Sunday, August 28, 2016


Stuck in bed because she didn't feel well, Mom said she wished she could get up and do something – anything – to get rid of the bored feelings. 
"If you could do something right now, what would it be?" Jo asked, as he and his sister, Ro, sat on the edge of Mom's bed, petting Kato and Brie who had piled in to keep Mom company. 
"Oh, I don't know, I'm kindof tired from my medicine, maybe just play the piano or something.  Anything but just lie here and watch TV, ugh!" 
Jo smiled at Ro, and, being able to read his thoughts, she gradually learned of his idea, and nodded, smiling right back at him. 
"We can do that," she said, and turned to Mom.  "Close your eyes and think really hard about the song you want to play on the piano," she said to Mom. 
Mom was already lying back on her stack of pillows, resting, so closing her eyes was an easy thing for her to do, though she wished she were resting on a beach chair with her toes dangling in the water watching a sunset.  But she decided to play along with whatever the children had in mind, and began to picture her fingers playing notes on the piano. 
Ro picked up Mom's thoughts, saw the notes in her own mind, and, using her power, sent those picture thoughts to Jo, like a little movie in his head. 
Before long, Ro had the whole song in her head, and sent it, little by little to her brother, with her mind. 
When Mom was finished playing the song in her imagination, Jo sat on the floor and leaned against the side of her bed.  Kato leaned his head over the edge of the bed just far enough to give Jo a little lick on the ear, wondering what his buddy was up to. 
As Jo sat there on the floor, he held his hands out in front of him, his fingers arched, and began to move them, exactly as Mom had moved hers in the pictures Ro had sent him in his mind. 
Jo's fingers moved as if he were playing the piano, and as he did, there beside Mom's bed, piano notes floated up out of the piano in the living room through the air down the hall, and into Mom's bedroom. 
Mom grinned in delight at the sound of the music – her music, songs she'd made up that no one else knew; songs she'd never written down anywhere. They'd only existed in her head, or when she played them every now and then on her piano.
Now her son and daughter were playing her songs!  Beautiful notes her daughter had magically seen in Mom's head, and that her son magically played on the piano, without even touching it, and from a whole different room, no less, bounced through the air, back into Mom's head and cheered her completely up!
Ro and Jo saw the huge smile, filled with pride on Mom's face. 
"Do you feel better now?" Ro asked, as she snuggled up to Mom on one side and Jo snuggled up to Mom on the other.
"I feel wonderful!" she said, hugging them closer to her.  "Let's play another song!" 

Sunday, August 21, 2016


Ro, Jo, Kato, and Sir WHIP soared above the produce mart, all eyes on the people who worked there, for when one of them headed to the dumpster with vegetables and fruit that were too old to sell anymore, Sir WHIP would land, invisible, of course, and the kids would hurry over to the person headed for the dumpster, and ask to fill their mesh bags to the brims. 
An elderly couple, Mr. and Mrs. Morgan, lived in the house that backed up to Ro and Jo's yard.  They put out food (bread, sunflower seeds, peanuts, dried corn, vegetable peelings and sometimes whole veggies, apple cores and all kinds of other stuff) for all the wildlife in their yard.  Squirrels, chipmunks, groundhogs, deer, all kinds of birds, bunnies, raccoons, field mice, and opossums all munched happily at the all-day-every-day buffet they found in the Morgans' yard. 
However, Mr. and Mrs. Morgan were just getting by on Social Security, and sometimes they ended up cutting back on their own food so that they could keep feeding all the animals.  Ro and Jo had talked to them one time when they helped the elderly couple rake up leaves in their yard, and learned all of this.  They had been curious about all the birds and animals hanging around in the yard behind theirs. 
Ever since, Ro and Jo dropped by every few days with bags of goodies from the produce market, and the elderly folks were happy as could be.  Mrs. Morgan would give the children muffins and cookies on her baking days, and Ro and Jo were almost as happy as their friends and their back yard menagerie. 
Today, as Ro and Jo loaded all their goodies on Sir WHIP's back and climbed aboard, a mystery awaited them.  A mystery they would discover when they were finally airborne. 

Just as Sir WHIP took off, giant wings whooshing, orange scales glittering in the mid-morning sun, Kato saw something and barked. 
Something sparkled in the sun shining into the open dumpster. 
And then it moved.

