Izzy’s Impossible Adventure
Excerpt #3: Chapters 22-31
Geoffery Alan Moore
The Fly on the Wall
“Warriors, congratulations on your first tremendous victory at the battle of the barnyard!” General Rancor was speaking to the Mosquito Warriors who had gathered on the banks of Pickle Pond to celebrate their successful battle. They all whooped and buzzed and cheered and even those who had been afraid of going to war were now excited.
The General continued. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get to attack Delbert Dog because that traitor Izzy tipped him off. What a light-headed loser!”
The mosquitoes booed and chanted, “TRAITOR! TRAITOR! TRAITOR!”
“But it doesn’t matter, Warriors. It doesn’t matter. Here’s what matters: we drove the animals crazy!”
More loud cheering and buzzing from the Warriors.
“Yes we did! Did you see them running away like pathetic, scared little babies? Wasn’t that a beautiful thing? That’s how powerful we are, Warriors!”
(Of course, it was actually Izzy who spooked Delbert Dog who spooked Reginald Horse who spooked the other animals so that they ran out of the barn. But everything happened so fast that it was hard to tell exactly what was happening—and Rancor was quite happy for the Warriors to believe they had done it all.)
“That was a huge first battle,” the General continued. “Huge! But it’s just the beginning, Warriors. We won’t stop until we mosquitoes are the rulers of Pickle Pond Farm!”
All the Warriors cheered. And while they were celebrating, a Fly Spy landed next to Rancor and whispered, “I have the report you asked for.”
The Fly Spy was Agent Maxwell, Chief of the CIA. General Rancor had asked Agent Maxwell and his team of Fly Spies to spy on the humans and find out their plans.
“Let’s hear it,” Rancor said.
“Agent Maxwell, Chief of the Fly Spies of the CIA, reporting to General Rancor on classified, top secret, highly sensitive, hush-hush—”
“Yes, yes, I know who you are, for maggot’s sake, just get on with it!”
“We must follow protocol. At oh-eight-hundred hours this morning, Agent Maxwell—that’s me—along with seven hand-picked, elite members of the CIA penetrated a hole in a window screen at great danger to ourselves. I placed three flies on the ceiling, four flies on windows, and I myself was the fly on the wall.”
“Maxwell, I’m warning you: get to the point! Tell me when the humans are going to be outside. And tell me now!”
“Said humans said that they are planning a family dinner in the backyard this very evening.”
“Excellent! We will attack tonight.”
“But there’s more,” said Maxwell. “Tomorrow is the Fourth of July, a big human holiday. Tomorrow evening, there will be a large picnic in the backyard with many more juicy humans.”
“Perfect!” said General Rancor, rubbing his two front legs together. Then he turned to the Warriors.
“Mosquito Warriors, I have some excellent news. Are you ready for our next glorious battle?”
“YES!” the mosquitoes shouted.
“Now that we have humiliated the farm animals, our next target is humans. Tonight, they are having dinner outside and we will attack!”
A thunderous cheer went up. The female mosquitoes cheered loudest since human blood is their favorite food. They are so crazy for the taste that they will risk getting swatted again and again. That’s just the way female mosquitoes are.
And even though male mosquitoes do not bite, they were also excited because—you guessed it—they are always looking for a chance to impress the females with how brave they are. That’s just the way male mosquitoes are.
“All we can eat!” crowed the females. “It will be a fabulous feast!”
“Just wait till you see how bravely we pester the humans!” said the males.
“And I have another surprise,” said the General. “I’ve instructed the Fly Spies to keep tonight’s dinner a secret from the rest of our tribe. Tonight is just for you, Warriors! Tomorrow night there will be a large picnic with more humans and we’ll share that feast with everyone. But tonight is your reward for this morning’s victory. So get ready, Warriors. We fly at dusk!”
Secret Meeting Under a Tulip
It was late in the afternoon of Friday, July 3rd and Izzy wasn’t sure what to do or where to go. After the Mosquito Warriors had attacked the farm animals, he was nervous about going back to the barnyard. He was sure the animals would blame him for starting the attack; they might even try to swat him.
But he was also afraid to go to Pickle Pond; he didn’t want to risk running into the Mosquito Warriors or General Rancor.
