Izzy’s Impossible Adventure
Excerpt #2: Chapters 10-21
A Shudder In The Udder
“Moooove it! Moooove it! Get away you pesky, impolite, impertinent, infuriating, inconsiderate pest!”
It was a cool, early morning in the barn, a few days after Izzy’s interview with Winston Raccoon. Izzy had buzzed up to Mathilda Cow and was trying to talk to her.
“Didn’t you hear me?” Mathilda said, twitching her ears and shaking her head as Izzy hovered in front of her big brown eyes. “When I say moooove, I mean moooove!”
“Excuse me, I’m not here to pester. I was just hoping we could have a little chat.”
“Oh, I see,” said Mathilda. “You thought we might have a little ‘chat.’ Well, isn’t that nice. All right, here’s your ‘chat’. I wish the bats and spiders would gobble every last one of you mosquitoes! I swear by my mama’s sweet milk, you are without a doubt the most irritating bugs in the world. And the sooner you all get swatted or swallowed, the better—as far as I’m concerned. There, did you enjoy our little ‘chat’, sweetheart?”
Izzy didn’t know what to say. It’s not easy to have a conversation with someone who wishes you would be eaten.
But Mathilda wasn’t finished. “What good are you mosquitoes anyway? What’s your big contribution to the world? You bite us and annoy us and drive us crazy, that’s what. I hope you’re proud of yourselves!”
At a loss for words, Izzy said, “Well, I admit, our females do bite, but—”
Mathilda glared at Izzy. “Oh, it’s not just the biting, sweetheart. I can put up with a bit of biting here and there. I’ve got a thick hide. But you mosquitoes are so obnoxious and annoying and rude about it—buzzing around our eyes and ears and biting us all over without even asking permission! You’re about as welcome as the farmer’s cold hands at the early morning milking. Now go on, get away, before I say something mean.”
Izzy sighed. It was time to give up. Again. He turned to fly away—but then he thought, That’s it! That’s her secret.
He flew back to Mathilda. “I could get his hands warm.”
“What? What’s that?”
“The farmer with the cold hands. I could get his hands warm.”
Mathilda shook her head. “Sure, and Reginald Horse can do back flips into the pig trough.”
“No, really, I could get his hands warm.”
Mathilda gave Izzy a skeptical look. “Now how in a pile of donkey dung could you do that?”
“When does the farmer come to milk you?”
“He’ll be in soon for the morning milking. Why?”
“I’ll wait nearby. Then I’ll show you.”
Sure enough, Farmer Gus Gribble, owner of Pickle Pond Farm, soon came into the barn. He put a stool down next to Mathilda and put a pail under her and started milking. The cow shivered all over. She turned toward Izzy and raised her eyebrows as if to say, “Didn’t I tell you?”
Izzy flew over to the farmer and started buzzing around his head and eyes and ears and neck and arms. The farmer jumped up, overturning the stool and pail, spilling the milk, and started slapping at Izzy. “Get away from me you, you—”
He slapped at his neck, his arms, the top of his head, but Izzy kept buzzing and the farmer kept slapping and yelling. After a few minutes, Izzy flew away. The farmer, grumbling under his breath, sat back down on the stool and turned the pail upright and started milking all over again. Mathilda sighed contentedly, then turned to Izzy and winked.
After the farmer finished and left the barn, Mathilda said, “You were right, his hands were nice and warm. But you almost got flattened. Why did you do that?”
“I thought it must be really uncomfortable getting milked with cold hands. It must give you a shudder in the udder.”
At that, Mathilda laughed a deep cow laugh, which is really something to hear. And Izzy laughed along with his tiny buzzy laugh.
“I’m Mathilda Cow, by the way.”
“Izzy Mosquito. Very pleased to meet you.”
As the Fly Spies point out, this was the first time in millions of years that a cow and a mosquito became friends. But this would also open the door to all kinds of trouble.
The Barnyard Conference
Mathilda introduced Izzy to the other animals in the barnyard and told them what the mosquito had done for her. This sparked a most unusual and historic conversation that came to be known as The Barnyard Conference.
“Quite impressive,” said Reginald Horse, chewing thoughtfully on a mouthful of hay. “I’ve always believed mosquitoes were a useless, shiftless bunch of parasites living off of the blood and misery of others. But I must admit, this shows a lot of initiative for an insect.”
Jabber Goat scratched behind his right ear with his right hind leg. “Braaavo, Izzy! As for the time I kicked you into the manure—that was nothing personal. I take great pride in my kicking technique, you see. I’ve perfected twenty-four different types of kicks and I’d be happy to describe them for you if you’re interested. Number one is—”
“Heee-HAWWW!” said Malarkey Donkey. “No one wants to hear about your goll-danged kicking techniques, Jabber!”
