It was another perfect day on the farm. The sun was shining bright and yellow; there were just a handful of puffy white clouds in the sky and the mere hint of a breeze shushing through the blades of grass. It was the kind of weather that made Josephine Panda restless. Living on a farm meant you were constantly doing chores, whether it was milking the MerCows (which required an antiquated diving apparatus), fending off the antlered and easily spooked DeerHens to get to their eggs (whose shells are covered in sharp thorns), picking noodles and meatballs from the Spaghetti Patch (which was dirty and sometimes overly spicy work) or remembering just exactly where the Invisible Barn was to mix the rainwater solution that was then fed to the towering and shady Umbrella Tree. Josephine, or Josie as she preferred to be called, would rather be roller-skating or picking dandelions or singing songs and playing her ukulele.
“Earth to Josie, come in Josie, this is Ground Control to Major Josie,” called out Daphne Tortoise. Daphne ran the farm with Josie, and unlike the panda, didn’t get easily distracted by perfect weather. She was only distracted by a good mystery or adventure book, or the occasional romance if it wasn’t too sappy. Daphne would certainly prefer getting lost in the pages of her favorite book under the Umbrella Tree (her favorite pastime) but she couldn’t shirk the responsibilities of the farm, and wouldn’t be able to relax if she did. “Come on, Josie, help me put on the diving suit.”
“Sorry, Daphne, dear, I was just daydreaming. Wouldn’t this be a perfect day to roller skate out to the Nehi Sea-hi and skip rocks, maybe have a picnic and sing songs, or something fun like that?” Josie’s eyes still had a dazed, faraway look in them. Daphne sighed.
“Yes, I suppose, but we have lots to do, starting with the MerCows. Can you, for the second time, help me with this diving suit?”
Josie laughed. “That thing makes you look like an old-timey robot.” She imitated what an old-timey robot would look like, stiffening her torso and stretching her arms out, while shuffling her feet in a Charlie Chaplin-esque manner. “Twenty-three skidoo, razzmatazz, you’re the cat’s meow, Lucky Lindy, let’s do the Robot Jitterbug,” she intoned in a robotic monotone. Daphne laughed in spite of herself.
“Sure, it looks silly, but there’s no other underwater gear, so.”
Josie stopped and placed a paw on Daphne’s shell. “Daphne, darling, you do know you’re a tortoise. An amphibian! And in case you weren’t aware,” she looked both ways and leaned in, whispering into Daphne’s ear, “you can breathe underwater.”
“Well, you can never be too safe, is what I say.”
Josie let out a sudden, mournful sigh and flailed her arms as if she’d just been jolted by lightning. “Daphne, can’t we just take some time off? This farm’s driving me batty!” Her dour expression just as suddenly flipped to one of exuberance. “I have it! Why don’t we take a vacation? Yes, that would be perfect, just what the doctor ordered. An exciting getaway full of fun and adventure.”
“We can’t take a vacation, Josie. There’s far too much to do around the farm. The Spaghetti Patch is already in full bloom, the DeerHens have just laid several dozen eggs, plus we need to relocate the Invisible Barn or the poor Umbrella Tree will starve, so.” Daphne’s gestures became more and more frantic as she pointed out all the chores they needed to complete that day alone.
“Daphne, darling, don’t work yourself thin. You’ll collapse under the weight of all that stress. Besides, when was the last time we went on vacation? When’s the last time we even left the farm?”
Daphne pondered this, scratching her head. “What about the County Fair? We were gone for a whole weekend.”
“That doesn’t count, that was work. We had to enter the MerCows into competition, and we spent the whole time tending to them. Plus, Bessiegill got loose and we had to recapture her. It was more stressful than the farm!”
Daphne strained her brain cells trying to recollect the last vacation they had taken. She came up with nothing. Nada. Zilcho. Maybe Josephine had a point. The poor panda certainly looked worn out, her purple overalls caked in dirt and red sauce from the Spaghetti Patch, her fur punctuated with DeerHen egg thorns. Daphne’s own red flannel shirt and blue jeans were stained and torn as well.
But if they left, who would take care of the farm? And could she relax, not knowing if all the chores had been done in her absence? For Daphne it was a Catch-22, she needed a vacation to relax, but she couldn’t imagine being able to relax while on vacation.
For Josephine, there was no quandary. She needed to get away and quick. Josie didn’t much care who took care of the farm while they were off having an adventure, as long as the adventure was exciting and took her mind off the farm for just a little while. She imagined the two of them swinging from vines in the jungle or defeating vicious varmints in an Old West shootout. These were the kinds of situations Daphne loved to read about, but would never want to find herself in.
If we go on vacation, and I stress that ‘if’,” Daphne said, finally. “It will be under two conditions: One- we find someone reliable to look after the farm.”
“Of course, Daphne, sweetie, you leave that to me, I will find just the right person to take care of the farm. You won’t need to worry about a thing.” Josie was practically bursting with anticipation, the thought of an actual vacation, real time away from the farm made her want to break out into spontaneous cartwheels.
“Two- I get to choose where we go.” Josie nodded, slightly apprehensive at this condition, but too ecstatic to care.
“Oh, Daphne, you’re a peach! Let’s go plan it right now!” Josie began running for the house, her legs moving almost as fast as her head.
“Not so fast, Josie,” said Daphne. “First, you have to help me on with this old-timey robot outfit.”

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