So Izzy flew to the flower garden to get a sip of nectar and think things over. He landed on a snapdragon. “What the maggot am I going to do now?” he said to himself, aloud.
“You’re going to come down here and talk to me!” answered a familiar voice. It was Lizzy, hiding beneath a tulip. Izzy flew down and embraced her.
“Oh Izzy, I’m so sorry I doubted you,” said Lizzy. “I know you just wanted to make things better, but now—” She started crying.
“Hey, it’s okay, Sis. I would have thought the same if I were you.”
“But Izzy, I have to tell you something, and it’s terrible. The High Mosquito Council had an emergency meeting about you. I was hiding in the sunflower next to them and heard it all.”
“What did they say?”
“They called you a traitor, Izzy. They blame you for plotting with the animals and starting the war. They say you want to take over.”
“Lizzy, I swear to you: I had nothing to do with starting the war and I have no interest in taking over. I was just trying to save Delbert Dog.”
“I know, Izzy. But the council has banished you from Pickle Pond, and if you go back they will cut off your antennae! Oh Izzy, what are we going to do?” More tears trickled down Lizzy’s proboscis.
Izzy embraced his sister again. “Hey, don’t cry. It’s going to be okay.”
“But how, Izzy? How is it going to be okay? Everyone is against you!”
“Here’s what I want you to do. Go back home and agree with everyone. Call me a traitor and pretend you don’t like me anymore.”
Lizzy stared at him, surprised and confused. “But why, Izzy?”
“If people think you are on my side, they will punish you too. I can’t let that happen.”
“But I can’t pretend to hate you, Izzy.”
“Please! If you love me, act like you hate me.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, it’s the best way. I’m sure.”
“But Izzy, what will you do?”
“I’ll think of something. But for now, you must not be seen with me. Do you understand?”
“Yes, I understand.”
“Be strong and be safe. And don’t worry. We’ll get through this somehow. We’re two bug-buddies against the world, right?”
“Right. Two bug-buddies against—” Lizzy was too emotional to finish.
They touched antennae and Izzy flew away quickly before anyone could see them together. And before Lizzy could see his tears.
A Dark Knight and a Dark Night
Now Izzy truly had nowhere to go; he was a mosquito without a home. So, with the sun going down, he flew to the farmhouse and landed on his favorite windowsill. With all his problems, he just wanted to hear another story.
Darla was reading a story about Zorro, the hero who dressed all in black, including a black mask and black cape, and fought for the rights of the poor people in old California. In this story, the governor of the district—a very chubby man who wore suspenders to hold up his baggy pants—was imposing outrageously unfair taxes on the poor people. When they couldn’t pay, the governor threw them in jail, sold their small houses and collected the money. He used the money to throw huge feasts for himself and his chubby friends. One day, Zorro rode into town on his black horse and challenged the chubby governor to a sword fight. There was a terrific clashing of swords with the whole town watching. When Zorro knocked the governor’s sword out of his hand, the crowd gasped and wondered if the masked man would kill the governor. Instead, Zorro sliced the governor’s suspenders so that his baggy pants fell down. The governor ran off without his pants while the people laughed. Zorro got the keys to the jail from the pants and let out all the prisoners. Then he opened the safe where the governor kept the stolen money and gave it back to the people.
Zorro sounds just like a knight, thought Izzy. He doesn’t wear armor, but he does go on adventures and right the wrongs of the world.
As Izzy listened, he was so absorbed in the story that—for a few minutes at least—he forgot all about his many troubles. It was like being in a trance—a warm, delightful, exciting trance.
Even after Darla finished reading, Izzy remained on the windowsill, still thinking about the story. In fact, he was so lost in thought that he didn’t notice when it turned dark and he didn’t notice when General Rancor and the Mosquito Warriors flew past the window with their eyes red and their antennae twitching. They were headed for the backyard where the Gribble family was gathering for a dinner by candlelight.
Suddenly, a blindingly bright light appeared underneath the big oak tree at the far end of the yard. All at once, all of the Mosquito Warriors, led by General Rancor, turned and flew directly toward the bright light, chanting, “Oh, how lovely! Oh, how beautiful! We must go to the light. We must!”
