I started this little story on our RV trip to the west coast of the US. I dearly love Portland, but I could not resist poking a little fun at it. Thus was born Tales from Portlandia as told by Ozette – I have done little editing on it, so please forgive any errors. Ozette and I take full responsibility for each and every error. Hope you enjoy!! By Judy Pierce © 2013
TALES FROM PORTLANDIA
They were anxious to hear all about the book about my adventures. Word had spread through the squirrelly network that I was headed their way. One of the squirrel's heads was sort of shaved with a band of fur down the center. I shared my jumbledberry scone recipe, and the dude with the nose ring whipped up a batch to serve with eggs from free-range chickens but had to substitute blueberries for the jumbledberries.
I think I had too much caffeine as I felt really wired, but maybe it was from all the west coast vibes I was experiencing. Thanking my new friends for their hospitality, I scurried back to the RV. I spent the rest of the day polishing my tiara – had gotten a little coffee foam on it – then slept in the next morning and when I awoke I once again heard a rap on the RV window. My squirrel friend with the nose ring invited me up for lunch. I peeked around cautiously to make sure the storyteller was not near and slipped out of the window. Hope she is not too mad when she sees the hole in the screen, which is my escape route.
We scurried tree to tree until we reached a large ginkgo and scrambled up to the top branch. My jaw dropped in disbelief. A totally naked squirrel sat there – not one hair on his body, only pictures: acorns, flowers, cootchie-cootchie squirrel girls. I backed up a step, as he scrambled up the branch. Two more squirrels clamored from the lower branches bearing trays of food. One was a lovely female gray with a little red knit cap on her head. “Here, Ozette. Try some organic arugula salad, organic toasted hazelnuts with just a hint of turmeric.”
“Thank you kindly,” I said, nibbling on the arugula. Interesting flavor and the nuts were wonderful. The bald picto-squirrel returned bearing a pitcher of some honey-colored drink. “Ta da!” he said, setting the pitcher in front of me. “Brewed especially for our guest, Queen Ozette! We named it White Squirrel Pale Ale.”
“Wow,” I said, smiling. “No one has ever named an ale after me.”
“From our own micro brewery, Ozette,” the squirrel said.
I sniffed at it and a bit of foam scurried into my nose. “Achoo!” I sneezed. The squirrels all laughed.
“You might want to lick the foam or just chug it all down,” advised another burly squirrel with silver rings at the base of its tail. We all lifted our recyclable tankards and toasted each other. I could get into this Portlandia scene.
I was feeling a little fuzzy headed after just one tankard of White Squirrel Pale Ale. As we chatted, the squirrels regaled me with more tales from Portlandia, and I laughed so hard I almost fell out of the tree. “Whoa, there, queen,” said a squirrel with the ring in its nose. Regaining my balance, I realized I did not know these squirrels' names and asked them to introduce themselves. The squirrel with the pictures all over his body introduced himself and his friends.
“I am Groovy Nut Gatherer and my friend here,” he said, pointing to the squirrel with the nose rings, “is Celestial Wanderer. This one with the little knit cap is Stardust Journeyer and the one with the lovely tail rings is Dancing Moonriver”
I nodded at the squirrels wondering why their mamas had given them such unusual names, nothing like my squirrel friends' more normal names like Grady, Grayson, Guido and Rowdy. But then this was Portlandia.
After some goat cheese marionberry ice cream, which was amazingly delicious, I was ready for my nap. “Ozette, you should stick around for the naked bike race. A bunch of furless humans of all shapes and sizes ride their bikes nude through Portlandia. We could get you a front branch seat if you'll stay,” Groovy said, pouring himself another ale.
“Sounds really...interesting, but I have many miles to travel and many adventures waiting for me in Farlandia.” Bidding my new friends farewell, I scurried to the RV.
I crawled through my hidey hole – hmmmm – must have eaten one too many snacks or else the white squirrel pale ale had me retaining water as I could barely fit through the hole. Minutes later, the storyteller entered the RV. That was a close call for sure.
She reached up and scratched my ears, telling me what a good squirrel I was. I felt pretty guilty. I'm normally an obedient squirrel girl, but since the humans were having fun in Portlandia, I figured I could do a little exploring too. Besides, I was missing my friends in Farlandia, and I needed something to take my mind off how lonely I was.
