September 1, 2015

Cinnamon, Sticks, and Honey

by Gillian Barbeler
January 1, 2005

Emma’s mother folded the last piece of washing from the line and put it into her basket. She looked up at the darkening sky.

“Emma love, it’s going to storm shortly. Will you gather your toys up now and bring them in please?”

“Oh Mummy, do we have to? We were just going to have our afternoon tea and they’re all ready, aren’t you?” she asked the three life-like toy animals arranged in a half–circle in front of her. She put a bright yellow dandelion in front of Sticks, a black possum with a pink nose; a small plastic saucer of water in front Cinnamon, a sleek chocolate brown cat with blue eyes; and a little plastic bone in front of Honey, a rather scruffy little tan and white dog, but nonetheless appealing.

“Well, I suppose they can stay out here if you don’t mind them being soaked, but you’ll have to stay out here with them so they don’t blow away in the wind. What do you think?”

The little girl frowned, collected her toys, and marched past her mother into the house, her nose in the air. A fairy peeping out from behind an upturned flowerpot giggled into her hands as she watched.

“Put them in your room please, dear, not on the lounge,” called her mother as she went into the kitchen.

“I can’t play with you anywhere but my room!” she muttered, putting the toys on her bed before closing the bedroom door. Emma sat on the end of her bed, elbows on her knees, and chin in her hands. She pushed a strand of golden hair behind an ear and looked round her pretty blue room. All her other toys sat tidily on their shelves on both sides of the casement windows next to the curtains with fairies and elves printed on them. The bottom window was open just enough to allow a faint breeze. The curtains swayed gently so that the fairies and elves on them looked as if they were flying.

Emma took her shoes off, turned around, crawled up into the bed, and snuggled into the warm quilt. “Oops sorry, I nearly forgot you.” Emma arranged the three toys where she wanted them. “Sticks, you come with me.” She put the possum under the coverlet beside her. “Cinnamon, you sit there on this side of my pillow. Honey, you’re over here.” She placed him on the far side of her pillow and stroked the rough, furry muzzle. “Now behave yourselves and no fighting.” She shook a finger at them and sighed. “Oh, I wish you were real; we could have so much fun if you were.” Emma lay down, snuggled into her pillow, and watched her curtains. They moved with the breeze coming in through the small opening of the bottom casement window, and she drifted off into a deep sleep.

Outside, the rain began to fall, softly at first, then harder as the thunder rolled and lightning flashed across the sky. Emma’s mother opened the door a little, and seeing Emma asleep, closed it gently.

This was to be a magic afternoon. Emma didn’t know what was about to happen. The fairy who had been watching heard the little girl’s wish, and had gone straight to the Fairy Queen with it. A short while later, in a corner of Emma’s room, a soft, pink cloud began to form and a beautiful fairy dressed in the softest flowing silvery white gown appeared. Many fairies and elves came with her and watched as she recited these words:

This wish is granted for these toys three.

In the eyes of this child, alive they will be,
As she desires. Now as I speak, let it be so.
No mortals this spell shall break,
Only her joy shall they know.

The Fairy Queen raised her wand. The room filled with a shimmering blue light. She nodded gently, and with all the fairies and elves, she disappeared into a pink cloud and vanished.

Nothing seemed to have changed. All was quiet until Cinnamon blinked twice and shook her head. She looked across the pillow at Honey, who was shaking vigorously.

“Scared of storms are we?” teased Cinnamon.

“Not at all, cat, I like storms!” snorted Honey.

“Yeah? Why you shakin’ then?” Cinnamon raised an eyebrow at her.

“I’m not, but you’d better be. I’m gonna…”

“Now cut that out, you two!” Sticks’ head appeared from under the coverlet.

“She’s scared!” Cinnamon pointed at Honey.

“Storms aren’t on my ‘favourites’ list either, but that doesn’t mean I’m afraid of them any more than Honey is.”

