Adventures in cottontail.., p.1
Adventures in Cottontail Pines - The Lost Child, p.1TK Wade
ADVENTURES IN COTTONTAIL PINES
THE LOST CHILD
Cover Art Illustrated by:
T.K. Wade and Coy Fields II
Adventures in Cottontail Pines:
The Lost Child
Copyright © 2013 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
THE LOST CHILD
It was one of the many school days in Cottontail Pines, and whether the children wanted to or not, they would all have to leave their comfortable homes and walk the cobblestone path to Oak Pass. This is where Mister Hooty the owl would spend his time teaching all the young animals everything they would need to know in life.
His lesson plans were not often orderly, and the students usually never knew what they would be learning about until they arrived. It was in this way that the wise owl could teach them what was largest on his mind at any given time. To some of the animals, this was a very exciting way of learning, but to others, it could be frustrating.
It had been a very lovely summertime in Cottontail Pines, and Mister Hooty had been bringing up the Great Forest as of late. Cottontail Pines was a secluded village that was surrounded by a large field which was then surrounded by a large forest. Both the field and forest were off limits without supervision, but it was still important to the community because of their many resources.
The real problem about the forest was a particular nasty wolf named Fang. He was known to be rather vicious when it came to poor, unescorted travelers; however, Mister Hooty always made sure that no one would have to walk through the large field without assistance. He was very honorably accepted as the leader of Cottontail Pines for his ability to organize its safety so well.
Once in a while, the owl would take the children out on field trips into these dangerous areas; however, they were always accompanied by several badgers. Badgers were strong animals that were used as guardians of the happy town. Even Fang was frightened of them, and this was for good reason.
On one particular trip, a select group of children were walking about the Great Forest under the supervision of Mister Hooty and those same badgers. Among this group was Flopsy the lop-eared rabbit, Goober the timid, brown rabbit, and Blacky the grumpy skunk.
Mister Hooty watched over them carefully and mentioned, “Some of the shrubberies hereabouts have these very tiny red berries. Never eat them no matter how yummy they may look. You’ll wind up with a very unpleasant tummy ache.”
Flopsy seemed surprised. “I saw those! They really did look yummy. How can something so good-looking be so bad for you?”
Goober held up a finger and explained, “Not everything is what it seems, Flopsy. There are a lot of pretty things outside of Cottontail Pines, but not all of them are safe.”
Blacky scoffed. “I dunno what you both are yammering on about. I ate a whole bunch of those berries, and I don’t feel anything.”
Goober cringed, and Flopsy looked very worried; however, Mister Hooty was rather annoyed with the skunk. The owl said, “Blacky, what did I say about not eating things you did not know about?”
The skunk replied, “You said I wasn’t supposed to eat anything I didn’t know about.”
“And what did you do?”
“Well, I knew it was a berry, so I ate it.”
The owl ruffled his feathers. “And did you know what kind of berry it was?”
The skunk continued stubbornly. “Yes, a delicious one.”
Flopsy scolded Blacky, “You can’t just go around eating things you don’t know about. You could hurt yourself!”
Goober stepped up to the skunk and eyed him carefully. Blacky stepped back with annoyance. “Why are you looking at me like that?”
The observing brown rabbit replied, “I am looking for signs that you are getting ill. It is important for us to know, because we’ll have to administer first aid.”
Blacky pushed him aside and stepped away from them barking, “I feel fine!”
Mister Hooty groaned about the incident, but he still remained calm. He spoke to the children, “Each of you find a unique branch, berry, or flower to bring back with you to Cottontail Pines. We will take time tomorrow to study them.” He then spoke to the badgers, “Keep an eye on all of them. Don’t let them separate too much.” The badgers acknowledged and made sure to keep the children in line.
Most of the kids were all grouping up together, but Flopsy was the only one who was straying a bit. One of the badgers–a gray and brown striped one named Snapper–decided to follow her at a safe but still accommodating distance.
The lop-eared rabbit was talking to herself as she wondered, “Should I bring back a flower? No, I always bring a flower. Maybe, I should find a really colorful leaf. No, all the leaves are pretty bland in the summer time. I don’t want to be the only one who finds something ordinary this time.”
There was a sudden rustling to her right. She froze and peered into the shady forest; however, nothing obvious was visible. She swallowed to keep herself calm and stepped in that direction a few paces. She called, “Hello?”
Snapper decided to approach the bunny. Like most badgers, his voice was deep with an undertone of growling. He said to her, “There’s nothing over there. You better continue doing what Mister Hooty says.”
Flopsy shook her head. “I know I heard something. I don’t think it’s far away. Do you think that it may be Fang?”
“You better hope it isn’t. Let’s go on back.”
Flopsy started walking towards where she heard the sound. “I just want to look a little bit. I won’t go far. You can follow if you like just in case.”
