Category Archives: Garden Stories

2022 Mischief Makers Prologue: B.R.A.T.T Correctional Crew

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Figgy Frost paced in front of a small crowd of red and green clad elves. The snow crunching under his tiny toes.

“Ok Crew, it’s game time!”

“Yes, Sir!” the elves chanted back.

“We’ve been training!”

“Sir!”

“We’ve been toiling!”

“Sir!”

“We’ve been trying our–.”

“I think,” Pixie Powder interrupted, “what Figgy is trying to say is…good luck to you all this season! He and I will be working in the trenches with you, but will meet back here each night to debrief and troubleshoot.”

The select group cheered, spun mid-air, and flew off into the night.

“Er, thanks Pixie,” Figgy said sheepishly. “Got a little carried away there.”

Pixie smiled. She and Figgy had been working hard training the new recruits of the B.R.A.T.T. Correctional Crew every day since Santa had assigned them the job as Co-Chiefs the previous year.

B.R.A.T.T., or, the Big Rowdy Association of Tiny Tyrants had increased in number over the last several years. Santa, Mrs. Claus, and the rest of the Care of Christmas Board decided that the B.R.A.T.T. Correctional Crew needed to be re-instated to combat the growing problem.

After the announcement, Mischief Makers across the globe had eagerly submitted complaints about their charges. Some were legitimate, some…not so much.

Lars, whose kid set up a mouse trap to capture him, among other dangerous stunts, definitely needed help. But then there was Spark, who had sent in complaints about her kid’s lack of excitement about the gifts she left. As if a kid could or would be excited about receiving plain white socks on the first night…and every night of the season.

Santa had put Pixie and Figgy in charge of the program after their turbulent year with the Malloy family, a longtime member of B.R.A.T.T. Over the past year, the duo had assembled a small strike team and run training exercises to get ready for the season. Every team had a list of kids who needed a little extra nudge in the good behavior department. Each one on their last chance before the Christmas Magic Reversal Squad paid a visit to their home, causing them to lose their assigned elf and be put on the Naughty List. Permanently.

“Great job guys!” Lil, Co-Chair of the Mischief Maker Program, fluttered to the ground beside Pixie and Figgy followed closely by her partner Nim.

“Yeah, you two are naturals!” Nim, added.

“You really think so?” asked Figgy, smiling.

“Absolutely!” said Nim.

“Are you guys ready?” asked Pixie.

“Yep,” said Lil. “We have just enough time to pay a quick visit before we have to get back for the Mischief Maker Launch Party.”

The four friends were headed to their original assignment for a pre-season pep talk from their first and favorite charges, Joe and Jake. They were just about to take off when the sound of galloping hooves thundered behind them.

“Wait!” Glitter, head of the Reindeer Program, skidded to a halt in front of the foursome. “Wait, huff-puff, huff-puff, just a minute.”

“Sorry Glitter! We almost forgot to get you!” exclaimed Pixie.

“No, no. That’s not it,” Glitter panted. “There’s been an emergency down at the toy shop. Santa needs all of you asap.”

Concerned, the elves and reindeer sped to the toy shop, breathless with worry.

“Surprise!”

Shouts and greetings, laughter and applause greeted them as they burst through the doors. Mischief Makers cheered, Santa chortled and two bewildered boys beamed at the foursome.

“Joe?!” gasped Nim and Lil. “Wha–???”

“Jake!?” shouted Figgy and Pixie. “How–???”

Santa’s eyes twinkled. “I made an exception to the rules. I am Santa after all. I wanted a special surprise to kick off this season and Figgy and Pixie’s new assignment.” Joe and Jake smiled broadly, eyes sparkling and cheeks splitting. “This is going to be the best Christmas ever!”

2021 Mischief Makers: Breaking News!

Here’s the set up from last year, first story for 2022 scheduled to post on 11/30!

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North Pole Gazette

Reported by Sparkly Sprinkles

December 25, 2021

After a turbulent year, Pixie Powder and Figgy Frost are happy for some downtime at the North Pole. But these two Mischief Makers are in for a real surprise. 

A source who is familiar with the matter told this reporter that Frost and Powder are going to head up a new task force in the Mischief Maker Program: The B.R.A.T.T. Correctional Crew! 

