League Flash Fiction Prize Winner

image_1I almost forgot – In all the hustle and bustle of the last few weeks I won a prize! Yay! Someone out there actually likes my work, and it’s not my mother (although she likes it too…I think).  The League of Utah Writers holds several conferences and events throughout the year. In their big Fall conference they hold a large writing contest for anyone who wants to participate.

There are a ton of categories to choose from including first chapter, whole book, short story, article, etc. I usually end up doing flash fiction because of time constraints. I can finish and polish a 1000 word or less story much faster than say, a novel.

My story “Mundane Chores” centered around a playful interaction of mother and young child. The mother is trying to fold laundry and the child is doing his very best to distract her from it. It’s not really a story, but rather a vignette meant to capture a moment of childhood and parenthood. Had I managed to make it a story with an inciting incident and clever ending I might have taken a higher prize than third place.

I’m not complaining. This was a piece I wrote in a car driving to Yellowstone with my family, which includes several young children. I’m ecstatic to take home anything.

Winning is a huge confidence boost. I hope to write and enter more contests in the future.

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The Man in the Cupboard, pt. 25

We last left Mike sailing through the air once again in the clutches of Ben the bluejay. He’s escaped Queen Caliee and the prison fortress of Willow Keep and is finally on the way home.

To read the previous episode, click here!

To start at the beginning, click here!

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Cool autumn air rushed through Mike’s hair and down the neck of his jacket, making him shiver. He held tight to Ben’s foot and tried to ignore the uneasy feeling in his stomach as the bird flew higher and higher.  It wouldn’t do to throw up in front of Maybelle, not after he had tried so hard to be brave.

Off to the left he spotted Ben’s gnarled crabapple tree and he remembered the promise he made at the beginning of his journey.

He craned his neck up and shouted out to the bird. “Can you set us down over by Auntie Marie’s burrow?”

The bird whistled in reply and began a steep descent toward the end of the hedgerow.

Maybelle tugged at Mike’s sleeve to get his attention. “I thought we were going to your home. Who’s Auntie Marie?” She yelled over the wind.

“A friend I met on my way here. You’ll like her.” Mike answered.

“Sweetie lady! Oh yes, oh yes!” Ben spun in the air, making Mike scream against his will.

Maybelle shrieked in delight, arms extended out as if she too were a bird. At least she was enjoying herself. Mike wouldn’t be able to forgive himself if she found the ride as terrifying as he did.

Ben dove down, pulled up sharply, and released his two passengers a few inches above the ground, making Mike tumble end over end in the grass. Maybelle landed lightly on her feet and for a moment Mike could do nothing but stare in open admiration as he lay flat on his back struggling for breath.

Before Mike could get up, Ben hopped over to him and started dipping the tip of his beak into the pockets of Mike’s jacket.

“Enough you crazy bird, I don’t have anything for you.” Mike shooed him away and climbed to his feet.  “That’s why we are going to Auntie Marie’s, remember?”

Ben bobbed his head. “Right, right.” He whistled again and rushed off into the hedge.

Maybelle suppressed a giggle behind a hand. “I’m guessing traveling by bird isn’t something you like doing. Am I right?”

“Let’s just say if there had been any other option to get us out of there, any at all, I would have taken it. I think I could live happily for a thousand years and not do that again.” Mike brushed grass off of his sleeve and sniffed. “If I remember correctly, Auntie Marie’s burrow is through this hedge. I hope Ben hasn’t eaten all the treats, that mouse is a marvel when it comes to cooking and baking.”

They passed through the hedge and followed the smell of candied hazelnut all the way to the burrow. When they arrived Auntie was standing at the tunnel mouth talking the ears off of Ben who was enjoying his share of nuts already.

Mike leaned in to Maybelle. “I suppose I should warn you, Auntie loves to talk,” he whispered.

“Don’t all aunties?”

Before Mike could answer, Auntie had spotted him. Her arms shot up and she released a delighted squeal.  “Mr. Mike! I’ve been so very worried ever since you left. Are you well dear, have they hurt you? Oh, of course you’re fine, just look at you. Why if it wasn’t for Ben here I might have run out of things to do.  He’s been so very helpful to me, bringing me things I need in the kitchen and what not. You’ll have to tell me all about this lovely girl here over some tea. Well let’s not stand around here flapping our gums, I have a fresh pear tart that about ready to come out of the oven and I won’t let you go until you had a slice.”

Mike opened his mouth to thank Auntie for her generosity but before he could speak she had turned and marched into the burrow talking to herself about how wonderful it was for Mike to be back.