Ro and Jo leaned over the edge of Sir WHIP's wing to see what had grabbed Kato's attention. 
It gleamed and moved again. 
Ro said, "We have to land and find out what that is; it might be trapped or hurt.  But we have to take this stuff to the Morgans.  You and Kato stay here for a few minutes.  Sir WHIP can take me quick-as-a-bunny to the Morgans' yard, and drop me off and fly right back, five minutes, tops.  I can hitch a ride back with BEN Owl and we can all help whatever's inside the trash bin." 
Sir WHIP had other ideas.  "It's not safe for Jo to be here all alone, even with Kato," he said, landing in the same spot from which he'd taken off.  "Ro, you send a thought to BEN Owl, and he can pick up you and the food and go to the Morgans'.  I'll stay here with Jo and Kato, and remain invisible.  We can still keep an eye on our friend in the dumpster." 
Ro nodded.  "Yes, that's a much safer plan," she agreed. Even as she spoke she alerted BEN Owl with her mind, and within three minutes he soared into sight and, also invisible to all but his friends, landed a few feet away from Sir WHIP. 
"Good morning, everyone, what have we here?" BEN Owl said, as cheerfully as serious, wise owls ever do. 
"There's something alive in that dumpster," Ro explained, "and we want to investigate and help, but we have all these vegetables and fruits for Mr. and Mrs. Morgan.  I need to hurry and deliver these bags while Sir WHIP, Jo, and Kato stay here and keep watch." 
"Are you sure you didn't see some rats looking for food?" BEN Owl asked a logical question, as wise owls are likely to do.
"Well, if it's rats, they must be magical ones, because they are silver and sparkle," Jo said.  "Hurry please, BEN Owl, we're dying to see what's in there, and we want to find out together!"
BEN Owl made himself large enough to easily carry Ro and her load.  Within seconds they were airborne, with Ro egging him on to go faster, and faster still.  He smiled.  Ro hadn't changed so much from little Princess Rosie after all, who loved the thrill of swooping and soaring through the clouds. 
When Ro handed over the bag, Mr. and Mrs. Morgan all but jumped up and down, and they would have if their feet and legs were in a little better shape.  But they bent to hug Ro and thank her for all the goodies for their friends. 
"I would love to stay and chat like usual, but I can't right now.  Jo is waiting for me.  There's an adventure waiting for us, and we have to share it!" Ro blurted out as she hugged her friends right back. 
Mr. and Mrs. Morgan chuckled, thinking what an imaginative little girl Ro was, as the child turned and ran off around the side of the house.  They began to scatter apples, peaches, lettuce, carrots, peppers, squash, eggplant, tomatoes, strawberries, blueberries, and all sorts of other goodies toward the back of their yard were there were trees making a shady spot for the birds, chipmunks, squirrels, bunnies and occasional deer to enjoy their banquet. 
Had they been able to see BEN Owl bursting into the sky with Ro hanging on tight, the Morgans would surely have waved and blown kisses, but we know how that goes, don't we? 

It only took a few minutes before Ro hopped off BEN Owl's back and joined her brother, Kato and Sir WHIP behind the dumpster, out of sight. 
By then there was thumping and bumping coming from the huge trash bin, and a voice, suddenly cried out, "I hear you out there!  Let me out of here!"
Ro and Jo both jumped a bit, startled by actual words.  They had expected perhaps a magical animal of some sort, or something.  They glanced at one another, surprised, and then Jo said, "I will help you.  Stay still."  He looked around to make sure no one was watching, and then held his hand up beside his face.  Whatever it was inside the dumpster had listened and held still and quiet, but now, as Jo began to wiggle his fingers, there was rustling and clunking as whoever it was began to rise up, and the trash it left behind in the dumpster shifted and tumbled. 

Up, up, up rose a shiny silver….