“Yes, but I think Izzy might—”
“I just want to point out—”
“This is really ridiculous.—”
“Hee-HAWWW! Hee-HAWWW! Hee-HAWWW! Hee-HAWWW!”
Finally, Jabber stalked off to the great relief of everyone in the barnyard.
Even Grimace Hog complemented Izzy: “I suppose it was a neat trick for a bug.” But he yawned while he said it to show he wasn’t that impressed.
After a while, Izzy spoke up. “I admit, we mosquitoes can be irritating, but now that I’ve gotten to know you, it makes me wonder if there might be some way to improve relations between farm animals and mosquitoes.”
“It’s an intriguing idea,” said Reginald. “I suppose there will always be the odd bit of biting and swatting here and there. After all, you mosquitoes are infuriating to the extreme. But then, I suppose we animals do overreact at times. So maybe you’re right. Perhaps things could be done in a more civil, congenial spirit.”
“For example,” said Mathilda. “Maybe your females could at least ask permission before taking a bite. And maybe we could give a warning before swatting.”
“Doubt you can get the other mosquitoes to go along with asking permission,” said Grimace. “And as for getting all the animals to give a warning—good luck with that!”
All the animals started talking at once. Some were in favor of trying to improve relations with mosquitoes but others were skeptical.
Finally, Mathilda said, “I suppose there’s no harm in at least getting to know each other a little better. Perhaps we could start by having a chat with the High Mosquito Council.”
After they had talked for a while, Delbert Dog came running through the barnyard and Mathilda introduced him to Izzy. Delbert was a large dog with floppy ears and floppy paws—in fact, he looked floppy all over. He looked like someone had taken the parts from three or four different dogs and stuck them together to make one dog. When he ran, it looked as if he was trying to run in two or three directions at once. And he talked the same way.
“Gosh, gosh, gosh, gosh,” said Delbert, jumping back and forth and turning in circles. “Please don’t bite, bite, bite me or buzz, buzz my ears.”
“Actually, I’m a male, and males don’t bite,” Izzy explained. “I can’t help buzzing because it’s the sound my wings make when I fly. But I’ll do my best not to pester you.”
“Oh golly, golly, thank you, thank you,” said Delbert. “Hop, hop, hop on top of my head and I’ll give you a ride. That way I won’t have to listen to your buzz, buzz, buzz.”
Delbert took Izzy all around the farmhouse and told him what life was like with humans. They had a great time and afterward Izzy flew home thinking, I can’t believe it. I actually talked with the farm animals!
Izzy didn’t notice Drek and Drivel spying nearby.
“We’ve got him now!” said Drek. “The Freakin’ Beacon is so busted!”
“They were just having a chill time, dude,” said Drivel.
“Chill? You think talking to animals is chill? It’s against the Mosquito Code, maggot!”
“Dude, if you call me a maggot again I’ll—”
“You’ll do what? Breathe on me with your maggot breath?”
“I’m just saying, watch yourself, dude.”
“Oh, I’m so scared! Look, my left middle leg is shaking.”
Drek and Drivel flew off to find Colonel Rancor, quarreling all the way.
“He’s talking to the lily pads, dude!”
Colonel Rancor was all alone at the edge of Pickle Pond, admiring his own reflection. Again. (This is something he did quite often.)
He began to talk to himself (something else he did quite often): “Thank you for your service, Colonel Rancor. We hereby promote you to General and give you your own army. Congratulations, General Rancor!”
“Uh, who are you talking to, boss?” Drek had landed right behind the Colonel.
“He’s talking to the lily pads, dude,” Drivel whispered.
The Colonel glared at them. “How dare you sneak up on me when I’m getting ready for an important meeting with the High Mosquito Council!”
“Sorry, boss,” said Drek.
“Well, what are you waiting for? Let me hear your report!”
As Drek and Drivel described how Izzy made friends with Mathilda Cow and the other animals, the Colonel began rubbing his two front legs together. “Yes, yes, yes, yes, YES! This proves I was right!”
“What do you mean, boss?” said Drek.
“Clearly, the Freakin’ Beacon is a power-hungry mosquito; I’m guessing that’s what makes his antennae glow. He wants to take over Pickle Pond and he’ll get the animals to swat any mosquitoes that stand in his way. Izzy and the animals are plotting to start a war against the rest of the mosquitoes—and it’s up to me to stop them!”
“Wow, I didn’t see that,” said Drek. “You’re a genius boss.”
“But they didn’t talk about war, boss,” said Drivel. “They talked about making things better between animals and mosquitoes.”
“Shut up, maggot,” said Drek. “You think you’re smarter than the boss?”
“No way, dude, I’m just saying.”
“Ah yes, very clever. Diabolically clever!” said Rancor. “Do you see, Drivel? The animals will say they want to get together with the High Mosquito Council to talk about making peace. But when our leaders show up, the animals will swat them; then they’ll put their guy, the Freakin’ Beacon, in power to do their bidding. If I didn’t hate them so much, I would admire the brilliance of their plan.”
