ADVENTURES IN COTTONTAIL PINES
T.K. Wade on Shakespir
Cover Art Illustrated by:
T.K. Wade and Coy Fields II
Adventures in Cottontail Pines:
Copyright © 2016 by T.K. Wade
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This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.
ADVENTURES IN COTTONTAIL PINES
I welcome you to the wonderful little town of Cottontail Pines. It is a place where many cute, little animals have come to live, for it really is a lovely place. It is never hard to find a cheerful animal walking about the cobblestone paths. It is quite the common thing to see smiles here, for there really is very little reason to frown in Cottontail Pines.
The only place one might find a frown is with a particular skunk by the name of Blacky. You see, Blacky was not the type to ever smile. He was never happy about anything, and that was precisely how he liked it. That may seem strange to you–for most people think that happy thoughts are better than grumpy thoughts–but Blacky was always grumpy regardless of how he felt. Still, he had always been a good friend, and he would never, ever turn his back on those who had always cared for him.
On a fine spring morning in Cottontail Pines, Blacky awoke in his bed with a lazy yawn. He really enjoyed sleeping. If he had his way, he might very well stay in bed all day. And candy–he loved candy. Candy and bed were his favorites, and sometimes, he would try and combine them; although, his mother would often be against this.
But as I said: he was just waking up, and he was not a very good morning person. He was quite grumpy to be awake–even on such a special day as today. Indeed, it was a very special day for him. It was his birthday. He was another year older, and that is always worth celebrating. He thought about how he could go about and brag a little about it. It is not every day you become a year older. As a matter of fact, that reason was what finally got him to get out of bed.
After yawning again and scratching himself under his tail, he dropped from his bed and headed out for breakfast. “How is my birthday boy?” asked his mother joyfully.
“It’s okay,” said Blacky. “What’s for breakfast?” He sat down and waited for cake. It was entirely fair to wait for cake on one’s birthday, and that is exactly what he did. Pancakes and waffles was for any other day. Today, he wanted cake. Sadly, Mother Skunk did not have any cake. All she gave him was cereal, and it was not even the sugary kind that he liked. “What is this?” he asked grumpily.
“It’s all I had time to make for you, honey,” replied Mother Skunk. “I have things to do today. You should go out and play after you finish it.”
Blacky was incredulous! “But I wanted cake for breakfast!”
Mother skunk kissed her son on his head and walked out of the door saying, “I’ll think about making a cake later. Have a good day, honey.”
Blacky stared at his cereal. There was nothing special about it. It was just sitting there not trying to look fancy or anything. He stirred it around a little and finally said, “What’s good about a birthday without cake?” The question rattled in his mind as he ate the cereal in a rather bored way. Afterwards, he got up with a frown–yes, the same frown he had since he woke up–and headed out into the open air of Cottontail Pines to look for someone to brag too. After missing out on morning breakfast cake, this was all he had left.
It was a lovely day in the quaint, little town. Blacky did not seem to notice it. The sun and flowers never really did anything for him. He would rather have stayed in bed or eat candy. He saw his friend Flopsy approaching him.
Blacky really liked Flopsy–even though he would rarely say so. This Flopsy was a white lop-eared rabbit. Her ears were so long and droopy that she often had to be mindful not to trip over them. She was well-known for being very considerate of other’s feelings, and she was just the person that Blacky wanted to brag to about his birthday.
So, when Flopsy hopped over towards him, the skunk stood his ground expecting her to stop. Flopsy did indeed stop and looked like she wanted to go around him. She stepped to one side, and Blacky copied the action to keep her path blocked. “Hello, Flopsy,” said Blacky with a frown.
The bunny looked a little nervous, but she replied, “Hi, Blacky. Are you enjoying the pretty day?”
“Not really,” he said. “By the way, it’s my birthday. I’m a whole year older now.”
“That sure is great, Blacky, but I really got to go take care of something. I’m really happy for you.” She stepped to one side, but Blacky blocked her again.
“Didn’t you hear me?!” he said in a surly way. “It’s my birthday! Not every day is your birthday, you know.”
The bunny whimpered a little. “Happy birthday, Blacky,” she quickly said and managed to hop around the skunk.
