Saturday, October 29, 2016

TEAM ROJO & FRIENDS - BLOG 23 - PIXIE AVALON AND THE GOBLINS

Pixie Avalon giggled and cooed as her Dartmoor Colt whisked her through the sky, in and out of the low-floating clouds, on the way to safety.  At the moment, she was the only one who knew what was going on.  She sighed softly when she felt her friend begin to fly lower and lower, knowing the fun ride was over. 
But she was only sad about that for a moment.  After all, she had new friends to meet and play with!  New friends who would keep her safe and sound until the danger in Pixie World had passed. 
It took her eyes a few moments to adjust to the dimmer lighting after her colt friend clattered on his little hooves into the Team RoJo fort, but soon she could see her new, magical friends' hangout.
She saw Sir WHIP shrink down to kid size, and BEN Owl shrink down to normal owl size and perch on Ro's shoulder, as he liked to do.  But Pixie Avalon also noticed that there was a railing all around the fort, about a foot down from the ceiling, so that BEN Owl could perch anywhere he liked, and have the best view of whatever was going on at that time. 
As soon as everyone was inside the fort, they crowded around the Dartmoor Colt as he took a long, well-deserved drink from Kato's bowl. 
"He's so cute!" Ro said, petting the tiny horse, rubbing his shoulders and around his wings gently, figuring they might be a little achy from the long flight.   The way the small animal leaned into her hands, she could tell she was right. 
When the colt was comfortable and his thirst was quenched, Team RoJo and their friends turned their attention to the basket where Pixie Avalon watched the Dartmoor Colt being well cared for. 
She knew she'd been right to run away (so to speak) and find a safe place. 
The Dartmoor Colt clip-clopped over to the table on which his friend, in her basket lay, and gave a little hop onto his back legs, his front hooves clunking on the table's bench.  He could just see Pixie Avalon's hair and eyes, and hear her little giggles and coos, reminding him that she really was just a baby, even if she was magical.  There was much she still needed to learn to be a full-fledged pixie.  
He looked around the fort at Ro and Jo, BEN Owl, Sir WHIP, and now Kato who'd burst into the fort through the doggie door within the regular door, and knew that this place was safe – Team RoJo made it safe.  In this place his friend could grow and learn about her magic – and her pixie family. 
Kato jumped up, plopping his front paws on the bench right next to the little colt's, and gave him a big kiss with his long tongue, welcoming him into the fort, one four-legged dude to the other.  The colt bumped his chin gently against Kato's, and made friends, just like that. 
Ro and Jo reached over to pet the little horse, and Ro said, "We will find your home and make sure you and your little Pixie Avalon get home safely." 
"No!" came a tiny voice, and all of Team RoJo's eyes turned to the basket in the middle of the table. 
"No, no, no, no, no," sang the little voice, playfully.  Ro and Jo glanced at each other, and then up at BEN Owl, who had flown to a perch on the railing nearest the table. 
"Is she saying no, or just singing a little baby pixie song, BEN Owl?" Ro asked.  "How much do you really know about Pixie Avalon?" 
BEN Owl cleared his throat, and said, "I know about pixies in general, and I knew that Pixie Avalon had been born recently, because there was a big Pixie Party and lots of excitement, as there always is when a baby pixie comes into the world.  What I cannot figure out is why she is here.  Why all the pixies, especially her mommy and daddy pixies, would let her out of their sight before she is ready." 
Just then the Dartmoor Colt whinnied, and sounded a little upset.  He shook his head back and forth, clearly meaning no, as Pixie Avalon still sang, "no, no, no, no, no…"
BEN Owl flew down and perched on the edge of Pixie Avalon's little basket and watched her mouth as she sang.  "Are you really saying no?"  he asked the tiny pixie. 
Pixie Avalon's big brown eyes blinked, and stared right back into BEN Owl's eyes. 
"She doesn't seem to be afraid of anything here," BEN Owl said, watching the little pixie smile, "and she's not singing no anymore." 
"Ben, Ben, Ben, Ben, Ben," sing-songed from the basket as soon as BEN Owl landed on its rim. 
"Don't you want to go home, little one?" Sir WHIP leaned in and asked Pixie Avalon, whose eyes go big and scared, and she started singing no again. 
Sir WHIP looked at BEN Owl and said, "She's frightened.  Whatever could be going on in Pixie World to frighten a little baby pixie like that?"
