Dust Bunnies in the Jungle

Story 2

By Jon Hillenbrand In Dust Bunnies Series, Stories

Once upon a time there were two dust bunnies, a little girl dust bunny and her mom.  They lived at the tippy top of a giant tree in the middle of the rainforest. Up on top of the tree was a giant coconut that they had hollowed out.  On the main floor were two bedrooms, a dining room and a spacious living room in the center connecting all of the rooms together in a ring. On the top level of the coconut, there was a room with a curved roof where they would keep spare food and water. The coconut home was sitting on the top of the trunk of the tree which had also been hollowed out, so there was a tunnel and stairs leading down to the jungle floor. The stairs ran the length of the entire tree on the inside and it took some time to get to the bottom. But there at the bottom was a small garage with a small tin windup right hand drive convertible that the mom and little girl dust bunny would use for short trips.

One morning, the little girl dust bunny woke up before her mother and decided to run an errand.  She went to the top floor of the coconut, and gathered together a piece of cheese, a cracker and an acorn she had found the day before while out exploring.  Then she went over to the basement stairs, pausing to look out above the canopy of the jungle and the low gray clouds in the distance.  She smelled the sweet morning air and made her way down the stairs.  About fifteen feet below the level of the coconut was a large hole in the side of the tree where a great owl lived.  The owl was asleep and as the little girl dust bunny passed it on her tiptoes, the owl turned its mighty head right side up, shook the morning dust off of its feathers and continued back to sleep.  The little girl placed the acorn down onto the litter that lined the bottom of the owl’s home and moved on towards the bottom of the tree.

Once she was in the basement, the little girl dust bunny placed the cracker into the passenger seat of the toy car.  She took a bite out of the cheese and walked outside onto the jungle floor.  The jungle was alive with noises of animals and insects waking up.  The nearest big tree was only a few steps away.  She quickly hopped over to the base of it and heard a rustling in the leaves to her right.  She tossed the piece of cheese towards the rustling and hopped back to the toy car.  She could hear the squirrel tackling the cheese as she began to wind the toy car with the key in the trunk.  Once the key stopped clicking, she quickly hopped into the driver’s seat, put on her red helmet and drove past the squirrel.

The little girl dust bunny wound her way through the small plants that covered every part of the jungle floor.  As the toy car whirred, she heard the wind behind her and the cracker to her left was quickly snatched away by a low flying cockatoo.  She drove towards one of her favorite spots as the smell of rain approached.  The toy car wound to a stop.  She got out, held up her thumb and estimated the distance from the toy car to the vine at the base of the metal pole.  She figured about three more winds would get her there.  She hopped back in the car and circled down to the vine as the car wound to a stop cracking into the metal pole with a ding.

She looked up and saw many beautifully plump green grapes, hopped out of the car and up to the thick vines.  Many grapes had been chewed upon by hungry rats and left to rot on the ground.  She climbed up the vine and heard the first few plops of rain as they hit the soil around her.  The drops were half her size and she knew that if she got wet, she would turn into mud and have a hard time moving around.  She climbed out upside down on to a branch and started to nibble at it.  The branch held about eight grapes that they could use for the next week for eating and trading.  As she chewed at the branch, it began to bend under the weight of the grapes.  A giant raindrop crashed into a leaf just above her head.  She cringed in continued to nibble.  Another drop hit one of the grapes on the branch that she was chewing which was enough to send the entire branch down into the passenger compartment of the car.  The little girl dust bunny locked her hands around the branch and slid down towards the ground.

She pushed the car, steering it into a big circle, towards her home tree.  She wound the key in the trunk as far as it would go, pushed the grapes out of the way as much as she could, hopped in and took off.  Rain fell like small meteorites from the sky creating a chorus of near plops and distant hissing punctuated by ominous thunder.  The loud buzz of the car began to change pitch and wind down just as a puddle appeared before her.  She swerved to the right as a plop of rain covered her windshield, the metal wheels digging deep into the moistening soil.  She crashed into a small branch which stopped the car in an instant.  She hopped out on the right side, grabbed the branch and yanked it as hard as she could away from the wheels.  As she cleared the branch, there was still a little bit of juice left in the car and it rolled forward under its own power away from her and into the puddle.  The left side of the car stopped in the water up to the edge of the grapes.  The little girl dust bunny dropped the branch which swung around and knocked her off her feet.  She fell forward into the wet ground.