The next morning, I was again awakened by my Portlandia squirrel friends. They had waited in the tree by the RV until the storyteller was off for the day with her family.
“Hey, there, Queenie,” said Groovy Nut Gatherer. “Come on over and try some of my special brownies.” He winked at me, and I shrugged my shoulders wondering what that wink was all about. When we got to his nest, six squirrels were sitting around on little batik-print cushions looking a little spacey. These were squirrels I hadn't met before. I sat down next to a squirrel with piercings in both of her ears and took a brownie from the bark platter.
I sniffed the brownie, trying not to be too obvious. All eyes were on me. I took a small bite. The brownie had bits of green in it but tasted pretty good. In fact, the more I ate the better it tasted. I started feeling light-headed and spacey. I did not like this feeling at all! “What's in these brownies?” I asked, my words sounding slurred.
Laughter broke out, and I was feeling uncomfortable. “Just some green vegetables,” Groovy said. His eyes looked strange, and I decided to head back to the RV. I declined their offer to take some brownies with me, thanked them and scurried back home.
Wait! I looked around frantically. Had I taken a wrong turn? Had those brownies done something to my mind and I was seeing things? Or in this case, not seeing things? Oh no! The RV was gone! I was sure I knew just where they had parked it. Yuppers, there was the tree they had parked under and there was the storyteller's son's house. But the RV wasn't there! I felt a moment of panic. I mean Portlandia was a fine place to visit, but hey, I wouldn't want to live here. Ooh, and I would be in so much trouble when the storyteller realized they had left me behind.
Don't panic, Ozette, I reminded myself. I mean, you can always go tree-to-tree back to North Carolina. Then my heart sank. I remembered all those treeless miles going across country. I climbed to a high branch and put on my thinking cap, while a couple of stray tears rolled down my furry face. Where could the storyteller be? How long would it take before she realized I was not with them, tucked safely into my cozy nest on the top bunk of the RV? If only I hadn't been sneaking out to experience Portlandia on my own. I gulped and sniffed a couple of times trying calm myself. I needed an action plan. Wait. I'm a squirrel. Planning is not our strongest ability sometimes. I forced myself to focus. Maybe if I searched this street I could spy the RV. Oh woe is me!
I was perched on a branch feeling sorry for myself when the little female squirrel in the red knit cap, Stardust Journeyer, scampered over.
“Why are you looking so glum, Queen Ozette?” she asked, sitting next to me. I pulled myself together a bit and said, “The RV is gone. That was my ticket home. The storyteller has left without me.”
The squirrel gasped. “Surely not! But if that's true, you can live here in Portlandia with us. We'll have a great time! We can go to the naked bike race - we always have the best limbs to watch that. And the farmer's markets! Delicacies just for the snatching when no one is looking. And we could hop on a passing motorcycle and head to the coast. Now that is one awesome place, dudette. Hmmm. You would look cute with some tattoos and maybe a nose ring or two. A nice ruby at the base of your tail would be stunning,” she said.
I shook my head. “I belong in Farlandia. And the only way to return there is with my storyteller. I must find her,” I said, tearing up again.
“Now, now,” the squirrel said, patting my paw. She smelled a little like patchouli. She stood up. “I have an idea. Let's hop over to Nightweaver's nest. She teaches yoga, and can help you get in touch with your inner squirrel. By accessing that wisdom, you may be able to see where the storyteller has gone, and we can come up with a plan to get you back to her.”
My inner squirrel? I looked at my chest and paws and wondered just where my inner squirrel was hiding. Probably the same place as the RV! “But what if they come back and I'm not here?” I asked, thinking I had found an out. But Stardust Journeyer just smiled and said that she would stand guard and alert me if the RV came back.
Reluctantly, I followed her across the busy street, glad to hop onto a cherry tree to get away from the traffic. The squirrel led me to a large hole in a maple tree and introduced me to Nightweaver, the squirrelly yoga teacher. She stretched me out on a soft mat and soon had me stretching and breathing in ways that didn't seem quite natural to me, and I was soon tied up like a pretzel. Ever so patiently, Nightweaver eased my limbs into the proper positions. Soon I was executing “downward facing squirrel,” “tree,” and “warrior two” with the best of them.
