BUG OFF!

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Children Stories  |  House: Booksie Classic

Twiggy and Shrubs discover their strength is greater together; as opposed to the tree people elders, the Special Branch. When the bark beetles attack their tree, it is the young seedlings who save the day.


Sequel: INCOMING GIANTS

 

BUG OFF!

 

Not too long ago, in the Forest of Yoke, two young seedlings of the tree people became heroes together. They had never met, yet they became best friends in one day, the day the Pine Beetles came. This is the story of Twiggy and Shrubs.

Twiggy lived way up high in a towering pine tree. Shrubs lived in the middle of a spruce tree which was only a branch away. It was the lore of the land that Pine people and Spruce people always fought to be better than each other. Their little wooden bodies were the same, no bigger than a human’s fingernail. Nonetheless, they looked at each other as if they were looking at a tree killing gypsy moth.

Still, there was something that they shared. This was of great importance to all trees. It was the Underground Pipeline that connected one tree family’s roots to another tree family’s roots. Fungi friends operated the soil trains underneath the ground that all tree people depended on for food and water. The fungi friends traveled through the dirt that connected the trees and were friends with everyone. They would collect food and bring it back to the trees for the tree people to eat. The older tree people would thank the fungi and give them the sugar that the fungi needed. This deal was good for everyone. Fungi friends also carried messages to and from tree people families. The fungi were valuable especially when a tree was sick and needed help from other trees.  The forest was a network and had to run smoothly, particularly because trees and forests were the home for animals. There was no greater honor among the trees than to be chosen by an animal to live in, on, or near them.

One rainy day, Twiggy set out to visit his cousin Stick who lived on the border junction of Spruce and Pine. He hadn’t seen Stick for a very long time and was so excited. How surprised Stick was going to be when he saw how big Twiggy had gotten! Just as he was close to arriving, something happened that prevented Twiggy from ever seeing Stick that day.

Twiggy caught sight of what his elders called “popcorn” on the side of his tree’s trunk. These are whitish globs that trees use to throw out bark beetles when these bugs first attack the tree. He had heard stories about these pitch tubes, as they are called. They weren’t bedtime stories though, they were scary stories the elders always told when they were warning you about dangerous things. Sometimes the stories ended up with a happy outcome, and sometimes not. Twiggy also saw a few holes in the bark and small mounds of sawdust on the ground and some in the bark crevices. He knew that the popcorn and sawdust meant that a tree was protecting itself, fighting an enemy that was trying to invade their home and take over.

“Is this happening right now? Is this real?” Twiggy asked out loud to himself. Then he heard a loud screeching noise which soon turned into a huge BANG! Yep, Twiggy assured himself, it was really happening. The pipeline train had crashed into something.

“But what did it crash into? I can’t see from here. I’m going to have to get closer to it.” Twiggy thought. The nearer he got to the wreck, the harder he was breathing.

Suddenly he heard a raspy voice say, “I can’t believe this, I just can’t believe this is happening to me.” It didn’t take long for Twiggy to find out who was the owner of that voice. VERY carefully, Twiggy approached this newcomer.

“Hey, are you hurt? Who are you? Where did you come from? What are you doing here?” Twiggy asked. The stranger was startled by Twiggy and crouched down as if Twiggy couldn’t see him. Twiggy laughed at this because there was nothing in front of him to hide behind. The outsider began to laugh too, knowing how silly he looked hiding behind nothing. After a pause, he replied to Twiggy’s questions.

“No, I don’t think I’m hurt. My name is Shrubs and I live in the Spruce tree right next to this one.  I don’t know what I am doing here. I was riding the pipeline, enjoying the sights, then all of a sudden everything shook and the train seemed to jump the track. Before I knew it, we were crashing into that thing over there.” Shrubs pointed to the huge oval shaped object blocking the train’s path. It was creamy white in color. The train was mostly crushed up against it.

“So who are you and what are you doing here?” Shrubs questioned Twiggy back.

Twiggy answered Shrubs, “I was on my way to see my cousin when I saw popcorn and sawdust. I stopped right away because I couldn’t believe my eyes. Right after that, I heard the crash. It really scared me; I didn’t know what to do! Then I heard you talking and made my way over here.”

Shrubs said, “I was really scared too. I still don’t know what happened to the others that were on the train. Do you see anyone else?”

