Chapter One: The Strawberry Bandit
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Pudgy, a dark, gray whiskery mouse scurried into a cluttered garage. He dodged around boxes, dashed under benches and darted to a makeshift home in the back corner. “We have a problem.”
Gomer, a tall, nut-brown rather gawky fellow stopped chasing his tail and wrung his paws.
“What is it?” yawned Pipsqueak, a dainty soft-gray mouse.
Pudgy took a deep breath. “The strawberries are disappearing.”
Pipsqueak twitched her whiskers. This was bad. Strawberries were a delicious treat the Three Tails looked forward to all year. Gomer trembled. “I b-bet it’s that hawk!”
Pipsqueak sighed. “Gomer, it’s been weeks since the attack and we haven’t seen the hawk since.”
Gomer glared and shook his paw. “It’s only been days since it happened!”
“Don’t be so dramatic. The hawk barely touched you.”
Gomer gasped and pointed to a spot on his arm. “Look! Right here is where it’s terrible talons tried to–”.
“Gomer! Pipsqueak!” Pudgy commanded, silencing their argument. “Let’s have a look around the patch before jumping to any conclusions.”
Pipsqueak and Gomer glowered at each other and reluctantly agreed.
The Three Tails, as they were known throughout the homestead, squeezed through a small hole out into the sunshine and scampered to the strawberry patch at the front of the house.
Pipsqueak sniffed around. “Maybe it’s–”.
Bzzzzzzmmmm! A black and yellow blur shot down and landed on one of the flowers.
“You!” shouted Pudgy. “Stop eating our strawberries!”
The winged creature buzzed around looking for a nice place to land and then turned to look at the row of angry mice. “I’m not eating your strawberriezzz.”
“Then what are you doing?” Pipsqueak narrowed her eyes.
The bee bumbled and buzzed. “I’m collecting nectar from the roses to take back to my Queen.”
They watched as the bee flitted from flower to flower. Before it flew off, it whizzed by the trio and showed it’s legs. “See? Pollen.”
(Illustration: Close up of the bee’s legs with tiny pollen particles and a definition of pollen in back matter? Maybe as a starburst pointing to the pollen?)
Pudgy sighed as the bee took off.
Birds flew by but either didn’t see the inviting strawberry patch or had plenty to eat from the multiple bird feeders throughout the property. As the sun sank lower in the sky, their stomachs started to rumble.
“I’m soooo hungry. Can’t I just have one?” said Gomer looking longingly at the strawberries.
“Not yet, we need to leave them as bait. Let’s see if anything is happening on the other side.”
As the mice wandered to the far side of the patch, Gomer felt something staring at them. “Uh…Pudge?”
Pudgy turned and saw a small hairy head sticking out of the ground. It jumped out of the hole and scurried over to the mice.
“Are you lost?” The creature’s voice was high-pitched and squeaky.
“No.” Pudgy raised his eyebrows. “Are you?”
“I’ve never seen a mouse with stripes.” Gomer slowly circled the critter.
“I, sir, am a chipmunk. Name’s Leo.” Leo dashed straight for the strawberries.
“Stop!” Pudgy shouted.
Leo turned back. “Yes?”
“You can’t eat those strawberries,” said Pipsqueak.
Pudgy stood on his hind legs. “I do!”
Leo shook with fear. Pudgy, as wide as he was tall, towered above him.
At that moment, Gomer’s stomach growled. Not a low quiet growl, but a loud GRRRRRRRRRMMMMBBBBLE!
Leo cowered and raced back to his hole.
“That was too easy,” said Pipsqueak watching as Leo’s tail disappeared into the ground.
“Yes,” said Pudgy with a frown.
Gomer rubbed his paws together and scuttled to the biggest strawberry in the patch.
Pipsqueak took one step and froze. “Pudgy. What’s that?”
POP! POP! POP!
(Illustration: The three mice stare at the empty yard. Suddenly chipmunk heads pop up everywhere.)
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