Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Miss Pickles is as subtle as an elephant in the classroom

Later that afternoon, Mason and Ralph climbed off of the bus. Detangling themselves from the sticky hands of kindergartners pawing at their backpacks; they hopped onto the sidewalk and walked a few blocks to Ralph’s house.

“So what do you think we’re supposed to take?” Mason asked, pulling the straps of his backpack down.

“Take where?”

“On our adventure.” Mason looked at him as if he was stupid. How could he think of anything else? Every since Miss Pickles had mentioned it, Mason couldn’t stop thinking about where they might go and what they might do.

“I don’t know.” Ralph squelched his face together so that his eyes disappeared. “Where do you think we’re going?”

“I don’t know.” Mason’s face flushed with excitement and he punched the air. “Isn’t this exciting? We could go anywhere tomorrow! We could go to the ocean or to the arctic. Imagine! What if we went to China or to the mountains of Chile? I mean, we could go anywhere!”

“Don says that it’s illegal to take us outside the school building without parental consent,” Ralph repeated dutifully. “So how can we go to the ocean if it’s illegal?” They turned the corner and trotted down Ralph’s street.

“Ralph, this is an adventure,” Mason scoffed. He ignored the tiny twinge of doubt that tickled the back of his brain. They walked up the driveway and Ralph opened the front door. “We don’t need permission. That’s the whole point.” The smell of cinnamon and spices filled his nostrils as he dropped his backpack in the hallway. Mason inhaled deeply, trying to capture the smell in his lungs for as long as possible. His house smelled like cold wood. Ralph’s house always smelled of joy and freedom.

“Hey Mom?” Ralph called, waddling towards the kitchen. “We’re home!”

“Ach, mein liebe!” Ralph’s mother enveloped both boys into a massive hug, squeezing their faces into her ample cleavage. “Come, sit, eat, eat! Dinner is not for another two hours! You must be starving, yes? Mason, eat! You are sehr thin, ja?”

It was all Mason could do not to giggle. Not only was Ralph’s mother the best cook in town, but she had retained her thick German accent even after 20 years in America. It was even funnier when she talked to customers and bakeries on the phone. Mason plopped down at the table and took an obedient bite of the strudel she placed in front of him.

“Mrs. Anderson?” Mason ventured, letting the sugar and spices dance on his tounge. “Have you ever had an adventure?”

“Ja, ja,” she said, bobbing her head up and down. “I’ve had several adventures.”

“Like what?” Ralph shoved a chocolate éclair in his mouth and gazed up at her. “You never told me about your adventures.”

“It was not for you to know,” Mrs. Anderson teased, her blond curls bouncing around her head. “Why do you ask?”

Ralph opened his mouth, but Mason smacked his arm. “We’re just curious,” he said, smiling wide.

“Well, coming to America to marry your father was a huge adventure,” Mrs. Anderson murmured, waving a dough-covered hand through the air. “Then there was learning English and discovering my passion for baking. Then having you and your sister! You see, mein liebes, adventures aren’t just places. They can be time or experiences too.”

Mason bit down on his strudel, chewing slowly. “Time,” he repeated softly. Ralph shoved a cookie in his mouth and grinned at him, chocolate etched in the lines of his teeth.



The next morning, Mason stared at his closet. He had no idea what to pack. Not only could be going anywhere, but he could be going to any time as well. What if he got sent to the Ice Age or the future? What would he need then?

“Everything,” he muttered, tapping his chin. Grabbing his backpack, he began shoving everything he could get his hands on. Working in a frenzy, he stripped clothes off hangers, shoved his mother’s laptop in his bag, plucked snacks from the pantry and pulled on three pairs of socks. Dressing in a t-shirt and jeans, he pulled a parka over his arms and rubbed sunscreen on his face. He slathered peanut butter and jelly on some bread and filled a thermos full of water. Then he dumped an entire box of crackers in his bag, placed a straw hat swabbed with mosquito netting on his head and picked up a baseball bat.

By the time he had shoved his father’s old compass in one pocket and carefully folded a map of Alabama in his pocket (he had never been to Alabama, but it didn’t hurt to be prepared), he heard the bus roaring down the street.

Dragging his backpack by one strap, he hurried to the bus stop and arrived just as the bus was pulling up. The bus driver cracked the doors open and stared at him.

“What is going on?” she gasped. She stared at his overflowing back pack. “Has the apocalypse come?”

“I don’t know,” Mason said. He checked the pocket watch hanging around his neck and beamed. “In thirty minutes, I’m going on an adventure.”