"Wow! It's a ROBOT!!" Jo gasped, and Ro, clapped, very excited. 
"It talks!" she squeaked.  "And it's not some silly toy that says a couple of dumb sentences over and over.  It thinks! 
Jo moved his arm in the direction he wanted the robot to move, and it sort of floated on down to the ground, where it turned toward its new friends and stared at them, in that way that robots have of staring with their lenses. 
"Hi," Jo said in a friendly voice, while the robot got its bearings.  Kato took a few cautious steps toward the silver dude, sniffing him.  He smelled like rotten vegetables.  Kato sneezed and hurried back to Ro and Jo, Sir WHIP, (who was smaller now, the size of the children) and BEN Owl, who perched on Ro's padded shoulder. (Grandma Crystal had made her some shirts like she'd worn when playing Princess Rosie, so that BEN Owl's sharp talons wouldn't scratch and poke into her skin.)  "Perhaps someone here would be kind and hose me down.  My sensors detect a foul odor, thanks to being buried in garbage for a whole night." 
"How did you end up in a trash dumpster?" Jo said, curious about who might throw away a perfectly good robot like that. 
"It was an accident.  I was aboard a space ship, and they were supposed to beam me into that field last night when it was dark.  Their coordinates were a little off." 
"Wow!  A spaceship?" 
"Yes.  They will be back to pick me up in 24 hours.  I was supposed to study the plant life of this area, to see what creatures on this planet eat, for forty-eight hours, and then my ship will return for me." 
"You lost a lot of studying time," Ro said. 
"Yes.  There was just no way I could get myself out of that stupid metal box!"  the robot said, surprising all of Team RoJo with his frustration.  It showed in his voice, and no robots on Earth have emotions.  Jo said, "I didn't know robots had feelings." 
"Robot?  You think I'm a robot?  I'm no robot!  I'm from the planet Kobar!" the silver dude said, surprised at the children's conclusion about him, and a little bit offended. 
"You're a person and you couldn't climb out of a dumpster?" 
"Climb?  What is climb?" 
Ro and Jo glanced at one another. 
Jo said, "You know!  When you reach up and grab the top of something and swing your legs up and flip yourself over the top." 
"I never did anything so dangerous before!"  The being from Planet Kobar said. 
"What do you do all day?  Didn't you climb ropes or ladders or trees when you were a kid?" Ro asked. 
"What's a kid?" the Kobarian said. 
"You know, when you were smaller, like us." 
"I don't understand.  You are smaller Earthlings? Why are there different sizes?" the outer space man said, shocking everyone listening.
"You were born, right?  You had to be little then," Jo said, confused. 
"Not on the planet Kobar." 
"Well, how do you get new people, then?" Ro asked. 
"When it's time to replace old people who die, a person just splits into two people.
Ro and Jo's eyes widened as they heard of this strange new world and its ways of life. 
"Maybe we should talk about this in a more private place," Ro said, and turned to Sir WHIP.  Can you take us back to the fort, please, Sir WHIP?  I think we should keep this a secret until we can figure out how to help…" she stopped, and turned her head to look at the strange silver alien.  "You never told us your name." 
"Todock. My name is Todock," the creature said, and surprisingly, bowed a little after introducing himself to his new friends. 
"You really had us fooled; we thought you were a robot.  You have lenses instead of eyes, and your mouth doesn't move when you talk, so I thought you had a speaker or something," Jo said. 
"You have lenses too, you know.  They are inside your eyes." 
The children nodded, remembering what they had learned in school about their eyes.  There were indeed lenses inside, that helped them see.  Their friend from outer space had reminded them. 
"We have to get you out of here.  This is a market where lots of people – human beings…" Ro explained, "come to shop.  You don't want to be seen by anyone and cause a big commotion." 
"You saw me and it didn't make a big commotion, as you say." Todock said.
"Well, we have some secrets of our own, and understand that sometimes people need to find out things gradually so they can get used to the idea.  And sometimes, they don't need to know things at all," Ro said. 
"But…" Todock began, and Jo cut him off. 
"We will talk a lot, and help you get your information, but we have to do that in our fort.  Trust us," Jo said, steering his alien friend toward Sir WHIP who, along with BEN Owl had made themselves large enough to carry passengers. 
In less than four minutes Sir WHIP and BEN Owl landed in Ro and Jo's yard and let all their friends dismount, including their new space friend.  Sir WHIP and BEN Owl both wondered what Mom and Dad, Gramps Blaze, Grandma Crystal, and Nana Terri would think about all this.  In another thirty seconds they were inside the fort, Todock looking all around.  "A human dwelling," he murmured, awed that he'd gotten inside what he thought was someone's home. 
"Well, actually, our dwelling is back there," Ro said, nodding in the direction of her family's house.  "This is a safe meeting place for us to learn about our powers and train to earn dragon scales." 
"This is not where you live?" Todock asked.
"No.  We can take you into the house if you like, but you said you were studying plant life.  We can help you with that," Jo said, going to the bookshelf and choosing Ro's science book.  "All kinds of information in here," he said, placing the book on the table and opening it up.  Todock came and stood beside Jo. 
A moment later, he reached up with both hands and began pushing up on the sides of his head. 
Everyone around the alien gasped as his head lifted off! 
Well, actually not his head…

