JOSEPHINE & DAPHNE’S SUMMER VACATION, POST-READING DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

After finishing Josephine & Daphne’s Summer Vacation, you will certainly be filled with a mixture of emotions. Delight over the uproarious, touching and thought-provoking tale you just finished. Anguish over the fact that the story is over and, although you wouldn’t have changed a thing, you wish it were longer. Hunger, which can be solved by eating that salami sandwich in your hand.
Most of all, you must be overcome with a nagging need to discuss the story with all of your friends, and re-read the story over and over again, both aloud and to yourself. Below is a list of questions to help facilitate discussion, and to aid in re-reading. Enjoy! And feel free to provide your answers in the comments.
1. In Part One, Josephine calls Daphne an amphibian. Given that Daphne is a tortoise, wouldn’t that mean that she was a reptile? Why doesn’t Daphne correct her? Should the author have researched and/or fixed this error? Is there really a difference between reptiles and amphibians anyway?
2. Do you think a bus ride to Mount Rushmore would be shorter than, longer than, or the exact same length as a bus ride to Saturn? Show your work.
3. What has grey skin, a trunk and comes out of nowhere?
4. How did I know you were holding a salami sandwich?
5. If there are creatures in sunbeams, does that mean the light coming through the window is teeming with Shadow Sharks and UV Ray Octopish? In what other ways has the story traumatized you?
6. How do you explain the presence of Todd the Brontosaurus at the Bermuda Triangle? Dinosaurs are extinct, correct? Is this one of those amphibian/reptile mix-ups? And what’s a brontosaurus doing with a Hawaiian shirt?
7. These Presidential “facts” from Part 9 don’t show up in history books. This isn’t a question, but a statement. So, I guess the question is, don’t you wish they did?
8. Would the milk of a MerCow be drinkable, especially if you fed them fish?
9. Can you think of any other questions?

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JOSEPHINE & DAPHNE’S SUMMER VACATION, PART 9

If you guessed that the portal led to strawberry rhubarb pie, then you were wrong. If you guessed it led to a water park in Fun City, you were wrong again. If you guessed it led to a gazillion dollars, you were wrong yet again, and maybe should stop guessing.
The portal actually led to the nostril of our sixteenth President, Abraham Lincoln. No, not the actual Abraham Lincoln, who died over a hundred years ago, but the nostril of his likeness, carved in stone. Which is to say that the portal led to Mount Rushmore.
“Land sakes, I didn’t think we’d ever get here,” Daphne said, climbing out of Lincoln’s nose. She had to tiptoe along his upper lip to get to land, or else she would have fallen several feet down. Normally, this would have frightened the dickens out of her, but after the adventures she’d had, it was a piece of cake. Josephine and Artie Quirk climbed out of the President’s nose as well.
“You know, I’ve been all over the universe, from the moons of Jupiter to the seas of Caspian, but I’ve never been to Mount Rushmore,” Artie said. “It’s very fascinating.”
“It’s fabulous, and thankfully danger-free,” Josie said.
“Danger free?” asked Daphne. “I thought you loved adventure.”
“I do, but there is such a thing as too much adventure, and I think we’ve reached our quota.” Daphne laughed, and they all took in Mount Rushmore, taking all sorts of pictures and reading up on its history. Josephine learned that Teddy Roosevelt was a master prankster, and he kept the White House on its toes with his hand buzzers, whoopee cushions and exploding cigars. A prank call to Paraguay almost resulted in a war, but once the situation defused it was turned into a luau. Daphne discovered that George Washington originally wanted to be a jockey, and had written several stories about George Washington, Jockey in which he won every horse race he ran, against all odds. These odds included pirates, underwater races, and one in which all the other horses were steam-powered. Artie read about Thomas Jefferson’s crippling fear of lions, and the special lion traps he placed in his bedroom (a clothes hamper with a plate of bacon poised underneath) which needed to be checked very night before he slept. The trap was always triggered, not by a lion, but by Vice President Aaron Burr.
Before they knew it, the day was over. “I hate to say it,” Josie sighed, “but I think I’m ready to go home.”
“Wow,” said Daphne. “I’d almost forgotten about the farm. I hope the MerCows are all right.” She felt the slightest twinge of panic in her stomach when she remembered Bendix was watching over the farm.
“I’m sure they’re just fine,” Josie said. “I have to admit, though, I’m not looking forward to another bus ride.”
“Bus? Bus?” said Artie Quirk, removing his porkpie hat. “Why take the bus, when you can take a balloon?”

