Out of the Dark Woods
Having escaped from Dream World, Polly was anxious to get back on the trail and find Mr. Popper. She and the girls headed back into the Dark Woods on the trail set before them. After hiking for several hours due North, the trail came to an end.
“It looks as though the rhododendrons have all but taken over the trail.” Polly said, with a defeated tone. “I don’t know anything else to do, but go back to the river and try to find another trail that bypasses this.”
“But, that will take days, and we must be getting close to the Dilleyard village.” argued Keona.
“I agree, but this thicket could be miles around, and if we try to make are way around it without a trail we could become hopelessly lost.” she warned.
“There must be a way. Surely we haven’t walked all this way for nothing.” Keona said, contemplating the worst.
As they spoke something had begun to happen to Thea. Polly and Keona were thinking so hard about how to fix the situation, that they hadn’t noticed Thea becoming quite serious. She began to change colors from her usual rosy complexion to a dull gray. Her feet went from little girl feet into what began to look like tree stumps with toenails. A wispy, broom like tail began to appear on her bum, and she began to grow. Not just a little, but she was getting huge. Polly looked over just in time to see her serious face begin to change. Her hair started to thin and become rough like pampas grass and then her nose began to grow... and grow... and grow. It was a trunk! She had become the largest African elephant they had ever seen!
“Look out Keona!” shouted Polly, as she picked up Una. “Be careful she doesn’t step on you!”
Keona ran for cover just as Thea stepped into the thicket, shattering rhododendrons and pine trees as if they were twigs. She took her trunk and swung it back and forth knocking branches left and right. Then she stood up on her hind legs.
“What is she doing Polly!” Keona yelled, through the sound of cracking branches, as the earth shook from her enormous steps.
Thea, now a gigantic elephant, came down on her front legs with a thundering trumpet, that rattled the Dark Woods. As she did, fire shot from the end of her trunk. The fire was so hot and bright that Polly and her sisters had to look away. It felt as if a blast furnace was near them. When Polly looked up all she could see was smoke. It filled the woods and stung their eyes. Trees and bushes were blackened and smoldering. Small fires were scattered about. As the air began to clear and the smoke dissipated, they could see, before them, a sort of tunnel cut straight through the rhododendrons, and Thea had turned back into a little girl.
“Thea, you did it!’ Polly shouted. “You made a way through the thicket for us!” she yelled, as she picked up Thea and hugged her. Thea just smiled, not saying a word.
They headed on through the tunnel in the trees and soon picked up the trail on the other side. After many more hours of hiking, they came out of the woods and stood before a small quant little village. They had made it to the village of the Dillieyards.
“We must inquire of their leader, Big Dee.” said Polly. “Perhaps he has seen Mr. Popper and the others. Once we’ve located them we can ask the Dilleyards assistance on our journey. Keona, go into that little store and ask where we can find Big Dee. I’ll wait here with your sister, and give Donkeyhotie some water.” Polly instructed. “And don’t forget, to be on the safe side, don’t look directly into anyone’s eyes; just incase the luck sucker myth happens to be true.”
Keona went into the store, which appeared to be a sort of general store. It had everything from candy and groceries, to hardware and clothing. But it also had something she had only seen pictures of... guns! The Savages and the Nautical Noots, as well as most of the tribes she had ever known, had no use for guns. They didn’t hunt, because they saw the animals as their brothers and sisters. They didn’t war, because they believed that love was the only cure for hatred. She found herself being fascinated by the shinny barrels and the sleek smooth textures, and the smell of fresh machine oil.
“What can I do fer ya, young lady?” asked the man behind the counter. He was older, with a scruffy beard and a baseball cap, with the brim curved so sharply on both sides that it almost came together and made a sort of cone. He appeared to have a wad of something between his bottom teeth and his lower lip. “Ya don’t look to be from round these parts.” he added, as he spit some awful looking brown juice into a can on the floor, missing the can and mostly hitting the floor.
“My name is Keona. I am from the tribe of the Savages, and we are looking for Big Dee. Could you direct me to where he might be found?” she asked the odd man.
