Izzy’s Impossible Adventure
Excerpt #4: Chapters 32-40
Geoffery Alan Moore
Attack of the One-eyed Lizard
The ants dashed toward the entrance to the ant colony, but the one-eyed lizard was fast; he quickly caught three more ants and chomped them down. Then, with an angry hiss, he darted back and forth, chasing more ants.
Before he had time to think about what he was doing, Izzy flew straight at the lizard, staying close to the ground to keep out of the wind. He approached the reptile on the side of his patched eye to catch him by surprise. Then, remembering his dream, he started buzzing circles around his head.
The lizard stopped chasing ants and started snapping at Izzy who kept buzzing around his eyes and ears. The reptile kept turning around and around, getting more and more dizzy.
While Izzy kept the lizard distracted, the rest of the worker ants escaped into their underground home. When the reptile finally realized there were no more ants to eat and Izzy would not leave him alone, he tried to run away—but he kept falling over from dizziness. Finally, the lizard managed to drag himself off into a bush where two of his lizard friends were waiting for him.
“You look real bad, Leo,” said the first lizard. “What the maggot
happened to you? Have you been drinking fermented nectar?”
“Naw, it wasn’t that,” said the second lizard. “Leo just got whipped by a tiny mosquito!” Both lizards had a big laugh at their buddy’s expense.
Meanwhile, Izzy flew back to the entrance of the ant hill and yelled, “All clear! Lizard’s gone!”
Led by Flipp, the ants came pouring out, cheering for Izzy.
“Quick thinking,” said Flipp. “Thanks, buddy.”
“So now will you help me find my way back to Pickle Pond Farm?”
Flipp sighed. “Well, I guess I owe you one. Plus, I told the Queen your story and she gave me permission to take a vacation. Hopefully, the colony won’t fall apart while I’m gone.”
“Excellent!” Izzy looked up at the clouds flying past. “Any ideas on how we can get back before dark?”
Flipp scratched his head. “That’s a tough one. We could walk back, but at the rate you and I go it would take many days. I know; I’ve made that trip before. And even if you flew low to the ground to stay out of the wind, you couldn’t get back in time. It’s much too far.”
“So, what do we do?”
“There’s only one thing we can do,” said Flipp, pointing to a groundhog coming their way. “Hitchhike!”
General George Groundhog
“That’s General George Groundhog,” said Flipp. “He can move fast when he wants to. Maybe we can talk him into giving us a ride.”
General George was wearing a helmet made from a piece of birch tree bark. He was marching and waving a stick like a sword and barking out orders to no one in particular. “Forward march! Right, left, right, left!”
“Greetings, General!” Flipp called out.
The groundhog looked down at the two insects and yelled, “Danger! Danger! It’s a surprise attack by a masked marauder! Charge!” He ran at Izzy and Flipp, waving his stick and yelling, “I’ll give you a taste of the sword! I’ll avenge every nefarious bite and treacherous sting! Take that! And that!”
Izzy and Flipp hopped left and right to avoid being clubbed.
“Looks like I was wrong,” Flipp said to Izzy as he hopped. “This was a bad idea. Let’s get out of here!”
“We can win him over,” Izzy said. Then he yelled, “General, we surrender! We promise not to bite. Or sting.”
General Groundhog stopped swinging his stick. “I declare victory! I have conquered the dreaded … uh … bugs.”
Izzy stepped forward. “General, I am the Masked Knight of Pickle Pond. We’ve come to join forces with you and ask for your assistance.”
General George sniffed the air. “You? You’re a knight?”
“Sure he is,” said Flipp. “All the best knights smell like chicken.”
General George was skeptical. “You think you’ve got what it takes to fight alongside a general?”
“Uh, sure,” said Izzy.
“Very well, line up for inspection!” The general walked slowly around Izzy and Flipp, looking down at them and scowling. “I’ll shoot straight with you, lads. You two are the most scruffy, scrawny, scraggly recruits I’ve ever laid eyes on. Why, you’re nothing but a couple of insects! But never fear, General George will whip you into shape!”
“Uh oh, I don’t like the sound of this,” whispered Flipp.
The general paced back and forth, waving his stick as he continued his speech. “Bugs, prepare yourselves for the toughest training any recruit has ever faced. When I get through with you, you’ll be tougher than a dead buzzard’s beak, tougher than the hide of the stiff-necked Cantankerasaurous. You’ll be so tough, you won’t even be afraid of getting swatted, stomped, squashed or swallowed.”
“Now I understand why there are no soldiers in his army,” whispered Izzy.
“And I don’t want to be the first!” muttered Flipp. “We haven’t charged into battle yet and I want a discharge. I want to go AWOL, ASAP!”
