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by Margo Fallis
Chapter 7

They walked down the dirt path, heading west, toward the Hills of Jeshar. The sun sat high in the sky. “Whew, it’s hot. I’m hungry and thirsty.” Xander turned his head to see Toast. “Hey girl, is there anything to eat around here? Does your nose sniff anything?”

The plumtuggle’s snout twitched as she sniffed the air. “I do smell a sweetness in the air. It’s faint and coming from up ahead. Let’s keep walking. I’m sure we’ll run into something.” A few minutes later they came to an orchard. The owner had built a high wooden fence around it. There were warning signs painted on boards and hammered in every few feet.

“Stay out! Do not enter! No trespassing! Do you think they owner means that he doesn’t want us in his orchard?” Xander climbed onto one of the fence railings. “One would get that hint. What sort of orchard is it?”

Toast sniffed again. Her eyes bulged out and her tongue dropped from her mouth. “Sugarapples. Yummy.”

“Sugarapples? That’s just what I need right now. Are they juicy?”

            “Oh yes. I’m sure they are the juiciest sugarapples you’ve ever tasted.” Toast drooled. “They’re big and red and waiting for us to eat them.”

            Xander clapped his hands. “What are we waiting for then? Let’s go and pick a few.”

            “What about the signs?” Toast’s brows arched.

            “Can’t you read?”

            “I already told you I couldn’t.”

            “Well, at this moment I can’t either, so let’s go and get one. I’m starving.” Xander climbed over the fence and dropped into the orchard. The rows of trees stretched as far as the eye could see in every direction. “Look at them all.”

            Toast climbed the nearest tree. “How many do you want?”

            “I’ll start with half a dozen,” Xander said.

            Toast reached up and plucked a sugarapple from the tree. He dropped it on the ground next to Xander’s feet. He picked another and dropped it too. “Let’s have one each to start and if we’re still hungry, I’ll climb back up and get us more.”

            Xander picked up the sugarapple and rubbed it clean on his shirt. He put it to his mouth and took a big bite. When he looked down at the apple, he spit out what he had eaten. “Don’t bite into it.”

            “Why not?”

            “Because there are worms in them.” Xander looked at the worms. Five yellowish-white worms wiggled around near the core.

            “You fool. You just ate our house!” One of the worms shouted. Xander couldn’t hear its voice very well, so he raised the apple closer to his ear. “I said, you are a fool. You ate our house!”

            “I ate your house? You live inside the sugarapple?”

            “You’re a bigger fool than I thought. This is Winesap City. All these trees are apartments and every apple is a home to a family of worms. You’ve gone and taken a bite from ours so now we’ll have to move and find another apartment. It’s not easy. Most are taken and very few are available. By the way, I’m Elmot. This is my wife Pindy, and our three children, Jarp, Tili, and Morth.”

            “I’m sorry for eating your house; I’m sorry, I mean your apartment.” Xander put the apple on top of a fence post.

Toast looked at her sugarapple. “I guess I ruined someone’s home too. Once a sugarapple is picked, it only lasts an hour and then it shrivels up and dies.”

“Take a bite out of it and warn the Likki family,” Elmot said.

Toast took a small bite from the sugarapple. Immediately a worm rushed from a hole to the surface. “Look what you’ve done. You ate my home! You fool.” Xander took the apple from Toast’s hand and put it on the fence post next to the other one.

“Calm down, Bonzu. They didn’t know about our city. They can’t help it if they’re human; well, at least one of them is. What are you anyway?” Elmot looked down at Toast.

“I’m a plumtuggle.”

“Well, you and your human friend had better find us both new sugarapples to live in before an hour is up. Put us down and be off with you,” Elmot commanded.

“How will we know if the sugarapple is vacant?” Xander stared at the worms.

“You’ll have to knock on each apple until nobody answers. When you’ve found a vacancy, come back and get us. Hurry along then.” Elmot and his family crawled out of their apple. “Come on, Bonzu. Get the family out of there before it’s too late.”

Xander and Toast ran from tree to tree, knocking on every sugarapple within their reach. They went up and down the rows of trees with no success. Every sugarapple had a family living in it. “What’ll we do? We’ve only got one more row of trees and then that’s all there is.” Xander sighed with frustration.

“I can climb fast. I’ll get the sugarapples at the top of the trees. You get the ones hanging from the bottom branches.” Toast scrambled up the first tree on the last row. “No vacancies up there.” When Xander shook his head, Toast saw that he had no luck either.

They got to the very last tree and every sugarapple was full. Saddened and worried they went back to the sugarapples on the fence post. Elmot and his family sat on top near the stem. The shriveling peel tightened and Xander could see that it was beginning to shrink. “We’re sorry, but every sugarapple in Winesap City is full. There are no vacancies,” Xander said.

“Well then, you will have to take care of us until you find both of us a new sugarapple. Bonzu and his family can sit on your left shoulder. My family and I will sit on your right shoulder, unless it rains and then we’ll crawl under your collar.”

“What? You want me to carry you worms around with me until I find another sugarapple for each of you?” Xander’s voice raised in anger.

“You understand. Very good. Come on children, dear, it’s time to go on a trip.” Elmot and his family inched their way up Xander’s shirt until they reached his shoulder. “This will do fine. We can keep our eyes open for sugarapple trees. Borzu, bring your family up. There’s plenty of room on the other shoulder.”

Xander stood still while the second family of worm, Borzu, Ranji, and their children, Boop, Ickpo, and Nigli, made their way to his shoulder. Elmot looked over at them and waved. “We’re all set. Off we go. Don’t run and be careful of low branches.”

“And birds,” Pindy said.

            Toast tried not to laugh. Xander made an angry face at her. “If you say one word of this to anybody, I’ll…I’ll…”

            “I won’t. Hee hee hee.”



Boop – Borzu’s son, worm

Borzu  Likki – a worm, lives in sugar apple orchard, Winesap City

Elmot – a yellowish white worm, lives in the sugar apple Winesap City.

Ickpo – Borzu’s son, a worm

Jarp- Elmot’s son, a worm

Morth – son of Elmot, a worm

Nigli – daughter of Borzu, worm

Pindy – wife of Elmot, worm

Ranji – Borzu’s wife, worm

Tili – worm, daughter of Elmot

Winesap City – a sugarapple orchard where Elmot and Borzu’s family lived until their sugarapples were picked by Xander and Toast

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