“I didn’t think about that,” said Drivel.
“It’s a good thing you’re the boss, boss,” said Drek. “What are we going to do?”
“Keep watching the Freakin’ Beacon. We need all the evidence we can get.”
“You got it boss,” said Drek. “We’ll stick to him like flies on manure, like stink on a stink bug, like ugly on a tick, like—”
“Silence! Just keep getting evidence! When the time is right, we’ll go to the High Mosquito Council and expose this evil plot.”
“I get it, boss,” said Drek. “Then they’ll have to make you General, right?”
“Yes, yes,” said the Colonel, rubbing his two front legs together. “This will finally convince them that there is a real threat and we need a real army! To fight a real war! Led by a real general! Namely ME!”
As Drek and Drivel flew away, Colonel Rancor stared at himself in the pond for a long time, admiring his reflection from every angle. When a breeze rippled the pond so that he couldn’t see himself, Rancor cursed. But then, it was as if the Colonel went into a trance and began to talk in a weird, childish voice.
“Mommy! Daddy! It’s me, Rancor! Your little Rankie! I’m all grown up now and soon I’ll be a general just like you always wanted me to be. I’ll have a real army and I’ll have all the power and I’ll get revenge for you—terrible revenge. I’ll get revenge on that idiot dog that swatted both of you. I’ll get revenge on all the farm animals that trampled your poor bodies. And I’ll even get revenge on the High Mosquito Council who put me in charge of the whiney brats at the Bite and Pester Boot Camp instead of making me a general like I asked them to do.”
Then Rancor did something that no one had ever seen him do—he began to sob. “I’m sorry I didn’t do it sooner, Mommy and Daddy, but the members of the High Mosquito Council wouldn’t let me. They think the mosquitoes don’t need an army or a general, but now I have a plan to change their minds: I’ll make them think the animals have started a war against us. Then they’ll realize that they really do need an army and a general, and—”
The breeze stopped, the water cleared. “Mommy? Daddy? Are you there? Do you like my plan? Do you … do you love me now?” Rancor looked around to make sure no one was watching. Then he dried his tears and resumed his scowl.
“This time you’ve gone too far!”
After he talked with the barnyard animals, Izzy flew back to Pickle Pond and found Lizzy dancing in midair just above the surface. She was so close to the water that he could see her reflection.
“Hey, careful!” Izzy called out. “Don’t fall in!”
“You worry too much, brother.” She flew to meet him. “Want to take me to the barnyard? I could eat a horse—well, a bite of horse anyway.”
“What, right now?”
“Yes, right now! I’m really, really hungry.”
This put Izzy in a real bind. On the one hand, he wanted to help his hungry sister. But on the other hand, he had just made friends with the farm animals. If he brought his sister to bite them, would they still be friends with him?
“How about we go to the flower garden and get some nice, sweet nectar?” Izzy said. “Nectar is so good on a hot day like this.”
“Izzy! I’m dying for some horse blood. Please, please, please take me now.”
“Um, okay. But, before we go, I have to tell you something.”
They landed on a piece of driftwood. “Well—you’re not going to believe this.”
“You weren’t hanging out with the ticks were you? They’re disgusting!”
Izzy fidgeted. “No. It’s something amazing.”
“Come on, Izzy, just tell me so we can go. I’m starved!”
“Okay, okay. I talked to Mathilda Cow. We’re friends now.”
Lizzy’s eyes got wide. “What? No! You didn’t! I don’t believe it!”
“Plus, I talked with Delbert Dog and Reginald Horse and Grimace Hog and some of the other animals. They were all friendly and no one tried to swat me—not even once.”
Lizzy was speechless. “I don’t know what to say.”
“I know, isn’t it incredible?”
Lizzy frowned. “No, it’s not incredible. It’s against the Mosquito Code. You can’t tell father or mother or anyone about this. You’ll be in big, big trouble.”
“But Lizzy, listen. The animals want to meet with us mosquitoes to talk about improving relations. I’ll just explain to Mother and Father that—”
Lizzy’s eyes flashed with anger. “No, Izzy, you can’t! Mother will be so embarrassed and father will be so angry. He’ll send you to Bite and Pester Boot Camp and who knows what will happen. You know how mean Colonel Rancor can be.”
“Oh, Rancor—he’s all buzz and no bite. I’m not afraid of him.”
“Well, you should be. And you should follow the Mosquito Code just to be safe.”
“Brother, you’ve had a lot of crazy ideas, but this is the craziest and the most dangerous. And what about the humans?”
“They’ve each got two hands, perfect for swatting! They swat more mosquitoes than all the animals put together. Are you going to talk to the humans?”
“You know I can’t understand human language. Only flies can do that.”
“So what good is it to try to make peace with the animals if you can’t make peace with the humans too?”
