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My books can be purchased as e-books for only $1.99. If interested, just click here: Books.
Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life is the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
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Monday, March 28

Arbor - Chapter 3

Chapter 3 - The Wager

Rollie and Fred spent the next two hours trying to think of some way into that tree. Fred was little help but he gave it his best. He first suggested that Rollie take in several really deep breaths, then hold them, then wave his arms up and down as fast as he could. After all, if birds can fly, why not rabbits? Rollie just gave his friend a disgusted look. He didn’t tell him, however, that he had tried that very thing when he was a weeun. Had tried and tried and tried until his little weeun face was blue.

Then Fred thought maybe Rollie could do enough leg squats to build up his legs till he could just jump into the tree. Rollie again gave him a disgusted look. He had tried that too, but no matter how much he exercised he couldn’t make it to the lower branches, no matter how much he wanted to jump that high.

Rollie thought and thought about it and thought and thought some more. He finally decided he needed something to help launch him into the air. What would happen if he made some kind of trampoline? What was a trampoline? He didn’t know where that word came from, it just appeared in his head. He knew it was some sort of platform that Rollie could jump onto and then into the tree.

“Fred, we need to get some branches from the Arbor. Then we can tie them together to form a square and another four short wooden legs to hold it off the ground. Then I can weave smaller branches together across the platform and they will be springy and bouncy and I can just jump onto it and launch myself into the tree. What do you think?”

Fred just stared at his friend. He had no idea what Rollie was talking about. But he knew better than to question the plan.

They spent the next two hours finding the proper sizes, four sturdy branches to use for the legs, and four branches to use as the sides of the platform. Fred wasn’t much use in getting the stuff ready, so Rollie did all the stripping of the support branches, chewing off the smaller side branches and leaves until he had four strong side supports. Then he bound them together with strips of bark from the branches, four into a square and the other four as legs to hold it off the ground. The two back legs were a bit longer than the front so that the square would be tilted toward the tree. Next, he wove smaller branches onto the square, back and forth, in and out, thicker and thicker, until he had his platform filled in. He tested it with a front paw, pushing it down and watching the way it bounced back. There, it was ready.

“Whattaya think, Fred? Time for a test jump?”

Fred, who’d done all the watching and none of the work, agreed, nodding his head up and down, making the little fold of skin under his chin bounce up and down. Fred was no help with the construction of the platform because he was simply too little to do anything to help his friend. But his presence was all Rollie needed.

In the shadows of the Arbor, Tucker had silently watched the entire process. He stood with his arms folded across his massive chest. He didn’t know exactly what Rollie had in mind, but he was impressed with his archenemy’s industry. He watched Rollie drag his contraption in front of the middle bounty tree, about ten feet away. It looked like a ramp for launching projectiles, what looked to him like a thirty degree angle to the ground in the Gravel Yard.

Fred scooted over to the left of the platform and looked from it to the tree and back again. After studying the angle for a few moments, Rollie backed up ten steps, then backed up another ten. He took a deep breath. Then he began his run—THUMP, THUMP, THUMP, THUMP, faster and faster. Right at the last moment he swerved to the right of the platform and skidded to a halt just past the tree.

“Whu-whu—whatt’re you doing, Rollie?” Fred stuttered. “What was that all about?”

“I wanted to test the run and the takeoff, decide just where I wanted to plant myself before I jumped onto the platform. Next time it will be for real.” He walked slowly back to his starting point, his head down in concentration. He turned and looked once more at the platform, then up to the tree. Then he started his approach—THUMP, THUMP, THUMP, THUMP, faster and faster, THUMP, THUMP, THUMP!

Then a spring off the last “thump” and into the air and onto the platform. And disaster! His feet landed in the middle of the platform and both feet went right through the woven branches, throwing him face forward into the front of the platform.

“Whoooff!” he exploded as he landed and then pulled his face out of the leaves and branches, several leaves hanging from his ears. He hoisted his body free from the branches and tumbled off to the side. Fred hurried up to him.

“You, okay, Rollie? No broken legs or arms or ribs or face? What in the world happened?”

“I guess I needed something better on the platform, something my feet wouldn’t go through. I guess it’s back to the old drawing board, Fred.” Rollie got to his feet and dusted himself off and trudged to the edge of the platform and stood there, looking at it thoughtfully.

Neither Rollie nor Fred heard the muffled laugh from the Arbor as Tucker watched Rollie’s failed attempt. Trying to keep from bellowing out loud, Tucker doubled over when he saw Rollie’s ungraceful fall on his face. Oh, how sweet it was. His archenemy with egg, or in this case, leaves, all over his face. Without watching any more, Tucker turned and went back to his burrow to fantasize about the reflecting glass he was soon going to own.