The bright light startled Izzy out of his thoughts; he looked up to see where it was coming from—and that’s when he saw the Mosquito Warriors flying across the backyard, barely visible in the darkness.
“Why are they flying toward that light?”
Izzy’s first instinct was to hide so they wouldn’t see him. But then he noticed something odd. All of the mosquitoes were flying in perfect formation toward the light, chanting in unison as they flew. In fact, the formation was a little too perfect and the chanting sounded weird. They seemed to be in some kind of trance.
Izzy took off to follow the Mosquito Warriors and try to figure out what was going on. As he drew near, he noticed that the glowing, pulsing, vibrating light was coming from a large boxy shape floating in the darkness beneath the oak tree. Very strange! he thought.
And then, Izzy felt a powerful attraction: the light was pulling him and it felt warm and wonderful to be pulled toward the light. Maybe the light was a good thing, he thought. Maybe he should go to the light with them.
Izzy tried to catch up, but General Rancor and the Mosquito Warriors reached the light just ahead of him.
And then it happened.
Suddenly, there were bright flashes and loud pops and fizzles like fireworks. In an instant, General Rancor and all of the Mosquito Warriors disappeared. Vaporized! Vanished! Gone! All of them!
The Death Ray Theory
Izzy was shocked, and the shock woke him up from the light’s mesmerizing hold: he had to get away from the light! He flew quickly back to the windowsill where he found Agent Maxwell, Chief of the Fly Spies.
“Did you see that?” said Izzy. “The … the bright flashes? The pops and fizzles?”
“I see everything,” said Agent Maxwell. “I have five eyes.”
“What was that? What happened?”
Agent Maxwell was a flexible fly. He had offered his services to General Rancor before, but now that the General had been vaporized, he felt free to offer his services to Izzy.
“Finding the truth in such a mysterious case is a matter of keen observation and brilliant deduction,” Maxwell said. “Fortunately, you are in the presence of a highly-trained spy. I am Agent Maxwell, Chief of the Fly Spies at your service. I have a theory as to the source of this bright light.”
“A very intelligent, highly educated guess.”
“What is your theory?”
“Based on astute observation and brilliant deduction, I am convinced that your fellow mosquitoes have been vaporized by a death ray brought here by aliens from outer space.”
Izzy couldn’t believe it. “A death ray from outer space?”
“That is my theory.”
“Zapped. Fried. Grilled. Broiled. Eliminated. Evaporated. May I offer my sincere condolences.”
Now the truth is, the Mosquito Warriors didn’t suffer. They never knew what hit them and they didn’t feel a thing. It was all over in a flash. Still, it was very troubling for Izzy. He had grown up with some of those mosquitoes. And even though they had called him a traitor, it was still shocking and sad to see them all vaporized. It was puzzling too.
“But, but what … how … I mean, why do you think this is a death ray from outer space?”
“Because I saw one very much like it on the farmer’s magic window.”
“Yes. The humans have a magic window on the wall in their house. When they look at the magic window, they can see things happening all over the world. They call it ‘TV’. That’s code for something, I’m sure, but I haven’t cracked the code yet.”
“And you have seen this magic window?”
“Many times. The farmer and his family look at it every day, especially in the evening.” Maxwell leaned over and whispered. “I must confess, I like it very much. You would not believe some of the funny and exciting and sad things happening in this world.”
Izzy knew that humans are very different from other animals; they seem to have all kinds of unusual powers. So he had no trouble believing that they might have a magic window. “What did you see?”
Agent Maxwell hopped closer to Izzy and whispered. “Last night, the magic window showed aliens from outer space coming to earth in space ships equipped with death rays. They used the death rays to zap humans. It was horrifying. But strangely entertaining.”
“They zapped humans?”
“Yes. And the death ray that zapped your mosquito friends looks very much like the death rays that zapped the humans. Only smaller, of course.”
Izzy was stunned. “I saw some kind of boxy shape in the dark. It was hard to make out what it was.”
“I’m not surprised. That simply confirms my theory. Obviously, it is an alien space ship. The aliens sent a larger space ship to vaporize humans and a smaller space ship to vaporize mosquitoes. I, Agent Maxwell, have uncovered a worldwide plot to exterminate humans and insects.”