Izzy spoke up. “Actually, General, we were hoping you could give us a ride. We’ve got to get back to Pickle Pond Farm in time for an important battle.”
“An important battle! Why didn’t you say so?” The General picked up the two bugs and put them on top of his helmet and began marching across the field. “Oh, it’s going to be gory and glorious and bloody and exciting! Be brave, bugs, and never back down. Be stalwart and steadfast! No doubt you’ll not survive—after all you are a scrawny pair, and I didn’t get a chance to train you good and proper. But after you’ve been swatted or swallowed, we’ll sing songs and tell stories about you. I promise you that.”
“Well, that’s a big relief!” whispered Flipp, sarcastically.
“We appreciate the ride, General,” said Izzy. “But we’re kind of in a hurry. We’ve got to get to the battle before nightfall. Would you mind speeding up?”
General George was impressed. “That’s what I like to see in new recruits— eager to die!” He scampered through a field of tall grass and flowers, then leapt over a small brook, ran up a small hill and down the other side of the hill, then crossed a large, open meadow.
They were making very good time for quite a while until a red fox popped his head out of a bush, grinned, licked his lips and ran straight at the groundhog.
“Fox!” yelled General George. He ran to a nearby groundhog hole and dived in head first, knocking off his helmet along with the two bugs before disappearing underground.
Izzy and Flipp landed under an apple tree that was swaying wildly back and forth in the strong wind.
“Some general he turned out to be!” said Flipp. “I don’t think he could lead an army of crab grass!”
“Watch out!” Izzy yelled.
THUNK! THUNK! THUNK! THUNK! THUNK! The wind-blown tree was dropping apples like big red bombs.
Flipp jumped left and an apple landed right between them. THUNK!
“There’s another one!” yelled Izzy, diving out of the way. THUNK!
Flipp and Izzy dodged and danced back and forth as the apples kept falling all around them. THUNK! THUNK! THUNK! THUNK!
Fortunately, before long, the tree lost most of its apples and they were finally able to stop diving and dodging.
“Whew! That was too close!” said Izzy, breathing hard.
“This is embarrassing,” said Flipp.
“Here we are at the beginning of our journey and we almost get killed by an apple! I can see the headline: ‘Big Kahuna Squashed By Piece of Fruit.’ I don’t really want to get killed, but if I do get killed, I at least want to get killed by something huge and scary and dangerous.”
Just then they heard a loud SNORT behind them and turned around. A monstrous black bull with sharp horns, white teeth and red eyes was staring down at them.
Izzy whispered: “I think you’re about to get your wish.”
The bull snorted again and lowered his head toward Izzy.
Izzy froze. And closed his eyes.
Now the bull’s face was next to Izzy. He licked his lips. Izzy could smell his breath. The bull opened his mouth … and picked up an apple. Then he raised his massive head back to normal height, chewed up the apple, swallowed it, promptly fell asleep and began a deep, rumbling snore.
“Whew! That was close,” said Izzy.
“Oh, that’s just Bull Dozer,” said Flipp. “He wouldn’t hurt a flea. He spends most of his time dozing like that. Plus, he’s a vegetarian.”
“Why didn’t you tell me! I thought I was done for!”
Flipp laughed. “Sorry. I was having too much fun watching you sweat it out.”
“Looks like you haven’t changed,” Izzy grinned. “Are you friends with other animals besides the bull and the groundhog?”
“Oh, sure. I find it comes in handy to have a few animal friends.”
Izzy was impressed. “How do you do it? Make friends with them, I mean.”
“Mostly, I just yell when someone almost steps on me. That has a way of getting the conversation started.”
Bull Dozer snorted in his sleep.
“He looks familiar,” said Izzy. “Do you think he would give us a ride if we could get him to wake up?”
“Worth a try,” said Flipp. In a few moments, Bull Dozer woke up and Flipp called out, “Good morning, Bull Dozer!”
“Hey, morning little buddy,” said the bull. “How the heck are you?”
“Fine. Could you give us a ride?”
“We promise not to bite you,” added Izzy. “I need to get back home before dark.”
“What’s the big hurry?” said Bull Dozer, yawning.
As quickly as he could, Izzy explained to Bull Dozer that he needed to get home to save his family and his tribe and the farm and the town.
“I don’t know guys, sounds tiring,” said Bull Dozer with another yawn. “I think I’ll just take a little nap.” He fell asleep again.
“We need to find some way to keep him awake,” said Flipp.
I need to find his secret, Izzy thought. That’s when he remembered where he had seen Bull Dozer. “Flipp, I’ve got an idea.”
