By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
Editor’s note: The animals in Oleput have gone color blind, the magical wishbone is missing, and hostility between the warm-bloodeds and cold-bloodeds is at an all-time high.
By Emily Le Coz
“It’s time,” Mayor Peacock announced.
She nodded once at City Councilman Alligator, who nodded back, and they emerged together onto the steps of City Hall to address the waiting crowd.
Thousands of animals stirred on the lawn of the municipal building – the entire city it seemed had gathered. They wanted answers about the day’s strange events: Why could mammals no longer see red and cold-bloodeds no longer see green?
They were scared and angry, and their mutual distrust for each other only worsened at the forced proximity they now shared.
Gary Gorilla threw the first punch, knocking Stanley Snake into a group of opossums, who in turn hissed and snapped at a family of newts standing nearby. The newts nipped the opossums and, in doing so, jostled the beavers, who then struck out at the frogs.
Everyone soon was fighting.
“Citizens,” Mayor Peacock called. “Citizens, please!”
A hush fell over the crowd.
“We know you’ve come seeking answers about the colorblindness,” she said. “And we are working on it. But we also have another problem – and it might be related to the first: The Founder’s Pond Wishbone has disappeared.”
Animals mumbled in disbelief.
“The mammals took it!” shouted a toad, triggering a chorus of cold-blooded accusations.
“No, it was you!” yelled a coyote to the crowd of amphibians nearest his pack.
All the animals were now shouting and shoving – all except for one. Somewhere in the fracas stood a silent armadillo whose face burned with guilt. He remembered how his digging caused Founder’s Pond to flood yesterday. The Wishbone’s disappearance couldn’t just be a coincidence, he thought.
“The flood must have washed away the Wishbone,” Gilligan Armadillo whispered to himself. “I did it. I caused this mess.”
Gilligan glanced around, hoping no one heard his whispers. But everyone was too busy fighting to hear him, or to see the guilty look on his face.
“The whole city already thinks I’m an idiot,” he whispered again. “If they find out I caused this, they’ll never trust me again. I’ll be forced to leave.”
Gilligan slowly sneaked out of the crowd and made his way home.
But one animal had been watching him. Christopher Angelo Nicolai Crow sensed Gilligan’s guilt. And though the crow knew none of this was the armadillo’s fault, he decided to keep mum.
“Sometimes consequences are better than truth,” the crow cawed, circling overhead.
Meanwhile, in the crowd, Oliver Skunk and Chloe Skink stared slack-jawed as their friends and neighbors tore each other apart. The friends, who had overcome years of ridicule for their unusual mammalian-reptile friendship, always had wanted peace among all animals. They wanted it now more than ever.
But they felt helpless. Who would listen to a couple of outcasts?
“The mayor will listen,” Chloe shouted over the din to her friend. “Come on.”
The two grabbed each other’s hands and ran through the fighting crowd to the steps of City Hall. Mayor Peacock and Councilman Alligator stood transfixed by the scene and unsure what to do.
“Mayor,” panted Chloe, out of breath from the sprint. “You have to make an announcement. You have to tell the animals to stop.”
The mayor puffed her feathers, ready to make a speech, but Councilman Alligator interrupted.
“No,” he said. “I should be the one to speak. My animals won’t listen to you anyway.”
“Your animals?” Mayor Peacock sputtered. “I am the mayor, lest you forget. And that means I’m in charge of all the animals – not just mammals.”
“Well, maybe it’s time for two mayors,” roared Councilman Alligator. “Maybe it’s time we split this town.”
The two leaders squawked and squabbled right there in front of City Hall where all the animals could see them – if the animals cared to look; but they were all too busy fighting, too.
“Oh no,” cried Oliver Skunk. “Now what are we going to do?”
Tuesday, Chapter 7: Next, Gary Gorilla and Clyde Camel regret their aggressive behavior, and discuss the symbolic power of the wishbone among the animals of Oleput.