BEN Owl shook his head, while Ro and Jo leaned over the little basket and Jo said very softly, "Don't you worry, little Pixie Avalon, you can stay here as long as you want, and we will take good care of you." 
Pixie Avalon's cooing and giggling started up again, her brown eyes glistened, and then she drifted into a nap, as all babies do from time to time. 
"I think maybe we should fly on over to Pixie World and check out what's going on," Sir WHIP suggested to BEN Owl, who agreed, and the magical flying creatures left the fort on a quest for knowledge.
Just after they left, Ro, Jo, the Dartmoor Colt, and Kato sat around the table watching Pixie Avalon, all smiling at how darn cute she was, and they didn't notice as the doggie door, within the regular door of the fort, moved.  It lifted inward, and then lowered, all by itself!  And it did it four times before it stopped and stayed still. 
"Do baby pixies drink from bottles like human babies?" Jo asked his sister, whose brows rose up as she thought about his question. 
"She's sleeping, and quiet, she hasn't cried at all.  She dozed off pretty quick after the ride here.  I'll bet she'll be hungry when she wakes up.  You're probably right.  But where will we ever find a bottle small enough to fit in her itty-bitty little mouth?" Ro said. 
"How about that thing that comes with our medicine from the drugstore?" Jo suggested. 
"Oh yeah!  We could squeeze out a drop at a time!" Ro said softly, but with great excitement.  "Great idea, Jo!  I'll go get it!" She turned on the bench, but Jo stopped her. 
"I've got this," he said, turned toward the house, lifted his hand up before his chest and wiggled his fingers.  Soon the medicine squirter was in his hand.  "It's clean – Mom washed it really well after we used it last." 
"Great!" Ro said, and tilted her head toward the little fridge in the corner.  "And there's milk in there for Gramps Blaze's coffee.  I'm sure he won't mind if we use a little." 
"Probably only need a spoonful, or two," Jo said.  "She's so tiny, I doubt she'll drink much." 
Suddenly, something brushed Ro and Jo's arms, and they nearly fell back off the bench they were so startled! 
"What the…" Jo said, and saw Pixie Avalon's basket wiggle, as if someone were shaking it. 
Pixie Avalon's eyes popped open, and she began to yell, "Gob, gob, gob, gob, gob, gob!" She waved her arms out from under the blanket and smacked at the edges of the basket, as if there were actually hands there, jiggling it, to scare her.  Then she yelled some more: "GOB, GOB, GOB, GOB, GOB!"  For a pixie, she hollered very loud. 
"She's so scared!" Ro said, and just then she saw why. 
Above their heads, little pixies – five of them – flew around, their wings buzzing like bees. 
"Look at them!  There are pixies…" Jo said.  "They came to find their baby!"
"Look closer, Jo!" Ro said, her voice unhappy, maybe even a little scared – which surprised her brother.  Ro wasn't scared of hardly anything.  "They aren't pixies!  They’re ugly!  They look mean!" 
"Gob, Gob, Gob, Gob, Gob…" Pixie Avalon continued in her basket, her eyes flicking all around, watching the ugly little creatures flying close to the fort's ceiling. 
"Go away!" Ro shouted.  "You go away and leave Pixie Avalon alone, you hear me?" 
"Or you'll be sorry," Jo said, wiggling his fingers at them, but not using his magic yet – he wanted to give them a chance to leave, just in case they were ugly but not mean. 
"Goblins!" Ro gasped.  "That's what she's saying!  Goblins!!  They are like bad pixies!  Mean!  Remember that story Gramps Blaze told us about the goblins who kidnapped the fairy, and the brave chipmunk who rescued her?" 
"Yeah!  Those goblins are mean!  We can't let them get Pixie Avalon!" Jo said, and lifted his hands up toward the flying Goblins. 
Just then the goblins began dive-bombing Pixie Avalon as she lay in her basket, and she screamed, very afraid.  She wiggled inside the basket and Ro leaned over to try and pick her up, to protect her from the tiny, flying goblins. 
Jo had just raised his arms and was about to wiggle his fingers and take the bad guys out, when Pixie Avalon sat up in the basket, and POOF!
Wings sprouted out of her back!  Just like that! 
Pixie Avalon's wings glittered in the light coming through the window, as she flew to the ceiling, away from the goblins. 
Before Jo could react and wiggle his fingers, he heard the little twerps laughing, and then the goblins landed on BEN Owl's perch along the back wall. 
"That was mean to scare Pixie Avalon like that!" Ro said, her voice stern.  "Why would you do such a thing?!" 