“Wow, you weren’t kidding.” Maybelle said once Auntie was well out of hearing range.

“I never kid,” he chuckled. “Oh, and make sure you wash up well before going to her table. She’s half a mind to thump dirty hands with that ladle of hers.”

Inside the burrow Mike and Maybelle enjoyed Auntie’s cooking and did their best to keep up with her unending babble. At first Maybelle tried to slip in a comment or question here and there when Auntie took a sip of her tea or a bite of tart, but she soon gave up and sat back to enjoy the show.

Full of tart and tea and endless chatter, Mike leaned forward and rested his folded arms of the table and waited for Auntie to take a breath. The second she did he jumped in, there was a question he had to ask.

“Is Tilly or Jacob around?”

Auntie stammered. Mike imagined her train of thought crashing and she was forced to reorganize and reroute the cars before answering.

“They’ve gone back to their hole on the other end of the hedge, I reckon they’ll find you as you make your way back. They are always on the lookout.” She laughed to herself and launched right back into another endless stream of speech about her niece and nephew and how kind they were to visit her even though she suspected it was only for the food.

Maybelle finished her tea and gave a dramatic sigh before standing and interrupting. “Dear Auntie, it’s been a delight to meet you, I can see why Mike made a point to stop by on our way. We must be on our way if we are ever going to finish our journey today.”

Auntie stopped mid-sentence, unsure if she should be offended or not. Her whiskers twitched and she swallowed hard. “Well of course dear, you two love birds must be on your way.  Here, I’ll pack a few of these hazelnuts for you.”

“You’re the best Auntie. We’ll be sure to stop by next time we are around.” Mike hugged the chubby mouse who had removed a handkerchief from her pocket and was dabbing her eyes.

“Promise?”

“Of course.”

***

To be continued…

The Man in the Cupboard, pt. 22

In the last episode Maybelle finally opened up to Mike and told him of her tragic past. They share a much-needed embrace and Mike vows that he will do everything in his power to never let anyone hurt her again.

To read the previous installment, click here.

To start the story from the beginning, click here.

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Mike woke to a knocking at his door. He rolled over, hoping whoever it was would go away. He and Maybelle had talked long into the night and he had only gone to sleep a few hours before. The light from the bottle glass window seemed too bright to his sticky eyes and he pulled the blanket over his head.

The knocking continued. With a groan Mike peeled off the blanket and answered the door. Whoever had the nerve to wake him at this hour was going to get a piece of his mind.

He jerked open the door. “What do you want?” he barked before looking at who was there. He immediately regretted it

Queen Caliee and one of her attendants stood in the doorway.  The Queen wore her circlet and robe leading Mike to believe that she was here on official business.  Her attendant folded her arms across her chest and wore an unamused smirk.

“I need to speak with you,” the Queen said.

“Sure, give me a moment to put myself together and I’ll be right with you.” He sounded too eager, trying hard to make up for his lack of manners a moment earlier.

“No, now.” She pushed past him and sat in the branch work chair in the corner of the room under the window. The attendant took her post outside the door.

Mike took a seat on the edge of the unmade bed, painfully aware that he was still in his rumpled nightshirt as he faced the Queen.

“I have been made aware of your interest in Mistress Maybelle and I’m here to tell you that you cannot take her from Willow Keep.”

The suddenness of the announcement took Mike by surprise and left him gaping. “Excuse me? What do you mean I cannot take her?”

“The women available to you were the ones that we presented to you.  Did you presume you could just waltz in here and take whoever you wanted?”

Mike attempted to answer, to defend himself, but she cut him off before he could utter a syllable.

“I’ve tried to be patient with you and your lack of interest in the dozens of women we’ve made available for you. I hoped that somehow one of them would spark enough interest that you would be satisfied and leave.”

Mike hadn’t gotten over her initial pronouncement. “Why not her? Why can’t she leave with me should she choose to?” An intense heat built up within him as he spoke and he couldn’t hide the anger that he felt. “She’s lonely and hurting. Staying here only makes it worse.  Everyday she is reminded of what she has lost, of what you all have lost. Why can’t she be allowed to have some peace?”

“It’s not that. She is one of my advisors and is needed here. More than that, she is my cousin and the next in line to the throne. I simply can’t have her running off with the first he tinker that knocks on our door.”

Mike sighed and ran a hand through his uncombed hair. “Have you spoken to her about any of this?”

“No, and I won’t either.  If she thinks that I’m involved she will never speak to me again.”