“Only you,” Twiggy replied.

“I have to look for them! There were only two others but they have to be here somewhere, maybe hurt.” Shrubs exclaimed.

“I’ll help you,” responded Twiggy.

The two youngsters looked and looked. No sign of anyone, anywhere. Every time they checked under some debris, Shrubs would repeat, “I can’t believe this. I just can’t believe this.”

“You know what? Twiggy asked.

“What?” Shrubs said.

“I bet that the others are okay and already left to find their way home, not knowing you were still here,” explained Twiggy. “Let’s go to my house to tell the elders about everything. We need help. Besides, we have to alert them about the beetles.”

Shrubs nodded his head in agreement, but was nervous about something. Twiggy prodded him, “What’s going on Shrubs?”

“Well, don’t you know that I’m from a Spruce tree? Our people don’t exactly get along. In fact, I would even say that we’re sometimes considered enemies. That’s the way it’s always been anyway. Won’t your family throw me out?”

This hadn’t occurred to Twiggy. In an attempt to be reassuring, Twiggy approached Shrubs, smiled, put his arm around Shrubs’ shoulders and said, “Throw you out? What for? What have you ever done to them? What would you do to them now?”

Shrubs blurted, “Nothing before and nothing now. Why would I do anything to them?”

Twiggy chuckled. “That’s exactly my point. Let’s go.”

“Okay,” Shrubs murmured.

So the newfound friends went on their way to Twiggy’s house. They talked about their families, friends, likes, dislikes, what makes them mad and what makes them happy. After a while, Twiggy playfully stated, “I’m kind of glad that you ended up on the wrong root. You must have been really confused, even stumped, huh?”

Shrubs took a moment to think about it and said, “Oh leaf me alone, would you.” Their eyes met and they both cracked up laughing.

Thirty minutes seemed like five; they got there so fast. “Here we are,” blurted out Twiggy. All of a sudden, Shrubs stiffened up and looked very nervous.

“Are you sure about this?” he asked.

Twiggy replied, “I’m positive. Take a deep breath, everything will be fine.” Shrubs took Twiggy’s advice and let out the biggest sigh Twiggy ever heard.

They entered the house to find Twiggy’s mom, dad, and little brother, Coney, playing hide and seek among the leaves. “I’m home,” Twiggy bellowed. The trio looked at the two friends and instantly froze in their tracks. It was as if they knew already that Shrubs was from a Spruce tree. “But how?”  Twiggy wondered to himself.

“We didn’t hear you come in! You surprised us Twiggy; make some noise before you enter next time, will you?” vented Twiggy’s mom.

“Yeah, yeah, but listen, we have big news to tell you. The pipeline train crashed and I think it’s because we’re under attack by the bark beetles!” shrieked Twiggy. His dad immediately came face to face with Twiggy, looking at him straight in the eyes.

“Are you sure about this son? Bark beetles are nothing to joke about you know.” Twiggy’s dad said.

“I am sure, dad, I am sure,” retorted Twiggy.

“Tell me everything, and don’t leave anything out.” Twiggy’s father instructed. Then, looking over at Shrubs, he asked, “Who’s this anyway?” So Twiggy first introduced his new friend to the three of them and reported on every last detail of what he did and saw since he left the house. It occurred to him that it didn’t really bother his parents where Shrubs came from after all. The surprise and shock from his family was because of the way he had burst into the house. Shrubs didn’t say a word.

Twiggy’s father belonged to the “Special Branch” of elders. This was the most important group of tree people in their tree. They met together to vote on and decide what actions need to be taken in a crisis. A bark beetle attack is a big crisis.

The first question Twiggy’s dad asked was, “Did you come across any blue fungi inside the tree? I’m not talking about our fungi friends at the pipeline, but blue fungi.” He was afraid that if the boys had seen these fungi, the bark beetles were already inside the tree since the beetles carry these fungi with them.

“Well, the train crashed into something that neither of us had ever seen before.”

Twiggy explained. This was enough for his dad to call an emergency meeting of the Special Branch.

“Everyone stay put, no one is to leave here for any reason,” Twiggy’s dad commanded. Then he left. After more than two hours, he returned. His face was stern and serious. He kept walking around in circles and seemed to avoid looking at anyone. Suddenly, he stopped.

