JOSEPHINE & DAPHNE’S SUMMER VACATION, PART 7

Josephine, not known for her keen sense of direction, was hopelessly lost. Usually, this wasn’t a problem. She never had any particular place she was headed, and the pleasures of finding someplace new outweighed the time it took to then find her way back. She had discovered waterfalls, candy shops and petting zoos this way.
The problem was that at this moment, she wanted to get back to the beach and to her best friend. After walking off her anger, she now felt guilty for blowing up at Daphne, and wanted to help her find a way back home. The trouble was, as stated earlier, she was hopelessly lost. And she was in a strange jungle.
By strange, I don’t mean it was particularly unusual, like neon orange trees and butterflies the size of Buicks; it was pretty much your standard jungle. Which was part of the problem, actually. All the trees looked the same, tall and leafy, and all the bugs were the same, small and buzzy. There were no outstanding landmarks, no specific points of reference, nothing Josie could use to determine if she had passed the same area sixteen or seventeen times. She was frustrated and on the verge of tears, but she was determined to reunite with her friend, and thus trudged on.
The sun was beginning to go down, and Josie started to panic. Without the light, there was no way she could find her way back. And how dangerous was this jungle at night? And what about Daphne, alone on the beach? Josie, not for the first time, decided to do something rash.
She picked the closest, tallest tree she could find, and began to climb it. After a moment, her fears started to drain away a bit. This was fun! It had been years since she had climbed a tree, and she had forgotten how enjoyable it could be. It was also difficult, though, as the bark on this tree was rough and unyielding. She struggled to get her footing, but ultimately she made it to the top, and slowly inched her way along a branch, so she could peer across the island and assess where she was.
What she saw almost made her fall out of the tree. She was looking straight at a clearing, where Todd the brontosaurus was tending to Marylou McBeebeard, who was sipping on some sort of tropical beverage and relaxing on a bed of leaves and bamboo. In the center of the clearing was a throne made of sparkling silver and encrusted with all sorts of rubies and emeralds. And towering above it all was a massive volcano. It looked as though Marylou was safe, but she still didn’t know if Daphne was all right or not. She started to turn around, and lost her balance. She almost slipped completely off the branch and tumbled to the ground, which had to be about thirty feet down, but she was able to grab the branch at the last second. She sighed in relief.
Below her, Cynthia, the Queen of the Bermuda Triangle, was prodding Daphne with her scepter and barking orders through her megaphone. “Walk! Walk! Walk! Walk! Walk, intruder! Face your punishment!” Josie gasped. Her friend was in danger. She had to act quickly. Unfortunately, getting down from the tree was even more difficult than climbing it and it was slow going the whole way, to avoid falling. By the time she reached the bottom, Daphne and the brown bunny rabbit were at the clearing.
“Todd!” Cynthia, the Queen of the Bermuda Triangle shouted in her megaphone. “Why didn’t you tell me about the intruder?”
“I’m so sorry, Your Excellency. But I did tell them to fix the dents they left in your most awesome beach.”
“Them? What do you mean them? There are more intruders?” Cynthia was hopping mad, literally. Being a bunny rabbit, she was able to hop high in the air, and her angry flailing arms conked Daphne in the head with her scepter more than once.
“Ouch, that hurts! And I keep telling you we’ll gladly evacuate your island if you show us how,” Daphne said, rubbing her head.
“We? So you admit it! Intruding on my island and conspiring against me! What did you bring with you, an army? Todd, why haven’t you prepared the weapons so we can defend ourselves from this army?”
“Please, be calm, Oh Queen. It’s not an army, just this nice woman with the bee beard, the tortoise and her panda friend. That’s all,” Todd said, bowing to the brown bunny rabbit.
“Yes, you can trust me, Miss Queen. Josephine and Daphne wouldn’t hurt a fly. Or a bee,” Marylou McBeebeard said.
“A bee,” repeated the beard of bees in unison.
“Enough!” shouted Cynthia, the Queen of the Bermuda Triangle into her megaphone. “You have all defied me and you must all be punished. Therefore, I decree you will be cast into the volcano!”
“No!” shouted Josie, racing into the clearing. “I won’t let you cast my friends into the volcano. You have no right!”
The brown bunny rabbit approached Josephine and looked her up and down. “So you must be the other intruder. Excellent! You will all be cast into the volcano- together! How time-savingly wicked of me!” She laughed. “Todd! Ready the Volcano Cage!”
Todd dutifully retrieved the Volcano Cage (which looked like a large bird cage made of bamboo) from behind the volcano with his mouth. Cynthia, the Queen of the Bermuda Triangle poked and prodded the three intruders with her scepter, and though they could have easily overtaken her, her tenacity was so overwhelming they could not help but do as she said, which in this case meant entering the Volcano Cage.
“Well, this is it,” Daphne said tearfully. “Goodbye, Josephine Panda. You’re my best friend and I love you.”
“Goodbye Daphne Tortoise, a panda couldn’t have wished for a better friend than you. And Marylou McBeebeard, we’re so sorry to have dragged you into this. You have been a good friend, and I’m sure you’re memory will live on, much like Jacques Kozuh’s.”
Marylou and the beard of bees were crying as well. “You two have made my life worth living again, it’s a shame it’s ending so quickly.”
“Shame,” repeated the beard of bees in unison.
“Enough! Todd, lower them into the volcano!” shouted Cynthia, the Queen of the Bermuda Triangle into her megaphone.
“Yes, Your Queeniness,” Todd said. He grabbed the rope in his mouth and began lowering the trio into the volcano.
“And goodbye Artie Quirk, wherever you are,” Daphne said. Before Todd could lower them any further, a deep, echoey, lispy and familiar voice rang out.
“What has grey skin, a trunk and comes out of nowhere?”

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