B.R.A.T.T., or, Big Rowdy Association of Tiny Tyrants is an old division of the North Pole that, due to a series of in-home kerfuffles, has recently come back into service. Frost and Powder’s mission: assemble a team to target Tiny Tyrants and whip them into shape.

And here they come just out of Santa’s office! While Frost’s smile seems a bit forced and Powder’s giggle a little nervous, Santa knows these Mischief Makers are up to the job. 

Where will they go next? 

This is a developing story. 

Mischief Makers Day 23: Shocking Secrets

It’s almost time! The elves are coming!!!

I’ll post the last few stories from 2021 as a refresher and intro to this year’s fun. Enjoy!

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“Figgy, Pixie!” Lil panted. “Don’t do it!”

Nim and Lil came streaming through the kitchen with Glitter hot on their heels. 

Pixie and Figgy frowned. “What’s wrong?”

Nim and Glitter looked around the room while Lil caught her breath. They saw the snack laden kitchen table and stack of games set up, ready to be played. 

“Oh,” sighed Glitter. “Good.”

Nim laughed nervously. “Whew! We thought for sure you were set to go out with a bang.”

“Well,” said Figgy. “We were just discussing livening this game day up a bit with some sparklers and fireworks.”

“NO!” Glitter, Nim and Lil all yelled at once.

“Jeez you three,” laughed Pixie. “Figgy is just kidding. We were only arguing about which game we should add to the pile. Quirkle or Mancala. Any votes?”

The new arrivals sighed in relief. 

“What’s going on?” asked Figgy. For the first time, he noticed the worried expressions on Nim and Lil’s faces and the serious set to Glitter’s head. 

Nim and Lil looked at eachother, communicating with eyebrows and head nods. 

“Wow you guys,” said Glitter. “Not too subtle, are you?”

Nim sighed. “We overheard Santa and The Director talking about you both.”

Figgy gasped. “The Director?” 

Lil nodded.

“What am I missing?” asked Pixie. “Who is ‘The Director’?”

“Sorry, Pixie,” said Lil. “I forget you were originally under the Birthday Beagle Brigade. The Director is the Head of Operations at the North Pole.”

“I thought Santa was the COO?”

“He is…sort of,” said Glitter. 

When Pixie still looked blank, Figgy filled her in. 

“The Director is in charge of the entire North Pole. All programs and events…even Santa.”

“And,” added Nim. “When there are problems that can’t be solved by traditional means, The Director sends a crew in to help.” 

“What problems have we caused?” asked Figgy. “We had a really rough start this season, but we managed to straighten out the Malloys ok.”

“Yeah,” added Pixie. “They’re absolute angels compared to the beginning of the year.”

“Righhhht,” said Glitter. “But it’s not just them. The Director had to re-enstate B.R.A.T.T. this season due to other…overzealous charges.”

“But that’s not our fault!” said Figgy. 

“I know,” said Lil. “We’re not exactly sure what is going on. We just overheard Santa and The Director talking and we heard your names and words like ‘too many messes’ and ‘re-assignment’.”

“Just who is The Director and why does he have so much power!?” spluttered Pixie.

She,” said Lil. “And she has so much power because she keeps the North Pole running smoothly. Santa would be lost without her help.”

Pixie’s eyes widened as realization dawned. “Mrs. Claus? She’s The Director?” 

Nim nodded while Figgy spluttered. “B-but does that mean…we won’t be coming back here next season?”

Lil gulped. “I’m afraid it may be worse than that.”

“That’s right,” said Nim. “We think Santa is pulling you two from the program.”

Adventures in Homesteading Chapter 6: The Informant

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“You’d better come with us.” Pudgy turned and led the group back to the garden once again to discuss the new information. “I want Leo to hear it first hand.”

The small group of mice and not-quite-mice huddled outside the garden gate while waiting for Leo to come out. 

“Back again?” he asked through a mouthful of green beans. “Oh, hey Chipper.”

“Wait,” said Pipsqueak. “You know each other?”

“Sure.” Leo picked at his teeth. “We’ve met a time or two.”

“Of course you have,” Pudgy grumbled. “Chipper and his horde have information on the strawberry thief. They’ll share it with us if we let them in on our deal and share the garden.”

Leo looked shrewdly at Chipper. “You’ve got more brains than I gave you credit for Chipper.”

“Why you–!” 

