THE TREE THAT WISHED IT WERE A HOT DOG

Once there was a grand oak tree. It lived in the corner of a suburban lawn, where it overlooked the

gardening tools and bicycles of the Mintz family. The Mintz family loved their oak tree. The children,

especially. They spent countless afternoons in, around and under the tree. They clambered up the

branches, swinging their limbs to tree limb and back again. When the oak tree shed leaves, the children

dutifully piled them tall in the center of the yard, and splashed into the center with a satisfying series of

crackles. And on lazy weekend afternoons, they sat beneath the tree’s shade and lost themselves in

their comic books.

But the tree was unhappy. Years before the Mintz family came to live in its yard; the tree was

surrounded by other, taller, grander oak trees. These trees extolled the virtues of being grand old oaks.

Trees provided shade, oxygen and a sense of austerity. And when they grew too old, they were cut

down and provided warmth. The oak tree, much younger then, did not buy it. Being a tree was boring.

And sure, it was nice when the Mintz family finally arrived, and it was provided a greater sense of

purpose. But the tree felt awkward. The rest of the yard was clean and green, and the roots of the tree

jutted out like blemishes. The branches stretched gawkily into neighboring yards. But there was

something more.

The tree, more than anything, longed for a distinctive smell. There was nothing special about the tree’s

smell. So many flowers and herbs are coveted for their scents, but trees do not have this luxury. And

what’s more, the tree knew what smell it longed to emit. On warm summer evenings, the Mintz family

frequently grilled hot dogs in their yard. The air filled with the deep and smoky scent of grilled hot dogs.

It was the greatest smell the tree knew. It wished so deeply that it could be a hot dog, grilling in the

evening, filling the air with its sweet succulence. Sure, this would mean the tree’s lifespan would be cut

significantly short. But the tree understood this, and it didn’t care, not all that much, anyway. It wanted

to bring to the world, and the Mintz family the joy it felt when that smell filled the air.

But, the tree was born a tree. It will live a tree, and eventually die a tree. That’s the way it goes. The best

things, the most embraceable things, are the little things. And for the tree, that was soaking in the smell

of hot dogs in the summer dusk, as kids and fireflies flitted through the lawn. And for the Mintz family, it

was the grand oak tree, which, if they were given the choice, would choose its tree-ness over turning it

into a hot dog any day. And this is a family that eats a lot of hot dogs. So, that’s saying quite a bit.

Hot dogs every night.

BEAR SPACE SWEATER

The bear lived in the woods. He loved the woods. He loved dancing in the fallen leaves. The

leaves would dance with him, and the crunching would provide percussion. The bear loved the

stream. It was cool. It was calming. It provided food, and the rocks below the water were the

smoothest. The bear loved to collect rocks. He loved smooth rocks, but he also loved rocks that

were jagged and craggy. The bear could be smooth some days, but other days he could be

jagged and craggy. Especially in the winter. The cold brings out the jagged and craggy in bears.

This is why most bears hibernate.

The bear hibernates, but he doesn’t like it. Sleep, for the bear is simply a necessity. He doesn’t

dream, so sleep is a blank escape from the joys of the waking world. He missed the fallen leaves.

He missed the stream. He missed the rocks. So, many nights, even in winter, he would wander

the woods. It was quiet, especially in winter. Snow scared away campers, and dampened the

woods’ natural sounds. The bear would lose himself in thought, sometimes not noticing the

same trees and stones that he passed every day and night.

It was a winter night the bear found the sweater. He came across an empty campsite. The last

gasps of the fire were fluttering through the breeze and the footprints of the campers had been

re-filled with snow. Only the vague outlines of their boots remained. And a sweater, which hung

from the nub of a branch on a fir tree. The bear studied the sweater. Something about it seemed

different. It was black, with bits of silver thread snuck in throughout. He couldn’t read the tag,

but guessed it was meant for a much larger man. Something about the sweater suggested

depth, as if the material held space within. The bear had the odd inclination to put it on. The

winter wind had a bite to it, and the sweater seemed like it would muzzle that bite.

As he pulled the sweater over his brown fur, the bear felt his paws leave the ground. The trees

and stones and even the snow faded. As he adjusted his eyes, he realized he was no longer on

land. As he turned his head, he realized he was no longer on Earth. Stars shone all around him.