Blacky stood there watching her hop away. His face was no grumpier looking than it had been before the odd conversation had begun. It had been very uncharacteristic of the bunny. Normally, she was so sweet and happy when things of this nature happened. And although Blacky did not like any of that sort of thing, it still seemed rather rude of her to be so dismissive. With a heavy sigh, he began to walk. There must be somebody out there who would give him a moment to brag about his birthday. Perhaps, someone would offer him some candy for it. That would make it all worthwhile, he thought.
Blacky wandered off in search of attention. Along the cobblestone path, he noticed the house of Goober. Ah, here was a fine fellow who always was very polite to the point of silliness. Goober was a brown bunny who was of a very timid nature. Blacky often found it quite easy to deal with him. The only problem was that Goober had this annoying habit of giving advice. He would always raise a finger and say something which was brimming with wisdom–but a little too wordy to Blacky’s liking.
As a matter of fact, Blacky did not really enjoy getting advice. There was never really any advice out there that suited him. If someone could advise him how to find better candy or how one might sleep longer without any problems, then those words might be worth listening to; however, that sort of advice never seemed to come up. Fortunately, all he wanted out of Goober was simply praise for his new age and then maybe they would do something together to pass the day along; at least, until his mother could get around to making cake.
As Blacky approached the door to Goober’s house, the bunny in question was just backing out. He was pulling on a large chest for some reason. Blacky stood there watching him for longer than he probably should without speaking. As Goober nearly bumped into him, Blacky suddenly said, “Guess what day it is, Goober.”
“AHH!” cried the bunny. Goober turned about looking positively frightened. “Blacky! How long have you been there?!”
As if Goober had instead replied, “What day is it, Blacky,” Blacky replied,” It’s my birthday. I’m one year older. What do you think?”
Goober tapped his chest to keep his heart from beating so fast. He then raised a finger and said, “Blacky, you should never sneak up on people without announcing yourself. You gave me a terrible start.”
As if Goober had actually said, “Happy birthday, Blacky,” the skunk proceeded to answer the phantom reply with, “Yep! Another year older. Isn’t it great? Did you want to do anything with me? It’s not every day I have a birthday. Let’s go to the park.”
“I can’t,” said Goober with a sigh. “I’m very busy, but happy birthday anyways.” He began dragging the big chest away from the skunk.
Blacky watched him and said, “Do you want me to help you with that?”
“No, I got it.”
Blacky was very happy that Goober did not want help. Really, the chest did look very heavy, and the skunk was rather opposed to physical labor. The problem now was the fact that two of his very best friends had been rather involved in their own things than with what was really important–Blacky and his birthday.
Why were they suddenly being so selfish? Did they not like him anymore? He had always liked them. Why… they always put up with his grumpiness. To Blacky, toleration was the ultimate sign of friendship, and they tolerated him more than any other thing. Why would they not tolerate him today? And on his birthday too! All these thoughts only made Blacky grumpier, but you might not really notice the difference as he was always grumpy. Sadly, the skunk continued walking on hoping that he could still find someone who cared.
As he walked down the pathway that lead through Cottontail Pines, he began to notice that all the animals were walking away from him. Some even dove into their homes to avoid a conversation with the fellow. Blacky suddenly stopped in place. He looked about the area. Silence! Everyone was gone. It was a beautiful day, and everyone was missing. Blacky sustained his frown and continued on through the town.
He saw in the distance two animals he knew well. It was Mister Hooty the owl having a chat with Gumdrop the little mouse. Mister Hooty was the leader of Cottontail Pines, and he was also the teacher of all the little children. He was a very nice fellow who cared very deeply for all the animals that lived in this fine town. Gumdrop was also a good, little person. She was the very best friend of Flopsy, and–although not seen with her today–she was nearly always the shadow of the rabbit.
Blacky thought to himself, Now, here are two more friends of mine. Surely, they will give me some praise for my birthday. The skunk approached them, but when they saw him, Gumdrop squeaked and ran off leaving the owl behind.
“Where is she going?” asked Blacky fairly annoyed.
The owl fluffed up his feathers for a moment as he looked at the boy. “Oh, Gumdrop, you mean?”
Blacky glared at the owl for a moment. “Yes,” replied the skunk with some annoyance.
The owl became somewhat shifty. “The mouse you saw a moment ago, correct?”