“Enough!” Pudgy stomped his feet. “Let’s get on with it.”

“Well, what do you know?” Leo asked when Chipper was silent but for the twitch of a whisker.

“Not until you let us in on this deal,” said Chipper with nod at the garden. “How do we get in there without getting trapped?”

“Tell us what you know first, then we’ll tell you the secret,” said Pipsqueak.

Chipper looked from Leo to Pudgy to Pipsqueak. Gomer was chasing his tail. Again.

“Fine,” he said. “We were sniffing around the house, trying to find a way into the garage when we heard an odd sort of jingling sound. We scurried around the corner but all we saw was a shadow. A large shadow.”

The Three Tails and the chipmunks shared a frustrated look. This “new information” was not very helpful and here they’d agreed to share the secret of the garden. For one second, Pudgy considered not telling them how to get in, but his honor would not allow him to go back on his word. 

With a loud sigh, he shared the secret with their new allies and trudged back to the garage with Pipsqueak and Gomer.

Adventures in Homesteading: A Tale of Three Tails Chapter 5

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Chapter 5: The New Deal

“I cannot believe you agreed to their terms Pudgy!” Pipsqueak whispered angrily. “After we worked so hard to keep them away from the strawberries!”

The Three Tails wandered back to the garage only to find that more strawberries were missing. Since the chipmunks were occupied in the garden, they knew their culprit was still at large. 

“We have to work with them, Pipsqueak. Besides, they weren’t our strawberry thieves were they?”

“True,” sighed Pipsqueak. “So now we are back to square one.”

The trio huddled behind an old rusted coffee can watching the patch for trespassers. 

“I just don’t know who it could be,” murmured Pudgy. 

“Scoot over Gomer,” Pipsqueak whispered. “You’re hogging the coffee can.”

Gomer grunted but shuffled over.

“Shhh!” Pudgy squeaked. “I see movement behind the bushes!”

They peered around the side of the coffee can and watched as a few, very small, mice scurried around, digging around the strawberries.

“Uh…those don’t really look like mice. I mean, they do, but not really…you know what I mean Pudge?” said Gomer.

In surprise, Pipsqueak looked at Gomer and said, “Wow. You’re right Gomer.” He wasn’t normally so observant.

“What are you guys looking at?”

Pudgy, Pipsqueak and Gomer all jumped. One of the creatures had snuck up behind them. It had a mean look about it like it was ready to fight.

“We could ask you the same question,” said Pudgy, trying his best to sound menacing.

The not-mouse stared thoughtfully at them. “You must be the mice we’ve heard about. The ones who are living it up in the garage.”

“Yeah, so?” said Pipsqueak.

“Well, we all decided that we wanted in on that deal so we’re moving in.”

“What are you?” asked Pudgy. “You’re not regular mice.”

“That’s for sure,” it scoffed, looking offended. “We are field mice. I’m Chipper.”

Field mice, thought Pipsqueak. Burrowing under the ground, eating tubers and destroying gardens. Look at it with it’s short tail…mice are so much more civilized.

“Look, Chipper” said Pipsqueak. “This is our territory. We don’t have enough food to share with-with field mice so you’ll just have to scurry on to the next farm.”

“Ha! What a crock! We know you’ve made a deal with the chipmunks. We want in too.”

“No.” Pipsqueak twirled her tail aggressively around her paws.

Then, Chipper played his trump card. “Let us in on the deal you have with the chipmunks and I’ll tell you what I know about the strawberry thief. The real strawberry thief.”

PART_1388766041210
Illustration by Linda Kane

Adventures in Homesteading: A Tale of Three Tails Chapter 4

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Chapter 4: Danger

Pudgy, Pipsqueak and Gomer raced back through the hole in the garage, blocking it once again.

Gomer trembled as he re-lived his last run-in with a hawk. The memories. The smell of damp grass, the rush of cold air flitted through his mind, making him even more frightened.

Pipsqueak shivered.

“Everyone calm down!” Pudgy’s voice shook. “We’ve faced worse on the homestead. We can’t let one hawk make us cower in fear.”

Pipsqueak peeked through the crack in the door. “What can we do? The three of us are no match for a hawk.”

“We could always lure it to the garden,” Gomer had stopped trembling and there was a strange gleam in his eyes.

“Why on earth would we do that? Do hawk’s even eat vegetables?” 