Snapper grumbled and said, “Just around that big tree, and then we’re going back.”
Flopsy stopped once again. She heard a voice coming from just up ahead. It sounded feminine and sickly. Even Snapper seemed to have heard it. The bunny looked up at him and said, “I know something is out there, but I don’t think it’s dangerous.”
Snapper huffed. “How do you know?”
“It just doesn’t sound like it.” She slowly made her way around the big tree. Flopsy covered her mouth and gasped. A young human girl was lying on the ground as if she had fallen. She seemed to be sleeping, but everything about it felt like she was in some sort of trouble.
Snapper took hold of the rabbit and tried to force her to turn back. “We have to go!”
Flopsy struggled and protested, “We can’t just leave her here!”
“She could be dangerous!”
Flopsy broke free of the badgers hold. “She’s just a little girl! She could be in danger! We need to get her back to Cottontail Pines!” She noticed that the human’s knee was bruised. “She is hurt. See? We got to tell Mister Hooty and the others. Come on!”
The bunny was already marching back with determination. Snapper grumbled and followed her back. Something about being ordered around by a cute bunny was giving him a headache.
It was not long befo
Flopsy pleaded, “We have to take her back to Cottontail Pines! She’s just a little girl! She won’t survive out here!”
Blacky snapped, “Have you lost your mind?! We can’t take a human back to Cottontail Pines! It’s illegal!”
Mister Hooty corrected, “It’s not illegal, Blacky.”
“Then it should be illegal! I mean, look how big she is! She’ll be walking around stomping all over us!”
Goober checked on her as well. “She really isn’t that big, Blacky, and she is hurt. I hate to think what would happen if we left her out here.”
Flopsy continued, “Please, Mister Hooty. If we all work together, we can bring her back. Then we can give her first aid and take care of her until she is better. Please?”
Mister Hooty sighed. “This is a very dangerous plan you have, Flopsy. Humans can be very unpredictable. We almost never have dealings with them for this reason; however, the child is very young, and she does appear to be in immediate danger.” He paused and looked at everyone. “We are going to need to work together to bring her back. We need to be as swift as we can as well. Dusk is approaching.”
Everyone started to take their places around the girl. Blacky just stood there and crossed his arms. “I’m not gonna do it.”
Mister Hooty replied, “Yes, you are, or I’ll fail you for this assignment.”
“You told me to bring back local foliage, not a human girl.”
“Are you going to help or not, Blacky?”
The skunk grumbled and went over to help. “Fine!”
Flopsy smiled to him. “Thank you, Blacky.”
Blacky was still in a bad mood. All he said was, “Leave me alone.”
The animals all did their best to take the human girl out of the forest and to their home of Cottontail Pines. Little did they know that two angry eyes watched them from the shadows of the forest.
The news of a human child being brought into Cottontail Pines was near impossible to suppress. Most of the talking started just as some of the animals saw the girl being brought into the town by Mister Hooty’s class. Although the owl had not wanted it to be so public, he had resigned himself that this would have to be an open affair.
The first order of business was finding somewhere for the girl to stay. She had an advantage for being so small; however, she was still bigger than every single animal in Cottontail Pines, and the prospect of fitting her into their homes was doubtful. Despite this set back, Flopsy worked tirelessly to set up a tent in her back yard that could accommodate the girl, and Mister Hooty agreed to help with this.
When everything had been erected, Flopsy began to worry about the girl even more. The rabbit had bandaged the human’s knee, but that was not the biggest problem. The child had still not woken up. Mister Hooty–who had some medical knowledge–pointed out, “She may have bumped her head when she fell. I do hope that she will regain consciousness soon.”
Flopsy frowned. “I won’t leave her side–not even for a moment. I don’t care if she is a human or not. We have to do everything we can to help her.”
The owl nodded. “I understand, Flopsy. I–on the other wing–have to deal with the people of this town. There are a lot of questions going around about this incident.”
“I understand, Mister Hooty.”
As the owl stepped out of the tent, Flopsy’s parents–followed by Gumdrop the mouse–stepped inside.
Mother and Father seemed at a loss for words; however, they did support their daughter in this. Gumdrop was a bit more vocal. The mouse ran up to her friend and gazed upon the large creature. “She’s so big! I think it’s really great you brought her here. You have a kind heart, Flopsy.”
The rabbit smiled for a moment. “It’s way too dangerous in the Great Forest to just leave her lying out there. Did you see where Goober and Blacky went to?”
“Yeah! Goober is going around to everyone explaining the circumstances. I heard Blacky ended up at home with a terrible stomach ache.”
Flopsy rolled her eyes. “He deserves it. I’d go doctor him up, but I don’t wanna leave the human child.”