“You think they want to vaporize all of us?”
“Without a doubt. Did you notice that they turned the death ray on as soon as it was dark? Apparently, they have done their research: they know that mosquitoes come out at night and they are planning to wipe you out. Again, my condolences.”
Izzy was stunned. He didn’t know what to say. Or do.
“There’s something else you should know,” said Maxwell. “My agents tell me that the farmer and his wife are planning a large picnic here tomorrow evening because it is the Fourth of July, a special human holiday. Many juicy humans will come. So, of course, all the mosquitoes from Pickle Pond will also come for the feast. Without a doubt, the aliens will again turn on their death ray as soon as it is dark. You should warn the other mosquitoes right away.”
Izzy felt a chill go through his thorax and abdomen. He thought of Lizzy and his parents and all his relatives and friends. Maxwell was right, they had to be warned. But there was a problem. A big problem.
“I’ve been banished from Pickle Pond,” Izzy said. “They think I’m a traitor. They think I’m plotting with the animals to wage war and take over. If I tell them about this, they won’t believe me. They’ll think it’s all part of the plot. In fact, they will cut off my antennae!”
“Too bad. Pickle Pond won’t be the same without you mosquitoes. My condolences again.”
“But they will listen to you. You’re the Chief of the Fly Spies.”
“It’s true, I do have my reputation to consider.”
“Would you do it? Would you go warn my family and my sister and the others? Please?”
“I suppose it is up to me, Agent Maxwell, Chief of the Fly Spies, to carry out this highly dangerous mission. Very well, I shall fly to Pickle Pond and warn them.”
“I can’t thank you enough, Agent Maxwell!” Izzy watched with relief as Maxwell flew across the yard. But as he passed the picnic table, Maxwell saw some delicious cake crumbs on a plate and his mouth began to water.
“I really must strengthen myself for the mission,” he said as he landed on the table. He was just about to take a big bite when—“WHAP!”—Gus Gribble swatted the fly flat with a rolled up Farm & Garden magazine.
Agent Maxwell ended up as a blotch in the middle of an ad for Fox’s Pesticide Spray.
A Risky Visit
“Oh no!” said Izzy, watching from the windowsill.
For the second time that evening, Izzy was in shock.
And now he knew what he had to do—even if it cost him his antennae. He took off in the dark and buzzed across the yard, past the barnyard, over the barn, and all the way across the cucumber field and the pasture beyond.
Then Izzy flew through the woods that lead to Pickle Pond. He knew there were many bats in the woods that prey on mosquitoes in the evening, so he kept low to the ground, zigzagging between weeds and keeping his mind blank so that his antennae wouldn’t glow in the dark. Several times, bats swooped and soared just above him, but, fortunately, they didn’t notice him.
Finally, Izzy made it home. Because of all the excitement about the war, his aunts and uncles and cousins had come together to talk things over with his mother and father. But when Izzy landed, all the buzzing stopped. It was deadly quiet.
“Izzy, Izzy! I’m so happy to see you!” said his mother, breaking the awkward silence and embracing him.
“Where’s Lizzy, Mother?” said Izzy.
“I don’t know dear. She’s out … somewhere.”
“Izzy, there’s something we have to tell you,” said his father.
“I know. I’ve been banished. They say I started the war, but it’s not true—you have to believe me.”
“Hmm, and why should we believe you?” said Uncle Humbug. “General Rancor himself told us you’ve been plotting with the animals!”
“That’s not true either. I’ve done no plotting. But I have something to tell you about General Rancor and the Mosquito Warriors. It’s bad news, I’m afraid. Very bad.”
“What is it, Izzy?” said his mother.
“Earlier this evening, the General and the Warriors flew to the backyard where the farmer and his family were having dinner. When the Warriors got there, some aliens in a space ship used a death ray to vaporize all of them. I’m very sorry to say that none survived.”
For a moment, there was dead silence. Then Izzy’s aunts and uncles and cousins all burst into laughter.
“Hmm, that’s a good one, Izzy. You had us going there for a minute,” said Uncle Humbug. “What do these aliens look like, little green mosquitoes?”
“I don’t know what they look like. I didn’t see them.”
“Exactly! You didn’t see them.”