And then something amazing happened.  The "goblins" began to peel away masks! 
Pixie Avalon hovered, sort of like a tiny magical helicopter, in the corner of the fort ceiling close to the door, still not sure about these laughing little buggers. 
But after a moment, when their masks were off, the baby Pixie giggled and flew right over to the goblins. 
"What are you doing, Pixie Avalon?" Ro called out, and Pixie Avalon turned in mid-air, holding a finger up to her lips, reminding Ro and Jo that their normal speaking voices were way too loud for fairies and pixies. 
Pixie Avalon flew over and landed between two of the goblins, and they hugged her very happily. 
Then all the little winged creatures flew down from BEN Owl's high perch and landed on the edge of Pixie Avalon's basket. 
"Hey!  You guys aren't goblins at all!" Jo said, remembering to be surprised in a quiet voice. 
"You're pixies!" Ro whispered excitedly.  "Why would you want to scare Pixie Avalon like that?"
The two former goblins that Pixie Avalon had flown to and had hugged her, fluttered down to sit on the table before Ro and Jo who'd sat down on the bench side by side, figuring there was a story coming – and they were right. 
The lady pixie said, "We are Pixie Avalon's mommy and daddy.  Pixie Avalon is three months old, and that means, in Pixie World, that it's time for her to sprout her wings and learn to use them." 
Ro and Jo both said, "Ohhh!" getting it. 
"You know how mommy and daddy birds sort of push the baby birds off the edge of their nest to show them that they have wings and can fly?" Daddy Pixie asked Ro and Jo. 
"Sure.  Baby birds just automatically use their wings – it's instinct," Ro said, using a word she'd learned in her science class. 
"Exactly!" Mommy bird said.  "Mommy and daddy pixies usually place favorite toys, sweets, and other things high up on shelves so that the babies sprout their wings and use them to get what they want." 
"That's very clever," Ro said. 
"And a little sneaky," added Jo, giggling. 
"It usually works, but sometimes a baby needs a little more of a push," Mommy Pixie said.  "Pixie Avalon was one of those babies.  We simply could not get her to sprout her wings." 
Daddy Pixie continued:  "Baby pixies' instinct, when they are frightened, is to use their wings to fly away and escape what scares them.  So, we dressed up as goblins to frighten her, but she saw Mommy Pixie fitting my costume to me before she finished making it one night.  She thought I was a real goblin, and got Tick-Tock – her Dartmoor Colt – to take her away."
"Tick-Tock?" Jo asked. 
"She calls him that, I guess because that's the sound his hooves make on the floor in our home," Mommy Pixie said, smiling, her arm still linked around Pixie Avalon's. 
"We are very grateful to you for rescuing our baby," Daddy Pixie said.  "And we are very relieved that Tick-Tock found someone magical who would follow him." 
"We only meant to startle Pixie Avalon into using her wings.  Other pixie mommies and daddies have done the same kind of thing many times in the past, and it worked just fine." 
"Well, Pixie Avalon is not an average pixie, it seems," Ro said, smiling. 
Once the story was told, Pixie Mommy dug in the folds of her goblin costume and pulled out bits of apple and grapes, and Pixie Avalon gobbled them up, then burped contentedly. 
"Oh, we thought she would need milk," Jo said, showing the medicine squirter to Pixie Avalon's mommy and daddy. 
"How clever!" Pixie Mommy said, a big smile on her face.  "But baby pixies don't need milk once they sprout their wings.  They sprout all their teeth at the same time, and can begin eating regular food," she explained. 
"Good to know," Ro said, tugging the Team RoJo Journal toward her from the opposite edge of the table.  She jotted down all she had just learned about Pixie Avalon and Pixie World. 
Once all the pixies had enjoyed some refreshments, they flew out the door that Jo held open for them, and disappeared into the night, heading toward the cozy glow of Pixie World. 
Just as they flew away, Sir WHIP and BEN Owl returned from their quest. 
"There are several pixies missing from Pixie World!" BEN Owl said.  "And the rest of them were tight-lipped about what's going on.  There's obviously some sort of crisis…"
Ro smiled at her confused and frustrated friends, tilting her head, signaling for them to come inside the fort.  "We know all about it.  Wait until you hear this story." 
On the way home, safe, flying between her parents in the middle of a whole group of her pixie friends and family, Pixie Avalon did her first loop-de-loop! 
And giggled happily. 