“Well, it’s a start.”
Lizzy stared at her brother for a long time. Finally, in exasperation, she said, “Izzy, this time you have gone too far!” She buzzed away.
“Great,” Izzy thought. “I finally got the animals to talk to me, but now my sister won’t.”
Discovery On a Windowsill
Later that day, Izzy was flying around the farm house talking to himself. “Maybe Lizzy is right. Maybe I should forget about talking to animals and go pester them like everyone else does. That would make Mother and Father and everyone else very happy.”
It sounded like the right thing to do. But if it’s the right thing to do, Izzy wondered, why does it feel so wrong?
Izzy buzzed around the back porch. “Father thinks that pestering animals is my only job. Gitche thinks I’m supposed to do something special. And I don’t know what to think. Aagghh! I wish I hadn’t been born with these stupid glowing antennae!”
As he flew, Izzy passed an open window and heard a strange noise. Being a curious bug, he landed on the windowsill just outside the screen to listen. The noise he heard was actually the voice of Darla Gribble, the farmer’s wife. Izzy didn’t understand a word, of course, but he listened anyway.
Darla was talking to her two boys, Jude and Silas. “Boys, I’m going to read you a story from King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.”
Then, as Izzy listened, something remarkable happened. At first, he could only hear squawks and squeaks and random noises. But then his antennae began to glow and he could hear bits of words here and there. Then, moments later, with his antennae glowing even brighter, it was as if a dial was turned in his head and SUDDENLY HE UNDERSTOOD EVERY SINGLE WORD!
“Whoa!” whispered Izzy. He listened intently.
“Why is the table round?” asked Silas, the younger son.
“Very good question, Silas,” said his mother. “Before this, King Arthur had a long, rectangular table like the one in our dining room. But when they had their meetings, the knights were always arguing about who should sit at the head of the table. So King Arthur had a big round table built. That way, there was no head of the table and no more arguments about who was greatest. Everyone was equal. King Arthur wanted the knights to treat each other with respect and follow the Code of Chivalry.”
“What’s the Cold of Shivery?” said Silas. “Did the knights get cold in their armor and shiver a lot?”
Darla smiled. “Maybe, but that’s not what it means. The Code of Chivalry meant they were supposed to treat others with respect and help keep the peace and right the wrongs in the kingdom.”
“And fight dragons, right?” said Jude, the older brother.
“Right. And that’s what this story is about.”
Izzy listened with growing excitement and amazement as Darla read a story about a wingless, fire-breathing dragon that was burning up the magical kingdom of Camelot, village by village. A knight named Sir Harold volunteered to fight the dragon; he followed it to the top of a mountain. When he reached the top, Sir Harold stopped at a distance from the beast, dismounted from his horse, and fired a volley of arrows, striking the dragon in the chest.
Unfortunately, the arrows only made the dragon mad. Sir Harold dropped his bow and ran across the rocky summit as the beast chased him. The dragon was clumsy but fast; when it was almost close enough to fry the knight with a blast of its fire-breath, Sir Harold suddenly leapt off the edge of a cliff. The angry, clumsy dragon did not see the cliff coming, and it was running so fast that it couldn’t stop. It skidded over the edge and fell.
“What happened? What happened?” asked Jude.
“Did the dragon fall on top of Sir Harold?” asked Silas.
“Here’s what happened,” said Darla. “Sir Harold had planned all of this ahead of time. When he leapt off the cliff, he grabbed onto a small tree that was growing out of the side of the cliff, just below the edge. He was hanging there when the dragon fell past him to the ground far below. Then, Sir Harold climbed back up to safety and rode back to tell the king that the dragon was dead.”
Izzy flew away amazed but confused. He was amazed that he could understand humans and also because the story sounded so much like his dragon dream. But when he tried to figure out what it all meant, he was confused. “Obviously, I can’t slay a dragon,” Izzy told himself. “But there must be some reason why I had that dream. Gitche says it means I’m supposed to do something special. But what?”
Izzy tossed and turned all night, thinking about the story and his dream and debating with himself about what he should do. Should he just be like other mosquitoes and pester animals? Or should he be like a knight and go on adventures and right wrongs?
By morning he had made up his mind. He went to tell his parents.
“You want WHAT?”
“You want WHAT?” said Izzy’s father, pacing up and down.
“I want to be like a knight, Father. I want to go on adventures and right the wrongs of the world and make peace and—”
“But Izzy, dear, you’re a mosquito,” said his mother.
“Our son knows very well what he is, Minnie!” said Max.
“Father, remember when Gitche said I’m supposed to do something special? I think she was right and I want to find out what I’m supposed to do.”
Izzy’s father rolled his eyes. “Son, Gitche is over three months old. You can’t believe everything she says. She’s a little—well, let’s just say she’s not the perkiest flower in the garden.”
