By Julius C. Lovell
Copyright 2017 Julius C. Lovell
The book cover is the fantastical work of Melodye Whitaker. The bestest ever.
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— The Songster and the Wheel
— The Tiger’s Challenge
— The Dog and His Letters
— The Frog and His Coat
— A Game of Hopscotch
— “Camillus is Coming!”
— Battledore and Shuttlecock
— A Town Circle Ruckus
— The Flower Girls and the Queen
— The Closing of Heritage Trail
— The Case in the Carnival District
— The Knight and the Dragon
The Songster and the Wheel
Jonathan sat up in his bed and leaned against the wall. The fantastical pictures of the carousel book whirled around in his head. The woodmill shop, the carvers, the paint room, the horses, and all the animals that were once carved by hand—each danced around in a drowsy delirium.
The carousel is a world of its own, Jonathan thought, still holding the book.
His thoughts echoed throughout the room.
It finally occurred to him that the military band music that had been faintly playing for the last minute or so was becoming rather loud now. So loud, in fact, that Jonathan opened his eyes.
As soon as he did, he was taken aback by the little face staring at him. The man had sleepy eyes and a saggy cap dangling from his forehead. He was peeking out the back side of a goat’s saddle. The goat was attached to a pole—as well as the horse to the left. And right behind Jonathan’s bed (which, come to think of it, was more like a chariot) was a lion. There was a sculpting of George Washington’s face on the lion’s side, just below his flowing mane.
Jonathan looked up to inspect the rows of light bulbs that decorated the rafters as well as the lights that framed the artistic panels around the center of the room. Just when Jonathan began to study the dragon in the reflection of the mirror, he was thrown backwards by a sudden jolt.
The floor began to spin, and the animals started to move up and down on their poles.
They went around.
And with each time around, they were going faster.
And faster still!
Before Jonathan knew it, the wind ripped the carousel book right out of his hand.
Jonathan immediately grabbed hold of the chariot with both hands and found himself pressed against the back of his seat, hardly able to lift his head. The animals were jumping around frantically, threatening to break away from their cranks. And the sound of the WHIRLWIND drowned out the music from the band organ.
Just then, the chariot broke loose from the platform, and was sucked up into the air.
Jonathan was FLYING AROUND in the chariot, and everything was dark. Nothing could be made out (aside from the hippocampus that glided by and the painting of a fairy from a piece of a rounding board). Even though Jonathan couldn’t see, he could clearly feel himself soaring upward to the sky.
But just when he began to contemplate how dreadful the landing was going to be, there wasn’t much of a landing at all. For Jonathan scarcely came down; it felt as if he had just plopped back down on his bed.
He opened his eyes. To his great astonishment, it was his bed.
“What a flight!” said Jonathan to himself, his hand over his heart.
Rather than risk a recurring episode, he quickly jumped out of bed.
The bed was a stately bed with wooden spires and draperies. The walls of his bedroom were made of stone, and were decorated with lit candles. A chandelier hung from the ceiling by golden chain links. There was a huge fireplace with a flame dancing about, warming the room quite comfortably.
Jonathan walked up to a tall mirror. “I could’ve sworn I put my pajamas on,” he said.
He was sporting a black coat with a cutaway front and tails in the back. A matching pair of dress pants, a white vest, a bowtie, and shiny, black dress shoes completed the outfit.
“I don’t recall going to bed in a tuxedo. Though I absolutely love it.”
Jonathan’s hair was neatly combed; quite handsome he was. He kept changing stances, admiring his fine-looking appearance when, all of a sudden, a voice of someone singing was heard not too far away. It was a fascinating blend, something between a man’s voice and the sound of a flute.
Oh Rusiphelle, Rusiphelle,
How lovely you are;
So stunningly beautiful,
A dazzling star!
“That doesn’t sound like Dad,” said Jonathan, his eyebrows crinkled with curiosity. “Who on earth could be singing like that?”
Jonathan left his bedroom and entered a great hallway that was very unlike the hallway he remembered. There was a set of china hutches with tall glass doors and all sorts of trinkets and jewelries. Farther down the hallway was a portrait of a man riding on a horse; the name M. C. Illions engraved on a nameplate.
He moved toward the staircase at the end of the hallway and paused to lean over the balcony.
Oh Rusiphelle, Rusiphelle,
There’s charm in your cheeks;
When you gorgeously smile,
I could watch thee for weeks!
Jonathan slowly and softly descended the staircase, one large stony step at a time, trying to smother the slightest sound of his dress shoes. When he stepped down from the final step, he found himself in a spacious living room. In front of a fireplace, he noticed a chair facing the opposite direction. Someone’s shadow flickered against the wall.
Now Rusiphelle, Rusiphelle,
What would I do
If I couldn’t drink coffee
Together with you?
Who in the world was he singing to? Jonathan only counted a single silhouette.
Just then, someone got up from the chair and turned sideways a bit. After a few steps away from the fireplace, the person came into view, not at all noticing Jonathan. To the boy’s great wonder, it was a Cherub. He was several feet tall and had a youthful face with wavy hair that covered his ears. He was wearing a velvety robe, and his sturdy wings projected through the back. He was holding a little handheld mirror up to his face, still singing—to himself!—while tenderly waving his free hand.
Oh Rusiphelle, Rusiphelle,
Your name brings me cheer;
I’d repeat it for hours—
No, forever, my dear!
Not at all alarmed by such a Cherub, Jonathan spoke up. “Excuse me.”
The Cherub flinched and then flung around. “Who are you? What are you doing here?” He placed his hands quickly behind his back.
“My name is, Jonathan. And you must be…um…Rusiphelle?”
At first, the Cherub blushed. But then in a moment he placed his little mirror down on the table. “Yes,” said the Cherub calmly. He gave a flap of his wings. “That is my name. Now how did you get here?”
“Well, I live here. This is my house.”
“This is not your house. This is my secret getaway, and I don’t know how you found it.”
“Well, all I can tell you is that I just got out of bed and came downstairs.”
“You were upstairs?”
“Well, yes. That’s where my bedroom is.”
“And what were you doing in your…bedroom?”
“Reading a book about the history of the Carousel; how a Master Carver once carved all these—”
“Never mind!” interrupted the Cherub. He leaped into the air and began hovering around the room. Then he rested upon the chandelier, his little legs dangling off the edge. He sat there in deep thought. So much so that Jonathan didn’t dare say another word.
Looking down, the Cherub finally broke the silence. “I don’t know how you did it, but you must’ve gotten off the Sky Wheel and then broke into this Castle.”
“I’m not sure what you’re talking about, sir. I never got off any such wheel; and I definitely didn’t have to break into my own house.”
“You can’t lie to me, you invading schoolboy. I know a lie when I hear one. And I don’t mind your trespassing so long as you’re not invading my space. This is my place, not your place, you hear! Somehow or other—I don’t know how you managed to do it—but you got off the Sky Wheel.”
“I don’t know what wheel you’re talking about!” Jonathan said.
The Cherub flew down from the chandelier and walked up to Jonathan.
“I’m not going to get into a shouting match with a little whippersnapper,” said the Cherub, looking up at the boy, pointing his finger at him. “All I care is that you get back on that Wheel and get back to the Realm of Roundabout. Clearly, you must have gotten off; and indeed you must be going. Now follow me.”
Jonathan didn’t have a clue what the Cherub was talking about. But seeing that he had no desire to keep company with such a cantankerous little creature, he wholeheartedly agreed that it was time to be going.
The Cherub led Jonathan to a gateway of the Castle, which then brought them outside to the courtyard. There wasn’t a speck of earth to be seen; the surface was nothing but colorful fluff.
“Don’t stand there pretending like you haven’t seen cotton candy before,” the Cherub said. “I’m sure you had your share of it accidentally on purpose, no doubt.”
“Cotton candy!” Jonathan said. “This is all cotton candy?”
The Cherub rolled his eyes. “I must admit, you play the part admirably.”
Jonathan bent down and grabbed some. “Mmm! This is so delicious. I absolutely love cotton candy!” He grabbed another clump and put the whole thing in his mouth. “Wait until my sisters find out about this.” (For a split second, he thought about his mom’s instruction not to talk with your mouth full.)
The cotton candy melted so sweetly inside his mouth. Then fresh clumps quickly replenished the dissolving morsels. With his mouth full again, he said, “My sisters are gonna think I’m the greatest brother in the whole wide world when I show them all this.”
“Stop babbling, you little housebreaker. KEEP UP!” The Cherub was way ahead now and seemed to disappear inside the rolling billows.
Jonathan skipped his way through the billows trying to catch up. After some effort, he finally broke through the density. To his great surprise, there was a gigantic Ferris wheel not too far away, only a portion of which poked through all the fluff.
“Holy cannoli! So that’s the Wheel you were talking about. Man! I’ve never been on a Ferris wheel like that.”
“What a liar,” said the Cherub, shaking his head.
“But where’s the rest of it?” Jonathan asked.
“I don’t know how you found out about the Castle,” said the Cherub, disregarding the question. “And I don’t know how you were able to break out of the enclosure—which means you disobeyed the instructions to remain seated until the Ride comes to a complete stop; which is all fine and dandy, except that you had to go and stick your head in these clouds!”
“Clouds?” Jonathan said. “But clouds are up…up in the—”
“Sky,” blurted the Cherub, clapping his hands. “That’s right. Clouds are in the sky. You are so very clever.”
“I’m at a Castle, way up in the air!” Jonathan shouted. “With cotton candy clouds!”
Jonathan dove into the clouds just as if he had dived into a swimming pool, but then the thought of being so very high up slightly overwhelmed him. What if he fell through?
“This is so awesome!” he said. “It just keeps getting better and better.”
They arrived at a booth with a sign on it which read, The Superlative Sky Wheel. There was another sign on a nearby gateway that read, Enter.
“Fortunately, I’m pretty tall for my age if there’s a height restriction on this ride.”
“There’s no height restriction,” the Cherub said.
“Even if there was,” Jonathan said, “and I wasn’t tall enough, I’m sure you’d let me ride this one time.” Then he came to the hopeful conclusion that “Even if I can’t, I’d have plenty of fun bouncing around on these clouds and eating all this candy.”
“I see we can be a bit talkative,” said the Cherub, stepping into the booth. He leaped up and sat down on the window ledge. “Alright, little trespasser, let me see that ticket of yours.”
“Enough is enough! Knock off the shenanigans and show me the ticket!”
“I don’t know that I have a ticket.”
Jonathan nervously checked each and every pocket on his outfit.
“Whatever. Never mind the stupid ticket. In any event, you’re only going back down. (Not that I would send you up, that’s for sure!) Get on, and get out of here.”
“Ah, thanks,” Jonathan said.
“Please, don’t mention it,” the Cherub replied.
Jonathan stepped into the cage, closed the door, and sat down. “This is unbelievable!” he said.
The Cherub then gave a hearty instruction to “Keep all hands and feet inside the ride at all times and remain seated until it—now what in the world have I just said! What do I care about the rules! Do whatever you want. Ha! Just don’t let me ever see you snooping around here again.”
Jonathan gave the kind of look that said, “If you say so.”
Suddenly, the ride began to move. It moved downward. Down into the clouds. And after a rather weird and wonderful journey through cotton candy—Jonathan made sure to grab even more to stuff in his pockets—the ride finally poked through.
Jonathan had an eagle’s eye view of the wonderful world below.
The Tiger’s Challenge
After what seemed like forever, the Wheel finally approached the platform and exit stairs. To Jonathan’s great surprise there was a Tiger leaning against the rail with his arms folded and a sucker in his mouth. He was wearing a Victorian cutaway coat, pinstriped pants, and a top hat.
“Boy, your eyes are huge with wonder,” said the Tiger, the ride coming to a complete stop.
The Tiger opened the cage door.
“To be honest, sir,” said Jonathan, stepping out, “I’m amazed at this giant Ferris wheel, plus the fact that I’m actually talking to a Tiger. You see, one doesn’t meet a talking Tiger where I’m from.”
“Holy Carry-Us-All!” the Tiger said.
“Now that’s the thtupideth fing I ever heard!” someone shouted.
It was a Beaver. He had a proud grin that displayed two humongous front teeth. He was standing on the ledge of a nearby concession stand advertising hotdogs and soft drinks.
Close by was a Baboon in pink bobby socks making a banana split.
“Wahoo!” howled the Baboon. “No talking Tigers! Now I’ve heard it all.”
The Tiger put his paw on Jonathan’s shoulder. “So it would be fair to say that you’ve never stepped foot into the Realm of Roundabout?”
“No—I mean yes, it would be fair to say that,” Jonathan explained. “But no, I’ve never stepped foot into this roundabout place. I just came from my house—I mean I think it was my house. I know I was in my own bedroom and that I climbed out of my own bed. My goodness! I don’t even know what to tell you, sir, other than that I got on this Ride from the clouds way up there.”
The Beaver and the Baboon were both bent over laughing.
“Youngster, it looks like you’ve lost your mind,” the Tiger said. “Methinks it’s fair to say that young boys don’t just come down from the clouds like raindrops to the ground, just saying.”
“Hoo hoo hoo. Look at him! He acts like everything’s fine,” cried the Baboon, trying to catch his breath, “but I betcha deep down he’s got a wedgie!”
The Beaver and the Baboon burst into laughter again. Then the Beaver hurled a handful of hotdogs at Jonathan, which made the Baboon fall to the ground in fits and stitches.
Not at all amused, Jonathan stepped down from the exit stairs and looked up. He couldn’t believe his eyes. “The Superlative Sky Wheel is even bigger than the Ferris wheel around the lake in Darien,” he said.
The Sky Wheel was stationed amidst the wondrous trees and flowers that bedecked the Realm of Roundabout. There was an old-fashioned buttered popcorn machine with two front legs and a set of wheels in the back, near the bottom of the stairs. A brick road began at the Ride and made its way along a winding path which disappeared into a forest of trees. The street sign read, Heritage Trail.
The Tiger took a lick of his sucker and stroked the fur of his face. “So strange, I must admit,” he said. “I suppose it would be unfair not to admit that I could be losing my mind just as well because I cannot for the life of me recall seeing you before.—Mighty Wurlitzer! Your hand isn’t stamped!”
“What! No thtamp!” the Beaver said. “He’s a mathterful thwindler I tell ya! You better be careful; I betcha he bites.”
“Oh, no,” Jonathan said. “I don’t bite, and I’m no swindler either. My conscience is clear, I promise.”
“You know what they say, though,” the Tiger said, “a clear conscience is a sign of a bad memory. That wouldn’t be fair sneaking past me on the big Wheel without your hand being stamped.”
“I promise I didn’t sneak past you, sir,” Jonathan said. “I give you my word, and my dad says a man is only as good as his word.”
“Well, well, in all fairness to your dad,” the Tiger said, “I want to assure you he’s absolutely right.”
“Hoo hoo hoo. You’re under investigation,” the Baboon said. “I smell a conspiracy.” (Jonathan was sure that what the Baboon smelled were the rotten, unpeeled bananas he had used to make his banana split.)
“Oh, yeth,” the Beaver said. “There’s thumting huggermugger going on, Jumbo.”
“At any rate,” the Tiger said, “I don’t know how in the whirligig you got here, but I’m gonna give you the benefit of the doubt.” The Tiger put out his paw. “Welcome to Roundabout. My name is Mr. Danbury, but everyone calls me Sneaky.”
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Sneaky. My name is Jonathan.”
“Pleasure to meet you, Jonathan. Jonathan, this is Mumbo. And this is Jumbo.”
Jonathan nodded his head. “Nice to meet you both.”
“I with I could thay the thame, but I can’t,” said the Beaver. “Upon my honor, it ith no plether at all.”
The Baboon just turned his back and folded his arms.
“Say, let me ask you, Jonathan,” the Tiger said. “Are you of the County Fair Style, the Philadelphia Style, or the Coney Island Style?”
Jonathan didn’t understand the question, but ventured to answer anyway. “Well, I do like all sorts of styles.”
The Tiger then asked Jonathan, “Could it be that you are a Looff?”
Thinking the Tiger said “aloof,” Jonathan replied, “I suppose there’s a chance. But I can’t say I feel standoffish or anything.”
“Fair enough,” the Tiger said. “I thought I’d ask.—At any rate, I’m the Sky Wheel attendant. Like my flashy badge? It’s my job to check the hands of those who want to hop aboard this Ride. Again, it’s so strange that your hand isn’t stamped. How in the whirligig you got on this ride I’ll never know! One thing I do know is there is no way you’re getting back on this Ride until your hand is stamped, do ya hear?”
“Absolutely,” Jonathan said.
“And not by any old ink stamp either,” the Tiger added. “I can detect counterfeit stamps, you know. Every now and then someone tries to sneak on the Ride with some fake ticket someone sold them.”
“But the Wheel is my way home,” Jonathan said. “At least I think it is. I don’t know what to think anymore; this is all so weird.” Then, glancing upwards, Jonathan began to think out loud, “That curious creature won’t be very happy to say the least, if I show up again.”
The Tiger chuckled. “Young man, I do believe you are that curious creature. The Superlative Sky Wheel is all our way home! That is why you’ll need to get in touch with the Queen.”
“Yes, the Lady of Red Roses. You’ll be sure to come across her, and she’ll stamp your hand, no doubt.”
“I hope it doesn’t cost too much because all I have on me is some loose change, to tell you the truth.”
“Oh no, no; to tell you the truth, it’s free,” the Tiger said with a wink.
“But this is the biggest Ferris wheel I’ve ever seen in my life,” Jonathan said. “How can something so awesome cost nothing at all?”
“Oh, but it did cost something,” the Tiger replied. “Don’t misunderstand me. The Craftsman paid for it all. Every bit of it. When it was finished, he went ahead and bought up all the tickets himself. Said he wanted everybody to have the pleasure of taking a ride beyond the blue, free of charge, if they would only receive the Sky Wheel stamp.”
“Then why would anybody try to sneak on the ride?” Jonathan asked.
“I don’t know,” the Beaver interjected. “You tell uth, you little gatecrasher.”
“Treacherous,” the Baboon said. “Absolutely treacherous. There’s gonna be a thorough investigation, Mumbo. Hoo hoo hoo.”
“You tell em, Jumbo,” the Beaver said. “A furough invethdigation.”
The Tiger then pulled out his pocket watch. “Well, well, I think it’s time for me to get another sucker. Mmm mmm. Suckers are absolutely delicious.—I’m so sorry; pardon my manners. Would you like a sucker, my friend?”
“Oh, no thanks. I actually have a clump of cotton candy left in my pocket here.”
“Holy Carry-Us-All! Where in the whirligig did you get cotton candy?”
“When I was at the Castle. There were clouds of cotton candy everywhere that you could eat from nonstop and never have to worry about running out.”
“Castles and cotton candy clouds! There we go again!” the Tiger said, with his paw to his forehead. “But you’re telling me that you really have cotton candy in your pocket?”
“Uh-huh. See, I grabbed this handful as I was passing through the clouds.”
“And that is all the cotton candy that you have left?”