When the bull woke up again, Izzy said, “Bull Dozer, do you know Mathilda Cow?”
Suddenly, Bull Dozer was wide awake. “Mathilda? You know Mathilda?”
“Actually, we’re good friends.”
“Well, imagine that—Mathilda, friends with a bug! She’s a real sweetheart, but it’s been a while since my master took me to Pickle Pond Farm to see her. She’s probably forgotten all about me.”
“I could give Mathilda a message for you when we get back to Pickle Pond Farm—that is, if you could help us on our way.”
“Would you?” Bull Dozer knelt down to the ground, with his head next to Izzy and Flipp. “Well, why the heck didn’t you say so? Climb on! I can get you part of the way there.”
As Bull Dozer galloped across the field with the two bugs riding on his head between his horns, Izzy asked, “What message do you want me to give Mathilda?”
“Oh, horns and whiskers! What the heck should I say? How about this: ‘Thinking fondly of you forever, ‘cause you are my very favorite heifer.’”
“Uh, not bad, not bad,” said Izzy. “It’s a nice thought. I’m just not sure about the word heifer.”
“Did you notice how heifer sort of rhymes with ‘forever’?”
“Yes, and I admit, that’s clever. But do you want to go for clever? Or do you want to go for romantic? I’m not sure ‘heifer’ is the most romantic word.”
“I see what you mean. Heck, this is harder than I thought. Okay, how about this: ‘Even though you are far away, I dream of you nineteen times a day.’ Because I do, you know. I do dream nineteen times a day.”
Izzy whispered to Flipp, “Help me keep him talking so he’ll stay awake.”
Flipp nodded and said, “Bull Dozer, I’ve never ever heard poetry like yours, and that’s no bull.”
“Heck, I’m glad you like it. I’ve made up a lot of other poems. Want to hear them?”
“Uh-oh,” Flipp whispered to Izzy. “This is going from bad to verse.” Then he said to Bull Dozer, “Uh, sure, why not.”
Bull Dozer recited bad rhyme after bad rhyme as he galloped across the meadow carrying the two intrepid insects. And here’s what they saw: grass, grass, grass, grass and more grass. They covered a lot of ground and passed a lot of grass.
But after they had traveled a great distance, the rocking motion of riding on top of Bull Dozer’s head combined with listening to his less-than-exciting poetry lulled Izzy and Flipp both to sleep. Finally, Bull Dozer stopped galloping, and then he stopped walking, and then he fell into a deep sleep himself.
As they stood there in the field—all three asleep—Izzy dreamed he was flying with Lizzy, zooming above the surface of Pickle Pond: Lizzy called out to the water striders, “Show us your dance!” The water striders began dancing their magical dance across the surface of the pond as Izzy and Lizzy flew in circles, cheering them on. Just then Izzy heard “Caw! Caw! Caw!” He looked up and saw a crow diving down. “Lizzy watch out!” Izzy yelled. The crow kept coming: “Caw! Caw! Caw! Caw!”
Suddenly, Izzy woke up to hear “Caw! Caw! Caw!” Two crows were circling above them.
“Flipp, wake up!”
“Leave me alone,” Flipp mumbled. “I can’t take any more of Bull Dozer’s poetry. I’m averse to his verses.”
“Flipp, wake up! It’s crows!”
Flipp propped one eye open, saw the crows, and immediately sat up.
“Caw! Caw! Caw! Caw!” screamed the crows.
Bull Dozer woke up too. “Heck, don’t worry about them. Those are my buddies, Boone and Doggle. They’re not looking for any trouble.”
“They may not be looking for trouble,” said Flipp. “But they may be looking for lunch!”
The crows, however, waved their wings at Bull Dozer, then circled and flew away.
“Amazing,” said Izzy. “They can fly in this wind. Maybe …”
“Don’t even think about hitching a ride with them,” said Flipp. “I’m not a fan of crows.”
Bull Dozer resumed galloping and, after a while, he came to a fence that marked the end of the meadow and the beginning of Patterson Woods.
“Sorry guys,” said Bull Dozer, kneeling down to let the bugs off. “This is as far as I can go. Be careful in Patterson Woods, it’s spooky in there. Tell you what I’ll do, guys, just to help you out. I’ll talk to—” but before he could finish, he fell asleep with his head on the ground.
Izzy and Flipp quietly climbed down from Bull Dozer’s head, crawled under the fence and entered Patterson Woods.
Star Attractions at The Bug Buffet
The dark clouds overhead made Patterson Woods even darker and spookier than usual. The trees swayed like wild, dancing witches and the wind whistling through the thick woods sounded like a gang of ghosts haunting the forest.
