver, where have you been, and how did you get here?” his mom asked.

Oliver stared at his shoelaces.

His mom uncrossed her arms, walked over to him and put her hand on his shoulder. “You took the bus, didn’t you?”

Oliver’s face reddened. “Yes, Mom. I just wanted to play so bad.”

“I understand. However, after you went to your room last night, I called your coach. He offered to give us a ride. But, you left this morning before I could tell you.”

Oliver looked up and caught a glimpse of the coach heading out to the field.  He then looked at his mom. “I’m sorry.”

“I know you just wanted to play baseball. I wanted you to play, too. Look, I’ll promise to make sure you get to every game if you promise to stay off the bus. Deal?”

Oliver smiled. “Deal!”

“Mrs. Winslow,” Coach called from the end of the dugout.

“Yes, coach?”

“Could you umpire the game? We’re one umpire short today.”

Oliver’s eyes widened. “You’re gonna umpire? I didn’t know you knew anything about baseball.”

His mom smiled/ “I forgot to tell you—I lettered in softball in college. Come on son, let’s PLAY BALL!”

 

Oogie’s New Foolproof Plan – Conclusion

Ralphie looked around and, sure enough, they were. And so was everything else in the room. Oogie was trying to swim through the air over toward the bacon but only got himself completely turned around and was about to bump into the wall, nose end first.

“Oogie, my stomach doesn’t feel so good!” complained Raph.

Lucille was now floating over toward Ralphie and Oogie, “Hey, this isn’t so bad once you get the hang of it.”

“Well, maybe not for you, Lucille, but we still haven’t gotten any bacon, and it looks like you’re going to miss out on the cream you wanted too.” said Oogie.

“Don’t be too sure about that Oogie, I have myself aimed right at it and will soon have all I want. You just need to get planted on one of the walls so that you can launch yourself toward what you want and the cream is just about mine.”

Lucille was approaching the cream and opening up her mouth to capture one of the floating globs of cream.

“Yummy!” she purred. “Now to get to the other wall and launch myself back for more.”

Oogie watched closely and then twisted himself around and tried to kick off the wall so that he would be aimed at one of the pieces of floating bacon. But he pushed off too hard and flew right past the piece he wanted. It was just out of his reach.

“Darn, I need to push off a little lighter.” he said to himself as he twisted around to get another shot at the bacon of his dreams.

He was just about to push off when Ralphie sailed by and snatched the piece he wanted.

“Mmm-hmm! Thish ish really good bacon, Oogie!” Ralphie said while chomping the delicious morsel down.

“I take it your stomach is doing better now, Ralph?”

“It sure is! That bacon really hit the spot!” Ralphie said with a chuckle.

“Whee! This is fun!” squealed Lucille as she shot by gobbling up another floating blob of cream.

“It sure is!” said Ralphie as he zoomed by and snatching pieces two and three out of the air.

Oogie took aim at the last piece of bacon and was careful not to push too hard this time. He had his aim just right and was just about to snatch it when the alarm stopped sounding, and the whirling lights retracted back into the ceiling. At the same time, things stopped floating in the air and headed straight for whatever was beneath them. The gravity was back on, and Oogie missed his mark and fell to the floor instead.

The last thing he saw was the bacon dropping alongside him and then…nothing.

When Oogie’s eyes opened again, the kitchen was a complete shambles with stuff scattered everywhere on the floor, table top and counters. His head was pounding, and his stomach was growling.

“Oogie, are you ok?” Ralphie asked.

“I think so, everything is a little blurry,” Oogie replied.

“Well, it’s good to know that a knock on the head just knocks you out and doesn’t kill you. I guess your head’s too hard for that.” Lucille said with a little laugh in her voice.

“I almost had that last piece of bacon too, darn!” moaned Oogie.

“Yeah, you came mighty close.” Lucille snickered.

“Yeah, Oogie, about that last piece…um.” said Ralphie almost under his breath.

“Where is it, Ralphie? You got the other three, where is the last one?”

