Izzy’s Impossible Adventure
Excerpt #5: Chapters 41-THE END
Geoffery Alan Moore
“Black, black, black, black, black!”
While the bugs were cleaning up at the edge of the pond, a duck paddled in their direction, muttering “Black, black, black, black, black!”
“Is that Edgar Duck?” Izzy asked Jacques.
“His full name is Edgar Allen Duck. He is not in zee best of moods today. In fact, he is never in zee best of moods.”
“Won’t he try to eat us?” Flipp said nervously.
“He doesn’t eat bugs,” said Jacques. “He tried them once and they gave him heartburn. He said, ‘Never more!’”
“Black, black, black,” said the duck, paddling to shore.
“Hello, Edgar Duck,” said Izzy. “How are you?”
“How am I? How should I be? I’m terrible is what I am.”
“What’s the matter?”
“What’s the matter? What’s not the matter. The mosquitoes are attacking the farm animals. The farm animals are attacking the mosquitoes. Worms are eating up the cucumber plants. The farm is in danger. Piper’s Pickle Plant might go out of business. Even the town of Galaxy is in trouble. The world is upside down! Black, black, black, black, black!”
“It is true,” said Jacques, “My spies heard zee farmer say that if zee worms eat up all zee cucumber plants, Pickle Pond Farm will be no more! No more humans and no more animals! Mon Dieu! Who will we spy on then? And who will you mosquitoes have to bite and pester?”
Izzy listened to this report with great interest. “I have to get across the pond. Flipp, are you coming with me?”
“We might as well finish what we started,” Flipp sighed. “Besides, it’s better than being frog vomit. Anything is better than being frog vomit.”
“Edgar, could you please take us to the bank?” said Izzy.
“Okay, but hop on my tail so I don’t have to smell that chicken-and-garbage smell. And no biting!”
Edgar Allen Duck paddled slowly across the large pond and it seemed to Izzy that this last leg of the journey took forever.
Izzy looked up at the sky. The wind was dying down and the light was beginning to fade. “Edgar, can you go any faster?”
“Black, black, black. I’m doing the best I can!” Edgar grumbled.
When they finally reached the bank, Izzy, Flipp and Jacques hopped off as Edgar Duck paddled away muttering, “Black, black, black, black, black!”
Izzy looked up at the trees. No wind. All was calm. It was almost dusk. Just then, another Fly Spy landed on the rock next to Jacques. “Agent Columbo reporting, sir.”
“Oui?” said Jacques. “You have zee news?”
“I do, I do. A while ago the whole tribe of mosquitoes began their journey to the Fourth of July picnic.”
Izzy’s heart sank. “I’m too late.”
SATURDAY, JULY 4
A Cloud of Bug-hungry Bats
Jacques and Columbo left to check on the other Fly Spies while Izzy and Flipp debated what to do.
“Go on without me,” said Flipp. “Fly and warn your family.”
Izzy shook his head. “I can’t fly fast enough to catch up. They have a head start, and they’ll be flying full-speed—mosquitoes are always in a hurry when they go to a human picnic. They might even get zapped before I could get there. There’s only one way I can reach the backyard before they do: we need one more very fast ride!”
Flipp looked around. “But I don’t see—”
Just then, Delbert Dog came running along the bank of the pond and almost ran over the two intrepid insects.
“Delbert, watch out!” yelled Izzy.
Delbert stopped in his tracks, whirled around and looked down. “Oh golly, oh gosh, oh gee; sorry, sorry, sorry!” He wiggled and sniffed and scratched himself and turned in circles and almost stepped on them again. “Is that you, Izzy? It sounds like you but it doesn’t look like you or smell like you. You, you, you smell delicious.”
“It’s me,” said Izzy. “Delbert, can you help us? We’ve got to get to the backyard fast.”
“Oh sure, sure, sure. Climb on!” Delbert lowered his head to the ground.
With the two brave bugs riding on his head, Delbert took off running through the woods that led to the farm. All at once, a cloud of hungry bats swooped down out of the trees and started chasing them, zooming and diving, trying to get at the two bugs on Delbert’s head.
“NOT A FAN OF BATS!” yelled Flipp.
“Faster, Delbert” yelled Izzy.
“Oh golly, gosh, golly,” said Delbert with the bug-hungry bats on his tail.
“Hang on!” yelled Izzy.
“Again, with the hanging on!” said Flipp.
As he broke out of the woods, Delbert shook his head and zigzagged to keep the bats from grabbing Flipp or Izzy. He ran at break-neck speed across the pasture, but the cloud of bats stayed right with him.
