At 3 AM, Tommy was still awake on his pile of leaves in the lean-to he and Jerry had built. His mind kept imagining what they would find the next morning. Every time his tired body took over and sent him into sleep, his imagination ran wild. In his dreams, he flew with his brother through a world that looked completely different than their own – made up of colorful circles, squares, and triangles of different sizes. In his next dream, he was chasing a large dinosaur-like creature around a large human city. And in his next, he and his mom were helping a girl his own size track down a super villain.
Every time he woke up, he was sore and uncomfortable, and with all the craziness of the last few days it was hard to keep track of what was a dream and what was real.
He looked over and saw that Jerry was asleep. But it was starting to get light, so he decided to get up. As tired as he knew he’d be, his mind was racing too much now to get back to sleep.
As he walked out of the lean-to, he saw Roger a few feet away, munching on a slice of pizza. A real slice of pizza. She looked up at Tommy.
“Oh, hi!” She looked down at the pizza slice she was eating, then back at Tommy. “There are some houses about twenty minutes from here. Houses with trash cans!”
Tommy nodded. No matter how hungry he was, he would never eat cold pizza from a trash can, but he didn’t feel like he needed to say that to Roger.
“I got some apples too,” Roger added, holding one out to give it to Tommy.
“Oh…” he replied, not wanting to be rude.
“It’s alright,” Roger continued, seeing the look on her new friend’s face. “The apples are from an apple tree. You think they’d throw out like a dozen apples?”
Tommy looked and saw that Roger was surrounded by apples. She must have collected some for everyone. Now he felt bad for jumping to conclusions.
“I know,” Roger said with shame. “Not everyone likes to eat food from the trash…” Her arm holding the apple lowered.
“Oh, it’s alright,” Tommy replied, moving toward her, and taking the apple from her hand. The apple was huge for Tommy – almost as big as he was. He opened his mouth wide, and took a bite. “I’m sorry,” he said through munching with a full mouth, “I’m not used to having friends that do things so differently.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean,” Roger continued with a smile, looking over at their giant moose friend, who was yanking his head out of a tree by the water’s edge, trying to free his antlers from some low-hanging branches.
With a loud rustle, followed by a crack, Montgomery the Moose stumbled backwards and tripped, falling into the water. Tommy and Roger laughed.
As he watched Montgomery struggle to get back out of the water, Tommy noticed something in the water behind his large friend. After the splashing ended, his eyes focused and saw what it was – a small island!
He ran back to the lean-to as fast as he could, and almost knocked it down as he bent down to go inside.
“Jerry! Wake up! I think we found it!”
Jerry stirred, but was still half-asleep.
“Huh? Found what?” he replied groggily.
“The island! The island on the map!” He reached down to dig the map out from the leaf pile, and opened it up to show his brother. “Look!” he said excitedly. “It’s right out there!” He pointed with his arm out, then realized he was pointing in completely the wrong direction, then realized it didn’t matter at all.
“Oh…” Jerry replied, as if life was returning to him. Tommy waited patiently, while Jerry caught on to what he was saying. Jerry’s eyes widened. “Oh!!”
Jerry jumped out of his makeshift bed, hitting his head on the top of their lean-to with an “Ow!” The lean-to promptly fell apart around them.
The two brothers climbed through the pile of sticks, and ran towards the water. Tommy held up the map to show Jerry, and pointed to the island, about 200 feet from shore. Just like the one on the map, the island had one solitary tree on it, and just like on the map, the tree was tipped at an angle.
“Yeah! That’s it!” Jerry agreed.
“That’s what?” asked Montgomery the Mouse, who had scampered over to see what was going on.
“That island!” Tommy explained. “It’s the one we’re looking for. Look…” He showed his mouse friend the map. Roger came over to join them.
“Yep, looks like it,” Montgomery the Mouse replied, without any of the same excitement. “I always knew there was something funny about that island…”
Montgomery the Moose strolled over to join the group.
“What’s going on?” he asked.
“We need to get out to that island,” Montgomery the Mouse replied.
“Oh, okay,” Montgomery the Moose answered, without any further questions.
