Thursday, April 11, 2013

What is this rhinoceros doing in my living room?

The rhinoceros sat on my sofa, his feet upon the coffee table.  He looked down his nose, and around his horn at me, puffing on his pipe.

“Hmm,” he said.

I thought to myself, “What is this rhinoceros doing in my living room?”

Taking his pipe from his mouth, the rhinoceros said, “Do you have anything to eat?”

I should tell this big, fat rhinoceros to take his big, muddy feet off our coffee table and put out that smelly pipe! I thought to myself.

But I just looked at the rhinoceros, sitting there on the sagging sofa. He shifted his feet, and the coffee table creaked and groaned. And then, “CRACK,” a leg of the coffee table broke and fell off.

The rhinoceros said, “Uff!”

Then the sofa made a sound like, “CRUUUNNCH,” and the side of the sofa where the Rhinoceros was sitting crashed to the floor, “Bam.”

The rhinoceros said, “Uff!” again, and his pipe fell in his lap. He grabbed for it with his big stump hands and tried to sweep the ashes off his lap.
I put my hand over my mouth trying to stifle a laugh.

“Your furniture is pretty flimsy,” the rhinoceros said. He seemed irritated.

I didn’t want to look at him. I might laugh. So I looked out the window.


Cody, our cat, was sneaking through the bushes hunting birds, or mice, or squirrels, or whatever he thought was interesting that morning.
The rhinoceros was busy trying to get comfortable on the sofa. I decided to go out and see what Cody was up to.

We lived out on Forest Lane and our back yard meandered off into the woods. We always had lots of forest creatures come visiting, usually looking for food, but sometimes just to be nosey.

This morning, Berty, the blue jay, was making a racket, bawling out Cody for sneaking around doing his hunting.
Cody would stop sneaking, sit back and look up and give Berty a disgusted look. I think Cody said, “Can’t you be quiet, Berty? You’re scaring away the squirrels on purrrr-puss.”

Berty hopped from limb to limb, all the time cocking her head and keeping an eye on Cody. “Am not, am not,” Berty said.

Cody pretended to be washing his paws. First he did the right paw. He turned it this way and that carefully washing it with his pink little cat’s tongue. Then he lifted the left paw, glanced up at Berty, and began washing it in the same careful way. When he was through, he got up slowly and very nonchalantly walked off into the woods.

I was just about to follow Cody when Berty hoped near me and said, “That cat is very sneaky!”

I looked up at Berty sitting there with her head cocked to one side staring down at me. “He’s just being a cat,” I said.

“Exactly!” said Berty, and flew off into the woods.


I stepped through the hedge that separated our yard from the woods and looked around for Cody. He was nowhere to be seen. “Where is that cat?” I said.

“Oh he’s around here somewhere, you bet!”

I looked around. “Who said that?” I asked.

I saw the bushes move, and then a squirrel came out.

“Who are you?” I asked the squirrel.

“You sure have a lot of questions,” said the squirrel, and scampered up a tree. He sat on a limb looking down at me.

“Who are you?” he said.

“I live in that house,” I said and turned and pointed back the way I’d come.

“I don’t see any house,” said the squirrel.

“It’s back there through the trees and behind the hedge.”

“Well, I can’t see through trees or over hedges,” said the squirrel.

“Well, I assure you the house is there. It has a rhinoceros in it.”

The squirrel started laughing, “Har, har, har, har. A rhinoceros indeed,” it said.


I saw a funny looking tree nearby and said to the squirrel, “See that tree? I’ll climb it and show you my house.”
I started to climb the tree. All of a sudden the tree trunk began to rise up and I found myself hanging from the trunk upside down.

“Just what do you think you’re doing?” the trunk said to me.

“I was climbing you to see if I could see my house. I didn’t expect a tree trunk to rise up in the air and turn upside down,” I said.

“Who are you calling a tree trunk?” said the tree trunk.

I heard laughter, “Har, har, har.” I looked down and saw the squirrel staring up at me hanging upside down on the talking tree.
“That’s not a tree, you silly little boy. That’s a giant squirrel with a big, long neck,” said the squirrel.

“Am not,” said the tree.

“What are you?” I asked.

“He has a lot of questions,” said the squirrel.