TD – 10/29/2016

Sunday, October 23, 2016

TEAM ROJO & FRIENDS - BLOG 22 - PIXIE AVALON

Jo's eyes popped open, just as the sun was coming up, and he swung his legs over the side of his bed to go into the living room and tell Ro to turn down the TV, but as he stood there rubbing his eyes, he realized the hoof-beats that had awoken him weren’t coming from the living room, or Mom and Dad's room, either. 
They were coming from the ceiling.  That meant they were coming from the roof. 
Jo, a little freaked out, went into Ro's room and shook her awake, which was a hard thing to do, because Ro slept like a rock and always had. 
"What?" Ro said, pulling the covers up over her frazzled-hair head, a little grumpy at being awakened so early. 
"Did you hear the hoof-beats on the roof?"
"No, and neither did you – you must have been dreaming," Ro's grumpy voice, muffled by her covers, blew off her brother's intrusion into her own dream about flying on BEN Owl's back and doing loop-de-loops with their seagull friends.
"No.  It wasn't a dre…" Jo started to say, and then…
THRUMP! THRUMP! THRUMP!
Hoofbeats from the roof again. 
Ro threw back her covers.  "Okay.  I heard that.  What in the world?"
PJs and all, Ro and Jo hurried through the kitchen and out the back door into the yard.  They walked halfway to the Team RoJo fort and then turned back toward the house. 
Sure enough, there on the roof was a little colt. 
"How did a baby horse get up on the roof?" Jo asked his sister, who usually knew just about everything. 
"I don't know, but I think the big question right now is how are we going to get him down from there before he falls and hurts himself," Ro answered.  Jo looked over at Ro, waggled his eyebrows at her, and then held his hands in front of her eyes and wiggled his fingers. 
Ro nodded, looking around, wary of neighbors up early letting dogs outside.  They seemed to be in the clear for the moment, and Ro said, "okay go ahead." 
Jo held his hands in front of his chest, trying not to look obvious, and made a smooth, 'come here' gesture to the colt. 
In a chorus of nickers and whinnies, the small animal rose off the roof shingles and slowly floated to the ground between Ro and Jo.  Just before the little horse landed softly, Ro suddenly got a very clear image in her head of a pumpkin patch.  And then she got an image of the baby horse landing in that pumpkin patch, with her and her brother on his back.  She got a strong feeling from the little horse, that she and Jo were going to find something very important there, that their help was urgently needed. 
"Well then, we have to go.  We are Team RoJo, and we are supposed to help people," Jo said 
"Yes, well, we're also supposed to let Mom and Dad know what's up when we take off," Ro said, already heading for the house.
"There's one other thing," Jo said.
"What's that?" Ro stopped, halfway to the back door, a little impatient at the interruption. 
"How are we supposed to ride him? Look at how tiny he is – we'd break his back." 
That one stopped Ro in her tracks.   She turned back to the baby horse and stared at him.  She asked him if he could make himself bigger, like BEN Owl and Sir WHIP do when Ro and Jo need a magical ride to some distant place or time. 
The tiny colt shook its head no. 
"We're going to need help with this one," Jo said, smiling.  "And I think I know just who I need to find.  Go tell Mom and Dad what's going on, and I will get started on this." 
Ro ran inside at top speed, which was pretty quick – Ro was the fastest sprinter in her whole class at school, and ran like the wind on the baseball diamond, always making her team proud. 
Jo led the small horse into the fort, and closed the door behind them.  The colt looked around, and took a little drink out of Kato's water dish, as Jo walked over to the crystal ball and held his hands over it as he had seen Grandma Crystal do many times before.  Gradually, swirling mists filled the ball, and then, when they began to clear a face appeared.  A face that was very dear to Ro and Jo, and even now it smiled out at its grandson. 
Gramps Blaze nodded, understanding that Jo needed help, and within a second stood outside the crystal ball, ready to lend a hand – a magical hand, of course.
"Where on earth did you find a Dartmoor colt?" Gramps Blaze asked, so surprised by the baby horse's presence that he forgot his manners and didn't even say hello to Jo.
"Umm, he sort of found us, actually," Jo said, as he & Gramps Blaze both stared at the wee animal. 
"I see," Gramps Blaze said, just as Ro burst into the fort. 
"Okay, Mom and Dad know what's going on – at least they know as much as I do," Ro said, stepping up beside the little horse.  "Hi Gramps Blaze, how are you doing this morning?"
"Hi sweetie, I'm fine.  What has the Dartmoor colt told you?"  Gramps Blaze asked. 
"Dartmoor colt?" she said. 
"I'll explain later.  If he's shown himself to human beings, there must be a very important reason – maybe even an emergency." 
"Yes.  He's planted pictures of a pumpkin patch in my head.  We need to go there – but he wants us to ride him, and so, Jo called on you to maybe make him big enough so that we don't hurt him." 
"You don't need help from me," Gramps Blaze said to the children's surprise. 
"We don't?" they both said at the same time. 
"No.  You just need a lift from Sir WHIP and BEN Owl," Gramps Blaze explained. 
"The colt will have his own passenger – and you might need a basket and some bungee cords and a blanket."
"Why?" Jo asked, and immediately realized it was silly to ask Gramps Blaze any more about what he said to do.  Just follow directions, and he would understand sooner or later.  He shrugged and said, "never mind.  This is one of those things we have to figure out for ourselves, right?" 
Gramps Blaze smiled and hugged his grandson.  "Right-o!" 