A bat swooped, just missing Flipp; it nipped one of Delbert’s ears.
“Aaahhhggg!” yelled Flipp.
“Oww!” howled Delbert.
Another bat swooped, just missing Izzy.
“Faster Delbert!” Izzy yelled.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah!” said Delbert.
Dead ahead was the cucumber field; when Izzy saw it, he thought of Agent Jacques’s report—and he suddenly had an idea.
“Delbert, run into the cucumber field. Hurry!”
“Gotcha, Gotcha, Gotcha!” Delbert dashed toward the field with the cloud of bats all around him.
“Run up and down all the rows!”
“Gotcha, gotcha, gotcha!” Delbert tore up one row and down another, running between the bamboo poles. As he did so, the bats saw the fat pink worms on the cucumber vines and, one by one, they peeled off and landed to gobble up the worms—which just happen to be a bat’s favorite treat.
“It’s working! Keep going!” yelled Izzy.
“Yeah, yeah!” said Delbert.
Up and down, up and down, up and down, Delbert ran through all the rows of cucumber vines until all the bats left them to concentrate on the feast of worms. Some of the bats even flew back to the woods and told the rest of their tribe about the incredible banquet. Soon, the entire field was covered with hungry, worm-gobbling bats who could hardly believe their good fortune.
Meanwhile, Delbert was headed for the backyard when Snooty Cat ran in front of him; Delbert took off after her because that’s what dogs do. When Snooty ran across the barnyard and squeezed under a fence, Delbert followed, diving under the fence, which knocked Izzy and Flipp off. Not realizing that he had lost his two travelers, Delbert disappeared around the barn, chasing after the cat.
As for Izzy and Flipp, they landed in the thick, sticky mud of the pig pen—made all the more sticky and muddy by that morning’s rain.
“Go on without me,” said Flipp. “I’m stuck here, but you can fly and warn your family.”
“No, I can’t,” said Izzy
“Sure you can! There’s no wind and we’re close to the back yard.”
“No, I mean I really can’t! My wings are covered in mud.”
Ivy and Iris
Just then, two small, pink piglets came sniffing and snorting and snuffling along and happened to see Flipp and Izzy stuck in the mud. They nudged both of the bugs with their snouts, which at least got them unstuck.
“Oh looky, Iris,” squealed the first baby piglet in a squeaky, piggy voice. “We have two teensy visitors. Aren’t they just the sweetest? And the cutest? And the most precious?”
The second piglet squealed and said, “Absolutely adorable, Ivy! Don’t you just want to hug them? And squeeze them?”
“I really do,” said the first piglet. “What are your names, may we ask?”
Izzy tried to look dignified, which is not easy when you’re covered in mud. “I am Izzy, the Masked Knight, and this is Flipp, the Big Kahuna.”
“How wonderful,” squealed the first piglet. “I’m Ivy and this is my cousin Iris. And we just adore cute little bugs, don’t we Iris?”
“Yes, we do, and we don’t get many cute little visitors.”
“I can’t imagine why not!” muttered Flipp.
“Oh, this is so much fun,” squealed Ivy. “Let’s play a game. And let’s do it all together.”
“Oh yes, let’s!” said Iris, “I love games!”
“How about hide and seek?” said Ivy. “You two hide in the mud and then Iris and I will find you.” Ivy closed her eyes. “One two, three …”
“Um, excuse me,” said Izzy, “We would love to play games with you, we really would. But we are in a bit of a hurry, and I wonder if we might ask a favor.”
“Oh my, they want to ask us a cute little favor,” said Ivy.
“How adorable,” said Iris. “What is the cute little favor you want to ask?”
“I wonder if you could give us a ride across the pig pen. It’s really important that we get to the backyard as fast as possible.”
“We would love to help. Do you want to take them, dear Iris?” said Ivy.
“Of course, unless you would prefer to take them, dear Ivy,” said Iris.
“Whatever you wish, dear Iris.”
“No, whatever you wish, dear Ivy.”
“Well, it’s entirely up to you, dear Iris.”
“No, it’s entirely up to you, dear Ivy.”
Flipp whispered to Izzy, “We’re going to be here all night!”
“Perhaps one of you could take me, and the other one could take Flipp?” said Izzy, glancing anxiously at the darkening sky.
“Oh, what a lovely idea!” said Ivy. “Iris, would you like to take Izzy, or would you rather take Flipp?”
“Well the choice is yours, dear Ivy.”