“I’m not crazy about going through these woods,” said Flipp, after they had crawled for a while. “Let me rephrase that. We are crazy to be going through these woods. I bet there’s a boogeyman behind every tree—and there’s a lot of trees! I bet they hold boogeyman conventions in here. If I had skin I’d be jumping out of it. Let’s find another way.”
“This is the best way back to Pickle Pond,” said Izzy. “We just need to find a fast ride through the woods.”
“But how are we going to find a ride in here, Izzy? Every creature in the woods likes to eat bugs. Owls eat bugs. Bats eat bugs. Possums eat bugs. Bears eat bugs. I bet there are bigger bugs in here that eat smaller bugs like us. We’re the star attractions at the bug buffet! If we try to get a ride, we’ll get chomped on instead.”
Izzy shook his head. “I don’t suppose you could try being just a little bit more positive? Maybe look on the bright side?”
“It’s too dark in these woods; there is no bright side. Look, you brought me along to help, right? I’m just trying to help make sure we don’t end up on someone’s lunch menu. I just think—”
“Caw! Caw! Caw! Caw! Caw!” Two crows came swooping through the woods in their direction.
“It’s the crows!” yelled Flipp.
“Run!” yelled Izzy.
They both scrambled toward a bush for cover, but just before they reached it, one crow scooped up Izzy in his claws and the other scooped up Flipp and both crows went flying up into the air and through the woods, zooming between trees.
“NOT A FAN OF GOING UP IN THE SKY!” yelled Flipp. “I have nothing against the sky. I like to look at it. I think it’s nice. I just don’t want to be up in it!”
“Just hang on!” Izzy yelled.
“Hanging on is not the problem! The problem is the crow hanging on to me. Does he look hungry to you?”
“I can’t tell. How is a crow supposed to look when it’s hungry?”
Keeping a tight grip on the two bugs, the crows flew on and on through the silent, shadowy woods. From their cramped position in the crows’ claws, Izzy and Flipp could look down and see the forest passing beneath them. They saw bats swooping about, snagging bugs out of the air. A while later, they saw a mother owl at her nest on a low branch, feeding bugs to her young. Still later, they saw a red-headed woodpecker hammering on a dead tree, finding bugs to eat.
“Did you see all that?” Flipp yelled. “I was right! We’re in the middle of a bug-eating county fair. We never should have come into these woods!”
Izzy had to admit, it didn’t look good. He considered their options. Option A: he could try to wriggle free and fly away. With the forest protecting them from the wind, he would probably be able to fly safely. But, of course, Flipp couldn’t fly, and Izzy wouldn’t think of leaving his buddy behind. Besides, the crow’s grip was so tight that wriggling free wasn’t really an option. Option B: they could wait until the crows landed and then try to escape. But what chance would they have of getting away from these crows? Approximately zero. That left option C: they could try to talk the crows into letting them go.
“Excuse me,” Izzy yelled to the crow holding him. “Could we talk things over? What are you planning to do with us?”
“We have a strict rule,” said the crow. “No talking while flying. It’s not safe.”
Flipp yelled: “We have a strict rule, too. No getting eaten by crows! Not safe at all!”
And so it went through the afternoon. Whenever Izzy or Flipp asked the crows a question, they were met with silence. Meanwhile, they passed trees, trees, trees and plenty of bug-eating creatures and then more trees.
Finally, the crows emerged from Patterson Woods and soared across a great, open meadow.
“Hey, at least we’re out of the woods!” yelled Izzy.
“I’m ecstatic,” Flipp yelled, sarcastically. “I couldn’t be happier.”
The crows flew low, skimming just above the field to try to stay out of the strong wind. But even so, powerful wind gusts almost dashed them to the ground several times. Nevertheless, they kept going—battling against the wind—flying on and on over grassy fields and corn fields and hay fields and hills and valleys with the two brave bugs firmly in their claws.
Finally, the crows came to a creek and landed on a flat piece of driftwood at the creek’s edge, still clutching Izzy and Flipp.
The crow holding Flipp said, “Can I eat him now, Boone, can I, can I?”
The Lunch Time Debate
“Doggle, have you already forgotten what Bull Dozer told us?” said Boone, the crow holding Izzy.
“He said, bring these two bugs to the creek. And we did. And now I’m hungry from all that flying.”
“You left out the part where he said to let them go.”
“But look at him, Boone. He’s a tasty morsel!”
“No, I’m not. I’m not a tasty morsel,” said Flipp, wriggling in Doggle’s claws. “I’m very un-tasty if you must know. This morning I ate some bitter herbs. I’m full of bitterness.”
“Hey, I’m not asking you,” said Doggle.