She then had me lie down on the mat and be very still. The scent of lavender filled the nesting hollow, and I felt myself relax. She was standing over me, and I opened my eyes just a smidgen to see what she was doing. She had two crystals in her paws and was running them over my body slowly and carefully. I relaxed even more and suddenly – I accessed my inner squirrel! Well, I'm not sure if that was exactly what happened or not, but I had a vision of the RV being parked in a campground.
It was like I had left my body and was hovering over the campground. Now if only I could somehow grab my body that was lying on the yoga mat and bring it with me, I would be fine. But that was not to be. I lost my concentration and zipped back into my body, but not before I saw a sign with the name of the state park printed on it. I opened my eyes to see Nightweaver looking at me intently.
I sat up saying, “I know where they are – at the beach.” I told her the name of the park... “They just pulled in. How far is it? Can I walk there?” Stardust Journeyer heard me and scurried over.
“Oh, Ozette. That is on the coast. It is a couple of hour's drive. Oh dear.” She started wringing her paws. Tears poured down my face, making my fur clump together in a way that I hated.
“I'll never see the storyteller again. I'll never get back to Farlandia without her,” I sobbed.
“Wait, Ozette. I think I have a solution. If the RV just pulled in to the campground that means they are staying at least overnight. She climbed onto the limb and started making odd Zoom Zoom chittering noises. After a few minutes we heard an answering chittering coming from down the street. Then a zooming noise. We waited for what seemed like forever when we heard something under the tree.
I looked down in disbelief. There sitting on a motorcycle was a squirrel, but not just any squirrel. He appeared to be solid black. He was wearing little leather boots and a forest green helmet, which he took off and set under the tree. He ran his paw through thick, shiny ebony fur, and my heart leaped into my throat. He was the most handsome squirrel I had ever seen. But on a motorcycle?
We climbed down the tree and Nightweaver introduced us. “Ozette, this is Blackstone Bart. He's a real institution in Portlandia.”
He held out his paw, and I took it. I felt a jolt of electricity course through my squirrelly body. Yikes! This couldn't be good! Nightweaver explained my dilemma. The black squirrel bowed to me and took my other paw in his. Holding both my paws he said, “I would be honored to escort the fair Ozette, Queen of Farlandia, to the coast.”
He pointed to his motorcycle. “Your chariot awaits. I even have an extra helmet.” He reached into a saddlebag and pulled out a yellow helmet. I bid my gray squirrel friends goodbye and hopped on the motorcycle.
Blackstone Bart looked deeply into my eyes as he fastened the little yellow helmet onto my head. His paw lingered on my chin as he tightened the strap. I gulped and wondered if squirrels blushed. I had never ridden on a motorcycle before, and I wasn't sure if I liked the way this squirrel made me feel, but this was an emergency.
“Put your paws around my middle and hold on tight. They don't call me a speed demon for nothing,” he said.
I wrapped my paws around him as tightly as I could and off we went, careening down the street, around corners and through Portlandia. At first I was frightened – especially as we whipped around cars, buses and semis. I have to admit that I shut my eyes more than once.
“You doing OK back there?” Blackstone Bart asked, terrifying me by taking his eyes off the road to look at me.
“Fine. Just fine,” I said, biting back my comment to just watch the road for heaven's sake, but I didn't want to be an ungrateful squirrelgirl or for him to think I was a chicken squirrel – even though I was. I wasn't sure if my heart was beating like a sledgehammer because I was scared or because of the warmth of his lean body and the softness of his shiny black fur.
“Get a grip, Ozette,” I chided myself. I held on tighter, my heart racing. We soon left the city behind and whizzed through beautiful farmland. We traveled past organic farms, small, sleepy towns and an occasional animal waving a paw, hoof or wing as we zoomed by. Soon we were crossing the coast range, and streams sang alongside the highway. Suddenly, Blackstone Bart slowed the motorcycle and pulled into a vacant picnic area.
He took my paw in his and helped me dismount. I thought he held onto my paw a little too long, and I cast my eyes downward modestly. He reached into his saddlebags and pulled out a beautifully prepared meal. “Did you make this?” I asked as he pulled out a yellow-and-white-checked tablecloth and spread it on the ground. He put his paw over his heart.
