Amanda and Horace

As Amanda walked deeper into the woods, she saw the most unusual thing. In a place where no such thing should be, there was a garden gate. It was just a low, simple white wooden garden gate, two posts with the knobs on top. The gate itself was the type where the tops of the boards were lower toward the center and it was slightly open with no fence on either side. “Curious,” she thought to herself as she walked over to it and just looked at it for a minute. Though not freshly painted, it did not look neglected.

She slowly reached out her hand and touched it, just to make sure it was real. Then she swung it all the way open, then back and forth. There was just a slight squeak when it swung open but not when it closed. After doing this a few times, she walked through the gate and, instinctively, closed it. The woods seemed different on this side of the gate and there was a path she hadn’t seen just a minute before. She was even more curious now; she decided to follow it.

As she walked farther into the forest, she heard an owl and then the sound of the breeze moving the branches of the trees surrounding her on the path. There was the sound of a creek. There was one bordering her farm. It provided them with water and many fish suppers. But, she could not recall ever having seen this part of it before. That struck her as a little odd, but this little patch of forest was surprisingly restful. As she walked along, Amanda began to feel just the slightest bit tired. Finally coming to the bank of the creek, she decided to sit at the base of a very large tree and rest. No sooner had she sat down and leaned up against the tree when her eyelids became very heavy and she drifted off to sleep, a very deep sleep. As she passed into unconsciousness, she could hear the hooting of that owl again and thought it odd to hear an owl in the daytime.

Now Horace looked down at the reclining figure at the base of the tree in which he made his home and moaned to himself. “Not only do I have a case of insomnia, but now there’s a young girl blocking the door to my tree! How are the beavers going to get in to fix the plumbing? Oh, drat and bother…Maury! Maury, where are you?”

“I’m over here on the other side of the house looking out for the beavers like you asked me to do. What is it now?” Maury, an impetuous and mischievous dragonfly flew back to where Horace was sitting and looking down toward the ground.

“Look down there,” he said pointing down with one wing. “There’s a, a, a GIRL down there on the ground, leaning right up against the elevator entrance to my tree and blocking it! Why, if it’s blocked, the beavers won’t be able to fix the plumbing. Oh bother! Bother, bother, BOTHER! Maury, can you go down and do something to make her go away so the beavers can get in…please?”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea, Horace? She might swat me and kill me. I don’t think I like the idea very much. It sounds too dangerous to me”, he said with a slight grin on his face.

“Oh come on Maury, I know for a fact you’ve done that nose tickle thing a hundred times for fun. And, and, and that was on a napping bear! I’ve seen you move quicker than anyone thought you could. Come on, you know you can do it! Please?”

“That’s right I did annoy a few bears for fun didn’t I? I am pretty fast aren’t I? Oh alright, I’ll do it. You just watch me and see how fast I am! Wait! I’ve got a new technique I’ve wanted to try. Watch this!” Maury flew quickly out the window, down to the sleeping girl and landed right on her nose.Just as Maury was landing, Amanda began to wake from her nap. She sat up, stretched out both arms as long as she could and then yawned. When she tried to focus her eyes, she discovered a dragonfly sitting on her nose, staring right at her. Her eyes opened up very wide and she stared back. Then she tried to back up, away from the dragonfly, but because she was still leaning up against the tree, she could not. Amazingly, the dragonfly didn’t fly away. It just stayed right there on the end of her nose staring at her. Amanda was so surprised she just sat there, staring back.

“Maury, what are you doing down there? You’re supposed to be getting her to move so the plumbers can get to the door.” came Horace’s voice from up in the tree.

Amanda suddenly realized these creatures were talking. She looked up at Horace and then back at Maury again and then tried to sort of stand up and jump backward at the same time, but only succeeded in hitting her head so hard against the tree she knocked herself out. She then slumped down against the tree, back into her original position. Then Maury lifted off from her nose and hovered above her.

“Oh, hold on to your pin feathers, Horace. I was trying not to scare her to death, but, you seem to have accomplished that with your impatient shouting.” Maury shot back. “Now get down here and check to see if she’s dead or if you can wake her up again.”Just then, a small group of beavers waddled into the clearing. Each of them was wearing tool belt, a hard hat and a bag of tools that clanged and clanked with each step they took. Chatting loudly amongst themselves, they walked right up to the tree where Amanda lay unconscious and then stopped and stared at the girl and then looked at each other in surprise. “Hey! What is this?” said the leader. “How are we supposed to get up to Horace’s with that…that…human in the way?”

Maury buzzed over toward the lead beaver and said “Melvin, you hang on to those big, flashy teeth of yours. Horace will be right down and figure this out.” Melvin looked at his watch, started tapping his right foot, and then said, “Well, we’re on the clock. Time started when we left the shop. It makes no difference to me whether we spend the time working or not.” Melvin then turned around and spoke to the rest of the beavers, “Okay boys, break time. I saw a small stand of birches on the way in. Let’s go back there and get a little snack!” Then they all turned around and walked back the way that they came.Now Horace looked out his window and saw the beavers headed away from his tree and began to squawk loudly. “Hey there, you beavers, come back here! Come back here this instant! I have been waiting for you to get here for three days and I won’t have you leaving before you even get started!! Come back!!”

Maury flew up to Horace and shouted at him, “Settle down Horace, they are just going to lunch while we…YOU figure out what to do with that little girl down there.”