“One bite of me and your beak will pucker up. Your eyes will bug out. You’ll probably get very sick. You might even croak!”
“For a tiny bug, you have a big mouth.”
“Just looking out for your health.”
Peeking out from Boone’s claws, Izzy spoke up. “Let me say we are very grateful to both of you for bringing us so far, but we still have a way to go. I have to save my family and my tribe and Pickle Pond Farm before dark and I really need to hurry. So if you don’t mind—”
“See, Doggle? That’s what Bull Dozer told us when he woke up from his nap. He said these bugs have to save the world. Or something like that.”
“Okay, let me think. Do we set these bugs free so they can save the world? Or do we have a nice appetizer? Save the world? Or appetizer? Hmm … I vote appetizer!”
“Let him go, Doggle. Be magnanimous for once.”
“Magnanimous, beetle brain. It means big hearted.”
“I like my heart just the way it is. I don’t need a bigger heart. It would just weigh me down.”
“No, nit-wit. Big hearted means to be generous and kind.”
“Do I have to?”
“Yes. Now! We promised Bull Dozer we’d go back and wake him up for his afternoon exercises.”
“You won’t be sorry,” said Flipp.
“I’m already sorry,” said Doggle as he turned Flipp loose. Flipp quickly crawled away to the far side of the piece of driftwood.
“Thanks for the ride,” said Izzy as Boone released him.
“Could I ask a favor,” said Flipp. “Could you not make that caw, caw, caw sound as you fly away? I hate that sound.”
Izzy and Flipp watched anxiously as the crows took off, flying back toward Patterson Woods.
“I hope they don’t change their minds and come back for a snack,” said Flipp.
“Thanks to them, we’re much closer to home,” said Izzy. “We just need one more fast ride.”
“Uh-oh,” said Flipp.
“What?” said Izzy, still looking up at the sky.
“Look around! We’re drifting and bobbing! We’re moving and shaking! We’re on a cruise to lose!”
While they were watching the crows fly off, the flat piece of driftwood they were standing on had blown and drifted away from shore. Because of the morning rain, the creek was flowing very fast; in the wink of a hummingbird’s eye, Izzy and Flipp were sailing downstream.
SATURDAY, JULY 4 AFTERNOON
The Crooked Path
“NOT A FAN OF BEING ON THE WATER!” yelled Flipp, as the driftwood raft bobbed up and down in the windy, choppy waves. A small wave splashed the raft and Flipp had to jump to the other side to keep from being washed overboard. “Aauugghh! Have I mentioned that I don’t know how to swim? And something tells me this is a really bad time to learn!”
“Listen, Flipp, we’ll be fine. We just need to stay calm, and—”
“Calm?” Flipp braced himself nervously in the middle of the raft. “How can I stay calm when the creek is so upset? Look at it, Izzy! It’s furious! It doesn’t want us to be here and on that point I completely agree! I don’t mind riding on animals, but I didn’t sign on to ride on any death boat. Besides, we don’t even know where this death boat is taking us!”
As the raft swirled and bobbed rapidly downstream, Izzy was looking all around—looking for anything familiar. Suddenly he pointed. “Flipp, see that green farmhouse? I’ve seen that before—once when I went exploring with some dragonflies. That’s Never Done Farm.”
“And that’s important because?”
“Now I know where we are. We are on Crooked Creek, and Crooked Creek flows from Never Done Farm to Pickle Pond! Flipp, this is Gitche’s second clue!”
“Second clue? What do you mean?”
“Last night, Gitche gave me three clues and this was the second one: she said, find the crooked path that will bring you back. This is our crooked path, Flipp—Crooked Creek! And at the rate we’re going, we’ll make it back before night. All we have to do is stay afloat.”
“Staying afloat is the big question,” Flipp said, jumping back and forth to keep from being washed overboard. “If the death boat tips over, you can fly to shore, but what am I going to do? If the death boat sinks, I’m sunk!”
“In the first place, our boat is floating just fine. In the second pace, I’m not leaving you. Even if I tried to fly in this wind, I’d either be blown into the creek or blown all the way back to your ant hill.”
“Great! So if the death boat sinks, we’re both sunk.”
By now, the raft was out in the middle of the stream moving faster and faster. Flipp looked to the shore and saw trees and fields flying by. Dry land was so close, yet so far away.
“Have I told you how much I love dirt?” said Flipp. “I feel so at home when I have dirt all around me. I love the smell of dirt. I love the feel of dirt. I love just saying dirt. DIRT! DIRT! DIRT! If I ever get back to dirt, I’m never leaving!”
Izzy looked around. “What’s that sound?”