“Yep. I ate all the rest on the way down.”
“Self-centered schoolboy!” the Baboon said.
“I’ll tell you what,” the Tiger said, “seeing that it would be unfair for me to ask you for some of that cotton candy, which is the only thing tastier than these suckers I’ve got, I challenge you to a game of Checkers, the winner taking all. How about that?”
Jonathan didn’t quite understand the logic of the Tiger’s challenge, so he hesitated to answer.
“He’s afraid of loothing,” the Beaver said. “That’s why he cheaths.”
“Well, no,” Jonathan replied. “I’m actually a champ at Checkers; it’s just that—”
“So you say you’re a champ, eh?” said the Tiger. “Well so am I. And since there can only be one champion in Roundabout, then it would only be fair to settle this matter once and for all. Do you accept the challenge?”
Jonathan patted the front of his coat, not really knowing what to do. He would have been willing to share his cotton candy.
“Very well,” the Tiger said. “I find that you are a very fair-minded chap. Now let’s get started at once.”
The Tiger quickly set up a table and chairs next to the old-fashioned popcorn machine and then placed the board and pieces on the table. The Beaver and the Baboon gathered around the table as well. The Baboon remained standing, while resting one foot on a chair right beside Jonathan, wanting to show off his pink bobby socks. The Beaver, however, had an open can of beans, and made as if he were going to spill them on Jonathan’s head.
The Tiger shook his head. “You’re a Beaver; not a Badger.”
“Ah, come on, Thneaky. You thpoil all the fun,” the Beaver replied.
With the pieces fast in their places, the game was set to begin. Since the Tiger handed Jonathan the dark pieces, Jonathan assumed that he was to go first since that was customary. So he started to make his move.
“Why should you be the one to go first?” the Baboon asked.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Jonathan said. “Mr. Sneaky gave me the dark pieces, so I assumed he wanted me to go first. That’s how I’m used to playing.”
“I’ve never heard of such a rule before, dark going first,” the Baboon said.
“What did I thay, Jumbo?” the Beaver said. “He’s a mathterful thwindler.”
“How about this,” the Tiger said, “since you were the one to go first—in all fairness, that is what you just said, right?—and since the Craftsman once said ‘the first shall be last,’ then it would only be fair to let me make the first move, wouldn’t it?”
Jonathan was baffled by the Tiger’s line of reasoning. But he really didn’t have any problem letting him go first, so he turned the board around and accepted his light pieces. “You go ahead, then, Mr. Sneaky.”
“Oo oo,” said the Baboon, patting the boy on the head. “How nice of you.”
“Be careful, Jumbo,” the Beaver whispered. “You’re really cloath to his teef.”
The game began, and the Tiger and the boy alternated moves a few times. Then the Tiger made another move, at which moment Jonathan politely objected.
“Oh, I’m sorry, Mr. Sneaky, but you can’t move that piece there.”
“Why not?” asked the Baboon.
“Well, according to the rules, if a jump can be made, then it must be made. See, he was able to jump over this piece right here and take it.”
“That’s the thtupideth fing I’ve ever heard,” the Beaver said.
“Well, well, I don’t mean to be contrary,” the Tiger said, “but that move wouldn’t be fair.”
“Why wouldn’t it be fair, Mr. Sneaky?” Jonathan asked. “That’s the rule.”
“I’ve never heard of thuch roolths as you play by,” the Beaver said. “Why would he want to jump your peeth, only to have you turn around and jump two of hiths?”
“My dad says that’s part of the strategy of the game,” Jonathan explained. “I moved here on purpose so that he had to jump my piece; so that I could then jump two of his. That’s strategy.”
“Fella, I don’t mean any disrespect to your father,” the Tiger said, “but what your father taught you is not strategy. That is trickery. And such trickery is just not fair.”
“I’m not trying to be unfair, Mr. Sneaky. That’s just the way we play where I come from.”
“That’s right, where you come from,” the Tiger said. “Where in the whirligig that is, I’ll never know. Trickster, I hate to inform you that your kind do not play Checkers the right way.”
Jonathan was defenseless against the animals’ commanding lack of knowledge. But truthfully, Jonathan wasn’t all that concerned. (He knew he was the better player anyway.) Be that as it may, the boy’s game was quickly spoiled by their bad policy; and that meant the sooner he could lose, the sooner he could be going!
Even so, the Tiger took his time while singing a song, as the Beaver and Baboon danced all around.
Suppose you met a big brown bear
Sitting in your easy chair;
Imagine all the wear and tear!
I dare say that wouldn’t be fair!
Suppose you sat in a barbershop chair
And asked for a trim off your beautiful hair;
But when all was done, your head was bare!
I dare say that wouldn’t be fair!
Suppose you needed dental care,
Your teeth were in such disrepair;
And you had to give up chocolate squares!
I dare say that wouldn’t be fair!
Suppose a sign conveyed a scare,
Because it said, “Of dog beware.”
But behind the fence was a snowshoe hare!
I dare say that wouldn’t be fair!
Suppose you met a millionaire
Who wore expensive underwear,
And yet would not ten dollars spare!
I dare say that wouldn’t be fair!
Suppose you lost a gemstone rare,
And tried to find it with a prayer;
But it seriously made you want to swear!
I dare say that wouldn’t be fair!
Suppose you ate a chocolate éclair
And all you tasted was despair:
There was no cream; just a very long hair!
I dare say that wouldn’t be fair!
The Tiger ended his song, and before long the boy acknowledged his loss, handing over the clump of cotton candy. He proceeded to thank the animals for their welcome into Roundabout.
The Tiger remarked that in fairness he had won the clump of cotton candy, but that in kindness he would divide it notwithstanding.
“Thank you very much, Mr. Sneaky, for giving me back—I mean for giving me half of your cotton candy. I do think it’s time that I should be going.”
“Well, well then. Just follow that brick road right there, and you’re bound to run into the Queen.”
“And don’t fink you can get away,” the Beaver said. “You’re under invethtigation.”
“Wahoo!” the Baboon howled. “And don’t you forget it.”
“You know,” said Jonathan, as he walked away, “this looks like such a fun road. I wonder where it’ll take me.”
The Tiger took out his pocket watch and mumbled, “Time will tell, my friend.” Then putting his watch back, he hollered, “Mighty Wurlitzer! You really haven’t been here before, have you? How in the whirligig you ever showed up here, I’ll never know!” Then after placing his entire winnings of cotton candy into his mouth, the Tiger yelled, “The next time I see you, I wanna see that hand of yours.—Man! This stuff is delicious!”
“See ya later, Mr. Sneaky,” Jonathan said.
The Dog and His Letters
Jonathan wandered along Heritage Trail, taking in all the scenery. Street lamps lined the brick road to light the way at nighttime. Bushes and shrubs were spruce. There were a variety of fabulous trees, some with pink blossoms and some with snowy blossoms. Others were very leafy and seemed to bloom with little gems of sapphire and rubies.
“The grass is so neat,” Jonathan said to himself. “I feel sorry for the one who has to cut it all. I thought Dad made me cut a lot of grass, but this would take me forever.”
Jonathan stuffed the last finger-full of cotton candy in his mouth. He was amazed at how a big bunch could quickly dissolve in his mouth. And while the thought of running out of cotton candy seemed disappointing, the thought immediately gave way to the inspiration of Roundabout.
Several minutes passed. Jonathan noticed a house up ahead. “I wonder who lives there.”
Jonathan began to skip down the street, his dress shoes echoing throughout. He arrived at a mailbox that read, Professor Froth E. Dog, M.A.
Interesting, he thought. What does M.A. mean?
Then looking down at the walkway leading up to the house, Jonathan noticed something out of the ordinary. Each segment of the sidewalk had a letter of the alphabet inscribed in it, beginning with the letter Z. Jonathan began to hop along, pronouncing each letter aloud as he approached the front door. “I bet Mr. Dog has the whole alphabet memorized backwards by now,” he said. (It is quite the engaging spectacle to see a young boy in a tuxedo, hopping along in shiny black shoes.)
Jonathan noticed a nameplate on the door with the same title that was on the mailbox. He then gave a hearty knock. After a few seconds, he could make out a moving silhouette in a window. Jonathan braced himself for the answer. Finally, the door opened.
“Did you not see the sign here that says No Soliciting!”
Professor Dog was certainly that—a Dog. He was a slender Greyhound, in fact. He had a collar around his neck for some reason as well as some decorative bands with dangling tassels.
Jonathan was taken aback by the gruff reception. “Oh, I’m sorry, sir. I’m not soliciting. I was just strolling down Heritage Trail and was curious who lived here.”
“New to the area, are you?”
“To be very honest, Professor, I’ve just arrived.”
“Where are you from?”
“Well…to be very honest—”
“I know, I know,” interrupted the Dog. “I believe you to be a very honest child. You have said that already. You shouldn’t repeat yourself, you know. Go on.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, Professor. What I was t-trying to say was that I’m from—well, that I ventured out from a Castle—”
“A Castle, you say. You must be a very privileged young boy to be staying at a Castle. Then again, a fair-haired child like you is bound to be privileged. Being a boy and all, too.”
“Well, to be very—oops, I almost said it again. Sorry.”
“Apology accepted. Go on.”
“What I was trying to say was—”
“Now there you go again—you’re repeating yourself. I know, I know, you were trying to say something. Stop trying and just say it, please.”
Jonathan didn’t know what to say.
“Go on,” said the Dog. “So you’ve been staying at a Castle. Is this some sort of a resort?”
“Well, n-no; it’s actually my…my home.”
“So you live in a castle?”
“Well, I can’t say for sure I actually live in a Castle.”
The Dog flicked one of his tassels and adjusted his collar. “So you came from a Castle that you don’t in fact live in. Hmm.” The Dog smirked.
“So, tell me, when did you start living in a Castle? I’m sure you didn’t just wake up in one.”
“I know this will seem strange to you, but I was actually in my own bed, in my own bedroom, in my own house. I was reading a book about the history of the Carousel and how a Master Carver used to make all sorts of—”
“Nonsense!” interrupted the Dog. “There is no such thing as a Master Carver. Now you are losing your mind, I can assure you.”
“But there is, sir,” Jonathan said, recollecting every page in the book that he had read. “In fact, you were actually one of the carved pieces.”
“Actually, actually. There you go again, repeating yourself. And, please, stop calling me sir. It’s all nonsense. I can assure you that I’m not a carved piece of workmanship from some alleged Carver. Narrow minded! That’s what you are, wise guy. Be on your guard against books of these sorts which present an extremely absurd theory on the origin of the Carousel.”
Jonathan just stood there on the front steps wanting badly to change the subject. Suddenly, it occurred to him that he had been very interested in all the alphabet letters.
“I’m curious, Mr. Dog, about all of those letters,” he said, pointing to the walkway.
“Well, the explanation for that is quite simple; for you see, I am the Hound of Letters.”
“What about those letters at the end of your name? What does M.A. stand for?”
The Professor lifted up his nose a bit. “It means Master of Astuteness.”
“Yes. It’s along the lines of Perspicacity.”
“Perspicacity, my friend. Or how about Intellectual Judiciousness—I like that. I take great pride in informing you that you are looking at a Master Academic of Conspicuous Intellectuality.”
Jonathan didn’t know what it all meant. He just stood there in bewilderment, paying more attention to the drool that started to dribble down the Dog’s mouth.
“Wit! Brains!” the Dog said. “It means I’m smart, boy!”
Believing the Dog to be about as churlish as the Cherub, Jonathan was just about to wish the Dog a good day and leave when—
“Come with me,” the Dog said. “You seem perplexed. Say, what is your name, boy?”
“My name is Jonathan.”
“Come then, Jonathan. Let me teach you a thing or two about the Whirligig.”
And so the Professor invited Jonathan into his home where he was then offered a seat at a table in the Dog’s study.
“Please, sit down. Care for some snacks? It’s lamb and rice; good with milk, too,” said the Dog, pointing to a bowl of dog food on the table.
“No thanks,” Jonathan replied.
He sat down and observed the Dog’s study. It had an immense library, and it was certainly an alphabetical room. The carpet was designed with emerald and bronze letters. Much of the woodwork had letters engraved in it also.
The Professor walked away momentarily to skim through a wall of books. He sniffed at them with his nose as he made his way through each row.
I’ve never seen someone sniff for a book before, Jonathan thought. This is all so weird.
After a minute or so, the Dog breathed a sigh relief. “Ah, here it is.” He took another good sniff at it, dusted it off, and then brought it to the table.
Sitting down, the Dog intently opened the book while Jonathan waited patiently with his hands folded on the table. After a moment of silence (aside from some grunting and sniffling), the Dog began:
“This book is called The Cosmology of the Carousel. It contains all the essential facts regarding the developmental process of the Merry-Go-Round.” He paused briefly to flip through the pages. “Yes, right here on page 227. This page contains one of the best scientific explanations for the origin of the Carousel. It declares the truth—young boy, are you listening? Look this way! It contains the truth, you see, how, well…let me just read to you a small portion:
‘Through a time-consuming process, the Carousel sprang out of a whirling pile of wood chips, shavings, and saw dust.’
“There you have it, boy.”
“Well, that doesn’t make any sense,” Jonathan said.
“Of course it does,” the Professor replied.
“But how did the Carousel become so nice and put together or painted even? And what about all the parts and gears that I saw in the pictures?”
“Well, you see, it all happened over a very long period of time, of course. In fact, I will show you a helpful equation regarding the Wacky Whirl Theory.”
“The wacky what?”
“The Whacky Whirl Theory. Please don’t tell me you’ve never heard of it. You must live a sheltered life, young man. You see, at some point in time, the pile of wood chips, shavings, and saw dust all began to—why, it all of a sudden began to whirl, of course. Thus leading to the formation of the Whirligig. Now, it will all make perfect sense if you’ll at least consider this formula.”
The Professor got up from his chair and went to the nearby chalk board. He grabbed a piece of chalk from the tray and wrote the following equation on the board:
[(w + s + d) (W)]^T^ = C
He then grabbed a pointer and pointed to the formula on the board while standing off to the side so that Jonathan could see.
“So we have here, Jonathan, a precise formula for the development of the Carousel. You see, w equals wood, s equals wood shavings, and d equals saw dust. Then we have capital W which stands for the Whirl that took place at some point in time. Next, we multiply the summation thus far to the T power—which is the time it took for the Carousel—capital C—to formulate.”
Jonathan bent down to pull up his socks. “Wow, you really are the Hound of Letters!”
“Pay attention!” said the Dog. “To simplify this equation, we can take this portion right here—watch this—and reduce it to p, which means pile.”
Thus, he wrote on the board like this:
(p)(W)^T^ = C
“Don’t miss this now. This is very simple. For you see, it was the wood, shavings, and saw dust that were in a pile…that started to whirl—” as he pointed to each letter intently. “—for a certain amount of time…from which emerged the Carousel. It’s that simple.”
“I wish my teacher would use a pointer like that. Where I’m from, schools don’t even use chalk boards. They’re old fashioned. Maybe I could become a teacher someday. I would use a pointer all the time. That would be cool!”
“Jonathan, are you paying attention? Does this not make sense, boy?”
Jonathan looked annoyed at the Professor, who paused to scratch behind the ears.
“Sorry, Mr. Dog. Nothing you’re saying makes any sense to me.”
“Well, your bias is getting in the way,” said the Dog, leaning heavily against his own bookcase. “Why don’t you at least take this home with you? You are more than welcome to it.”
“I don’t want to offend you or anything, Professor. If you’re gonna give the book away, I’m sure my dad would appreciate it.”
“Yeah. He keeps a box of starter paper next to the wood-burning stove.”
The Professor gave out a little growl. He then walked to a distant corner of the room where a glass tank was, and threw the book in.
“What did you do that for?” Jonathan asked.
“I know this book from cover to cover, you see,” the Dog said. “And since your dad won’t appreciate the book as much as Booker would, I’ll just go ahead and give it to her.”
Jonathan spotted a creature behind the glass. It looked like a gigantic worm. And it made him a bit uneasy.
“What is that?”
“Ah, this is my pet. She is a unique species of Bookworm that scientists say actually developed from a book through a series of changing links, long, long ago. Booker lives off them now. Books are her diet, you see.”
“But why are there still books?”
The Dog scowled.
The creeping thing began to squirm like a fat snake, moving sluggishly toward the book. When it finally reached the book, it began swallowing the entire thing whole, little by little.
“That is disgusting!” Jonathan mumbled.
The Dog wagged his tail, rather admiring his pet.
“If you don’t mind me asking, Mr. Dog—I’m very curious—where did the pile of saw dust come from then?”
“Well…uh…the pile—yes, the pile—it always was, you see!”
“Mr. Dog, the Carver’s the one who made the pile when he was chiseling out all the creatures. That makes a lot more sense.”
The Dog chuckled. “You are talking nonsense. In fact, we’ll have no more of this conversation seeing that you refuse to let go of your narrow-minded notions that you got from some ridiculous book put together by some mindless individuals.”
The Professor then began to recite something from one of his books:
In the beginning there was a begaspus of dustus
That developed into a jumbocious clumpus.
A blistering temperature as hot as a sporse
Finally generated a phenominalistic force.
The fabulous extension of the dynamo-centrix
Produced a pulsion in its quavering quentricks.
Then a skylus was formed that produced a spang,
And then explomicated into the whole shebang.
Then there was a replusterization of soupus
With more splitication of the entire spoofus.
One way or another all the resulting fluketose
Slowly turned into the roundabout cosmos.
The Dog finished his cockamamie excerpt and then assured the boy that it would be best if he would have faith in those who knew a little more about scientific matters. After which, Jonathan decided that he should not exceed his welcome! And so the boy in his tuxedo and shiny black shoes bid farewell to the Hound of Letters and continued on his whimsical adventure in Roundabout.
The Frog and His Coat
Jonathan was in such good spirits again moseying along the brick road. He noticed a little adjoining street ahead. The sign on the corner read, Herschell-Spillman Drive.
“I think this road’s calling my name,” he said.
So Jonathan ventured off Heritage Trail and followed the little road into some beautiful countryside. Trees were scattered throughout, and patches of yellow, blue, and orange wildflowers were sprinkled along some wooden fences. The chirps of birds and the whistle of a neighboring train filled the air with a melody that warmed Jonathan’s heart.
The road became a boulevard of overarching trees and eventually led Jonathan over a covered bridge and into a vast setting of well-groomed lawns and hedges. There was also a wealth of cedar trees, pine trees, birch trees, cherry trees, and apple trees. (As a matter of fact, Jonathan sank his teeth into a delicious apple he picked from a tree by the road.)
The road came to an apparent end at a large pool encircled by a stone balustrade. There was a marble fountain in the center of the pool. A hefty pedestal held a large bowl with a sweetheart couple in the center, gazing at each other. There was an inscription in the pedestal that read:
Leaning on values eternal.
Why hiss at time?
Where’s a nova’s trace?
Jonathan chose one of the walkways that branched out from the fountain and followed it in and out of the trees and friendly sunshine. The walkway led to a wooden bridge that stretched over a little stream. He continued to wander about, taken with the scenery, when a sudden noise snapped him out of his spell.
