“Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.” – Kurt Vonnegut
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: A Strange Arrival
The high-pitched whistles pierced one’s ears long before the giant wings covered the bright sun. For a moment, the clear blue skies flooded with gold. Then Aquila’s carriage touched down, subtle as ever, and rolled to a halt on the arrivals runway of Wolkeville, barely a foot away from the entry gate.
Aquila flapped his golden wings one last time, folded them in, and stood in perfect attention, waiting for Mr. Pemberton, the mayor, and his welcoming committee to receive the newcomers.
“Well, well, let’s get on with it, then. Shall we?” said Mr. Pemberton, emerging through the entry gate, walking swiftly with an air of authority towards the carriage.
He was plump and round, with his shiny tailcoat and fat white belly moving side to side as he waddled towards Aquila. His yellow beard, eyebrows, and mustaches shone in the bright sun, his love for good food and banter quite evident in his hog eyes and impish smile. He was followed by the skinny nervous duo of Mrs. Mustel and Mrs. Suricat, who were both visibly flustered from trying to keep up with Mr. Pemberton’s swaying gait.
“Who do we have in your golden basket today, Aquila, my dear?” Mr. Pemberton said.
“It’s not a basket, it’s a carriage,” Aquila hissed sternly. “And you know the rules, Mr. Pemberton. I neither see nor care.”
“Of course! Of course!” guffawed Mr. Pemberton. “I was but teasing you, my dear. Still can’t take a joke, can you?”
Aquila did not reply and kept looking straight ahead. He loathed being made fun of. Yet he found it beneath his dignity to respond back, especially to Mr. Pemberton.
By this time, Mrs. Mustel and Mrs. Suricat had scrambled past them and were standing in front of the carriage door, huffing and puffing, as they tried to compose themselves.
Presently, they looked at each other, straightened themselves up and flashed a thumbs up to no one in particular. Then with a smile practiced over the many years they had had the privilege of leading the welcoming committee, they opened the carriage door and yelled at the top of their lungs in a fake show of excitement, “Welcome! Welcome t-to…”.
Then they both gasped.
“Oh, mother! Oh, dear mother!” said Mrs. Mustel, looking heavenwards.
Mrs. Suricat just folded her paws and froze.
Mr. Pemberton and Aquila shared a questioning glance. Then Mr. Pemberton sprinted to the open carriage door to see for himself what made his seasoned welcoming committee forget their welcoming rituals. Aquila extended his long neck to look behind.
“Wha…haa…muh…” the quick-witted Mr. Pemberton was finding it hard to utter anything beyond monosyllables.
“Oh, my! How did that happen?” the ever so detached Aquila suddenly looked anxious.
The three-member welcoming committee of the great Wolkeville huddled together, unsure how to react next.
“Why, this has to be a first!” Mrs. Mustel offered, still quivering.
“Yes, indeed! We have no precedents, I tell you.” Mrs. Suricat mumbled and nodded in agreement.
“Wha…how…muh…” Mr. Pemberton remained at a loss for words.
* * *
The community hall was filled with all six hundred thirty-four adult residents of Wolkeville. The children, all eighty-one of them were outside, as usual, keeping busy the way only children know how to.
In a corner, Ms. Tilia was speculating with Mr. Grotsky about the cause of today’s emergency meeting.
“I bet it has to do with Lil’s recent shenanigans. She is breaking the law…” said Ms. Tilia.
“Yeah, maybe,” said Mr. Grotsky. “But…”
“There is no but, G. You haven’t stood close enough to her in recent times to know how horribly she reeks. She is cutting it close, I am telling you. This is it. An intervention. After all, it’s a question of our safety too and you know it!” Ms. Tilia said, emphatically.
“Or, probably, we will just discuss the decline in the number of healers like last time. We all know what happened at the old village square. We…” Mr. Grotsky never got to finish his thought as Mr. Pemberton and Mrs. Mustel entered the room that very instant. Unlike the past, they began the day’s proceedings promptly.
Mrs. Suricat was nowhere to be found at the podium. Instead, to everyone’s surprise, she was standing on guard right outside the storeroom door; which was now heavily padlocked to keep the new arrival shut away from prying eyes.
Mr. Pemberton cleared his voice. He began “This morning, Aquila brought in a new arrival…and…ahem…we don’t know how to handle it!”.
No one said anything, so Mr. Pemberton continued.
“As most of you know, I am among the oldest residents of Wolkeville.” Mr. Pemberton paused for effect. “I believe I speak for all oldtimers when I say this is highly unusual. In fact, I have spent the entire morning going over the records with our bookkeeper, Mr. Oligo…ahem…um…ahem…and no, we still don’t know what to do. We have no precedents.”
The hall grew silent in anticipation. Mr. Pemberton cleared his voice, paused for a second or two, and then blurted out “A human. A living, breathing human child is our new arrival.”
The hall erupted in collective gasps of horror. Then everyone began to talk at once. Mr. Pemberton, Mrs. Mustel, Mrs. Suricat and Mr. Oligo simply exchanged helpless glances. There was but a single thought running through their worried heads. What will happen when the Von Chomps found out?
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