“I cannot tell a lie, fair Ozette. I love to bake and cook. When I heard about you – you were the talk of Portlandia, after all - I felt it was our fate to meet, so I took the liberty of preparing some of my special dishes for when fate blessed us with a meeting. When I heard of your dilemma, I already had this meal especially prepared for you. I knew that it was destiny that we would meet.”
I took a bite of a nut-filled pastry. The crust melted in my mouth.
“This is delicious,” I said, daintily wiping crumbs from my paws. “One of the best things I have ever tasted.”
I debated about taking a second one but did not want to appear greedy or unsquirrelgirl-like.
“Please take more. They are best when fresh,” he said handing me another one.
After I had eaten three of the nut-filled pastries, had my fill of toasted pecans with just a dash of cinnamon, Blackstone Bart scooped out a fresh fruit salad onto little leaf plates. The fruit was seasoned with a wonderfully creamy sauce. I almost swooned with ecstasy as little bursts of flavor hit my tongue.
“Oh goodness! I thought Oliver back in Farlandia was a good cook, but you, you are the best!” I said.
“Please, Queen Ozette, tell me about this place – this Farlandia. Is it far from Portlandia?”
I took a deep breath and told him a little about how I had had to leave Earth World and about my adventures in Farlandia and how I had come to be in Portlandia with the storyteller.
The black squirrel took my paws in his and looked deeply into my eyes.
I gulped, almost choking on a bit of stray nut.
“I know we have just met, but I feel this draw to you. All of my life, I have been looking for the inner squirrel of another who will join with my inner squirrel, making me complete. It is you, lovely Ozette.”
Now I have never fainted in my life – although I've come close a few times when I hung upside down from a limb for too long - but I thought this might just be the time for a ladylike squirrel faint. I felt dizzy, light headed and speechless. I couldn't deny a strong draw to Blackstone Bart.
“Please stay you'll stay, Ozette. Please. Stay!” he said, putting a paw over his heart. “I will dedicate my life to making you happy.”
I took several deep breaths. Then several more. Blackstone Bart's paws were warm on my paws. My heart felt heavy, and my mind, emotions and heart felt torn.
“But, dear Blackstone Bart, I belong in Farlandia. My storyteller created me to have adventures there. I can't just stay here. I would be letting down so many humans not to mention all my friends in Farlandia,” I said sadly.” Besides, if the storyteller gets mad at me she might just uncreate me since she created me. She might be sneaky like that. You know how humans are.”
Blackstone Bart nodded, thought for a minute then said, “Well, then. I will just go to Farlandia with you. It is settled then,” he said.
My mouth dropped open. Perhaps Blackstone Bart could cross the thin veil into Farlandia with me. I was wondering how that would be, to have this handsome black squirrel at my side day and night when he spoke: “We can ride my motorcycle throughout Farlandia, explore every corner, and I'm sure you have trendy little restaurants and bistros. You can take yoga classes and perhaps even get a little tattoo on your tummy – a hummingbird perhaps?” Blackstone Bart said with great enthusiasm.
“And we can start a little micro brewery. The specialty of the house will be Ozette's Pale Ale. We will live a fairytale existence, dear Queen Ozette.”
My mouth dropped open. Riding a motorcycle in Farlandia? Bistros? Yoga? Tattoos? A brewery?
“Ummmm, Blackstone Bart. This just isn't going to work. You would be miserable in Farlandia. You belong in Earth World just as I belong in Farlandia,” Ozette said, looking deeply into his ebony eyes.
“But Ozette! I adore you. You're what I've been seeking!” he said, his whiskers bristling.
I reached into the beautiful little pouch Sydney had woven for me from greenbrier vine and lovingly pulled out a squirrel-sized copy of Tales from Farlandia: Ozette's Destiny. I knew I should get back to the storyteller but helping Blackstone Bart understand how different our two worlds were was important to me. “Is there a beach nearby?” I asked. “I want to read this to you.”
Blackstone Bart squeezed my paw. “Whatever you say, my lovely queen, but nothing you can read to me will deter me from my quest for your paw,” he said.
He helped me onto the motorcycle, and we zoomed down the highway for a bit, passing languid sand beaches, towering trees and quaint beach towns. He stopped once to show me a whale far out to sea, and I clapped my paws in delight although all I could see was some dark blur rising elegantly above the vast expanse of water and descending into the waves once again.