Halted in his tracks, Jonathan traced the sound to some rose bushes on his left. He stared with eyes and ears of expectation.
But nothing happened.
He finally concluded that it was his imagination. So he started to walk again when out of nowhere there leaped a life-size Frog into the air, over the roses. It landed on all fours onto the walkway, right in front of the startled boy.
“Greetings,” the Frog said.
“Holy cannoli!” Jonathan cried. “You scared me half to death!”
“I’m so sorry. It’s not often that I see a boy strolling through my gardens. I couldn’t help but seize the opportunity. Forgive me for alarming you; it’s just so fun to startle folks.”
The Frog stood up on his hind legs. He was wearing a classy red tailcoat as well as a pair of trouser shorts and a bowtie. He was certainly plump, but well-built. And in such a genteel manner, the Frog gave a little bow.
“Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Mr. Greene. And your name is?”
“My name is Jonathan.” He was trying to obey his mother’s instruction to hold eye contact with the person you are conversing with, but he couldn’t help but glance at the Frog’s coat. (And besides, his mother never said anything about holding eye contact with a Frog.)
“What’s wrong? Never seen a Frog with tails?” he joked, noticing Jonathan’s obvious curiosity.
“It is a very nice coat.”
“You bet. I purchased it from Red Riggings and Things, a pint-sized store not too far from here, right on Oliver Street. It’s where I got this matching bow tie. Do ya like it? Both were on sale with fifty percent off; so it only amounted to a week’s earnings. Hey, a green Frog knows a red deal when he sees one,” he added with a wink. “But hey, you don’t look so bad yourself. Where did you get your tails?”
“Well—.” Jonathan paused. He didn’t really know where he got his tux.
“You’re way too young to be forgetting things,” the Frog said. “You don’t remember where you got such nifty clothes?”
“To tell you the truth,” Jonathan said, “I got out of bed this way after I—”
“You sleep in your clothes too? Shew!” said the Frog, wiping his brow. “I thought I was the only one.” He leaned in to the boy. “Hey, your secret’s safe with me,” he whispered, as if he was telling a secret himself. (Jonathan fought hard not to giggle at the Frog.) “So what is it that brought a young boy like you this way?”
“It’s sort of a long story, really. All I can say is that I got out of bed in this Castle—”
“Yeah. I was in a Castle. I always wanted to be in a Castle, you know.”
“So your dream came true!”
“That’s right. It did. So I’m in a Castle, and I get out of bed—”
“And?” The Frog’s eyes were bulging.
“Well, from there I started on this adventure which led me to the Sky Wheel—”
“You didn’t ride the Sky Wheel, did ya?”
“What! You rode the Sky Wheel!”
Jonathan nodded his head.
“No way! I’m too afraid of heights. Ooh! The thought of it gives me the heebie-jeebies,” said the Frog, shaking all over.
“Oh, it was awesome!”
“Did you look down?”
“Of course,” Jonathan said with a big smile. “That was the best part.”
“Oh, my stars! You’re braver than I, Gutsy. Either that or you’re nuttier than a fruitcake. No thank you. I rather like it down here,” he said, patting the ground.
“Well, I can tell you this much,” Jonathan said, “staying down here wouldn’t be such a bad idea with all these gardens and trees and flowers and all.”
“Ah! You like it, huh?” The Frog stretched out his arms as if he were displaying a kingdom.
“I do,” Jonathan said. “I think it’s wonderful. And these rose bushes are so beautiful; my grandmother would absolutely love them.”
“That they are, my friend,” the Frog said. “They remind me of a poem that Cicero Valentino wrote to his newlywed.”
The Frog closed his eyes, placed his hands over his chest, and proceeded to recite the poem from the depth of his soul:
I love the rose—
The beauty she possesses,
The warmth with which she blesses
Whenever I cross her path.
I love the rose—
A careful look will find
Her strength wrapped up in loveliness;
Her intricate design.
I love the rose—
With honor she is clothed.
Even the wind whispers softly,
“Of all flowers she is queen.”
I love the rose—
Her voice that draws me nigh.
‘Tis my heart that grows more fond
With each single passing by.
I love the rose—
That lovely flush of red.
Amidst the somber shadows,
She brings me joy instead.
I love the rose—
Her gentle peddles, majesty;
With virtuous spirit and mystique.
She ponders paths of peace.
I love the rose—
Her love outshines the rest;
And whenever I hold the rose
My heart, it is so blessed!
The Frog finished his recital, but kept his hands close to his chest for several moments, looking intently at the sky.
Not wanting to break up the Frog’s contemplation, Jonathan said nothing.
Finally, the Frog came around.
“So I take it you met Sneaky?”
“I did,” Jonathan said. “He’s an interesting creature to say the least. Very straightforward I must say.”
“That’s fair to say,” said the Frog, raising his eyebrows.
Jonathan smiled. “I also met Mumbo and Jumbo.”
“Aren’t they just a precious pair, those nincompoops!” The Frog then turned about, pretending he was addressing a multitude. “Extra, extra, read all about it! ‘Source Says Pigs Flew Away!’” The Frog shook his head, then turned to Jonathan. “Might as well be shouting Gardyloo! before the leaks hit the streets.”
“It was so weird,” Jonathan said, still giggling over the Frog’s impersonation. “The Beaver actually brought a can of beans to the table when me and the Tiger were setting up Checkers.”
“Yeah, you better watch out for that Beaver and his beans, if you know what I mean,” the Frog said. “‘Cause if you don’t catch my drift, you’ll be sure to catch his.”
“Well, he threatened to spill the beans on me. And before that, he actually threw hotdogs at me.”
“Doesn’t surprise me, those bullies.”
“I also met Professor Dog,” Jonathan continued. “He’s interesting, too; though in a different way than the Tiger.”
“Interesting? Ha! You can say he leads a Dog’s life,” the Frog replied. “He’s a little crazy, to boot. I’d say he’s mad as a Hatter. Or a March Hare for that matter.”
Jonathan snickered. “You’re a good rhymester.”
“Hey, that reminds me!” the Frog said. “I wrote a song recently and I would love to sing it to you. Would you be so kind as to allow me the opportunity to practice singing before a crowd?”
“This isn’t really much of a crowd; but if it makes you happy, sure. Let us all hear it!” Jonathan said, clapping his hands.
“Gee, thanks, Gutsy. Well, HERE GOES EVERYONE!”
Then in a moment, the Frog had a serious look of concentration on his face as he prepared his heart and soul for what he deemed to be a very special occasion. He nervously readjusted his red coat and gave the bowtie one final pluck. Then with arms motioning as if he were an Irish tenor, he started to warble with all his might.
I am the Frog with the stylish red coat,
With a sincere song that I seriously wrote.
In this pond, you can see I’m in need of a boat
To transport the Frog with the stylish red coat.
I am an amphibian with incredible skill:
Look at me now, this great crowd I can thrill.
I humbly add on a more humble note,
I’m just a Frog with a stylish red coat.
Without a doubt, I am a breathtaking prize!
The ladies claim it’s my two bulging eyes.
What can I say? One day I awoke
Just an ordinary Frog with a stylish red coat.
I like a challenge—I can balance (even when mad!),
Resting one foot on a green lily pad.
By the way, if you ever have a Frog in your throat,
You can bet it doesn’t have a stylish red coat!
I’ll trade my mug for a golden chalice,
When life improves from pond to palace.
Pardon me please, as I modestly gloat:
I am that Frog, you know, with the stylish red coat.
I have a talent that is stunningly rare:
With my tongue I can snatch a fly from the air.
When I run for office, just cast your vote
For the only Frog with a stylish red coat.
I’ll tell you a secret, if you can keep it likewise:
I watch my weight, and keep an eye on my size.
For breakfast I eat just one fly with one oat;
That’s why I can fit in this stylish red coat.
My stardom will rise far above the Giraffe.
Just imagine this—my own epitaph!
All will read these words, when I finally croak:
“Here lies the Frog with the stylish red coat!”
After the last stanza of extraordinary passion, Mr. Greene gave a bow before the make-believe crowd.
“Superb,” said Jonathan, clapping his hands halfheartedly. He had scarcely saved himself from saying encore by accident. Holy cannoli! As if he hadn’t already sung the entire day away!
“You think it’s alright, huh? It needs a little work, I know. But in just a matter of time, my exceptional singing ability will escort My Lyricalness all the way to the Awards. Perhaps I can be as gutsy in front of a crowd as you are on the Sky Wheel. What do ya think?”
Jonathan nodded his head. “I can definitely see you’ve got a passion for songwriting.”
It was a bit awkward because the boy had a strong suspicion the Frog was waiting for something more. The Frog just stood there staring at him with arms folded, tapping his foot. Finally, he said:
“I do have a backup plan, ya know.”
“A backup plan?”
“Yeah, just in case I never make it in the Mainstream.”
“You have a problem swimming?”
“No, not that kind of stream, silly. I’m talking about the Mainstream. You know, singing at the town circle; having your name and picture posted in the Carnival District.”
“Oh, I see. So what’s your backup plan?”
“Taking the gold medal in the Leap Frog Contest. I’m such a natural at it, you know.”
“There are leap frog contests here?”
“Of course. There are contests every Leap Year. And I’m in tremendous shape physically; just look at my legs.” The Frog lifted his trousers a tad. “Just imagine…I thought if I really get lucky, maybe I could sing one of my songs during the competition. Perhaps it could earn me some brownie points with the judges,” he added with a wink. “Or maybe I can even invent a competition graded on both jumping and singing! Isn’t that a grand idea, Gutsy?”
Jonathan patiently listened as the Frog proceeded with his most recent idea, pretending to be the judges of his make-believe competition. Did he sing from his stomach as he leaped into the air? Did he sustain the finishing note through the completed jumps? Did he croak at the proper intervals? How about that stylish red coat? Mr. Greene scores big-time in the categories of outstanding attire and fantastic matching skills!
Jonathan could no longer hide his disinterest for any more such chitter-chatter. At least not while standing still in one spot. He very badly wanted to carry on his adventure.
“You look like you could use a little fun and games,” the Frog said.
“That sounds like fun to me!” Jonathan replied.
The Frog then placed his arm around the boy. “No time to fiddle-faddle. We’ll make our way to Thompson Street and see if Rece is up for some sport. It’s just a hop, skip, and a jump from here. What do you say, Gutsy?”
“That’s what I thought. Hey, we’re brothers under the skin, you know.”
And so off the two went—the boy in his tux, and the Frog in his coat.
The Frog began to sing very loudly, and it rather embarrassed Jonathan. He looked all around to see if anyone was watching. And even if no one was watching, no doubt they could hear:
I’m craving now a green banana split:
This trial with my sweet-tooth will not quit.
Eleven scoops of ice cream sounds so fit,
As well those yummy cherries (with the pit!).
So give me ice cream, give me soda now;
And pray that I will never gain somehow!
‘Cause if I cannot fit inside my coat,
With my own tears, I’ll make an ice cream float!
But wait! I think I know what I will do—
I’ll have my coat and eat my ice cream, too!
And after my dessert, I’ll clear my throat,
Then jog five miles in my stylish coat!
A Game of Hopscotch
The jabbering Frog escorted Jonathan to Thompson Street. The neighborhood was full of parks and playgrounds with slides, swing sets, and teeter-totters. There was a baseball field in a fenced-in area, along with several concession stands. After crossing a set of railroad tracks, the two came to a string of houses snuggled by plump trees and decorated with colorful balloons that fluttered in the breeze. Painted carousel horse figures, mounted at the top of some tall poles, gazed down upon the passersby below.
Soon, they approached what seemed to Jonathan to be an old factory workshop. The number 180 was displayed on the door.
“Rece is sure to come out and play,” said the Frog, as he availed himself of the doorknocker.
In a matter of seconds, the door swung open and a Rabbit appeared. He had brown hair, long-stretched ears, and a prominent nose.
“Greetings, Rece,” the Frog said. “Allow me the pleasure of introducing to you a new friend, Jonathan.”
“Delighted to meet your acquaintance, Jonathan.”
“Same here, sir.”
“Please, no need to address me with sir,” said the Rabbit, clearly displeased.
“Oh, I didn’t mean any harm,” Jonathan said. “Wouldn’t want to be a bother on our very first meeting.”
“Did I just hear you say bother, with a ‘b’?—Yes, I thought so. I’m not sure where you’re from, young man, but it’s not bother; it’s p-pother. Goodness gracious, you create a snag like that, and before long, you’ll be unraveling the entire fabric of our language.”
“Well, I didn’t mean to make such a pother calling you sir,” stated Jonathan. “It was only out of respect, mister.”
The Rabbit rolled his eyes. “Where did you find this guy, Greene?”
“Easy there, Rece. Give the boy a little break now. Jonathan is visiting the area and is looking for some sport—not a lecture on speech. So what do you think, my friend? Are you up for a game of Hopscotch, us three?”
A smile crept across the Rabbit’s face. He wholeheartedly agreed to the contest. After all, Hopscotch was his game and he was the champ. The Rabbit thought it would be fun to beat his pond-slurping friend and the new little smarty-pants. So the three made their way to a side street where there was a diagram already etched in the road.
The sequence of players was agreed upon: Jonathan would go first (since the schoolboy hasn’t a chance, thought the Rabbit), then the Frog, then the Rabbit.
“Let the contest begin!” Rece announced.
So Jonathan began and tossed the puck (as it was called in Roundabout) onto space 1. Jonathan proceeded with ease, merely observing the procedure of the game.
He advanced to space 2.
Then to 3.
Then to 4; hopping along on one foot, sometimes two, depending on the arrangement of the spaces.
After that, Jonathan gained space 5 as well.
The Frog and the Rabbit glanced at each other, revealing a touch of surprise.
It was now time for 6.
Jonathan tossed the stone. But it went out of bounds.
The Frog and the Rabbit let out a little sigh of relief, and then brushed Jonathan’s advancement off as a round of luck.
“You’re up, Greene,” the Rabbit said. “Let’s see those lanky legs go to work.”
The Frog advanced from space 1 to space 2.
He then tossed the stone to 3. The stone landed just shy of the line between 3 and 5.
“That’s pretty close, Greene. You’re looking a bit shaky already,” the Rabbit said.
The Frog hopped his way to 3 and then kicked the stone (that’s how they played) back to the starting baseline.
“Now easy there, Mr. Rece. Be not so quick to comment…sir.”
Jonathan couldn’t help but giggle out loud, which evidently got the Rabbit’s attention, the way his one ear twitched. He looked at Jonathan with a trace of a smile.
“Alright, green fella. Toss the puck.”
The Frog did so, landing successfully on 4. He hopped about the numbered spaces in his own Froglike manner. (You know exactly what I’m talking about if you have ever watched a Frog play Hopscotch!) However, when he kicked the stone back to the baseline, it went out of bounds.
“No! I can’t believe I missed that!”
“Better luck next time,” said the Rabbit, as he stepped up to baseline.
He then tossed the stone and quickly gained space 1.
Then he gained space 2.
Then 4, hopping along with the ease of a Rabbit.
Before long, he gained 5 and was about to attempt 6 where Jonathan ended up.
With the stone now in hand, he paused for a moment to take a breath, and then tossed the stone. But did it make it past the line?
The Frog immediately walked over to get a better look. “All good things must come to pass, Rece. Looks like your turn’s over.”
“No it’s not. That, my amphibian friend, is in the square,” the Rabbit said.
“Excuse me. That my mammalian friend is on the line! That’s not in the square. This is the square; this is the line. It’s on the line.—Jonathan, come over here. Is this not on the line?”
The boy walked over. After a brief consideration, he gave the Rabbit a look that seemed to favor the Frog’s assertion.
“Alright, alright,” the Rabbit said. “You don’t have to go about making a federal case out of it. It’s the boy’s turn then.”
So Jonathan walked up to the base line and focused on space 6.
He drew his arm back. He threw the stone.
It missed again. Jonathan just shook his head.
“No luck on 6, huh boy?” the Rabbit said. “Your turn, Greene.”
The Frog tossed his stone. It had a prosperous landing and without any difficulty at all, he kicked the stone back to the baseline.
He tossed again. The stone landed well on space 5. When he got to 5 though, he started to lose his balance a bit.
“Dear me!” the Rabbit said. “You’re about as clumsy as an Elephant on crutches.”
“None of your lip!” said the Frog, regaining his balance. He then finished the round with a little “Pshaw!” and prepared himself for 6.
Just then, the Rabbit began to whistle faintly.
The Frog pretended not to hear. He desperately wanted to win space 6. Because if he did, then 7 was almost as sure to be won as well, which meant he would advance quickly to 8. (6 was a smaller triangular space, whereas 7 was a large rectangle that afforded much more room for error.)
The Frog was now in his ready stance, looking almost as serious as when he had sung to Jonathan. At last, he motioned to toss the stone, and when he finally did so—
“YIKES!” the Rabbit screamed.
The Frog jerked as he threw the stone, and the stone rolled out of bounds.
“RECE! THAT’S CHEATING!”
“Show me the rulebook, Greene,” said the Rabbit calmly. “Besides, you know I always win anyways. It’s all the same.”
“Just wait until your turn…you…you…COTTON BALL!” (The Frog’s skill for comebacks vanished the very moment he became mad.)
“Hey, look,” said the Rabbit. “Greene’s turning red!”
“You better knock it off before I slap you upside your crumpet! You stinkin’ rotten egg!”
There were a thousand things the Rabbit would have liked to come back with, but he was reminded of his turn (not to mention the fact that the Frog looked as if he were about to tackle the Rabbit!), and so he backed off. After another minute or so of more flare-ups and bellyaching, the Rabbit said, “Look. All is fair, Mr. Greene. Feel free to yell when I go to toss the puck. Alright?”
“Oh please. No need to call me mister… sir.”
The Rabbit held his tongue and stepped up to the baseline. At that moment, the Frog, very much not wanting Rece to advance, resorted to a very obnoxious form of distraction, making croaking and rasping sounds.
It was very evident to the Rabbit that the Frog was not going to stop any time soon. So between this and Jonathan’s prayer to “Just go,” the Rabbit made up his mind to carry on. He assumed his comfortable stance and began to motion for the toss (the croaking getting even louder). After several seconds (midst more distracting outbursts), at last, the stone was tossed.
It was good. Which immediately ignited the Frog.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” he said, as he smacked his own leg.
“I told you, Greene. All is fair, my friend.”
The Rabbit hopped about the spaces with ease. He reached 6, kicked back the stone to the baseline, and returned for the next number.
Without wasting much time, Rece decided to ride the momentum. He tossed the stone and it landed perfectly.
“Ridiculous!” said the Frog. “This is the most ridiculous of all stinkin’ ridiculousness! You messed up my turn, Rece! I could’ve advanced!” The Frog pounded his chest emphatically (and then quickly brushed out any wrinkles he might’ve put in his coat).
“Need I remind you,” the Rabbit said, “that you tried to distract me just as well when I went to toss the puck?”
“But you did it first!”