“I am a giraffe,” said the tree.

I turned my head around and looked up and sure enough, the tree had a head and the head had big ears, and little, stumpy horns, and big, soft eyes, with beautiful, long lashes, and big floppy lips.
“Why, you are a giraffe!” I said.

The giraffe lowered its head and said, “Would you please get off my neck?”

I slid off the giraffe’s neck and stood there looking up at the giraffe. It was as tall as the trees – taller!


I felt something pulling at my pants leg and looked down. The squirrel looked up at me and whispered, “What’s a giraffe, and how did it get so tall, and what’s it doing here?”
“My, you have a lot of questions,” I said to the squirrel.

I looked up at the giraffe. “What are you doing here?” I asked.

“I am looking for a rhinoceros,” said the giraffe.

“Oh!” I exclaimed. “There’s a rhinoceros in my house.”

“What’s a rhinoceros?” asked the squirrel.

Just then Cody the cat leaped out of the bushes with its claws out and its ears back and hissed at the squirrel, “Hisssss!”
The squirrel jumped high in the air and took off running as fast as its little legs could carry it.


Cody snickered, and then sat down, licked his front paw, and wiped his face with it. When he finished cleaning his face, he looked at me and said, “What are those tall, spotted poles you’re standing under?”

“Those aren’t poles,” I said. “Those are this giraffe’s legs,” and I pointed up at the giraffe.

Cody craned his head up and up and up and stared at the giraffe. “That’s the biggest, tallest, silliest looking squirrel I ever saw,” said Cody.

The giraffe lowered its head all the way down to the ground where Cody was sitting and blew air out between its floppy lips making a loud noise that sounded like, “Blatta-blatta-blatta-blatta thpftt!”

Cody yowled, jumped high in the air and ran off as fast as his legs could carry him.

“Now then,” said the giraffe, “Where did you say that rhinoceros was?”

“In my house,” I said. “Smoking a pipe. And it broke the coffee table, and the sofa,” I said, taking a deep breath.

“Rhino’s have no manners,” said the giraffe. “We had better go to your house and get the rhinoceros out. Will you show me where your house is?”

I looked around. Where is my house? I thought. I looked first one way and then another. I was getting worried. “Gee,” I said to the giraffe, “I don’t know which way to go.”
The giraffe brought its head down until it was looking me right in the eye. “I suppose you can climb back on my neck and look around. You’ll probably see it.”

So I did. But this time I stayed right side up.


The giraffe started raising its head. It went up and up and up. I got higher, and higher, and higher. “Oh, I’m getting dizzy,” I said to the giraffe.

“Hang on tight,” the giraffe said. I could see over the shrubs, then over the bushes, then over the dogwood trees, and then over the oak trees. And then I saw my house.

“There it is!” I shouted. “Over there!”

“Ouch!” said the giraffe. “You don’t have to shout. You’re hurting my ears,” and it waggled its big, soft ears.

The giraffe started walking towards my house. Its long, skinny legs stretched out and out, front and back, back and front, in long, loping, slow motion strides. Suddenly there we were in my backyard.

“Gee, you sure move fast for moving so slow,” I said.

“I have really long legs,” said the giraffe, and lowered its head so I could get off. “Now where is that rhinoceros?”

I ran over and opened the back door, “Come on in,” I said to the giraffe.


The giraffe was taller than my house. It lowered its head and looked in the door. “I don’t think so,” said the giraffe. “You better go in and tell Rollo to come out.”

“Who’s Rollo?” I asked.

“The Rhino,” said the giraffe. “He’s Rollo. My name is Jessica.” Jessica batted her long, beautiful lashes at me.

I ran in the house and found Rollo sitting on the sofa where I’d left him. He was fast asleep. I went over and poked his shoulder.

“Uff,” said Rollo. “What, what, uh?”

“Jessica is outside. She’s looking for you,” I said.

Rollo rolled off the sofa and lumbered out the door. I followed close behind, but not too close. Rollo was big and clumsy.

When Jessica saw Rollo she turned her head to the side and looked at him with just one eye. She fluttered her lips and said, “What do you think you’re doing in this boys house?”

Rollo looked at the ground. “Nothing,” he said.

“Were you smoking a pipe?” asked Jessica.