******************
And so, Josie and Daphne rode home in Artie Quirk’s balloon. When they arrived at the farm, they were surprised and relieved to find that everything was in its place and that nothing had died or exploded or otherwise been harmed. When asked if he had any trouble, Bendix blushed and turned away. “My mom helped out a little bit,” he admitted.
“No shame in that,” Josie said, patting him on the wing. “Here, we brought you home a souvenir.” Bendix examined it, a travel mug from the Dismal Demitasse, The Saddest Café in the Sun.
“I thought you were going to Mount Rushmore,” he said.
“We did,” replied Daphne. “But took a little detour.”
After a meal of DeerHen eggs and bacon, Artie Quirk bid his new friends good-bye. “However, don’t forget, if you need me or wish to see me, just call out my name.” And with a puff of smoke, he was gone.
And with that, Josephine and Daphne’s summer vacation was officially over. The next day, it was business as usual, and they both found it oddly comforting to return to the routine of their farm work. Josephine milked the MerCows, Daphne mixed the rainwater solution for the Umbrella Tree, and they both picked meatballs and noodles from the Spaghetti Patch. It was good, hard work. That being said, they were both already considering their vacation options for next year.
And both were thinking about the moons of Jupiter.

THE END

JOSEPHINE & DAPHNE’S SUMMER VACATION, PART 8

A cloud of smoke erupted at the base of the volcano, and a familiar figure emerged.
“Artie!” Josie and Daphne cried.
“Artie?” Marylou McBeebeard asked.
“Artie?” repeated the beard of bees in unison.
“Quirkums!” Cynthia, the Queen of the Bermuda Triangle exclaimed.
“Quirkums?” said Josie and Daphne and Marylou and the beard of bees.
“Cindy!” Artie Quick said, gasping.
“Cindy?” said Josie and Daphne and Marylou and the beard of bees. Todd the Brontosaurus said nothing, as his mouth was full of the rope of the Volcano Cage. He was, however, as surprised and confused by the events unfolding as everyone else.
“Quirkums, I never thought I’d see you again. When you disappeared in that barrel going over Niagara Falls, I was sure you were a goner!” Cynthia’s haughty demeanor had transformed into one of awe mixed with obvious puppy love. Everyone but Todd noticed this.
“Ah, but you forgot about my astounding powers of prestidigitation!” Artie said.
“Oh, yeah I forgot about that,” Cindy said.
“Artie, how did you find us?” Daphne asked.
“You may recall I said if you should ever need me, or wish to see me, just call out my name. And voila!”
“That’s incredible, but how did you get here so quickly?” asked Josephine.
“You must have forgotten about my astounding powers of prestidigitation!” Artie said.
“Oh, yeah we forgot about that,” Josie said. Cynthia began hopping up and down.
“Wait, Quirkums, you know these intruders?” she yelled.
“They’re not intruders, Cindy; they’re dear friends of mine.”
“How dear, exactly?” Cynthia asked, reddening.
“Oh, my dear little rabbit, you have always been the jealous type. But never fear, my heart beats only for you.” Artie said, kissing her paw. The Volcano Cage began to shake as Todd protested this sign of affection.
“Wait a second, are you getting fresh with my missus?” he said, though with the rope in his mouth, it sounded more like, “Wayuhsheg, yoogehi fweshmymishish?”
“Todd! What have I told you about talking with your mouth full?” Cynthia, the Queen of the Bermuda Triangle shouted. Todd spat out the rope, and the Volcano Cage fell to the ground with a crash. Josephine, Daphne and Marylou were shaken, but unharmed.
“Listen, you,” Todd said, neck bending low so he could stare Artie Quirk in the eye. “That ‘dear little rabbit’ happens to be my wife, so I’d appreciate you keeping your lips off her mitts.”