“And you did it second. Except my distraction paid off, and yours…well, not so much.”
The Rabbit finished the round and then got ready to advance.
This time the Frog gave up on his croaking. “What’s the use anyway,” he mumbled.
And just when he thought he felt a glimmer of hope, he looked up, only to see the Rabbit’s stone bounce onto space 8.
“Ah, it’s just a game,” he told himself. “Why do you get so mad, Greene?” He sat down on a nearby bench to relax.
Rece was carefully balancing on the half-circle area of space 8, while preparing his foot to kick back the stone. At last, he kicked back the stone. It made it past the baseline, staying within the boundaries.
The Frog continued to counsel himself. “So big deal. Then he wins. Alright, he always wins; it’s to be expected. Now move on with your life.”
Rece picked up the stone and was about to try for 9. After a moment of intense concentration, the Rabbit finally tossed the stone. The stone landed in 9, but then bounced a little further. It rolled on what might have been the line again. It was difficult to see from the baseline, so the Rabbit started towards the stone.
The Frog likewise leaped from the bench “to make sure Cutpurse here doesn’t help the stone along!”
Jonathan stayed put just in case there would be a dispute about the placement of the stone. And sure enough—
“It’s a fair toss,” the Rabbit said. “Look, it’s in the space.”
“No, it is not a fair toss, sir. You might wanna look into getting some eyeglasses. At this rate, you couldn’t spot a hole in a doughnut if your life depended on it!”
Surprisingly, the Rabbit submitted to the opinion of the Frog without further ado, apparently pleased with his game anyhow. “Have it your way, Greene,” he said, as he patted the Frog on the head.
“My way!” the Frog muttered. “Jonathan, it’s your turn, my friend.” He pretended to roll out the red carpet for the boy.
Jonathan walked up to the base line and tossed the stone. It landed fair in space 6. “Finally!” he said.
“Very good, my boy,” the Rabbit said.
“Pshaw! He’s not your boy,” the Frog muttered back.
Jonathan followed through effectively, giving him a chance to advance.
He tossed the stone again. It landed in 7 with plenty of space. He kicked the stone back to the baseline and finished yet another round.
The Rabbit politely nodded his head to Jonathan.
Without too much care and without delay, he tossed the stone again. It landed first on 7, but then it rolled onto 8 by a few whiskers. He looked back at the other two for their consent.
The Rabbit and the Frog both walked over, and after a moment of scrutiny (more so by the Rabbit), they both nodded approvingly.
So Jonathan hopped his way to 8 and immediately kicked back the stone. It was good.
Now it was time for space 9; high time to advance beyond the Rabbit. Nevertheless, not caring that much (the two friends zapped the spirit out the game), Jonathan tossed the stone. And to his surprise, it was—
“Good!” the Frog shouted. “I can’t believe it!”
The Rabbit’s ears were now crazily twitching.
“Getting nervous, Rece?” the Frog teased. He cared no more about losing. He was beyond that. His newest desire was just to see the Rabbit lose. “Poetic justice!” the Frog said to himself. “That’s all I want. What a marvelous end to my case.” He re-positioned his coat and gave his bowtie a hearty snap.
Jonathan hopped along—on one foot, on two feet, on all the right spaces. He then finished the round.
It was time once again for the toss. Just one more, he thought. (All of a sudden, the game mattered again!)
Jonathan concentrated very hard.
He had stared long enough at space 10. It was time to toss.
“It’s good! It’s good!” the Frog shouted. “All you need is to kick the puck back and the game’s all yours!”
Rece was fuming now. It was clear to him that Mr. Greene just wanted him to lose, no matter how. And though the Rabbit wasn’t saying a word, his face told the story well!
Jonathan hopped space by space until he reached 10. This could be it! he thought.
So did the Frog. His hands were in a praying posture.
With one foot planted…making sure of his balance…positioning his other foot before the stone…Jonathan kicked it back.—
“HE WON! HE WON! HE WON!” the Frog cried. “I CAN’T BELIEVE IT! THE BOY WON!” as he fell to the ground. He rose quickly to his feet, dusted off his coat, and then gave the boy the biggest hug a Frog could ever give, even picking Jonathan up off the ground.
Rece just stood there wiggling his nose, glaring at nothing, shaking his head in disbelief.
With hands raised toward the sky, Jonathan smiled like the sun. He was the new champ, and had defeated the Rabbit.
The Frog then stood on the bench. With one hand upon his heart and the other stretched out before a great crowd of imaginary people, he broke out with his well-loved Cheese Pie Song, singing at the top of his lungs.
First I make a pie crust with a cup and a quarter
Of graham cracker crumbs; then a third cup of butter
That is melted, of course; then I oil a dish,
And press firmly the mixture to the glass (with a wish).
I cream sixteen ounces of yummy cream cheese;
Then I add a quarter cup of sweet sugar to please.
Next, I add my three eggs, beating after each one;
And then stir in a teaspoon of vanilla for fun.
I pour it in the pie pan, for this is a must!
And bake at three hundred degrees with the crust.
After forty-five minutes, (‘til the knife comes out clean)
I set the pie on the counter for minutes nineteen.
For the topping I use sixteen ounces of cream—
The kind that is sour, if you know what I mean;
Then a quarter cup of sugar, and a teaspoon, you see,
Of vanilla is added while I blend, on one knee.
Then I add this dear topping upon my cheese pie
And then I place some pie filling, as I look to the sky:
Oh how the topping and filling make it perfect, no lie!
Then with eyes filled with tears for dessert in my sight,
I say “goodbye” to my pie in the fridge for a night.
It’s the greatest, the best for a pie recipe;
If you struggle to believe me, well, just try it and see!
“Camillus is Coming!”
The Frog’s post-game vocalization went on for about five minutes. Surprisingly, the Rabbit’s anger subsided despite the Frog’s relishing in his loss. He finally decided to give some honor where honor was due. The Rabbit didn’t outright congratulate Jonathan on the victory, but he did give him a token of commendation—he invited the young boy into his home for milk and cookies.
“You too, Mr. Greene—of course,” suggesting that the Frog’s welcome was to be understood sure enough. (They truly were good friends. Just not when they were playing games against each other.) As one would expect, Jonathan was extremely pleased with “such a sweet invitation!”
And so off they went to 180 Thompson Street.
The Rabbit opened the front door. “Come on in. Make yourself at home.” He then closed the door and left for the kitchen. “I’ll be with you shortly.”
The Frog and the boy each decided upon a chair to sit in.
The room was nicely furnished with a velveteen couch and a matching set of plush chairs. There was a decorative mirror on one wall, right above a corresponding shelf. And there was a portrait of a man with a mustache, the name Allan Herschell printed on a nameplate underneath.
At long last, the Rabbit returned, and smiles grew quickly on the faces of the guests.
“There you go, Mr. Greene,” said the Rabbit, handing him his cup of milk and plate of cookies. “And there you go, Jonathan.”
The Rabbit then seated himself in his favorite chair, beside an end table, upon which he set the serving dish.
The three sat there quietly (which meant they were all enjoying the delicious treat very much as well as each other’s company), each with a cup in hand and a plate of cookies nearby.
Jonathan dipped his cookies in the milk and let them soak for some time, while looking around the room until the cookies were ready to eat. Having just the right amount of mushiness about them, he took his long-awaited bite. “Mmm!”
After several minutes, the Rabbit finished his cookies, being the first to do so. Thereupon, he licked his lips, crossed his furry legs, and with his cup in hand, sang a pleasant little ditty.
As soon as he finished, there came a knock at the door. Rece set his cup down on the end table and went to answer it.
“Camillus, you fine Cat. You look like you just swallowed a canary.”
“Hey, just wanna let you know I’m gonna be a few minutes late for our game. I still need to run an errand, but I’ll be back in just a bit.”
The Rabbit had forgotten all about their planned get together and just smiled. “Oh, that’s alright my feline friend. We’ll be seeing you in a little while.”
“Yes, Greene’s here as well as a new friend.”
“A boy!” said the Cat, peeping around the door. “Hello, nice to meet you.” But before Jonathan could reply, the Cat said, “Alright gentlemen, I’ll be back before you can say Salvatore Cernigliaro.”
“Say what?” the Rabbit said.
“Told you so!” said the Cat, walking away.
The Rabbit closed the door and headed for his chair.
“Game?” the Frog asked.
“Yes, I completely forgot about our get together for a game of Chess. Problem is there’s barely enough room to swing the Cat, with all of us here; but we’ll have to make do. Perhaps we can come up with a game that needs four players.”
All three sat there in silence. The Rabbit wiggled his nose, and the Frog tinkered with his bowtie.
Meanwhile, Jonathan examined the cover of a book on the nearby end table and was surprised to find it was written by the Hound of Letters. He decided it was time to satisfy his curiosity, while the other two were sitting there musing. So he picked up the book, folded his legs, and began to read “The Alphabetical History of Some Humorous Humans.”
Addison acquired athlete’s foot and acid reflux when ascending the Alps one afternoon. She blew an alpenhorn for an ambulance and some aspirin, but to no avail!
Benny was a brawny bloke with a bald head and bare feet. He rescued a bawling beauty from a baboon in bobby socks that took a bottle from her baby.
Castor was caught on camera wearing camouflage clothes. He liked to comment on how he could consume cookies and carrot cake without ever counting his calories.
Darsey was a ditsy daredevil who searched for daisies in a desert. She was definitely disappointed when she discovered a dead animal and a dirty diaper.
Edris was an editorialist with enormous elbows who examined the entire encyclopedia. She was extremely educated about elevators, elephants, elderberries, and emery boards.
Florence was a florist whose fingerprints were found on a flask she had filched from a five-and-ten. She was later fined for using funny money to buy fish and fries at a food court.
Greeley was a gambling geezer with gray hair and goose bumps, and had a gorilla in a graduation gown hurl gourds and grapefruit at him.
Hamford was a hairy-chested, hotheaded hillbilly who got the hiccups and heartburn whenever he played the harmonica and ate hardboiled eggs.
Ireen was an Irish woman from Iowa who was irate with the IRS. She once ate ice-cream while picking irises without her eyeglasses and had no idea it was poison ivy.
Jaylene was jittery around jack-in-the-boxes, jet engines, and jump ropes. She once served jambalaya to a June bug in July without her jacket or any jewelry.
Kendrick was called to court for casting a Kaiser roll with ketchup at a kindergartner. He was convicted of kookiness and then got a kick in the keister from a kick boxer.
Lambert drove a land cruiser without a license through the landfill looking for loafers and leotards. He loved to lisp the lines of lullabies to lovely ladies.
Marlow suffered a massive meltdown when a middle-aged man with a mullet and a mustache manhandled him for making a move on the Maid of Honor.
Noland was a nettlesome nitwit who looked noticeably like a Neanderthal in a nightgown and nightcap. He was a nose-picker who nibbled on notebooks and newspapers.
Opalina was an oldish ogre in overalls who hopped on an ostrich to outrun an obnoxious orangutan that threw olives and okra at her.
Pelton was a pesky person who once plucked a pink purse from a passerby, a pretty pencil from a preschooler, and a prickly porcupine from a petting zoo.
Quincy was a quirky woman on a quest to become a queen. She became a quarterback instead when a questionnaire quickly revealed she was not quite qualified.
Renita was a rambunctious receptionist with red hair who raced around in rollerblades, and played ring-around-the-rosy with her pet rhino and razorback.
Serilda was a sizable seamstress with stubble and stiff sideburns who could survive being stranded in Siberia with nothing but a swimsuit and a sandwich.
Tinsley was a troubled teenager with a tiny tattoo of a Tasmanian Tiger playing table tennis on his big toe. He watched television for twelve hours while eating a ton of tootsie rolls.
Unwin was an unmannered uncle who sat under an umbrella tree in an unfashionable pair of unwashed undershorts with an unabridged book he was unable to read.
Varina was a vegetarian who avoided venison, Velveeta cheese, and Vienna sausage with a vengeance, and yet devoured a vast amount of vinegar and vegetable oil.
Wallace had a weakness for warmed-over waffles with whip cream and Worcestershire sauce, and looked like something between a walrus, a warthog, and a wooly mammoth.
Xavier was riding an Exmore pony on an excursion to an exquisite place until he woke up feeling extremely exhausted, slouched over on his exercise bike.
Yola had a yearning for yams and yogurt all year long. She would yell on a yacht down the Yazoo, yodel during the yuletide, and yammer about her yearbooks.
Zuza was a zany zookeeper guilty of zoolatry. She once zonked out in the middle of a zebra crossing, and could smell zucchini in a zip lock bag from the top of a ziggurat.
“Hey, Camillus is Coming!”
(The Frog snapped Jonathan out of his daydream.)
“No kidding,” the Rabbit said.
“No,” said the Frog, “that’s the name of my game. And when Camillus gets here, then he can join in, too!”
Jonathan and Rece both gave puzzled looks.
“While we’re waiting for Camillus to come, we’ll play a game about his coming. First, we have to choose a letter. So, Jonathan, you pick a letter.”
“Um, I don’t know. How about Z?” he said, not really knowing why he picked the letter, except that it was the last letter in the weird book he had just put down.
“Out of all the letters, and you pick the izzard. Pick a different one.”
“Alright, how about L?”
“Much better. Now since I’m the one teaching the game, I’ll say it first: ‘Camillus is coming.’” Then he turned to the Rabbit and said, “Now, you say, ‘How is he coming?’”
The Rabbit repeated the question in a disinterested tone: “How is he coming?”
“Laughing,” the Frog said. “Now it’s your turn, Rece.”
“What do I do?”
“It’s your turn to say to Jonathan, ‘Camillus is coming.’”
“Camillus is coming,”
“How is he coming?” Jonathan asked.
“Now say a word, Rece, that begins with the letter L, and ends with -ing.’”
Rece sat there in deep thought.
“You have to say it right away or you lose,” the Frog said.
The Frog made a face at the Rabbit. Nevertheless, the Rabbit’s answer served the purpose, so the Frog motioned with his hands to keep the game going.
“Camillus is coming,” Jonathan said.
“How is he coming?” Rece asked.
“Leaping,” answered Jonathan, who then turned to the Frog.
“Camillus is coming.”
“How is he coming?”
“Lacing,” the Frog answered.
Thus the game continued. After a couple of rounds, they were all really starting to get into the game, Rece included.
“Lacking,” the Rabbit said.
“Camillus is coming,” Jonathan said.
“How?” the Rabbit asked.
“Um…longing!” Jonathan said.
“Camillus is coming,” said the Frog.
“How?” Jonathan asked.
“Loading,” the Frog answered.
The turn then fell to the Rabbit who said, “Loaning.”
Then to Jonathan who said, “Loving.”
Then again to the Frog who said, “Leveling!” He was becoming extremely animated now, which only roused the competitive nature in his cottontail friend.
“Lying!” said the Rabbit.
“Lending!” said Jonathan.
“Loathing!” said the Frog, who was now taking leaps into the air.
“Loosing!” said the Rabbit, hopping around.
“Leaning!” said Jonathan, unable to stay seated.
“Um…um…l-laboring!” screamed the Frog quite frantically.
“Um…ah…landing!” said the Rabbit with ears shuddering.
“L-lapping!” said Jonathan.
“Um…ah…l-loosing!” cried the Frog.
“Wait! You’re out!” said the Rabbit. “I already said that!”
“Alright. How about—”
“No, that’s not fair,” the Rabbit said. “You just repeated a word; you should be disqualified.”
“Then, leap-frogging,” the Frog said.
“Leap-frogging?—And you gave me a dirty look when I said lollygagging.”
“Just go!” said the Frog.
“What do you mean just go? You should be disqualified.”
“C’mon! GO!” the Frog yelled. “You’re gonna ruin the game.”
“Whatever.—Limiting,” said the Rabbit.
“Laundering,” said Jonathan.
“That can’t be a word,” the Frog said, but before Jonathan could say anything, Rece chimed in.
“It is a word! Ever heard of laundry before? You would have if you ever washed your coat! Now go!”
“Alright, alright. Camillus is coming.”
“How is he coming?”
The Frog’s answer sounded more like a suggestion. “La-di-da-ing?”
“That’s absurd!” said the Rabbit, smacking his hand on an end table. “If anything, ‘La-di-da’ would be an adjective; maybe an interjection. But whatever it is, it’s not a verb, you ignoramus. And you can’t just tag -ing at the end of any old informal word. So you’re out! You already had your break, Greene. You’re out!”
“Well forgive me, Mr. Grammarian! Then, how about lapsing!”
“No! You only thought of that because you just had a mental lapse. You’re out! There’s no way out of it this time, Greene. You’re OUT!”
“Who are you to say I’m out?” said the Frog, turning rather red. “I’m the one that came up with the game in the first place; so I’ll decide whether or not I’m out.”
“Hey, Mr. Greene is coming!” the Rabbit hollered. “How is he coming?” answering his own question. Then he got right in his face, and yelled, “LOSING!”
It was obvious to Jonathan that these funny friends were going to be fighting for quite some time to come, which meant the game was essentially over and without a winner. Which was really frustrating since he wasn’t going to be able to use his next ‘L’ word that he had already prepared. And it would have been such a good one, too. The word was lacquering; something he recalled his father using before. The Frog probably wouldn’t have believed him, but that would have been half the fun in using it. He was positive the Rabbit would have backed him up.
Jonathan sat down where he had been seated prior to all the excitement, and sipped the last few drops of milk that remained in his cup. Meanwhile, the Frog and the Rabbit continued their feud by name-calling and taunting, like two childish creatures.
“You blunt-witted hare!”
“Look who’s talking. You couldn’t pour water out of a bucket if there were instructions on the bottom.”
“Get out my face.—Phew! At least my breath doesn’t stink like a Camel.”
“Well, at least I don’t look like a Camel. You sure ain’t winning any beauty contests, that’s for sure.”
“Now, now, Mr. Grammarian. It looks like you ain’t got no English, sir!”
“And you ain’t got no luck, you sore loser.”
“It’s your two Rabbit feet. Maybe I should carry a couple myself—on a keychain.”
“No, it’s your two luckless legs. Maybe I should eat them for dinner.”
“Maybe I should throw you in a stew, or wear you for winter, you—you—no good dust-bunny!
“You’re the one who’s dusty. I wipe the floor with you every time we compete. You can’t even win a game of Croquet. You swing the mallet like you’re handling a Flamingo!
“Just shut your rabbit-hole! You’re as cocky as the King of Spades!”
“And you’re as cranky as the Queen of Hearts! So whoopty doo!—Ria!”
Just then, there came a knock at the door.
Battledore and Shuttlecock
“Greetings and salutations,” said the Cat.
The Cat had arrived at last, wearing a showy scarf around his neck. Thankfully his coming managed to break up the hostility between the Frog and the Rabbit. (It seems the Cat’s arrival revealed to them the apparent foolishness of their fighting over how Camillus was coming—and now he was come!)
The Frog resorted to fixing his coat and dusting off his shoulders (his way of reclaiming some sort of dignity). The Rabbit, on the other hand, fidgeted with his long-stretched ears, pretending not to pay any attention to the Frog.