They both heard roaring and it was getting louder. Then they came around a bend in the river and saw where the roar was coming from.
“RAPIDS!” they both yelled. Just ahead the creek was churning violently over rocks and boulders.
“TOO MUCH WATER!” Flipp yelled over the roar. “The creek is throwing a temper tantrum, Izzy! It hates us! And the feeling is mutual!”
“Hold on tight!” Izzy yelled as the little driftwood raft flew into the rapids, bouncing from rock to rock while the water roared and bubbled and churned all around them.
“Stay in the middle!” yelled Izzy.
“I’m staying! I’m staying!”
“Hold on tight!”
“I’m holding, I’m holding!”
The raft bounced and bobbed up and down. Again and again, it seemed as if it would buck them off, but somehow they managed to stay on. They slammed into a big rock which spun the raft around in a circle; it went whirling through the rapids, bouncing off of more rocks, almost tipping over twice.
And then, before long, they shot out into more peaceful waters.
Izzy took a deep breath. “Whew! We made it. Everything is fine.”
“Fine? We almost got killed, and almost getting killed is my least favorite thing to do! I would rather carry one hundred times my own weight all day long than almost get killed.”
“Come on, Flipp, you have to admit, it was kind of exciting.”
“I’m not a fan of exciting. Exciting can get you squashed or drowned or eaten. I like being safe underground where everything is organized and under control and no one can step on me.”
All afternoon, Flipp and Izzy sailed downstream watching the fields and trees glide by and listening to the soothing, rippling sounds of the creek. It was like being in the middle of a dream and for a long time neither Izzy nor Flipp spoke. For the first time that day, each bug was lost in his own thoughts.
Izzy was thinking about everything that had happened over the past two or three days—it seemed like a lifetime! He was also trying to figure out what he would do if his family and the other mosquitoes wouldn’t listen to his warning about the death ray. How would he keep them from flying into the bright light and getting zapped? He had no idea. And how could he convince the other mosquitoes that he was not a traitor? He had no idea about that either.
As for saving Pickle Pond Farm and Piper’s Pickle Plant, well, that was simply absurd and impossible. In fact, the more Izzy thought about what he was supposed to do, the more impossible and hopeless it all seemed.
Flipp was mostly thinking about dirt. When he wasn’t thinking about dirt, he was thinking about the new tunnels he would build through the dirt when he got back home. But after a while, he said, “Hey, Izzy. Remember the times you and I went exploring around Pickle Pond?”
“Sure. Those were good times.”
“Remember Millie the Millipede?”
Izzy laughed. “We were so amazed at the way she moved her feet—until you spoiled everything.”
Flipp grinned. “I didn’t mean any harm. All I did was ask her to explain how she moved all of her feet without stumbling.’”
“She started thinking so hard about it that she got nervous and got her feet all tangled. She just sat there, paralyzed, unable to move! Do you remember how you helped her?”
“Sure. I got some cicadas to come serenade her. When she listened to their music, she forgot all about her tangled feet and the next thing you know, she was up and dancing.”
Izzy smiled. “That was something to see. And it was the first time I realized what a good idea-bug you are.”
They watched the river flow. Then Flipp said, “So, tell me how all of this Masked Knight business came about. I want to hear the whole story.”
“It’s a long story.”
“Hey, I’m not going anywhere.”
So as they drifted along, Izzy told Flipp the whole story. When he finished, Flipp said, “That’s some story. So you’re supposed to save … just about everyone! How do you feel about that?”
Izzy sighed. “Not great. So far, every time I’ve tried to right a wrong, I’ve just caused more trouble. When I tried to make friends with the animals, I got accused of plotting. When I tried to protect Delbert Dog, I caused a riot in the barnyard. And when I tried to warn my family about the aliens—everyone just laughed.”
Izzy watched a bird dive into the creek and come up with a wiggling fish in its claws. Then he said, “Who am I kidding? I’m not really a knight. I’m just a mosquito with a smelly cape.”
“Hey, you saved my tribe from that one-eyed lizard. That was something!”
Izzy shrugged. “I was just pestering him. Any mosquito could do that.”
“Well, I hate to break this to you, buddy, but you are a mosquito. And I’ll just take a wild guess and say that’s not going to change. You’ll always be a mosquito. And you should be proud of that.”
“You sound like my father.”
“He’s right. Like I tell my ant soldiers: always be proud to be exactly what you are. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be a knight.”
“Of course not. You just have to be your own kind of knight—a mosquito-knight. You have to be yourself and do what you can do. Look at me. I can carry a leaf that’s a hundred times my own weight. Now to a cow or a human, picking up a leaf is nothing. But my ant workers think it’s great.”