“Umm … well, you see it was like this—”

“Like what? I saw it falling with me. I almost had it.”

Lucille started walking away and snickered. “I’ll just let you two sort this out. Bye, fellas! Call me the next time you have a big foolproof plan.”

“Ralphie?”

“Oogie, don’t get mad. It wasn’t my fault.”

Oogie stood up and moved close to Ralphie until they were almost nose to nose.

“What wasn’t your fault? Come on, Ralphie, where is that last piece of bacon?”

“It’s just that it landed … right … in … my … mouth. It was an accident!”

“What? How can a piece of bacon just land in your mouth?”

“Well, I sort of landed on top of you with my mouth up and – well – it just dropped right into my mouth. I—just—gobbled it down out of reflex. I’m sorry, Oogie.”

“Of all the bad luck …”

“Oh no, Oogie. This really was your best plan ever!”

Oogie just turned away and muttered to himself. “All my planning, down the drain. Gonna have to think of another plan now… Hmmm, that just might work!”

Oogie’s New Foolproof Plan – Part 1

Oogie’s New Foolproof Plan

“Oogie, are you sure this is gonna work? Your last idea landed us in the doghouse for a solid week.”

“Ralphie, we’re dogs, we always sleep in the doghouse.”

“Yeah, but it’s worse when they put you on half rations.”

“Oh Ralphie, forget all that. This is the best plan I had ever had. It is foolproof. It…is…stupendous!”

“No way! Your last plan was foolproof too. I still have bruises from the broom swats.”

“That won’t happen this time. No brooms, no way!”

“Well, all right…but only if you’re sure.”

“I’m sure.”

“So, how is this plan different? You scare me when you get this excited about one of your plans ‘cause I’m always the one that gets hurt.”

“That won’t happen this time. No way!”

“Ok, you said that already. What is this foolproof plan, Mr. Big Brains?”

“Last time we went after the bacon too soon.”

“Too soon?”

“Yes, too so. We tried to get it from that pan on the stove. We knocked it over, and bacon grease went flying everywhere.”

“Everywhere but our mouths. Most of it landed on the floor.”

“Uh, yeah. So when we did get the bacon, we couldn’t get away with it because of the grease all over the floor too. It was too slippery. We got caught.”

We knocked it over? Let’s get that part straight right now. You knocked it over!”

“Ok, ok, I knocked it over, but you were supposed to grab it and run away with it.”

“Oh yeah, I was just supposed to grab it before it hit the floor. But, it turned out to be impossible with that pan flying straight at me.”

“I suppose my aim could have been a little better.”

“Yeah, and that grease was hot too! I nearly got splattered with it, after I dodged the pan. Then, when I did grab the bacon, I couldn’t get any traction on the floor because of the grease… And then…there was the broom. Ewww! It makes me shiver all over just to think about it.”

“Never mind all that. This time it’s going to be completely different.”

“Ok, maybe. How?”

“I got it all figured out.”

“You do, huh?”

“Yeah, think about it. What happens to the bacon after they cook it?”

“Doh! They eat it!”

“Slow down speedy brain. What happens to it before that?”

“I dunno. They just put it on a plate and eat it. That’s all.”

“That’s right. What happens after they put it on the plate and before they eat it? Think!”

“Hmmm…it sits and cools off while they get the rest of their breakfast ready?”

“Exactly. And we need to get to it while they are distracted with the eggs, toast, juice and coffee.”

“Hey! That’s right! That plan could…wait a minute. How are we going to get it off the plate without being noticed?”

“Heh heh heh! That’s the fun part. We use the cat for a diversion. I’m a genius! That’s what I am, a gen-ee-us!”

“Hold on just a minute, Mister Genius! How are we going to get Lucille to go along with helping us? Her whole mission in life is to make us miserable.”

“That right, and so we play a little trick on her, and she plays right into our plan without even knowing it.”

“Oh, we are huh? And just how will we do that Mr. Genius?”

“Yes, just how were planning on doing that Oogie?” came a feline voice from the kitchen counter above Oogie.