“So what happened at the meeting dad? What will happen next?” Twiggy urged.

“They didn’t believe me. For the first time, they didn’t believe me,” Twiggy’s father declared.

“Why on earth wouldn’t they believe you?” Twiggy inquired. His dad hesitated, and he looked over at Shrubs.

“I’m afraid it’s because Shrubs was with you and they think that this might be some trick or something that the Spruce people concocted. Trust me, I insisted that Shrubs was decent and that there was, and is, absolutely no logical reason to think that way, none. They haven’t even met Shrubs,” Twiggy’s father cited.

“Don’t they know that Shrubs has two arms and two legs just like them? I don’t understand.” Twiggy grumbled.

“We will have that discussion another time. As bad as that was, there’s something worse now that we have to worry about,” his dad noted.

With big, wide eyes, Twiggy’s mom spoke up. “Oh no, what?” she asked. She already knew deep down though, crossed the room and sat down with a thump.

“The fact is this, we are alone in this. It will be up to us to save our tree, and it won’t be easy,” Twiggy’s dad went on. “I can only think of one way that will work, but…” His father stopped and dropped his head. “It’s not possible because…” His father stopped again.

“What? Because what? Just say it dad!” Twiggy pleaded.

The elder went and sat down with his wife. “Okay, the solution is this; we need to attain the help of the forest woodpeckers. The problem is this; I don’t know any woodpeckers myself.” He spoke about the way of life in the tree and how everything and everyone has a role in keeping the forest operating for the good of all creatures, big and small. The great woodpeckers were the champions, although scary to tree people. They really liked to eat the baby grubs of beetles. “It will be too late by the time we can become friends with any woodpeckers.” Twiggy’s father argued.

The house fell silent. The air was thick with gloom and somberness. No one spoke. Coney began to whimper softly in the corner. Ten minutes went by; no one had moved.

Shrubs whispered suddenly, “Um, my family has woodpecker friends. We can help, but I would need to get home.”

“What did you say? I couldn’t hear you.” Twiggy’s father commented.

“I know some woodpeckers that could help.” Shrubs repeated with greater vigor. “I do need to get back to alert everyone in my tree as soon as possible.”

“Will the elders of your people believe you?” Coney questioned Shrubs.

“I don’t know for sure, but I am going to find out,” asserted Shrubs.

“I’ll go with you,” Twiggy interjected.

“Think again Twiggy,” his mother said. “You will do no such thing.”

“Shrubs will have a better chance of convincing his people if you are not there,” Twiggy’s dad agreed.

“I will accompany Shrubs for the first part of his journey, but I will be a few steps ahead of him to scout out any potential problems,” his dad announced. “You stay here and guard your mom and brother.”

“Okay,” Twiggy said obligingly.

A plan was in place. No one knew if it was a good plan, but it was the only plan they had. So Shrubs and Twiggy’s father set out on their mission.

“Good luck Shrubs!” Twiggy yelled after them. Shrubs didn’t hear Twiggy, he was thinking deeply about what he was about to do.

The trip was uneventful all the way to the pipeline. When they arrived at the train crash site, Twiggy’s father showed Shrubs an alternate route to get to the Spruce tree. Shrubs went on his way while Twiggy’s dad explored the area of the crash. Without doubt, Twiggy’s father thought, the train came into contact with the beetle eggs and couldn’t hold up to the size and toughness of them. The beetles must have smelled the tree sap. That’s what always attracted them. He knew that his tree people were in danger and that he should get back home right away. All his hope now rested on Shrubs.

Meanwhile, Shrubs kept up a speedy pace, confident that he would succeed in getting help. He was scared and excited at the same time. What an adventure! It’s like the movies almost. Half concentrating, half day dreaming, Shrubs didn’t notice what was watching him.

It didn’t take long for Shrubs to realize he wasn’t alone. Before he could even turn his body, he was swept up in a quick, vigorous sweep, squeezed so tight he could hardly breathe. Looking up he saw a black, helmet headed beetle with incredibly long antennae and a long hairy body. Shrubs was actually in the mouth of this monster! Shockingly, unless he was dreaming, the beetle was not eating him yet. It carried him into a populated nook filled with eggs.

“This is it,” thought Shrubs, “It’s got to be downhill from here.” That was all Shrubs remembered. Everything went dark.