Blacky huffed and rubbed his face with an air of exasperation. “Yes, the mouse. I know that was Gumdrop. Why did she run away without talking to me?”
“I suppose she was in a hurry,” said Mister Hooty. “As a matter of fact, I too—.”
But Blacky interrupted, “You’re busy too? With what?!” The skunk was trying not to yell, but he was so annoyed, it was hard to keep his voice subdued.
The owl looked around. Indeed, his head almost turned entirely around as he seemed to be trying to think of an answer. “Weeeeeeeell,” he said with a stall, “You must understand how much work it is to be leader of such a fine town. It keeps me busy, busy, busy, you see. I have many animals who depend on me, and I must not forsake them.”
Blacky actually thought that explanation was fair. Mister Hooty was quite a good leader, and he did usually pay everyone a good deal of respect. Blacky thought that he should point out his own problem so that it might be remedied. “Mister Hooty,” began the skunk, “it’s my birthday today, and nobody wants to talk to me about it. Maybe, they don’t understand how important birthdays are. What do you think?”
Mister Hooty looked perfectly uncomfortable. He stood there like a statue as if he did not know what to say. Blacky stared back wondering what was taking so long. Finally, Mister Hooty said, “Well, may I be the first to wish you a very happy birthday, dear Blacky. It is not every day that one turns another year older. How do you feel?”
“Lonely,” said Blacky sardonically.
The owl nodded and said, “Ah, well, yes. You should find something to do for your birthday. Perhaps, something will arise before long. You never know. But really, I must be going. I am a busy owl after all. Goodbye, Blacky.” And off he flew.
Blacky stood perfectly still as he watched the owl glide away. He thought about what Mister Hooty said. As birthday greetings go, it could have been better. It was not really what he wanted. In fact, it was entirely the opposite of what he had wanted. It was beginning to look like none of his friends really… cared about him anymore. Flopsy, Goober, Gumdrop, and even Mister Hooty had simply wanted to be somewhere else on such an important day.
But there was another! Yes, there was one more little fellow who could never forsake Blacky! There was one remaining animal who could never, ever run away from him. They had been pals for as long as he could remember. His name was Walnut the squirrel!
Walnut was probably Blacky’s closest friend. He was such a silly child. He always enjoyed sizing up his tail with Blacky’s to see if he had grown bigger or not. The skunk always thought this little game was silly, but he always let him do it. Yes, if there was anyone left in all the world who still cared for poor Blacky, it would be Walnut!
The squirrel lived near Donut Park which is also where the two would often play. His mother Mrs. Chipper would often supervise them–as she was very protective. After inquiring where the boy was, Mrs. Chipper said that he was out working on some project in Donut Park. Without smiling, Blacky thanked her and proceeded to find little Walnut in the park carrying some sort of rolled up paper.
Blacky waved his paws and called out, “Hey, Walnut!”
The little squirrel looked at Blacky as if he saw a ghost. It was quite perfectly like Blacky was the most terrifying thing that he ever saw. He froze and trembled in a way that was very surprising to the skunk.
Blacky approached him wondering what in the world was wrong with him. “Walnut,” said the skunk, “How are you?” The boy was speechless. Blacky tried again, “It’s my birthday today. Did you know that?” Walnut was still silent. He looked about as if wondering what to do.
Blacky then asked, “What is that you are carrying, Walnut? Can I see it?”
Walnut suddenly screamed at the top of his little lungs and ran away from Blacky until he was out of sight. Once more, Blacky found himself alone. His best friend in the whole world was afraid of him. What did it mean? What did anything mean anymore? The whole world had turned away from him which would have normally be okay with him… But this was his birthday! This was the one day when everyone usually paid extra attention to him! If everyone wanted to ignore him on his own birthday… what was the point?
With a heavy sigh, the poor skunk slowly treaded his way back to his house where he would go back to bed. He did not really care if he ever got up again. He would just lay there and dream of cake and candy and maybe more sleep. Poor Blacky.
Walnut had never been so frightened in all of his life. He ran as fast as he could to Oak Pass which was the center of Cottontail Pines. It was also the home of a very large oak tree where Mister Hooty lived. Many animals were hear building various things, and they all had to stop when they heard the screaming child running up to them.