He started walking toward the water, and the group moved quickly to climb on his back. Roger threw three apples up for his friends to eat, and then carried another as he scampered up to join them.
The creatures did their best to eat while Montgomery the Moose lurched into the water, but it wasn’t easy, and over the course of a few steps, they each gave up. As Montgomery made his way into deeper water and started swimming, they had to climb up to his head, and pretty soon, Roger was the only one still holding on to an apple; everyone else had let theirs float away in the water.
Montgomery the Moose seemed to be struggling as they got closer to the island, and he rocked back and forth. His small friends held on tight to his antlers.
“Ugh,” Montgomery the Moose said, speaking for the first time since they entered the water. “Maybe this was the wrong way to learn how to swim…”
“What?!” Montgomery the Mouse replied. “You don’t know how to swim? I thought all moose can swim?”
“Well, yeah, they can,” Montgomery the Moose replied, “if someone teaches them…”
He sunk down into the water, leaving his friends to swim themselves. They could all swim a little, but the island was still quite a way away. Montgomery the Moose raised his head out of the water, saying “it’s okay, I’m alright…” before sinking down again.
While Jerry, Tommy, and Montgomery the Mouse struggled, Roger was having a great time with her apple. She held onto it and was joyfully pushing it under water and watching it bob back up and jump out of the water when she let go.
“That’s it!” Jerry shouted. “We need the apples! They float!” He looked around and noticed that the apples were about 20 feet behind them. But two of the apples were moving toward them, faster than apples usually float.
As the apples got close, Jerry saw what was pushing them – two frogs. One of them was the frog Montgomery the Moose had eaten the night before.
One of the frogs pushed one apple between Jerry and Tommy, and the brothers held on to each side of the apple to stop it from rolling over. Montgomery the Mouse, who had been given the other apple, wasn’t so lucky – he tried climbing up on top of the apple, but it kept rolling over, sending him under the water. After four or five attempts, Roger came over and held it in place for him, and the mouse finally made it on top. Roger held it between her front paws, and pushed it toward the island. The frogs worked together to push Jerry and Tommy’s apple toward the island too.
“Its okay, I’m alright…” they heard Montgomery the Moose say again as they climbed off the apples and onto the island. They looked back at the frogs, and said their thank yous.
“See, Freddie?” said one frog to the other. “They’re friendly.”
“You weren’t there last night, Francesca,” the other frog replied. “That one tried to eat me,” he added, motioning back to the struggling moose.
“He didn’t mean to,” Montgomery the Mouse jumped in, defending his friend. “It was an accident.”
“It doesn’t really matter if it’s an accident when you’re the one being eaten,” Freddie the Frog retorted. Jerry and Tommy both nodded, agreeing that this was a fair point.
“Well, I’m sure he’d say sorry if he could,” Montgomery the Mouse added. He looked out at his friend, who kept bobbing up out of the water to say it was okay, and he was alright.
Jerry and Tommy left the conversation to look at the tree. Tommy pulled the map out from his pocket – it was wet, but the paper was thick parchment, and hadn’t been damaged in the water. The X on the map looked like it was right at the base of the tree, where the roots were exposed from the tree tipping to one side.
They dug a little around the roots, and heard a clang as they knocked into something solid – metal, perhaps?
“There’s something in here!” Jerry said excitedly.
“I knew it!” Tommy replied.
“It’s okay, I’m alright…” Montgomery the Moose added from the water.
The brothers dug as much as they could, and the rest of the group joined them. They quickly realized they couldn’t get any further, though; the roots had grown over whatever this was. They needed something stronger to break through it.
“You know what we need…?” Tommy asked the group.
“Ugh, I think I know the answer,” Freddie replied. “We need that clumsy moose, don’t we?”
The group nodded, and looked out to where Montgomery was. But he wasn’t there anymore. Instead they just saw some bubbles.
“Montgomery?” Montgomery the Mouse asked, before starting to panic. “Montgomery?!”
Right at that moment, they heard a deep rumble. The island, and the water all around it, started shaking. While most of the creatures panicked, Montgomery the Mouse smiled and looked out at the water.