“You see Izzy, this is what happens when you talk to cows and dogs,” said Aunt Tattle. “You get an overactive imagination. Frankly, I think that’s what makes your antennae glow.”
“He’s just saying this because he’s angry at the Mosquito Warriors for exposing him as a traitor,” said Aunt Prattle.
Izzy’s mother started crying. “Izzy, how could you make up such a horrible story about our beloved General and our brave Mosquito Warriors?”
“But it’s true. I was there and I saw it happen. Haven’t you noticed that they are missing?”
“Hmm, you know those Warriors,” said Uncle Humbug. “They’re always going somewhere to fight a glorious battle. You should be thanking them for their service instead of gossiping about them.”
“But they weren’t really Warriors, they were campers! They were just kids! They weren’t trained to fight in battles.”
“We’re at war,” said Humbug. “Everything is different now.”
Izzy shook his head. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “Please, I beg you. Just stay away from the farmer’s backyard tomorrow night. And if you do go and you see a bright light under the big tree, please do not fly toward it.”
“Hmm, look, Izzy,” said Uncle Humbug, “We’re not afraid of any tiny green mosquitoes. And we’re not going to miss the big Fourth of July picnic on account of some cuckoo-bird story from a power-hungry mosquito who plots with farm animals and thinks he’s better than everyone else.”
Everyone started talking at once and most seemed to agree with Uncle Humbug. Izzy’s mother, however, was very quiet. She pulled Izzy aside and whispered. “Maybe you should stay away from Pickle Pond, just for a little while.”
“But Mother, promise me you won’t go to the picnic tomorrow night, okay? And tell Father and Lizzy to stay away too. Please!”
“Yes, dear,” she said.
Izzy flew away with the whole family singing The Mosquito Anthem behind him. He knew they didn’t believe him, but he had a plan. Early the next morning, he would find Lizzy and tell her to keep his parents and the others away from the picnic and the death ray. Everything would be fine.
At least, that is what he told himself.
But in the meantime, where should he go? He certainly couldn’t stay at Pickle Pond.
Then it hit him: The Fourth of July! Tomorrow is the Fourth of July! Of course! Why didn’t I remember?
Now he knew exactly where to go.
Gitche’s Three Clues
When Gitche Manito Mosquito saw Izzy, her eyes lit up. “My little Izzy, come, come, let me have a good look at you.”
After they had embraced, Gitche said, “Oh my, Izzy, I see big trouble in your eyes. Big, big trouble. Go ahead, tell Gitche what’s the matter.”
Izzy was exhausted and frazzled and not quite sure where to start. So, he said, “Well, Gitche, it seems I’ve gotten myself into quite a jam—”
“What? In a jam? Well, that’s not so bad, but here’s what you’ve got to do, Izzy. Whenever you get into a jam, make sure you get out before some human puts a lid on the jar. One time I got into a nice raspberry jam and someone put the lid on and I was in there for three days and nights. I ate myself silly on raspberry jam!”
Gitche laughed, then sighed. “I admit, it was a most delightful three days. But after that I never much cared for raspberry jam.”
Izzy took a deep breath and, speaking loud and clear, he told Gitche the whole story: his talks with the animals; the war that General Rancor started; how the High Mosquito Council banished him and called him a traitor; how General Rancor and all the Mosquito Warriors got zapped; and more.
“Oh my,” Gitche said. “That is a lot of big problems for one mosquito.”
“Gitche, remember when I told you about my dream?”
“When you defeated the dragon, yes. That was some dream!”
“Do you remember what you told me about my dream?”
Gitche thought for a moment. “Remind me dear; my memory is sometimes a little wibbly-wobbly.”
“You said the dream meant that I would do something special. And you said I would find out on the Fourth of the July.”
“Oh, I said that, did I? Hmm, how interesting.”
“Gitche, TOMORROW IS THE FOURTH OF JULY!”
“Is that right? Isn’t that something?” Then Gitche leaned back and closed her eyes and was quiet.
“Gitche!!” Izzy said.
“What? Who? Where?”
“Gitche, WHAT WILL I FIND OUT ON THE FOURTH OF JULY? WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO?”