Before they even called out to them with their voices, Sir WHIP and BEN Owl appeared inside the fort, thanks to magical help from Gramps Blaze.  "That I could do," he said, having brought everyone together fast to save the children some time.
"Thanks, Gramps Blaze," Ro and Jo both said, hugging their grandfather wizard before he disappeared in a puff of white smoke. 
"Can the little horse ride on your back, Sir WHIP?"  Jo asked his fried, and was very surprised when Sir WHIP said no.
"Wait!  Why not?" Ro asked. "This trip is important!" 
"I'm well aware of that," Sir WHIP said.  "But that Dartmoor colt is perfectly capable of keeping up with us."
"But…" Jo began to say as everyone made their way outside. 
"No buts!  Just pay attention!" Sir WHIP's nose puffed out a little smoke, which usually meant he was losing his patience with silly questions, or that time was being wasted. 
The very next moment the little colt floated up into the air before Ro and Jo's eyes! 
"He's magical?" Jo said. 
"He can fly?" Ro said. 
BEN Owl rolled his eyes.  "I don't understand why the two of you are always so shocked when creatures turn out to be magical.  You are surrounded by magic.  Your whole family is magic.  You yourselves are magic," the wise old owl said as Ro climbed aboard his back, and Jo mounted Sir WHIP. 
"He has a point," Jo said to his sister, inside her head because they were already airborne, and the wind was in all their ears.  Ro nodded, laughing.  Her owl friend was certainly right about that.  After all the wonderful things they'd seen since they found out about their powers, nothing should really surprise them, should it? 
They flew for what seemed like forever, and finally, finally they came to a patch of land covered with big, fat leaves.
"It's the pumpkin patch I saw in my head!" Ro shouted into everyone's head with her mind, and pointed down.  Then the little colt took the lead and flew down toward the plants with their orange orbs beneath them.  Team RoJo landed softly, Sir WHIP and BEN Owl careful to avoid stepping on the vines. 
"So what's the big emergency?" Ro said softly to the Dartmoor colt. 
The little horse whinnied and, with his front hoof, tapped the ground before him, shaking the leaf of the plant nearest him. 
And then they heard it – all of them – a tiny gurgle. 
"What the…" Jo said, sounding like Dad without realizing it. 
Ro carefully stepped closer to the plant the small horse had tapped with his hoof, and lifted the leaf.  Her gasp drew her friends in closer. 
"Oh my goodness," she whispered, reaching under the great leaves of the pumpkin plant, between two pumpkins that seemed to guard what Ro now touched, and began to scoop from its cozy niche.  "It's an itty-bitty baby!" she said, lifting the teeny infant into her arms, much like she had Jo when she'd first met her little brother. 
All of Team RoJo stood around Ro as she held the tiny baby. 
"Look," Jo said, "her little ears are pointy on top.  Is she some sort of alien, like Mr. Spock?"
"Been watching a little too much Star Trek with Nana Terri," Sir WHIP said softly, and warned the children: "Be careful to talk quietly," he said, and Ro finished for him. 
"Right!" she whispered.  "Fairies ears are very sensitive.  It's best to whisper around them." 
"Very good, Ro!" BEN Owl beamed at his friend, who had remembered childhood lessons she'd been taught while on adventures with him. 
"Well of course I remembered," Ro said to BEN Owl inside his head with her own mind.  "How could I forget all of our wonderful times in Rosieland!" 
Mind to mind, Ro sang the little baby in her arms a lullaby that Nana Terri used to sing to her: "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes," from Cinderella.  She'd always loved that one, and apparently, so did this baby – whatever it was – she thought.  Still singing to the baby in her head, she turned to BEN Owl and whispered, "She's a fairy baby, isn't she?"
"A pixie baby, actually, and her name is Avalon." BEN Owl replied.  "And I think you and your brother are meant to take care of her for a while until the fairies come to collect her." 
There in the magical, fairy pumpkin patch, Ro, Jo, and Sir WHIP looked back and forth at one another, not really surprised.  Just another day in their magical family. 
"What are we supposed to do now?" Jo asked softly, rubbing Avalon's little cheek with the back of his pointer finger, as she grabbed his pinkie with her itty bitty little hand, which didn't even fit all the way around his smallest finger. 
"Wrap her in the blanket you brought along," BEN Owl instructed as Ro got the soft afghan that Nana Terri had crocheted for her when she was a baby, out of the basket they'd brought along on the adventure.  "And while Ro does that, Jo, you need to bungee the basket to the colt's back." 
Just then, BEN Owl stopped talking, and listened as Ro's voice blurted inside his head, "Wait!  No bungee necessary." 
"Ah yes," BEN Owl said on a sigh.  "Dartmoor colts are magical horses, sworn to help and protect pixies.  The basket will balance magically on the wee horse's back, and Avalon will be fine." 
Jo placed the basket on the back of the colt, and surprisingly (to you and me, not so much to Team RoJo) it balanced there perfectly, even when the small horse backed up to Ro and nudged her leg with his butt.  She chuckled as she placed tiny baby Avalon inside the basket, and folded the top corner of the blanket down over her face to protect her from the chilly air high above. 
All the way back to the fort, Ro wondered why on earth little Avalon was sleeping in a pumpkin patch, how on earth BEN Owl knew her name, where on earth she really belonged, and who on earth were her mommy and daddy.  So many questions. 
She wouldn't find out all the answers yet.  They would come soon, though, and some of them would be a little scary. 
Just in time for Halloween next week!  Make sure that one of your treats is the rest of this RoJo Adventure story!  See you then! 