“No, I insist, the choice is yours, dear Iris.”
“Would you mind if we choose?” said Izzy.
“Oh, what a sweet idea,” said Ivy.
“Flipp, you choose first,” said Izzy.
“I choose Ivy,” said Flipp.
“And what’s wrong with me, I’d like to know,“ said Iris.
“Okay, I choose Iris,” said Flipp.
“Well, I never,” said Ivy.
“Girls, girls, we like both of you,” said Izzy. “How about we take turns? I’ll ride on Ivy half-way across and Flipp will ride on Iris. Then, at the middle of the pen, we’ll switch places.”
“What a wonderful idea!” squealed Ivy. “Don’t you just want to hug them and squeeze them?”
“I do, I really do!” squealed Iris.
Izzy said, “Well, uh, we appreciate the thought. But the thing is, if you hug us and squeeze us, well, we’ll get smooshed.”
“Oh, that wouldn’t be very nice, would it?” squealed Ivy.
“Not very nice at all!” squealed Iris. And they giggled their piggy giggle.
So, the two piglets brought Izzy and Flipp to the far side of the pig pen, stopping half-way to change companions, and dropped them off at the fence.
“Good-bye you little cutesies,” said Ivy.
“Good-bye you little sweeties,” said Iris.
“Thanks for the ride,” said Izzy.
Just then, a cloud passed over them in the twilight. It was all the mosquitoes from Pickle Pond headed for the backyard.
“It’s almost dark. I’ve got to warn them!” said Izzy. But when he tried to take off, his wings were so stiff from dried mud that he still couldn’t move.
The Wildest Ride
While Flipp was scraping the mud off of Izzy’s wings, a large grasshopper came flying out of nowhere and landed on top of them, knocking both bugs over.
“Oh, I do apologize,” said the grasshopper. “I don’t know what I was thinking. But then, I never know what I’m thinking because as soon as I think something, in the next moment I think something else. And before I know it, thoughts are running around in my brain like cats chasing mice. Thoughts are so hard to hold on to, don’t you think?”
“I think so,” said Flipp.
“What were we talking about? Oh yes, I’m Scatter B. Grasshopper. The B stands for ‘Brain.’ My mother named me Scatter Brain because I am that scattered and I’m not that smart. Which reminds me of a question: when we get hurt, why do we say, ‘That smarts’? What’s smart about it? Maybe we should say, ‘That dumbs!’ What were we talking about?”
“I’m not sure,” said Flipp.
“Scatter,” said Izzy. “Sorry to interrupt, but we have some urgent business. Could you give us a ride to the backyard? We need to get there as fast as possible, and I’m sure you are very fast.”
Scatter B. was pleased at this complement. “Oh yes, I am fast. The flowers complain that I’m always crashing into them. Please, climb on.”
“Are you sure about this?” whispered Flipp, as he got on the grasshopper’s back.
Izzy climbed on with him. “We don’t have much time. This is our only chance.”
“Hang on!” yelled Scatter as he leapt high into the air.
“Yet again with the hanging on!” said Flipp.
Scatter leapt and bounced and bounded toward the backyard like a tiny, drunk kangaroo.
“Told you I could go fast!” yelled Scatter as they sailed over a big rock. “I’ll have you there in no time flat!”
“It’s the ‘flat’ part that worries me!” said Flipp.
Meanwhile, all the mosquitoes from Pickle Pond had reached the backyard where a crowd of humans had gathered for the picnic. It was almost dark, but the death ray was not yet on.
With Izzy and Flipp hanging on for dear life, Scatter sailed over a bush at the edge of the yard and you won’t believe who was hiding there—none other than Winston Raccoon! As Scatter flew over, Winston saw Izzy and Flipp riding on the grasshopper’s back. “Go Masked Knight!” he yelled.
“Head for the big oak tree, Scatter!” Izzy said. “And fast! We’ve got to get there before the others do.”
Scatter speeded up, leaping back and forth, dodging people and lawn furniture.
“I think I’m going to be sick!” moaned Flipp.
“We’re almost there!” said Izzy. “Hurry, Scatter!”
Scatter leapt again and again and again, moving as fast as he could. It was getting dark now, but thanks to the patio lights Izzy could see the alien space ship hovering beneath the oak tree.
“Scatter, leap over those flowers near the base of the tree and we’ll jump off.”
“Aye, aye, sir.”
“Flipp, ready to jump?” said Izzy.
“Anything to get off this crazy grasshopper.”
