SKIP AND THE PARTY
It had been a difficult acorn harvest that year. Skip had been working terribly hard on his exciting new acorn store, and had been busily tap tapping away putting up new shelves for the acorns. But at last, all that hard work was over.
All the acorns were in, and had been lovingly polished until Skip could see his merry face shining back from each one as he placed it in its very own velvet niche in his lovely new acorn store.
There was a stern "rat-a-tat-tat" as the door fell down under a hail of bullets.
Scowl entered. "You'll need a new door," he muttered.
"Ooh!" squeaked Skip, "it's you! Have you come to look at my shelves?"
Scowl blinked. Slowly. "No." he replied. "I have come to take you to a party in the Muttering Meadow."
For a short second, Skip's twitching whiskers were still. "The Muttering Meadow? I'm not sure about that. What could I possibly have to talk to the animals of Muttering Meadow about?"
Scowl grabbed him firmly by the shoulder. "You can tell them all about your shelves."
It was a long journey to the Muttering Meadow, through happy little fields, and funny little valleys, full of laughing birds and chittering rabbits.
Skip and Scowl walked along the stony path, Skip running on ahead, and then scampering back to encourage Scowl along. Scowl just walked at his own pace, smoking a narrow clay pipe, and kicking snails.
As always with a new idea, Skip was terribly excited.
"Will there be buttercup juice?" asked Skip.
"Probably." said Scowl.
"And will there be brambleberry jelly?"
"And chestnut jam?"
"If we're quick."
Eventually, they came to the top of a small, sunny hill, and there, before them, was the Muttering Meadow. There were already some animals there, talking merrily away in little groups.
"Oh," said Skip, his eyes losing their usual gleam, "I thought you said there would be a bouncy castle or a trampoline..."
"There will be if you lie down." growled Scowl. "Did you bring some acorns with you?"
"Why yes, of course. I thought the animals might like some."
"And you were right." said Scowl, snatching the bundle. "Hello everyone! I've brought acorns!"
Scowl marched into the Meadow, leaving Skip smiling nervously on the edge.
But Skip wasn't alone for long. Big Badger soon wandered over. "Hullo!" beamed Badger, "I'm brilliant! And so is my wife!"
"Hello," said Skip.
"Gosh," laughed Badger heartily, "It's so tiring telling everyone how lovely I am. I'm famished. Have you got any acorns?"
"ah, No...." sighed Skip.
"Well, toodle pip! Come along brilliant Mrs Badger."
And Skip was alone for a bit longer.
Old Hamster wandered up to him next. "Don't believe a word of it." he announced.
"I'm sorry?" said Skip, looking up from his weak elderflower champagne.
"A lot of people here don't like you. But not me. I still like you. Despite your crimes." Hamster pecked at a small beetle.
"What crimes?" asked Skip, nervously edging back towards the happy forest.
"Well, you've been telling everyone how brilliant Badger is, for a start."
"Yes, and everyone knows that Wise Robin is far more clever than Badger."
"Oh. Well, I don't really know them that well-" Skip looked nervously away. In the distance, Scowl was happily showing the other animals his new chainsaw.
"That's no excuse. We all decided years ago. But don't worry about it - I really still like you. Even if you have been wasting acorns."
"oh - uh - have I?" From the other side of the field, Scowl was waving a hand. It wasn't his own.
"Yes. Everyone knows you've not been looking after the acorns properly. But don't worry. I'm sure you had a really good reason. Oh look - there's someone else I don't like very much. I'm just off to laugh at them. Enjoy the nutmeg."
Skip was terribly confused. He had been rather pleased about the acorns. But perhaps he shouldn't have let young Miss Squirrell tell everyone about the acorns before the harvest was quite finished. They may all have got the wrong idea.
Skip felt a sudden sharp pain in the ribs. He looked around, expecting the familiar comforting presence of Scowl, but instead found Sneer, the vole who used to run Woodland Times.
"I'm surprised you dare show your face here." shouted Sneer.
"Everyone knows about the disastrous acorn harvest."
"Disaster? But there are more acorns than ever this year. And they're on nice new shelves...."
"I know all about the shelves. They'd have been much better if I put them up."
"......" managed Skip, smiling apologetically.
"In fact, I'm sure I did put the shelves up. Or they were my idea in the first place. I haven't decided yet. But I know you've ruined them. Everyone's been talking excitedly about how they'd have put the shelves up so much better if they'd been asked to."
"................" said Skip. A bit lost. His heady was spinning dizzily, a feeling he normally only got when doing Scowl's accounts.
"Why didn't you tell us you were putting up shelves? We knew all about your plans to put up shelves, of course. It was all our idea. But you should have told us first. Then we could have told you how to do it. Although you stole the idea of putting up the shelves from us."
"I - I - I - don't.... think....." Skip felt lost. In the distance, he could just hear the faint roar of the chainsaw, and see tree after tree toppling down.
"Anyway, the whole shelf idea is despicable. And a disgusting thing to do to acorns. Can I kiss you?"
"What? No!" protested Skip.
"I think you're terribly smug. I despise you. Oh go on - just a small kiss."
"Oh. No! No!" wailed Skip, backing away. A long way away, he could just see Mister and Mrs Badger dancing happily around each other.
"I've heard the acorns taste terrible this year. I don't know how you dare be here. Well, can I touch you then?"
"I don't know what you mean-" gasped Skip. Even further away, he could see Hamster standing next to Wise Robin. They were giggling.
"Let me touch you!" roared Sneer, advancing on him, "You smug worm! You loathsome insect! You insensitive slug! I've got to have you!"
"It's uh, not that, I, ah.... it's just that... well.... don't you already share a burrow with another vole?"
"Oh, that! Don't be boring and smug. He's hibernating already. And, if you let me touch you, then maybe I'll be nice about your acorns."
"Let me have your acorns!"
"Let me lick them! I have to have your acorns! I demand them!"
Skip paused. His eyes wandered across the Muttering Meadow to all the other happy animals. To the industrious little owls who were busy organising games, to the happy pandas making little cakes, and to the frolicking lambs who were chasing each other through the meadow. And then Skip looked back to Sneer, advancing on him, licking his lips with a terrible, slavering hunger, most surprising for such a small vole.
And then Skip ran, ran until he was safe in his little burrow, safe amongst his shelves, safe with a little pot of acorn polish. And then Skip slept, and had unquiet dreams.