“Oh I didn’t tell you? My goodness, I suppose I would forget my antennae if they weren’t attached. Let me see if I remember …. Ah, yes! You are supposed to save all of the mosquitoes and stop this silly war between animals and mosquitoes, of course. And you are supposed to save Pickle Pond Farm. And Piper’s Pickle Plant. And, let me see, there was something else …. Oh, now I remember. You are supposed to save the town of Galaxy. There, I think that’s it.”
Gitche looked at Izzy. “Isn’t that wonderful?”
“But Gitche, that’s impossible! How the maggot could I do all of that?”
“Watch your language, Izzy! I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”
“But Gitche, I don’t even know what to do or where to begin—”
“Just follow the bigness in your heart, Izzy. You’ll be fine.”
“Follow the bigness in my heart?”
“Yes, even a small bug can have a big heart, and you do.”
“Yes, and no matter how big your troubles may be, Izzy, I want you to always remember this: your heart is bigger than your troubles.”
“Well, yes. And follow the three clues, of course.”
“What three clues, Gitche? You didn’t tell me about any clues!”
“Oh, I didn’t tell you that either? My, my, I’m getting quite doddery in my old age.” She looked Izzy in the eyes. “Listen carefully, Izzy. Clue number one: get help from the Big Kahuna. Clue number two: find the crooked path that will bring you back. Clue number three: when you see the spider, look for the trap door.”
“But Gitche, I have no idea what any of that means!”
“You will, you will. Now go!”
Troubled and confused, Izzy turned to leave.
“Wait! I forgot something. Something important!”
“I forgot to tell you about the disguise. You must first look for a special disguise.”
Now Izzy was really confused. “Look for a disguise? Look where?”
Izzy could not believe what Gitche said.
“In the garbage can, where else?”
SATURDAY, JULY 4
Early on the morning of July 4th, Gus Gribble went out to inspect his cucumber plants. With his head down, he took a long time walking from one end of the field to the other, going up and down all the rows between the bamboo poles that supported the vines. When he finished, he hurried back to the house, grumbling under his breath.
“Dang Fox’s Pesticide didn’t work!” he told Darla as he came in the kitchen door. “Worms still alive and kicking, having themselves a fine, fancy feast at our expense.”
“Oh dear, oh my goodness,” said Darla, as she dipped oatmeal into bowls for Silas and Jude at the kitchen table. “Should we give the pesticide more time to work?”
“Nope. Too risky. We’re losing plants every day.”
“What are you going to do, Dad?” said Jude.
“Going to see Virgil over to the farm supply store. He said if this didn’t work, he’s got stronger stuff.”
Darla looked up. “Honey, that sounds a little scary. What if—”
“Mom, you spilled the oatmeal!” said Silas.
“Got to do something,” said Gus. “Can’t let a passel of puny, pink worms put Pickle Pond Farm and Piper’s Pickle Plant out of business.”
“But Gus, dear…”
Gus paused at the door. “Yep?”
“The weather report says a big storm is blowing in this morning. It’ll be rainy and windy. Very windy. Is it safe to spray pesticide in a strong wind?”
Gus looked out across the field and sighed. “No.” He looked back at Darla.
“Should we cancel tonight’s picnic?”
“The report says the storm will stop and it’ll warm up by evening. You know this crazy Maine weather.”
Gus watched at the sky over Pratt’s Hill. He could see the storm clouds in the distance, coming their way. “Doesn’t feel like a day to celebrate.”
“I know, dear. But it’ll be good to get together with friends and neighbors. We need it right now. They would be so disappointed if we cancelled.”
“I suppose you’re right.” The wind was already starting to pick up. “Virgil said the store closes at noon for the Fourth, so I better go pick up the stronger stuff now. Guess I’ll wait ‘till tomorrow to spray. Just hope it’s not too late.”
The screen door slammed behind him as he headed out to the pickup.
The Masked Knight of Pickle Pond
As the farmer drove away, Izzy landed on the edge of the garbage can behind the house—and what did he see inside? Winston Racoon humming to himself, chewing on a steak bone and wearing a tall, round oatmeal box on his head like a chef’s hat. There were sprinkles of raw oats on his shoulders.
“Good morning, Winston!”