Scatter took one more leap, which carried them over the flowers.
“On three,” said Izzy. “One, two, three!” Izzy and Flipp leapt … and fell … and landed.
“Uh-oh,” said Izzy.
“I’m stuck! I can’t move,” said Flipp.
“Neither can I.”
“Well, hello you two delicious-looking creatures!” said a sweet, ladylike voice. “How thoughtful of you to drop in right at dinner time!”
Izzy and Flipp turned their heads—the only part of them that could move—and looked up. The voice came from a large, black spider with yellow eyes looking down at them.
They had landed in a spider’s web.
“I don’t like the way she’s looking at us,” whispered Flipp.
“I don’t think she’s inviting us to dinner,” said Izzy. “I think we are the dinner.”
They both wiggled and wriggled and pushed and pulled with all their might against the sticky strands of the web. But the more they wiggled, the more stuck they became.
“I can’t believe we found another way to die,” moaned Flipp. “I thought we already found them all.”
“Well, well, well, what do we have here,” said the spider. “You must be a nice juicy mosquito. What’s your name, sweetheart?”
“Izzy Mosquito, the, um, the Masked Knight.”
“Izzy Mosquito the Masked Knight! How impressive! I just love the little mask and cape by the way. Very stylish. Of course, those will have to come off in just a moment. We wouldn’t want me to choke on them, would we?” The spider giggled.
“And you, sweetheart, you’re an ant if I’m not mistaken. And what would your name be?”
“Flipp Ant. The, uh, the Big Kahuna.”
“Flipp Ant, the Big Kahuna! Also very impressive! You look absolutely scrumptious to me. I think I’m going to call you my Scrumptious Special Entrée!” She giggled.
“My goodness, where are my manners. I completely forgot to introduce myself. I always like to get acquainted with my ‘dinner partners’ before dinner. My name is Leona Loretta Spider and I am very happy to make your acquaintance, I am quite sure.”
“I’m not a fan of being eaten,” Flipp said.
“Well, of course you’re not, bless your little ant heart. No one is. But that’s just what we spiders do, you see.”
“I have to warn you, I taste bad. Today’s experiences have turned me very bitter. I’m a bitter-tasting ant.”
“I seriously doubt that. You look delicious to me.”
While the spider was talking to Flipp, Izzy was trying to wiggle his wings loose. The wild ride on the grasshopper had knocked most of the mud off, but he still couldn’t budge.”
“Well now, let’s not make this any more unpleasant than it has to be,” said Leona. “Let’s observe our dinner-time manners, shall we? Hmm? Now let’s see, who wants to be the first course? You, Izzy Mosquito? Or you, my Scrumptious Special Entrée?”
Just at that moment, the light directly above them lit up; it was so bright it blinded the spider.
“Where are you, my Special Entrée? I can’t see you,” said the spider.
Flipp, of course, said nothing.
“It’s the death ray!” Izzy whispered to Flipp.
Looking away from the bright light, Izzy could move his head just enough to look for the other mosquitoes. He scanned across the darkened backyard but could see nothing. Then he saw them near the patio lights: the whole tribe was flying in unison toward the death ray—including his aunts and uncles and cousins and parents. And then he saw Lizzy! He would have given anything in the world to be able to yell loud enough to warn her, but it was impossible. “They are already hypnotized,” he thought. “They are doomed!”
It was then that Izzy remembered Gitche’s third clue: “When you see the spider, look for the trap door.” Izzy looked up. Sure enough, directly above them, he could just make out a trap door in the bottom of the alien space craft.
“How the maggot am I going to get up there?”
“You might as well tell me where you are, for you know I will find you,” said the spider to Flipp. “After all, you’re not going anywhere are you, dear heart?” She giggled and began feeling her way cautiously down the spider web in Flipp’s direction.
Just then, Izzy happened to see Delbert Dog running to fetch a ball that Jude had thrown. He desperately wanted to signal Delbert, but he knew that if he made his antennae glow, the spider would see them both. So, he made one last big push and got his wings just free enough so he could fan them and make a buzz.
Nothing happened. He buzzed again, louder.
Delbert’s ears perked up—for dogs, as you know, have incredible hearing. Delbert could tell that the buzz was coming from under the big tree. He even recognized that particular buzz.
“It’s Izzy! He needs me!” Lickety-split, Delbert dashed across the yard. Farmer Gribble yelled, “Delbert, come back!” but Delbert wasn’t listening. “Gotta help my friend, gotta, gotta, gotta,” he said as he leaped over a crawling baby, ran between two chairs, dodged between two people who tried to grab him, knocked over a chair, and ran toward the buzzing sound under the tree.