“Well, we don’t get too many a them Savages round here.” he said with a smile. “Specially them lil uns. I’zle die-rect yuns ta the fi-ancy place where Big Dee does his bidness.” he said walking toward the door, Keona not really sure what he had said, but hoping he would help. “If ya look o-vare, you’ll be a seein his place.” he said pointing to the biggest building in town. “Yuns go in the front and ask Lucinda if yawl can see him. She’ll take care of ya.”
“Thank you sir.” Keona politely replied.
“You’re quite welcome little lady. Come back.” he added, not really wanting her to come back.
Keona lead the way as they all headed to the building where they hoped to speak with Big Dee. They tied Donkeyhotie to a hitching post outside, and headed in with the Little Debbie cakes they had brought as an offering. Inside they saw a woman behind a desk. Thea thought she was lovely in a maternal sort of way. Her hair was piled high on her head and her face was painted with the most welcoming colors.
“Well look at them darlin young-uns. I bet thems mean as snakes.” she said, smiling at the girls. The girls shyly returned her smile, not sure what she mean’t by the snake remark. “My name’s Lucinda. What can I do fer ya today.” she said looking at Polly.
“We have come along way, and would like to inquire as to whether anyone has seen two men and a dog recently. They would be strangers in these parts.” Polly replied.
“I aint seen no strangers in town, but if ya tell me where yuns might be a stayin, I’ll let ya know if I hear somethin.” Lucinda said.
“Thanks so much, but we don’t know where we’ll be staying, or for how long. We need to ask a special favor of Big Dee. It is very urgent. Could we possibly have a meeting with him?
“You sure can sweetie. Just go in through them big doors. If he’s a sleepin, just open one a them Debbies and he’ll wake right up.”
“Thanks so much for your help.” Polly said as they made their way through the doors. Once inside the air grew dank. It smelled of old fast food wrappers and cigarette smoke. It was quiet and dark and all they could hear was loud snoring coming from the front of the room. As they got closer they saw a most rotund man sitting in a great green leather chair. He had on a ball cap like the man in the general store, with the bill curled in the same way. His fingernails were thick and yellow and smoke billowed from his nose as he snored, slumped in his chair. Polly and the girls walked right up to his great throne and Polly opened a Little Debbie cinnamon bun. As she tore the wrapper Big Dee began to stir. He sniffed the air without opening his eyes. He smiled, waking, and then began to have the most horrendous coughing spell. Smoke blew from his mouth and curled from his nose and ears as he continued to hack.
When he was finished his eyes had teared up. He wiped his mouth with his sleeve and said, “Well now, yuns caught me a nappin. What can I do fer ya mam, and fer them lil-uns? I bet thems as mean as snakes.” he added, laughing and then began to cough and hack again; the girls still not sure about the snake thing.
When the smoke had cleared, Polly began with the offering. “We are Savages, from the tribe South of here and we have brought you a gift of these cakes.”
“Well that was right nice of ya. If I could get one a them lil -uns to go in the back room, o-vare,” he said as he pointed to the back of the room, and get me a Dew to wash it down with, it would be much appreciated.”
Polly instructed Keona to go in the back room and see if she could find a soft drink and bring it back. She brought the drink and the Debbie cake, and gave it to Big Dee. He took a large bite from the cake and chewed it with his front teeth, like a rabbit. Then he took a long drink from the soda bottle, set it down and began to cough and hack.
“Well, that was mighty thoughtful of you-ns to bring me them Debbies. And that Dew washes em down so good. So, what is it I can do fer ya.”
Polly began, “I am looking for my husband, Mr.Popper, who is with a wide bodied black dog, and another man. We are trying to find the den of the Tigers.”
“Whoa, there little lady! I ain’t seen no body with no black dog, but findin that Tiger den is sumpen you aughten not be a doin. Theys some dangerous critters.”
“We will find them with or without your help. It would just be so much easier if you could help us.”
“You don’t know what you’re askin. Them Tigers is a fierce bunch. We been a-huntin them fer years.”