“See!” Honey jumped off the bed and ran to the shelves. She climbed up to the window and pushed her nose against one that was open. The harder she pushed, the further it opened – enough for her to squeeze through it into the flower box just under the window.

“I’ll show you who’s scared!” She jumped from the flower box onto the wet grass and out into the rain. She ran across the yard, through the fence, into the meadow, then straight towards the rainforest on the far side. In she marched, determined to show them she wasn’t scared – well, not much anyway – as she looked around at the thick undergrowth. The rainforest became darker the further in she went. “I’m not afraid, I’m not!” she tried to convince herself when mighty claps of thunder rolled across the sky, making the ground shake. “Now I am!” she said as she dived under a rock ledge out of the rain.

“Me too,” said a voice beside her.

Honey jumped at the sound. She was face to face with a big green frog. “Oh you scared me,” she gasped. “Are you a frog? Don’t frogs like rain?” she asked nervously.

“Frog? Yes. Rain? Yes! Storms? No! Nope, don’t like storms!” He gulped as he crawled under a big palm leaf.

Honey looked for him, but he’d already disappeared. “Oh,” she sighed, “I wanted to ask him where I am and how to get out of here. I was silly to run away. Now I think I’m lost.” Honey looked around her. Each path, tall tree, shiny wet fern, mossy log, and those palms… big ones, small ones, all shapes and sizes all began to look the same. Honey shrank back against the rock wall and whimpered. She was lost and alone.

Cinnamon looked at Sticks, her eyes wide. “OK, now what do we do?”

Sticks thought for a moment. “Well…we have three choices, Cinny. One, we wait until she comes home. Two, we wake Emma. Or three, we don’t wake her and go find Honey ourselves.”

“Can’t see her coming back by herself,” said Cinnamon as she leapt lightly onto the windowsill to peer out into the pouring rain. “If we don’t wake Emma, she’ll miss out on an adventure.”

“Adventure? What adventure?” Sticks joined Cinnamon on the windowsill.

“The one we’ll have when we all go looking for Honey,” said Cinnamon as she swiped a paw over her ear. “Now are you going to wake her or am I?”

“I guess I’ll do it,” he sighed. He left the sill and padded across the floor and jumped onto the bed. Emma was lying on her back in a deep sleep. He came up to Emma’s face and gently patted her cheek with a paw. The little girl didn’t move. He patted her again a little harder this time. Still no response.

“Oh really, Sticks, if you’re going to wake someone, there’s only one way to do it. Watch this!” Cinnamon crouched and pounced.

“No Cinny…don’t!” yelled Sticks as Cinnamon landed right in the middle of Emma’s chest, her nose almost touching Emma’s.

“Emma!” she called out.

Emma woke, eye to eye with Cinnamon.

“Cinnamon, is that you? Did you wake me up?”

“Yes. I did. Honey has run away, she went out though the window into the storm.”

“Cinnamon, you can talk! I can hear you!” Emma clasped her hands over her mouth.

“Well, we hear you all the time, but ‘till now we couldn’t say anything – nice isn’t it? Now what about Honey?” Cinnamon asked again.

Sticks said apologetically, “I tried to stop her jumping on you, but…!”

Emma laughed. “I can hear you too, Sticks! I wished for you to be real and you are.” She clapped her little hands together.

“Emma,” Sticks sat down beside her. “Honey’s out there. Shall we go look for her, or would you rather stay here with Cinny and I’ll go alone?”

“She’s our friend; I thinkrig we should all go.” Emma was already pulling on her gumboots, raincoat, and hat as Sticks and Cinnamon were pushing the window out far enough for all of them to get through. Soon they were all running across the lawn to the fence. “Which way?” asked Emma.

Sticks looked around in the wet dirt; some paw prints were barely visible. “This way,” he called as he headed towards the wet rainforest undergrowth.

The rain was still heavy as the three friends stopped under a huge granite boulder, surrounded by palm fronds hanging low in the rain.