“You expect me to be the one to tell her that I don’t want her?  I can’t do that.”

“Don’t you understand? She must stay here.  The safety of this keep depends on it.”

“I refuse to argue with you.” He stood and paced the narrow room. “And I refuse to lie to her either. If I talk to her I will tell her that you refuse to let her leave. She should be allowed to decide her own fate. It’s only fair.”

“Fair has nothing to do with it.  If you choose not to comply with my wishes I have no choice but to find a way to get rid of you.  I must protect my people and my kingdom.” She stood, straightened her skirt, and headed for the door.

“This is madness!” he shouted. “Without a next generation there will be no more tinkers. And as the only man left I am your only hope for survival.”

“Oh, I would never kill you.  But it is not beyond me to imprison you and use you as breeding stock for the rest of your days.” She shut the door hard behind her and Mike heard the lock click into place.

Once again they had trapped him in the small room. He kicked at the chair sending it tumbling over the floor. He wanted to scream and to curse. Just a few hours before he had found a happiness that he had never imagined as he and Maybelle kissed goodnight.  In the quiet hours of that early morning she had agreed to leave with him and leave the pain of her past behind.

There was only one thing to do.  He had to come up with a plan to escape with Maybelle, and soon.

***

To read the next episode, click here!

The Man in the Cupboard, pt. 15

In past episodes Mike has survived challenge after challenge and now has arrived at the base of the willow tree and met his first she tinker.  Will he survive this challenge?  Let’s find out!

To read the previous episode, click here!

To start at the beginning, click here!

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Mike brushed off the twigs and dirt from his sleeves and tugged his jacket straight. His tumble landing from his ride from the crazy blue jay had left him shaken, disheveled, and in no way prepared to meet the woman he might marry. He had envisioned so many things differently.  If he could have done this again he would have been brushed and groomed and come bearing some sort of gift.

The chance to make that sort of good impression was gone and it was all he could do not to curse at his bad luck. Especially not with a she tinker eyeing him while holding a spear.

“Answer me! What are you?” She demanded.

“The name’s Mike Finnegan, and I’m a tinker, like you,” he answered, holding his cane between himself and the armed she tinker. From above in the canopy of the willow Mike heard a gasp and the low hiss of several voices whispering back and forth.

“Impossible, all the he tinkers were killed with the curse.” She lowered her eyes ground the butt of the spear in the dirt.

Now it was Mike’s turn to be surprised. He knew that there had been some sort of calamity ages ago, but only hearing fragments here and there from sparrows visiting the house, he never had learned enough to put the pieces together. The shock of her statement startled him, he had to know more.  “Listen, I am what I say. You have to believe me, I never knew about any curse. Could you tell me more?”

She pounded the spear against the ground and her face twisted in anger as she once again stared him down. “How can you claim to be a tinker and not know this? Are you a spy for those filthy leprechauns?”

Mike stepped back. “No, I swear it!”

Another tinker stepped out from somewhere behind him without a sound.  Her hair hung in two dark braids over either shoulder and she had the air of importance about her.  “Enough Iszel, I’ll take it from here.” The honey haired tinker bowed and stepped back a few paces.

“Well, well, what have we here,” she muttered to herself as she stepped closer to Mike. She looked closely at his cane, being careful not to touch it, and then into his eyes.  With an outstretched finger she traced a line along his brow. “What you say is true, I find no deceit in you.” She smiled and the gesture sparked a warmth within him. “Welcome Mike Finnegan to Willow Keep, the last home of the tinkers. I am Queen Caliee.”

She turned to the other she tinkers who had assembled. “We shall show our guest every courtesy while he is with us.  Iszel, if you will show him to a room, I’m sure he’s weary from his travels.”

Iszel turned to the queen, never taking her eyes from him. “Are you sure he can be trusted?”

“I know you have sworn to protect me and this keep. I trust him to be what he says. Now show him into the keep.” She glanced around. “The longer we linger out here the more notice we’ll attract.”

“Yes,  ma’am.” Iszel nodded and bowed before turning back to Mike. “Alright, come with me and take care to stay on the path. We’ve taken measures to ensure our safety, I’d hate to see you caught in one before hearing what you have to say for yourself.”

“Yes, of course,” Mike agreed and followed her steps carefully.  He knew what he was capable of as a tinker in terms of creating traps and he’d hate to trigger any by accident. Iszel marched on ahead, head high, back straight.  He thought finding the she tinkers would answer all of his questions, not bring an avalanche of even more questions.

