“Mr. Puffy!” Jane walked by a small patch of clover and two red leaves, calling for the Lord of the Stone Family. “Puff Monster!” The family cat definitely ruled their roost. Her father worried over him like a hen over a chick, Jane thought to herself with a smile.
She heard a gasp behind her, and she turned to look. Nothing. Except, beside the clover patch, was now a toadstool circle. All the toadstools looked down, as if not wanting to draw attention to themselves. They seemed to be hiding.
“Those weren’t there a minute ago.” Jane said out loud.
“Who are you talking to?” called one of the Bicker-Backer brothers from next door. She looked up, and saw the red-haired one. She remembered his name was Brian. “I was just looking for Mr. Puffy.”
Brian walked toward her on the sidewalk. “Look, mushrooms,” he said. He reached down to pick one.
“Leave them alone!” Jane called. It almost looked as though the toadstools shank away from his hand. She shook her head. Surely she was being fanciful.
“Why?” Brian’s green eyes looked curious rather than irritated. She vaguely remembered Brig Bicker-Backer having blue eyes.
“They are part of my science experiment,” Jane invented wildly. Brian looked dubious, but he stood up. Jane was not sure why, but she felt protective of the toadstools.
“The Puff Monster is lying on our back steps,” he called over his shoulder to Jane, as he headed home. “My mother fed him again.”
“Oh, no! He’s getting so fat! Your mom promised my dad not to feed him again.” Jane spared a glance at the toadstools, and they seemed relaxed again. One appeared to be looking up at her. As she walked past, she could have sworn she heard a sigh.
She scooped up Mr. Puffy and carried him inside her house through her back door. When she looked out her front window, she could see the clover, but the toadstools were gone.
“Daddy,” Jane called to her father. “I found Mr. Puffy. Mrs. Bicker-Backer fed him again.”
“Oh drat, I wish that woman would stop feeding him. The vet chewed me out last time we took the Puff Monster to see her. She said he was five pounds overweight! I ask you. I hardly put any food out for that puffball, and he’s still enormous.”
“Dad, I saw some toadstools,” Jane started.
“Toadstools?” Jane told her father all about the disappearing toadstools. “Probably migrating wood elves.” Jane’s mouth dropped open at her father’s theory. “You surprised them, and they didn’t have time to run. Haven’t you ever noticed how mushrooms can be there one minute and gone the next? Suspicious behavior.” Her father wandered back into his study, muttering under his breath about neighbors, fat cats and surly vets. Jane thought back to the gasp and sigh she had heard. She went back outside and stared at the two red leaves and the clover, not a mushroom in sight. Could they have been migrating wood elves? She thought she heard a giggle from the dogwood, but all she could see were dangling red fruit.“Jane, dear, want a brownie?” Mrs. Bicker-Backer called through her screen door.
“Sure,” Jane answered. Through the door of the Bicker-Backer’s house she went, but that adventure will have to be told another day.