By Leslie Criss/NEMS Daily Journal
Editor’s note: Despite their fears, Chloe and Oliver consult Oleput’s “Outcast” in hope of gaining some insight into the visual disturbances experienced by the town’s residents. The Outcast tells the pair the story of the Wishbone.
By Leslie Criss
Mayor Primrose Peacock sat behind her mahogany desk in her office on the third floor of Oleput City Hall.
A plate of grubs, left from lunch, remained untouched. Next to it, a bottle of rainbow-colored, fruity Tums sat opened and half empty.
The mayor poured a handful of Tums onto her desk and searched for her favorite flavor – cherry.
But she saw none.
Instead, she popped a lemon Tum into her beak, then another for good measure.
Earlier in the day there’d been a 50-car pile-up at TownCrossing and residents of Oleput began reporting odd visual disturbances.
And if that weren’t enough, an hour earlier Police Chief Zephyr Zebra had nearly run down the mayor in front of City Hall in his black and white patrol car, siren blaring.
He’d stuttered and sputtered, winding a circuitous tale before getting to the point: The Founder’s Pond Wishbone was missing.
Mayor Peacock stood and walked to the large arched window and looked out over the town where she’d been born, where she’d gone to school, married and raised a family.
A lover of peace and order, the mayor felt an awkward uneasiness because something was terribly wrong in the town of Oleput.
Even more troubling, she had no idea how to make things right.
Behind her a sudden sound interrupted the mayor’s thoughts.
It was Dr. Ambrose Alligator, an Oleput councilman. A dentist by profession, Dr. Alligator clearly could have benefited from a visit to an orthodontist.
“You looking for me?” he asked, snapping his jaws together in his usual snippy tone.
“Yes, for the past hour,” she said, matching his tone, word for word.
“Well, since I was out of the office because of the pile-up this morning, I’ve had to play catch-up – teeth to clean, cavities to fill and even a root canal or two,” Dr. Alligator said. “So this better be important. Time is money.”
Mayor Peacock was so angered by the arrogance of Dr. Alligator she fought the urge to nip him with her beak.
Instead, she silently counted to 10, took a deep breath and slowly exhaled before speaking.
“I’ve been notified that the Founder’s Pond Wishbone is missing.”
“What do you mean, missing?” Dr. Alligator said.
“Missing. Gone. Vanished. No longer where it’s supposed to be,” the mayor answered, turning once more to look out her window. “What are we going to tell our constituents? They will be here – hot-blooded and cold alike – in half an hour.”
Down below, they were already coming, from every corner of the county. Some arrived alone; others in small groups.
In only a short time, the steps of City Hall were covered and the crowd spilled down into the grassy area.
In the midst of the Oleput residents, best friends Chloe Skink and Oliver Skunk stood shoulder to shoulder.
Around them their neighbors spoke to one another in tones of anger born of fear.
Suddenly to their right, Gary Gorilla loudly leveled a threat in the direction of Stanley Snake.
“It’s all your fault, you cold-blooded ones,” he yelled. “If you were all like us, we wouldn’t be having these problems.”
Stanley Snake prepared to strike.
“We are who we are,” he said, hissing. “You’re the ones who are different.”
The wives of Gary Gorilla and Stanley Snake stepped closer to their husbands and quietly urged them to stay calm.
But it was too late. Tempers were already flaring to the point of no return.
Chloe grabbed Oliver’s paw, raised her voice and spoke over the din into his ear.
“We have to do something,” she said. “We have to make them see that beyond our differences, there is common ground.”
“But how?” Oliver said. “We are only two. We need help.”
Three stories up, Mayor Peacock and Dr. Alligator stood, watching the fracas and hoping for a Christmas miracle for their town.
Even higher up, Christopher Angelo Nicolai Crow circled in silence.
Monday, Chapter 6: During an all-out fight at City Hall, guilty Gilligan the Armadillo slowly sneaks away.