Hmm, I wondered. Do we have whales in Farlandia? Soon Blackstone Bart slowed his motorcycle searching for just the right spot to stop. A steep cliff led to a lovely cove. Water shot up through the rocks, and I thought it was the most amazing thing! I clutched Ozette's Destiny to my chest with one paw, and Blackstone Bart took my other paw. He reached into his saddlebags and withdrew a bag of marshmallows and some sticks. Silently, he led me down the steep cliff to the ocean.
Blackstone Bart and I walked paw-in-paw to the beach. The sky was Carolina blue (Wait! How can you have a Carolina Blue Sky in Oregon?) He pulled a little blanket out of his pack and spread it on the sand. He patted a spot next to himself, and I sat close to him, our furry knees touching. I sighed and started reading from Ozette's Destiny....”If you're lucky enough to slip through the thin veil that separates Earth World from the magical kingdoms, you might encounter Farland, a vast territory of lakes, babbling streams, rolling meadows, mountains and gentle forests, ruled by Queen Beatrix. It's an enchanting land, filled with fairies, elves and animals, living extraordinary lives...” I began.
Blackstone Bart never took his eyes from my face as I read to him from Ozette's Destiny. It was kinda hard to turn pages with him clutching one of my paws, but I managed. I glanced up now and again. He laughed, snorted, smiled. Tears rolled down his furry face in the sad parts. He squeezed my paw tightly when he learned how I had fled Earth World for Farlandia, clutching only my golden acorn in my paws. (The paw he was holding had fallen asleep by now, but I didn't want to break the spell.) He roared with laughter when I read about Oliver's designer boxer shorts and whispered, “Clever squirrel girl” in my ear. He chortled over my sky diving escapade and looked alarmed when I read about taking one of Oliver's shape-changing potions.
As I read the last few chapters, I watched Blackstone Bart's expression change. He frowned, looking a tad bewildered and, as I read, his beautiful dark eyes took on a sad, wistful look. As I read the last words, he nodded and took the book from my hand. He stared at the cover thoughtfully and squeezed my paw, which by now was quite numb. In fact, I was feeling numb all over – and very sad.
He bit his lip and said softly, “Guess your Farlandia isn't a place for motorcycles, huh?” I shook my head feeling myself tear up. “No micro breweries or squirrels sporting tattoos or yoga classes either?”
I shook my head sadly. “No, Blackstone Bart. None of those things you are used in Portlandia are in Farlandia. It's a different place, a different...well, vibe...entirely. I'm afraid you would be miserable there.”
Blackstone Bart grabbed both of my paws, and Ozette's Destiny fell onto the sand. “But you, my lovely queen would be there. That is all I need to complete my inner squirrel,” he said. But I saw doubt creeping into his intense, dark eyes.
I put my paws over Blackstone Bart's paws and looked into his eyes. “We're from different worlds. I belong in Farlandia. This is just a quirk of fate that I accompanied the storyteller to Portlandia and met you. But I need to go back – back to the storyteller and back to Farlandia.”
Blackstone Bart cleared the lump in his throat. “But I could come to Farlandia with you. I would find things to do – who needs micro breweries, yoga classes and all that if they could be with the fair Queen Ozette?”
His eyes strayed to his shiny motorcycle. He gulped. “I could even give up my motorcycle.” Ozette smiled sadly. “You would be giving up way too much and in time you would resent me. Farlandia ways are very different than Earth World ways.
“Besides, I'm not sure how I would get you through the veil. I haven't learned magic yet, but I think in time I will learn,” she said, patting his paw. “Why can't we just ride my little motorcycle through the veil and...” Blackstone Bart began. I shook my head sadly. “It won't work.” I patted his paw. “You will meet someone. I just know you will. Someone more suitable to your lifestyle than I am. Someone who will fulfill your inner squirrel.” Blackstone sighed and shook his head. “Maybe I could at least visit you sometime in Farlandia?” he asked hopefully. I didn't see how that could be possible.
I bit my lip to hold back the tears that were welling up in my eyes. Why did life have to be so complicated? But I knew Blackstone Bart going to Farlandia with me – if I could even get him back there – would be a mistake.
If I thought it could work out between us I could have tried to get him back to Farlandia with me, but what if I got us stuck between two worlds? I mean, would it be Tales from Stucklandia? With my head in Farlandia and my ample hips in Earth World?
