Monday, September 15, 2008
Miss Pickles enjoys twirling
"Well," Miss Pickles said as she surveyed the lava ocean in front of them. "This does present a bit of the problem. I've got to be getting the duckies back soon." She looked at Jasper. "Any chance we could come back the way we came?"
Jasper shook his head, a solemn expression on his granite-like face. "Unless you've got a plane or some extra wings in there, I'm afraid not. This rock is too hard for me to even climb up." He held up his curved clawed hands. "How fast do you have to have them back?"
"By the end of the afternoon," Miss Pickles said. Jasper gave a low whisper and shook his head.
"The only folks who can help you are right there," he said, pointing to the red creatures scurrying around a black boat, their flaming heads flickering as they scuttled up and down the ship sailing across the lava. "And unless we can get to them, we're kinda stuck. The lava by the rock is too cool for them to get close to us. Plus, the boat is too hot for the kids to ride in. They'll sizzle like bacon."
"Bacon," Ralph said dreamily, wiping the drool from his chin.
"If you don't stop mentioning bacon, he's going to go into one of his moods," Don warned, glaring at Jasper.
"What kind of mood?" Jasper asked, his skin crinkling up around the laser in his forehead.
"I love bacon," Ralph cooed, licking his lips and clasping his hands together. "Bacon with pancakes...bacon cheeseburgers...bacon sandwiches..."
"Now you've done it!" Don snapped, smacking his hand to his forehead. "I've got to go find something bacon-like for him to eat now. Good job."
"I adore bacon." Ralph sighed as drool trembled off his chubby chin. "Canadian bacon pizza, BLTs....bacon and beans..."
Ignoring his friends, Mason continued to stare straight ahead. When Ralph was hungry for over an hour, he tended to sink into a food obsessed coma-like state that lasted until he had been fed. It was the very reason Ralph's mother packed him enough food to feed an army every day. He wasn't worried. In fact, Mason was so enthralled by the creatures frolicking in front of him that it took him a minute to notice Miss Pickles digging around in her purse.
"What are you looking for?" Don asked, standing on his tiptoes as he tried to peer in her purse.
"Bacon," Ralph howled, wrapping his arms around Miss Pickles and burying his head into her stomach. "Spinach and bacon dip, turkey and bacon sandwiches....any kind of bacon!"
"Hold on duckies," Miss Pickles muttered, as she literally stuck her head into her purse. She carefully detached Ralph, who immediately clutched onto Don. Taking a deep breath, Miss Pickles leaped off the ground and dove into her purse. Only her pink rain boots remained visible as the cloth bag bulged and clanging and tingling noises filled the air.
Mason continued to stare straight ahead, fascinated by the red creatures with flaming heads. "What are they?" he asked Jasper.
"Those are the Fireflies," Jasper said, the green light in his skull twinkling. "They live here among the lava and underground volcanoes, stoking the fires to heat Earth's surface."
"Why do they ride dragons if they can fly?" Beatrice asked, pushing her glasses on the bridge of her nose.
"Those aren't dragons," Mason argued. "They're dinosaurs."
"Nope," Beatrice replied smugly. She bent down and fished a book from her backpack. Clearing her throat, she adjusted her glasses and cracked the book open. "Skin of green, scales of glass, throats of fire, the dragons of past." Simpering, she held the book out to him and pointed to an illustration of a dragon.
"So you can read a fairy tale book," Mason snarled. "Big whoop."
"Mason," Jasper said quietly. "She's right. Look closer." He stretched out his long arms and gestured with his curved claws. Stepping closer to the lava bubbling at the edge of the obsidian plateau they stood on, Mason peered at the fireflies frolicking on the volcanic island. As the lava hissed around his toes, he stared at the great green creatures with curving necks. From here, he could barely make out tiny leathery wings and strong muscular arms and legs. As much as he hated to admit it, Beatrice was right. Swallowing hard, he turned to admit defeat.
"Singing frogs and toadstools, I've got it!" Miss Pickles shouted, emerging from her purse with a triumphant grin. Mason hid a grin, trying not to giggle at the a squirrel that was clinging to her curls and the piggy bank that was stuck in her earring. The squirrel chattered and grasped at her scalp and Miss Pickles scowled. The class giggled and Jasper laughed so loudly tears leaked down his strange face.