“Huh? Oh hi, Lucille! How is my favorite feline?”

“Don’t even bother trying to be nice to me, Oogie. I know how you feel. I overheard you trying to set me up for the blame on your next bacon caper.”

Elwood’s Hazardous, Dangerous, Exciting Trip to the Library – Part 1

Elwood’s Hazardous, Dangerous, Exciting Trip to the Library

By: Steve Mathisen

 

“Elwood!”

The tall boy rolled over and tried to use his pillow to block the sound of his name being called.

“Elwood Phineas Dunkle! Get yourself out of bed and down here for breakfast this very minute,” his mother shouted

He knew the tone and that she would no longer tolerate being ignored.

He groaned, rolled over, slid out of bed, pulled on jeans and T-shirt and headed for the kitchen with a slight detour to the bathroom to wash up.

When he got to the table there was a book instead of his cereal bowl. Elwood looked at his mom.

“That book is due today. You need to make a trip to the library.”

“But Mom, I was going to−”

She set his bowl in place.

“You can do that after your trip to the library.”

“Okay, Mom.”

After breakfast, Elwood put the book in his backpack and rode his bike toward the library.

He was taking a shortcut through the park when his shoelace came untied and got tangled up in the chain of his bicycle. He glanced down at his foot and hit a hidden tree root. The bike stopped suddenly. Elwood did a complete flip over the handlebars and landed staring up at the sky through the branches of a huge oak tree.

“Well, that was a dumb move,” Elwood said to himself. As he began tying his loose shoelace, he looked around for his bike only to see its rear wheel disappear around the trunk of the tree.

Forgetting his laces he jumped up and yelled, “Hey, that’s my bike!” and then ran to where he had last seen his bike and … nothing. There was no bike to be seen anywhere. He ran back around the other way and again … nothing.

“What is going on here?” He said.

Clunk!

“What was that?” Elwood ran around the tree again looking for the source of the sound and once again … nothing.

Clang!

He looked up and saw his bike, hanging twenty feet up, bouncing against the tree and going higher, with a rope around the handlebars!

Elwood quickly found the lowest branch and scrambled up the tree after his bike. He just barely got his hand on the rear wheel of the bike before it disappeared into the darkness of the upper branches of the tree. He climbed higher. He wanted to know what was going on.

He felt cold … and blind. It was so dark toward the top of the tree that he couldn’t see anything but, he heard voices.

His eyes adjusted to the dark, he could see three guys on a platform that was built right into the top of the tree. They had at least a half-dozen bikes. The guys were taking them apart, putting the little parts in boxes and hanging the bigger parts on racks hung on branches.

“Bike thieves”, he whispered, “right here in the middle of the park, hidden up in a tree!”

No one seemed to notice him, so he climbed back down to a lower branch and started thinking about what he had to do to get his bike back.

His brain was working rapid fire coming up with ideas and tossing them out as impractical. Finally, he thought of three possible ideas.

First, he could climb back up and steal his bike back. That wouldn’t work though because the guys up in the tree were all bigger than he was.

Second, he could round up all his friends but, even with all of his friends they probably couldn’t overpower those guys and force them to give him his bike back.

“I’ll go to Uncle Jim; he’s a police officer.”

“But wait, he’s going to want proof!”

He reached into his pocket for his “Emergency Only” phone.

“It has a camera and this is an emergency.”

A Bump on the Head – Conclusion

“Young man, just who are you addressing in that insolent tone?”

Josh turned around to see Mrs. Harbaugh towering over him. She stood with her hands on her hips and her graying hair pulled in a bun so tight she always looked like her face was going to rip.

Josh felt his face flush, “No one, Mrs. Harbaugh. I was just talking to myself. Sorry if I was too loud.”

Mrs. Harbaugh harrumphed, “I thought you might have been talking to Louie. He gets a bit snarky from time to time but we should always be polite to him.”

“He gets snarky?”

“Yes, it means smart-alecky. He has something of a twisted sense of humor. Don’t let him get to you. Just ignore him if he is rude.”