“It wasn’t my pipe,” said Rollo.

Jessica shook her head. “Well, that certainly doesn’t make it right, does it?”

Rollo just rocked sideways and didn’t say anything.

“We have to go back, now,” said Jessica.

“Where are you from?” I asked.
“We’re kinda on vacation from the zoo,” said Rollo.

Jessica fluttered her floppy lips. “Vacation, indeed. Rollo just decided to take a walk right through the fence. Didn’t you Rollo?”

Rollo swayed from side to side and didn’t say anything.

“Didn’t you Rollo?” said Jessica.

“I was just going to find something to eat,” said Rollo.

Jessica looked at me. “I’m sorry if Rollo caused you problems. He's just a little boy, you know.”

“That’s okay,” I said. He didn’t mean to.” She calls him 'little?' I thought.

“I didn’t mean to,” said Rollo.

“Well, we had better get back to the zoo before we’re missed,” said Jessica. “Bye now.” And she and Rollo walked off towards the woods.

Before you’re missed? I thought, Yeah, someone’s bound to miss a rhinoceros and a giraffe sooner or later.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Thomas the Spy Cat

The Mission Begins

Thomas loped like a cat across the frosty field, darting between sagebrush and tumbleweed, keeping his green eyes peeled. On the lookout Thomas was, and why not? For he was hot on the trail of a rascal and a thief. Oh yes, there was mischief afoot, and a good deal of grief. Thomas was in his prowling mode, heading towards the stone gate on Cemetery Road.

Thomas could lope like a cat because he was a cat. Not a big cat, like a lion or a tiger, but large for his species, which was House. Thomas was a House Cat. But not just any house cat. Thomas was a spy cat, and he was out on this cold October night to carry out a spy mission. What mission, you ask? A mission to discover the identity of the infamous Funerary Flower Thief! The FFT, for short, or as Thomas said, the “phfft.”

Thomas stopped at the old stone gate. He thought I’d better hesitate. Alert to every move and sound he looked around, first to the right, and then to the left, and then to the sky, and then to the ground -- up into the bare branches of trees hulking overhead, and down at the grey, gravel path upon which his four feet tread. Satisfied that the coast was clearly clear, Thomas the spy cat thought, I have nothing to fear, and padded softly on his furry paws through the stone gate that looked like a giant’s jaws.

The Spy Cat Spying

A full moon hung in the darkening sky, melting mysteriously among the hovering clouds. A chill wind moaned with a mournful sigh, scattering the dry leaves that laid like shrouds across clustered graves.

Thomas stopped beside a looming gravestone and sniffed the air. “Whooo,” came a voice from somewhere high above and Thomas crouched, cat like (because, remember, he was a cat), beneath the red leaves of a spiny Barberry bush. “Whoo,” came the cry again. And then, whoosh, above his head flew a great white owl. You have to be careful when you’re out on the prowl!

A great, dark cloud moved across the moon, and Thomas thought, It’s not too soon. The flower thief might be here now. He moved beneath a low hanging bough where unobserved he could observe, a new grave. A simple marble memorial stone engraved with R.I.P stood at the head of the grave, and there by the stone were fresh flowers fittingly placed by family members in remembrance of their dear departed.

Thomas settled down to wait and watch. He placed his front feet out in front, with his white paws poised to leap, and his back feet under his russet rump, with his white paws poised to jump, and he let his long, and furry tail lay out behind, and he kept it there, unconfined, so just its tip could twitch and switch. And Thomas waited there like that – the watchful, wary, sly spy cat.

The Villain Captured

Thomas thought about his quest. Who was the culprit stealing flowers meant for dear ones laid to rest? Who would do this, Thomas wondered, all these grave adornments plundered?

He listened closely. Heard a rustle. Something moving in the leaves. Are those the sounds of flower thieves?

Thomas tensed his every muscle, ready to leap, to pounce, to tussle. What’s behind that bush, that bower? Something’s pulling on that flower! I think I’d better try and grab it!

And Thomas jumped upon a… a rabbit. “Hey, that’s not funny,” said the fuzzy, soft brown bunny.

It squirmed, and writhed, and wriggled. “I’m just here to have a snack. Why did you give me such a whack?”