“How am I supposed to know what to do with her?” replied Horace. She’s just another lost human. We only see one every, every….oh, bother! I can’t remember the last time. Oh, I don’t know what to do with her.”

“Well, we’ll have to think of something, and soon, or those beavers will leave and you will have to schedule them again for another day”, said Maury.

“I can’t do that,” moaned Horace, “it’ll be another week before they can get out here again. I can’t stand being without running water. I already have dishes piled up all over in the kitchen, dirty laundry and I haven’t been able to make iced tea for almost a week! I can’t stand it, I tell you!” Horace was nearly shouting by this time and the noise caused Amanda to begin to stir. Horace and Maury both flew down to see if they could get her to wake up and leave.

As Amanda was beginning to wake up, she felt very groggy and had a terrific headache from banging her head against the tree. Her vision was a bit blurred as she opened her eyes but began to clear as she tried to sit up and get her bearings. She put her hands flat on the ground and began pushing herself up and to try to stand, but she got very dizzy and plopped right back down again and said “Whew! What happened? I think I took a little nap and when I woke up I must have still been dreaming because I thought I saw the ugliest dragon fly I’ve ever seen and it was sitting right on my nose. Wow! What a dream that must have been!”

Now, Maury is a very proud dragonfly and thinks he is quite handsome. He took great offense to what Amanda said and said so loudly. “Just what do you mean? I am not ugly! In fact, I am said to be quite attractive to the damselflies in the area. Humph, ugly indeed!”

Amanda looked in the direction of Maury’s voice to see the little dragon fly sitting on a leaf of a low hanging branch. He was looking quite stern for a dragon fly and she could not believe her eyes or her ears.

“Did you just talk to me?” Amanda said in a very surprised voice.

“Yes I did!” Maury exclaimed, “You insulted me. I was just trying to wake you up so the plumbers could get into Horace’s tree. His water pipes are not working and you were blocking the entrance to the elevator.”

Amanda could not believe her eyes or her ears. “You’re a talking dragon-fly?” She said to herself and she blinked real hard and then shook her head to try to clear her thoughts. “This is NOT happening to me!” But, when she looked again, Maury was still there and he was still talking. “You just have to move! Horace really needs the plumbers to fix his water pipes and …”

By this time, Horace had had enough and decided to put his own two cents in. He cleared his throat and said in his most official voice, “Young lady, please remove yourself from the entrance to my home or I shall be forced to take steps to have you removed!”

“Who ARE you?” Amanda asked. Horace then flew down to a lower branch so she could more easily see him. “Oh, yes, please forgive my poor manners. My name is Horace Alexander Bumpworth III. This tree is my home, the plumbing has gone out of whack, and the plumbers have just arrived only to find you sitting directly in front of the entrance to my elevator and, since they, the beavers, cannot climb a tree that is their only way in. So…can you please move yourself so they can get in?”

Now it took Amanda just a moment to realize what she was being told and then jumped up to clear the way saying, “Oh yes, I am very sorry, I didn’t know.”

Horace replied, “That’s quite alright, no harm done. Maury, would you please go and get the beavers back here so they can go on with their work?” Maury said, “Sure Horace, right away.Amanda watched Maury fly off to retrieve the beavers and then looked at Horace who asked, “And who might you be, young lady?”With a slight hesitation because she had never spoken to an owl before, Amanda replied, “My name is Amanda Applewhite. I live with my father on a farm in, in…” Amanda looked all around trying to get her bearings and realized she was not quite sure which way was home. “It’s in that direction, I thnk…” she said pointing west.

Horace ruffled his feathers, gave a little hoot, and said, “Well, it seems you have gotten yourself lost. Perhaps you should turn right around and head home right away. You wouldn’t want anyone to worry about you, so off you go! Goodbye! On your way!” Then he flew back up to his front porch.

Amanda just stood there staring at Horace as he perched about halfway up the tree. She realized that unless she looked really hard she couldn’t see that there was a little structure sticking out of the tree. Horace opened what looked like a little door and went inside. She then thought heard a door close. She shook her head, looked around the clearing for the beavers and didn’t see a thing. She looked up again and tried to see Horace’s front porch again and it wasn’t there! Amanda closed her eyes, shook her head again, looked all around, and could see no trace of the owl or the beavers.

She closed her eyes and began to rub them. She was just starting to think she had imagined it all when she opened her eyes again and found herself yawning and stretching her arms. She realized she was sitting down and still leaning up against the tree. She could hear the buzz as a dragonfly went close by her ear towards the stream and then up into a shaft of sunlight before disappearing.

Amanda wondered if she had just dreamed the whole thing, shook her head again and then, because she felt it was getting real close to supper time, headed home. She had a real story to tell her dad, but she was not sure exactly what that story was or how to tell him. When she got to the place where the garden gate was, she opened it, walked through and closed it. She walked a little ways toward where she had entered into the forest and turned around. The path was gone. She took couple of steps back toward the gate and now it was gone too. She stood and stared for just a minute, reached back to scratch her head, felt a lump on the back of her head and a sharp pain. “Ouch!” she said out loud and was surprised by the sound of her own voice. Her head hurt and throb slightly, so she turned and headed home quickly. When she reached the edge of the forest, she could see the sun was getting low in the sky. It was then that she realized that she still had a bunch of wildflowers in her hand. She turned toward home and ran, wondering how much, if any, of what she remembered was real.


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