"It's a space suit!"  Ro and Jo said at the same time.  "How silly are we?  That's why he looked like a robot!  He's inside a space suit!"
"Well of course!  I couldn't just take off the suit before I knew what your atmosphere was like, if I could breathe your air!" Todock said.  "Can you help me get this thing off?  It's kindof bulky." 
It was bulky alright!  The whole top of the suit was a fancy computer with grab arms, and sensor panels, and a hard drive to store information. 
Todock himself was only as tall as Jo!  He was kind of a tan color, with no hair anywhere.  His eyes were dark and a little larger than human eyes, and his hands were smooth, without nails.  Ro looked down and discovered his toes had no nails either. 
He was wearing snug clothing made from thin material, sort of like bike shorts and tops, only Todock's looked like it was all one piece, sort of like dancers' leotards. 
"No wonder you don't climb!  You couldn't reach, and the drop from the top of the dumpster would probably have hurt you," Jo said. 
"You don't have fingernails," Ro said softly.
"My species hasn't needed claws in centuries, though when our world was new, we did, when we used to hunt other creatures for food.  We live on plant life now." 
"You're vegetarians," Jo said. 
"Yes, if that's your term for existing on plant life," Todock said, beginning to flip the pages of the book. 
"How can you understand what we're saying and what is written in that book?" Ro asked. 
"An excellent question.  Kobarians have flown around earth many times, studying you, listening to your voices, learning what your sounds mean." 
"So you learned to speak English," Jo said. 
"And French, German, Italian, Spanish, Navajo, Swahili, Latin, Danish, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, and many others.  However, we gathered that information in our space ship.  We wanted to experience your planet in person – to see plants and animals.  And eventually, meet humans." 
"So you're kind of doing that backwards, huh?" Ro said, smiling. 
"Yes.  There are always variables in a plan," Todock said.  "That means things do not always go as planned," he explained.  "Why are there so many sizes of human beings?" he said. 
"Because we are born little.  Babies come from their mother's bellies.  Here," Ro said, flipping through the science book, knowing that Todock could scan the pages with his space helmet faster than she could talk. 
Todock held his helmet above the book and flipped through all its pages.   He put the helmet on, closed his eyes, and suddenly the indicator lights for the sensors came to life and there were beeps and whistles as the helmet put the information it had just gathered into Todock's brain. 
"That was fascinating!" Todock said, removing the helmet again, all caught up with his studying. 
"Come inside with us.  We'll fix you some food, and introduce you to our parents." 
"Wait," Todock said, placing a staying hand on Ro's shoulder before she could make it to and out of the door.  "Your parents might be startled by me.  I'm from another world.  Human beings aren't really ready to meet aliens." 
"My parents have seen a lot.  You see, in our family, many people have special powers.  That's how Jo got you out of the dumpster."  Ro thought the words into Todock's mind.  He looked into her eyes, not fully understanding. 
"Not all humans communicate with their minds?  Or lift things by wiggling their hands?" 
"No.  We are a magical family," Jo said. 
"I understand."  Todock said.  "So your family will not be upset at the sight of me?"
"Well," Ro said, "They might be a little surprised at first, but they will be more curious than upset.  Especially since you aren't dangerous." 
"How do you know I'm not dangerous?" Todock said, and that made both Ro and Jo stop short and think about it.  How did they know?  After all, Todock was a stranger – and an outer space stranger at that.  Had they been careless?  Had they put themselves and their family in danger?" 
"Huh," Ro said, nodding.  "Actually, we don't know, do we?"  She felt a little nervous, and took a step away from Todock. 
Just as she did that, the crystal ball's inside mists began to swirl; Gramps Blaze, Nana Terri, Grandma Crystal, Mom, and Dad showed inside.  Within seconds they all rose up out of the ball and materialized around the children and Todock, the life form from Kobar. 
Ro and Jo's eyes were wide, wondering if they'd made a big mistake, but they felt better when they saw that all their family members were smiling. 
"We'll be having a little talk about stranger danger later," Dad said, but then added.  "But all the grownups here have been watching the spaceships from Kobar.  We sensed that you meant no harm, that you were just trying to learn about Earth and the people and animals on it." 
Todock smiled, and offered his hand in the gesture he and his fellow Kobarians had observed so often while studying Earthlings from their spaceship. 
All of the grownups gently shook the small being's hand, and then the whole family led their new friend inside Ro and Jo's home. 