The shaking become more intense, and pretty soon, it felt like the whole island might fall over.
Then, out of the water, Montgomery the Mouse saw it.
The big yellow machine.
“What is that?!” Freddie asked.
“That…” Montgomery the Mouse beamed with pride, “that… is my friend.”
The big yellow machine rumbled up onto the island, with Montgomery the Moose wedged into what was left of the cab. The creatures moved to the sides, out of the way of the large tracks, and in awe of what they were seeing.
“It’s okay, I’m alright…” Montgomery the Moose reassured everyone. “Except…” he added, seeing that the excavator’s arm was about to hit the island’s tree, “I don’t know what I’m doing…”
He pressed any button he could find to stop it from hurting the tree. The machine ground to a halt, and instead the machine’s arm jerked up and down, crashing into the exposed roots.
“Oh, I am so sorry,” Montgomery the Moose winced. “I didn’t mean to -”
“No, it’s okay,” Jerry and Tommy shouted out. Montgomery looked at them, unconvinced. “Really! It’s okay, you’re alright…”
The machine banged the roots, breaking them apart, before the moose accidentally pressed another button, and the machine’s arm swung in a full circle, knocking the whole tree over, pulling out its other roots in full, and sending soil and dirt through the air.
“Oh, no…” Montgomery the Moose said in embarrassment.
“It’s okay,” Jerry and Tommy tried again.
Roger climbed onto the still-wet excavator and pressed a button to stop the whole thing.
“Look, now we can get that thing out,” he told his moose friend.
They both climbed off the big yellow machine and joined their friends.
Jerry and Tommy directed Montgomery the Moose in wedging his antlers underneath the metal object, and they dug around it with Roger’s help. Pretty soon, there was movement and they got the whole thing out.
It was a small chest. It had a small lock on it, but Tommy was so excited that he pulled the lid hard and the lock broke apart after years of wear and tear.
Inside the chest was another map. Jerry pulled it out and held it up against the map Tommy had brought. Sure enough, the rip along the bottom of the map they just found fit into the rip on the top of the map they’d brought with them.
“This is all part of the same map,” Tommy said in wonder.
“And look,” Jerry added. “Another X. On the side of that mountain.” He pointed on the map, and then looked up. To the west, they saw a mountaintop poking out above the trees on the shore.
“Whoa,” Montgomery the Moose exclaimed. “I’ve never seen that before!”
Jerry looked back into the chest, and pulled out a gold key that looked like it could be hundreds of years old.
Now that they had everything they needed, they decided to leave, but Montgomery the Moose felt he needed to put the tree back first.
He climbed back into the big yellow machine’s cab, but before he could press any buttons, Roger climbed in too, and she pushed the right buttons to use the machine’s claw to pick up the tree by one end, and hold it over the hole in the ground. “Wait, wait!” came some shouting from the friends, and Roger realized that it wasn’t going to stay standing by itself. Montgomery pressed the same button as before, though, and the arm jerked up and down repeatedly, knocking the tree further and further into the ground. When the arm let go, the tree was standing perfectly upright, and although they could tell their friends were saying something, the noise of the motor was too loud, so they decided they were done, and Montgomery decided to get back out, accidentally pressing the reverse button as he did so. The machine lumbered back into the water behind Roger and Montgomery.
“Oops,” Montgomery concluded.
“Nah, we didn’t need it anymore.”
“No, not that.”
Roger followed Montgomery’s gaze and immediately noticed what the friends had been yelling about.
The trunk was straight, but where the branches had been, she saw dirt-covered roots. They’d put the tree back in upside-down…
The group gathered around, impressed and shocked by what had just happened.
“Oh, well…” Roger said with a shrug. “Close enough. And now it looks like one of those baobab trees in Africa.”
“What?” replied Montgomery the Moose. “Never heard of them.”
“Does the map say anything about this?” Jerry interrupted, holding up the gold key he’d found.
“No,” Tommy replied. “It just says…” he held up the map to read it to everyone, ‘BEWARE – DRAGON… AND CHOCOLATE LAB'”
“Chocolate Lab?” the Montgomerys replied in unison. “Sounds delicious!”