TD – 10/23/2016

Sunday, October 16, 2016

TEAM ROJO & FRIENDS - BLOG 21 - GHOST TOWN ADVENTURE

Inside the Team RoJo fort, Ro researched away at the table, taking notes, smiling, very excited by what she was reading.  Suddenly, Jo burst through the door, looking for the hoodie he'd taken off while helping Dad rake leaves. 
"Hi.  Getting a little chilly.  Mom and I are carving another pumpkin on the picnic table.  Wanna come help?"  Jo said.

"Maybe later, I'm kind of busy right now," Ro answered, scrolling down her laptop screen.

"What's up?" he asked Ro, who continued scribbling notes into her tablet so fast the tip of her pen looked like a blur. 

"I'm reading about this hotel in Arizona that's haunted." 

"You mean there are ghosts living there?" 

"Yep.  BEN Owl found the link on the computer when I was looking up stuff about Halloween." 

"Do you believe in ghosts?" Jo asked, straddling the bench next to his sister, curious.

"Well, Mom and Dad say there's no such thing.  But with all the magical stuff that goes on in our family, I don't see why there couldn't be ghosts." 

Jo nodded, thinking over Ro's logic.  "You may be right." 

"There's this hotel in an old mining ghost town – Jerome.  It's supposed to be haunted and it has a bunch of different ghosts in it."

"Really?" Jo asked, leaning in to see the screen of the laptop.  "It doesn't look like a haunted house." 

"Any house can be haunted, not just spooky-looking places you see at Halloween," Ro said.  "This hotel is for real.  People can rent rooms there, and sometimes the ghosts appear to them.  And they play tricks on the maids – open and close doors, call their names and stay invisible, all kinds of stuff." 

"Wow! How far away is Arizona?"

"Oh, about 2316 miles away as the crow – or in this case, owl – flies," BEN Owl said from Ro's left shoulder, and Jo looked up at his wise face from Ro's right side and whistled. 

"That sure is a long way from Pennsylvania!" Jo said. 

"Yes, it certainly is," BEN Owl said, and gave a little pondering hoot. 

"There are a couple of old men ghosts who people have seen, but on the third floor, there is supposed to be a little boy ghost – about six years old," Ro told her brother all about everything she'd learned. 

"Wouldn't it be cool if we could visit him?" Jo said. 

"Why can't we?" BEN Owl said to the children's surprise.

"Um, 2316 miles away," Ro reminded him softly. 

"Well, it's a long flight, I'll admit, but I think Sir WHIP and I could handle it," BEN Owl said. 

"Wait!  It doesn't have to even be a flight!" Jo said, excitedly, and Ro's eye began to sparkle, as she caught onto his meaning. 

"We have to tell Mom and Dad what's going on," Ro said, already swinging her leg up and over the bench and swiveling around.  Within seconds she was in the kitchen where Mom was making a cup of tea after finishing up the pumpkin outside. 

"Hi Mom.  I was researching a haunted hotel in Arizona this morning and Jo came in.  I was telling him about a little boy ghost who lives on the third floor of the hotel, and he thought it would be cool to visit the hotel and meet him.  BEN Owl thought that he and Sir WHIP could handle the flight, but Jo said it would be easier…"

"To use the crystal ball?" Mom finished the sentence for her daughter, nodding.  "He's right.  That kid is really latching onto the magical talents of our family," she said, smiling.  "Remember, it's chilly here in October, but it's like summer in Arizona.  Please be careful.  It's not an abandoned hotel, is it?"

"No!  You can stay there just like any other hotel – this one's just haunted." 

Mom chuckled.  "You might want to remember your cameras, just in case the little boy appears to you."

"Yeah! That's right!" Ro said, and called out the back door to Jo.  "Get our camera, my notebook and a pen into a backpack in the fort, please!  Then come inside and change into some shorts and a tee shirt – it's hot in Arizona!" 

"Okay!" Jo said, returning inside the fort as BEN Owl flew over from the fort roof to land on Ro's shoulder before she closed the door. 

Mom glanced over, and seeing BEN Owl, smiled and said, "You promise to keep an eye on them, old friend?" 

"Of course! They shall be safe on my watch, I promise." 

"Done deal, then; now scoot and get changed!  Do you want a couple peanut butter sandwiches in case you get hungry?" Mom said as Ro moved toward the kitchen door on her way to change, and Jo burst in the back door. 

"Yes, please!" Ro and Jo both sang out at once, and Jo tore through the kitchen, Kato meeting him in the hallway and following him into his room.  "Wanna come, Kato?" Mom heard her son say as he shimmied out of his jeans and then into shorts that he found in his drawer, along with a tee shirt.  Kato yipped, wagging his tail, and followed Jo back out into the kitchen, where Mom was tucking some peanut butter sandwiches into the backpack that Jo had hung on the back doorknob when he'd come inside. 

**

Within minutes Ro and Jo, BEN Owl and Kato stood around the crystal ball on the table inside the fort, watching its mists swirl and then clear up.  They could see the haunted hotel as clear as it appeared in the picture online, and Ro beamed.  "This is going to be so cool!" 

Ro and Jo held hands, BEN Owl perched on Ro's shoulder, Jo's other hand holding onto Kato's collar, and they felt themselves begin to shrink, when suddenly, the fort door burst open and in leapt Sir WHIP!

"You guys were planning a trip without me?" he asked, sounding like his feelings were kindof hurt.

"We thought you were still asleep – there were no lights on in your house in my room when I looked," Jo said. 

"I was meditating with the lights off."

"Oh.  What's that?" Jo said, and Ro nudged him. 

"It doesn't matter right this minute! We were all ready to leave."

"Oh, yeah.  Sir WHIP, we are leaving to visit a haunted hotel in Arizona.  You game?"

"Sure!  I have many ghost friends." 

"You do?" Ro and Jo said at the same time, surprised. 

"Well of course!  I have dragon friends who live around castles in Europe, and a lot of those castles are haunted.  We'll have to visit them sometime." 

"But right now we're on our way to Arizona," Ro said, and taking Sir WHIP's clawed hand, the team felt themselves shrink and shrink until they were small enough to fit inside the crystal ball…

…and then grow and grow until they were normal size again, so they could explore the hotel and hopefully make a friend of the little boy ghost. 