Simultaneously, at Twiggy’s house, his father had just gotten back. Twiggy was told that all they could do, was wait, and he didn’t like it one bit. In fact, he couldn’t stand it. So, in defiance of his father’s orders, he snuck out when his parents were talking. Coney wouldn’t notice him because Coney was more interested in his parents than his big brother, so Twiggy didn’t have to worry about him. He just couldn’t let Shrubs manage alone. “I’m coming Shrubs,” he muttered to himself.

Twiggy was amazed at how fast he could go. “Why can’t I move like this when I’m racing my friends?” he pondered.  Suddenly, he found himself at the border of Pine and Spruce. He could see more eggs, more eggs than when he was there before. “I have to keep going. I can’t stop now.”

Twiggy stopped. Not because he wanted to. He stopped trotting because he was flying! Twiggy didn’t dare look. With closed eyes, he landed brutally, jarring them open. Eggs were everywhere he looked. And there was Shrubs!

Shrubs noticed Twiggy at the same time and yelled, “Yes!” Surely there was hope now. Shrubs was adamant that they were stronger together and will prevail. Twiggy was plopped down right near Shrubs, almost landing on top of him.

Twiggy immediately asked, “Are you okay?”

Shrubs responded, “Yeah, you?”

“Fine,” said Twiggy. “How come the beetles haven’t harmed us?” he asked.

“I was wondering the same thing at first, but then it occurred to me that they are saving us for their babies to eat,” suggested Shrubs. “That’s probably not what you wanted to hear, was it?”

“Unquestionably not,” asserted Twiggy. “We have to get out of here, but how?”

“I don’t know. Even if I did know, what would we do after that? How do we stop the beetles?” Shrubs inquired.

“Well, I think we can get help through the fungi friends at the pipeline. They are experts at contacting other trees. Then, the other trees will send over extra supplies to keep this tree strong enough to fight those buggers,” Twiggy explained. “As far as how to escape, I’m not sure. What if we try to find a distraction to turn them away from us? What do you think?”

“I suppose. Do you have a distraction in mind?” Shrubs probed.

“Give me a minute.” said Twiggy.

Four minutes went by. Finally, Twiggy whispered, “I know. I know. See that tree sap over there? If one of us can get to it, he can throw it by the head of one of the bugs. It’ll smell the sap and go after it. The others most likely will follow because they’d want it too.”

“What if they don’t go after it? What then?” asked Shrubs.

“You certainly ask a lot of questions!” noted Twiggy. “I guess we can deal with that if it happens, when it happens.”

“One more question Twiggy, who will try to get the sap?” inquired Shrubs.

“I’ll do it, my heart is still racing from running,” Twiggy figured. “Make a noise or something so that they’re not looking at me.”

“What kind of ..?” Shrubs began to ask, but when he saw the look on Twiggy’s face, he stopped and agreed, “Okay.”

“On a count of three,” ordered Twiggy. “One, two, three!”

All of a sudden, a deafening screech exploded out of Shrub’s mouth. Twiggy had to collect himself for a second before he could dash for the sap. He lurched and grabbed some sap as fast as he could. When he sat back down, he had to elbow Shrubs to stop the annoying screeching that Shrubs was making. The beetles were so close to him, Twiggy thought they would crush him. When Shrubs finally stopped, the bugs backed away a bit. Twiggy and Shrubs let out a huge sigh together, “Whew!”

“Okay now, when I throw the sap, be ready to bolt out of here, with or without me. Hopefully, both of us will make it, but it’s crucial that at least one of us does to get help.” Twiggy explained. “Again, on the count of three. One, two, three!”

The sap went flying. Instead of it soaring just past the head of a beetle, it hit it right in the head. “Go!” yelled Twiggy. They darted toward an opening in the beetle group, zipping through and out. Neither of them attempted to look back to see if their plan worked, but focused on the path forward. After an entire minute of sprinting, Twiggy heard something behind him making an odd sound. He thought to himself, “This time, I have to look.” Forcing his head to turn, he discovered what was making that noise. Shrubs was flailing his arms and making funny sounds. But Twiggy noticed that it was just Shrubs, nothing else, no beetles.

Twiggy abruptly halted; Shrubs slammed right into him. “Watch where you’re going!” Shrubs shrieked.