“Well, isn’t this a fine how-do-you-do,” the Cat said. “I don’t even want to know.” He pulled up a seat and sat down and just smirked at the two pouting creatures.
After a minute or so, Camillus spoke up. “What, the Cat got your tongue, Rece?”
The Rabbit didn’t reply.
“So what about our game of Chess?”
Rece just shrugged his shoulders.
“Oh, I see. You couldn’t bear to lose another game. I see. Tired of losing, eh? Can’t blame you there.”
“He ought to be tired of losing,” the Frog murmured. “He already lost a game of Hopscotch to the boy earlier.”
“No way!” the Cat said.
The Rabbit gave the Cat a very unfriendly glance. “I’m not really up for a game of Chess right now, okay Camillus?” Then he stared at the wall straight ahead.
“You have got to be kidding me!” said the Cat.
“No, I’m not kidding,” the Frog said. “You should have been there to witness it all.” (The Frog clearly found satisfaction in keeping the subject alive.) “The best part of it all is that Rece didn’t think the boy had a ghost of a chance.”
“I can’t believe my little ears,” the Cat said. “I mean, who would’ve thought?”
“Can we talk about something else, please?” entreated the Rabbit, folding his arms.
“Well, sure. What do you want to talk about then?”
“I don’t know, Camillus. I’m not really in the mood for empty chitchat at the present moment. You all can think of something to talk about, I’m sure. Just tap into the resources of your little brains and have at it.”
“You have got to be kidding me!” the Cat mumbled to himself.
“I’m not pulling your tail,” the Frog whispered. “The boy is a champ, I’m telling you.” Then he gave Jonathan a wink.
But the Cat just couldn’t hold it in. “Not to put too fine a point on it, Rece, but I would have loved to see the look on your face when the boy took the game.”
“Can we talk—about—something—else—PLEASE!” the Rabbit said.
“Alright, alright; settle down. My, oh my! Don’t we have our cottontail in a knotted mess!”
The Rabbit was breathing heavily.
“Say, judging from the cups and the crumbs, you all were eating cookies,” the Cat said.
“Yes,” said the Rabbit faintly. “Would you like some?”
“No thank you. I don’t really have an appetite for them right now. Though it does seem more fun to be eating in silence rather than sitting in silence. But as quiet as this room is, my munching on cookies is sure to sound deafening.”
They all continued to sit there in complete quiet. Even the Cat seemed to be in deep contemplation now, his tail twitching back and forth.
After about five minutes or so, a grand idea suddenly came to him.
“I got just the thing! Who’s up for a game of Battledore and Shuttlecock?”
Abracadabra! As if a magic spell had been cast, the Frog and the Rabbit began to fidget in their seats.
“I’m being serious! Who’s up for the sport? Riley has got to have new feathers by now. It’s been over a year.”
The Frog and the Rabbit began to show small signs of interest, though they tried to repress it with all their might.
“Don’t just sit there with your bare faces hanging out! You know you both want to play. Now come on! Who’s up for a game of Battledore and Shuttlecock?”
In spite of their efforts, it was becoming quite clear that their stubbornness could not prevail against such a strenuous undertaking. One might as well fight against a flood. (And let me assure you, the stubborn dam was now breached by the Cat’s proposal, which meant it would burst before long in an overflow of excitement.) The Rabbit imparted a glance at the Frog that suggested his willingness to forgive and forget. The Frog then returned a look that conveyed an air of leniency.
“How about you, boy?” the Cat asked.
“Well, I’m not really sure how to play.”
“It’s easy. You just grab a battledore, and hit the shuttlecock into the air. It’s that simple.”
“What’s a battledore?”
“You know, like what you hit a Ping-Pong ball with.
“You mean a paddle?”
“Yeah, you could call it that.”
“Okay,” Jonathan answered.
(Normally, the shuttlecock would be a cork with some feathers stuck in it, basically like the birdie, the game piece used in Badminton. However, Roundabout’s version of the shuttlecock was a bit different.)
The Cat continued to explain: “You just have to hit him with your paddle, you see, making sure to get him over Jameson.”
“Who’s him?” Jonathan asked with a scowl.
“His name is Riley. He’s the neighborhood Rooster.”
Jonathan was taken aback, but then thought it must have been some kind of a joke. “And who’s Jameson?”
“He’s the Giraffe; lives around the corner, on Geneva Street. He’s the Height Marker. Always has been.—Gentlemen, we first need to find Riley and Jameson if we’re gonna take part in this fun-filled event. So let us be going!”
And off they went.
First, they sought to secure the Giraffe’s important function in the game. The Giraffe, you see, was essentially the Net that was used to hit the birdie over. Not that anyone really cared that much about hitting him over; just as long as they hit him period, making sure the Rooster didn’t touch the ground.
Soon, the group of friends arrived at the Giraffe’s house (a much taller home as one might expect). They knocked on the door, and to their great joy the Giraffe answered.
“What can I do for you folks?”
“Hey there, you crazy Camelopard,” said the Cat. “You up for a game of Battledore and Shuttlecock?”
“Are you serious, you old Grimalkin? Of course I’m up for it. Can I still be the Net?”
“Are you serious?” the Rabbit said. “Of course you’re the Net.”
“Then what are we waiting for? Let’s get it on!” the Frog shouted.
The Frog and the Rabbit gave one another a high-five.
“Come on, Jonathan! Let’s find Riley!”
All that was needed now was the Rooster. He was the most important part of the game, for without him, the thrill of the game was lost. He lived mostly in hiding, and finding him was part of the enjoyment of the game. Sort of a pre-game show. So the search was on, the fabulous thrill of the game mounting quickly.
“Grab your battledores! It’s time for Battledore and Shuttlecock!”
The entire neighborhood came pouring into the street. It was an upheaval of excitement; all the animals hurrying about with battledores in their hands.
“Find the shuttlecock!” they all cried.
Jonathan was uneasy of a game in which a real bird was used to hit over the marker. “Surely, that’s gotta hurt!” he said to himself. But it occurred to him he didn’t want to be a killjoy; and since the game itself seemed quite fun, Jonathan made up his mind that he would play the game without thinking much of the bird.
“Find the shuttlecock!” they roared over and over again.
It was like one humungous Easter egg hunt. In this case, the egg was the bird. And when the Rooster was found, every person felt they walked away a winner because the discovery of the shuttlecock only meant the real excitement was about to start. (It was the one case where everyone would have been pleased to have gotten a Participation Trophy.)
Jonathan was a tad distracted from the mad hunt, having noticed the newest addition of animals. There were a number of horses, tigers, zebras, kangaroos, and a rhinoceros—all with battledores in their hands, ready for their chance to hit the bird into the air.
Just then, there was a loud shriek. “He’s over here! He’s over here! I found him!”
The Rooster had been hiding in Pine Woods Park. The crowd instantly focused in on the announcer; and without delay, they all made a mad dash in that direction to close in on the bird.
The inevitable catch was made. The arrest was followed by cheerful cries and joyful eyes, midst a flurry of fuzz and feathers, which signified the beginning of the entertainment. The spot of the catch thus marked the spot of the game.
“Divide into two teams!” said the Giraffe, as he assumed his rightful place.
The crowd quickly formed into two teams, not one of them seeming to care about the teams.
“The first to score 21 wins!” said the lofty Jameson, taking great pride in his position. “I’ll be the sole judge of the score, is that understood?”
The animals didn’t care about the score. Keeping score was merely what a counselor prescribed in order to help boost the Giraffe’s self-confidence. In Roundabout, the animals were fascinated with the part of the game which comprised of batting the Rooster, cheering really loud, and chanting their famous Battledore and Shuttlecock rhymes.
“Then let the game begin!” the Giraffe said. He immediately leaned over on all fours, and stretched his neck out horizontally to form a Net.
Instantly, the volleying began, attended by outrageous cries and the sounds of the batted bird. Whack!—Whack!—Thump Back and forth, back and forth, the Rooster was batted in what seemed to be an endless volley between two turbulent teams. Bop!—Thwack!—Smack The intensity of the game, the animals’ passion for their pastime—it all swelled until the feverish crowd finally erupted, bursting forth their raving rhymes.
We love the Realm of Roundabout:
It makes us creatures want to shout
And play our game around the clock.
Oh Battledore and Shuttlecock!
A thrilling time is when we race
To find the Rooster’s hiding place;
Then catch him with a dirty sock
For Battledore and Shuttlecock!
Our cherished custom is to hear
The Rooster holler out of fear,
“Oh, not again, that batted knock:
Please find another shuttlecock!”
We live to hear the thrilling thump—
Our paddles on the Rooster’s rump.
For gripping fun, we creatures flock
To Battledore and Shuttlecock!
It all began in Mable’s mind—
She lost her cork with feathers nine;
But then she saw him on a rock,
The Rooster as her shuttlecock!
So Mable solved her problem drear,
And bat the Rooster in the rear.
At first the creatures laughed and mocked
Her different type of shuttlecock.
But soon they grew to only see
Her clever ingenuity;
Not long thereafter (to her shock),
They thought they’d try this shuttlecock.
They quickly grabbed their battledores
To see the difference, to explore;
Then, “Spread the news around the block,
We’ve found a better Shuttlecock!”
And now we play the game today,
So thankful for that sacred day
When Mable, dressed up in a frock,
Discovered our new shuttlecock!
Three cheers for Mable Mellonworth:
By far, the greatest on the earth!
Renewed delight she did unlock
With this our corkless shuttlecock!
So now we live to hear this thump,
The paddle on the Rooster’s rump;
To play the sport where creatures flock,
Of Battledore and Shuttlecock!
We love the Realm of Roundabout:
It makes us creatures want to shout
And play this game around the clock,
Oh Battledore and Shuttlecock!
Having made tremendous progress in his self-esteem (and having grown very weary, holding his neck out for so long!), Jameson finally retired to his bed. Even so, the ultimate factor that actually brought an end to the game was the lack of feathers on the pitiful Rooster.
“He doesn’t soar through the air like he used to,” they cried. “How long before we ever get to play again?”
And while they all whined and complained, the Rooster managed to break away.
Surprisingly, hitting the Rooster didn’t seem as bad as Jonathan had first expected. (Though it still surprised him that he felt so untroubled!) Be that as it may, the game was over, and one thing was for sure—Jonathan had certainly worked up an appetite. Fortunately, he had some loose change in his pocket; so, he walked over to a nearby concession stand and ordered a hotdog with ketchup.
A Horse then served him his order.
“I’m sorry, sir. I asked for ketchup.”
“And I gave you ketchup,” the Horse said.
“But this doesn’t look like ketchup. It looks like, um, well, I don’t really know what it looks like, except that there are tiny mushroom pieces in this sauce.”
“Yeah, that’s called ketchup!”
The Horse then turned to all the animals. “Hey! Where did you folks find this rapscallion?” he yelled.
The animals immediately gathered around the concession stand.
“What’s the matter?” the Frog asked.
“This stranger here asks for a hotdog with ketchup, and what he gets is a hotdog with ketchup. Then he whines about there being mushroom sauce on his hotdog.”
“I’m really sorry,” Jonathan said. “I honestly didn’t know this was ketchup.” He then turned to the Frog. “I really didn’t mean to offend the Horse, Mr. Greene.”
“You didn’t just call me a Horse!” the Horse said. “I’ve got ears, a head, a mouth, and legs like a Donkey!—And I can hee-haw, too! See?” He proceeded with his woeful demonstration.
Jonathan gave a look to the Frog like what just happened?
The Frog nudged Jonathan with his elbow and whispered, “I’ll tell you later.”
Jonathan faced the Horse directly. “I’m very sorry about all this. And I’m truly sorry about any confusion. It’s just that where I come from ketchup is more like tomato sauce, that’s all. But thanks for the hotdog.”
“Thanks for nothing,” the Horse said. Then turning to the others, he asked, “Where in the whirligig did this jack-a-dandy come from? I’m telling you, he’s suspicious.”
Just then, a Leopard stepped forward and signaled with his paw. “The boy is under investigation, just so you know,” the Leopard declared.
A Town Circle Ruckus
“You can’t be serious,” the Cat said.
“I’m dead serious,” the Leopard replied. “I bumped into Mumbo and Jumbo, and they told me so themselves.”
“An investigation for what?” the Frog asked.
“Well, there’s reason to believe that the boy plotted with the Munchkins when they stole the whole Kit and Caboodle,” the Leopard said.
“Hocus pocus!” the Frog said. “The whole Kit and Caboodle wasn’t stolen. It was lost.”
“What do you mean?” the Cat said.
“Well, do you remember that high muckety-muck who set up a bakery in her basement?” the Frog asked.
“You mean that Hill-Billy that grinned like the Cheshire Cat?” the Rabbit answered. “Had bleach stains all over her smock?”
“Yep, that’s the one. Well, she got her hands on the whole Kit and Caboodle one day,” the Frog explained. “Problem is she raced right across the Glass Ceiling in a wheelbarrow.”
“But I heard that Ceiling couldn’t be broken,” the Cat said.
The Frog shook his head. “Fake news. She fell right through. Lost the whole Kit and Caboodle.”
“Down, down, down,” said the Rabbit, rolling his eyes. “Would the excuses never come to an end!”
“Well, at least she apologized to the Wheelbarrow Pusher,” the Frog said. “I mean, c’mon, after all he did to try to get her across the finish line.”
“Snickerdoodles!” the Cat said. “I guess that’s the way the cookie crumbles.”
“Oh, it crumbled alright,” the Frog said. “The way I see it, those who live in bake-houses shouldn’t throw scones.”
“But let’s not forget,” the Leopard chimed in, “that the investigation is still underway.”
“Baloney!” the Frog said. “There’s nothing to investigate.”
“But we need to wait until the investigation’s over with to see if that’s true,” the Leopard answered back. “You never know—they just might find something.”
The Frog buried his head in his hands.
“So why not charge that Hill-Billy then?” the Rabbit pressed. “She was caught with her hand in the cookie jar.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” the Leopard snapped. “Bakers can get away with that sort of thing.”
“Enough of this baker-babble,” the Horse said. “What I want to know is where this jack-a-dandy came from then.”
The others pressed Jonathan as well. “Yeah, where did you come from?”
Jonathan didn’t know what to say, but was compelled to say something. “If you want the truth, I came from a Castle to visit Roundabout.” He was completely frustrated at his inability to convey what he knew was somehow the truth.
“A Castle! Ha! Fellas, we’ve got a highfalutin hooligan in our midst. No wonder he’s under investigation.”
The crowd burst into laughter and snickering, calling Jonathan a scoundrel and a mischief-maker.
Just then, the Frog spoke up again. “Now wait a minute!” he shouted.
The crowd hushed right up.
“The boy is no scoundrel,” said the Frog, pointing his finger at the crowd. “He is telling you the truth. He has journeyed from afar.—Travel broadens the mind, you know. And I would have you to know that the boy is, in fact, a Hopscotch champion where he comes from.”
Rece rolled his eyes. He could see where this was going.
“That’s right. Jonathan withstood storm and stress to seek out a challenger, you see.”
The Rabbit darted a glance at the Frog, but the Frog paid him no heed.
“And I would have you to know that Jonathan actually defeated the Rabbit at his own game.”
The animals were flabbergasted. They turned to the Rabbit. He looked extremely embarrassed, which confirmed the Frog’s account.
“He beat you, Rece?”
“Yes. He beat me.”
“Fair and square?”
“Yes…fair and square.”
The crowd was no longer laughing at Jonathan. All of a sudden they had a rather high opinion of him, and they just stared at him while he devoured his hotdog.
No sooner did he finish his meal, but a bell sounded in the nearby distance.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this case is dismissed,” said the Frog, smoothing out his coat. “It’s time for the weekly meeting at the Town Circle.”
All the animals began to disperse at once, running hurry-scurry like a herd of buffalo.
“A meeting at the Town Circle, how come?” Jonathan asked.
“Well, it’s very simple,” the Rabbit replied. “The Town Circle, being in a circle, should not be called a town square, right?”
Jonathan agreed, but wondered why anything should be right in Roundabout.
“It’s the Holderforth,” the Frog said.
“What is that?”
“Oh, he’s the Deer that holds forth a certain book,” the Cat explained. “Normally, most pay no heed to the sound of the bell, but since it’s the day of Esther, many deem it best to make an appearance.”
“The day of Esther?”
“Yes,” the Rabbit said. “It’s that time of year when the young creatures of Roundabout take the colorful eggs that the Chickedelians lay and bleach them until they’re completely white. It’s a favorite pastime around here.”
“Though I have to admit,” the Frog said, “I’m still a kid at heart, and I still love bleaching eggs!”
Jonathan was even more confused and didn’t bother asking any more questions.
The Frog, the Rabbit, and the Cat accompanied Jonathan to the Town Circle to hear the message from the Holderforth. When they arrived, Jonathan saw the Deer standing behind a lectern, on a platform. Before long, the Deer opened the book that he had been holding and then held it forth. This act signaled the start of the meeting, so all became immediately hush throughout the great assembly. Thus the Deer began to speak.
Mariam was a mother sheep
Who had a little Lambkin.
And everywhere that Lambkin went,
She followed with a napkin.
The way to reach the Silver Well,
The Lambkin only knew;
So mother sheep admonished all,
“Whatever he says, that do!”
“That is offensive!” someone shouted from the crowd.
“Oh no, he’s here,” said the Cat, shaking his head.
“Who’s here?” Jonathan asked.
“Mr. Hubbub,” the Frog said.
But before anybody could explain any further, the Deer proceeded.
Sinclair was a sinister Wolf,
And was very insincere;
For prior to the payment made,
He slew the Lambkin dear!
“That is offensive!” shouted Hubbub, interrupting the Deer again.
“What is his trouble?” Jonathan asked.
“Mr. Hubbub is mad,” the Rabbit said. “And in more than one way.”
“I guess so,” said Jonathan, trying to get a look at him through the crowd.
“That’s him right there,” the Frog said.
He was a Wild Boar. He had a bulky body supported by very short, skinny legs. His eyes were small and his head was massive. He had long, sharp teeth poking out of his mouth.
“Hey, whatta ya know,” the Frog said. “Christy-Anna’s here, too.”
“Who’s that?” Jonathan asked.
“See that Swan right over there? That’s her. Hubbub is deathly afraid of her.”
“What for?” Jonathan asked.
“He’s got Christy-Anna Phobia,” the Frog replied.
“Word on the street is the Dragon poisoned his drink,” the Cat added.
“The Dragon!” Jonathan said. “There’s a Dragon in Roundabout?”
“There have been sightings of him, allegedly,” the Rabbit said. “I’m a bit of a skeptic myself.”
In a low voice, the Cat leaned in to Jonathan to explain more about Hubbub. There were only three phrases, he said, that could be understood by the Boar: “That is offensive!”, “That is hateful!”, or “Free speech!” (while usually disturbing the peace). There were times when he would sink into his painful deliriums and start hollering out hubbub-babblings that no one could make out. Hubbub was a chub-faced, grub-eating, stubborn publisher with stubbed feet and could have used a bubbling tub to submerge in!
