Chapter 6: When It Itches
It had been raining all morning so Lil Mike and Grandpa James had spent the last hour dancing in the living room. She had taught him a dance called "Shake Shake Shake Your Wiggles Out" and he had taught her the "Grandpa Two Step. " Pal was perched at the top of the bookcase while Buddy watched from under the end table. Grandma Lissa was peeking in and giggling from the kitchen where she was finishing up making the week's bread.
The sun came out. The clouds rolled away. And, Lil Mike was ready to get out. Grandpa James needed to go into town to see the dentist.
"Hey Mouse, would you like to take Nanna Jillian her bread while I'm gone?" he asked.
"Sure," said Lil Mike happily. She went to get her jacket and boots. "Can you help me with the saddle before you go?"
"Snow we're going to Nanna Jillian's," Lil Mike called as she went outside.
Snow opened the gate to her yard and trotted over. It didn't occur to Lil Mike that Snow's ability to open gates was unusual.
Wink scurried under a rose bush. "I'd best let Belle know," she called to Snow as she dashed off.
Once Snow was saddled and the bread was tied on she walked over to the porch so Lil Mike could get on.
"You have Nanna Jillian call Grandma Lissa when you get there," Grandpa James called as he drove off.
Lil Mike and her friends set out. Snow could open any gate on the farm and Buddy would get help if it were needed so off the adventurers went with a small white mouse flying far overhead keeping watch.
The group crossed the north pasture at a merry romp, went through an open gate and started across the clover field. They stayed to the trail so they wouldn't damage the growing clover. Wink scurried up and joined along behind.
"Hi Wink," Lil Mike called. Wild rabbits being your friends didn't seem strange to Lil Mike any more than gate-opening ponies. (How she knew Winks name is a question I can't answer.)
They moved up into the hills covered in cherry trees planted by Aaron Rose (the very first Rose born on Cherry Hill Farm). Here they slowed to a walk. Lil Mike began to play with two small dolls she had pulled out of her pockets. She chattered away with her toys trusting Snow to get her to Nanna Jillian's. The story as far as Pal could tell had something to do with a princess named Aurora and her friend. The saddle straps and Snow's mane were being used for some reason. Pal decided to jump up for a ride leaving Buddy and Wink to explore along the path ahead.
Buddy pranced into the underbrush sniffing along a trail made by Wink's cousins. He had a race with a squirrel, which beat him to a tree and was off.
High in the air Belle's tail began to itch.
*I'm sure you remember what happens when Belle sneezes. But when her tail itches it is far worse. You see when Belle's tail itches it means something is wrong. It can mean danger or trouble or sickness but whatever it is it isn't good. The problem with Belle's tail is that it never tells her where or what the problem is. It just itches and leaves her to figure out the rest.
Belle flew higher into the sky so she could look over all of Cherry Hill Farm and North Side Farm as well. There were far too many places for one little mouse to watch.
She checked her two weather whiskers. No sudden storms were coming. She listened with her pink-lined ears. There were no messages being sent that she could hear. Her keen eyes scanned back and forth trying not to miss anything.
It was Pal who felt it first. An irritating tickle started in the tufts of his ears (always a bad sign) and then his whole ear began to vibrate. He shook his head.
"Buddy! Wink! Snow!" he hissed as he gripped the saddle standing on all fours.
All the birds flew into the air at once. Animals began to dash out of the woods in all directions but since none of them knew just where to go they looked very silly and sometimes bumped into each other.
The four guardians stood firm protecting Lil Mike as best they could. Belle screamed to all the other guardians she could reach assigned to other members of the Rose family.
At first the ground shook like the washer off balance, and then it rolled like the ocean three or four times.
"Yeoowl!" screamed Pal as branches fell from trees and a crack appeared in the side of the hill nearby.
Lil Mike's eyes were a big as dove's eggs and she held onto Snow's mane in fear.