Gumdrop seemed to agree. “Do you think she’ll wake up?”
“I hope so, Gumdrop.” She sighed deeply. “I really hope so.”
The sun had set. Despite how late it was, everyone had gathered in Oak Pass to hear what Mister Hooty had to say on the matter. He told them about the incident that led up to them taking the girl into town. The people were astonished at the entire situation. The owl explained, “It was a hard decision, but one that had to be made. I do not regret taking her into Cottontail Pines, but I know that this could lead to potential problems. I assure you that everything is under control, and that I am dealing with this issue as we speak.”
Among the crowd of people was one of the more disagreeable residents–a fox named Wily. He was well known throughout the town as a troublemaker. Wily would normally have a snide comment about such an incident, but the truth was that this whole thing was rather interesting to him as well. He contemplated the turn of events in his own way.
A barrage of screams came from the direction of Donut Park. Kids and parents were running away and yelling out, “Fang! Fang! Fang is here!” True enough, in walked Fang the wolf in his typical casual swagger.
Mister Hooty signaled everyone to run back to their homes–which was what everyone did. Only Wily the fox remained at a distance watching and listening.
Three badgers were on the scene and looking as threatening as they could. Remarkably, the wolf seemed much less worried about them this time; in fact, he was even smirking at them.
The owl shouted, “Fang! Leave this town at once! You are not welcome here!”
Fang sat down on his haunches and feigned a look of offence. “My, my! I am beginning to think that I am disliked. Whatever did I do to deserve such a harsh welcoming?”
Mister Hooty reissued the command, “Fang, you have agreed to never set foot in this town. I expect you to obey that agreement!”
The wolf turned his paw about to check on the sharpness of his claws. “You never come to see me anymore. Perhaps, I was getting lonely in that big old forest out there.” He gazed back at the owl. “Did you ever stop and think that I have feelings too?”
“Stop acting like we are friends.”
“Your words hurt me to the quick; however, I am not incapable of taking the hint. I merely want to discuss something that will mutually benefit us both.”
Mister Hooty ruffled his feathers in anger. “Why should I be interested in anything concerning you?”
The wolf planted his paws into the dirt and sneered for a moment. “Your little outing into my forest has rid me of my dinner plans. Make no mistake, Mister Hooty, I plan on taking it back. But I wish to be a good sport about it and offer you the chance to deliver her personally.”
Mister Hooty had already guessed that was what he was going to bring up. He asked, “The human girl?”
Fang smiled brightly, “Oh, you are the educated one, aren’t you?! The child is no concern of yours. She is not even an animal. Give her back to me, and your peaceful town will never have to deal with such things again.”
The owl’s voice became grim. “And if we refuse?”
“Now, why would you go and do a silly thing like that? I’ve let these badgers push me around for a while, but I am starting to feel a bit braver since I tracked that girl. If you think I have been a nuisance before, try getting on my bad side.”
The words were powerful. Mister Hooty was left with a very difficult decision to make. He did not want to just give him the girl. It would mean the end of her for sure; however, the threat of an aggressive wolf could mean danger for all of Cottontail Pines… unless he was bluffing. The owl said, “Leave us, Fang. I will not give you that girl.”
Mister Hooty stood there watching the wolf as he disappeared. He was in a very difficult position. As the town’s leader, it was his responsibility to protect the animals of Cottontail Pines, but how to do this was not always clear.
Snapper the badger approached him and asked, “Do you think he will really act on his threat?”
The owl said, “He was bluffing. He is too scared of you and the other badgers to do anything stupid like attack, but he very well may try other means to get what he wants.”
“What should we do?”
“Give me some time alone in my tree, and I will have an answer before dawn.”
Flopsy had fallen asleep at the child’s side. There was a bit of noise in the tent that startled the bunny awake. She rubbed her eyes and looked around groggily. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. She said to herself, “Gumdrop must have gone on home.”
The rabbit stood up and stretched. That was when she realized the human girl was sitting up and looking directly at her. Flopsy completely froze in her stretched position as the two just stared at each other. She mumbled, “H-hello.”
The human did not seem to understand, but at the same time, she did not seem offended. There was also a lot of confusion and fear in her eyes which Flopsy noticed. The bunny relaxed her body and tried to explain, “We found you out in the forest. We saved you. You were hurt.”
It was apparent that the human girl could not speak the animal language. Flopsy pointed at the girl’s knee and made several motions that hinted at it being her doing. The girl smiled and lightly patted Flopsy on her head. The bunny was a little unprepared for the big hand, but she realized that it was the human’s way of saying “Thank you.”
From outside, Flopsy heard someone approaching the tent. It was her mother. As she stepped into the tent, she was saying, “Flopsy, is everything all right in…” She froze when she saw the human sitting up. “Oh, my. She’s awake! Is she okay?”
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