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the Feral Wolf Twins Go To the Country
chapter 6: Grackle!

by Justice H. Baldenbrach   May 19, 2003
(as read to eli in a monotone voice by his robot babysitter)

After a while the little party arrived at Franklin Allgemeine Zeitung's squat white farmhouse in a little clearing at the edge of the swamp; but there was no time for rest or sup, as the wise farmer set the Feral Wolf Twins to work straightaway in his fields, for, as he explained, "that is the country way."

He showed the ape-children how to dig a rude trench in the soil with their hands, and fill it with the powdery spores that would soon grow into fine stands of twigs, nuts, and moss; "but do not inhale the spores directly into your lungs," he cautioned, "for they would soon sprout in your bloodstream and turn your skin to jelly. It is a sight to see, ha! Ha!"

"Oh, Papa," cried little Sigmundt, "might I please stay here and help the Feral Wolf Twins dig their trenches?"

Enid remarked that she believed her son was far too sickly for "the work of the field;" but the pale, twitching child looked so piteously disappointed that Franklin Allgemeine Zeitung finally agreed that he might stay, and even provided a small spoon to assist with his labors.

"I shall return to collect you well after dark," concluded the farmer. Then the big black carriage rolled away, its passengers laughing merrily.

At the edge of the twig, nut, and moss field was a strange little grassy hill, perhaps four feet high. After Dickie, Eleanor, and Sigmundt had dug trenches for a while, there was a small explosion, like the crack of a cannon; the earth shook for a moment, and an odd plume of sulphurous smoke billowed from the crest of the hill, which Sigmundt referred to as "Old Smokey."

"No-one knows why it does that," he explained in a hushed voice. The Feral Wolf Twins smiled, and waved.

By and by the sun sank below Old Smokey's crest. Hours passed, and as the stars came out above the twig, nut, and moss field, Dickie and Eleanor tucked their bleeding fingers beneath their heads and collapsed into exhausted slumber.

Minutes later they snapped awake. Someone was calling faintly for help! Was it a dream? No! Eleanor saw, some ten feet away, that a grackle had seized little Sigmundt by his hair and was hopping away with him into the swamp.

Her fangs bared, she lunged for the bird; but clever Dickie still remembered the Howl of Distress from his life with the wolves in the Black Forest, and barked his mournful plea out to the echoing skies above. It was instantly answered by a great shaggy bear, which lumbered out of the shadows wearing trousers and a hat. The bear inhaled the grackle into his cavernous maw, burped slightly, and shambled away back into the night. Happily, the adventure was concluded with no more harm to little Sigmundt than the loss of a swath of his scalp, which gave him a jaunty, amusing appearance.

Shortly thereafter, at around two o'clock in the morning, a small carriage drawn by a goat arrived to take the laborers back to the Von Kanker farm. As he rode home over the bumpy path, Dickie reflected that their trousered helper was less likely to have been a bear than a large, hairy ho-bo; but since he still knew no human tongue, he could not relate this thought to his sister, who sat beside him. Nevertheless, he secretly resolved to steal away one night into the swamp to find the ho-bo and thank him for his help in averting an almost certain disaster between little Sigmundt and the wily grackle.

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