“A trazillion apologies, dinosaur friend, I didn’t mean overstep my bounds.”
“I ain’t your friend, friend.” Todd huffed through his nostrils and ambled closer to the elephant.
“Todd! Don’t be rude to Mr. Quirk; he’s… a good friend of mine.” Cynthia intervened, stepping between the two. Artie sashayed over to the three who were vacating the now-crushed Volcano Cage.
“What do you say we get out of here?” he whispered to them.
“Get out of here? You do know we’re in the Bermuda Triangle, so.” Daphne said.
“So?” asked Artie Quirk.
“So, no one has ever escaped the Bermuda Triangle.”
“Poppycock! Why, there’s hundreds of escape routes. The trick is finding the one you really want.”
“Keen!” Josie said. “Let’s go exploring!” While Todd and Cynthia, the Queen of the Bermuda Triangle continued their spat, the others wandered into the jungle. Marylou and Artie were introduced to one another. Artie removed what looked like a remote control for a toy car from his coat pocket, and flipped switches and dials while pointing it forward.
“This little device will detect where the portals to the rest of the world are,” he explained. “Be careful, though, some lead to places you won’t expect. Ah! Here’s one.” A light at the top of the device flashed green.
“Ooh, let me check, let me check!” said Josie. It was a hole in the base of a tall tree, and before anyone could protest, Josie stuck her head in it. Somewhere in Wales, an elderly woman was shocked to find the head of a panda protruding from her bowl of tomato soup. “Sorry,” Josie said, embarrassed. When she removed her head from the tree trunk, it was drenched in tomato soup.
“What did I tell you?” said Artie, laughing. Daphne and Marylou were laughing as well, and soon Josie joined them.
After a few moments of exploring, Daphne suddenly gasped and turned to Marylou. “I almost forgot! The Jacques Kozuh, it…”
“I know,” said Marylou.
“We know,” said the beard of bees in unison.
“We’re so sorry, Marylou, love, if there’s anything we could do, just let us know.” Josie said, squeezing Marylou’s arm.
“What is all this about Jacques Kozuh? You mean the famous sunbeam explorer?” Josie and Daphne explained how Marylou’s boat had crashed and split in two on the beach. “Is that all?” he said. “Why, it’s a simple fix, and I just so happen to have the tools with me. Show the way!”
It took some time, but they eventually made their way to the beach and the Jacques Kozuh. Artie removed his hat with a flourish, reached down and pulled up a large tub labeled ‘Alchemic Glue.’ “This glue will fix anything, broken bones, discombobulated houses, even misplaced limbs. It will certainly repair your boat.” And it did! Within minutes, the boat was as good as new.
“Thanks a million!” said Marylou McBeebeard.
“Thanks a million!” repeated the beard of bees in unison. However, it was a bittersweet victory, as with the sun now rising, Marylou had to be on her way. She hugged Josephine and Daphne, and Artie kissed her hand.
“Goodbye, and we’ll see you real soon!” she shouted as her boat drifted into the sky.
“Real soon!” repeated the beard of bees in unison. The green light on the remote device began blinking.
“Huzzah! A new portal must be near,” Artie said. The device led them to a hole buried in the sand. Before Josie could reach down into it, Daphne stopped her.
“Oh, no,” she said. “This time I’ll check it out.” She poked her head in the hole, and soon began to laugh. Artie and Josie exchanged quizzical glances. Daphne came back up, tears of laughter streaming down her face. “You’ll never guess where this portal leads,” she said.

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?”