“You mean, you’ve heard him talk?”

The whole class began to laugh.

“Oh yes, all the time! I have tried to teach him some manners but, he doesn’t seem to understand etiquette.”

“How did I not know that?”

Louie’s voice came from behind him. “You’ve got a short attention span, or so I’ve been told.”

Mrs. Harbaugh spoke again, “See what I mean. Snarky. But enough of that, we have a class to conduct.” She turned on her heels and began addressing the class about the next lesson.

Louie said, “I am not snarky. I just have a weird sense of humor.”

Josh peeked at him, “It’s kind of rude if you ask me.”

The class got down to the business of the geography of Peru but Josh’s head began to hurt badly and he asked permission to go see the school nurse.

Sitting in the nurse’s office, Josh began to hear strangely muffled voices that sounded like they had bubbles in them.

“So you think that’s him, Thelma?”

“I sure do, Daphne. He matches the description I heard from Oscar.”

Josh started looking around to see where the voices were coming from and then noticed the two big goldfish in the nurse’s fish tank looked like they were staring at him. As soon as he looked at them, they swam off in opposite directions.

He shook his head as if he could make the voices go away but just made his head hurt worse.

The nurse came in and examined Josh.

“So young man, it looks like you got yourself quite an egg on your head. What happened?”

“I was ducking under a low branch on my way to school and didn’t duck low enough.”

“I’ll say you didn’t! That’s quite an egg on your head. Are you having any pain?”

“Yes, ma’am. I’ve been having a pretty bad headache and …”

“And what?”

“Nothing. I just have a really bad headache.”

“Well, I think that’s enough to send you home so your mom can take care of you. I don’t think you have a concussion. But you do need to rest and let the swelling go down.”

“I live real close by, I can walk home.”

“All right, but I’m going to call your Mom and let her know you are on your way.”

“Ok, thanks …”

Josh got two notes from the nurse, one for his teacher and one for his mom. He went back to his classroom and gave Mrs. Harbaugh the one for her.

She read it and told him to pack up his things and go home. As he was doing that, he looked at Louie and the hamster stuck his tongue out at him.

“See ‘ya later kiddo!”

A wave of pain shot through Josh’s head, so he ignored Louie, threw his backpack over his shoulder and headed home.

Instead of just a few animals talking, there now seemed to be a whole chorus of animal talk going on. It was like being in a crowded airport with all sorts of conversations going on around him. It made his head hurt even more.

Josh decided to take the same short cut home through Mr. Binkley’s yard and only had to duck under that low branch on the maple tree when . . .

Crunch!!

“Ooooowwww!! That … hurt …” Josh put his hand on his head and felt a two very sore lumps 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 started to sit up when he saw his mom’s face. She was kneeling next to him and said, “Buddy? Are you ok? Mrs. Binkley called me and said that you knocked yourself cold ducking under this old tree limb.”

Josh looked at Howie and Howie just twisted his head, smiled curiously and let out a small “woof!”

“Is that all you have to say, Howie?”

Josh reached into his pocket for the note the nurse gave him for his mom and nothing was there. He then hurriedly checked all the rest of his pockets and looked around on the ground to see if he had dropped it.

His mom asked, “What are you looking for, Josh?”

Josh looked at his mom and said, “I guess nothing. You know, I think I just had a bad dream while I was knocked out. I had this dream that I heard …”

Josh put his hand on his head, but only felt one very sore lump.

Howie responded with another “woof.”

The cat said “meow” and the robin said “chirp.”

“Heard what?” his mom asked.

“Oh, nothing … maybe I better go home and lay down for a while.”

“I think that’s a really good idea. I’ll call the school and tell them you’ll be home sick today and then I’ll call the doctor to see if he wants to see you.”

As they walked toward home, Josh thought he heard Howie say, “See ‘ya later Buddy.”

A Bump on the Head – Part 1

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 . . .

Crunch!!

“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…”

“Why?”

“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.”

“Oh, okay.”

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.

“It’s mine!”

“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!”