“That’s why I need your help. You know how to track them. You know all about them.”
“Well that’s right, but we can’t take no lady and a bunch of kids to do somethin so dangerous.”
“We are quite capable of taking care of ourselves. We all have our own special talents.”
“I’m sure ya do, but we’re talkin bout some mean critters. Somethin you aint never seed, besides what do ya want with the Tigers anyway?” he asked, sounding a bit annoyed.
“The counsel has sent us. They believe the Tigers have stolen the Music Water and we have come to retrieve it.” Polly said with an air of authority.
“So, that’s why I aint heared no banjos in a while. Cleatus aint been able ta get nothin out of his squeeze box, and Britney Nicole caint get no sound out of her tamborine. Church aint been the same without it.” he said with a look of fond remembrance. “But I caint spare the time to ponder all this. I’ve got too much ta worry about, what with all the Dilleyards ta look after and all. So I’d like ta help ya, but y-uns will just have ta find them Tigers on yer own.” he said as he opened another Little Debbie.
“Now that’s where I can help you.” Polly exclaimed. “You see I’m a professional worrier. If you’ll let me I can worry for you and give you a break. You’ll be free to rest and think of any thing you like. You won’t have a care in this world.”
Now the look on Big Dee’s face was one of skeptical interest. Like watching a magician do his craft. “Well I don’t know. What would I have ta do?”
“ You don’t have to do anything, but give me permission to take your worries for awhile.” Polly explained. “You’ll love it, and what have you got to lose?”
Big Dee stared at Polly, like she was crazy. He frowned and took of his cap to scratch his head. After pondering the situation he finally said, “So all I have ta do is say I give ya my permission?”
“That’s all.” Polly said firmly.
“All right then. I give ya my permission.”
With that Polly closed her eyes. Her forehead wrinkled up and her eyebrows moved close together. She was totally quiet. You could see the utter concentration on her face. She began to look older, and more tired than the girls had ever seen her. Her curly hair began to move. It was slowly growing. I say slowly, but for hair it was growing quite fast, because you could watch it.
The look on Big Dees face went from skepticism, to shock, to what can only be described as bliss. The wrinkles around his eyes seemed to disappear and his yellow complexion became rosy. His eyes became clear and focused and a smile began to appear on his mouth. It started off small and shocked, and ended with the look of a man in love.
After about thirty minutes Polly opened her eyes, and looked at Big Dee. He had fallen asleep, but not like before. This was the sleep of sweet peace. Polly’s youthful look began to return, but her hair had become big. It was sticking up on top, and long on the sides, and curled so tight, that Thea thought it looked like it must hurt.
“Oh bother,” said Polly, “I’ll have to cut my hair again. Una, would you please wake Big Dee and lets see how he feels.” she said with a smile.
Una walked over to Big Dee’s chair and whispered in his ear, “It’s time to wake up Mr. Big Dee.”
With a long drawn out yawn and some serious stretching, Big Dee opened his eyes. His countenance had changed. He looked like a new man. “Well, I aint slept that good fer years. Not since I was a boy.” he said, almost in disbelief. “You have got some kind a special powers there Miss Polly. I should like ta keep ya on here for awhile ta help with my worryin.”
“I should love to help, but our business is much too urgent. When we have completed our mission, I would be glad to come back and give you several worry sessions on the house.”
“Well that aint helpin me now. I need the rest right now. I tell ya what I’ll do. If ya stay here for seven years and do all my worryin, I’ll send my boy, Tee, and he’ll take ya to them Tigers. That’s the only way I’m a gonna help y-uns.” he said, with his mind made up.
Polly looked shocked. Seven years? The world without the Music Water for seven years? What could she do? What should she do? How she wished for Mr. Popper. He would know what to do.
Behind them, she could hear the sound of the doors opening and footsteps coming toward them from behind, but she was too stunned by Big Dee’s request to look.
“I have a proposition to make to you.” a man’s voice exclaimed. “I think it would be well within your interest to hear me out.”
Polly turned to see Mr. Struggles, Bon Bon, and the voice she knew so well, Mr. Popper.