Flopsy ran through the crowds of animals to meet the boy. “Walnut!” she called. “Why are you screaming?!”
The squirrel boy ran up to the bunny totally out of breath. The poor thing had both run very fast all while screaming at the top of his lungs. It was amazing that he was able to do it at all, but I suppose children can do anything if they set their minds to it. “Oh, Flopsy,” he said with a gasp and a hiccup. “It was terrible. Blacky wanted to talk to me right there–right as I was just coming this way. He was asking all sorts of questions.”
“Oh, dear,” said the bunny with a frown. “Did you answer any of them?”
“No, I just panicked and started screaming. I ran away and screamed all the way here. Do you think he’ll hate me for it?”
Flopsy rolled her eyes and shook her head. “Well, I suppose you could have handled it better than that, but it can’t be helped now.”
Mister Hooty fluttered down to meet the two. The owl asked, “Was it you who was making such a din, little Walnut?”
The squirrel boy only blushed. Flopsy answered for him, “He ran into Blacky and panicked.”
“Goodness me!” said the owl. “But did he say anything to him?”
“No!” cried the child quickly.
Goober the brown bunny and Gumdrop the mouse walked up to the three. The boy was fully surrounded now. Gumdrop asked, “Did he snitch? He snitched, didn’t he?”
“No, I didn’t!” said Walnut a little annoyed at the suggestion.
Flopsy explained, “We were just talking about this. He didn’t tell Blacky anything.”
Goober raised a finger and said, “Blacky has made this whole thing very difficult. He has been walking up to all of us always at the wrong time.”
Gumdrop nodded. “That’s right. On any other day, he tends to be a recluse. We hadn’t planned for this.”
“Quite so,” nodded the owl. “But now, we have everyone together, and Walnut did well enough.”
The little boy groaned. “He probably thinks I went crazy.”
Flopsy patted the squirrel on his head. “I am sure he’ll understand. Is that what we asked you to bring, Walnut?”
The squirrel boy looked down at the paper roll which he still held in his paws. “Yes,” he said holding it out.
Mister Hooty motioned with his wing. “Well, there is no point in waiting. Open it up. Let’s have a look at it.”
Flopsy took one end of the paper, and Goober rolled out the other end. When it was all stretched out, it formed a large banner with the words:
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BLACKY!
THE BEST SKUNK IN COTTONTAIL PINES!
Yes, Blacky had gone back to bed. He lay there on top of the covers with a bag of chocolate balanced upon his belly. He was wide awake as he stared at the ceiling. It was a boring ceiling, but he did not really care about that. The skunk took another bite of chocolate and imagined what it would be like to remain in his bed for always. It did seem a little hard, but then there really was no point to leaving it if all the animals in Cottontail Pines did not like him anymore. Maybe, his mother could bring him food now and then. Sure she would! If mothers are good for anything, they always feed their children. Yes, Blacky would do just fine in bed.
There was a knock on his bedroom door. Blacky sat up bumping some chocolate over between his legs. “What?” he called.
A voice returned, “It’s Flopsy. Can I come in?”
Blacky pulled his covers up and over himself and turned away from the door. “No!” he said tersely.
Flopsy came in anyways and saw the pitiful sight. She gulped and nervously said, “I’m sorry, Blacky, but I really needed to talk to you. I was wondering if we could go to Oak Pass together.”
“I’m sleeping,” said the skunk without looking at her.
“But you’re talking to me,” said the nervous bunny. “How can you talk if you’re asleep?”
Flopsy walked over to the skunk and rolled him over till he faced her. “Blacky, come on. I have a special surprise for you.”
Blacky did not smile. He just glared at her. “Really?”
“Yes,” nodded Flopsy. “It’s a special surprise.” She paused. “A very special surprise.”
Blacky did not say or do anything for a bit. He just glared at the poor bunny for a little while. Finally, he yanked away the covers and stood up. “Alright, let’s get this over with.” Flopsy was unsure how to take his response. Blacky was acting a whole lot more glum than he usually did; however, she still led him to Oak Pass hoping things would still go well.
As Blacky followed Flopsy, he had a lot of time to think. He thought about how really dreadful his birthday had been. He thought about how everyone avoided him. He thought about how he had to eat cereal instead of cake–and not even the sugary kind! All these things really bothered him.
