This is my entry this week for the Exhibit A competition of therealljidol. I invite you to read and vote for the many fine entries. This week's topic is "Shenanigans." My entry is a new chapter for my children's book in progress, "Felix and the DreamWorld Bandits, and Other Stories."
As Felix listened to his mom's bedtime story, he thought about all the changes that would be happening soon. He was starting kindergarten tomorrow, and he was nervous. He squeezed his plush green dinosaur, Drusus, to his chest and asked, "Mommy? What if I don't know what to do when I get to school tomorrow?"
His mommy stopped reading and ruffled his hair. "Then ask your teacher, and she'll help you."
Felix considered this answer for a moment before asking, "What if the other kids laugh at me?"
"Then tell your teacher, honey. And tell me when you come home." She leaned in close and gave him a hug. "But they probably won't laugh at you, because they'll be new, too. It will be everybody's first day."
Squeezing his mommy back, he asked her, "Mommy, can you come with me?"
"I'll drive you to school, but then I'll have to leave, honey. But if you want, you can take Drusus in your backpack. Then you'll know you've got a friend with you."
Gesturing to the purple-and-silver plastic robot on his nightstand, Felix asked, "Can I take Hobart, too?"
His mommy smiled. "Sure, if you think it will help. But don't worry, honey, you'll do fine. And I bet you'll have a lot of fun, too. There will be lots of new things to learn; it will be an adventure."
Felix liked adventures. He often dreamed about being an astronaut, flying through space to new worlds. Making "zoom zoom" noises, he flew Drusus through the air above the bed as Mommy finished reading him one of his favorite books, about a jungle filled with playful animals. He closed his eyes to listen, imagining the jungle, filled with bright green trees and chirping birds.
A gold light filtered through the leaves, and Felix felt the warm sun on his arms. Next to him, he heard a familiar voice. "Are those monkeys? I've always wondered what they looked like." Looking up, Felix saw Drusus, who was a little bigger than him, like he usually was in the DreamWorld. At least, he was usually bigger, unless Felix needed him to be smaller. And then he was smaller. Drusus was very cooperative.
As a group of chattering monkeys hopped on a nearby branch, Felix replied, "Yes, those are monkeys. I saw some in the zoo once."
"Is this a zoo?" Drusus asked, sounding confused.
Felix examined the trees around him, looked down at the spongy soil. "No, this is a jungle," he said. "Jungles are like zoos, in that they have a lot of animals, but they're not like zoos, in that they don't have cages."
Drusus made an understanding sort of noise, even though it seemed like maybe he didn't.
Hobart rolled up with a knowledgeable beeping sound. In the DreamWorld, he was just a little shorter than Felix. In his robotic voice, he intoned, "Jungles are part of nature. Zoos are made by humans."
As he craned his long neck to look around, Drusus said, "Thank you, Hobart. That explains it perfectly."
Hobart made a whirring sound of acknowledgement and wheeled forward, twisting a path through the undergrowth. He extended a long claw and neatly plucked a bright red flower, placing it inside a compartment in his chest.
Wistfully, Drusus said, "I thought you were picking that flower for me."
"It is a specimen," Hobart said. Before Drusus could ask what "specimen" meant, Hobart added, "It is for science."
Drusus bent down his smallish head and buried his nose in the flowers, taking a deep whiff. "They smell wonderful! It's like vanilla and chocolate with honey, all at once. And this one smells like berries and coconut. You should smell them," he told Hobart.
"I do not smell," Hobart said. "I am a robot." He clipped off several more flowers and dropped them neatly in his compartment.
While Hobart was collecting flowers, and Drusus was trying to smell them all, Felix did some exploring. The jungle stretched around them as far as he could see. He saw colorful birds -- a macaw and a parrot, he thought -- fluttering through the trees. A slow-moving sloth hung from a branch, and something small and quick ran through the undergrowth nearby.
He saw a thick vine wrapped around a tree, and after counting the leaves to make certain it wasn't a poison ivy vine, he used it as a ladder to climb up. He had just perched himself on a nice, low branch to take a look around when a soft, squishy thing hit his arm. "What was that?" he asked no one in particular, and he looked at his arm. His light-blue shirt-sleeve was covered with the greasy guts of a rotten mango. "Ick," he said, more to himself than to anyone.