JOSEPHINE & DAPHNE’S SUMMER VACATION: PART 6

Everyone was screaming and hanging on for dear life. Marylou McBeebeard tried steering the boat back on course, but it was to no avail. It was as if some unseen force had taken hold of the Jacques Kozuh and was dragging it kicking and screaming toward Earth.
As they got closer, Josie spotted a small triangular island and, over Daphne’s shrieking, shouted, “Marylou! Head for that island!”
“I’ll try my best, but I don’t have much control over this thing,” Marylou shouted back. The beard of bees did not repeat this, as they were too busy screaming. The boat began to buckle and shake as the Earth’s surface drew nearer and nearer. It pitched forward suddenly, throwing all of its occupant’s forward, and just as suddenly they all blacked out.
Josie was the first to come to. Her eyes took a moment to focus, and then she saw blue (the sky), green (the trees), and sand (the sand.) They had apparently landed on the island after all.
She slowly rose to her feet and approached Daphne, who had tucked herself into her shell. “Daphne, darling, are you hurt? Please tell me you’re all right, Daphne, please!”
Daphne poked her head out, then her arms and legs, blinked and slowly stood up. “I think the shell absorbed most of the impact,” she said. “I’m just a bit dazed, so.”
“Where’s Marylou?” Josie asked, scouring the beach. Off in the distance, they could see the Jacques Kozuh broken into three pieces.
“Help! Help!” several dozen voices shouted. Josie looked up. Marylou had landed in a tree, near the very top. She awoke slowly, looked down, then up, then down again.
“How did I- where are- what- help! Help!” she shouted.
“Help! Help!” repeated the beard of bees in unison.
“Don’t worry,” Daphne called. “We’ll help you. Somehow.” The problem was she wasn’t sure how that was going to happen. The tree was probably three times taller than Josie and Daphne put together. How were they going to get up there?
“Halloooooo!” A deep voice intoned. From a cluster of trees a head poked through. It was, improbably, a brontosaurus head. “Halloooooo!” he repeated.
“Um, over here,” Josie said, in shock. The brontosaurus rumbled forward through the trees onto the beach. He was wearing a loud Hawaiian shirt. Josie and Daphne looked at each other incredulously.
“I hope this isn’t a rude question, sir, but are you a brontosaurus?” asked Daphne.
“Yup, sure am. Name’s Todd. You folks fall out of the sky? Those’re some sizeable dents you made in the beach there.”
“Yes, we’re very sorry, we lost control of our boat,” Daphne said.
“Oh, and we’re not hurt or anything, either,” Josie added with more than a hint of sarcasm. Todd sighed.
“Hmm. The missus is not gonna like these dents in her beach. Not one bit.” He tilted his neck downward so he could whisper in Josie’s ear. “If I were you, I’d fix them up before she finds out about them. As in now.”
“What about our friend?” Josie asked, pointing up to Marylou McBeebeard in the tree. The beard of bees were still crying for help, even though Marylou had fainted at the sight of Todd the brontosaurus.
“She needs medical attention. I’ll take her to the better half. She’s a Registered Nurse, among other things. Many other things.” He lifted his head up and grasped Marylou McBeebeard in his mouth, being careful not to bite her. Then he mumbled something to the effect of, “I’d fix those dents in the beach if I were you,” and lumbered off.
Josie and Daphne looked at each other. They were utterly confused. Where were they? How were they going to get home? Where did Todd go? Who was the missus? Was she another brontosaurus, or perhaps a different dinosaur? Weren’t dinosaurs extinct? And lastly, how exactly were they supposed to “fix the dents in the beach?”
“Maybe,” said Josie, “we could use parts of the Jacques Kozuh as a makeshift shovel and fill in the holes we left or maybe…”
“And then what? Do you realize, Josie, that we’re stuck here, some strange unknown island in the middle of nowhere, which just so happens to be the home of at least one dinosaur that we know of, our friend the captain has been taken away to who-knows-where, and there’s no foreseeable way out of here? We’re trapped! We’re never getting back to the farm, we’ll spend our remaining days here and it’s all your fault!”
“All my fault? Daphne, dear, deranged Daphne, pray tell, how is any of this my fault? I didn’t send us to the wrong bus, I didn’t crash the boat, and I’m just as much in this as you are. How did I cause any of this?”
“Because you were the one who insisted we take a vacation,” Daphne fumed. “If it weren’t for you, we’d be safe and happy back on the farm, with the MerCows and DeerHen and my beloved Umbrella Tree, so. Instead, we’re stranded in the middle of nowhere, all thanks to your burning desire to get away! Well, here we are- away!”
“We might be safe, but neither of us would be happy, and you know it! We were working ourselves sick and would have collapsed from exhaustion if we didn’t take a little break. Now, I admit things haven’t gone exactly according to plan, but you have to admit that it’s been fun, at least up to this point. You enjoyed the rings of Saturn, you enjoyed the balloon ride and singing at the Dismal Demitasse. You can’t deny that, Daphne, I know that for a fact.” Now Josie was fuming.
“I’ll tell you what; the next time you need a vacation so bad, you can take it without me.” Daphne was staring her friend in the face, her own face turning a shade of red too dark for most beets.
“Oh yeah? You can go ahead and take this vacation without me, for all I care, you ungrateful tortoise!” And with that, Josephine stomped away into the jungle.
“Fine!” Daphne shouted, plunking herself down on the beach. She wasn’t sure what she was going to do, but she was in no mood to anything but sulk. And sulk she did. For almost an hour, she sat there, sulking and sulking and sulking, with the occasional brood to mix it up a little.
After a while, though, she began to miss her friend. And shortly after, that, she became concerned. It was beginning to get dark, and Josie hadn’t come back. She had stormed off into a strange jungle, which was home to at least one brontosaurus, and Daphne started to worry. What if she was in some sort of danger? Daphne decided she had better look for her, before the sun set completely. She rose to her feet and turned to leave, and promptly tripped over the little brown bunny rabbit at her feet. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t see you there. Are you okay?”
The bunny was wearing a tiara and holding a scepter, and was scowling up at Daphne. From her back she produced a megaphone, into which she shouted, “I am Cynthia, Queen of the Bermuda Triangle, and you are trespassing! For this, you must be punished!”