“Shrubs! There are no beetles following us!” Twiggy blurted. “Let’s get to the pipeline. We need to be quiet though.”

Soon, the two friends arrived at the pipeline and pleaded with the fungi friends to get help from the other trees and tree people. The fungi friends heard the urgency in Twiggy’s voice and left immediately. Twiggy and Shrubs decided to head back to Twiggy’s house to see if everyone was alright and to report their progress in getting help. Naturally, Twiggy had forgotten how he left his family by disregarding their wishes. He remembered when he entered the house. “There you are! Where have you been?” Twiggy’s parents seemed to be growling together at him.

“I’ll tell you the details later, but listen, we managed to get help.” Twiggy related.

“The fungi friends are on their way to the other trees as we speak.”

Twiggy’s father looked at Shrubs and asked, “Why is Shrubs here? Shrubs, why are you here? Didn’t you get home?”

Twiggy jumped in, “Dad, we’ll tell you everything later. Do you think you should inform the Special Branch of what’s happening?”

“I think I did that already Twiggy,” his dad recalled. “But I suppose I should update them. I sure hope that it’s not too late. Once the beetles lay eggs within our borders, there’s very little time before the point of no return.” Just then, everything seemed to vibrate. Loud, repetitive blows hit the bark of the tree.

“What’s that?” Twiggy and Shrubs asked in unison. The noise continued.

“If I’m not mistaken, those sounds are coming from Woodpeckers. I thought you hadn’t made it home to solicit their help Shrubs?” Twiggy’s dad quizzed Shrubs, who shook his head no. “Well then maybe they were nearby eating nuts, corn, or sunflower seeds. Woodpeckers don’t like to fly far you know. I would like to investigate though, just to be sure. Everyone stay here, do you hear me Twiggy and Shrubs?”

Once more, in unison, they responded, “We hear you, we hear you,” in an exaggerated drawl. With his eyes fixated on the two youths, Twiggy’s dad backed out of the door.

Meanwhile, the fungi friends had successfully spread the message of the beetle attack to all the root connected trees in the area and were delivering extra water to the tree being raided. This combined with the woodpeckers’ feast of beetle eggs proved to be a winning plan of rescue.

After an hour of suspenseful waiting, the door of Twiggy’s house opened with a huge gust. His father came in and gleefully exclaimed, “We’re saved! And now I’m going to go to the Special Branch and tell them a few things. I’ll be back.” Just as the door was about to close, it opened again. “You know something kids, you both are heroes, plain and simple. If it weren’t for the two of you, we would be losing our tree and our home right about now. I’ve never been so proud to be in anyone’s company before. Thank you both.” With that, he shut the door behind him to set off to talk to the Special Branch.

Twiggy and Shrubs looked at one another. “Hey Shrubs, weren’t those beetles boring? And tell me, what looks like half a pine tree?” Twiggy baited.

“Oh no, here we go again,” kidded Shrubs. “Okay, so what looks like half a pine tree?”

“The other half,” Twiggy joked. “Do you know how to get down from a tree Shrubs?” he continued.

“Oh brother!” laughed Shrubs, and began to walk away from Twiggy in an attempt to ignore him.

“Well, you can’t get down from a tree because down comes from ducks!” Twiggy erupted, falling down in a fit of giggles. He saw Shrubs getting away and chased after him yelling, “Let’s go and listen to some Sruce Springsteen!”

THE END


Submitted: January 29, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Penny Scribe. All rights reserved.

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Comments

hullabaloo22

Excellent story-telling. You managed to insert quite a lot of information along with some great humor. A perfect cover for the story too.

Thu, January 30th, 2020 7:31pm

Author
Reply

Thank you so much! You just made my day.

Penny

Fri, January 31st, 2020 4:08pm

Criss Sole

Oh that Twiggy is something else. I'm so glad Shrubs was happy to make friends with him, despite of what the elders may have thought.
"Oh leaf me alone" Hehehe.
They should have been enemies but instead became friends and worked together to save everyone. Great moral of the story and good message for the kids.
This was a pleasure to read.

Wed, September 16th, 2020 8:28am

Author
Reply

Thanks so much for reading, and especially for your feedback Criss. Just so you know, there is a sequel to this story; it's called "Incoming Giants". It's fun to write a story that can kind of take you away into another world, so to speak. Take care.

Wed, September 16th, 2020 5:01am

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