Meanwhile, the Deer had paused to hold a gaze with the Boar, which only provoked Hubbub to outrage. “Tuboluberatubionub unlubessub ubchrubistubianub!” he blurted.
“Oh no,” the Cat said. “That’s what I’m talking about. When he starts doing that, it means he’s extremely unstable. There’s no telling what he’ll do next. He just might sucker-punch someone!”
“What an odd character Mr. Hubbub is,” Jonathan said.
“Odd is not the right word,” the Rabbit replied. “Try pigheaded!”
By this time, the entire crowd was eyeing Mr. Hubbub, conveying their irritation.
“Settle down, Hubbub! Let the Holderforth finish!”
But the hog-heated brute bellowed out more, “That is offensive!”, while pointing to the Deer, and “That is hateful!”, pointing to the crowd.
“At least we can understand him again,” the Frog said.
One of the animals had about enough and told the Boar to shut his mouth. But the Boar just belched and yelled, “Free speech!”
Deciding it would be best to end the meeting, the Deer read one last passage from his book:
From the skilled and practiced Carver and through the Claviger who holds the keys of the two Grecian kinsmen; to ye creatures of this Whirligig is the word given, on this wise: The Charis-Stamp, named in honor of Her Grace, is to be granted to whosoever will receive it.
The Deer closed his book and then stepped down from the platform.
“Oh my! I’ve gotten so distracted,” Jonathan said. “I forgot all about the Stamp. If I’m ever to get back home, I need to see the Queen.”
Just then, another announcement rang out. “March right up! March right up! Come get your tickets for the Sky Wheel!”
The broadcast was instantly followed by some very loud, lilting music. The animals all made a mad dash toward the new attraction.
“It’s ‘The Countermarch’!” they all shouted.
The Frog, the Rabbit, and the Cat immediately took off with the rest.
“C’mon, Jonathan!” they shouted.
They looked back once and twice, waiving for Jonathan to keep up; but they got swallowed up in all the hustle and bustle.
Jonathan eased his way through the crowd and spotted the Elephant Marching Band. Each was wearing a bright yellow vest with reflective tape; and they were all sitting on stools, playing their instruments.
Jonathan managed to get close enough to see the announcer as well. He was a very handsome Goat. He was wearing a red long-coat with black lapels and looked like a Ringleader. He had piercing eyes, remarkable horns, and a tufted beard on his chin that adorned his smooth mouth, as well as a Brass Ring around his wrist. He was standing next to a red and white striped booth that had a large decorative sign overhead that read, Tickets.
Just then, a Grinning Monkey grabbed Jonathan by the hand and started leading him, along with all the amusing animals, to march backwards to the music. Soon, all the animals began to sing ‘The Countermarch’.
Let’s stamp the Countermarch!
Let’s stamp the Countermarch!
And strut ye all your starch!
And strut ye all your starch!
Behold the grand menagerie!
We truly strut in stride for thee!
Let’s stamp the Countermarch!
Let’s stamp the Countermarch!
The Monkey with the little grin
Our marching song he leads us in.
One thing’s for sure, without a doubt,
He doesn’t march—he jumps about!
The Frog, we get to watch his legs
As when he used to juggle eggs.
What’s more, his lanky legs we note
Much more than his red stylish coat!
The Cat pretends to purity—
He struts himself for all to see.
A Pharisee he’s been for years,
Forgetting dirt’s behind his ears!
The Dog, now he is very smart:
The Skeptic’s Creed he knows by heart!
And not just this, but he can say
The alphabet from Z to A!
And Jameson, he’s a weird Giraffe;
His neck, it makes us want to laugh.
There is one thing that we adore—
He’s really good at keeping score!
As for a marching Kangaroo,
She does the best that she can do.
Perhaps you have not heard the news—
She wears size twenty-seven shoes!
The Zebra questions his own stripes—
“Now, are they black or are they white?”
He takes to heart this phrase, of course,
“The zebra’s just a zany Horse!”
The Tiger loves to learn new words,
But says, “A liger is absurd!”
And yet, of all that he can do,
He’s good at blowing bubbles, too!
The Camel, well, he’s quite a chump—
He spits, then brags about his hump.
Behind the Frog, he told the Goat,
“My hump is better than his coat!”
The Beaver never did confess
Of how he made a little mess:
When in the Rabbit’s lavish lair,
He wiped his nose upon a chair!
The Baboon plays in the Cat box,
And likes to flaunt his bobby socks.
An honest soul no doubt will find
He looks real funny from behind!
The Wild Boar, he lost his mind:
He eats garbanzos all the time
And moldy melons in the mud.
And from a cow he steals the cud!
The Polar Bear is white for sure.
(It’s not his age, it’s just his fur.)
Not only so, he has to wear
Size ninety-seven underwear!
The Wolf, he hates the shepherd kin
For finding him in fleecy skin;
When caught, he cried out franticly,
“You shepherds stole my liberty!”
The Countermarch finally came to an end, and the animals, one by one, stopped marching. (Jonathan was surprised that he had not been mentioned in the song since so many others were.) The Grinning Monkey was still carried away in all the excitement and tried his hardest to keep the entire ruckus going. It became clear to him, however, that another song was going to be needed to revive the excitement.
“Who’s got a song?” the Monkey said.
“How about ‘The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down?’” someone suggested.
“No! No!” someone objected. “How about ‘Amazing Race’?”
It was Camillus the Cat.
“Oh, yeah!” the animals said. “I know that song!”
“Well, I love it,” the Cat said. “My grandmother used to sing that song to me when I was just a kitten. Mind if I sing it?”
The Monkey didn’t care for the song; it was too mellow. However, the animals were fond of the idea and said they wanted to hear it. So the Cat took a breath and began to sing.
Amazing race! How fast the Hound
Had chased a wretch like me!
I once was crossed, but lived somehow;
Was blind—how fast was he!
Everybody cheered and clapped. The Cat was undoubtedly a marvelous singer.
“Oh yes!” the Cat said. “I remember that song so well. And so many good memories attached to it, too.”
Everyone seemed to agree very much.
All of a sudden, the Grinning Monkey hopped up to the Cat and tugged on his tail. “You were a wretch, Cat?”
“What?” said the Cat, turning around to see what was tugging at him.
“You said you were a wretch,” the Monkey explained.
“Excuse me!” the Cat replied, “I am not a wretch. And how dare you tug on my tail, you grinning beast.”
The Cat turned his back on the Monkey, intending to ignore him, but the monkey tugged on his tail again.
“What do you want with me!” shouted the Cat, whirling around. He swatted at the Monkey’s hand with his paws and hissed. “Keep your dirty extremities off me, you simian scalawag!”
The Monkey closed his eyes, but not his grinning mouth. “You were blind?” he asked.
“I was what!”
“You said you were once blind. I simply didn’t know this.”
“Why you despicable brute!” the Cat hissed. “First you call me a wretch! Now you accuse me of being blind! How dare you!—And stop grinning!”
The Monkey turned to the crowd, shrugged his shoulders, and walked away.
“Enough! Enough!” the Goat chimed in. “It’s time to get your tickets for the Superlative Sky Wheel! Come get your tickets, creatures! Step right up!”
Many hurried at once towards the Ticket-Master and got in line.
“That’ll be one dollar, plus tax. Then the fee for all the fulfilling fun,” as he calculated with pencil and paper. “That will total five dollars. Thank you.— Next!”
Just then, a distinct sound seized Jonathan’s attention.
The Flower Girls and the Queen
Jonathan turned around. In the distance, he could see a Little Lamb. “Baa! Baa!” it cried as it capered about. It was quite apparent to Jonathan that the Lamb was calling for him. Then after a couple seconds, it skipped away.
Jonathan immediately ran off to follow the Lamb.
The Lamb scampered so quickly and Jonathan tried to at least maintain a sufficient pace, but he was hardly in sight anymore. Jonathan continued down a wooded path that brought him to a gateway entry. There was an arch overhead with the words GRACE GARDENS spelled out in it, along with a bronze horse at the very top. Since the gates were wide open, Jonathan ran right through.
By this time he had lost sight of the Lamb completely, and so he paused to catch his breath. After a few seconds, Jonathan proceeded to walk along the path. There were patches of fountain grass and all sorts of plants and garden lilies all around. Before long, the path weaved in and out of some live oak trees draped in Spanish moss, sprawling all over the place. Fabulous sculptures were here and there, like a giant-size pumpkin on carriage wheels or a humongous shoe with a rooftop.
Just then, Jonathan heard the baa of the Lamb again. He looked yonder toward a stone bridge and caught a glimpse of the fleecy animal. Just as before, the Lamb capered about for a couple seconds and then skipped away. Jonathan hurried after him and passed over the bridge, entering yet another area of the Gardens. To his great surprise, he came upon two Flower Girls about his age singing and jumping rope around a garden pool. Both were arrayed in flowery dresses and had flowers in their hair, each one with a different color. The Girls, full of smiles, took a break from their game.
“Welcome to Grace Gardens,” said the Girl with indigo flowers. “My name is Tirvue.”
Then the Girl in pink flowers gave a slight bow. “My name is Loramity. We are the Flower Girls.”
“Nice to meet you both. My name is Jonathan. Sorry for interrupting your fun. It’s just that I had seen a Lamb skipping about. And strange as it may seem, I thought he was calling for me, and so I followed him into these Gardens.”
“Oh, that was Shiloh,” Loramity said. “Yes, you just missed him. He skipped right on by, into those hedges over there.”
“He knows these Gardens very well,” Tirvue said. “The Gardens would not be the same without him. We love the Lambkin dearly.”
“This is such a wonderful place,” Jonathan said.
“Yes, the Grace Gardens are delightful,” Loramity said. “They are the Queen’s own.”
“You mean the Lady of Red Roses?”
“Yes,” replied Tirvue. “She resides here.”
“She does? I really need to see her. You see, I need to get my hand stamped if I’m ever gonna get back home.”
“For sure,” Loramity said. “As you can see, we have our hands stamped and so we may ride the Sky Wheel any time. It is a favorite of Flower Girls, you know.”
“Hey, and if I get my hand stamped, then we could all ride the Sky Wheel together!”
“Oh! That sounds so fun!” Loramity said.
“In fact, come to think of it,” Jonathan said, “once my hand is stamped, I’ll be able to come and go as I please. I’ll visit all the time.”
“Well, there’s no sense in dragging our heels,” Tirvue said. “We’ll take you to the Queen at once.”
“Speaking of a ride,” Loramity said, “we’ll take the Iron Horse back. The station is close by; come, we will show you the way.”
Thereupon the three children left the pool, the boy in his tux and the two Girls in their dresses, skipping and singing through the Gardens. Soon they arrived at the train station.
“We Flower Girls love the Iron Horse,” Loramity said.
“Oh yes! And we love Mr. Lenny, too” Tirvue said. “He’s such a kindhearted creature.”
“Who’s Mr. Lenny?” Jonathan asked.
“He’s the Train Operator,” said Tirvue. “Oh, hear he comes now!”
The train began to whistle, and before long it came into view around a row of bushes. It was an old looking steam engine and it was pulling several passenger cars. It was a miniature train, the size of one that you’d see at an amusement park. The engine had a tall chimney on top, and there was a big headlamp and a large cowcatcher on the front.
Jonathan was fascinated with the steam engine, but even more so with the driver. The driver was a Lion. He was seated in the coal car at the back of the engine, his upper body sticking out the top. He had very warm and gentle eyes, and his mane was very full and flowing.
The Iron Horse pulled up to the station and came to a stop.
“My dear little Flower Girls!” the Lion cried.
“Mr. Lenny!” cried the Girls in unison.
“I see you’ve brought a friend with you this time.”
Loramity did the introducing: “Mr. Lenny, this is Jonathan. Jonathan, this is Mr. Lenny.”
“Nice to meet you, young man. Very nice outfit by the way.”
“Well thank you; and nice to meet you, too.”
“We’re headed to the Queen’s Station,” Tirvue said, “so that Jonathan can meet Lady Charis.”
“Sounds like fun.—Sort of like lunch!” The Lion grabbed a tomato out of a paper bag and took a nice big bite out of it. “Yummy yummy in my tummy!”
The Flower Girls glanced at each other and giggled.
“Oh, I love tomatoes,” Jonathan said.
“Tomatoes, huh,” the Lion said. “We call them love apples.”
“Well, I do love them. And I can eat them like an apple, just like you’re doing. So it sounds like a good name to me.”
The Lion turned to Jonathan, and with his mouth full said, “But you want to know something funny?—I enjoy love apple sandwiches, but yet I don’t care for love apple soup. Now go figure.”
“I agree,” Jonathan said. “Something happens to the flavor once they are cooked.—Unless its spaghetti sauce; then, for whatever reason, it’s okay.”
“Funny thing, young man, you and I are a bit alike. How do you like your onions, raw or cooked?”
“Now onions are a different story. I actually like them both ways.”
“By Dentzel, we’re alike! I thought for sure you would’ve picked one or the other.—While we’re at it, pardon me as I wander off the culinary path, but I’ve gotta see whether you happen to love marching band music?”
The Girls were giggling, absolutely adoring the Lion.
“If I told you that I love John Philip Sousa, would you believe me?” Jonathan said with a smile.
“King Cotton!” the Lion cried. “I can see that you and I sing from the same hymnbook! Jonathan, feel free to march yourself right up to the Iron Horse anytime you please. I’ll be sure to pick you up! Hey, what are we waiting for anyway?—All aboard!”
“Oh, here comes Shiloh!” Tirvue said.
“Aw! Are you coming to ride with us, too, Shiloh?” Loramity said.
Just then the Little Lamb hopped aboard the first passenger car where all the children were seating themselves. Mr. Lenny turned around and reached all the way back to give the Little Lamb a pat on the head. Shiloh then lay down in between the Flower Girls.
“Are we all in? Is everybody seated?—Alright, let us be going!”
So off they went, the Lion waving his paws as if he were conducting an orchestra, and the children laughing and giggling at him.
The journey wasn’t a long one by any means, but certainly a joyous one. Soon they arrived at the Queen’s Station and deboarded the train. The children each thanked Mr. Lenny for the ride, after which the Lion returned a friendly smile and waved goodbye. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Jonathan!” he shouted, as he drove away.
The Little Lamb then led the children down a brick walkway of trees festooned in sparkling lights. He then brought them through an ivory gateway into an all-glass building known as the Grace Palace. They proceeded all the way to the center Courtyard, beside the Silver Well. (Jonathan read the epigram etched into the base: “Let him that is athirst come.”) There were beds of roses and galleries of trees and hanging plants, along with winding walkways and benches to sit on. Broad steps of stone led down to pools and fountains; and staircases spiraled upward to balconies overhead, so that one could view the Courtyard from above.
“Isn’t it so magical here!” Loramity said.
“We Flower Girls love the Grace Palace,” Tirvue said.
“I can’t believe my eyes. This is so wonderful,” Jonathan said. “I will definitely have to bring my family here.”
The friends continued to chat away when, all of a sudden, Jonathan noticed a beautiful Lady with the brightest eyes. She seemed to be floating in and out of the trees down one of the adjacent galleries, slowly making her way to where the children were. She had a sparkling tiara upon her head and was arrayed in a pure white dress with bell sleeves glistening in the light. In her hands was a great bouquet of the freshest red roses you ever did see!
“Lady Charis!” the Flower Girls shouted at once.
They ran to her and showered her with hugs and kisses. Jonathan hasted after them as well but was a bit more reserved, having never met the Lady of Red Roses before.
“I miss you so much!” Loramity said.
“Me too!” Tirvue said.
“I missed you Girls, too,” said the Queen, wrapping her arms around them both.
After all the hugs and kisses, the Girls introduced her to the boy.
“This is Jonathan, Lady Charis,” Tirvue said. “He has greatly desired to meet you. He is very excited about having his hand stamped like ours, so that he can ride the Sky Wheel.”
“So nice to meet you, Jonathan.”
“Yes ma’am. It is my honor.”
“Well, there is no sense in keeping you waiting, Jonathan,” the Queen said. “Come this way and I will stamp your hand.”
The Queen then led the children to a nearby gazebo, whereupon they entered and found a place to sit. The Queen likewise sat down and grabbed a silver coffer that had been laying on one of the benches.
“Here you go, Jonathan,” she said. “Give me your hand.”
She opened up the coffer and took out a silver pad of ink. She pressed the Stamp in the pad and then firmly upon Jonathan’s hand, thus leaving the profile of a rose.
“That’s it?” Jonathan asked. “This will let me ride the Sky Wheel?”
“That’s all there is to it, Jonathan. It’s as easy as drinking from the Silver Well. The free gift was offered to you, and you received it; simple as that.”
“Thank you so much.”
“You are most welcome, Jonathan,” she said, giving him such a smile that could’ve melted a frost.
Having taken care of the Stamp, the Flower Girls began at once to plead with the Queen to tell them a story. “Please, oh please, Lady Charis. Would you please tell us again that part of the Metrical Love-Tale where Erasmus and Estella get married? Please, please, pretty please!”
“I’m not so sure Jonathan would be at all interested in such a story, Girls.”
Immediately, the Flower Girls began assuring Jonathan that he would enjoy the story; and then rather begged him to oblige them for a while. Jonathan honestly didn’t really mind what they did at the moment. He was reflecting upon all his adventures in Roundabout and, most of all, actually meeting the Lady of Red Roses. He kept glancing at his new Stamp and was enjoying the airy pavilion in which his company was seated.
“You could bear to hear a love story, Jonathan?” the Queen asked.
“That’s alright,” Jonathan replied. “I’m just sitting here, relaxing for now.”
“Alright, I suppose we have time to hear the wedding chapter then.”
“Oh, thank you! Thank you!” the Girls cried.
They adjusted their dresses and their hair, fidgeting about while earnestly awaiting their beloved tale. So with eyes fixed on the lovely Queen, she told them the story about the wedding ceremony.
The time has finally come;
The prelude rouses some:
The wedding ceremony opens now.
The ushers now proceed
To lead guests to their seats:
The guests are nicely dressed in gorgeous gowns.
The artists and musicians play along,
All rendering a medley of sweet songs.
Such marvelous merrimake;
Yea, for the lovers’ sake:
A magical sensation fills the air.
The arbor interlaced
With flowers full of grace:
The sacredness of matrimony fair.
The candelabras flicker all the while;
The runner is unraveled down the aisle.
Bright candles complement
Short pillars picturesque:
They altogether crown the altar pure.
The wedding canticle
Is calm, ethereal;
And warms the hearts within the crowd allured.
Forthwith the groom emerges in his stride,
Awaiting for his pure and lovely bride.
With pleasant music playing now,
The blithe procession strutting down,
The gentlemen escort their maids
Beneath the arbor on their way.
Forthright they amble down the aisle,
Each couple spaced in single file:
The wedding party is adored
While lining up the altar fore.
Then—oops!—here come the stragglers two;
Yes, this is what they’re known to do.