JOSEPHINE & DAPHNE’S SUMMER VACATION: PART 5

As it so happened, Marylou McBeebeard had a boat which she used to travel between the Earth and the Sun. This was apparently not so uncommon, as there were several other boats hitched near hers. They all looked essentially like mini-vans made of wood, without wheels or a roof. Also, they had a mizzen mast jutting from the trunk.
How it worked was that the boats would float along the sunbeams as if on a body of water. The trip was usually quick, though it was also usually a bit rocky. Josephine, of course, was very much thrilled by this turn of events. Daphne, of course, was very much not.
“This is my galleon, the Jacques Kozuh,” Marylou said.
Jacques Kozuh,” repeated the beard of bees in unison.
“What fun!” Josie exclaimed, climbing in. Much like a mini-van, the galleon had a sliding door, though it was made of dark wood and had a small porthole.
“Hold on, hold on. Are we sure this is safe? Floating on a sunbeam isn’t the same as riding in a hot air balloon, and this thing is much smaller than that was, so.” Daphne was examining the other boats, which bobbed up and down as though in water.
“Relax, the Jacques Kozuh is in tip-top condition, I’ve piloted her for years without incident. You have no reason to worry.”
“Worry,” repeated the beard of bees in unison, much to the chagrin of Daphne.
“Daphne, dear, I’m sure it’s perfectly safe. Besides, what other option do we have?” Josie had a point, and Daphne thought to herself that none of the so-called “dangerous” situations they had found themselves in had resulted in any danger. She took a tentative step inside the galleon, then another, and carefully sat on the wooden bench next to Josie, who applauded her courage.
Marylou McBeebeard boarded and pulled the door shut, shouting, “All aboard!”
“All aboard!” repeated the beard of bees in unison. Marylou plunked down in the bucket seat up front, and turned the steering wheel, which was wooden and resembled the wheel of a boat, only smaller. They lurched forward suddenly, causing Josie and Daphne to topple off the bench.
“Sorry,” Marylou said.
“Sorry,” repeated the beard of bees in unison. The two friends helped each other up, and sat back down. The boat glided smoothly along the sunbeam after that, and both Josie and Daphne relaxed and enjoyed the scenery. Again, they could see the stars, and at times were so close they could smell and taste the popcorniness of them.
“Marylou, tell me. Where does the name of your boat come from?” Josie asked to break the silence.
“From the famous sunbeam explorer, of course,” said Marylou.
“Of course,” repeated the beard of bees in unison.
“Gosh a’ mighty, you mean there’s something to explore in these sunbeams?” Daphne asked, peering over the boat’s edge at the light lapping against them.
“Sure! It’s like any body of water, except that its light beams as opposed to H2O. Many folks have plunged their depths, but Jacques Kozuh was the greatest.”
“The greatest!” repeated the beard of bees in unison.
“Please, enlighten us about him. Tell us of his discoveries,” Josie said.
“Why tell when you can sing?” said Marylou. And for once, the beard of bees didn’t repeat her. Instead, they began humming harmoniously, and then they all burst into song. It was a sea shanty and it went like this:
Jacques Kozuh, a wise and charming soul and a very handsome fellow,
He made his name by risking his life and swimming the sunbeam yellow.
He fought Shadow Sharks and Star Piranha and UV Ray Octopish,
While befriending and finding many jovial and pretty fish.
Like the Lightning Flounder, Pisces Pike and Constellation Carp.
And all the while he kept his cool (and looked totally sharp.)
He sadly died while exploring the Beam of Gimlitrator,
When all at once he was bitten by an Illuminous Alligator.
His memory and his work live on though he’d never brag nor boast,
And he left these beams behind, he’s not even here as a ghost.
So this is why we sing of him and feel all need to knowzuh,
Of the man, the myth, the legend of the mighty Jacques Kozuh.