I stuck out my furry chin, firm in my resolve. “I see there is no changing your mind, lovely Ozette,” Blackstone Bart said, taking his paws from mine. “But if you ever change your mind...” he let his sentence trail off.
I knew I might be missing the love of my life, but there was my destiny to consider and I sensed all might not be well in Farlandia right now.
We sat in silence as we toasted our marshmallows. How peaceful the ocean was, its waves rolling to shore, the sun shining on the water. So unlike my sadness. I wished my beloved grandmother, the Divine Miss Piddlewinks, were here to tell me I was doing the right thing or advise me on a way to make this work.
An involuntary sigh escaped my squirrelly lips. Blackstone Bart looked at me. He put his paw over mine and patted it. Then he took a perfectly toasted marshmallow from the stick and placed it into my mouth. He sure wasn't making this easy for either of us.
For just a moment I lost myself in the sweet goodness of the marshmallow, the sun on my fur, the sound of the waves, the presence of this delightful squirrel. “Savor the moment,” a voice seemed to say.
As if sensing my sadness, he said, “You won't reconsider and stay here?” I shook my head, anxious now to find the storyteller.
We sat in silence for a time, watching the sunbeams playing on the ocean. We were both putting off leaving this magical spot and one another. Blackstone Bart sighed as the little fire sputtered and died. He gathered up the sticks while I watched a seagull land nearby, cock its head and watch us. I raised a paw in greeting, and it lifted a wing to us. Silently, Blackstone Bart handed me my yellow helmet for the last time. He helped me onto the motorcycle trying to hide his sadness. He was a gentleman squirrel, after all.
“You are the squirrel of my dreams. I want you to know that,” he said.
“Sweet wonderful Blackstone Bart,” I said, giving him a quick kiss on his lush, ebony face, “if I got us stuck in that thin veil between Earth World and Farlandia or I got us there and you were miserable, I would be the squirrel of your nightmares!” We headed slowly off toward the campground where the storyteller was staying. The scenery was breathtaking: rocky shoreline skirting the ocean, small quaint towns. The scent of the ocean permeated the air. I squealed when I spotted a lighthouse jutting out of the evergreen-covered point. It was almost as beautiful as Farlandia. I sighed, wishing again that life wasn't so complicated.
Suddenly, we rounded a sharp curve and the campground where the storyteller was staying came into view. Blackstone Bart turned into the campground and pulled over to the side of the road. He turned and looked at me. “Last chance, Ozette,” he said, but the look in his eyes told me he knew my answer.
I bit my lip. He was so kind, so handsome and such a good cook. It was tempting, I can tell you that. But common sense prevailed – or maybe I was just a chicken squirrel. I shook my head, gave him a quick kiss and hopped off of the motorcycle. I climbed a tree and looked around to find the RV. There it was under a thick stand of Douglas fir. A gurgling creek sang nearby. I cautiously headed for the RV. I turned just once to find Blackstone Bart staring after me. I raised my paw in a final wave. He kissed his paw and blew the kiss to me, almost stopping my rapidly beating heart. I hesitated for just a moment still feeling so torn– blew a kiss back then turned toward the RV. I heard the roar of his motorcycle as he headed back to Portlandia and out of my life. Tears ran down my face, making it hard for me to see.
I peeked around the RV. I could see in the windows and noted that no one was there. “Yes!” I said, happy to find the RV but also happy that the storyteller wasn't there. I was going to get away with it after all. I tried to focus on reuniting with the storyteller and not on my lost love.
I climbed in through my hidey-hole in the screen and dove into my bed on the upper bunk. My heart was beating rapidly. I tried not to think about Blackstone Bart. A part of me wanted to fly through the trees to catch up with him. I had just settled myself into my bed and was trying to figure out a way to repair the hole in the screen when I heard the RV door open.
Could Blackstone Bart have come back? I didn't know if I could turn him down yet another time. My heart was so conflicted. Boy, this love stuff is vastly overrated. Seconds later, the storyteller peered into my bed. She rubbed my head with her hand. “Good to see you awake, Ozette. I thought you might sleep your life away. Sorry I didn't check on you earlier to see if needed anything. In fact, it seems like it has been quite awhile since you moved from your little RV nest.”
She peered at me closely. “Are those tears that I see in those lovely dark eyes of yours?” she asked, concerned. “Are you sick?”