"Wow," Ro said, looking around.  "That crystal ball is sure smart.  We are on the third floor of the hotel!" 

"Yeah.  It always seems to know just where we want to go and poof!  There we are!" Jo agreed. 

They walked quietly up the hall, hoping that they wouldn't get in trouble for being there, since they weren't exactly guests of the hotel. 

Turning a corner, they saw no one, and decided to walk to the next corner and see what was around it.  Halfway there, the air in the middle of the hall began to shimmer, and then a sort of fog appeared. 

The fog gradually began to take the shape of a boy.  A little boy ghost! 

Ro and Jo froze in their tracks, Sir WHIP in Jo's pocket, and BEN Owl on Ro's shoulder lurching at the sudden stop.  Kato, not realizing his friends weren't beside him, walked right on up to the glimmering little boy, and sniffed his feet and knees. 

The little boy smiled and began to fade. 

"No wait!  Don't go!  We're friends!" Ro called out, but not too loudly, since she wasn't supposed to be there, really. 

The little boy heard her, and tilted his head, still smiling.  He shimmered a little brighter, though Ro, Jo, Sir WHIP, BEN Owl, and Kato could all see the wall behind him. 

"We came a long way to meet you.  We read about you on the computer…" Jo said, and Ro interrupted him. 

"He isn't going to understand what a computer is."

"Oh.  Yeah, that's right," Jo murmured, and then said, "We read about you, and thought it might be a little lonely here for you, being the only little kid gho…" he stopped before he could say the whole word 'ghost,' thinking it might frighten the little boy or hurt his feelings. 

"Ghost.  It's okay.  I know I'm a ghost," the little boy said, still smiling, and he sort of floated toward Jo and Ro, Kato backing up, not taking his eyes off the little boy.  Small and see-through or not, the boy was still a stranger and it never hurt to be careful. 

"I really like your dog.  I haven't seen one in a long time – the hotel doesn't allow pets," the little boy said, squatting down to gently pet Kato. 

"That's sad," Ro said, dropping to her knees to join her new-found friend in the Kato-petting.   Kato began to relax as the boy found the sweet spot behind his ears. 

"I'm Ro, and this is my little brother Jo, BEN Owl, and Sir WHIP, our dragon friend." 

"What a wonderful toy dragon!  His eyes move and everything!" the boy said, standing back up again, and leaning to take a closer look at Sir WHIP in Jo's pocket.  Just as he moved closer, Sir WHIP puffed a little smoke toward the boy.  "Holy cannoli!" the boy said, jerking backwards.  "How did he do that?"

With that Jo lifted Sir WHIP out of his pocket and sat him gently on the floor.  Within moments Sir WHIP began to grow to the size of the little boy, who stood, astonished, as a real live dragon grew before him, blowing smoke rings from his nose. 

"Because, young man, I am Sir Winston Howard Ignatius Pendragon – or as the children call me, Sir WHIP.  And your name would be?"

It took a moment before the boy found his voice again, so surprised was he at the sight of a dragon in the hallway of a hotel, but finally he said, "Timmy.  My name is Timmy." 

Ro and Jo smiled at Timmy as he continued to stare at Sir WHIP, amazed.

"It's nice to meet you, Timmy," Ro said. 

Timmy stood up, curious about BEN Owl, sitting so still on Ro's shoulder.  "He's beautiful!  You said his name is Ben Owl – like Benjamin Franklin?"

"Well, though Benjamin Franklin was an amazing man, my full name is Bellerophon Euclid Nicodemus Owl, and I am descended from Athena's owl's line. 

Timmy continued to smile.  "You and Sir WHIP have really long names, huh?" Not realizing who Athena was, but nevertheless impressed that BEN Owl, like his sparkly orange friend, could speak. 

"It must be interesting being a ghost," Ro said, trying to satisfy her curiosity without being impolite. 

"Oh, it sure is!  I play tag with house flies, I say hello to the maids and then disappear, I go behind them and turn the lights on as soon as they turn them off, you know, the usual trickster stuff." 

"Isn't that kindof mean?" Ro asked through quiet giggles.

"Oh no!  They know I'm playing with them, and they always laugh," Timmy said.  "Watch!"

Timmy told the Team RoJo friends where to stand so they wouldn't be seen, and as the maid came up the hall with her cart full of cleaning supplies, clean linens, and laundry bin, he started his shenanigans. 

One maid, named Angie, started laughing the first time a light went on behind her as she started out of a room.  She stood with her hands on her hips, smiling, shaking her head back and forth and said, "Okay little one, you got me!  Come out, come out wherever you are!"

Suddenly, Timmy appeared before her, giggled and wiggled his fingers in a mischievous little wave, then vanished – at least for Angie.  Ro and Jo could still see him plain as day. 

"See?" Timmy said, returning to his friends around the corner in the hallway. "They know I'm just playing a game with them." 

"It's really cool to be a ghost!  You get to play all day, never have to do chores or homework, never have to take a bath…" Jo said, and stopped when he saw sadness in Timmy's eyes. 