Josie and Daphne both applauded. “Thank you,” the bees said in unison. Marylou had a tear in her eye.
“That song always gets to me,” she said.
“I’m surprised I’ve never heard of Jacques Kozuh,” Josie said.
“He’s legendary around these parts. You can ask anyone who steers through these sunbeams and they can tell you where they were when they learned of his death, if they were alive at the time. Elsewhere, though, he’s relatively unknown.”
“Unknown,” repeated the beard of bees in unison.
“That was a very pretty song, but shouldn’t you all be trembling in fear about the dangerous creatures lurking down there, much the way I am?” Daphne asked, inching toward the center of the bench. “I mean, Shadow Sharks? UV Ray Octopish? They sound like tough cookies, not anything I’d want to meet face to face.”
“Never fear, Daphne. Those animals are just like any other wild creature. If you leave them alone, they’ll leave you alone. They’re practically harmless,” Marylou assured her.
“Harmless,” repeated the beard of bees in unison.
“Just the same, I think I’ll stay here where it’s safer, so.”
Josephine giggled. “Daphne, darling, you have nothing to worry about. Have we found ourselves in any life-threatening situations yet? No! And I am positive we won’t. Everything will be just fine.”
Immediately after she said this, the Jacques Kozuh was struck by a sun wave, veered wildly off course, and began plummeting rapidly toward the Earth.

JOSEPHINE & DAPHNE’S SUMMER VACATION: PART 4

Artie Quirk removed his porkpie hat, laid it gently on the ground, rolled up his sleeve, and reached deep within the hat. Deeper than the hat appeared to go he reached, further and further down, until he stopped and felt around. He then withdrew his arm and out of his hat came a large hot air balloon, dark red, with a basket that looked as though it would fit just one of the three travelers, uncomfortably.
“There she is, my beautiful balloon,” Artie said. “Isn’t she a thing of beauty?”
“I’m not going in that! How do you expect us to all fit in that thing?” Daphne was certain if she agreed to go up into space in that basket, she’d get squeezed out and fall or float to her death. Josephine was less frightened, but she did look skeptical. Artie laughed.
“My dear ladies, prepare to be astounded, confounded and surprise-sounded! For this ‘little’ basket may appear to be teeny tiny smally small, but it is in point of fact, a trick of the eye. Behold!” He climbed into the basket and promptly disappeared. After a moment, he reappeared. “I said, ‘Behold!’” he repeated.
Josephine was first to climb into the basket and look down. “Daphne, darling, you must come see this,” she said before disappearing. Daphne lifted herself up and peered down into the basket. And down. And down. It reached further down than she could have imagined, with a control panel and pool table and several comfortable-looking chairs.
“Land o’ Goshen!” Daphne exclaimed. “This is traveling in style.”

