“A Tale of Tails”

There was once a family of chipmunks who lived in a log of an oak tree. There were three of them: Mama Munk, Papa Munk, and Chesnutt. Being barely a year old, Chesnutt was energetic and quite curious. She had a big bed made of acorn caps and a sink made of a raspberry. (The Munks had to continually replace it, since Chesnutt would constantly nibble at it every morning).

Mama Munk would cook and clean and make a home out of the old oak log. All day she would work with her apron tied around her waist, making hazelnut soup and raspberry pies. Papa Munk would go out and hunt for food with other forest animals. When he came home with bags of nuts and seeds, he would sit at his chair of pine needles and read his newspaper. Chesnutt would play outside and around the raspberry patch with her friends; she would also play inside the log with her wooden books and sunflower seed dolls. At night, Mama Munk would tuck her in and the crickets next door would lull her to sleep.

One night, Mama Munk pulled the oak leaf covers over Chesnutt as she shut her eyes. Placing a kiss on her cheek, she whispered, “Sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite.”

Chesnutt’s eyes burst open. “Bed bugs…” she repeated.

Mama Munk laughed, walking towards the door. “It’s just a saying,” she smiled. “Goodnight.” And she shut the door.

Chesnutt didn’t lie back down. She glanced under the leaf, watching for bugs. Bed bugs?  Mama Munk had never said that to her before. It was quite fur-raising, really. She knew of nice bugs that they were friends with—like Miss Geraldine Moth and Mr. Caterpillar. But suppose these bedbugs weren’t nice at all? Suppose they weren’t…friendly?

And if Mama Munk said “Don’t let them bite”, suppose they should crawl into her bed???

Chesnutt jumped out of his bed. Racing out the door, she scurried to her parents’ room. It was dark when she peeked in, and Papa Munk was snoring loudly. Mama Munk didn’t seem like she was awake.

Chesnutt shut the door. She must find out who these bedbugs were! She couldn’t go to sleep unless she was sure they were friendly.

So, Chesnutt, the young chipmunk, ventured out of her cozy log and scurried upon the forest ground. It was dark, and the crickets still chirped. Past the raspberry patch, she headed on all fours to the thickets. There, her good friend Nibbles lived, and maybe she could tell him what bedbugs were.

Nibbles was a young grey mouse. She lived with her Mother Mouse and Father Mouse, with her twenty brothers and thirty-six sisters, along with some assorted aunts and uncles and cousins. She and Chesnutt were good friends. They would go swimming in the river and play hide-and-seek under the pine trees, where all the pinecones would fall. Nibbles, she knew, would be up and about at such a dark time of night. She would probably be eating a snack outside her home in the thicket.

And that’s exactly where she was. She was eating a raspberry stuffed with sunflower seeds. Nibbles caught sight of Chesnutt and waved to her.

“Hello Chessy!” she squeaked. “Want a stuffed berry?”

“No thanks, Nibs,” Chesnutt answered. “Nibs, listen…!” And she told her all about Mama Munk and the bedbugs. Nibbles was quite intrigued. She listened intently as she nibbled on her berry. Her eyes widened.

“So you think there are bugs wanting to crawl in your bed?” she asked eagerly.

“I think so,” Chesnutt replied, “but I want to know if they’re friendly. Have you ever heard of bedbugs, Nibs?”

“No…” Nibbles replied. “But I know someone who might.”

Chesnutt’s tail wiggled a little bit. “Who?” she asked.

“Miss Geraldine,” Nibbles replied. “My Uncle Colby and third-cousin Jack says that Geraldine Moth knows about all the creatures in the forest. And she knows who’s nice and friendly and who isn’t.”

“You think I should go and ask her?” Chesnutt asked, excited.

“I would,” Nibbles said. “But you better hurry. She’ll be going to bed pretty soon. Remember—” she added as Chesnutt turned to go. She stopped and waited for her to finish. “Tell her that your Mama told you about them.”