An old cherry tree near them snapped and cracked and shuttered so loud it sounded like a huge gun going off. Suddenly the whole tree began to fall right toward the group on the trail.
"NO!" yelled Belle with great force as she pointed her sharp middle claw at the falling tree. At that very second the tree was blasted back and it finished falling nearly twenty feet away. The group was tousled from the wind the blast had made but no one was hurt.
"Wow," said Lil Mike.
Messages from every corner of the farm were being sent to Belle. So as soon as she was sure Lil Mike and her friends were safe she flew off in a rush to help in all the other places she was needed.
It was Snow who took over now. She decided to get Lil Mike to Nanna Jillian's as quickly as possible. North Side Farm was the closest but would require going through the old growth forest.
Buddy was sent ahead to check the trail through the woods. Wink dashed off to check out the old hill and help make sure messages got through.
The trail led into the oldest and deepest part of the wood. Here the old forest that Belle had first seen still stood. Trees here had been here for a thousand years or so. Some were so big ten Roses together couldn't reach all the way around. Usually the ground here was a smooth carpet of brown with small clumps of ferns where light was still able to break through the thick branches. Now branches lay everywhere blocking the trail but Snow was able to get over or around them. Buddy came back to let them know a good-sized tree was down ahead. He had found a way around the tree but they would need to leave the trail.
Lil Mike was very quiet. She leaned back on Pal for security, held onto Snow's mane and looked at the mixed-up world around her with large, frightened eyes. Buddy led them off the trail to follow a ridge of stone for awhile then they dipped into a bottom area that was rather boggy after this morning's rain. They were heading up the other side when the ground gave way under Snow's feet. She stumbled and Lil Mike and Pal fell off.
Buddy grabbed Lil Mike's jacket and pulled her out of the way as Snow and the hillside of mud went sliding down.
"Wow," said Lil Mike and this time her lower lip began to tremble.
"Where is Wink when you need him!" hissed Pal. He quickly went to Lil Mike and gave her Kitty Kisses.
Lil Mike grabbed Pal and held him too tight but he didn't care (much). Buddy came over and leaned on her back to reassure her. Snow recovered from her fall and returned to Lil Mike blowing soft puffs into her hair to soothe her.
Once the frightened little girl was calm enough for them to get her on her way the guardians found a place high enough so that Lil Mike could get back on Snow. Snow went as quickly as possible wanting to get to safety.
The safest and most sensible human being Snow knew was Jillian Rose. And, that was the person she wanted to get to. Before the group could get back to the trail Jillian Rose was the very person they heard.
"Michal! Buddy! Snow!" Nanna Jillian was calling.
"We're here Nanna," called Lil Mike.
"Oh thank God!" cried Jillian as she rode up on Flash, her sleek black quarter horse. She was off of Flash and running to Lil Mike in a flash faster than Flash could flash. Nanna Jillian caught the little girl up in her arms crying and shaking as much as Lil Mike herself. Lil Mike had been brave long enough and was now crying hard.
"How are the rest of you?" snorted Flash to the guardians. All three were covered in mud and rather battered looking.
"OK," Snow snorted in reply. "We're just wet and tired."
"Everyone OK?" Wink popped up from behind a bush.
"We're just fine, no thanks to you," Pal hissed sourly.
"I'll trade you jobs any day Pally," Wink thumped her foot three times fast, turned up her white tail and headed off. I'll tell Belle everything is OK," she called over her shoulder.
"Well, well," said Jillian looking over the three guardians. "You have all done very well. Let's get you home and checked over. " She put Lil Mike up on Flash to give Snow a rest then mounted and headed for North Side Farm.
So Lil Mike and her friends were soon safe and warm and well mended, while poor, sweet Belle worked long into the night caring for her many friends on the farm.
Airabella Quick of Cherry Hill Farm is © copyright 2008 by Kimberlyn Kammerer. All rights reserved.
May not be reprinted elsewhere without permission from the author/illustrator.