“Max! That’s my mother you’re talking about!” said Minnie.
“But Father, I—”
“Izzy, where did you get this crazy idea? Have you been drinking daisy nectar?”
“You’ve been hanging out with dragonflies, haven’t you? I’ve always said there’s something weird about them.”
“No, it’s not the dragonflies. It started when I had a dream, and—”
“Oh, I see. You had a dream! So you’re going to throw out all common sense just because you had a dream? Imagine if everyone did that, son. Imagine if I did that. Just last night I dreamed I was an anteater. Imagine if I woke up today and started eating all our ant friends!”
“But Father, I also heard a story from the humans and it was very much like my dream, and it was so amazing, and—”
Max was dumbfounded. He turned to his wife. “Can you believe this, Minnie? Our son thinks he can understand humans.”
Minnie was still angry with Max over the comment about her mother, so she didn’t say anything. She just glared at him.
Max turned to Izzy. “Son, let me tell you some things about the humans. In the first place, they are an inferior species; they have no wings and they only have two legs. Just two! I honestly don’t know how they keep from falling over all the time. In the second place, humans must have an inferior way of speaking because mosquitoes have never been able to understand human language.”
“But I can, Father. I landed on a windowsill at the farm house and I heard a voice and my antennae started glowing, and—”
“Here we go with the glowing antennae again. Okay, I’ve heard enough. Starting next week, you are going straight to Colonel Rancor’s Bite and Pester Boot Camp! The Colonel will make a real mosquito out of you, son. He’ll teach you how to pester good and proper.”
“But Father—” said Izzy.
“But Max—” said Minnie.
“No more talk! First thing Monday morning, straight to camp you go!”
FRIDAY, JULY 3
A Fine Toxic Mist
Early on the morning of Friday, July 3rd, Gus Gribble finished his coffee, went to the back porch, and began pulling on his boots. His wife, Darla, left the dishes in the sink and followed him. “We’ve got no choice, Darla,” Gus said. “There’s thousands of worms all over the field. They’ll eat up every cucumber plant if we don’t spray. It’ll wipe us out!”
“Couldn’t we just pick them off by hand?” Darla was twisting the dish rag in her hands.
“All those acres? It would take two or three weeks, if not longer! They’d eat up most of the field before we could even get a good start. If we don’t do something now—”
“I know, I know. We’ll be in a peck of trouble.”
“Not just us. Without our cucumber crop, how will Piper’s make pickles? They might even go out of business. And think about all our friends who work at Piper’s—what’ll they do? There’s not many other jobs around here. The town might even dry up.”
Darla sighed. “You’re right, of course. I just worry about spraying that stuff everywhere. It’s so poisonous.”
“I’m using Fox’s Pesticide—not the strongest brand.” Gus looked out across the large field. “Still, better keep the boys inside for a while.”
“I’ll make pancakes and read them a story.”
The sun was coming up as Gus trudged out to the tractor with the sprayer hooked up behind. His breath fogged the air as he pulled on his gloves. It was an unusually chilly morning for July 3rd, even for far-off northeastern Maine. But weather could change quickly in this part of the country and, sure enough, the weather woman said it would warm up later in the day. That was good; the Gribbles were looking forward to having dinner in the backyard that evening—as they did almost every Friday.
Gus watched a “V” of geese flying across the red, rising sun like a big check mark checking off the beginning of the new day. There was no wind yet—good day to spray, Gus thought. He drove the tractor slowly up one row of cucumber plants and down another. The mist from the sprayer made toxic rainbows in the morning sun. All was calm. But after a while, a sudden breeze kicked up and carried some of the spray off in the direction of Pickle Pond.
At the pond’s edge, Colonel Rancor was making a speech to the members of his Bite and Pester Boot Camp. “Listen up, bugs! It has come to my attention that some of you maggots have complained about how tough the training is. Let me tell you something: the more you complain, the tougher it will get!”
Just then, some of the pesticide spray drifted down and settled in a fine toxic mist over Colonel Rancor and all the mosquito campers. Immediately, every mosquito’s antennae started twitching and every mosquito’s eyes turned red and something like fireworks went off inside every mosquito’s brain.
And that explains why the Colonel made such a shocking announcement.
The Colonel paced back and forth in front of the crowd of young mosquitoes. His eyes were red, his brain was on fire, and he was muttering something under his breath.
The mosquito campers were watching him and wondering what was going on. Listening to Colonel Rancor speak always made them jumpy and jittery, but now they were more jumpy and jittery than usual.
Finally, Rancor said, “Campers, I have an important announcement to make: today, I’m cancelling all camp activities!”
The campers looked at each other. They couldn’t believe it. Colonel Rancor never cancelled any camp activities.
“I’m sure you’re wondering why, so I will tell you: I have discovered that the farm animals are planning a war against us. They want to wipe us out.”