Chesnutt nodded and waved goodbye. And Nibbles continued nibbling on her stuffed berry.

Miss Geraldine Moth lived in the high up branch of a cedar tree. It was close to Chesnutt’s own log, so she found it easily. Scurrying over the soft, moonlit forest floor, she began to climb up the tree. She was out of breath by the time he reached Miss Moth’s branch. As she collapsed on the high branch, a shadow cast over her. Looking up in startled fright, she saw that it was Miss Moth herself.

“Chesnutt Adeline Munk,” she said in her deep voice. She was a plain brown moth. No one could see her eyes very well, so it was always scary to first look at her, especially at night. Her proboscis hung down to the branch on which she landed. Her antennae hung lazily in the air.

“What are you doing out of your log?” she said, putting a leg forward.

Chesnutt rose, still frightened by her nightly appearance. “I…I came to ask you something,” she said, straightening herself on her two back legs.

“Young critters should not be about at night,” she remarked deeply, stifling a yawn.

“I’ll go to bed as soon…” she began.

“Does your mother know you’re out?” she asked.

“Well no, but…”

“I think you should go back to bed,” she said in a commanding voice. “Go on back to your cozy log.”

“I can’t!” Chesnutt finally got out. “Mama told me about bugs that will crawl in my bed and bite me! I didn’t know if they were poisonous or not. You know a lot about the forest, I thought you could tell me if…”

“Bugs?” Miss Geraldine Moth stopped. “How do you know there are poisonous bugs about?”

Chesnutt remembered what Nibbles had told him to say: “Mama told me about them!”

The moth was silent for some time. She glanced at the ground. “Poisonous bugs will ruin the peace and prosperity of the forest…” she muttered in a melodramatic voice. She was quite concerned for the state of the woods. What Chesnutt told her was frightening indeed.

“This is a very serious problem, and too drastic for me to handle,” she finally declared. “You must go to Bushytail. He will know what to do. Tell him I told you that something will have to be done about these pests!”

“W-wait!” Chesnutt called as Miss Moth turned around. “Won’t you come with me?”

Miss Moth gave a yawn…if that was even possible for a moth. “I am tired,” she said. “Trouble me with questions tomorrow.”

“But you said this was a serious problem!” Chesnutt persisted.

“And I’m sure Bushytail will take care of it by morning. I said I’m tired. Goodnight.” And she flew away.

Chesnutt scurried down the trunk of the cedar tree. Stretching her short little arms, she yawned herself. She was very tired. But no, she couldn’t go to sleep—not with bedbugs on the run. Instantly, she dashed on all fours to the riverbank. There, in a burrow by the bank, lived Bushytail Rabbit, the oldest and wisest creature in the forest. He wore a monocle made of a daffodil stem. He was a brown rabbit with fur soft and thick. His ears were long, but they bent back since he was so old. Every critter in the forest went to him for advice, since he was wise, and everyone knew who he was.

Down to the burrow Chesnutt went. The river rushed quietly beside the door of the deep hollow. She scurried quickly and rapped fiercely on the old door. Firefly light came streaming out as it opened. Old Bushytail Rabbit came into view. His bushy eyebrows rose when he saw young Chesnutt gazing up intently.

“Why, it’s the young chipmunk!” he said in his raspy voice. “What are you doing up at such a late hour?”

“I’ve come to warn you, Mr. Rabbit,” Chesnutt panted.

“Warn me?” he asked.

“Yes, Miss Moth sent me. She told me to tell you of poisonous bugs that are in the forest!” he said quickly.

Mr. Bushytail started forward. “What did she tell you?”

“She said there are poisonous bugs about!” young Chesnutt exclaimed. “And she said you will know what to do.” And she told him what Miss Moth had told him to say: “Something will have to be done about these pests.”

“Pests?” Bushytail considered. He put a paw up to his furry chin. “Hm…” he thought. “Perhaps they are more than just pests.”