“No. But I bet they eat chipmunks.”

Pipsqueak gasped. 

“Wait a minute,” Pudgy said almost to himself. “The chipmunks.”

“WHAT?!” Pipsqueak was horrified. “Did you see what that hawk just did?! We can’t use them as bait!”

Pudgy shook his head. “No, no, of course not. It would be the worst sort of betrayal. Even for strawberries.” Pudgy rubbed his paws together. “We could join forces with them!”

Gomer and Pipsqueak stared blankly at Pudgy. 

“We’ll appeal to their survival instincts. We’ll ask them to join us in protecting the food…and each other from predators.”

After checking to make sure the hawk was not lying in wait for a tasty mouse morsel, the Three Tails raced back to the garden and hid under a large head of lettuce.

“Psssst!” They tried to get the chipmunks attention, but the critters were too busy tearing into a red, juicy tomato to hear.

“Ahem!” Not even a twitch.

“HEY YOU GUYS!” Pipsqueak’s normally soft voice took on a shrill, screechy tone.

Seemingly as one, the chipmunks swiveled their heads, tomato juice dripping from their tiny mouths. 

“First,” said Pudgy. “We’d like to express how terribly sorry we are about your loss.”

“Our loss?” asked Leo.

“Yes,” said Pipsqueak. “The hawk just took two of your group.”

“Oh!” said Leo. “That.”

Pipsqueak looked at Pudgy for help.

“Aren’t you sad?” Gomer wrinkled his brow.

“Oh sure,” said Leo as he bit into another juicy tomato. “Heartbroken.” 

The other chipmunks chittered. 

“*Maybe appealing to their survival instincts is not such a good idea*,” whispered Pipsqueak. 

“Look,” said Leo. “If we were sad every time one of our number was eaten, attacked or taken, we’d be crying all the time.” He took a big bite out of a cucumber. “We’ve learned to cope.” 

“I can see that,” said Pudgy. “But if we join forces, we can be lookouts for each other. Partners. Maybe even…friends.”

Leo twitched his ears.

“Ok,” said Pipsqueak. “Maybe not friends, but colleagues at the least.”

Leo turned to the rest of his scurry, silently communicating with them. There was a lot of chitters, head shaking and high pitched trills before he finally turned back to the Three Tails.

“You have a deal,” he said. “On one condition.”

“What condition?” asked Pudgy.

Leo took another bite out of the cucumber, chewing slowly. “We share *all* the food.” He wiped his mouth with the back of his paw. “Strawberries included.”

Adventures in Homesteading: The Tale of Three Tails

Chapter 3: The Deal

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The Three Tails led the chipmunks to a beautiful garden. Large leafy heads of lettuce grew alongside big bushes of beans. Squash was just starting to sprout and carrots were peeking out of the ground. 

“Well?” said Pudgy.

Leo tore his gaze away from the garden and narrowed his eyes. “What’s in it for you if we leave the strawberries alone?”

“Only more strawberries for us,” said Pipsqueak. 

“There’s plenty in this garden for us to share,” said Pudgy.

Gomer yawned. “And if you don’t share, we can always send the dog after you.” 

Pudgy and Pipsqueak stared at Gomer, shocked. Never had spoken with such calm certainty.

Leo scoffed. “The dog? It’d get you first.” 

Gomer just smiled. A smaller chipmunk raced to Leo and whispered in his ear. “They’re friends. The dog and those three.” 

Leo’s eyes widened and he squeaked. “Er…I don’t think that will be necessary.”

Pipsqueak scurried forward. “Do we have a deal?”

The chipmunks nodded their heads in unison.

“So…what’s the secret?” asked Leo.

Pipsqueak could barely contain her grin. “Gomer, now you can tell them.”

Gomer dashed over to the gate and lifted a small flap hidden in the weeds. “It’s easy. Just lift this door and you can go right in.” He shimmied under the fence.

Leo grumbled. “That was a dirty trick.”

Pudgy smiled. “A deal’s a deal.”

Leo huffed and swarmed the garden with the rest of his scurry. 

The Three Tails headed back to the strawberry patch to have a celebratory snack. But as they made their way home, a dark shadow covered the ground in front of them. 

Gomer looked up to the sky. “HAWK!” He squealed, ducking for cover under the thorny rose bushes. 