The sweater rippled on his torso, like the stream when fish fled his footsteps. As the bear moved

his arms, he found the stars danced around him. Each twitch, each reach caused the stars to

spin and shimmer in new patterns, like fireflies. The bear shifted his weight back and found his

legs over his head. He was revolving like the stars, and when he reached for purchase, the stars

danced a new dance around him. Startled, the bear removed the sweater and found himself

back in the woods. The fire was out. The footsteps gone. The bear replaced the sweater, and

slept.

TWENTY SECOND MYSTERIES PRESENT: THE STRANGE TALE OF THE MYSTERY SOCK

“Well, upon my word,” worded Walinda Fervent in her word-hole, aka mouth. “What manner of

sock is this? Tis not from my foot, that’s for certain! But if not mine, then whose? Whose foot

slides sturdily into this sock here, here in my hand? It is not mine, it is meant for a man, and I am

not a man. Not even remotely! This is a puzzler, to be sure! A puzzler. ”

The puzzle was abruptly punctured with a sudden burst by Banacek, Miss Fervent’s brutish

butler. “Miss Fervent, can I have my sock back?” he asked, gravelly voice giving way to wailing

whine. “My right foot is freezing!”

“A butler’s sock? Ee-hee-ew!” Walinda Fervent shrieked, and lobbed the sock through the air

and onto the longing foot of the brutish butler.

Thus ends this Twenty Second Mystery. Join us next time for the Mystery of Where The Other

Sock Is.

THE MUSEUM OF UNUSUAL SENTENCES, SPORTS EDITION

Greetings, Quarl LaFawnge again. Today’s exhibit in the Museum of Unusual Sentences is sure to

excite: sports sentences! Namely, unusual sports sentences. Enjoy!

The ball snapped the player, whom spread like butter across the field like toast.

Swish! Said the tennis racket, as it lay bestride a sleeping polo horse.

Bowling is the only sport, aside from all of the other sports.

Watch out for my foot, soccer ball! Shouted Pierre as the ball collided with his head.

Strike! Strike! The boxer with the catcher’s mitt asked with exclamation points?

Umpires sleep in packs, like hot dog buns.

Distressed fans of rugby can rejoice! The game is finally over!

Go team go! Go to the bathroom! Hurry!

And that concludes this exhibit from the Museum of Unusual Sentences. Unless then I bid you

you bid I.

HAVE YOU SEEN MY DINOSAUR? THE THRILLING CONCLUSION!

PREVIOUSLY ON HAVE YOU SEEN MY DINOSAUR?

I was minding my own business, between parties and naps. Virginia, my good friend and

Apatosaurus, asked very politely if she could hear my .45 of the Zombies hit, Tell Her No. I told

her yes. And we grooved a bit to that song. Then I realized I hadn’t listened to the B-side to that

record, perhaps ever. So, I flipped the .45 over to hear this song, Let Me Be. In that brief

moment, Virginia the Apatosaurus disappeared! Poof! Vanished! I thought maybe she had gone

to get some candy, but we have an excess of candy right here. I mentioned the jelly beans, but

we have sour gummies, peanut butter and chocolate bars, dark chocolate crunchy bites and

much, much more. So, where could she have gone?

AND NOW, WE RETURN TO HAVE YOU SEEN MY DINOSAUR? ALREADY IN PROGRESS

Oh, there she is. She was behind me the whole time. Sorry, Virginia. I thought you had

disappeared, but you were just wearing a hat. Wait a minute. Is that a party hat? Is it party time

again?

See, I told you guys, this Apatosaurus knows how to party!

PARTY TIME!

HAVE YOU SEEN MY DINOSAUR?

Hey, have you seen my dinosaur? It was right here just a second ago. Seriously, I turned my back

for a brief second, to flip my .45 over, and now she’s vanished.

Dinosaurs only listen to vinyl, you see. And this dinosaur, an Apatosaurus named Virginia,

desperately needed to hear Tell Her No by the Zombies, and I decided to hear Leave Me Be, the

B-side. It was decent, but now my dinosaur is gone. Woe. Woe!

We had a pretty good run, that Apatosaurus and I. I named her Virginia, because why not?

Here’s the thing about dinosaurs: they are party animals! Whenever we go out, the people

always shout, “Party!” And we do! We party all the time. We dance, we swim, we drink punch

and eat cake and pin various tails on various donkeys. Party food is the best for me and my

dinosaur. Little sandwiches, cheese and nuts and candy, candy, candy, candy, candy! Dinosaurs

and I love candy! In fact, maybe my dinosaur is getting candy? But there’s a ten gallon hat right

there, filled to the brim with jelly beans. Filled to the brim!

Seriously, where could she be! I’m stumped.

TO BE CONTINUED…