They frolic, fall, and flowers hurl—
The ring-bearer and flower-girl.
The bridesmaids smile in their place,
Their dazzling dresses on display.
The groomsmen sport their fine attire:
Tuxedos, shirts, and ties admired!
The sweet procession is now past:
The songs have ended at long last;
The bridegroom watches in a daze,
The wedding march then starts to play.
Behold, the lovely bride
So slowly in her stride:
She glimmers in her dress of snowy white.
Behold, the virgin fair
With sparkles in her hair:
(Her father fights the tears with all his might.)
All eyes are on the princess and her dress,
So nicely sown in needlework matchless.
Her lovely face and veil,
Her dress and flowing trail,
Her bright bouquet arrayed in roses red;
Her gracefulness and poise
Her heart so full of joy—
A blissful scene of glory, heaven-bred.
And lo, her smiles, they lighten up her eyes:
A precious sight, a moment Edenized.
The bridegroom’s eyes are fixed;
The crowd she has eclipsed:
It is as if the two were now alone!
They smile all the while
She paces down the aisle:
The girl is soon to be his very own!
What seemed to be forever and a day,
At last, ‘twas time to give her now away.
The minister inquires,
“Who gives this precious bride away?”
The father mildly answers,
“Her mother and I this special day.”
And so her father raises back the veil,
Then offers her a kiss upon the cheek;
The wistful father watches love prevail,
And then returns to sniffle in his seat.
The man and woman stand there, hand-in-hand;
Their backs now facing toward the gladsome crowd.
The minister then does the best he can
To give his message from the scriptures now.
At last, the preacher closes his address:
He prays at once that God would surely bless
The couple and their life as one; and then,
He raises up his head, and says, “Amen.”
The two now stand before the holderforth
To dedicate themselves unto the Lord;
In holy matrimony, they renew
The word of their commitment to be true.
“If thou, Erasmus, and thou, Estella
Have freely chosen one another
As partners, yea, for all of life,
Would ye now join right hands at this time?”
The ring-bearer then offers up the rings
When all the wedding vows are fully said.
Each person states their promise eagerly:
“Yea, with this precious ring, I thee wed!”
The ceremony now begins to close;
The kiss is coming—that each person knows.
“I now pronounce you husband and as wife:
Erasmus, yes, thou mayest kiss the bride!”
The Closing of Heritage Trail
“The end,” the Queen said.
“Oh thank you, Lady Charis!” Loramity said. “I never grow weary of that chapter.”
“Yes, thank you so much!” Tirvue said. “It’s such a wonderful story. Quite charming it is.”
The young Girls began to go over their favorite parts of the tale, while Jonathan, seeming somewhat detached, just stared at his hand while swinging his legs.
“How about you, Jonathan?” the Queen asked. “What do you think of such a story?”
“I don’t mind it so much,” he answered, giving a little shrug of his shoulders.
“You seem to be in deep thought,” she said. “What’s on your mind?”
“Oh, I don’t know.”
“Now don’t be shy. You can tell me. What’s going on in that head of yours?”
“Well.—It just seems so scary to me.”
“What seems scary?” Tirvue asked. “The wedding?”
“Well, no; I mean yeah,” Jonathan said.
“Scary?” Loramity said. “How can a wedding story be scary?”
Jonathan tried to explain. “Well, having to stand in front of all those people; that sounds scary to me.”
The Queen chuckled at Jonathan’s distinct point of view.
“You could have a small wedding,” Tirvue said lightheartedly.
“I would still be nervous, though. If there was only some way out of having to stand in front of any people.”
“Just don’t get married then,” Loramity said.
They all laughed.
“Well, there’s no need to trouble your little analytical head just yet,” assured the Queen. “You’re still a young boy, and that day is a bit far away for you. And you never know, when that day finally comes, you might find that you aren’t so scared after all.”
Jonathan appreciated the Queen’s remarks.
“It sounds so fun and magical to me. I can’t wait,” Tirvue said.
“Me, too,” Loramity said.
“Well, don’t get too much in a hurry, Girls,” the Queen said. “You’re still young as well. You have your schooling to focus on right now before you get caught up in thinking about boys too much. I would suggest you stay focused on your homework and playing your fun little games.” (Yes, even Flower Girls have homework.)
Speaking of fun little games, the Girls got up in a jiffy and fetched their jump rope. They headed over to the Silver Well, which was one of their favorite places to jump rope. Then they called out to Jonathan, who lingered in the gazebo.
“Come, Jonathan. Jump rope with us; it’ll be fun. Lady Charis, would you please be one of the rope turners?”
The Queen smiled and agreed.
Loramity was counted out in order to function as the other rope turner. However, Jonathan, not much in the mood for jumping rope, offered to take Loramity’s place, that way she could jump as well. So Jonathan, together with the Queen, swung the rope around while the Girls took turns skipping and jumping about through the rope; each one demonstrating some very clever foot changes, all the while chanting:
Will I marry, tell me so,
Will I down the aisle go?
Yes, no, maybe so,
Yes, no, maybe so.
Will I someday ever sing
Of a dazzling diamond ring?
Yes, no, maybe so,
Yes, no, maybe so.
Will I wear a wedding dress
For my husband to impress?
Yes, no, maybe so,
Yes, no, maybe so.
Jonathan was anxious to get back to the Sky Wheel, especially now that he had his hand stamped. As confused as he had been about the Castle, he concluded that it couldn’t be anything other than his home. That if the Cherub had a problem with his coming back, then the Cherub would simply have to leave! So Jonathan thanked the Lady of Red Roses for her warm welcome.
“And thank you so much for the Stamp,” he added.
“You are so welcome, Jonathan,” the Queen replied.
“I just can’t wait to ride the Superlative Sky Wheel. It has got to be the most amazing ride in all the world.”
“We’ll go with you, Jonathan,” Tirvue cried.
“Yes, we’ll ride the Wheel together. It’ll be so much fun!” Loramity said.
“Let’s get going then,” Jonathan said.
Absolutely delighted, the boy and the Girls bid farewell to the Queen, thanking her for such a wonderful time.
“You’re welcome,” the Queen replied. “Now you kiddos be safe. And have fun!”
The children thought it would have been fun to ride the train back to Heritage Trail. But strangely enough, Lenny the Lion was nowhere to be found. There was no trace of the train whistle.
At long last, they made up their minds to walk back.
They arrived at Thompson Street; and stranger yet, there was not a single soul in sight there either.
“Where is everyone?” Jonathan asked.
“I’m not so sure,” Loramity said. “There’s neither hide nor hair around here. Everyone has seemed to just vanish.”
Tirvue shook her head and shrugged her shoulders. “The place does seem oddly quiet.”
The two Girls then skipped arm in arm down Thompson Street, while the boy strolled behind, in deep thought.
They turned down Vandervoort Street to make their way to Heritage Trail, which is where Jonathan had started his out-of-the-ordinary adventures. As they drew closer to the Trail, a Wall could be seen in the near distance. There was a Horse standing in front of the Wall as well.
“There we go,” Jonathan said. “I knew everyone couldn’t have just disappeared. Strange, though, that Wall wasn’t there before.”
“No doubt,” Tirvue said. “There has never been a Wall there.”
“I wonder what’s going on,” Loramity said.
The Flower Girls then proceeded to skip the rest of the way, reciting a nursery rhyme about Humpty Dumpty who sat on a wall. Before long, they all arrived at the juncture of the road where the Horse was standing. He was a large Horse with a big head and big teeth. He was in military uniform and had a sword at his side.
“You cannot proceed!” the Horse huffed. “It is the King’s law that no one walks the Trail!”
“But there is no King in all of Roundabout,” Tirvue said.
“Then you have not been paying attention,” the Horse said.
“But this is the way that I came,” Jonathan explained.
“But this is the way you will not return,” the Horse answered.
“But we are headed for the Sky Wheel,” Jonathan continued, “which is at the beginning of the Trail. We want to ride it. Surely you could help us over this Wall.”
“I don’t care what you want, little boy. Upon the name of Stein and Goldstein, you will not defy the Wall of Separation!”
“Ah, but look,” Jonathan said, “I have the Charis-Stamp which lets me ride the Wheel.”
“Look! We all have the pass,” Tirvue said.
“I do not care for such silly stamps, you foolish ragamuffins,” said the Horse, chuckling.
“You’ve got to let me pass at least,” Jonathan said. “This is my way home, and my parents are probably worried sick by now!”
The Horse burst into a creepy laugh.
Jonathan, very angry with the Horse, then tried to get past him. The Sentinel immediately drew his sword. The sight of the sword and the sound of shrill steel alarmed the set of friends, who quickly stepped back.
“It is the King’s law that no one walks the trail!”
The Horse continued to neigh in a frightful way, shaking his monstrous head. He stood upright with his chest out and began chanting while stomping his heavy hoofs quite madly to the cadence.
It is the King’s law
That no one walks the trail!
And should you go to try,
No doubt but you shall fail!
I love the game of Horseshoes,
Because I am an ace
At pressing pretty shoe prints
Upon an ugly face!
It is the King’s law
That no one walks the trail!
And should you go to try,
I’ll lash you with my tail!
I love to rough and horseplay,
And hope you’ll join me too;
For when the game is over
You’ll be a pancake when I’m through!
It is the King’s law
That no one walks the trail!
There is no contest here—
I’m fierce as you are frail!
The Mad Horse ended his chant with some quick finishing stomps and a boisterous whinny.
The two Girls had backed away; but Jonathan, summoning all his courage, stepped forward once more. “Then I must have a chance to talk with this King! Where may I find him?”
“Your Majesty resides in the Carnival District,” hollered the Sentinel, fidgeting his mouth quite madly.
“Which way should I take to get to this District?” Jonathan asked.
Then in an instant, the Horse replied in somewhat of a friendly tone. “Ordinarily, sir, this would be the best route to take if you were to head westward.”
The young child thought he even spotted a spark of sympathy in his eyes. “You mean…I…I would b-be allowed to take this Trail as l-long as I travel to the District?”
“LISTEN, SCARAMOUCH! I SAID ORDINARILY, YOU DISGUSTING DISCIPLE OF HALF-WIT DISPUTERS!” The Horse’s nostrils swelled in size. With nothing but madness in his eyes, he began exhaling gusts of air and whinnying very frightfully.
Jonathan quickly turned around and scurried away with the Girls.
“That Horse is dreadful,” Tirvue cried.
“Oh! I couldn’t bear the sight of his big nostrils and scary eyes,” Loramity said. “And his voice was so gruff and mean-sounding.”
“I must admit that I was very frightened,” Jonathan said.
Together, they walked up Vandervoort Street, looking for anyone who could give them directions to the Carnival District. The Flower Girls knew how to get there from the Trail, but since it was blocked off, they were at a loss themselves.
In a little while, the children came up with a plan: The two Girls would head back to inform the Lady of Red Roses what had happened, while Jonathan would continue on his own to find the King (who was no relation to the Queen, dear reader).
So the Girls hurried away, and Jonathan proceeded all by himself down several streets. There still weren’t any animals in sight. Not even a peep was heard.
Ten minutes or so must have gone by when, suddenly, there was a buzzing noise around Jonathan’s ears. Jonathan swatted at the air beside his head.
“Hey! Easy there!” someone cried.
Jonathan whirled around and—fuzzy stripes!—it was a Bumblebee. He was dressed in a buttoned-up collared shirt with a suit coat.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” Jonathan said. “I meant no harm. Where I come from, there’s a habit of swatting at buzzing sounds—especially Bumblebees.”
“Well!” the Bee replied. “I’m glad I don’t fly where you come from.” The Bee cleared his throat. “Besides, I am not a Bumblebee. I’m a Humblebee, you see.” He adjusted the lapel of his suit coat.
“A Humblebee?” Jonathan said. “You sure do look like a Bumblebee to me. I’ve never heard of a Humblebee before. What’s the difference?”
“What’s the difference, he says!” He flew around to look Jonathan in the face. “What do you mean what’s the difference? There’s a big difference. See, you would have knocked my lights out all the while judging me to be a Bumblebee, when in fact—eh-hem!—I am a Humblebee. The difference between a Bumblebee and a Humblebee is that a Humblebee is obviously humble.”
“So you’re a Humblebee,” Jonathan acknowledged carefully. “And, of course, because you’re so obviously humble. Why, it makes perfect sense to me.” Jonathan chuckled.
“Yes, it surely does. And I don’t know what it is you find so funny. At any rate, I have always deemed my humility to be one of my stronger qualities.” Here, the Bee cleared his throat again. (Jonathan cleared his too.) “I just cannot believe that you would even think that I look like a Bumblebee. Never in my life have I been so insulted. Why in the whirligig such a foolish notion would ever enter your childish brain, I have no bumbling idea! What duncery!”
At that moment, the Bumblebee stroked his suit coat, patted his heart, looked up toward the heavens, and began praying out loud while Jonathan struggled to disregard the first thought that came to his mind.—As well as the second and third thought! The Bee began to pray and the thought just would not go away!
Enough of this bumble-babble, Jonathan thought.
Finally, the Bumblebee was reminded of his errand.
“Anyways, enough of your wasting our time here. I have some news to give you. The Eagle with the Wintry Head has been informed about the closing of Heritage Trail—”
“Ah! You know about the Trail! Here I’ve been looking forever for someone to help me get to the Carnival District. I suppose I was distracted; or perhaps I was not expecting to receive help from a bum—I mean a Humblebee.”
“Well, I am certainly not a bum either. You surely know how to be insulting. Who else but a Humblebee could give you such help. Eh-hem! As I have begun to say, the Eagle with the Wintry Head has been informed about the closing of the Trail. Thus, he has summoned the citizens of Roundabout to assemble in the Carnival District. I have been sent out on a mission to make sure all have been notified of this important meeting. I didn’t think there was anybody else to notify, so I was about to make a beeline to the District myself. We need to hasten if we’re going to be on time. Honest to goodness, you sure do know how to be chattering the day away!”
And so the Bumblebee directed Jonathan to the District where an enormous crowd of animals were gathered. Jonathan was greatly relieved that he had made it in time.
The Case in the Carnival District
The District of Carnival very much delighted Jonathan. All the buildings and shops were framed in flashing lights, and the smell of fried dough filled the air. There were red and white striped tents here and there, and all sorts of booths with games to play and stuffed animals to win. You could spin a wheel, toss a ring, or pop a balloon; all in an effort to win a prize. There were concession stands selling candy apples, funnel cake sundaes, soft pretzel twists, cotton candy, and buttered popcorn.
As Jonathan was strolling along, he encountered a rabbit on a unicycle. He almost bumped into a cat that was juggling fish. And he barely avoided a leopard on stilts making her way through the crowd.
Before long, Jonathan came upon a puppet show with a sizeable crowd of very small animals gathering around to watch—miniature horses, pygmy goats, and teacup pigs. They were all wearing party hats and blowing noise makers. They had name tags that read, The Wee People (which Jonathan thought was obvious enough).
Not long thereafter, a Buffoon came out on stage, greeted by cheers. He was a very silly looking man with a big belly and a humpbacked nose that drooped to his mouth. He was wearing a dunce’s cap with a ball at the end, hanging between his eyes. In a very groggy voice, the Buffoon shouted, “Look, I’m Libby!” He teetered about, flailing his arms around as if he were flying. The Wee People laughed at the Buffoon’s mimicry of the Eagle.
I’m ill at ease with jumpy dread;
Self-conscious of my frost-bit head:
My head, it makes me want to shriek:
I look more like a mountain peak!
The crowd roared in laughter.
Not very amused, Jonathan moved on. He reached the center of the District where there was a lofty stone column, pointed at the top. There was also a structure that Jonathan thought looked like a temple from ancient Greece. Moving right along, he came upon a Singing Duet positioned on the steps of a building with a dome on top. The Duet was comprised of a Camel and an Ostrich. There was a sign that read:
The Italian Duet,
Featuring the Masterful Musicians,
Mr. Sentora and Mr. Vapreseneretti
Jonathan didn’t even try to say the second name (which was the Ostrich’s; actually pronounced, VAP-ra-ZEN-er-ED-ee). Presently, the crowd cheered and clapped as the Camel and the Ostrich opened up with one of their sensational songs.
I wish I wasn’t really big;
I’d balance on a little twig.
I spite that little sparrow’s size:
If I were him then I could rise.
To fly above would be a treat,
Not even high—just seven feet.
Instead of huge, I’d be petite!
If only I could be just like you!
I wish I had two swanky humps,
‘Cause I just have one little lump.
At least I’ve one, but best is two!
(I’ve seen such camels in the zoo.)
I spite that lama that can spit,
And every time the bull’s eye hit;
It makes me want to throw a fit!
If only I could be just like you!
The Italian Duet finished their song and thanked them all for their support throughout all the years. They began passing around plates of spaghetti and meatballs, along with concert-size containers of parmesan cheese.
“We love you fine fellows,” the crowd shouted.
“And we love playing musical chairs with you folks,” the Duet shouted back.
After Jonathan had eaten a meatball, he proceeded in all his curiosity. He spotted a small booth with a sign that read, Tickets. A familiar voice began making an announcement: “Tickets! Tickets! Come get your tickets for the Superlative Sky Wheel!”
“Hey! It’s that Goat again!” Jonathan said to himself.
Just then, there was a loud burst of clapping and cheering which prompted Jonathan to turn his attention to the newest interest.
“Here comes Libby!”
The Eagle with the Wintry Head swept down from the air with out-stretched wings. He landed at the forefront of the assembly, upon the four-sided pillar with the pointy capstone. His talons gripped the solid stone. Then with nestled wings and intense eyes that matched his sharp beak, he surveyed the great crowd.
The entire District became quietly attentive.
“I have summoned you all,” the Eagle said, “in order to find out who assumed the power to shut down Heritage Trail. So let us deal with this matter, citizens, in an orderly and timely manner. Now.—” He pulled out a document, and then continued. “I will begin by reading to you the Old Common Law:
Ye citizens of the Realm of Roundabout: In honor of the skillful art and blessed design of the Master Carver and his Craftsman, thou shalt not disgrace, nor infringe upon the rights of, the Immortal Maidens which reside in the Majestic Gardens.”
No sooner did he finish, but there was a shout from the crowd. “That is offensive!”
It was Hubbub the Wild Boar. He then worked himself up into a state of frenzy, flailing his arms all around, shouting over the Eagle whenever he went to speak again.
“Hubbub!” the Eagle declared. “We’ve just barely gotten started. Now we’re trying to have a peaceable assembly here. So, please, if you continue to be a disruption, then I’m going to have you removed.”
“Free speech!” Hubbub blurted out.
The Eagle mournfully shook his head. Thankfully, the Wild Boar quieted down.
“Now listen carefully,” continued the Eagle. “The Old Common Law has been ignored and replaced with a new law by an alleged King in our midst. As a result of this new law, the Flower Girls have been forbidden to walk the Trail.” The Eagle then pulled out another document. “The new law reads as follows:
Ye citizens of the Realm of Roundabout: In honor of My Majesty’s fondness to vacation in the Penumbral Plains and to race my carriage down Commerce Drive away from the Consent of the Governed—thou shalt not enter Heritage Trail.