"Do you prefer your food cooked or raw?" Dad asked as he drew all the vegetables and fruits out of the refrigerator. 
"We sometimes make what you would call soup, but we enjoy what you call salads, mostly," Todock replied, sitting in the seat Ro offered him between her and her brother.  Kato sat on the floor between Jo and Team RoJo's new friend. 
In a few minutes Dad, Mom, and Ro had whipped up a huge salad with fruits, vegetables, croutons, nuts, and some shredded cheese.  "Do you like dressing on your salad?" Ro asked, producing balsamic vinegar, oil, and a bottle of ranch. 
Todock tasted the vinegar, and nodded.  "We have something like this on Kobar, very sour, but we mix it with other ingredients." 
"Yes, we do that here on Earth, as well," Ro said.  She held out the ranch dressing bottle, and let Todock sample that.  His eyes popped open wide and a smile crossed his face.  Jo smiled back.  "That's my favorite dressing too," he said, and handed Todock the bottle after squeezing some on his own salad.  He wasn't being rude, he just wanted to demonstrate to Todock how the bottle worked. 
And Todock squeezed the bottle just hard enough to dress his salad perfectly. 
He was one starving alien!  He scarfed two bowls of salad, some Texas Toast, and a big cup of lemonade before he leaned back, rubbed his belly, and burped. 
The whole family chuckled, and Gramps Blaze said, "He sure does fit in here!"  Todock smiled and wondered what was for dessert. 
Ro picked up on that thought and laughed.  "I was wondering the same thing," she said, and left the table. 
She returned with a container of brownies, her favorite, that Grandma Crystal had made the day before. 
And after scarfing four of the little squares of heaven, Todock declared that they were his favorite too, no matter what other desserts he had yet to try on Earth. 

And he would try many, because his new friends, when his ship appeared in the sky the next night, promised that he could visit as much as he wanted, that he would have a place to stay here on Earth, and friends who would help him learn until the Kobarians felt safe enough to all come and make friends with Earthlings. 
Ro and Jo hoped that would be very soon.  As everyone hugged their Kobarian friend goodbye, Ro tucked a Ziploc of brownies into the pincer of his spacesuit.  She couldn't see his face through the helmet, but she felt him smile. 

Then Todock faded into nothingness.  But Ro knew he would be back, for that's what friends do – visit! 

TD – 8/20/2016

Saturday, August 13, 2016


Ro and Jo both jumped off the last step of the school bus and hurried inside to start their day with their classmates.  In the coat area, Jo sat his lunch box down on the shelf, took off his jacket and hung it up.  Suddenly the box began to wiggle, and then jump up and down, all by itself! 
He grabbed the lunch box, glancing around to make sure none of his friends had seen it, breathed a little sigh of relief to see that they were all busy shedding jackets and sweaters, and taking books and stuff out of their backpacks. 

He took his lunch box and headed for the boys' bathroom, thinking RO very hard, hoping that his sister would pick up on his thoughts as usual.  Well, actually she could pick up on his thoughts any old time; he didn't need to shout them at her, but this was an urgent matter.  What was he going to do about a lunch box that could move by itself?  Yikes!

Ro's thought came into his head louder than all his panic.  'Sup, little bro?

He thought back, lunch box moving by itself.

Ro thought, uh oh. Did anybody see?

Jo thought back, No.  What should I do?
Ro thought, the bell hasn't rung yet.  Go outside and around the side of the building.  I'll meet you there.

Jo thought, okay.

Holding his lunchbox in his arm, so that it couldn't wiggle, he hurried toward the front door, trying not to look suspicious.  Suddenly a hand held his shoulder.  "Where are you headed, Jo?  It's almost time for the bell to ring." It was Ms. Skully, the assistant principal. 
"I think I dropped my hoodie outside.  I'm just going to check real quick."

"Oh.  Well, okay.  Hurry up, please.  You don't want to be late for class." 

"I sure don't," Jo said, and rushed through the door. 

Outside, he glanced back to make sure Ms. Skully had moved on down the hall, and when he was certain she wasn't watching him, he raced around the corner of the building.  Ro was already there.  He sat the lunch box on the grass between them, and sure enough, it began to jump all about by itself. 

"Wow!" Ro said, her eyes wide with surprise.  Then she gave it a moment's thought.  "I don't think the lunch box is moving by itself.  I think there is something inside it, jumping around." 

Jo nodded, his sister's conclusion making sense.  "What could it be?  We don't have any pets small enough to stow away in my lunch box." 

"Are you sure?  Maybe not a pet…" Ro said, tilting her head toward the lunch box, raising her eyebrows, giving Jo a subtle clue.