Drops falling around her, she pushed herself up and heard approaching footsteps scratching through the wet leaves.  The squirrel.  Its tail rose high into the air.  She followed it up and then back down to see the twitching nose and eyes dart from her to the grapes.  The squirrel hopped shortly in the direction of the car.  The little girl dust bunny scrambled to her feet slowed down by the mud that she was becoming encased in.  She stomped her feet on the ground in an attempt to scare the squirrel away but it ignored her.  It took another cautious hop in the direction of the car.  She stomped her feet harder.  The squirrel was mere inches away now but a hiss from another direction stopped it.  It was the rats and they wanted the grapes for themselves.  There were five of them all with red eyes trained squarely on the squirrel.  The squirrel twitched its long tail and made a sound like two nuts being hammered together.  The rats squeaked and began to fan out.

The little girl dust bunny slowly crawled towards the car, the rats to her left, the squirrel to her right, the rain all around.  Through the hissing she crawled, her legs useless with mud.  She reached the trunk of the car, avoiding the water, and began to wind the key, each click a promise of getting home.  The squirrel chirped behind her as one of the red-eyed rats looked her way.  She released the key and crawled over the trunk to the steering wheel as the car began to slowly move.  She steered to the right and the metal wheels dug deep and began to pull the car out, water draining from the interior.  The little girl reached for the floating grapes to pull them more into the car as the squirrel crashed down onto the hood.  Its dagger like claws pressed into the left and right sides of the car.  Its whiskers wiggled as the squirrel darted its attention from the rats to the grapes.  Water began to flow back in to the car.  She considered grabbing the one of the grapes and making a run for it and then considered just running for her life.  She turned away from the red squirrel as a rat climbed up the rear of the car covering her with its wet gray fur.  She screamed and pushed the head of the rat away from her face.  She pushed hard and the rat’s tiny chin felt prickly in her hand.  The warm wet rat was heavy and to her right the squirrel reached for the grapes.

Suddenly the rat was gone.  It had been replaced with silence and air.  The squirrel was now on its rear haunches madly chirping at the sky.  The little girl dust bunny wiped the water from her eyes in time to see the squirrel disappear with nothing more than a scratch on the hood indicating its departure.  She looked up and around and through the shadows of the jungle and found another shadow that flowed with the wind.  It landed gracefully on a high branch, the rat in one claw and the squirrel in the other.  It was the owl.  It’s gray and brown form regarded the dust bunny then reached down to feast on the rodents silently.

The little girl dust bunny went to the back of the car and give it a little push which got it moving again.  She hopped in and drove the rest of the way to her home tree and into the garage.  Once inside, she cracked at the drying mud on her chest and palmed it back into dust between her hands.  She grabbed the grapes and shook them free of some of the water that was still swishing around inside the car.  She climbed the stairs with the grapes and pulled them up the tall tree.  The large hole in the side of the tree seemed even more cavernous with the owl gone.  She blinked her eyes at the bright opening, picked off one of the grapes and left it next to the cap of the acorn she had left earlier.  She climbed the remaining steps up to her coconut home and saw that her mother was in the kitchen making breakfast.

The mom dust bunny looked at her muddy little girl carrying the grapes and adjusted the string leading to the leaf on the roof.  She pressed on the foot pedal which fed more air into the small candle fire in the floor.  Without a word, she picked off one of the grapes, cut it in half, placed it in a thimble and began to cook it over the fire.  The juicy sweet meat inside the grapes started to steam.  The little girl dust bunny sat down at the table as the mom placed the thimble before her and said, “did you have any trouble?”

“It was worth it,” said the little girl dust bunny and she began to eat with a smile.

The End

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