Rethora dashed under the long tables, out of sight. Her heart raced as she ran underneath them, hoping not to be found. Her eyes were wide and she breathed heavy as she finally came to a pause. She looked out from under the table and saw Brussel sprout villagers hard at work, preparing for the harvest celebration. Sprouts hustled to raise the tall, burlap tent, fill the open spaces with harvest decorations, and carry tables and benches from the town hall to the town square. Rethora searched for her cousin Stenner, but he was no where to be seen.
“Phew.” She sighed. “I escaped him for now.” She calmly walked underneath the table until she reached the other end.
“Ho ho.” A mighty, strong voice giggled with delight from above. Rethora smiled, recognized the voice, and ran out from under the table. “Papa Breen!” Little Rethora Greentuft shouted as she ran to the base of a great oak stump and scrabbled to climb up its side to reach her grandfather in vain.
“What do we have here?” The elderly sprout looked down from the stump. Papa Breen’s eyes sparkled and his belly jiggled with delight as he saw who it was. “Rethora!” The little sprout reached her thin, green arms upwards and gazed at him with wide, forest green eyes. “Oh my precious, it is good to see you.” Papa Breen looked at the crew of workers he had been conducting and said, “Excuse me for just a minute. One of my great grand children is here to see me!” Papa Breen knelt down to Rethora’s level and looked her in the eyes.
“Pick me up, please.” She asked him with a smile.
The mayor bent over and lifted his great granddaughter into his arms. She giggled as he tickled her ear with a little leaf. “My darling, oh how I treasure you!” Breen nuzzled Rethora into his side and then threw her into the air, causing her to erupt in more giggles and laughter. “How is my treasure doing today?”
“Wonderful, papa! Stenner and I have been playing hide and seek today. He’s it right now… It has been so fun!”
“Oh, I’m sure it has, my love. Why don’t you go play in the fields instead of the town? Today is a busy day of preparation for the harvest feasts, and I wouldn’t want you getting hurt.”
“Okay, papa! I’ll find Stenner and tell him.” Breen lowered Rethora to the ground as she nodded and ran to find Stenner, screaming his name. Breen smiled and watched her go.
Rethora chased Stenner outside the hubbub of activity and into the fertile fields. The two of them were laughing as they ran over the soft, brown earth. Their tiny roots kicked up the leaves and stems from the leftover harvest that lay scattered across the ground. Rethora tagged Stenner and then called for a timeout to catch her breath.
“Timeout for just a second.” Rethora held up a stem and inhaled deeply.
“Oh, please. There’s no time out!” Stenner reached down, picked up a fallen leaf, and threw it at her. She swatted the leaf away, picked up a clod of soil, and returned fire. The soft earth exploded on Stenner’s fore section.
“Got you back!” She said with her stems planted on her sides.
“I’ll get you!” Stenner ran directly at her, hoping to tackle her. The nimble sprout child dodged him with a side step, causing Stenner to lunge at the ground.
“Haha, can’t catch me!” Rethora laughed at the poor boy groveling in the dirt and ran further across the field. Suddenly, one of her roots stepped on something hard. Rethora looked down and saw a small, black rock that was very circular and plated. She reached down and picked it up with her stems to examine it. The orb rolled between her two stems as she admired it, and to her shock, the ball opened and a strange creature began to crawl up her stems to her midsection.
“Stenner, look at this!” She said as her large green eyes looked at the rollie pollie in wonder.
Stenner approached her equally intrigued. “My goodness! What is it?”
“I was hoping you would have known.” Rethora said tilting her head to look at him with a frown.
“Well, I don’t.” Stenner stood tall and pointed behind her, “But, I do know that that’s not the only one. Look!” Rethora turned and realized he was right. The field was covered in these strange black, balled creatures.
“Where did they come from?” Rethora asked. She put the small creature on her back and kept walking through the field of leftover plants and vegetable decay with her cousin.
“I don’t know.” Stenner admitted. “We should ask Papa Breen. He probably knows.” Stenner tried to count how many of the creatures he saw. “They’re so many of them!” The poor sprout said after losing track at 311. There were hundreds more, maybe even thousands. “It looks like they’re going somewhere.” He noted. “Let’s follow them.”
“Alright, let’s go!” Rethora said.
They followed the black creatures and were soon marching into the village’s storehouse. The double-doors to the village’s food supply were wide open! At the center of the great hall, the creatures were climbing on the mounds and munching the fresh harvest.
“Oh no!’ Stenner cried. “They are getting our produce. This is terrible, and there’s nothing we can do about it.” He frowned and his shoulders sagged. “Oh well.” He shrugged with a hopeless sigh.
“Are you kidding me? We worked hard for that. Get off of there!” Rethora rushed into action and jabbed the creatures with a soft poke from her stem or a boot from her root, causing them to roll up into a ball. Once they were balled up, Rethora, rolled them into a burlap harvesting sack. “Stenner, quick! We have to save our fresh veggies!”
“There’s no hope!” Stenner said staring at the harvest in defeat.
“Come on, we need to take action right now!” She said as she continued to collect the black bugs.
“Oh, okay.” He mumbled and begrudgingly joined her.
Together, they were able to roll all of the black creatures into the bags and seal off the entrance of the storage room so no more could get inside.
“We have to go tell Papa Breen, quick. He will know what to do about the rest of them.”
Rethora and Stenner took their sacks full of squirming pests to the village center and found Papa Breen on top of his oak stump still in the middle of preparation for the harvest feast. The center of the town was still a hubbub activity as the sprouts finished raising the big, burlap tent and setting up the tables. Papa Breen was motioning a work crew as the children approached. “Move the stage a little to the right-“
“Papa Breen!” Rethora shouted as she ran up to him.
“Yes?” Breen looked right and left then saw Rethora and Stenner approaching. He immediately got down from the stump and squatted down to be at their level. “What is it, little ones?”
“We were out in the fields and we found bugs! The bugs were eating the dead leaves and then we found a trail of them going into the storehouse. The doors were left wide open, and they were getting into our harvest and eating it! Stenner and I got all the bugs out and sealed it shut after we left. See!” She eagerly held up the bag of squirming rollie pollies.
“Oh my, I do see.” He said as one of them squirmed out the top. “I know these.” Papa Breen picked it off the ground and held it close to his nose. “We call them pill bugs, and they eat all kinds of plant material. You were smart to get these bugs bagged up like this, Rethora. Your prompt response saved our winter food supply. You are a hero! Three cheers for, Rethora!”
“Hip hip, hooray!”