Sitting in the bottom of the garbage can, Winston looked up and waved the steak bone. “Greetings, little buddy. Didn’t I tell you there were treasures in the garbage can? Come to take my class?”
“Not exactly, but I do need your help.” He told Winston about the death ray that vaporized General Rancor and the Mosquito Warriors and how he tried to warn his family but they wouldn’t listen because they thought he was a traitor.
Winston whistled in surprise. “For a tiny bug, you have a lot of big problems. And strange problems too.”
“That’s what Gitche tells me. She also said I need a disguise.”
“Sure. You said none of the other mosquitoes will listen to you, but if you were disguised, they wouldn’t know it was you.” Winston chewed on the steak bone.
“Do you really think they would listen to me then?”
“Hey, it’s worth a shot. So what kind of disguise do you want, little guy?”
Izzy thought. “Maybe a black mask and cape, like Zorro.”
“Zorro? Is that the fox who is always trying to sneak into the hen house? I can’t stand that guy.”
“No, Zorro is like a knight, but he wears the mask and cape instead of armor.”
“I like the black mask idea. That way, you’ll look like a raccoon, and everyone listens to raccoons. I saw something down here under the chicken bones.” Winston poked around in the garbage, then climbed up to the edge with some small scraps of black cloth.
With Winston’s help, Izzy fashioned a tiny mask and cape out of the scraps; he put them on and swirled his cape. “How do I look?”
“Excellent! Like a tiny super raccoon. And don’t worry, I think the chicken smell will wear off. Eventually.”
“You don’t think they’ll recognize me?”
“The smell will probably throw them off. Keep your antennae tucked under the mask and you’ll be fine.”
“Thanks, Winston. I better hurry.”
“Wait, kid, before you leave,” Winston removed his oatmeal-box hat and carefully touched the top of Izzy’s head with the steak bone. “I dub thee Sir Izzy, the Masked Knight of Pickle Pond. Now go! And good luck, kid! I mean, Sir Izzy.”
As Winston watched Izzy soar into the air, he noticed the dark clouds rapidly approaching. “Uh-oh. That’s not good.”
An Ill Wind
The words were hardly out of Winston’s mouth before the wind began blowing very hard. Trees swayed, thunder boomed, lightning flashed, and a summer rain began to pour.
Winston ran into some bushes for cover, but Izzy was caught up in the air in the middle of the howling storm.
Now here is an important fact: a mosquito’s top flying speed is three miles per hour—at best. But the wind was blowing more than twenty miles per hour with gusts up to thirty miles per hour. It was blowing away from Pickle Pond—and you know what that means.
Izzy never made it home to warn his family.
“Stinking maggot guts!” Izzy yelled, as he tried to fly against the wind. But it was no use. The storm carried him over the barn and barnyard where animals were hunkering down. It carried him clear over the cucumber fields, over Pratt’s Hill, across a large pasture and then over some hills and valleys, and then clear over Patterson Woods, and across more meadows and hills and far beyond.
Izzy tried to think what a knight would do in a situation like this—but in the middle of that howling wind it was impossible to even think; in fact, it was impossible to do anything except let the storm carry him miles and miles away from his home.
The farther Izzy went, the more helpless and hopeless he felt. There was no way to get back home against this wind—no way to warn his sister and his family and his tribe. There was absolutely nothing he could do.
Izzy was afraid to admit it, but deep in his heart he knew it was true: he would never see Lizzy or his family or his tribe again. He was all alone in the world. As this realization sank in, Izzy began to wail—a wail of anger and frustration and hopelessness and sadness—a wail that echoed the howl of the wind that carried him along.
And then, after a while—as if things weren’t bad enough—a piece of flying leaf plastered Izzy in the face causing his black mask to slip. Now, he was flying blind! “What…Whoa…Help!” he yelled, whirling around and around in the wind.
Then a sudden gust got Izzy’s black cape tangled up with his wings and he started spinning around and around like an airplane shot out of the sky. Without his wings for balance, Izzy went whirling down, down, down, down, down … and crashed on the ground!
“Ohhhh!” Izzy groaned. “Could this day get any worse?” He picked himself up and began untangling his legs and antennae and wings and cape. He straightened his mask, and what did he see? He was surrounded by worker ants! He had crashed on top of an anthill.