“But I still have no idea how I’m going to save everyone.”
“Like I said, just do what you can do. That’s all any bug can do.”
There was a break in the clouds and the sun sent a shaft of light, illuminating the river ahead. Flipp’s right, Izzy thought. I should be proud to be a mosquito.
He turned to Flipp: “So, all of a sudden, you’re the one looking on the bright side. What happened?”
“I’m just getting it out of my system,” Flipp grinned. “Don’t get used to it.”
They were quiet for a while, then Izzy spoke. “Flipp, I told you that Crooked Creek was Gitche’s second clue, but I didn’t tell you her first clue.”
“Okay. What was it?”
“Get help from the Big Kahuna.”
Flipp turned and looked at Izzy. “Really?”
“Really. Thanks for coming with me, Flipp. I couldn’t have done it without you.”
“Hey, you’re not getting all mushy on me, are you? I don’t think knights are supposed to get mushy.”
Flipp turned around. Dead ahead was Pickle Pond.
“Hooray!” he yelled.
“We made it! We actually made it!” said Izzy. “When we get to the other side of the pond I’ll warn my family and everything will be fine!”
“And I will never go up in the sky or on water again!”
They both danced and cheered as the current from Crooked Creek pushed the driftwood raft out into the large, pickle-shaped pond.
But then the cheering stopped. The boat was drifting toward a small island in the middle of the pond.
“No! Not the island,” said Izzy. “Not the island!”
There was nothing they could do. The current from Crooked Creek carried them directly to the island where they landed with a bump on a strip of beach. Flipp jumped off the raft immediately and rolled around on the bank. “Oh, dirt, how I’ve missed you!”
Izzy hopped off and looked longingly across the water to the far bank where his family lived. The wind was still blowing hard; that was good and bad. It was bad because it kept Izzy from flying across the pond to warn his family. It was good because it would keep all the mosquitoes from flying to the picnic. But if the wind died down and the mosquitoes took off before Izzy could get to them—well, he didn’t want to think about that. “It’s getting late,” Izzy said. “We have to find a way across the water, fast!”
“Not me! I’m not getting back on that death boat.”
“The raft can’t help us anyway,” said Izzy. “There’s no more current here and the wind is against us.”
As they were talking, a dark blue fly sporting a moustache and wearing a black beret landed next to them. “Bonjour! It is Izzy Mosquito, the Masked Knight I am speaking with, no?”
Izzy was surprised. “Yes, but how do you know me?”
“Monsieur Winston Raccoon asked me to find you. He told me to follow zee smell of rotten chicken and, happily, the wind brought your peculiar, pungent aroma to me. He also said to look for a mosquito dressed in zee black mask and cape and, voila! It is you, no?”
“Yes. But who are you?”
“Oh, pardon my manners, monsieur. I am Agent Jacques, the new Chief of the Fly Spies. I have replaced Agent Maxwell who was sadly and severely swatted in zee line of duty.” Jacques paused, removed his beret, put it over his thorax and sobbed. “Au revoir, mon ami.”
“I am sorry,” said Izzy. “I was there and saw it happen. He was very brave. But also very hungry.”
Jacques wiped his five eyes with a handkerchief and continued. “Ah well, we must carry on, no? Monsieur le Raccoon has told me to warn you zat all of zee mosquitoes are still planning to fly to zee big picnic this very evening and you must hurry to give them zee warning before it is getting dark.”
“But surely they can’t fly in this wind.”
“Oui, ziss is true. But zee farmer’s wife said zee wind will die down at sunset. I tried to warn zee mosquitoes about zee death ray, but they would not listen to me. Perhaps they will listen to you in your excellent if somewhat odorous disguise, monsieur.”
“Thanks for your report, Jacques,” said Izzy. “How did you get here?”
“It was not easy in zee wind, monsieur. I rode on zee back of Monsieur Edgar Duck to zee island. Then I flew across zee island, staying low to zee ground and out of zee wind.”
“Would Edgar Duck give us a ride to the bank?”
“Oh, oui, monsieur. I told him all about you. He went to look for a bite to eat, but he is coming back soon.”
Suddenly, before anyone could say another word, there was a hiss and a zap—and Flipp disappeared!
Izzy turned and saw a very large frog submerged in the pond near the bank with only its eyes and mouth visible above water.
“Watch out!” he yelled to Jacques, but it was too late. In the next instant, the frog’s long, purple, sticky tongue shot out again like a bull whip and snagged Agent Jacques. The Fly Spy disappeared into the frog’s huge mouth, crying out, “Ooh, la, mmmph …”
“Stinking Maggot Guts!” said Izzy. But before he could even move, the frog’s tongue struck again like purple lightning and Izzy also disappeared into the frog’s mouth.