Just then, the spider found Flipp and began poking at his abdomen. “Oh, I’ll bet this is absolutely yummy. Now, let me just sting you first. Don’t worry, you’ll still be wide awake, but at least you won’t feel me chewing on you. As you see, I can be quite thoughtful.”
“Please don’t eat me,” moaned Flipp.
Meanwhile, all the mosquitoes were moving toward the bright light faster and faster, chanting, “Oh, how beautiful! Oh, how wonderful! We must go to the light! We must!”
Izzy strained and buzzed his wings with all his might. “Over here Delbert!”
When Leona heard Izzy calling Delbert, she stopped poking at Flipp and said, “Now, what are you trying to do, you bad, bad mosquito! Maybe I should start with you!”
Just at that moment, Delbert Dog ran through the flower bed and crashed into the spider’s web, knocking it to pieces, sending Leona Loretta Spider flying in one direction and Flipp and Izzy in another.
The Trap Door
The two intrepid insects landed at the base of the big oak tree. “Thanks, Delbert,” yelled Izzy.
“Glad to do it, glad to do it. Gotta go.”
“Delbert, get out of the flowers! Bad dog!” yelled Farmer Gribble.
“You can still warn your family,” Flipp told Izzy. “But hurry. They are getting close to the light!”
Izzy looked at the space ship directly above them. The bright lights were glowing and pulsing and vibrating. He could feel the attraction, almost pulling him off the ground. “It’s too late. They are already completely hypnotized. They will never listen now. But—”
“The third clue. Gitche told me, ‘When you see the spider, look for the trap door.’ Look up Flipp; it’s a trap door.”
“Please don’t tell me what I think you’re going to tell me.”
“I’m going through that trap door to see if I can turn off the death ray.”
“I asked you not to tell me that. I even said ‘please.’ You can’t be serious! The aliens will kill you for sure!”
“It’s our only hope. Help me get this spider web stuff off of me.”
“I really, really, really don’t feel good about this,” said Flipp as he scraped the spider web strands off of Izzy’s wings. “Let’s talk this over.”
Izzy looked up. The mosquitoes were close to the tree. “No time.”
Flipp only had time to call out, “Be careful!” as Izzy zoomed straight up to the bottom of the space ship. He landed on the trap door and pulled on the latch. It didn’t budge.
He pulled harder, straining with all his might until he thought his antennae might pop. It still wouldn’t budge.
Now all the mosquitoes were right next to the tree. In a moment they would all be zapped into oblivion.
“I can do this!” said Izzy. He pulled and pulled and pulled and pulled. “Come on … you … stupid … stubborn … door … come on!’
TWANG! The trap door sprang open and four large, golden cylinders dropped out and fell toward the ground, knocking Izzy down with them.
In that instant, as he hurtled toward the ground with the golden cylinders, Izzy had two very contradictory emotions. First, he felt terrible fear, for he thought that the golden cylinders were bombs. But at the same time, he also felt great joy and relief—because it was completely dark.
The death ray was off.
Watching from below, Flipp saw the light go out and the four cylinders fall toward him in the dark.
“Oh, great! Bombs! One more way to get killed! Not a fan of being blown to smithereens!”
The cylinders fell all around Flipp in the darkness with a harmless thud, thud, thud, thud. Silence. No explosion.
“Hooray!” Flipp cheered, and then stopped. Izzy was lying on the ground, partly pinned underneath one of the cylinders. He wasn’t moving.
“Who is that masked mosquito?”
“Izzy, are you all right?” said Flipp.
Izzy said nothing.
Flipp tried to lift the golden cylinder off of Izzy. It didn’t move. “It must be more than one hundred times my weight.” He tried to push the golden cylinder off, straining with all his might. The cylinder wiggled just a bit.
“Move! Move! Move! Move! Move!” said Flipp. He pushed and pushed and pushed and slowly, slowly the cylinder began to roll and finally rolled away.
“Izzy, wake up, wake up!”
“IZZY, WAKE UP!”
Izzy groaned, then opened one eye. “Flipp?”
“Izzy! You’re not dead!”
Izzy struggled to his feet. “Apparently not.” He limped around slowly, checking his legs and his wings. “I’m feeling a little flattened, but I think I’m okay,”
“You did it! You turned off the death ray!”
“I guess I did,” said Izzy, “Though I’m not sure how.”