He thought about it. 

"Someone small, or maybe able to make himself small." 

Jo pressed his eyes closed, getting it, and squatted to unzip his lunch box.

"Really?  Seriously?" he said, a little miffed.  "You are going to get me in all kinds of trouble!  I'm outside because I lied, and Ro is out here without permission!  I'm going to be late for class because the bell is about to ring!" 

Sir WHIP smiled up at Jo, and leapt out of the lunch box, flapped his wings and sort of glided into his arm.  "Say you dropped me, you couldn't find your hoodie, and I'm your Show and Tell thing today." 

"You'll have to do a really good job pretending to be a toy!" Jo said, as he and his sister hurried back into the school. 

The bell had just rung when Jo and Ro each quietly entered their classrooms and took their seats, trying not to disturb the teacher who was beginning to take roll call.  Ho plopped down in his chair just as the teacher called his name, and answered "here!"

"Did you find your hoodie, Jo?" Ms. Knickerbocker asked.  "Ms. Skully came by a moment ago and said you might be a little late for class, that you were looking for your hoodie outside." 

"No, I didn't find my hoodie, but I did find my Show & Tell thing for today," Jo said, taking Sir WHIP's advice. 

"Oh!  Very well.  Check Lost and Found later and see if anyone turned in your hoodie, though." 

"I will," Jo said. 

At Show and Tell Jo took a very small, action-figure-size Sir WHIP out of his desk, headed to the front of the class, and introduced him to his friends.  "He flies, he can make himself very small or very large, and he can blow fire out of his nose.  Oh!  And he can talk," Jo said, telling the absolute truth, though his friends all thought he was making it all up, that Sir WHIP was just a toy. 

Once Jo returned to his seat from Show and Tell, he stood Sir WHIP on the corner of his desk, since he was no longer a secret from the class.  A few minutes later, he thought that over, and bent the toy's (so everyone thought) legs forward so that the poor dragon could sit instead of stand all the rest of the day. 

Jo's friends came up and took closer looks at Sir WHIP.  A couple of them petted him, and one of the boys touched his nose.  "It doesn't feel warm.  He can't breathe fire!" Jimmy Billingsly said. 

"He can only do that in emergencies," Jo said, again, honestly. 

"Yeah, right." Jimmy said, sarcastically. 

Jo shrugged.  "Believe what you want. 

After school, Jo boarded the bus, Sir WHIP firmly tucked in his arm, and sat next to Ro. 

"How'd it go with Sir WHIP today?" she asked. 

"Fine.  He fooled everyone with the toy act.  Jimmy Billingsly didn't believe anything about Sir WHIP's skills."

"Well, that was what was supposed to happen, right?  Sir WHIP fooled everybody." 

"Yeah, but Jimmy Billingsly is kindof a jerk.  It was like he was making fun of me." 

"There's nothing wrong with pretending about your toys," Ro said.  "That's what they're for.  We know the truth, and we have a lot of friends and family who know it as well.  Jimmy isn't important, right?"


When they got home, Ro and Jo went directly to the fort and Sir WHIP sat on the table in front of them. 

"Why did you do that, Sir WHIP?  You almost were seen moving my lunch box, and you almost made me late for class and got me in trouble," Jo said to his sparkly orange friend. 

"I didn't mean for all that to happen.  I just wanted to go to school with you and see what your day was like," Sir WHIP answered, shrugging. 

"Well next time, just ask, okay?" Jo said, and Ro smiled. 

"Okay." Sir WHIP agreed, then continued.  "You have a lot of fun in school!  Good job on your spelling test, by the way!  Our practicing paid off bigtime!" 

"Thanks!" Jo said, and then he and Ro got started on their homework. 

Sir WHIP took a nap after his big day at school. 

TD – 8/13/2016

Saturday, August 6, 2016


Ro and Jo knew of two elderly people in their neighborhood, who needed a little help with their yards.  While older kids hit them up for money to mow grass and weed gardens, Jo knew that they didn't have much money.

"We have to get it done fast," said Jo. "Mrs. Harris doesn't usually take too long at the store."

"Yeah, but her daughter picked her up.  They always go to lunch first.  We have at least an hour and a half," Ro said.  "Even when the little bus from the senior center picks her up, it takes her that long." 

"Yeah, that's true, I guess.  Maybe it's Mr. Lawrence who goes faster."