"Nuts, get back in there," Miss Pickles shouted, plucking the squirrel from her head and dropping it back in her purse. The piggy bank continued to dangle. "He always was the needy sort."
"Miss Pickles, what did you find?" Beatrice asked, shooting another smirk towards Mason. He glowered and considered shoving her in the lava.
"Bacon?" Ralph asked hopefully.
"NO BACON!" the class bellowed. Ralph sulked and a single tear dripped down his cheek. "Bacon..." he whispered mournfully.
"I've got something better than bacon, duckie," Miss Pickles said, thrusting a red scarf into the air. "I've got our ticket to the Fireflies' land."
"A scarf?" Jasper asked, raising his eyebrow.
"Pardon me, Miss Pickles, but given the temperature of the lava and the lack of water, we're all going to suffer from dehydration shortly," Beatrice chirped, taking a sip of her own water bottle. "May I suggest we return to a more suitable climate as soon as possible?"
"I could call some of my digger buddies and see if they can dig us out," Jasper offered.
Miss Pickles just grinned. "Mason," she said, turning to him. "What do you think?"
Mason looked at the Fireflies, watching how the glow of the blue flames curling from their head danced off the black volcano island. He watched how the green scales of the dragons shimmered against the red glare of the lava. He turned back to Miss Pickles and grinned. She smiled back. With a cackle, she held a corner of the scarf in each hand.
And then she twirled. Giggling and laughing, she twirled and twirled and circles.
"What's she doing?" Don shouted. "She's our guardian. She can't go crazy!"
"Someone give her some water, now!" Beatrice shouted, flinging the water from her canteen as Miss Pickles. "She's dehydrated and delusional." Jasper started towards her as all the children gathered together in fear.
"She's having an adventure," Mason shouted, blocking his path. "Give her a moment." He turned watched Miss Pickles twirl across the dusty rock. As she twirled, the scarf grew bigger and bigger. It ballooned behind her as it fluttered in the hot air, flipping and twisting like a flag in the wind. Flipping it in front of her, Miss Pickles watched as the enormous scarf slowly fluttered to the ground.
"Get on, duckies," she beamed, pointing to the scarf.
Everyone stared at her.
"Well, come on now, get on," Miss Pickles said, tapping her pink rain boot impatiently.
The children shuffled their feet and gave each other worried glances.
"Have I ever been wrong before?" Miss Pickles asked. "Where's your sense of adventure?"
Mason looked at his classmates. They looked as terrified as he felt. Taking a deep breath, he leaped forward into the center of the scarf.
"Right here!" he shouted, throwing his head up. Miss Pickles beamed and clapped her hands together. "Good show, duckie!" she shouted.
"This has got to be illegal," Don grumbled, dragging Ralph behind him. One by one, each of the other children climbed onto the scarf. Jasper stood at the edge, scratching his head.
"I'm too heavy to get on," he said, looking at the tall edges of the cliffs around them with a pained expression. "I'll have to dig my way up."
Miss Pickles merely raised an eyebrow. Without another word, Jasper scrambled onto the scarf.
"Now sit down, duckies," Miss Pickles said, scuttling around and grasping each of the four corners of the scarf. As the fabric drew over their heads, Mason felt panic rise in his chest. What if Miss Pickles was a crazy lunatic who was going to kill them? What if she wasn't a substitutesteacher at all, but a psychopath or even worse--a lunch lady? Fear gripped his throat and he opened his mouth in a silent scream. Surrounded by the scarlet silk, Mason flipped over into Beatrice as he felt the scarf spinning in the air.
Suddenly, they were all jostling into each other as they were hurled through the sky. Mason could hear the crackling and hissing of the lava underneath him and feel the waves of heat through the thin silk. Sucking in the hot air in big gulps, he gripped Don and Ralph's hands.
Then they crashed to the floor. As the children jabbered and shouted in angry voices, Mason struggled out of the red fabric. He gulped.
They had landed in the middle of a glass castle. Fireflies were streaming towards them, some flying through the air, some riding dragons. He heard a cackle above him. Automatically, he glanced toward the sky.
"See duckie?" Miss Pickles shouted as she floated down with her parasol. "I told you to trust me!"
To be continued.....
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