The campers gasped and started buzzing among themselves. “Is this true?” “What’s going to happen?”
“Silence!” said Rancor. “Fear not, campers. The animals will not wipe us out and here’s why: TODAY, WE ARE DECLARING WAR ON ALL ANIMALS—total, all-out, fight-to-the-death WAR!”
Now the campers were truly shocked.
Drivel whispered to Drek. “Dude, doesn’t the Colonel have to get permission from the High Mosquito Council to start a war?”
“I guess he figures the tribe is in danger and it can’t wait,” said Drek. “Besides, he’s the boss!”
“Dude, he’s boss of a kiddy camp!”
“Shut up, maggot!”
Izzy was returning from a race with the bumblebees and happened to see the gathering of campers. Something didn’t look right. He landed quietly at the back of the crowd to find out what was going on.
Rancor continued. “Mosquitoes, from this moment on, you are no longer campers at Bite and Pester Boot Camp. I’m enlisting every one of you as a soldier in my army. Starting now, you are all MOSQUITO WARRIORS!”
Normally, such an announcement would have struck fear in the campers’ young mosquito hearts. But with the effects of the spray on their brains, most of them buzzed with excitement. Mosquito Warriors! It sounded so important, so thrilling and glamorous and exciting.
“Whoa,” said Drek. “We’re Mosquito Warriors! Awesome!”
“Sounds scary, dude,” said Drivel.
What the maggot is going on? Izzy wondered.
The Colonel continued. “Listen up, Mosquito Warriors! The animals say we are obnoxious, disgusting, nasty, and annoying. I say THEY are obnoxious, disgusting, nasty and annoying. The cow is fat. The horse is stuck-up. The donkey is stupid. The pigs are filthy. The sheep and goats are losers. We are going to declare war on all of them and WE WILL WIN! Are you with me, Warriors?”
“YES! Shouted most of the mosquitoes.
“ARE YOU WITH ME, WARRIORS?”
“YES! Shouted all of the mosquitoes—except Izzy.
Izzy looked around at all the angry mosquitoes with red eyes and twitching antennae. They’ve all gone crazy, he thought. Especially the Colonel.
Rancor continued: “Warriors, the animals have been cursing us and swatting us for too long! We will put up with it no longer! We will dive bomb them and attack them! We will swarm them and torment them and terrorize them! We will get revenge and we will get respect and we mosquitoes will be the new rulers of Pickle Pond Farm!”
“Mosquitoes can’t rule the farm,” Izzy said to himself. “And they certainly can’t win a war. This is madness! It’s suicide!”
The mosquitoes started chanting, “WARRIORS! WARRIORS! WARRIORS! WARRIORS! WARRIORS!”
“Are you ready for the first battle, Warriors?” said Rancor.
“YES!” the mosquitoes shouted.
“Here’s the plan. That idiot Delbert Dog has swatted many of our tribe including my own mother and father; he is our first target. We will swarm and strike without mercy. We will drive him crazy. In fact, we will do more than just pester Delbert Dog. We will bite and pester him TO THE DEATH!”
The mosquitoes cheered. They always got a kick out of pestering Delbert Dog and watching him turn around in frantic circles, trying to snap at them, saying, “Gonna getcha, getcha, getcha!” If this was war, it didn’t sound so bad.
But it sounded horrible to Izzy, now that Delbert was his friend. Izzy took a deep breath and flew to the front of the crowd. “WAIT!” he yelled.
Suddenly it got very quiet. All of the red, beady eyes in the crowd were turned toward Izzy. Rancor was glaring at him as well.
“Excuse me for interrupting, but there’s something you need to know,” Izzy said. “The farm animals are NOT planning a war against us. In fact, they want to improve relations with us. And we should do that because there’s no way we can win such a war. All we can do is annoy them, but they can kill us with one swat of the tail.”
“Silence!” hissed Colonel Rancor. Izzy turned around to see the Colonel standing right behind him, giving him the Death Glare.
“Is there something wrong with your eyes, Colonel?”
The Colonel hissed under his breath at Izzy. “You will NOT take this war away from me! I’ve waited my whole life for this!”
“But Colonel,” Izzy whispered. “These mosquitoes are so young; they are not trained soldiers and they are no match for the farm animals. If you start a war, your campers could be wiped out.”
Colonel Rancor pushed his proboscis up against Izzy’s and hissed. “War is war! If that’s what it takes, so be it!”
While Colonel Rancor was talking to Izzy, the campers were murmuring among themselves.
“What’s he doing here?”
“He’s saying there is no war.”
Colonel Rancor heard what they were saying. He knew he needed to do something fast to distract them, so he said: “It’s Izzy all right, the one they call the Freakin’ Beacon.”
“I made that up!” yelled Drek.
Rancor ignored this and continued. “Let me tell you about this Freakin’ Beacon, Warriors. My assistants have been watching him and they have discovered something shocking.”