Rollie thought and thought about it and thought and thought some more. He finally decided he needed something to help launch him into the air. What would happen if he made some kind of trampoline? What was a trampoline? He didn’t know where that word came from, it just appeared in his head. He knew it was some sort of platform that Rollie could jump onto and then into the tree.

“Fred, we need to get some branches from the Arbor. Then we can tie them together to form a square and another four short wooden legs to hold it off the ground. Then I can weave smaller branches together across the platform and they will be springy and bouncy and I can just jump onto it and launch myself into the tree. What do you think?”

Fred just stared at his friend. He had no idea what Rollie was talking about. But he knew better than to question the plan.

They spent the next two hours finding the proper sizes, four sturdy branches to use for the legs, and four branches to use as the sides of the platform. Fred wasn’t much use in getting the stuff ready, so Rollie did all the stripping of the support branches, chewing off the smaller side branches and leaves until he had four strong side supports. Then he bound them together with strips of bark from the branches, four into a square and the other four as legs to hold it off the ground. The two back legs were a bit longer than the front so that the square would be tilted toward the tree. Next, he wove smaller branches onto the square, back and forth, in and out, thicker and thicker, until he had his platform filled in. He tested it with a front paw, pushing it down and watching the way it bounced back. There, it was ready.

“Whattaya think, Fred? Time for a test jump?”

Fred, who’d done all the watching and none of the work, agreed, nodding his head up and down, making the little fold of skin under his chin bounce up and down. Fred was no help with the construction of the platform because he was simply too little to do anything to help his friend. But his presence was all Rollie needed.

In the shadows of the Arbor, Tucker had silently watched the entire process. He stood with his arms folded across his massive chest. He didn’t know exactly what Rollie had in mind, but he was impressed with his archenemy’s industry. He watched Rollie drag his contraption in front of the middle bounty tree, about ten feet away. It looked like a ramp for launching projectiles, what looked to him like a thirty degree angle to the ground in the Gravel Yard.

Fred scooted over to the left of the platform and looked from it to the tree and back again. After studying the angle for a few moments, Rollie backed up ten steps, then backed up another ten. He took a deep breath. Then he began his run—THUMP, THUMP, THUMP, THUMP, faster and faster. Right at the last moment he swerved to the right of the platform and skidded to a halt just past the tree.

“Whu-whu—whatt’re you doing, Rollie?” Fred stuttered. “What was that all about?”

“I wanted to test the run and the takeoff, decide just where I wanted to plant myself before I jumped onto the platform. Next time it will be for real.” He walked slowly back to his starting point, his head down in concentration. He turned and looked once more at the platform, then up to the tree. Then he started his approach—THUMP, THUMP, THUMP, THUMP, faster and faster, THUMP, THUMP, THUMP!

Then a spring off the last “thump” and into the air and onto the platform. And disaster! His feet landed in the middle of the platform and both feet went right through the woven branches, throwing him face forward into the front of the platform.

“Whoooff!” he exploded as he landed and then pulled his face out of the leaves and branches, several leaves hanging from his ears. He hoisted his body free from the branches and tumbled off to the side. Fred hurried up to him.

“You, okay, Rollie? No broken legs or arms or ribs or face? What in the world happened?”

“I guess I needed something better on the platform, something my feet wouldn’t go through. I guess it’s back to the old drawing board, Fred.” Rollie got to his feet and dusted himself off and trudged to the edge of the platform and stood there, looking at it thoughtfully.

Neither Rollie nor Fred heard the muffled laugh from the Arbor as Tucker watched Rollie’s failed attempt. Trying to keep from bellowing out loud, Tucker doubled over when he saw Rollie’s ungraceful fall on his face. Oh, how sweet it was. His archenemy with egg, or in this case, leaves, all over his face. Without watching any more, Tucker turned and went back to his burrow to fantasize about the reflecting glass he was soon going to own.

“Okay, Fred, I have to find something to put over the branches so my feet won’t go right through.” Rollie pulled his right ear down and plucked out several arbor vitae berries. “But what would that be?” He stood and thought for a moment. Then he raised his arm like someone switching on a light. That was it—the black material he’d used for the water bowl. He beckoned Fred to follow him and he reentered the shade of the Arbor. He began pawing his way into the soil, down to the black material. When he explained to Fred what he was doing, Fred joined him in clearing away the topsoil to get at the stuff below. Soon they’d uncovered a patch large enough to cover the platform. Then Rollie began the process of cutting it out with his teeth. Cut, cut, chew, chew. Rollie thought, “This stuff doesn’t taste very good but who cares. It should do nicely.”