Iszel led him to a hidden passageway concealed by an outstretched root of the tree.  From within he could see an elaborate system of pulleys and gears that would raise and lower the root to allow entrance. Whoever had created all of this was surely a genius that he wanted to meet.  The passage slanted down toward a tall door flanked by two armored tinker guards who eyed him with curiosity.

Inside the doors was a great hall with pillars arching overhead formed from the roots of the tree.  The floor was set with smooth polished stones. Several she tinkers in the hall stopped what they were doing to watch him as he passed by.

They traveled down several different corridors before arriving at a door. “You should find everything you need in here, rest and get cleaned up.  Someone will come for you in a while.” Iszel said as she ushered him inside.

As soon as he entered the room she shut the door and he heard a key turn in the lock. “Hey, what’s the meaning of this?” he shouted and banged on the door. There was no answer.

To be continued…

To read the next episode, click here!

 

 

The Man in the Cupboard, pt. 14

We last left Mike in the hooked claws of Ben the crazy bluejay, flying through the park to where the she tinkers might live.

To read the previous episode, click here!

To start at the beginning, click here!

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As Mike felt his feet leave the safety of the nest he thought for sure that he was going to die, after so many adventures to get this far, this one would be the one to end it all.  He already imagined the hooked claws loosening their grip as Ben flapped up and free of the twisted crab apple tree.

Up flying in the clear Ben whistled a happy tune to himself, each note grating on Mike’s already strained nerves.  How dare the bird be so carefree while he hung beneath fearing for his life?  He gripped the bird’s scaly ankles until his knuckles turned white. If the bird forgot about him, which was a real possibility, and released his grip, at least he’d have a chance to catch himself.

The park unfolded under them like a map, each trail, each tree a perfect miniature from this far above.  Mike searched for the two pines and the willow from the poem and tried hard to push his fear of heights aside. Each flap of Ben’s wings made his stomach clench tighter as he was pulled higher into the sky.

“Does little candy like to fly?” Ben whistled, giving Mike a little shake.

Mike held on tighter and squeezed his eyes shut. “No! Pay attention to what you’re doing!” Although it was a relief that bird hadn’t forgotten about him, he could do without any extra shaking. He was shaking enough on his own without the bird doing it to him.

“Don’t you trust a bird to fly? That’s what birds do best.” To demonstrate Ben tucked in his wings and plummeted spinning toward a wisteria arbor. Moments before striking the ground he flung his wings open again and soared through the tunnel of flowers, startling a flock of pigeons into flight in a flurry of feathers and angry screeching.

It took Mike a few moments to convince himself he hadn’t died in that very moment.  A pigeon feather had gotten stuck against his neck, and it tickled at his face threatening to make him sneeze. He didn’t dare remove it. “Never do that again, I beg you.”

“Candy not having fun? Too bad. No worry, we there soon.”

The thought of arrival brought a whole new set of worries. Ben was going to have to set him down somehow, and he couldn’t use his claws. Images of himself falling and being crushed against the ground or thrown against an unyielding tree trunk flashed through his mind, and with each one his heart beat harder.  As much as he had laughed off other threats to his life before, he truly didn’t want to die, not when he was this close to reaching his prize.

Ben banked between a pair of maples and a willow came into view.  On either side was a tall slender pine tree, just like he had said there would be. The bird swooped low to the ground and then slowed suddenly, flapping his wings forward, before dropping Mike into the undergrowth.

Mike hit the ground and rolled end over end several times before stopping flat on his back staring upwards through the thin draping limbs of the willow.

Somewhere nearby Mike heard Ben land and scratch around in the thin underbrush before hopping over and peering at him from above.  “Biscuit please.” He poked at Mike’s pocket with his beak.”

Mike climbed back to his feet and brushed himself off. “I’m fine, thank you.”

Ben missed the sarcasm in his voice entirely. “Good. Biscuit?”

“Here, take it.” Mike pulled the now smashed biscuit from his pocket which Ben snatched away.

“Where for the tarts?”

Mike described how to find Auntie’s burrow and Ben nodded vigorously, eager to leave. “Before you go you must promise me not to be a bother to her, she’ll love to feed you every once in a while but if you become a nuisance she will stop.”

“Not a bother, never a bother.  I bring her treats too, you see.  Good bird.”

Mike laughed and shook his head, Ben was a good bird at heart.  Even if he tried to eat Mike in the beginning. “Yes, you are.”