It was dark—very, very, very dark—so dark that Izzy could not even see his own proboscis. It was also sticky and slimy and cramped and damp and it smelled like a pile of rotting garbage.
“Flipp? Jacques?” Izzy called.
“Oui, I am here,” said Jacques.
“Me too!” said Flipp. “Are we dead? Because, let me tell you, death stinks! It smells a hundred times worse than your cape.”
“No, we’re not dead,” said Izzy. “At least not yet. We’re in the frog’s stomach.”
“Ticks and maggots!” Flipp said. “We’re supposed to ride on top of animals, not inside them!”
Just then they heard a rumble and the small, cramped space they were in heaved and shook from side to side, knocking the three bugs into each other.
“Whoa! What’s happening!” said Flipp.
“Ooh la la!” said Jacques.
“Oops, excuse me!” said Izzy.
Suddenly, the shaking stopped. As the bugs untangled their eighteen legs in the darkness, they heard a trickling sound; a foul-smelling liquid began to pour into the space.
“I think the frog just belched,” said Izzy.
“I think we are giving him zee indigestion,” said Jacques.
“NOT A FAN OF BEING DIGESTED!” Flipp wailed. “This nasty stuff is covering my legs and it’s getting higher. We’ve got to do something, Izzy!”
“Monsieur le Ant is correct,” said Jacques. “Zee liquid is horrible.”
Izzy tried to think of something to do, but all he could think about was Lizzy and the fact that she might soon be zapped by the death ray and he wouldn’t be there to protect her.
Meanwhile, the slimy, smelly liquid rose higher. First it covered their legs, then it kept rising to their abdomens and their thoraxes.
“It’s getting higher!” Flipp cried. “This is worse than death, Izzy. A minute ago I thought I was dead, but this is worse! And don’t talk to me about looking on the bright side. It’s so dark in here you can’t even see a side!”
“Mon Dieu!” said Jacques.
By now the foul-smelling liquid filled up half the space they were in and the three bugs were floating around in total darkness.
As Izzy struggled to stay afloat, Gitche’s words flashed through his mind: “Follow the bigness of your heart”. At this moment, the biggest thing in his heart was his love for his sister, so he concentrated on that.
And then it happened: his antennae began to glow! Now, the three bugs could at least see each other.
Izzy pointed his antennae at Flipp. “Are you OK?”
“Of course, I’m not OK! I’m the exact opposite of okay. I’m about to be KO, Killed Outright. As unbelievable as it sounds, we have managed to find an even more horrible way to die.”
“Any ideas Jacques?” Izzy asked.
“Well, there are only zee two ways out of here. Number one, back through zee frog’s mouth. And number two is, well, number two.”
Flipp couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “WHAT ARE YOU SAYING?! LET THE FROG POOP US OUT? THIS IS THE WORST DEATH EVER!!”
“Oui, I agree with Monsieur le Ant,” said Jacques. “Zee poop option is too horrible to contemplate.”
By now the foul-smelling liquid had almost completely filled up the frog’s stomach. The three bugs crowded together toward the top of the cramped space to get a little air to breathe.
But Jacques’s words gave Izzy an idea. He concentrated with all his might, thinking only of his love for his sister and his family. As he did so, his antennae glowed brighter and hotter.
And then, just as the foul liquid was about to completely cover all three of them, Izzy held his breath and jammed his glowing antennae into the top of the frog’s stomach.
First, there was a hiss. Then a rumble. Then the frog’s stomach shook violently back and forth as the bugs started screaming.
“Aaahhhhhgggg! Whaaaaaaaaat’s gooooooing oooooon!!” yelled Flipp.
“Mon Dieu! Mon Dieu! Mon Dieu! Mon Dieu!” yelled Jacques.
“Flipp, hold onto Jacques and I’ll hold on to you,” yelled Izzy. “Hold on tight! No matter what happens, don’t let go!”
All at once, a powerful whoosh like a rip tide hurled the three brave bugs out of the frog’s stomach and through the frog’s mouth and spewed them out onto the beach. They untangled their eighteen legs again and scrambled quickly up the bank covered in slime and smelling like rotten garbage, but very much alive!
“WHAT THE ROTTEN MAGGOT JUST HAPPENED?” yelled Flipp, who still had his eyes shut. “ARE WE FROG POOP?”
“No, monsieur, we are frog vomit,” said Jacques.
“So, we’re alive?” said Flipp, opening his eyes.
“Yes, we are alive,” said Izzy. He looked back at the water; the frog was gone. “But we are still on the island.