Meanwhile, all the other mosquitoes including Izzy’s parents and aunts and uncles and, yes, even Lizzy, were buzzing in confused circles around the tree as if they had just awakened from a very strange dream.
Izzy straightened his mask and adjusted his cape. Flip helped him tuck his antennae under his mask. Then he took a deep breath and flew up to meet all the mosquitoes. When they saw a mosquito with a black mask and cape, they were even more confused.
“Who is that masked mosquito?” someone asked.
“You’re probably wondering what just happened,” Izzy said to them. “I can explain. Those bright lights were from an alien death ray. If you had flown into the light, you would have all been vaporized in an instant. That is what happened to General Rancor and the Mosquito Warriors last night—just as Izzy Mosquito told you. Fortunately, he told me all about this and I was able to get here just in time to turn off the death ray.”
“Oh my,” said Izzy’s mother. “So, Izzy was right.”
Vito Mosquito, President of the High Mosquito Council, said, “You have-a saved our lives and we thank you. What’s-a you name?”
“Uh, I’m the Masked Knight.”
“Tomorrow we will have a great celebration at Pickle Pond for the Masked Knight,” Vito announced to everyone. “That is, if-a you will join us, Mr. Masked Knight?”
“I would be honored.”
Then Lizzy spoke up. “Mr. Masked Knight, you mentioned Izzy Mosquito. Do you know where he is?”
Izzy hesitated. On the one hand, it was all he could do to keep from tearing off his mask and embracing his sister and his parents. On the other hand, he was afraid of what the other mosquitoes might do if they found out that he was Izzy, the traitor.
So, he said, “I’ll try to find him.”
SUNDAY, JULY 5
Early the next morning, Farmer Gus Gribble sat at the kitchen table reading the back of one of the bottles of XXX Pesticide. Darla poured him a cup of coffee, then one for herself and sat down across the table.
“This’ll do the trick for sure,” said Gus. “It’s got to!”
“Have you noticed how irritable all the animals are lately?” said Darla.
Gus looked up at her over the top of his reading glasses. “Irritable?”
“Yes. Irritable,” she said. “You know … irritable.”
Gus removed his reading glasses and put them on the table. Then he stood up and took one more swig of coffee. “Nope. Hadn’t noticed.” He went out the back door with the box full of XXX Pesticide bottles.
After the rain and wind of the day before, the morning was calm and quiet. The world seemed clean and fresh and brand new as the sun began to peek over Pratt’s Hill. The only sound was the squish, squish, squish of Gus’s boots as he walked across the muddy barnyard to the cucumber field.
With a light coat of mist, the cucumber vines sparkled in the sun. The field was still muddy from the previous day’s rain and the tractor was parked next to the field, ready to go. Gus poured several bottles of the XXX Pesticide into the sprayer, then climbed up onto the tractor and was about to start the engine when a mosquito started buzzing around his ears and eyes.
“What the … go ‘way … git … dang skeeter!” Gus batted at the mosquito but it kept buzzing around his head. He jumped down off the tractor and ran down the row, swatting at his ears and trying to get away from the pest.
Darla was washing the dishes and watching Gus from the kitchen window, giggling at the way he danced around.
Suddenly the buzzing stopped and the mosquito disappeared. Gus looked around. “Strange” he muttered to himself as he walked back toward the tractor. “I could’ve swore I smelled rotten chicken.”
Then, Gus happened to look down; he stopped. He got down on his hands and knees and started crawling through the mud all the way along the row of cucumber vines, closely inspecting each plant.
“What in the world is he doing?” Darla said to herself, giggling some more.
He crawled all the way up the next row as fast as he could, scrambling on his hands and knees through the mud. Then he kept going, crawling up and down all the rows.
Jude and Silas were also watching at the window. “Why is dad crawling? He’s getting all muddy!” said Jude. Silas started laughing.
Finally, Gus stood up, completely covered in mud, and ran back to the house, grinning and yelling, “Darla! Darla! You won’t believe it!”
The pink worms were all gone. The cucumber plants were saved. And so was Pickle Pond Farm. And so was Piper’s Pickle Plant, home of the world-famous Puckeringly Pleasurable Pickles.
And so was The Galaxy.
“Well I’ll be a crazed cricket!”
Later that same morning, on the bank of Pickle Pond, there was an unusual celebration. Every mosquito was there, and they were all buzzing with excitement.
Izzy was there, of course, still wearing his black mask and cape.
Flipp whispered, “Are you going to tell them who you are?”
“Let’s see how it goes.”
