As the friends made their way through the woods, Montgomery and Montgomery both took deep breaths, and enjoyed the familiar scents of pine needles, fir cones, and the faint, distant smell of s’mores. They were close to home.
But there was also another aroma drifting through the woods. This one became stronger with every step of Montgomery the Moose’s large body. But unlike some of the other smells the smaller creatures would sometimes pick up on, this one wasn’t coming from their large friend, and this one smelled great.
“Pizza!” Jerry exclaimed, and licked his lips. Tommy took a deep breath in, soaking up the smell of cheese, tomato, and his favorite – pepperoni.
“Pizza?” Roger the Raccoon asked. That name seemed familiar, and she had a vague memory of it from her childhood.
Montgomery and Montgomery weren’t so familiar with the smell, and were keen to find out more about this “Pete’sa.” Pete’s a what? And who is Pete anyway, wondered Montgomery the Moose silently.
They followed the smell through some trees and found the back of a building on a roadside. They made their way around it, and saw a man going back and forth between the building and a metal box with wheels. Each time he came out, he brought another few boxes – flat, square boxes that stacked on top of each other. The man was wearing a yellow and red jacket and matching hat, in the same pattern as on the front of the building.
The man went back inside, leaving the door of the metal box open.
“Pizza,” Roger the Raccoon added, as the memories came back to her, clearer now. “Yes, this is what happened,” she added, and scampered down Montgomery’s leg.
She ran over to the stack of boxes, and, standing on her hind legs, she lifted a flap and opened the lid of the box on top of the pile.
The smell of the pizza wafted out, and while it didn’t do much for the chocolate-loving Montgomerys, it overpowered the others.
“When I was a kid,” Roger explained to her friends, “my mom took my whole family for a walk at night, and she found one of these. And she gave each of us our own piece.”
Roger reached into the box, and using both hands, she picked up a slice of pizza by the crust. The freshly-cooked cheese hung off the side, connecting it to the rest of the pizza, but Roger pulled at the slice until it was free. She motioned to Jerry and Tommy to come over, so Montgomery the Moose moved close enough for them to climb down from his head and join Roger.
After handing them a slice each, she pulled another out for herself. Jerry and Tommy struggled to know how to proceed – the slices were bigger than they were. Roger looked at them, and showed her how to pick up the slice. She turned it around to put the cheesy end in her mouth, but the whole thing was unwieldy even for her, and the tip of the slice flopped down. She held it up higher, and was just about to put it in her mouth, when…
“HEY! Get away from there!” The man had come back out of the building, and was so shocked, he dropped the other boxes he’d been holding, and ran right at the creatures, shouting obscenities and waving his arms furiously.
“Oh,” Roger said softly, as more memories came back to her. “Yeah, this happened too.”
She joined Jerry and Tommy in climbing back onto Montgomery the Moose, and as soon as the whole group was on, he trotted away back into the woods. The man continued to shout at them and throw whatever he could find in their general direction.
The group reached the clearing in the woods where they’d first smelled the pizza. Roger gave a sigh, and Montgomery the Mouse noticed her sadness.
“After all that, I didn’t even get to taste any. Not even one bite,” she said softly.
“Same here,” Tommy spoke up.
“Same here,” Jerry echoed.
Montgomery the Moose had an idea, but kept it to himself.
Almost an hour later, they arrived back at Montgomery and Montgomery’s clearing on Lake Damariscotta. It was too dark to see much, but the Montgomerys knew right away that they were home.
“Here we are!” Montgomery the Moose announced.
“So that’s the lake?” Tommy asked, waving vaguely in the darkness. Montgomery the Mouse confirmed. Tommy was excited to have made it here, and looked at Jerry, who was exhausted and just wanted to sleep.
“This is our camp,” Montgomery the Moose added, as if he was finishing his earlier announcement.
The passengers all climbed down from Montgomery’s back, and started to explore.
“You stay here and settle in,” Montgomery the Moose offered. “I’ll be right back.” Montgomery the Mouse looked at his large friend and wondered what was going on, but he decided to help his friends.
He showed Jerry and Tommy his tunnel system, which Jerry thought might need some widening if they were going to stay there also. Meanwhile, Roger gathered materials to make a shelter for the night.
Before long, Montgomery the Moose came back to them all, with excitement on his face.
“Dinner… is… served!” he proudly exclaimed. The group gathered, curious. “Come! This way, please…” He turned his head to gesture toward the lake, and then he led the way.
When they got to their destination, he asked everyone to sit. By now it was really dark, and they could all only make out vague shapes. Tommy could make out a flat, round thing in front of him, but he had no idea what it was.
“To welcome you to our home here, I wanted to do something special. In front of you, you each have your own homemade pizzas!”
“Oh, wow!” Roger exclaimed. Montgomery the Mouse was less sure about this whole situation.
Jerry and Tommy looked at each other, and wondered where he’d been able to cook these, or where he got the ingredients.
Roger was excited about her pizza, although when she picked it up to take a bite, nothing about it felt like the pizzas she was used to – this one was cold, wet, and slimy. But she wasn’t a pizza connoisseur, and decided this must just be another kind she’d never had before.
Jerry decided he needed more information, and raised his hand. “Can I ask some questions?”
“Hold on,” Montgomery replied. “I want to eat my pizza first; I’m starving.”
Montgomery the Moose and Roger the Raccoon both took big bites of their pizzas, although for Montgomery, this meant the entire things went in his mouth in one gulp.
Roger’s face turned to pain and disgust. “Umm, wow. Thank you, Montgomery…”
“Mm, you’re wehrcom,” he spoke through a full mouth. He seemed to be having trouble with his pizza.
“What are these made of?” Jerry asked. He and Tommy had decided they weren’t as hungry as they had thought they were.
“Well, um…” Montgomery the Moose struggled. “Gib me a binute…”
Montgomery’s head started jerking around, as if there was something inside desperately trying to get out.
His mouth opened. Something small and green was hopping around angrily inside.
Tommy squinted to look closer. “Is that… a frog?”
“Dang right it’s a frog,” the frog shouted, and hopped out of Montgomery’s mouth. “And this frog doesn’t plan on being eaten anytime soon. But what do you expect? He made your food out of lilly pads-“
“Yeah, I didn’t have any dough…”
“I didn’t have any tomato sauce…”
“-and pond weeds!”
“I couldn’t find any cheese…” Montgomery became sadder with each comment.
Roger put down the rest of the ‘pizza’ that she was holding. She decided she wasn’t hungry after all. Jerry and Tommy left theirs right where they were.
There was a moment of quiet.
“So this was my big purpose?” the frog shouted to no one in particular. “This is what that horse brought me from New York for? To get eaten on a lilly pad and mud pizza? No thank you. Fuggedaboudit!”
He hopped away, as angrily as it’s possible for a frog to hop away, muttering “this would never happen in Central Park.”
Once he was gone, they all looked at each other, as if to say what a strange creature.
Exhausted by their long journey, though, Tommy yawned, and before long, so did the rest of them.
They went back to their sleeping areas, and decided to make do with what they had. They needed sleep for their big day tomorrow.
After all, they didn’t know it yet, but tomorrow was the day they would find their way into the magical land.