“All right, one last time,” Daphne said, adjusting her horn rims. She examined her list of chores from a clipboard, pencil in hand. “What’s the first thing you do in the morning?”
“Wake up,” said Bendix Owl.
“No, no, the first thing you do on the farm,” Daphne clarified.
“Oh! Feed the MerCows.”
“And where are the fish?”
“In the bucket.”
“Uh-huh. And where is the bucket?” Daphne asked.
“Where the fish are,” Bendix replied. Most people think of owls as wise and all-knowing creatures. Bendix did little to perpetuate that stereotype.
“No, Bendix, the bucket is in the deep freeze, in the kitchen. Now, what do you do after feeding the MerCows?” Daphne’s tone was even, although her nerves were on edge.
“I milk them.” Bendix’s tone was even, because he was simpleminded.
“Great. And then?”
“Uh… look at the list?” Daphne’s nerves were danger of breaking, and she was clearly having second thoughts about taking the trip. Josie knew she had to do something quick.
“Right, Bendix, dear, you’ll have this list to consult if you ever forget what to do. Daphne has written up all the chores very clearly and not at all overly detailed.” Josie had her arm around Daphne and was pulling her away.
“But it’s important to know the list inside and out in case…”
“Daphne, darling, we’re going to be late, and I know how important punctuality is to you. Bendix is very trustworthy; we have nothing to worry about. Right, Bendix?”
“Really? Trustworthy? Nobody’s called me trustworthy before. I’m not sure I even know what it means, but it sounds important. All those T’s and that W!”
Josie laughed nervously and continued pulling Daphne away, who was becoming more and more rooted to the ground. “Don’t be silly, of course we can trust you.”
Daphne whispered, “Are you sure? He did cause that fire.”
“It was a restaurant; anyone could’ve started a fire at a restaurant.”
“At the salad bar?” Daphne was eyeing Bendix nervously, who was trying to pet the DeerHens with little success.
“You trust me, don’t you? And I trust Bendix. Besides, I let you choose Mount Rushmore as our vacation spot, and the deal was that I find someone to tend to the farm. Don’t worry, everything will be fine.” Josephine’s eyes were pleading, as if imploring Daphne not to back out on their plans.
“Fine, I’ll let it go. You’re right, so.” Daphne sighed.
“Keen! Let’s get moving. And don’t worry; I’m ninety-five percent certain the farm will be in one piece when we get back.”
They were running (and running late) by the time they reached the bus station. Josie was ecstatic, acting as if they had already reached their destination, roller skating through the bus terminal strumming her ukulele and singing. “Oh, we’re in a rushmore to get to Mount Rushmore. We’ll shove and we’ll pushmore to get to Mount Rushmore.”
Daphne was flustered and panicking, trying desperately to keep up with Josie. “Slow down, Josie, and please be quiet,” she panted.
“Daphne says hush-hushmore; we’re going to Mount Rushmore. Which way is the busmore, to take us to Mount Rushmore?” Josie inquired in song to the very distracted looking bus station employee. Without making eye contact, he ushered the panda and tortoise to the furthest bus on the left. The station was a mass of bodies all moving every which way, shoving Josie and Daphne hither and thither. “This is bus station is so busy, it should be called a bustle station,” Josie said, giggling.
Daphne grumbled. She didn’t understand how Josie could remain so chipper in such a loud and stressful environment. They were packed like peanuts in a candy bar, there was a nauseating stench of exhaust and the din of engines and chatter made normal conversation nearly impossible. Daphne was getting a headache from all the noise and stress, and Josephine seemed to be having the time of her life, smiling to everyone she passed, even though they never returned her smile.
Finally, breaking through the current of streaming passengers, they reached their bus, just as the doors slapped shut in their faces. Daphne immediately shrieked and began banging on the doors, yelling, “Let us in! Let us in!”
“Please don’t cause a fussmore, we’re getting on the bus to Mount Rushmore,” Josie sang as the doors squealed open. The bus driver, a man in mirrored sunglasses and a blue uniform, turned to them and spoke. For some reason, he spoke through the bus’s PA system, and everything he said came out garbled. Josie didn’t try to translate it; she just grabbed her friend’s hand and ran up the steps onto the bus. They found a pair of seats near the back and plunked down. Josie smiled and waved at everyone, who steadfastly refused to pay attention to her. Daphne, finally relaxed, promptly fell asleep as the bus lurched forward.
In her dream, Daphne was looking up at Mount Rushmore, and taking several snapshots, as Josie sang her Mount Rushmore song in the background. She was just about to put away her camera, when the stone head of George Washington turned to her and said, “What was the next chore on the list?” Washington sounded suspiciously like Bendix Owl and when Daphne looked over at him, she was suddenly transported to the farm, which was a shambles. Bits of Invisible Barn were scattered across the lawn, and the DeerHens were running wild, butting into each other and trampling through the Spaghetti Patch. Worse, the Umbrella Tree was shriveled and dying, and Bendix was nowhere to be found. The MerCows were crying out to her, the dread began sinking deeply in. Her home and her livelihood had been destroyed. Meanwhile, she could still hear Josephine singing the infernal Mount Rushmore song. She rubbed her eyes and looked again, but nothing changed.
Daphne awoke with a start, and looked around, relief flooding her senses. It was all a dream, and the farm was most likely just fine. She turned to Josie to tell her about her nightmare, and was surprised to find the panda looking away from her, guilty and nervous. “Land sakes! Did I sleep the whole way?”
Josie smiled nervously. “Not to worry, Daphne, sweetie, I entertained myself.”
Daphne patted her on the back. “Don’t worry, Josie, it isn’t like you. I had a nightmare about the farm, too, but I’m sure everything’s fine. Besides, I’m the one who’s supposed to be worried about it. We’re on vacation, just like you wanted!”
Josie was on the verge of tears. “I know, but…” She was interrupted by the bus driver, who spoke in indecipherable gibberish once again. This time, though, Daphne thought she recognized a word. And then she looked out the window, and realized she had recognized the word. And she knew why Josie was so nervous. They hadn’t boarded the bus to Mount Rushmore.
They had boarded the bus to Saturn.