“Why, why? I’ll tell you why,” said Thomas. “You’re stealing flowers from a grave. Is that the way one should behave?”

The bunny said, “I have to eat! I thought they were a lovely treat. Now let me up. Don’t be so silly. Let me go and eat my lily.”

“Those flowers aren’t for you,” the spy cat said. “They’re there in honor of the dead. You can’t eat them, silly bunny.”

The bunny stopped its wriggling and suddenly started giggling.

“Well, I don’t eat the whole, darn wreath; a flower here, a flower there. Do the dear departed care?”

Thomas gave the hare a glare, green eyes flashing, cat teeth gnashing. “The families care you little thief. If you don’t stop, I’ll give you grief!”

“Okay, alright, I will agree,” the bunny said, “But set me free.”

“And do you promise not to eat the lilies, roses, or carnations?”

“Yes, I promise,” said the naughty little rabbit. “I will break my eating habit. From now on I won’t eat much, just some greens and roots and such, and perhaps a few impatiens.”

So Thomas set the bunny free.

And off the little rabbit hopped, his rabbit paws going thwop, thwop, thwop.

A Frightening Night

Thomas sat and watched the rabbit disappear across the grass and through the bushes. Then he rose and padded softly through the cemetery and out the stone gate, back down Cemetery Road, back across the frosty field, towards home. Mission accomplished, he thought.

As he turned and headed down the block, he saw a shadow dart across the street, and then another. Thomas jumped into the bushes and hunkered down. What was that! And then he saw it. Some wispy, white thing floating furtively down the street followed by another frightening apparition dressed in black.

Thomas leaped up and raced across the lawns of neighbor’s homes until he slid to a sudden stop at his own front door. He gave the signal for the door to be opened, “Meow, meow,” he said, glancing frantically down the block where shapes too gruesome to contemplate came closer.

Finally, the door opened. His mistress stood there peering down at him.

“Why Thomas Cat, where have you been? It’s cold outside. You must come in!” And Thomas dashed right through the door and slid across the hardwood floor.

“Why what’s the matter, you silly cat?” His mistress said, just like that.

How could she know that just outside, witches on their broomsticks ride?

Feeling safer now, Thomas tried to look nonchalant. He decided to wash up a bit. He lifted a paw and with his rough, pink tongue began to clean it. I’ll neaten up, and then have a bite to eat, thought Thomas.

Just then there was a fearsome banging on the door. Thomas leaped high into the air and ran and hid beneath a chair. He saw his mistress move towards the door. NO! Don’t open it! Thomas thought, but all he could say was “Meow!”

The mistress reached out and took the door handle in her hand and Thomas heard the click of the latch unlatching. She’s going to let them in, he thought, those scary ghosts and goblins. Thomas, the spy cat, sat trembling under the chair too frightened to retreat. He heard the door swing open, the sound of shuffling feet, and then the happy shouts of

“Trick or treat! Trick or treat!”

The End

The cat in the picture is Thomas Samuel Katt. He came to Kennewick in the back of a moving van and adopted my father, who suggested that Thomas would be happier with us, where he is now. The graveyard pictured is in Ireland somewhere out on the windswept moors. The bunny lives at Cannon Beach, Oregon, at a lodge in Ecola State Park. The boy trick or treating is Logan Matthew, our 3 year-old grandson.

Grandma Boogler Takes a Trip

Grandma Boogler’s going to take a trip to see her grandson, Bobby, in Vienna.
She needs a trunk, a bag, or grip to pack her clothes in for the trip.
But she and Grandpa Boogler have only one trunk and Grandpa Boogler stuck it under his dusty, musty old bunk.
“Where is that darned trunk,” says Grandma Boogler with a shout. “I’ll bet old Grandpa has it somewhere,” Grandma says, as she looks about.
Grandpa’s climbed up on the roof to fix the old TV antenna.
Grandma hollers up at him, “Hey Gramps, where is that trunk we had? I need to pack it for my trip.”
“What, what did you say?” Asks Grandpa, whose hearing’s not so good.
“A bag, a trunk, or grip. I am packing for a trip,” shouts Grandma.
“Oh don’t you worry Grandma dear, Grandpa says. “I’m hanging on and I won’t slip.”
“Slip, I don’t need another slip, I need a suitcase for my trip,” Grandma yells.
To make a long story short, Grandma Boogler finally found a trunk.
She packed it up with all her clothes, her lipstick, rouge, and other junk.
Then she went out and hollered, “Grandpa Boogler, come in and carry out my trunk!”
So Grandpa Boogler carried the trunk out and loaded it in the bed of his truck.
Grandma jumped in the truck and Grandpa cranked the engine. He was in luck.
That old truck started with a snort, and Grandpa and Grandma Boogler drove down the road towards the airport.