“Lost something?” said a voice in Emma’s ear. A big green frog sitting in the center of a palm frond rubbed a hand over his nose as she turned.

“Hello, yes, we have. A little tan and white scruffy dog. Have you seen her?

“Sure have.” The frog blinked twice slowly. “That way!” he pointed a slender finger along a ferny path.

“Thank you.” They ran down the path the frog had indicated, looking to the right and left as they ran.

“Honey, Honey!” they called. No answer. Just the sound of the rain on the forest canopy and the thuds as the big drops hit the ground.

“Where is she?” Cinnamon said crossly, shaking herself vigorously and sending a spray of water all over Sticks.

“Try looking behind that log over there.” He pointed to a large, wet log. “And stop trying to drown me!”

Cinnamon spotted the log, sprang, and landed on top of it. “She’s not here,” she called, looking around.

“She mightn’t be, but I am!” something growled crossly.

Cinnamon couldn’t move. She stared, mouth open, at the ‘talking’ log.

“Get off me!” The ‘log’ stood up and shook itself. Cinny fell off and landed on the wet ground in a tangle of paws and legs.

“Eek, what are you?” she gasped. ”What are doing here?”

“Whaddya mean, what am I?? I’m a Wombat! W.O.M.B.A.T.,” he spelled it out slowly. “Mindin’ me own business. Why aren’t you?” he growled as he looked around and saw Emma and Sticks.

“This yours?” he aimed a paw at Cinnamon. “Control it!” he muttered as he ambled away into the rainforest. “Young’uns just ain’t got no manners today. Nope! No manners…grrr!”

Cinnamon brushed the wet dirt from her fur and cleaned her whiskers. “Wombat is the most disagreeable creature I’ve ever met,” she sniffed.

“Well done, Cinny! Log, eh? Can’t tell the difference between a Wombat and a bit of old wood,” laughed Emma and Sticks together.

“Ooh!” she growled, as she pulled a wet leaf out of her ear. “Move it, you two. Honey’s still missing – as I wish your jokes were!” She put her tail straight up, nose in the air, and marched past Emma and Sticks. The three friends made their way along the path that led deeper into dense wet foliage. Sticks eyed a tall tree a little further down the path. “Wait here for me,” he called, “I’m going to climb up and have a good look around.”

“I’ll be ready, Sticks, don’t worry!” Cinnamon giggled.

“Ready? Why?”

“To catch you before you hit the ground like great lump of wood.” Cinnamon sat back on her haunches and grinned at Sticks as rain dripped off her nose.

“Search, Cinny!” threatened Sticks. “Emma, I won’t be long.”

“Be careful!” she called as he scampered up the huge tree, clung to the topmost branch, and leaned out as far as he could. The rain didn’t help. It splashed into his eyes, which made him close them, or else he had to wipe the rain away with a paw. He began to climb back down. “No good. I can’t see anything,” he said as he reached the ground.

“OK,” said Emma, “we’ll have to keep looking. She can’t be too far away.” They walked on a little farther. Cinnamon lowered her tail as it kept getting caught in the undergrowth. She poked her head though an opening in some tall grass-like plants and stopped still.

“Oh boy, oh my whiskers, look at this!” She backed away so Sticks and Emma could see. “What’ll we do? Somebody make a suggestion, decision, anything!”

Emma drew back from the gap in the grasses. “I don’t know what to do. I’m a bit scared, aren’t you?”

“No!” said Sticks as he looked back through the grass. “Not scared. I’m really angry!” Across the small clearing was a very young koala caught in a trap. A trap meant for feral cats. On top of the cage was a large, mean, yellow-eyed tabby trying to hook the terrified koala through the wire using its long, sharp claws. The low growling noises coming from the cat made the hair on Sticks’ neck stand up.

“Do something, somebody!” whispered Cinnamon.