***************************
The balloon ride went without a hitch. Josephine was able to get up close to the stars, but not to touch them since they were burning hot. She said they smelled almost exactly like popcorn, and if you got close enough, there was a popcorn taste in your mouth from the radiant heat. Daphne was content to relax on one of the chairs and read Huckleberry Finn from Artie’s library. Before long, they had arrived at the Sun.
The Sun’s outer surface was blindingly bright and burning hot, so they all remained in the lower portion of the basket until Artie had passed through to the interior. This was warm and bright as well, but not to the extreme the outer layer had been. It was a bit like walking through a glowing mug of hot cocoa. “I’m afraid this is where I bid you both adieus,” Artie Quick said, a little sadly. “It has been a pleasure knowing you both, and I only hope our paths cross again.”
“Well, we don’t get out to the rest of the Solar System, so. But you’re always welcome on the farm,” Daphne said, a bit sad as well.
“My dear tortoise, if you ever need me, or just wish to see me, simply call my name. That goes for you as well, Josephine.” He kissed both their hands and disappeared in a puff of smoke, as did his balloon.
“What a charming elephant,” Josie said, coughing a bit from the smoke.
“What do we do now?” Daphne asked. It was dawning on her that they were stuck in the Sun with no way to Mount Rushmore or home. Josie looked around. Unlike Saturn, the Sun’s interior was not as exciting or full of magnificent sights. It was more of a businesslike district, with strip malls and buildings that appeared to be full of attorneys and bankers and other boring professions. Then she saw a café tucked away between two buildings.
“Why don’t we get some coffee and find our bearings,” she said, grabbing Daphne’s hand and pulling her toward the café before she could respond. The sign above the café read: ‘The Dismal Demitasse: Home of the Hottest Coffee & Heavyhearted Habitués.’ Josie burst through the door grinning and laughing, but her demeanor did a 180 as soon as she stepped in.
Everyone was crying, or on the verge of crying. The menu, written on a chalkboard propped lazily at the end of the counter included items such as the Cheerless Cappuccino and Tomato Soup of Tears. Worst of all was the music, being played live on the stage in the corner. A man dressed completely in black, with a pompadour that stretched at least a foot and a half tall, was playing minor chords on a piano and singing the most depressing lyrics Josie or Daphne had ever heard. “My life, oh, it means nothing. It amounts to less than a hill of beans. Because you, oh, you won’t return my phone calls. My soul’s a billion darkened TV screens.” He ended this song with a barely audible, “Thank you.” No one applauded; they just continued to weep into their mugs and sandwiches. “My name is Morosey, the Duke of Despondent, the Sultan of Sad, the Fozzie Bear of Forlorn. Your tears make me weep, internally. The name of this next song is, ‘Your Tears Make Me Weep, Internally.’” He began playing a similar minor chord progression and singing more dreary lyrics about being depressed and inconsolable.
Josie and Daphne looked at each other and rolled their eyes. They each took a seat at the counter and were approached by a tear-stricken barista. “What’ll it be?” she sobbed.
“Two coffees, piping hot,” Josie said. “And a smile, if you can spare one.” At this, the barista wept loudly and poured two mugs with coffee that steamed so much it fogged over Daphne’s horn rims. But it was delicious, between sips and frantic fanning of the tongue.
Sitting next to them at the counter was a most unusual woman. She was wearing a tri-corner hat and navy pea coat, but she also had a beard. A woman with a beard is a strange enough sight, but this beard was made of bees! Distressingly, both the woman and the bees were crying as she ate a croissant. “Excuse me, is something the matter?” Josie asked. The woman looked up, tears welling in her green eyes.
“It’s this pastry, it’s just so good it makes me sad,” she said.
“Sad!” repeated the beard of bees in unison.
“Shucks, you’d think a pastry being good would make you happy,” Daphne said. “We’re enjoying our coffee, but you won’t see us crying about it.”
“I know,” the woman said. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
“Sense,” repeated the beard of bees in unison. On the stage, Morosey had just finished his last song, and was taking a break to dry his tears. Josie saw an opportunity and, dragging Daphne along with her, approached the stage.
“Hello, my name is Josephine, and this is my best friend Daphne. We’d just like to take a moment to cheer you all up, if we could.” She began strumming her ukulele. Daphne was worried it might be considered rude to sing without being asked, but the crowd was so despondent that they clearly needed a pick-me-up, and that was Josie’s specialty. Daphne took out her maracas and shook to the rhythm, as Josie began singing. “The stars are bright and fuzzy and as pretty as can be. But not as lovely as when you are smiling back at me. When we’re together nothing could bring either of us down. We’re sunny adjectives, fun verbs and ecstactical nouns. I know I sound a bit foolish and just a little sappy, but to be with you just makes me oh so happy, happy, happy!”
There was a silence when they ended the song. Not just from lack of applause, but the constant weeping had stopped. Then, the woman from the counter began to clap slowly. Before long, everyone was applauding Josie and Daphne, and their faces were beaming. Josie and Daphne took a bow and went back to their coffee mugs.
“That was stupendous!” the woman at the counter exclaimed.
“Stupendous!” repeated the beard of bees in unison.
“Why, thank you! It looked like the room needed that,” Josie said. And it was true. Everyone was smiling and enjoying their food and drink. Even Morosey, in spite of himself, was happy, which made him so very sad.
“Name’s Marylou McBeebeard, and if there’s anything I can do for you two, just say the word. Anything.”
“Anything,” repeated the beard of bees in unison.
“Well, we do need a ride back to Earth,” Daphne said.