As Flopsy stepped up to the great oak tree that centered Oak Pass, she could see all her friends waiting in hiding ready to spring up at her signal. Blacky was entirely none the wiser. She was just about to wave her paws when Blacky suddenly shouted, “I have something to say to you, Flopsy!”
Flopsy had not expected this. She said, “Can it wait just three more seconds, Blacky?”
“No!” said the skunk. “I need to get this off my chest right now. You see, ever since I woke up today–on my birthday–all I wanted was a little consideration for it. I didn’t want much–maybe, a little cake–but at least, you or someone else could have just spent time with me.”
“Blacky,” said the bunny worriedly as she wrung her little paws.
“No, just listen to me!” snapped the skunk. “I know I may be grumpy, but I thought you and everyone else in this town were my friends. Even Walnut ran away from me! I guess I really don’t have any friends after all. I’ve decided to go back to my room and just sleep for the rest of my life. Maybe, my mom can bring me candy every now and then while I just lay there wasting away because I don’t have any friends who care about me.”
Flopsy turned and waved her paws. Suddenly, everyone in the town–and I do mean everyone–jumped out of hiding yelling out the words, “Happy birthday, Blacky!”
Blacky continued, “And one more thing: what is so wrong about getting a little cake on my birthday? Is that too much to ask? All my life, everyone keeps telling me that I’m going to get fat or something! Well, I wouldn’t mind getting fat if I could eat cake at the same time!” He paused and looked at everybody without any change of expression. Finally, he asked, “Happy what-now?”
Everyone crowded around the skunk wishing him a happy birthday. A banner was raised in his honor. Food was given out, and everyone began to laugh and have a good time. Some even shook the skunk’s paw and patted him on the head with congratulations on his new year. Blacky just stood there with a frown while all this happened to him. Flopsy, Goober, and Gumdrop approached him carefully. Goober said, “We were planning this the whole day. I provided many of the party supplies which I keep in my trunk.”
Gumdrop added, “It was all my idea. Don’t you like it?” Blacky still said nothing.
Flopsy said to him, “We tried really hard to keep it a secret from you. It wasn’t our fault you went around trying to be social with everyone suddenly. We didn’t expect that.”
Blacky–after even more grumpy silence–finally asked, “You planned a surprise party for me?”
“Yes, Blacky,” said the bunny.
“And you didn’t make a cake?”
Mister Hooty came up suddenly with cake for the grumpy skunk. Blacky took the plate and looked at it. It was chocolate–his favorite. “Here you go, birthday boy!” hooted the owl. “Your own mother made the cake. It is quite delightful–if I do say so, and I do.”
The skunk took the fork and said, “Okay, I forgive everybody.” And he walked ahead stuffing his face full of cake. Flopsy smiled at her friends. Goober gave everyone a thumbs up. Gumdrop was perfectly content.
A little while later–after Blacky had rather engorged himself on chocolate cake–Walnut the squirrel boy came up to the skunk. He sat next to his friend with a blush. Neither of them spoke for a bit, but Blacky–after observing something–said, “I think your tail is almost as big as mine.”
“Really?!” asked Walnut pressing his tail against Blacky’s. Really, they did seem like they were almost as big.
“Yeah, look at it,” nodded the skunk. “Maybe, in the month or so…”
“I can’t wait!” cried the squirrel. Walnut embraced his best friend. Blacky patted him on the back.
The skunk asked, “Want me to get you some cake?”
“Sure! You can have a bigger piece than me since it’s your birthday, Blacky.”
The skunk stood up and said, “Good idea.” Walnut followed him there. As it turned out, everyone had a very good time at Blacky’s birthday party. Although, nobody actually saw him smile, everyone agreed that they had never seen the skunk so happy.
Welcome to the magical town of Cottontail Pines, where animals talk, and there is always a friend around the corner. In this new story called “Blacky’s Birthday,” Blacky the skunk wakes up on his special day expecting to be lavished with attention… and cake. Unfortunately, nobody seems to want to talk to him at all, and worst of all… no cake! Have all of Blacky’s friends decided not to like him anymore? And most importantly, will he never, ever get to eat any cake?! Find out what happens in this cute new story by T.K. Wade.