As Ben flew off Mike sensed that he wasn’t alone. A twig popped behind him and he heard whispers from the branches of the willow above.

“Turn slowly stranger or I’ll gut you,” said a woman’s voice.

Mike did as he was told, keeping his hand on his cane. Behind him he found the most remarkable she tinker he had ever seen holding a spear leveled at his chest like she knew how to use it.   She wore a walnut-shell breastplate and her hair hung free down her shoulders, reminding him of honey.

As their eyes met she narrowed her eyes and lowered her spear. “Could it really be? Are you what I think you are?”

To be continued…

To read the next episode, click here!

 

 

 

The Man in the Cupboard, pt. 13

In the last episode Mike finally made it to Ben the bluebird’s nest, narrowly avoiding being eaten by whatever lurked in the ivy.  Now, he must see if he can make sense of the crazy bird’s ramblings.

To read the previous episode, click here!

To start at the beginning of the story, click here!

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The dark shadow cast by the bird’s wings descended over the nest where Mike sat perched and trembling.  His held fast to the sticks that made up the nest, his knuckles white with the strain.  Being at the top of the tree was almost enough to unnerve him completely.  Looking down, when he dared, all he could see were branches and leaves, the ground had vanished.

“Why look, I candy I’ve got, all wrapped up nicely.  Is it a chocolate or a mint?” Ben said in a sing song voice while hopping back and forth, making the nest bounce and Mike’s stomach turn even more. “We best unwrap it and find out.”

If Mike could have worked up the courage to let go of the nest for a moment, he would have rapped the bird on the beak with his cane. “You will do nothing of the sort!

“The candy talks!” The bird laughed and cocked his head so far he was nearly upside down as he leaned in to get a better look. His black beady eyes sparkled with glee. “I’ve never had a talking candy before. Let’s get the wrapper off.” He nipped at Mike with his beak. “I do hope it’s got nuts.”

That was enough for Mike, he gripped the nest with one hand and swung the cane with the other. “Benjamin Bluejay I am not candy!” he hollered as it came down on the intruding beak with a crack.

The bird jumped to the other side of the nest, rubbing at his beak with the edge of his dusty blue wing. “That wasn’t very nice. No, no no…” He paced and twitched his wings, glancing back at Mike as if trying to figure him out.

“Listen crazy bird, I need to talk to you. You know everything about the park, what do you know of the she tinkers?”

Ben froze and fixed Mike in his stare, eyes narrowed. Then he began singing to himself, bobbing his head to the rhythm of the words.

Betwixt the pines a willow stands

Where the Valkyries rule the land.

With pointed spear and battle cry

They say that they will never die.

 

Mike leaned forward, the words meant something to the bird they had to be some sort of riddle. “Are the Valkyries the she tinkers? Are you trying to tell me where they are?”

The bird screeched and gave a curt nod. “Smart candy, now I can eat you?”

“Oh no, never, I’m not food.” Mike scooted back as the bird came closer, clicking his tongue inside its beak. “If it’s food you want I know where you can get some delicious biscuits and tarts.”

The bird stopped and stood up tall. “I like tarts, are there raspberry ones?”

“Certainly, and blueberry too.  I’m sure she will make whatever you like if you are polite.” Mike fished out one of the biscuits he had forgotten about from his pockets and tossed it forward. “Here, try this.”

Ben whistled and snatched up the biscuit. “Yes, I like. Where, tell me!”

Mike cringed at the thought of what he was about to suggest but it was the only way he could think of to get down from this tree and over the willow tree mentioned in the song.  “I’ll tell you, but first you have to do something for me.”

“What does the candy want?”

“Carry me to the willow tree where the she tinkers are, then I’ll tell you where you can get your tarts.” Mike cringed. Suggesting to be flown over the park to yet another tree? He must be losing his mind.

“More biscuit?”

Mike felt his other pocket, the second biscuit was still there. “When we get there.”

The bird gave a happy whistle and without waiting a moment grabbed Mike by the shoulders and lifted him from the nest.

To be continued…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Man in the Cupboard, pt. 12

In the previous episode, Mike had reached the end of the hedge trail and parted ways with the two field mice Jacob and Tilly.  Now he faces climbing the mighty crab apple tree to find a crazy bluejay.

To read the previous episode, click here!

To start at the beginning, click here!

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The words of Jacob’s warning echoed through Mike’s head as he made his way through the dense ivy that tangled around his feet, tripping him every other step.  Each brush of the undergrowth against his legs brought a new thrill of panic that some creature might be reaching out to grab him.  The faster he tried to move, the more tangled his feet became and the more times he fell.