"He still can drive himself.  But his legs bother him and he only picks up a few things at a time and hurries back home," Ro said, remembering almost getting caught in his yard that time, figuring he would take as long as Mrs. Harris to go shopping. 

"We still need to get done and out of here before she gets back – and her garden needs weeding." 

"I'll take care of the weeds," Sir WHIP said from Kato's back.  He could get away with coming out with the children by making himself look like a toy.  From a few feet away it looked as if Jo had put his toy dragon on his dog's back.  That Sir WHIP was a smart one, alright! 

"How are you going to pull weeds with your little tiny hands, Sir WHIP?" Jo asked, skeptical. 

"You'll see," Sir WHIP replied, a hint of mystery in his voice. 

Ro and Jo glanced at one another, shrugged, and got on with their work while Kato casually walked around back to Mrs. Harris' garden.  Once there, Sir WHIP fell off of Kato's back (on purpose, to look like a toy) as the dog stood by the garden with his leg cocked, though he wasn't peeing – just giving Sir WHIP a chance to sneak into the rows of plants. 

He started at the very last row, walking around each plant, being very careful to only destroy the weeds. 

Kato ran back to the children to see if he could help them with their yard chores.

"How's he doing it, Kato?" Ro asked.  In answer, Kato wagged his tail and yipped, turned toward the back yard, spun back toward his friends and ran circles around them.  Jo rolled his eyes, smiling and shaking his head.

"We might as well go take a look, he'll never stop running around us if we don't," Jo said, setting the weed whacker on the sidewalk and heading around the side of the house toward the back yard.  Ro followed as Kato plunged ahead, tail wagging, tongue lolling out the side of his mouth happily. 

They found Sir WHIP in the second row already – and it was a pretty big garden.  Mrs. Harris and Mrs. Levy were friends, and both grew a lot of vegetables and fruits to can in the fall.  That means to preserve foods in jars in a special way so they last all winter, and sometimes even longer. 

"Okay, we need to pull some weeds to make it look like we're just working back here in case someone sees us out their window," Ro said, stepping into the garden row and moving close to Sir WHIP. 

Jo stepped into the next row, so that he could still see Sir WHIP between the plants. 

As soon as he saw the puff of smoke he knew how Sir WHIP, with his little tiny claws, was weeding the garden, and making such fast work of it. 

While leaning against the closest plant, keeping it separated from the weed, Sir WHIP snorted out a little flame and burned the weed. In seconds it was rendered into a little pile of ash, and Sir WHIP merely stirred the ashes into the soil at the base of the plant.  He hummed a little work song as he moved up the row, the rhythm of the music making the work go more quickly. 

"What are you children doing there?  You're not smoking cigarettes, are you?" Mrs. Andrews said from over the fence in her back yard. 

"Oh no," Jo whispered, startled, and Kato whimpered.  Thinking quickly, he turned with a smile and answered, "Oh no, Mrs. Andrews, we don't smoke and neither does Kato.  We are doing some yard work for Mrs. Harris, and Kato saw a bunny in her garden and came to get us to see it, that's all." 

"I thought I saw some smoke," the lady said, still suspicious.

"No ma'am.  We don't mess with fire," Ro responded.  "We have to get back to work now," she said, and the children headed back for the front yard with Kato, and Sir WHIP ducked behind a tomato plant, hoping Mrs. Nosy Posy would go back inside her house. 

"Some people think kids are always up to no good," Ro said, shaking her head sadly. 

"Most people are nice, though," Jo said, thinking of Mrs. Levy, Mrs. Harris, and Mr. Lawrence. 

"Okay, we really have to hurry now, because Mrs. Andrews will probably be looking out her window when we return to weed the garden," Ro said softly.  "Some people should know the difference between neighborhood watch and neighborhood snoop." 

Jo nodded, grimacing, picking up the weed whacker as Ro revved up the mower.  Within half an hour they were finished in the front yard and starting around the side of the house, Kato prancing along happily beside them, looking around for flying bugs to play tag with.  Every now and then he would see a little puff of smoke in the garden, but not much, and Sir WHIP was almost finished weeding.  His plan had been brilliant. 

As they finished mowing and whacking, Ro and Jo looked toward the garden, and saw Sir WHIP at the far end of the last row, sitting back against a pepper plant, resting from all his work.  He'd done a beautiful job, not a weed in sight anywhere! 

"I hope Mrs. Andrews stays inside her house, because it smells a little smoky out here," Jo said, sweeping the debris off the path he'd edged. 

