Adventures in reading, p.18
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       Adventures in Reading, p.18

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  Chapter 2 Not the Basement!

  Only it wasn’t the basement. Tommy had fallen on his butt as soon as his feet hit the ground. Soft ground, luckily. There was clumpy grass under him and his heels were resting on a rock. But the rock was spongy. That was weird. It looked like a rock but it felt like a pillow. Maybe this was all a dream, he thought. He pinched himself and it hurt. He looked all around and everything was clear as day. This definitely was not a dream. He stood up and felt a little dizzy so he leaned over and rested his hands on his knees. He blinked his eyes several times and just stared at the ground. Little blue ants were scurrying every which way around the soft rock. Then he realized that the clump of grass he had been sitting on was also an interesting shade of blue, like the color of Noelle’s eyes. Then he laughed at himself for thinking such a silly thought. He straightened up again and the dizziness was gone. He had the strange feeling that he had been here before and he knew the way home. It was just over that hill. The hill that boasted two very tall blue Spruce trees. Very tall. Very blue. Now that he really looked around he saw that all the trees were blue. Blue leaves on every branch.

  Tommy should have been scared, but this place felt comfortable. He started up the path toward the Spruce trees but stopped when he neared the top. He could hear voices. Just to be on the safe side he decided to step off the path and hide behind the tree. The voices sounded friendly but you never knew.

  Tommy peered around the blue branches and watched.

  “Step lightly, Miss Gwinn,” said a tall red-haired man as he passed a pretty young woman.

  “Step lightly, Mr. Zerd,” she responded.

  Tommy frowned at the greetings, wondering what had happened to the traditional “Good morning” or “Good afternoon”.

  Neither of the two people headed his way. Miss Gwinn went right toward a two-story building while Mr. Zerd went left toward a pen holding several pink sheep. At least Tommy thought they were sheep, the sounds they were making sounded less like bleating and more like meowing. This was a most interesting place, Tommy thought, as he noticed two more people coming from behind the building. He heard the same greetings but then they lowered their voices and spoke in whispers. One of them pointed toward Tommy’s hideout and the other two looked quickly. Then Miss Gwinn went inside the building, but not before telling her friends to “step lightly” as if that were a goodbye.

  If they were aware of him maybe he should step out into the open, he thought, then decided against that. He turned and headed back down the hill and then took the path in the opposite direction. It wound around several blue trees and into a forest of blue. There were several rocks littering the path, but every one that he stepped on was soft and springy. He began bouncing his way along from rock to rock.

  Suddenly a voice stopped him cold. “Step lightly there, young man!” The tall Mr. Zerd stood before him holding a pink sheep on a leash. “The marns won’t take kindly to your stepping on the backs of all their young.”

  Tommy could see the man was concerned but not quite angry with him. “The marns?” Tommy asked.

  “Oh, you’re a visitor, aren’t you?” He said the word visitor with more stress on the last syllable: visiTOR. “The marns are the soft rocks. They’re very sensitive.”

  Tommy looked down at the path then back at the man and the animal.

  “Don’t step on them, visiTOR. Always take the left fork and pay for what you eat.” Mr. Zerd reached down to his sheep and grabbed a handful of the pink wool. He stretched his hand out in an offering of the pink stuff and Tommy didn’t know what he should do. Gingerly he reached his own hand out palm up and Mr. Zerd deposited the fluffy stuff in the middle. Tommy stared at it and Mr. Zerd could see he was confused so he put his own two hands around Tommy’s and squeezed the pink wool into his fist. When Tommy opened his hand he was surprised to find a hard round pink coin.

  Mr. Zerd abruptly turned and spoke over his shoulder, “Step lightly.”

  Tommy said, “Thank you,” and then more softly, “step lightly, you too.”

  He watched the man and sheep go back up the right fork of the trail. The sheep was meowing as it followed. It, too, was stepping lightly around the marns.

  Tommy turned the coin over in his hand and held it up closer to his eyes. There was an inscription that made no sense to him. He could only make out the last three words: land of Doldale.

  So, I’m in Doldale, he thought, and I have to keep taking the left fork, stay off the marns, pay for what I eat, and eventually I’ll get back to Grandma’s, ‘cuz here I’m just a visiTOR. He chuckled to himself and took off down the left trail.

  He walked for what seemed like hours and hours, miles and miles, without seeing another human being or animal. His stomach started to growl and he thought of the gum in his pocket. It might help to chew, he thought, but he would have preferred a sandwich or the dinner that he knew his grandmother was probably making right now. He unwrapped a stick and rolled it into a ball before putting it into his mouth. He crumpled the wrapper and tossed it away.

  Suddenly there was a loud roar and a huge lion-like creature appeared from behind a large marn. Its head had the typical lion’s mane, but the body was fat and pig-like with a curly short tail. The mane was white and framed a very dark brown face while the body and tail were a gray tone. Tommy stood frozen to the spot as the beast sniffed at the gum wrapper and intermittently roared.

  Maybe the penalty for littering in Doldale was death. Tommy finally got the feeling back in his legs and he started to run back the way he had come. The roars of the lion behind him grew fainter and Tommy dared to glance back to see that he was not being followed. There was a group of marns ahead that looked like boulders. He was breathing heavily and getting a stitch in his side that ached. As he slowed his pace he headed toward the marns intending to sit down on one and rest. It was very comfortable sitting on a large marn. Quite soft and, he noticed, there was a sweet scent wafting upwards. If he wasn’t so hungry he could imagine himself taking a nap on one of these soft creatures.

  He heard a burbly sound and smelled more of the aroma. He breathed it in deeply. It smelled like nothing in particular but everything in general: Grandma’s garden, Mom’s perfume, Dad’s cologne, apple pie, fresh cookies, flowers, the meadow, cinnamon pancakes. It was making his stomach growl more but his eyes grew heavy. The scent was drugging him and he put his head down on the next marn and stretched between them. It was an odd yet comfortable bed and the second marn began to softly burble as well. More aromas arose: hot chocolate, fudge, popcorn, roses, tangerines. Tommy sank deeper into the marns and closed his eyes. He mouth fell open and the gum slipped out. He slept hard. 

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