The Colonel paused for dramatic effect and then said: “Izzy has been plotting with the animals against us! He is a traitor to the tribe! He’s a traitor to the Mosquito Code! IZZY IS A TRAITOR”
A buzz went through the crowd again.
“It’s not true!” said Izzy. “Many of you know me. I would never betray my own tribe. I just had a chat with Mathilda Cow. Once you get to know her—”
“Did you hear that Warriors?” Rancor interrupted. “Izzy, just admitted he’s been talking to animals, and you know that is against the Mosquito Code. He’s been plotting with the enemy and that can only mean one thing: IZZY IS A TRAITOR!”
“What?” said Izzy. “No, no! There’s been no plotting. Not a single plot. I don’t even know how to plot. I’m terrible at plotting. It was just a friendly chat.”
“TRAITOR! TRAITOR! TRAITOR!” Rancor yelled, and the Mosquito Warriors, with their eyes red and their antennae twitching, joined him in the chant: “TRAITOR! TRAITOR! TRAITOR! TRAITOR!”
This is like arguing with a rock, Izzy thought. A big, hard rock headed straight at me.
“TRAITOR! TRAITOR! TRAITOR! TRAITOR!” The crowd was getting louder and angrier and Izzy was afraid they would attack him at any moment. He had to do something.
“WAIT!” Izzy yelled. “I can prove I’m not a traitor. You want to attack Delbert Dog? I know where he hangs out; I can lead you to him.”
“All right,” said Rancor. “DO IT!”
“What, you mean now? Don’t you need time to prepare for war? Maybe do some pestering exercises or something?”
“NOW!” roared Rancor.
“All right, all right.” Izzy took off flying toward the barnyard with Colonel Rancor and all of the Mosquito Warriors following.
Chaos in the Barnyard
Izzy’s plan was to get to Delbert first and warn him to run into the farm house for protection. With the other mosquitoes not far behind, Izzy buzzed as fast as he could through the woods, across the pastures, then across the large cucumber field and over the chicken yard. No Delbert.
He flew past the pig pen and goat pen. Still no Delbert.
Finally, Izzy found Delbert inside the barn, sound asleep in the hay next to Reginald Horse’s stall. Reginald was dozing as well. The Mosquito Warriors were moments away.
“Delbert!” Izzy buzzed, circling directly above him. Delbert didn’t budge.
“Delbert! Wake up!” Delbert still didn’t budge.
Izzy flew down and buzzed next to one of Delbert’s ears. “DELBERT!” At
once, Delbert jumped up. “What? What? What? What? What?”
Delbert ran under Reginald and spooked the horse so that he woke up, bucked, and broke out of his stall yelling “Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!” Then Reginald kicked the barn door open.
This got all of the animals very excited. Mathilda Cow ran out of the barn, crashed through a gate and ran across the barnyard yelling, “Mooove it, mooove it, mooove it!” The sheep and goats followed yelling “Baaaad, baaaad, baaaad, baaaad!” And the other animals followed, scattering in every direction.
Farmer Gribble heard the noise and came running and what did he find? Complete chaos! Frightened animals running every which way, mooing and neighing and bleating and hee-hawing. The farmer put Delbert in the house and then went after the other animals.
At that moment, the Mosquito Warriors came swarming into the barnyard, led by Colonel Rancor who yelled, “Attack! Attack! Attack!”
And attack they did.
An Emergency Meeting on a Sunflower
After the battle of the barnyard, Colonel Rancor and the Mosquito Warriors returned to Pickle Pond. The Colonel had gone war-crazy; his brain was overheated and obsessed and buzzing with thoughts of war. And yet, somewhere deep in that fiery, fuzzy, buzzing brain of his, Rancor still knew that he could get in serious trouble with the High Mosquito Council for starting a war without their permission.
He needed a plan to win them over. And he had it.
In a word, his plan was: GOSSIP.
Rancor understood that mosquitoes love to gossip. They love to share the latest buzz about which mosquito was hanging out with ticks or maggots (a big no-no); or which mosquito drank too much daisy nectar and fell into the pig trough; or which mosquito had fallen in love with a firefly.
Rancor told Drek and Drivel, “Go quickly and tell all the mosquitoes around Pickle Pond that Izzy plotted with the animals to start a war against his own tribe so he can take over. Tell them Izzy thinks he should be the leader because he’s the only one with glowing antennae.”
“But we started the war,” said Drivel.
“Shut up, maggot,” said Drek.
“Minor detail,” said Rancor. “The important thing is a war got started. Besides, who are they going to believe: me, Colonel Rancor, head of the Mosquito Warriors? Or the Freakin’ Beacon with the weird antennae?”
“You’re right boss. Again, you’re right,” said Drek.
“So hurry! Spread the word fast.”