“Holy ticks and maggots!” Izzy said.
“Arrest this masked robber at once,” said the chief ant. The worker ants grabbed Izzy by his cape and dragged him toward the entrance to the ant hill.
Apparently, the answer was yes: the day could get worse!
The Big Kahuna
“What? Wait! I’m not a thief!” said Izzy as he was being dragged away.
“A likely story!” said the chief ant. “I charge you with first degree looking like a thief and second degree attempted breaking and entering our home. And since you almost landed on some of my workers, I charge you with attempted insecticide. I also charge you with smelling like a rotten chicken. Phew!”
“Flipp, is that you?” Izzy said, lowering his mask. “It’s me, Izzy.”
“Izzy?” said Flipp. “I might have known.” He signaled the worker ants to release him and, to the ants’ surprise, Izzy and Flipp embraced. Flipp explained, “I know he looks odd and smells terrible, but he’s an old friend.”
Izzy looked around. “This is amazing. I knew you moved away from Pickle Pond, but I didn’t know where you went. So, you’re the chief?”
“Oh yeah, I’m kind of a big deal around here,” said Flipp. “The queen gave me the title, ‘The Big Kahuna,’ can you believe it?”
Izzy was stunned; remembering Gitche’s first clue: Get help from the Big Kahuna, he felt just a twinge of hope in his heart. “Actually, I can believe it,” he said. “And I am so glad to see you. I, um, well, I wonder if I could get your help.”
“Really? What kind of help?”
“That will take some explaining.”
Flipp had one of the workers bring them some nectar to drink and they got comfortable. “Okay, I’m listening.”
“Well, this morning I was trying to fly to Pickle Pond to warn my family when this storm blew me away and brought me here.”
“Warn your family? About what?”
Izzy hesitated. “It’s not good news, I’m afraid; and you’re going to find it very hard to believe. Yesterday, some aliens from outer space landed their space ship near the big oak tree behind the farmer’s house.”
“You’re right. So far, I’m not believing it.”
“I know, it sounds crazy, but it’s true. Last night they used their death ray to zap some mosquitoes from our tribe. And tonight, they are going to zap all the other mosquitoes, including my family.”
Flip looked at Izzy like he had lost his mind. “Did you land on your head when you crashed?”
“No, my head is fine.”
“So, you’re wearing a mask and cape because—”
“I’m, uh, the Masked Knight of Pickle Pond. It’s a title Winston Raccoon gave me.”
“A raccoon?” Flipp shook his head. “So, let me get this straight. You claim there are aliens from outer space in the backyard and they zapped some of the mosquitoes?”
“And they are going to zap the rest of the mosquitoes tonight.”
“Okay. And you thought that these aliens would see a mosquito in a mask and cape, smelling like a rotten chicken, and say, ‘We give up! We can’t fight a smelly bug that looks like a flying raccoon. Was that your strategy?”
The worker ants standing nearby giggled.
Izzy shrugged. “I know it sounds ridiculous, but a lot of ridiculous things have been happening at Pickle Pond Farm. Listen, Flipp, you remember my sister, Lizzy, right?”
“How could I forget? Lizzy is a princess.”
“Lizzy is going to get zapped tonight along with my parents—unless, by some miracle, I can get back to Pickle Pond Farm before dark and warn them. Now, I know I can’t fly against this wind, but you always have good ideas. So I’m just wondering: could you help me find a way back—and maybe go with me?”
“Me? All the way back to Pickle Pond Farm before dark? Now you are talking crazy, and I’m not a fan of crazy. Besides, there’s no way I can leave. I’m in charge of the whole shebang here—I’ve got to keep the wheels turning and home fires burning and everything organized.” Flipp pointed to hundreds of worker ants coming from every direction, bringing materials into the colony.
“I understand. But—”
Suddenly they heard screams nearby. Izzy and Flipp looked up to see a fierce, horned lizard with a patch over one eye chasing the worker ants. The lizard turned his head left and right so he could see with his good eye. Then he hissed, shot out his long, sticky tongue and snagged a couple of ants which he promptly crunched down before renewing the chase.
“Everyone inside! Now!” yelled Flipp.