Turning his head to gaze up into the tree, Felix tried to figure out where the mango might have fallen from. As he was looking up -- squish -- another rotten fruit hit him right in the chest. "Hey! Who did that?" Felix asked.
All he heard was monkeys chattering.
Then, another squish! This time, it hit him in the legs. "Stop that!" he called.
The monkeys chattered louder.
Felix wanted to see the monkeys better, and he was about to climb down when he remembered he was in the DreamWorld. So instead, he flew. The warm jungle air buoyed him as he zoomed over to the tree where the monkeys were sitting. As he got closer, he was pelted with even more fruit. "Hey, stop it!" he called, and swooped upwards to get away.
The monkeys chattered loud and long, jumping up and down on the branch and waving their long, hairy arms.
Descending slowly, Felix landed and walked back to his friends. Drusus was munching some particularly tender-looking leaves, and Hobart was scooping dirt into a test tube. As Felix grew close, Drusus saw him and asked, "What happened? Did you eat an exploding melon?"
"Is there such a thing as an exploding melon?" Felix asked.
Drusus paused to think. "Probably not," he said.
"Some monkeys threw rotten fruit at me," Felix explained.
"Ick," Drusus said, because it seemed the sort of a thing he should say.
Hobart rolled past, squeezing the juice of a fruit into a jar. "Monkeys throw things at people," he intoned.
"Why?" Drusus asked.
"They are monkeys," Hobart answered simply.
Drusus said helpfully, "There's a pretty pond right over there. Why don't we swim, and you can get some of the ick off?"
"Race you!" Felix called and took off running. Drusus plodded after him, rather slowly, because that was as fast as he could run. Felix always won races with Drusus.
Tearing off his shirt and pants, Felix jumped into the pond in just his underwear. "Woo-hoo!" he cried, as he splashed in the water, that was warm as a bath.
Several seconds later, Drusus clumsily stomped into the water, with a "Woo-hoo!" of his own.
"Race across the pond?" Felix asked.
Drusus sighed. "You can race, if you want to. I'll just stay here."
He was going to explain that there was no point in racing if you were the only one racing, but Felix just laughed lightly and swam away, as fast as he could. As he paddled through the clear water, he counted in the back of his head, "One thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three..." It took him about 30 one-thousands each way to swim across the pond and back.
When he returned, Drusus was splashing wildly. This seemed a little unusual for his slow, quiet friend, but then Felix took a closer look. Drusus was splashing towards the shore, using his massive feet to send waves as far as he could.
"What are you doing?" Felix asked him.
"Trying to get your clothes back," Drusus said.
Felix looked in the direction Drusus was splashing. The monkeys were on the shore, waving Felix's pants and shirt above their heads, still chattering loudly. No matter how hard Drusus splashed at them, they only chattered louder. It sounded like they were laughing.
Felix suddenly felt self-conscious, which his mommy said was a long word that meant you were embarrassed. "They're laughing at me," Felix said, and pouted just a little bit.
"Why?" Drusus asked.
Dropping his voice to a hush, Felix said, "Because I'm in my underwear."
Drusus nodded wisely. "I know. I don't know why you wear them, especially when it's this warm out. I've never understood all this clothes business."
Instantly, Felix forgot about being embarrassed and laughed. He laughed and laughed. The more he thought about what Drusus had just said, the more he laughed.
Smiling, Drusus chimed in. "See? Clothes are funny, aren't they? I'm glad you finally agree."
Suddenly feeling rather brave, Felix strode out of the water, in his sopping underwear. He waved cheerfully at the monkeys as he passed them. "Have fun with the clothes, guys," he said, and set off into the jungle. Behind him, the monkeys chattered happily, and it almost seemed as if they were cheering for him.
The next morning, as he was getting ready for school, Felix hummed a happy tune. His mommy asked him, "Are you ready to go?"
Felix nodded. "I'm ready," he said. Tucking Drusus and Hobart into his backpack, he whispered, "Let's go have some more adventures."