Sure enough, all morning the story spread, and as it spread it even got exaggerated. Soon, every mosquito around Pickle Pond was talking about that power-hungry Izzy who plotted with animals to start a war against his own tribe.
Even Izzy’s own aunts and uncles and cousins believed the gossip. Uncle Humbug was chatting with some water striders when a mosquito from across the pond landed next to him. “Can you believe that crazy kid, Izzy? The one hatching a plot with the farm animals? He’s your nephew, right?”
“Hmm, a distant relative,” said Humbug. “To tell the truth, I always thought there was something strange about him. With those glowing antennae, he thinks he’s better than everyone.”
As the stories spread, Vito Mosquito, the President of the High Mosquito Council called an emergency meeting with the two other members of the council on top of the tallest sunflower.
Vito, an older mosquito, spoke in a hoarse, whispery wheeze. “What’s all-a this I hear about that Izzy kid plotting with the animals to start a war and take over?”
“Gotta be something to it,” said Tito Mosquito—a large mosquito with a hefty thorax. “Everyone’s talking about it. I always knew there was something weird about Izzy. He looks like a fluffy firefly for maggot’s sake!”
“Tell you what, though,” said Burrito Mosquito, the one with the plump, paunchy abdomen. “Colonel Rancor has already got them camp members fighting like soldiers. I heard they chased all the animals out of the barn this morning. Ain’t that something?”
“About time someone taught them animals a lesson,” said Tito.
“Well, we’ve got to get to the bottom of this,” said Vito. “Find-a this Izzy and bring him here for questioning. And tell-a the Colonel to come too. We’ve got to know what the maggot is going on.”
Tito and Burrito went everywhere looking for Izzy. They asked everyone around the pond, but nobody knew where he was.
“The bug’s gone into hiding,” said Burrito. “Just shows he’s guilty.”
“Good thing Colonel Rancor figured out he’s a traitor,” said Tito.
Since they couldn’t find Izzy, Frito and Burrito asked Izzy’s parents to come answer questions about their son. Colonel Rancor also attended along with Drek and Drivel.
Vito called the meeting to order and looked at Izzy’s parents. “Your son, he’s-a the one with the glowing antennae, right? The one they call the Freakin’ Beacon?”
“His name’s Izzy and he’s a good mosquito,” said Izzy’s mother. “Everyone says he is power hungry, but it’s not true. He has a good heart.”
“But is it true that Izzy talks with cows, dogs and other animals and even makes-a friends with them?”
“I’ve told him again and again, it’s against the Mosquito Code to talk to animals,” said Izzy’s father.
“We’ve got proof,” said Colonel Rancor. “Drek and Drivel have been following Izzy for days. They saw him talking with the cow, the horse, the dog and other animals.”
“That’s right,” said Drek. “He talked with the animals for a long time and they seemed very friendly! He even rode around on Delbert Dog’s head.”
Now Izzy’s parents didn’t know what to say.
“It’s very interesting,” said Colonel Rancor. “First, Izzy talks with the farm animals. And then, what do you know, war breaks out. Quite a coincidence!”
“Coincidence indeed!” said Tito and Burrito.
Izzy’s mother started crying. “I never dreamed our son would be friends with a cow. It’s so embarrassing!”
“We have always tried to raise Izzy to pester animals like a normal mosquito,” said Izzy’s father.
“I’m sure you did-a your best,” said Vito. “But we gotta face facts.”
Tito said, “By the way, we should thank Colonel Rancor and his Mosquito Warriors for bravely fighting against the animals this morning.”
“Just doing my job,” said the Colonel. Then he looked around and made eye contact with each of the council members. “I haven’t told you the worst part. I have uncovered a secret, devious plot. The farm animals are going to pretend that they want to make peace with mosquitoes. They will invite the High Mosquito Council to a meeting to discuss a peace treaty, but when you show up, they’ll swat all of you and the Freakin’ Beacon will take over!”
The council members were shocked and horrified, of course.
“Well, that is the last-a straw that broke-a the back of the last-a camel,” said Vito. “I think we all get-a the picture, and it is not a pretty picture. In time of war, anyone who is-a friends with our enemies is a traitor. High Mosquito Council rules that Izzy is-a banished from Pickle Pond. If he shows-a his proboscis, he will be arrested and his antennae will be cut off.”
“If I find him, I’ll cut off his power-hungry antennae myself!” said Colonel Rancor.
Izzy’s mother cried out. “But without antennae he won’t be able to find his way home!”
“Is-a war,” said Vito. “And we gotta do what we gotta do.” Then he turned to Rancor: “Colonel Rancor, we want you to have all the power you need to fight-a this war. We promote you to General. You may lead-a your Mosquito Warriors into battle with our blessing.”
Rancor’s antennae twitched as he rubbed his two front legs together. “I thank the High Mosquito Council and I promise you this: I will give you the service you deserve.”