"I don't see her," Ro said, with her broom at the other end of the path, working toward her brother, hurrying now, because it had been a little over an hour and they needed to get out of Mrs. Harris' yard before she came home and found them.  Mom said true good deeds should be done anonymously, without the person you're doing the work for knowing who you are. 

"Me either," Jo said, almost able to bop his sister's broom with his own.  Just then Mrs. Andrews' back door opened, and she hurried across her yard toward the fence, carrying something in her hand. 

"Children, could you come here?" she called out, and she sounded more cheerful than she had earlier. 

Ro and Jo shrugged and headed for the fence.  Mrs. Andrews reached over and handed the Ziploc bag of homemade cookies to Jo.  "I'm sorry children.  You've been working very hard doing something nice for Mrs. Harris.  I was wrong about you smoking, of course, and I wanted to apologize.  Maybe I need an eye exam…" she said, smiling.  "I could swear I saw smoke before." 

"Might have just been the sun shining on the plants, evaporating dew?" Ro suggested, remembering her science class in school. 

Mrs. Andrews nodded hopefully.  "Maybe you're right.  Anyway, I thought you might like some peanut butter cookies.  You know, Mrs. Harris has been puzzled about who has been mowing her lawn all summer," she said, winking at the children.  "It's a nice thing you're doing for her." 

Ro and Jo smiled, and Kato stood, tail sweeping back and forth, and gave a happy little yip. 

"There's enough to share with your little doggie, too, and your parents," Mrs. Andrews said. 

"Thank you, Mrs. Andrews!" Ro said.  "That was very nice of you.  And it's okay about before.  Smoke means fire, and if there was fire in Mrs. Harris' garden it would have been very dangerous." 

Mrs. Andrews smiled.  "Yes.  Very.  But I should have known nice children like you weren't doing anything wrong." 

"If there were a fire, we would be trying to put it out with the hose, believe me," Jo said, thinking the time Sir WHIP had set Ro and Jo's yard on fire. 
"Yes," Mrs. Andrews said, smiling.  "I imagine you would."  She looked over at the garden then, and said, "You did a fantastic job in that garden!  Not a weed in sight!"

Sir WHIP, still leaning against the pepper plant in the back of the garden, smiled.  He ruled, he thought, proud of himself and the work he'd done.  When he saw his pals starting across the yard to collect their gear, waving goodbye to Mrs. Andrews saying final thank-yous for the cookies, he leapt to his feet and waited for Kato.  The dog ran up and down the garden rows as if playing, and stopped to sniff the pepper plant Sir WHIP had been leaning against, to give his little (at the moment) sparkly orange friend a chance to hop up on his back and pretend to be a toy again.

Team Rojo made their way home, where they would enjoy their cookies with nice cold milk after putting the mower, weed whacker and brooms in the shed. 

They found Scales on the kitchen table already, that said, "Good deed."  They were accumulating a lot of them, that sparkled on Jo's vest and Ro's himation. 

"So next time, what do we do about the smoke?" Jo said, sipping milk. 

Just then Sir WHIP came out of Mom and Dad's room, having made himself large enough to carry an object that would fit in Jo's hand. 

Ro and Jo laughed when they realized what it was. 

"Mom's little fan!" Jo said. 

"I can sit it on it's little stand at the end of the row I'm working in, and it will blow the smoke away before it rises up above the plants," Sir WHIP said.  "All we need are some batteries to keep it running." 

"Dad will get us some, especially if he knows it's for doing good deeds," Ro said, munching a cookie and lifting Sir WHIP up onto the table to have one of his own.  "I love peanut butter cookies!" Sir WHIP said, chomping away. 

Jo petted Kato and tucked a cookie into his mouth.  "So does Kato!"

"So do we!" Ro said, handing out another cookie to herself and her brother.  "There are four left – two each for Mom and Dad," she said, zipping closed the plastic bag. 

"Awesome.  I say we finish the cookies, put the dishes in the dishwasher, and go check out the crystal ball in the fort and find out what Grandma Crystal is up to," Jo suggested. 

"Yeah!  Maybe she'll be in the mood to go swimming!"  Ro said, and then thought of her mermaid friends from her Princess Rosie days.  "We might even see Early and Shirley!" 

"Cool!  Let's go!" Jo said, rinsing his cup in the sink, and doing the same for Ro's when she handed it to him.  She tossed their napkins in the trash and wiped the table. 

Then Team RoJo, their good deed done for the day, headed out to the fort for high adventure! 

TD – 8/6/2016