“If there is anyone who knows who this alleged King is, then come forward at once.”
“I know who this King is.” A Kangaroo was now hopping and jumping her way through the crowd to the forefront of the assembly.
“Let us hear your testimony,” the Eagle declared.
“I believe the person who created this law is actually George,” said the Kangaroo, pointing to a Polar Bear nearby. He was wearing a robe, had a crown on his head, and was sitting quite comfortably on a throne. “Look at him. He thinks he’s a King.—But he’s not!”
The sounds of ooh and ah rippled through the crowd. Many of the animals recognized the Polar Bear.
“George is my neighbor,” the Kangaroo continued. “He’s one of the gourmet judges at the Pizza Supreme Plaza.” She then pulled out a very old document from her pouch, and continued: “The charges that I hold in my hand were once filed against George in the past and have been made public. You see, he has been convicted of this before!”
“Please refresh our minds of those charges,” the Eagle said.
The Kangaroo began to read:
“He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation.”
The crowd then hollered. The Bear just growled.
“Wow! Look at that set of teeth,” someone shouted.
“It’s impressive, but it doesn’t look like he flosses,” shouted another.
“Forget about flossing. I don’t think he even brushes,” someone else added.
“Order, please,” the Eagle chimed in. “It is of utmost importance that we continue in an orderly fashion.”
The crowd settled down, and the Eagle turned his gaze upon the Bear.
“Is that your chair?” the Eagle inquired.
“It is my throne, yes.”
“Where did you get it?”
“I made it myself.”
“Looks like you’re mighty proud of it.”
“I am. I’d say it’s the best throne in town were it not for another that looks as good as mine.”
“Really? And where’s that?”
“In a house painted white. It’s been displayed there at times.”
“I see. And what about your robe?”
“I got it at a yard sale.”
“And your crown?”
“I ordered it from overseas and had it shipped to me. See, it says it’s made in—”
“Of a truth, sir, it does appear that you see yourself as a sort of monarch.”
A few boos were bestowed upon the Polar Bear. The Bear, however, just folded his arms and stuck his tongue out at the crowd.
“Let me ask you directly,” said the Eagle. “Did you create this new law?”
“And what made you think you could do so?”
“Our By-laws authorized me to do so.”
The Eagle mournfully shook his head. “Our By-laws tell us how Roundabout is to be run, and they do not authorize you to go about imposing your newfangled laws.”
“But it’s my job to see that Fairness is enforced!” insisted the Bear, as he pounded his fist. “And since other trails have been closed off before, it is only fair that Heritage Trail be closed off as well!”
“Excuse me, sir,” the Eagle said, “but your job as a gourmet judge is not to see that Fairness is enforced. Your job is to taste-test pizza and to make sure the recipe is being followed. And not only so, you have disregarded the Articles of Incorporation which tell us why Roundabout was established in the first place.”
The Bear just shrugged his shoulders and said, “For your information, I am a very accomplished gourmet judge.”
“And how is that?” the Eagle asked.
“I have a degree!” the Bear replied.
Just then, there was a cry from the crowd.
It was the Grinning Monkey. He emerged with a lemon in his hand.
“What is it, grinning fellow?” inquired the Eagle.
“This Bear is supposed to be a very skilled taste-tester,” the Monkey said, “but let’s see if he can even tell us what fruit this is?”
The Eagle agreed to the test.
“Go ahead, George, tell us the fruit.”
The Bear took a bite. “Sssp! Well, it’s sort of bitter.”
“So what is it?”
“Give me a second. I’ll get it.” He took another bite; and after a few seconds he began licking his lips. “You know what, this fruit is deliciously sweet. It has got to be a tangerine.”
“Are you sure of it?”
“Yes, I’m sure of it. Could I have the rest?”
The Monkey turned around, shrugged his shoulders, and smiled to the crowd as if to say, “I told you so!”
“Without a doubt, this Bear is not even fit to be a taste-tester,” the Eagle proclaimed.
“I just said it is a tangerine!” the Bear shouted.
“But it’s a lemon,” the Eagle said. “And everyone else but you can see that.”
“It’s not a lemon. I said it’s a tangerine, and that settles it!” The Bear pounded his fist. Then he stuck his tongue out at the Eagle.
Just then, a Man raised his hand to speak. He had the face of an old and affectionate friend, and he was standing next to the Flower Girls.
“Go ahead, sir,” the Eagle said.
“I just want to remind you all that there is nobody here who can claim the tribute of patriotism while they, at the same time, disgrace these lovely Maidens of Happiness! Tirvue and Loramity are beloved Flower Girls and should be allowed to walk the Trail!”
The Man patted the young Girls on the head.
No sooner did he finish, however, the Wild Boar blurted out something garbled: “Lubeftubismsub: tubotubalubitubarubianubismub!”
“Here he goes again!” someone yelled. “If he doesn’t like this meeting, then tell him to get his own meeting somewhere else!”
The Eagle with the Wintry Head couldn’t have agreed more. He ordered the Horses in Blue Uniforms to remove the Wild Boar from the assembly. Hubbub would not go so willingly though. He tried to hit the Horses and bite them while shouting “Free speech!” According to a translator, the Boar called the Eagle a fascist, and then threatened to take legal action against the Horses for laying hands on him.
Then adding to the disorder, the Polar Bear screamed out, “What difference at this point does it make! I’m out of here, too! If you don’t like me, then take it up with the Wee People. They’re the ones who handpicked the Organizer of the Community anyway, and he likes me!—”
One of the creatures leaned in to Jonathan. “He means the Chief Supplanter.”
Jonathan just nodded his head.
“—And Mr. Sentora likes me as well thank you very much!” the Bear finished. With that, he got up, and stormed off.
His final statement was hurled like a stick of dynamite. The entire crowd seemed to blow up. Not only were they upset over the Bear’s snootiness, they were shocked by the newest revelation regarding the Wee People and Mr. Sentora.
“Is it so?” some asked the Camel.
“What if it is?” he replied, and then spit on the ground.
Many then turned to the Ostrich, but he had his head stuck in the sand.
Just as they turned to the Wee People, sauce and noodles began to be hurled everywhere.
“This meeting has gone wild!” someone shouted.
“It’s the Eagle’s fault!” someone answered back.
Just then, a plate of spaghetti and meatballs whizzed by Jonathan’s head, barely missing him, and smashed against the Ticket-Master’s booth. Sauce splattered all over. Oddly enough, the Goat seemed unaffected by all that was going on, only gazing into a hand-held mirror. He finally turned his head, and made sudden eye-contact with Jonathan. While hurrying to put away his little mirror, he fumbled it onto the window’s ledge, and then dropped it to the ground. Crack!
Jonathan couldn’t believe his eyes.
The Knight and the Dragon
The Goat’s face flashed from embarrassment to rage. His eyes started to glow, and his nostrils began fuming with smoke. Then the Goat’s form began to change, and all the growling and snorting got the crowd’s attention. Everyone began to scream in horror. The beast’s face swelled, all the while losing the form of a Goat, more and more resembling something horrific; until, at last, the face of fury was clearly the face of a Dragon.
The Dragon burst through the ticket booth, launching pieces into the air. The animals were running frantically in each and every direction.
Jonathan started to panic as well, stuttering in his decision; but then, a familiar sound seized his attention. “Baa!” It was Shiloh the Lamb. Jonathan hastened after him and was quickly led to the Queen. She and the Flower Girls had been observing the hearing from a nearby area. The Queen was seated in an Ivory Chariot linked to a large fleet of Snow-White Horses. The Flower Girls saluted Jonathan, and the Queen, with a scepter in her hand, lighted from the Ivory Chariot and approached him.
“Jonathan,” the Queen said, “the Little War has come! It is time to knight thee!”
Jonathan bowed to one knee and the Queen laid her scepter upon his right shoulder. Suddenly a burst of light flared all around.
No sooner did he get up, but he found himself in a coat of armor. It was an impressive array of burnished metal that included helmet and breastplate. A sword was sheathed at his side and a shield was strapped to his arm. Within seconds, an Armored Horse came trotting up.
“Quickly, Jonathan!” the Queen said. “Get on. You must do battle with the Dragon and capture the Brass Ring!”
Jonathan immediately mounted the Horse. The Horse reared back on its hind legs and struck the air with its front legs.
“I know you can do it!” shouted Tirvue.
“You are brave!” shouted Loramity.
Jonathan darted off and advanced toward the Dragon. He spotted the Ring on its front claw. He drew his sword from the sheath and wielded it about the air. The daring eyes of the Knight met the devilish eyes of the Dragon. And just as soon as the Knight came within reach, a violent flame streamed from the Dragon’s mouth. Jonathan held up his shield and deflected it.
The Dragon rose up on its hind legs and stretched forth its wings. Its mouth was wide open, full of sharp-edged teeth and a tongue that flickered about. Then it lunged forward.
Jonathan dodged the strike and countered by piercing the beast’s jaw. The Dragon screeched and reeled back. In seething rage, the beast flung its tail around and struck the Knight, knocking him to the ground. A cry of horror ripped through the multitude of spectators. Having dropped his sword in the clash, Jonathan clapped his empty hands and shouted, shooing the Horse away to safety.
In a flash, the Dragon whirled back around and lashed out, a frightening claw plunging downward upon the Knight. Jonathan rolled with all the might he could muster, barely escaping the shredding force. Chunks of earth burst into the air. With hardly any time to think at all, Jonathan sprang to his feet just as another blaze of fire streamed forth. The Knight heaved his shield in time to repel the Dragon’s wrath. The stream glanced off, belting into the ground, creating blazing fractures in the earth.
The Dragon lunged forward again, its gaping mouth and razor-sharp teeth tearing through the air right at Jonathan’s face. Jonathan wound up and clobbered the Dragon right in the head with his shield. The collision, however, knocked him to the ground again, prompting more shrieks of horror from the crowd.
Jonathan spotted his sword and immediately reached for it. He took a swipe at the Dragon’s jowl, and the Dragon recoiled enough for Jonathan to return to his feet. Wasting no time, and encouraged by the sight of the bloody damage he had just delivered, the Knight charged forward. With two hands firmly gripping the handle, he hacked away at the Dragon’s skull.
Having grown very weary, Jonathan retreated and whistled for his Armored Horse. In no time at all, the Horse trotted up and Jonathan scrambled on. He sheathed his sword and circled around a bit, trying to catch his breath. The Dragon, clearly injured, lumbered around to keep pace with the Knight.
Having found the right opening, Jonathan stood up at last and leaped from the Horse onto the Dragon’s back, gripping its scaly body. Growling and thundering, the Dragon whirled around trying to shake off the tenacious warrior. Unable to do so, the brute took to flight, heaving its body off the ground. The fear of ascending on the back of a winged monster drove the Knight to react at once. Not twenty feet into the air, but Jonathan unsheathed his sword and buried the blade into the neck of the Dragon. The beast bowed its head and came crashing down.
The crowd erupted with joy and jubilation.
Jonathan slid down and trod unsteadily to the forefront of the dead beast. The Knight hoisted his sword one last time. And with what little strength he had left, he brought it down like an axe. Whack! The limb plopped to the ground. Jonathan bent down and snatched the Brass Ring from the claw, then held it up for all to see.
The animals rushed him, and before he knew it he was lifted up off the ground and carried around in wild celebration. He took his helmet off and tossed it to the ground, trying to regain his composure.
Meanwhile, the Grinning Monkey (in his own little world) was throwing lemons at the Polar Bear and then ducking away. He snuck up from behind and snatched the crown from the Bear’s head and then scampered away. As soon as Jonathan was placed back down on the ground, the Monkey sprang upon Jonathan’s shoulder. The Monkey presented an enormous grin to the crowd and then placed the crown on top of Jonathan’s head. There was another round of applause.
At that moment, Sneaky the Tiger was dragging the Bear’s throne to the center of the celebration. Professor Dog came staggering up with a wheelbarrow heaped with books, inviting everyone to tear the pages out and crumple them up. The Grinning Monkey hopped up to the pile of paper and struck a match. In a minute or so, a bonfire was made. The Ostrich and the Camel began to sing and play while everyone ate roasted marshmallow sandwiches and danced about. Even the Rooster (who was arrayed, by the way, in the finest feathers you ever did see!) was enjoying himself amongst the rest.
Suddenly, a trumpet began to sound.
The crowd quickly became silent.
At that moment, a creature came forward. It was Hubbub the Wild Boar. During the celebration, word had been getting around that Hubbub had actually come to his senses and was talking sensibly! So everyone was anxiously awaiting what he had to say. The Boar unrolled a scroll in his hand and read his prepared statement.
There was once a young boy of Toledo
Who was dressed in a classy tuxedo.
He had left his own mother
To be a knight undercover,
And arrived with his faith and his credo.
This young boy from the place of Toledo,
The one dressed in a classy tuxedo,
Was riding a wagon
In search of the Dragon,
And was bit by a nasty mosquito.
One day, this same boy of Toledo
Wore his armor, and not his tuxedo.
The Dragon dropped dead,
And I scratched my head,
And then guzzled a French cappuccino!
“Thank you,” he said, thus ending his public declaration.
Everyone clapped and cheered. The animals were astounded by the marvelous change that came over the Boar. Jonathan could hardly believe his own ears: The Boar was going around apologizing to the animals for being offensive and hateful to them!
Just then, the Ivory Chariot pulled up. The Queen was full of smiles and the Flower Girls were rejoicing to see their hero.
“Hop aboard the Chariot, Jonathan,” Loramity cried.
“Yes, Jonathan,” the Queen said, “the Master Carver has called for you.”
“Are you serious?” Jonathan said.
“Yes,” Tirvue said, “and we finally get to ride the Superlative Sky Wheel! Lady Charis is going to escort us there now!”
As Jonathan approached the Chariot, the Frog took off his coat and placed it on the ground for Jonathan to walk on.
“Well, I’ve never experienced such royal treatment before, Mr. Greene.”
“It’s the very least that I could do, Gutsy.” He patted Jonathan on the shoulder.
At that moment, the Tiger gave Jonathan a handful of suckers from one of his coat pockets. “No need for me to be there if you’re being escorted by the Queen herself, that’s fair to say. I see you have the Stamp on your hand. Enjoy the Ride.”
“Thanks a million, Mr. Sneaky.”
The Tiger tipped his hat to Jonathan.
Then Rece came up to the boy and shook his hand. “Good job, Jonathan. You demonstrated tremendous bravery. And by the way, congratulations on that Hopscotch game as well. You are quite the champ, sir.”
Jonathan gave the Rabbit a hug.
The Dog came forward and tore off one of his gold tassels and presented it to the boy. “I really want you to have this.”
“I really appreciate this, Professor.” After a deep breath, Jonathan said, “Just think, I get to ride the Superlative Sky Wheel and meet the Master Carver.”
The Dog gave Jonathan a beaming smile. “Well, you better get going, then.”
Jonathan waved goodbye to everyone.
The animals created a lane for the Chariot. All at once, the horses took off. Jonathan raised the Brass Ring one more time and flourished it about the air while the animals shouted hooray.
With the District behind now, Jonathan finally sat back in his seat, amazed that he was riding in the Ivory Chariot. He looked around at his friends—the Flower Girls full of smiles, their hair blowing through the wind, and the beautiful Queen with the reigns in her hands. They were going at a considerable speed, and it was such a delightful little excursion down the various lanes and avenues.
In a short while, they merged onto Heritage Trail; and after another minute or so, they arrived at the Superlative Sky Wheel.
The children quickly jumped out the Chariot and ran up onto the platform. They climbed into the enclosure and grabbed a seat. The Queen trailed behind, approaching the ride calmly, while the children begged and pleaded for her to move more quickly. Soon enough, the Queen climbed in as well and closed the little door behind her until it clasped shut, and then sat down. They all put on their seatbelts and heaved a sigh.
Suddenly, the Wheel started to move and began taking them away. The objects on the ground started to become smaller. They got smaller and smaller still as the Wheel reached higher and higher. The ride seemed to be going faster and faster. It was not frightening in the least, though. In fact, it was a very enjoyable experience. They approached the dome of clouds up above and then burst through the billows, mounting even higher. Before long, they were soaring intensely through space. Comets were whizzing by and a multitude of stars were shimmering like billions of glow bugs.
During the incredible flight, the Flower Girls began to sweetly sing, their words echoing throughout, all the while contemplating the Source of all the wonder.
Joyful meditations race
Each time we ponder outer space;
Such cogent thoughts we can’t erase.
Untold wonders, orbs of fire,
Celestial bodies that inspire;
Heavenly places to be desired!
Reflect upon the work of art—
It somehow never falls apart;
Sustained by power from the start!
The thought of endless quantities
Of undiscovered galaxies;
Somewhere out there a crystal sea!
At last, they arrived at the Sparkling City. The group of friends got off the Ride and walked through the gateway that led into the courtyard of the Magnifical Palace. There was a gallery of tall columns that eventually nestled around a porch, and a set of stairways ascended upward to where a Man was seated.
“Is that the Master Carver?” Jonathan asked.
“Yes,” answered the Queen with a smile.
They made their way up the stairs. At last, they reached the top where the Carver was awaiting close by. He seemed like a shimmering silhouette, but Jonathan could make out a set of carving tools on an end table.
“I have brought the children,” the Lady of Red Roses said.
“Oh, wonderful! Thank you, Charis,” the Carver said. (There was something comforting and peaceful in the Man’s voice.) “Hello there, Tirvue. Greetings, Loramity.”
The Girls gave a slight bow.
“Come here, Jonathan. I would like to congratulate you, young man!”
Overjoyed, Jonathan stepped forward. However, a strange sensation started to come upon him, quite rendering him incapable of moving any further. Why does this always happen to me! Jonathan thought. He tried with all his might to walk, but it was such a strenuous undertaking. Jonathan looked back to the Lady of Red Roses, who only smiled at him. He then looked to the Flower Girls, but they were no longer to be found. Then his vision started to fail him altogether. He squinted with all his might to catch sight of the Master Carver, but he could not make out the blurry scene ahead. The frustration began to intensify, until at last—
He took several deep breaths, and then coaxed himself through the next minute or so, until all the extraordinary sensations started to wane—his own world coming back to him. Until, at last, he was quite the clear-headed boy. Still sitting up in bed. Still holding the carousel book.
Jonathan is sitting up in his bed, enchanted by a book, when it finally dawns on him that he is onboard a carousel. Seated in his chariot-bed, the carousel begins to twirl and the young boy is soon taken up in a whirlwind of wonderment. Come along for the ride and step into the Realm of Roundabout—a whirligig of poetry and lyrics, outlandish fun and games, feuds and fusses, and an assortment of friendly, irritable, and extremely odd characters. Meet Sneaky the Tiger, Professor Dog, the Frog, the Rabbit, Hubbub the Wild Boar, the Grinning Monkey, the Eagle, the Polar Bear, the Dragon, and many more. Will Jonathan ever reach the Lady of Red Roses to receive what he needs to get back home?