When they had the material cut and out of the ground, Rollie took it to the platform and laid it across the branches. Then the tedious process of tying it tightly to the edges of the platform. He had to bite holes in the stuff, then tie it to the side branches again using the supple bark from more arbor vitae branches.

Finally he had it done. He patted the surface with a paw to see how it would bounce, how it would hold up when he jumped on it.

“Why don’t you just sort of step up on it to see how it will hold?” Fred asked.

So Rollie gingerly put one foot up and then the other. He stood there for a moment, balancing himself on the slanted platform. Then he took several little hops. Each hop was higher than the last until he was hopping and bouncing well above the platform.

“Yes! I think this is going to work, Fred! Now I have to try it for real.”

He backed up ten steps, then backed up another ten. He took a deep breath. Then he began his run—THUMP, THUMP, THUMP, THUMP, faster and faster. Again he took off on the last “thump” and landed right in the middle of the platform, right in the middle of the black material. And this time his feet didn’t go through. Instead, with a “Whoa-whoa-whoa!” like a cowboy talking to a flying bronco, Rollie flew up in the air and went up and up and right over the top of the tree, doing a little somersault at the top of his flight, coming down on the other side of the tree in a cloud of dust and arms and legs flying out in all directions. “Ohhhhhh, Fred,” Rollie said to his anxious friend as he lay there in a heap. “I think it maybe worked too well. Ohhhhhh, boy, do I feel like one sore rabbit.” He tentatively raised one arm and moved it in little circles, then the other. Then he raised one foot and wiggled each toe one after another. Then the other foot. Everything seemed to be still working. Nothing much damaged except his pride. He dragged himself to a sitting position and then hoisted himself all the way up.

“Uhhhhh,” he moaned as he brushed off the dust and did a little rabbit hop to get his muscles back in order. “Now I have to figure out where to put the platform so I don’t do that again.”

“I think you need to put it another ten feet away from the tree,” Fred suggested. It looked to me like ten feet further back would have sent you right into the middle of the tree. But that’s only a guess. Maybe you should rest awhile before you try that trick again. We could come back at dusk and get it right. Then, in the morning, you can do it and win my bet, our bet, I mean.” Fred looked at his friend with a sorrowful look on his leathery lizard face. “I’m sorry I got you into this, Rollie. It’s all my fault, a fault of my big mouth opening when it shouldn’t. It should open only when a fly goes by. Zap to the fly. But otherwise I should just shut up.”

“It’s all right, Fred. You’re my friend, and I need you to keep me on the right track. I’m not sure what the right track is, but at least this will have been an interesting experiment in Rabbit flight. Maybe we should suggest that this event be included in the Animal Olympics next year, the propelled rabbit jump. But should it be judged on height or distance?” Wait a minute, he thought to himself. How did he know about such a thing, the Animal Olympics? He didn’t know. Just another of those odd things that popped into his head.

Fred didn’t have a clue what Rollie was talking about. But then, he was seldom able to follow Rollie’s odd statements.

They agreed to return later in the cool of early evening and try it again. Fred dashed away, little lizard legs flying, three series of pushups and puffing before he made it to his home in the last tree. Rollie dragged his platform into the sheltering branches of the Arbor and went to his burrow to rest after his headlong flight over the bounty tree. Animal Olympics, indeed. Well, he could take some satisfaction in the fact that he was the current world champion in the event, both in height and distance.

* * *

Fred woke up just as the sun was peaking over the edge of the world in the east, creating huge piles of crimson clouds. “What, what, what have I done?” he cried, slapping himself on his horny little head. “Oh my, I was just going to take a little nap and I’ve slept through the whole night. Oh me, oh my. What must Rollie think of me?” He looked at himself in his reflecting glass and saw a miserable sleep-silly lizard. He hurried out to find his friend Rollie.

Almost at that very same time, Rollie woke up and rolled over and noticed the light of day sneaking through the feather door. “What, what, what have I done?” he cried, slapping himself on his rabbity ears. “Oh my, I was just going to take a little nap and I’ve slept through the whole night. Oh me, oh my. What must Fred think of me?” He started to get up and groaned with the effort. “Oh, I feel like I’ve been in a fifteen-round fight with Sugar Ray Rabbitson. How am I ever going to win that silly bet Fred made?” He managed to pull himself up and hurried out to find his friend Fred.