The cat’s sharp ears heard the soft whisper even through the rain. Its glittering yellow eyes were fixed in their direction. It slowly stood up, unblinking, silently jumped from the cage, and moved as if it were in slow motion towards the grass and the three friends.

“It’s coming! Hide everyone!” whispered Sticks.

While the cat’s back was turned, a little brown-and-white shadow emerged from the undergrowth, crept quietly to the trap, and lifted the front door. She propped it open with a stick and led the little koala to her worried mum nearby. Safe on mum’s back, they climbed to the top of the tall tree, way out of sight of the cat. She ran silently back to the trap, opened the back door, and stood under it. The cat had its head through the gap in the grass, looking or listening for a sound until, ”Here cat, here I am! Want some dinner, you big ugly…oops!”

The cat spun around, saw Honey in the trap, and raced towards her. Honey stepped back and allowed the trap’s back door to drop shut. The cat rushed into the cage so fast that it hit the back door, causing the stick to fall away and slam the front door shut. The big feral cat hissed and spat; he clawed the wire and pushed against the doors, but they held firm. He was caught–well and truly. Trappers would collect the traps they set, soon taking the vicious cat with them.

“Honey, oh Honey, here we are.” Honey ran to them. “Are you all right?” asked Emma as she picked the little dog up, hugged her, and laughed as Honey licked her face. “You’re safe now, and we are so proud of you for saving that baby koala from that cat, aren’t we?” She looked at the other two.

“See, Cinnamon, I’m not afraid of storms, am I?”

Cinnamon was just about to answer when a mighty bolt of lightning lit up the sky, followed by crashing thunder. Honey tried to get inside Emma’s raincoat.

Emma flashed Cinnamon a “don’t answer that” look.

“Umm, nope!” she grinned.

“We’d better be going before it gets dark,” Emma said. She turned and began the trek back the way they had come. Sticks ran ahead with Cinnamon behind him. They reached the big granite boulder where they’d met the green frog. They waited a few minutes while the lightning flashed about and the thunder rolled through the rainforest. The storm was directly overhead now; the rain hadn’t let up for a minute. They had to get home before Emma’s mother came in to check on her. “Ready?” She said, “We have to go now!” and ran out into the rain.

“Right behind you!” called the others as they followed her along the path, and soon they were at the edge of the forest.

“There’s the fence!” cried Honey as she leapt from Emma’s arms and ran as fast her short little legs would go, along the path. The others followed Honey through the loose paling in the fence across the lawn, up over the windowsill, into the bedroom. How good it felt to be home!

Emma took off all her rain gear and hung it in the wardrobe. She grabbed a towel and dried her face and hands, then dried off her three wet friends. ”You’re so wet. I wish you were dry so you don’t catch cold!” She rubbed the toys with the towel until it became wet. Emma was so tired after her adventure into the rainforest that she crawled back under the covers and went to sleep immediately. At that moment, a shimmering blue light surrounded the three toys and then disappeared as quickly as it came. Honey and Cinnamon went to both sides of her pillow while Sticks went under the coverlet beside Emma.

He poked his head out and said, “Hey, I’m dry are you?”

Cinnamon licked her paws. “Me too!”

“Yep. Dry.” Honey looked over her shoulder and down her back.

The storm raged outside. The window slowly closed itself just before Emma’s mother looked in on her little daughter. Her eyes strayed to the towel lying on the floor. She picked it up; it was fluffy and dry, so she folded it and took it with her. The door closed quietly behind her.

Cinnamon looked across at Honey. “Well, there’s got to be something you’re scared of I’ll find…” Cinnamon stopped mid-sentence. She had turned back into a stuffed cat. Honey grinned.
Then she too turned back into her old self. So did Sticks.

Later when the storm had ended, Emma woke, sat up, gathered her toys in her arms, and hugged them. Instantly they came to life. “Now that I know you are real, and no one else knows you are except me, what fun we’ll have.” They all laughed and hugged each other again.