When he finally reached the gnarled trunk of the tree all he wanted was a place to sit for a moment catch his breath.  That, and perhaps a hot cup of tea to steady his nerves.  He scanned the ivy for signs of life, nothing moved in the still air. He leaned against the rough bark and closed his eyes, letting the sun warm him.  Surely a few moments wouldn’t do any harm.

Just as Mike was starting to feel ready to attempt the climb something shot around his ankles, yanked him off his feet, and began dragging him under the ivy.  He twisted and flailed for his cane resting against the trunk and managed to knock it into his hands before going under the dark canopy of leaves. With a deft swing of the cane he sent a crackle of magic into the shadows.  Whatever was pulling him screeched and the binding at his feet loosened.

He didn’t stop to see what it was, the second he was free he ran for the tree and climbed as fast as he could until he reached the branches. That’s what Jacob had told him to do in the first place, he cursed at himself for not listening.  When he reached the first branch it was all he could do to pull himself on top of it before collapsing, breathless.  The height made his head swim and the thought of looking down made his stomach turn.

In the branches overhead he heard a series of chitters and squeaks bouncing about.

“What’s this here?” he heard one ask from somewhere above and to the left.

“Dunno, looks like a tall rat without a tail and wearing clothes,” answered another voice off to the right.

“Why’d ya think ol’ Cluny let him go?” asked the first voice.”I thought he’d be dinner for sure.”

A large grey squirrel leaped down on Mike’s branch, making it bounce.  Mike scrambled to grip the branch tighter, and squeezed his eyes shut. “Please don’t shake the branch.” He asked through clenched teeth.

“Wha’ you mean like this?” The grey squirrel jumped up and down a few times and Mike held on even tighter.  Even so he imagined he felt his grip slipping and him plummeting back down to the ivy and into the jaws of that thing that lived there. It wasn’t a pleasant thought.

“Stop it Wetta, you’re scaring him.” A second squirrel joined the first on the branch and the shaking thankfully stopped. Mike dared to look up to see his rescuer and saw a different grey squirrel, this one smaller with flecks of black peppered through his fur.  “Name’s Tucker friend, what’s yours?” he asked extending a paw.

Mike shook his head, he couldn’t imagine letting go, not yet. “Name’s Mike.”

“Well Mike, whatcha doing in our tree? You’re not a nut snatcher, are ya?” Tucker sat with his legs dangling next to Mike being careful not to jar him.  Wetta climbed over to another branch for a better view all the while muttering to himself about crazy rats.

“No, not interesting in nuts.” Mike managed to sit up and swallow down the dryness in his throat, but scooted close to where the branch met the trunk.

“Well then, why ya here?”

“I need to get to Benjamin, I have some questions for him.”

Tucker looked up to the top of the tree. “That’s a mighty hard climb for a land dweller like you. Do you want a lift?”

Mike risked a look up towards the top of the tree, if he had to do it on his own it would take the rest of the day.  That is, if he worked up the courage to let go of the branch.  “Would you do that?”

“Sure, It’d be fun.”

Wetta growled deep in his throat like he didn’t like the idea. “Tucker, what are you doing?”

“Being helpful, one day you should try it.”

“One day you are going to get yourself into trouble,” he said with a sneer and then bounded away.

“Stupid oaf,” Tucker said under his breath before turning back to Mike and extending a paw. “Alright, all you have to do is hang on tight and keep your head down. I’ll do the rest.”

Mike clung to Tucker’s paw and climbed on the squirrel’s back.  His thick fur made it easy to get a solid grip.

 

Without another word they were flying through the branches reaching higher and higher inside the great crab apple tree. Before Mike could think to be terrified they had reached the top and the blue jay’s nest.

Tucker stopped at the edge of the nest and let Mike climb off. “Listen, be careful around the old bird.  He’s a fine chap but he can be unpredictable at times.”

Mike’s legs shook as he climbed to the edge of the nest, this was higher than he had ever been before and he definitely didn’t like it.  “I will, thank you for the lift, I honestly can say I couldn’t do it without you.”

Overhead they heard a whistle of birdsong. “That’d be Ben, I’d best be heading down now, the two of us don’t get along. Good luck. Goodbye.”

Before Mike could say good-bye the squirrel had already turned and began his trip back down.  There was a great rush of wind as Ben landed in his nest.

The bird clucked and cocked his head. “What’s this? Has someone left me a present?”

To be continued…

***

 To read the next episode, click here!