It was a very bumpy road. And Grandpa’s truck was carrying a big load. Not only did he have Grandma’s trunk, he also had a big box of frogs that he was bringing to Farmer Boggs pond to eat the mosquitoes that were pestering Farmer Bogg’s hogs. “Take it easy!” Grandma yelled, as Grandpa sped down the road. “You’re bouncing my trunk all over the place.” And sure enough, Grandpa hit a big bump and Grandma’s trunk bounced right out of the truck. The trunk flew open when it landed and all her clothes went flying up in the wind. “Why lookee there,” Grandpa said, “Is that pajamas up ahead?”
“What did you say?” Asked Grandma. “You want to be fed? Why ain’t you had lunch?”
Neither Grandma nor Grandpa knew that Grandma’s trunk had flown out and gone “crunch!”
By the time Grandpa pulled up to the departure gate at the airport it was almost time for Grandma’s plane to leave. Grandma jumped out of the truck and ran into the airport to get her ticket. She yelled back at Grandpa, “Grab my trunk and carry it up to the counter, Grandpa!” And old Grandpa Boogler ran around the back and grabbed that box full of frogs and huffing and puffing, he carried it up to the counter and Grandma told the airline agent, “Check that trunk through to Vienna, will yah honey?” And the agent did.

The End

Pasta Matthew Marinara

The Marinaras, Matthew and his dad and mom..., oh, and their cat, Claw, lived in Happy Valley, Pennsylvania. It was a small town and everyone seemed to know everyone else. And they seemed to know everyone else's business. So everyone was surprised when Mr. Splutter, the mail carrier, marched up to the Marinara’s door and announced that there was a letter for Matthew. 
“Who is it from?” asked Matthew.
“Not my business,” said Mr. Splutter. “Besides, there’s no return address.”
Matthew studied the envelop. Sure enough, it didn’t have a return address, just a couple of marks in the left corner that looked like geese flying. “Hmm,” said Matthew, turning the envelop this way and that.
Claw rubbed against Matthew’s leg looking for attention. Matthew reached down with the letter and said, “Who do you think this is from, Claw?”
Claw sniffed the envelop, arched his back, and his fur stood straight up. He let out a yowl and dashed off upstairs.
“Silly cat,” said Matthew. He tore open the envelop and read the letter. It said,
Dear Mr. Matthew Marinara;
You are invited to a dinner to be held in your honor at the home of Baron Timothy Von Tinymann tomorrow evening at 1800 sharp. Guests may include very important people, such as the Mayor, the Chief of Police, the head of the school district, and members of the city council. You would be wise not to disappoint these VIPs.
RSVP, which, if you don’t know French, means, Are You Coming or Not, Please (and you better be coming).
Very Respectfully yours,
His Royal Hindend, Timothy Von Tinymann, III, Baron of Kugelkase 
Gosh, I wonder why I’m being honored, Matthew thought. Maybe because I did my homework this week? No, that can’t be it. I didn’t do my homework.
Matthew scratched his head. Why am I being honored? he asked himself. Maybe it’s because I didn’t tease the cat, thought Matthew. No, Matthew said to himself, you don’t get rewarded for not doing bad things. You get rewarded for doing good things.
“Let’s see,” Matthew said to himself, “Did I help Papa take the garbage out? No. Did I help Mama wash the dinner dishes? No. Did I put away my toys? No.”
Matthew thought and thought, but he could not think of anything he did to deserve being honored, especially by “very important people,” like the Baron and his VIP guests.
He ran into the kitchen and showed his mother the letter. “Why do you think I’m being honored, Mama? he asked.
Mama Marinara looked at the note. “Who is Baron Von Tinymann?” she asked Matthew.
“He’s a very important person, and he is holding a dinner in my honor,” Matthew said, proudly.
“That’s nice, dear,” said Matthew’s mama, and then she turned back to the pasta sauce she was making.
Matthew ran into the living room where his papa was sitting reading the paper. “Papa, papa!” Matthew shouted. “Look at this note.”
Papa Marinara lowered his paper and glanced at the note. “Hmm,” he said.
“Why do you think I’m being honored, Papa?” Matthew said.
Matthew’s papa said, “Ask your mama, Matthew,” and went back to reading the paper again.
Matthew walked slowly back to his room and sat on his bed, staring at the letter. There must be a good reason, he thought. I’ll just have to go and find out. He went to his desk and wrote a note. It said:
Dear Baron Von Tinymann;
I am coming to dinner, but I don’t know why.
Matthew Marinara, Kid of Goodly Street, Happy Valley, PA
The next evening, Matthew put on his good slacks, shoes, and shirt, and pulled a warm sweater on. Then he put on his heavy coat, shoved the dinner invitation in his pocket, and went to the front door.
“Bye!” he shouted, and dashed out.