They watched in horror as the hawk swooped down and grabbed two chipmunks, one in each talon.

Adventures in Homesteading: The Tale of Three Tails: Chapter 2

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Chapter 2: Rodent Rage

A tidal wave of chipmunks poured out toward the three frozen mice. Fueled by fear, Pudgy, Pipsqueak and Gomer raced back to the garage and barricaded the entrance.

“How many were there?” asked Pipsqueak breathing heavily.

Pudgy, who hadn’t run that fast since he was a pup, shook his head as he tried to catch his breath. “A-huff-puff huff-puff-lot.” 

“What can we do?” Pipsqueak brushed the dust off her feet and fur with a look of distaste. 

“Let me think, let me think.” Pudgy rose to his paws and peeked out the crack. The chipmunks were huddled together staring at the garage. “We are definitely outnumbered, so we’ll have to—”.

GRRRRMMBBLE…grrrrmmmbble.

Pipsqueak and Pudgy looked back at Gomer, who was lying on the floor with a look of misery on his face. “I’m sooooo hungry.”

“How can you think of food at a time like this Gomer!”

“That’s it!” Pipsqueak jumped to her paws. “The garden! The vegetables!”

Gomer’s stomach gave another mighty growl.

Pipsqueak smiled broadly. “We lead them to the garden. We show them all the vegetables…the tomatoes, the cucumbers…all of it.”

“Yes!” Pudgy grinned. “Of course! There’s plenty for all of us.”

The mice tidied up and headed back outside. 

“Well hello there,” said Leo. “Not so tough now are you?”A chittering laughter rumbled through the crowd.

“These strawberries will be gone soon, and there are not enough to share,” began Pudgy.   

Pipsqueak stepped forward. “But there is a place where food will grow all summer. A place where there is plenty enough for all of us.”

The chipmunks chattered with each other. “We’re listening.”

“Come with us, we’ll show you…The Garden.” Pudgy led the group to the back of the house. 

The crowd of chipmunks chittered. “We know about the garden.”

“You do?” asked Pudgy, a bit crestfallen.

“Yes,” said Leo. “It’s a trap. A giant maze of death and injury. The owner has it rigged to keep us out.”

The Three Tails snickered. 

“Yes,” said Pipsqueak. “Unless you know the secret.”

The chipmunks grew quiet. 

“And we do,” added Pudgy.

The chipmunks grew even quieter.

“Yeah,” said Gomer. “All you have to do is–”.

“Gomer!” Pudgy snapped.

“Wait til they take the deal,” said Pipsqueak through clenched teeth.

Pudgy looked Leo in the eye and waited. 

“Show us.”

Adventures in Homesteading: The Tale of Three Tails

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.

“Says who?”

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.)

Pecky Greenleg: Epilogue

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After the events at the hatchery, things happened rather quickly.

Pecky agreed to fly back to H.E.N. headquarters for testing.

Dr. Warner and his team found that Pecky really was the key to curing the runaway virus.

Jake confessed the whole adventure to his mom who, after a dead faint and recovering from shock at what he had done, agreed they could keep Pecky once H.E.N. was finished with him.

But Dr. Warner and Pecky had other plans…

You’ll be able to come and visit me, Jake.

Jake looked from Pecky to Dr. Warner and shook his head. “It won’t be the same. You’ll be so far away.”

H.E.N. HQ is only a flight away.

“Actually,” Dr. Warner interrupted standing and walking around Gilbert’s desk. “You won’t be living HQ.”

“He won’t?”

I won’t?

“H.E.N. has decided to open a satellite office right here in farm country. McDougal Hatchery has agreed to work with us to further study selective breeding.”  

“Really?” asked Jake, excitement filling his voice.

“Really,” smiled Dr. Warner. “Gilbert persuaded them.”

Dr. Warner and his team relocated to the new office inside the hatchery with plans to build a new facility right next door. And Jake would be able to come and visit whenever he wished.

*      *      *

Jake crunched across the gravel, waving at Gilbert and Dr. Warner as he walked toward the red barn. Rounding the corner, he heard what sounded like kids chattering.

“That’s odd,” he murmured. Jake wondered when they had allowed other kids to come and visit the new facility.

“Pecky!”

Pecky paraded around the corner leading a string of chicks. Chicks with green legs.

Jake. I have so much to tell you…