It was some time before Vito Mosquito could get the crowd to quiet down. “My fellow mosquitoes of Pickle Pond,” he finally said. “We come here today to honor the mosquito who has-a risked his own life to save all of our lives. I present to you that brave bug, that intrepid insect, the Masked Knight!”
There was a loud buzz of applause, then the Masked Knight spoke. “Thank you, my friends, for this honor. I just want to say that none of this would have been possible without the help of my friend, the Big Kahuna himself, Flipp Ant!”
The whole crowd buzzed for Flipp, who looked embarrassed. “I didn’t do much,” he said. “Mainly, I just found umpteen ways to almost get killed.”
Then the Masked Knight spoke. “My friends, may I say just a few more words?”
Vito said, “Of course, Mr. Knight.”
“I know that you have been at war with the farm animals. I also heard that you banished Izzy Mosquito because he made friends with some of the animals.”
An uncomfortable buzz moved through the crowd as the mosquitoes murmured among themselves.
“But I must tell you something that you may find surprising and even shocking. If not for the animals, every one of you would have been vaporized last night.”
Now the mosquitoes began to argue among themselves. Some said, “The farm animals are our enemies!” But others said, “The Masked Knight saved our lives. We should listen to him.”
Vito spoke up. “Fellow mosquitoes, let the Masked Knight say what he’s-a gotta say.”
The crowd quieted down and the Masked Knight continued. “It’s true. Yesterday, Flipp and I had to travel a long way to get here in time to turn off the death ray. I couldn’t fly against the strong wind, but we made it because many animals helped us and gave us rides, including a groundhog, a bull, two crows, a duck, a grasshopper, and even Delbert Dog.”
“He’s right,” said Flipp. “Without help from the animals you would all be dead. And let me tell you, I’ve been there and death stinks.”
Izzy continued. “I admit, the animals do swat us. But remember, they also share their blood with us. So, I would like to make two requests. First, please put an end to this war with the farm animals. No good can come of it. And second, I would like to ask you to make a small change in the Mosquito Code; make it legal for mosquitoes and animals to at least talk to each other. It can’t hurt, and it might help.”
Izzy finished his speech and there was a low murmur running through the crowd. Izzy and Flipp looked at each other.
“Maybe it’s time for us to get out of here,” whispered Flipp.
But then, a few in the crowd began chanting, “Peace. Peace. Peace.” And then more joined them: “Peace! Peace! Peace!” And finally, the whole crowd was yelling, “PEACE! PEACE! PEACE! PEACE! PEACE!”
While they were chanting, Vito was whispering with Tito and Burrito. Then he called for order and said, “Well, I gotta tell you what the High Mosquito Council has decided.”
Flipp and Izzy looked at each other. “Uh-oh.”
Vito continued. “I gotta tell you that we were … how you say it … we were … we were …”
“Wrong!” yelled someone in the crowd—to much laughter.
“Yes, that’s-a the word,” said Vito, grinning. “We were wrong. We will stop-a this crazy war. And we will make-a the change in the Mosquito Code. Starting today, it will be legal to talk to the animals.”
The mosquitoes buzzed their applause!
“And we were also wrong about Izzy. We will lift-a the ban so Izzy can-a come home.”
More buzzing. And then Lizzy spoke up.
“Mr. Masked Knight, you said you might be able to find Izzy.”
“Yes, I did. Flipp, would you help me?”
Flipp took the cape off of Izzy and then removed the mask and when he did, Izzy’s antennae began to glow.
“It’s my Izzy!” cried out his mother.
“Well, I’ll be a crazed cricket!” said his father.
“Well, whatta you know!” said Vito. He invited Izzy’s family to join them on the rock at the front of the crowd. His mother and father embraced him.
“You were right, Father,” said Izzy. “You tried to tell me to be proud of being a mosquito. Now I am.”
“But I was also wrong about a few things,” said his father. “I just want you to know we’re proud of you just the way you are—glowing antennae and all.”
“Izzy! Izzy!” yelled Lizzy and she embraced him. Then she whispered, “I knew it was you.”
“It’s my favorite nephew!” said Uncle Humbug to the mosquitoes around him. “I always knew he would make good. He gets it from our side of the family.”
All the mosquitoes buzzed and cheered. A cicada and cricket band played the Mosquito Anthem and the mosquitoes sang along:
Bite and pester! Bite and pester!
Be a nuisance and a goad!
Trace the path of our ancestors,
Follow the Mosquito Code!