I wiped my face with my paws. Lovesick was as bad as any flea bite or upset tummy from devouring too many jumbledberry scones for sure. The storyteller was quiet for what seemed an eternity. Had I been found out?
I gulped back more tears as the storyteller watched me closely. “You know, Ozette, I saw a rather strange sight when we were coming back from our hike. Yes, I did. There was a black squirrel riding slowly down the road on a little motorcycle. He pulled over to the side of the road, got off of his motorcycle and stood watching the ocean. Quite a handsome squirrel. And I noticed tears in his eyes too. I don't suppose you know anything about this?” she asked, looking around.
Suddenly she spied the little sneak out hole I had gnawed in the screen. She bit her lip. I gulped and wiped my eyes with my paws. I was in for it now. I should have gone with Blackstone Bart!
Instead of being angry, the storyteller raised her eyebrows and took my damp paws in her hands saying, “Care to tell me about it, Ozette?”
My words tumbled from my mouth like stones in a rockslide. I told her about meeting the squirrels in Portlandia, although I left out the tattoos, nose rings and funky brownies with bits of green vegetable matter in them. When I came to the part about Blackstone Bart, my eyes welled with tears once again.
“But I did the right thing. I sent him away and am ready, oh am I ready, to return to Farlandia,” I finished.
The storyteller looked thoughtful. “Ozette, are you sure, absolutely sure you want to return to Farlandia?”
I sputtered a bit at the question. I pursed my squirrelly lips. I thought, weighed and measured.
I thought about Princess Abrianna and Cassady, my beloved elf friend Oliver, my fairy and squirrel friends, my pristine forest and the adventures I'd had there. And besides, I hadn't seen the first jumbledberry bush since I left Farlandia
“Of course I want to go back to Farlandia. Besides, you have such fun telling humans about my adventures. It's just that...”
“It's just that you've met this handsome black squirrel here and you feel torn. Right?” the storyteller asked, running her hand down my back and rubbing my rump, which was a little sore from bumping along on the motorcycle with Blackstone Bart.
“Hmmm,” she said, tapping her mouth with her finger. “You know, Ozette, you and I met in Earth World. Together we created Farlandia, and I see no reason why you can't be both places at once. After all, Farlandia is just as close to you as the blood running through your veins.”
My eyes widened. “I could be both places at once?”
“Sure. Nothing to it. It would be much easier than our trying to get Blackstone Bart into Farlandia. Besides, in your new adventure I have planned you won't have time for a love interest. Now hurry, Ozette. You may be able to catch up with him. And remember, your home is in North Carolina, not Portlandia. I still want to hang out with you there, girl squirrel.”
I flew out of the RV and sprinted from tree to tree. I was almost at the road when I saw something yellow on the ground. I scurried down the tree. There was the little yellow helmet I had worn on the motorcycle. I picked it up, clutched it to my chest and saw a note. “I cannot bear to look at this helmet and think about your sweet furry white head not being in it. Please accept it as a remembrance of our short time together. And always remember, you have my heart. If you are tempted to forget, here is something to remind you.” I reached into the helmet and drew out an agate in the shape of a heart.
My own heart was singing with joy. Oh I hoped I wasn't too late to catch up with him! I put the helmet on my head and hurried as quickly as I could from tree to tree. I was almost out of breath as I reached the ocean. I scanned the side of the road, heartsick that I may have missed him. As I rounded a curve, I saw him standing by his little motorcycle putting on his forest green helmet. He looked so sad.
“THWARK!!!! CWARKK!” I called in my loudest squirrel voice. Startled, he looked around. When he saw me running toward him, he held out his paws out and ran toward me. We smacked into each other with a resounding thump and both rolled on the ground. Excitedly, I told him the storyteller's plan. He looked perplexed and shook his head.
“I have never been to North Carolina, but I will go anywhere with you. I can't pretend to understand how this all works, Ozette, but as long as we are together, I don't need to.”
“Oh, Blackstone Bart, it's just a little Farlandia magic. Just a little Farlandia magic.”
Epilogue. Later that day, travelers to the Oregon coast reported spotting a small motorcycle driven by a black squirrel with a white squirrel riding behind him, clutching him like she would never let him go, heading Southeast and singing “In my mind I'm going to Carolina” at the top of their squirrelly lungs.