“What do you mean?” Chesnutt asked, wide-eyed.

“There must be many of these ‘pests’,” Mr. Rabbit said. “There just might be a whole army of them…coming to take over the forest!—come to take our food and ruin our homes!”

“Oh no!” Chesnutt staggered back.

“We must warn the others!” Mr. Rabbit suddenly declared. “But first, you, young rodent—hurry back to your home in the log! Hurry back to your mother and father. War is about to begin with dangerous bugs with poisonous bites! Hurry, young chipmunk!”

And with that, the wooden door slammed. Chesnutt hurried from the riverbank as fast as her four paws could carry her. She wheezed heavily as she rushed to the log. The woods seemed darker and scarier now. What if a big, scary bug jumped out while she was running home? What if they attacked her? She ran quicker through the shadows of the trees. She passed the thicket and the old cedar tree. Her log came into view.

As she burst into the log, she cried out and rushed for her parents’ room. She was quite afraid. Mama and Papa Munk sprang up as Chesnutt jumped in between them on their acorn bed and buried herself in their pillows, whimpering and crying.

“Good heavens!” Papa Munk cried, reaching for his glasses. “I see we have a visitor.”

Then they heard Chesnutt’s cries.

“Why, what on earth is the matter?” Mama Munk pulled the pine needle pillow off of her head.

“There’s…there’s going to be a war!” Chesnutt cried.

“A war?” Papa Munk smiled. “What are you talking about?”

“There are poisonous bugs coming to attack the forest!” Chesnutt whimpered as Mama Munk put him on her knee. “And Mr. Rabbit says they will try and take all our food and ruin our homes and…and…” She started crying again.

“You must have been dreaming…” Papa Munk smiled. “There aren’t any poisonous bugs around here.”

“But there are!” Chesnutt wiped her nose. “Mr. Rabbit and Miss Moth said they were very dangerous!”

“Where did you hear about these bugs?” Mama Munk asked.

Chesnutt stopped. Where did she hear about them? Then she remembered.

You told me about them!” she cried. “The bedbugs! They…they…” She started crying again.

Mama Munk…laughed.

“But it’s true, Mama!” Chesnutt sobbed. “Don’t laugh! They are dangerous and very poisonous!”

“No they aren’t.”

Chesnutt stopped. “What?”

“I said, ‘Don’t let the bedbugs bite’, because it’s an old saying. It doesn’t mean the least thing.”

“But…but will they really bite me?” Chesnutt asked.

“Of course not,” Mama Munk answered with her sweet smile. “You are a good and sweet chipmunk. No bedbug would ever dream of biting you.” And she nuzzled her nose against hers. Chesnutt laughed. She felt much better.

“But what is this all about Mr. Rabbit and Miss Moth?” asked Papa Munk.

“Oh…well, I uh…must have dreamt all that,” Chesnutt smiled, scratching her furry head. Suddenly, she yawned.

And that was followed by Mama Munk once again tucking her into bed. The crickets still sang next door. Chesnutt gazed up at the stars as she peacefully fell asleep in her own, comfy, bedbug-less bed.

She heard Papa Munk yawn in the next room. “’Bout time I hit the hay,” he said. “Before somethin’ else happens.”

“Hit the hay?” Chesnutt sat up.

No, she was too tired. She’d think about it in the morning.

~J.L. Cordova

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Intro to “A Tale of Tails”

I’ve always loved animals. What girl doesn’t, I suppose. Small forest creatures are some of the most brilliant: chipmunks, mice, owls…And what young-ling, (be it human or quadruped) DOESN’T use their imagination to make mountains out of molehills?

Originally, the story of Chesnutt Munk was actually about Polar Jr. in the Arctic. It was a longer story (I would’ve called it a chapter book). But, changing the story and seeing how it was so simple, I changed the length along with its locality.

Hope you enjoy. I’d love feedback for it!