Matthew wasn’t sure how he found the Baron Timothy Von Tinymann home; somehow he knew it would be on the very top of the hill, and it was -- way up there playing hide and seek in the clouds.
Matthew came to a wall so high he could not see the top. In the middle of the wall were two tall flamingoes facing each other. Matthew stared at them.
“What are you staring ahtttt?” the flamingoes squawked.
“Uh...” Matthew stammered. “I’m here for the dinner.”
“What dinner?” the flamingo on the left asked.
“The dinner in my honor; I’m Matthew--”
Before Matthew could finish saying his name, the flamingo on the right said to his partner, “He’s the guest of honor, you bird brain.”
“Oh dear, then we should open,” the other flamingo said and the two flamingoes turned and opened like a giant bird gate, feathers flapping apart in welcome.
Matthew walked through the flamingo bird gate and headed towards the house. He walked and walked, up and up he went, until he was breathing hard and wondering if he’d ever get there. Finally he came to the front door. He saw a big door knocker shaped like a serpent and standing on his tip toes, grasped it and banged it on the door.
“Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!” the door knocker shouted. “Sissss-pose, I banged your head on the door,” the serpent said. “How would feel about that?”
“I’m sorry,” said Matthew. “I wanted to get in.”
“Well, ssssssilly, why don’t you open the door?”
Matthew turned the door handle and the big door swung open, its hinges squealing like Grandpa Marinara’s old wheel barrel.
Matthew walked into a cavernous entry hall filled with dusty statues. The walls were hung with dark paintings of castles, and mountains, and oceans. A giant chandelier hung overhead. Most of the lights in the chandelier were out and it gave off only a faint, ghostly light.
Matthew’s footsteps echoed on the cold floor tiles.
Matthew said a weak, “Hello?”
No one answered.
He said, “Hello” louder, and still no answer.
Then he shouted “Hello! and his voice echoed around the empty room, “Hello lo lo lo lo.”
Matthew decided he’d either got the date of the dinner wrong, or someone was playing a joke on him, and he turned and was about to leave when he heard, “Master Marinara, I presume.”
Matthew turned back and there was a man standing in the entry. He stood very straight, wore a black tuxedo, with a bow tie, and kept his hands clasped behind his back. He bowed slightly and Matthew saw that the man’s black hair was very shiny and not a single strand was out of place. “Yes,” said Matthew.
“Indeed,” said the man. “I am Butter, the butler. Follow me, please. The dining room is this way.”
Butter the butler led Matthew to a set of double doors. Matthew could hear loud voices, the clatter of dishes, and what sounded like a duck quacking, all coming from the room behind the doors. What a noisy dinner party, Matthew thought.
Butler Butter opened the door and bowed Matthew in. As Matthew passed by he noticed that the butler’s hair was painted on his bare scalp.
The dining room was a chattering, clattering, rattling, ruckus of a mess. A very fat man at the near end of the table was rocking violently in his chair hollering, “I’m stuck, I’m stuck, I’m stuck!”
The woman next to him had a giant, feathered hat on and was batting at it with a soup ladle. The hat was quacking.