"The only thing wrong is I can never leave this hotel." 

Ro said, "With all your friends here, and all the fun you have do you really want to?"

"Sometimes.  I used to have a friend whose papa built him a treehouse in back of his house.  I got to play in it a couple of times and it was so much fun!" 

"A treehouse, huh?" Jo said, and Ro could hear ideas beginning to form in her brother's head. 

"Yes!  It was fantastic!  Nobody could see us up there – it was like a secret hiding place.  We had all kinds of pretend adventures – that we were pirates on a ship, that we were bank robbers hiding out, that we were bears in a cave, watching people below – it was terrific!" 

"So you want a place of your own where you can play and pretend?" Jo said.  "Would that make you happier?" 

"So happy!" Timmy said, shimmering more brightly before his new friends. 

Jo nodded, rubbing his hands together.  "Would you settle for a rooftop fort?" 

Timmy's eyes clouded with confusion.  "Well, sure, but what are you talking about?  Where would we get the supplies to build such a thing?"

"I'm thinking," Jo said, rubbing his hand on his chin like Gramps Blaze or Poppop sometimes did when they were deep in thought, planning their own projects.  "How do we get up on the roof?" 

Timmy took them up there, and they found it was mostly flat. 

Jo smiled and said, "perfect."  Then he closed his eyes and thought really hard until another shimmery person appeared before him.  Ro's whole faced beamed in delight. "Poppy!" she said, and leaped at him.  He made himself solid enough for her to hug, and Jo hugged him as well. 

"So you must have woken me out of a sound sleep for a reason, huh?" he asked, and Jo nodded. 

"We sure did!  Can you tell me how to build a fort up here, and how to get the supplies?"

"Wow!  That's a tall order.  Building a fort is no easy thing, and the supplies, well, the supplies would be tricky.  We might need Gramps Blaze for that – he can create the stuff you'll need, being a wizard and all." 

"So we need Gramps Blaze for the stuff, and you for the plans?" Ro asked, already thinking hard, contacting Gramps Blaze with her mind.  Soon her kindly wizard Gramps stood next to her floating Poppy, and the two men shook hands just before Ro and Jo bombarded Gramps Blaze with hugs. 

Then Team RoJo, Gramps Blaze, and Poppy got down to business as Timmy watched, surprised and delighted by all their magic. 

Wood and nails, paint and rollers appeared out of thin air as Poppy told Gramps Blaze what was needed. 

Ro, Jo, Timmy, Kato, BEN Owl, and Sir WHIP watched – only Timmy with wide, astonished eyes – as the fort began to take shape.

Within fifteen minutes the small house was built, including windows on every side, an insulated roof, and AstroTurf beneath it to make it soft to sit on inside, and sort of like a little yard outside.  It was painted to match the hotel, like a little penthouse all Timmy's own. 

"Do you think the hotel people will let me keep it?" Timmy said, clapping in delight as he floated in and out of the fort, giggling. 

"Of course!  Because they won't be able to see it," Gramps Blaze explained.  "I put a spell on the whole thing so no one can see it but you and your friends." 

"Holy cow!" Timmy said, hugging Gramps Blaze and Poppy for the awesome thing they had done for a little ghost boy.  "Thank you!" 

"And we will come back and play with you!" Ro said. 

"But we have chores and homework and magic stuff too, so maybe not every day," Jo said.  "But whenever we can!" 

"I can hardly wait!  Let's play now!" Timmy said, clapping. 

Gramps Blaze said, "I think I heard your dad say something about the trash needing to be taken out on my way over Pennsylvania.  You may want to play for a little while, and then hurry home and do chores as soon as you get there." 

Ro and Jo promised that as soon as they got back home they would do everything quick-as-a-bunny, and Ro concentrated hard and put that promise in Mom and Dad's heads. 

Gramps Blaze and Poppy faded away after hugs from everyone, children and magical animals alike, leaving Ro and Jo to play for hours with their ghostly friend.  They became explorers, pirates, miners, spies, astronauts (Ro and Jo spilled the beans about space shuttles and space stations, pictures from Mars, the whole thing.), and cops and robbers.  Even Kato, BEN Owl, and Sir WHIP got in on their games. 

As the hot sun got lower and lower in the Arizona sky, Ro and Jo began to think about home.  "We're really glad we came here to meet you, Timmy," Jo said, panting a little, from running around on the roof all day, playing game after game with his friends. 

"It's been a fantastic day!" Timmy said.  "The best in my whole life!  So much more fun than even the treehouse!  Thank you for my fort!"

"We will come back and play soon!" Ro said, hugging the little boy ghost, trying to keep her arms from passing through him. 

Then Ro, Jo, Kato, BEN Owl, and Sir WHIP stood close together and began to fade from Timmy's sight as he waved, a big smile on his face.

As Ro and Jo and their friends floated out of the crystal ball into their fort in their yard, Timmy floated into his own fort on the hotel roof in Arizona, all of the friends already planning their next adventures in their heads. 

TD – 10/16/2016