By the time they found each other, the rest of the folks of the Arbor had already gathered at the bounty tree to witness the outcome of Fred’s and Tucker’s wager. The bounty trees and the upper branches of the Arbor were heavy with doves and mockingbirds and sparrows and three or four hummingbirds, even some visiting grackles and pigeons who must have heard by the grapevine about this event. Nearly the entire Gravel Yard was covered with rabbits and quail and even Harvey and Hilda Javalina with their little son Pinky, who was perched atop his father’s head, the better to see what was going on. The grapevine was at work even with the wandering Javalinas. No coyotes or hawks or owls were present, for they were not invited to the Arbor for any occasion.

And right in the middle of it all stood tall Tucker Rabbit, standing with arms folded across his muscular chest, standing near the smallest bounty tree. He noticed the approach of his two enemies, one arch- and one mini-.

“Well, where have you two been? We’ve all been waiting for you. It is past time to get this over, and I hope you brought with you the reflecting glass, oh ugly Fred Lizard, for I plan to take it with me to my burrow.” “Yeah, yeah, yeah, Mr. Braggadocio. You’ll be eating your words soon enough. In fact, when you lie flat on your stomach to apologize to us, you’ll be eating a little dirt sandwich too.” Fred grumped and grumbled his way to the tree while Rollie hauled out the platform from the shade of the Arbor.

Everyone parted to allow him and his contraption through. He placed it about what he thought was ten feet further away than it was the day before. That would have to do it, because they’d lost the chance to try it out before the jump for real. There was much murmuring and chatter from the audience, all of them wondering what this strange device was for. Nearly everyone the day before had either been taking an afternoon nap or been out searching for food, and no one but Tucker had observed Rollie’s trial efforts.

“What in the Arbor is that thing?” grunted Harvey Javalina from near the back of the crowd. “Yeah,” shrilled Pinkie from atop his father’s head, “what in the Arbor is that thing?”

“Tell us, tell us!” shouted the rest of the crowd. “What is that funny looking thing you have there, Rollie Rabbit?”

Rollie patted the platform and raised his voice to reply. “Instead of telling you what it is, I’ll show you. Just be patient.”

He looked at Fred and Fred looked at him. Then they both slowly nodded their heads. Rollie backed up ten steps, then backed up another ten. He took a deep breath. Then he began his run—THUMP, THUMP, THUMP, THUMP, faster and faster. He took off on the last “thump” and landed right in the middle of the platform, right in the middle of the black material. And this time he flew up in the air and did a little somersault before crashing into the middle of the bounty tree. The crowd went crazy. There were shouts of praise, shouts of amazement, shots of triumph. And some simply shouted to hear themselves shout.

Tucker’s jaw had dropped as low as Rollie’s flight had flown high. His shoulders slumped, his eyes turned bright red with anger and disappointment. And Rollie’s head appeared from among the branches and his hand went up in a victory sign to the crowd and to his friend Fred. Then he plucked several branches loaded with leaves and tossed them to the ground, where the other rabbits all raced for the leafy feast. And he plucked even more until all the rabbits had some. Then he threw down five, six, seven oranges for the birds and the three Javalinas. When everyone was satisfied with the tree’s and Rollie’s bounty, Rollie carefully climbed down from the tree and dropped to the ground.

He looked at Fred. He looked at Tucker. Tucker glared at him. “Now I think we have a little ceremony to attend to, don’t we, Tucker?” Tucker glared even harder at Rollie Rabbit, his archenemy. Then he turned his glare on Fred Lizard, his ugly mini-enemy.

“All right, all right, I said I’d do it, and I’ll do it.”

Tucker slowly lowered himself to the ground, taking as much time as he could, first to his knees, then slowly, slowly to his belly. He looked up at Fred and Rollie with hatred practically steaming from his eyes. And with teeth gritted and jaw clenched, he growled at them, “I . . . uh . . . pol . . . uh . . . gize . . . for . . . all . . . the . . . mean . . . things . . . I’ve . . . said . . . uh . . . bout . . . you.” Every syllable hurt him to say, like spitting out tacks or spitting up poison pods. Fred was right there at eye level and Fred could read the message there in Tucker’s eyes: “I’ll get even, ugly one, I’ll get even. Just you wait.”

The excitement was now over. The crowd, now filled with the bounty from the Bounty Tree and Rollie’s generosity, broke up and went back to the Arbor or back to the sky or back to wherever they’d come from to see this event. The Javalinas lumbered off to the north, snorting and snuffling along with little Pinkie running along behind. Tucker slowly rose from the ground, brushed himself off, looked around to see if anyone was laughing at his humiliation, especially any young females. But no one gave him a glance. As he made his slow way back to his burrow, it seemed that he wasn’t nearly as tall as before. But he turned one last time before he entered the Arbor to glare at Fred and Rollie, his eyes glaring the message again: “Just you two wait, I’ll get even. I will get even.”

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