The places around the table were filled with men and women of every size and shape and color and they were all talking at once, gesturing wildly, with food in their hands, and shouting to be heard over the general cacophony. The table was filled with covered platters. A large vase of flowers covered with caterpillars sat in the middle of the table.
Matthew was looking for his place at the table, when a piece of buttered bread and jelly came flying out of the air and hit him on the forehead. It stuck there on his forehead and Matthew was too stunned to do anything about it.
“I say there, young man, that’s my jellied bread. I’ll thank you to give it back!” said a very small woman seated near the head of the table. She jumped up on the table and came running towards Matthew to get her bread, but suddenly she was stopped in her tracks, and a deep voice shouted from the head of the table, “Silence!”
The room went as silent as church.

Matthew tried to see who shouted, but the woman on the table whose bread he had on his forehead was blocking his view.
The woman climbed off the table and back into her seat and Matthew saw a very elegantly dressed, very little man at the head of the table.
“This is the guest of honor, Master Matthew Marinara,” the man said in his deep, sonorous voice. “Allow me to introduce myself, Master Matthew. I am Baron Timothy von Tinymann. At your service. And this charming lady,” and the Baron gestured to the small woman at his right, “is Lady Lydia von Tinymann.”
“He has my bread on his head,” said Lady Lydia.
“Nonsense,” said the Baron. “It’s the latest fashion.”
And all the guests began slapping jellied bread on their foreheads.
“Now then Master Matthew,” said the Baron. “Let me introduce you to the menu.”
“The menu?” said Matthew, pulling the bread off his forehead. “Don’t you mean to say, introduce me to the other guests?” said Matthew.
“I say what I mean, and I mean what I said, I said, when I said what I meant,” said the Baron, throwing his head back so violently that the bread on his head went flying into the soup tureen.
There was a violent splashing in the tureen as several turtles fought over the bread.
“Now then, please pay attention,” the Baron said.
He climbed out of his chair and up onto the table. He lifted the lid off a platter and pointed to a frog sitting on a bed of lettuce. “Il primo,” the Baron announced, with a flourish. “We will start with a frog-leg salad. Say hello Hoppy.” The frog said, “Ribbid.”
The Baron replaced the lid and went to the next platter. Lifting the lid he gestured to a sparrow sitting on its nest. “We will then have a bird’s nest soup.” The sparrow gave a tiny chirp, before the Baron replaced the lid.
Matthew watched in fascination as the Baron went from platter to platter introducing their contents; a pink pig he called, “Span Ferkel,” a brown rabbit, he called “Hasen Pfeffer,” and then a platter with nothing in it.

The Baron looked around the table and spotted the duck on the woman’s hat. “Ah ha!” he said, grabbing the duck and putting it back in the platter. “This is our French delegate, Monsieur D’la Orange; the pièce de résistance.”
The duck said, Je suis enchanté,” before the Baron slammed the platter’s lid down.
“Very nice,” said Matthew, wondering what was for dessert, but feeling it would be impolite to ask. “Where do I sit?” he asked.
“Why right here,” the Baron said, lifting the lid from a platter of spaghetti. “Pasta a la Matthew Marinara,” he announced to the diners, who stood in unison and clapped enthusiastically.
“I have to go to the bathroom,” Matthew said. And that’s when he woke up.
Matthew ran to the bathroom, washed up, and skipped down the stairs, hopping over Claw on his way. His mother was in the kitchen working at the stove.
“Momma, momma!” Matthew shouted, “What are we having for dinner?”
“Dinner?” His mother said. “We haven’t even had breakfast yet.”
Just then Matthew’s father came into the kitchen. “I think I’ll fix my famous Pasta Marinara for dinner,” said the father.
“Oh no!” said Matthew.
Mama and Papa Marinara looked askance at Matthew.
“That’s odd,” said Mama Marinara. “He usually loves your pasta, Papa.”
“Hmm?” said Matthew’s father. “I wonder what’s gotten into him.”
“Baron von Tinymann,” Matthew said, under his breath.
“What’s that dear?” asked his mother, feeling his forehead to see if he had a fever.
“Nothing, Mama,” Matthew said, and went out to get the morning paper.
“Does he have a fever?” Papa Marinara asked Mama Marinara.
“No, but he seems to have jelly on his forehead.” 
The End