“You’re going somewhere,” the lady muttered, averting her eyes. “Don’t you hit anyone with that bat, or I’ll hit you.” She grumbled as he shoved past her and barreled down the aisle. Ralph peeked over the seat and gasped.

“What is all that?” he asked as Mason shoved his huge backpack next to him. Mason looked over Ralph and raised an eyebrow. He was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, which was normal enough. However, five pie boxes sat on his lap.

“What’s all that?” Mason pointed. He wiped his forehead, hoping Miss Pickles would know if they were going north or not. This parka was hot.

“Apple pie, mincemeat pie, chocolate pie, mixed berry pie and coconut crème,” Ralph said, pointing to each box. He wrapped his large arms around the boxes protectively. “What? I don’t know where we’re going. Mom wanted to make sure we were prepared.”

“I don’t either!” Mason beamed, forgetting about the pies. He looked at the houses streaming past the bus and felt an exhilarating thrill hum through him. “In just a few minutes, we’ll be on an adventure.”

Ralph gulped and reached for the box with the apple pie.

Twenty minutes later, the bus pulled into the parking lot with a sigh and Mason scrambled out, dragging Ralph and his five pie boxes behind him. They rushed across the parking lot and ran through the school hallways, ignoring the shouts of teachers urging them to slow down.

The classroom was buzzing with excitement. Every child had brought something different to take on the adventure. Don had his Dad’s cell phone and a Blackberry. Beatrice carried a dictionary and book on proper etiquette. One boy carried a hockey stick, another his trombone.

No one was as prepared as Mason. Many girls giggled as he plopped into his seat, his parka poofing out like a marshmallow around him.

"Why are you dressed like that?" Don asked, eyeing the pocket watch around Mason's neck. He glanced over his parka, his hat with mosquito netting and the giant work boots he’d shoved on his feet. "What's that for?"

"In case we have an adventure in the 1800s," Mason said, tapping the watch. "They wore these then. I won't stand out."

"What are you talking about?"

"An adventure can be anywhere or any time," Mason said, the words pouring out of his mouth in an excited burst. "Who knows where or when we'll end up?"

"That's crazy," Don said, his eyes wide. "That's absurd. Why that’s"--

"HELLO DUCKIES!" Miss Pickles bounced into the room. She was wearing a billowing pink dress and carrying a tiny pink bag covered in sequins. Her feet were adorned in polka dotted rain boots and various ribbons poked through her frizzy blond curls. "Are you ready?" She turned to Mason and smiled. "And you are right, dear. Adventures are anywhere and whenever."

"You heard that?" Mason gaped.

"I hear everything." Miss Pickles looked like a satisfied cat.

"That's all you're taking?" Violet asked, a little girl in the third row. She clutched her teddy bear and glared suspiciously. "That's a tiny bag."

"Appearances aren't everything," Miss Pickles said. "I have everything in this bag."

"Like what?" the little girl asked.

With a flourish, Miss Pickles reached in her tiny pink bag and extracted an enormous elephant. The elephant blinked at the children and shook its ears, flapping so fast a gust of wind blew back Mason's hat. The elephant blinked and whirled its trunk in the air.

“Thanks!” Miss Pickles said, patting his head. With a smile, she placed her hand on the elephant’s bottom and stuffed the elephant back into her bag.

"So," she said with a smile. "Shall we get going?"

9 comments:

Prudy said...

I'm already smitten with Ralph and his mother. He reminds me of Augustus Gloop with a baking mom. Thanks for getting up the lastest installment so quickly. Tomorrow will there be more??? Don't leave us hanging.

Chad Aaron Sayban said...

Awesome! More, more, more!! ;-)

jenjen said...

I love Miss Pickles! Wonderful!!!

noble pig said...

Keep it coming my dear!

Prudy said...

Dear Blonde Duck:
This is Sailor. I loved the stories. They were so funny. I like Ralph and Beatrice sounds super funny too. I hope there will be another one soon. I can't wait. I love all books by Roald Dahl. Did you ever read the short one about the vicar? It's really funny. Love, Sailor

Lore said...

I like what Mason and Miss Pickles packed up ;)

Marie said...

OHhh Duckie. I am loving this sooo much. You are so gifted. I hope you send this one to a publisher. It's like Mary Poppins in a teacher for modern days! Wonderful, simply wonderful. I can't wait to see where they end up! You, my dear, are BRILLIANT!!

Bunny said...

this is wonderful, you have us all in the palm of your hand waiting....

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