There were races around the pond and games with the water striders. The dragonflies performed their aerial acrobatics. And of course, there was a great deal of nectar to drink, with many toasts to Izzy and Flipp.
Later that night, Izzy and Lizzy were on the bank of Pickle Pond talking.
“Did you see Uncle Humbug’s face when you took off your mask?” Lizzy said. “I thought his proboscis would break in half.”
“Yes, I saw,” Izzy said. “So, did you really know it was me?”
“Well, let’s just say I wasn’t too surprised. I’m so proud of you, big brother. You saved us all!”
“I had a lot of help. Besides, there was no way I was going to let that death ray get you.”
“Two bug-buddies against the world, right?”
“Two bug-buddies against the world.”
“My, my, my, you made it!” It was Gitche’s voice. She had just landed next to them. “I’m too old for big parties, but your mother told me the whole story. Well done, Izzy!”
“Thank you, Gitche. And thanks for all your help and advice.”
“You need help with lice? Oh, I had lice once. They are just awful! Here’s what you’ve got to do—”
THE END … almost
What did Izzy do next?—you’re probably wondering. After saving his entire tribe and the farm and the pickle plant and the town, and after the celebration was over, and after Flipp Ant left to begin his long walk back home—what could Izzy possibly do for an encore?
According to the Fly Spies, there was a great deal of gossip and speculation around Pickle Pond about what would be next for Izzy.
Some thought Izzy might put on his black mask and cape and go on other adventures to right other wrongs. But with the war over, there were no more wrongs to right. And besides, the chicken smell on his cape never went away.
Some thought Izzy should become a spy for the CIA because of his ability to understand human language. Unfortunately, all CIA recruits are required to have five eyes; mosquitoes only have two.
So what did Izzy do? He decided to continue his education. He went back to his favorite windowsill to listen to Darla read stories to Jude and Silas. Every day he heard a new story, and the more he heard, the more he learned, and the more he learned, the better he understood human language and human ways.
In fact, with some of the Fly Spies coaching him, Izzy even began to learn how to speak human. One day, when he landed on the windowsill, Darla was reading alone by the open window. It’s worth a try, Izzy thought.
“HELLO!” he yelled.
Darla looked up. She looked around, then went back to her book.
“DOWN HERE! HELLO, HELLO, HELLO!” With his tiny, buzzy voice, Izzy had to yell as loud as he could to be heard.
Darla looked down—and to say she was shocked puts it very mildly.
“YES, IT’S ME! THE MOSQUITO ON YOUR WINDOWSILL! MY NAME IS IZZY. I’VE BEEN LISTENING TO YOUR STORIES.”
Darla pinched herself to see if she was awake. She was. Then she looked around quickly to see if anyone was watching. They weren’t. Then she looked back at Izzy. “What … I mean how … I mean, this is impossible!”
“I KNOW!” yelled Izzy. “BUT I WAS BORN WITH THESE GLOWING ANTENNAE, SO I CAN UNDERSTAND YOU. AND I’VE BEEN LEARNING HOW TO TALK YOUR LANGUAGE. IT’S CRAZY, RIGHT?”
To make a long story short, Darla and Izzy began talking every day—the first time in millions of years that a mosquito ever became friends with a human.
One day, Izzy said to Darla, “WOULD YOU LIKE TO HEAR MY STORY?”
“I would love to hear your story,” said Darla.
So Izzy told Darla the whole story from beginning to end. When he was finished, Darla was stunned. “So it was you! You’re the one who got rid of the worms!”
Izzy blushed. “WELL, AS MUCH AS I HATE BATS, THEY ARE THE ONES WHO DESERVE THE CREDIT.”
“Yes, but it never would have happened without you and Delbert. Izzy, you saved our farm! And Piper’s Pickle Plant! And The Galaxy! How can I possibly thank you?”
Izzy thought for a moment, then said, “MAYBE YOU COULD WRITE DOWN MY STORY AND READ IT TO YOUR BOYS?”
Well, of course, Darla was happy to do that. She spent many days interviewing Izzy, asking questions and taking notes as he yelled out his answers. Jacques the chief of the Fly Spies perched on a nearby window and added valuable comments all along the way.
When the story was finished, Darla read it to Jude and Silas with Izzy and Jacques listening on the windowsill. Jacques was so impressed that he gave the story his CIA stamp of approval and told it to all the other Fly Spies who passed it along to the other insects and animals around Pickle Pond Farm.
So now we know: Darla Gribble was the Fly Spies’ secret source.
And the story she wrote is, of course, the story you’ve just read.