SIB picked the note up from the door mat, that had been delivered by Stan, and read it while she walked to the kitchen, where her dad was standing finishing off his fruit juice.
“What’s that Sib?” Sri said putting his cup down.
“Oh! It’s only for you, from the Mayor,” she replied in a matter of fact sort of way. She handed the note to her dad and sat on the table.
“Do you mind!!” shouted Obo to Sib, and she got off the table, turned to her brother, and with a sneer said, “Sorryeee!” and she walked out of the kitchen.
Obo turned to Obi with a smile on his face and said, “Shall I tell her she’s got my toast stuck to her bum!”
Obi thought for a very short while, then replied, “Naarrr.”
The note said:
Sri smiled to himself and told Tei not to worry with his lunch, because of the meeting. He gave Tei a kiss, blew a kiss to the boys and Sib, and then left for work.
Sri walked to his gate through his front garden, the garden was well kept all thanks to Tei, who loved to potter about planting weird and wonderful flowers. One particular flower, which was her favourite, was very weird.
It had a double bloom of pink and lilac, and purple leaves that grew in the shape of a cone. The leaves seemed to point in different directions, and always towards noise. Tei said, that the cone shaped leaves looked like they were amplifying the noise and sending the sound into the flower. The plant didn’t have a name so Tei named it herself, she called it a Flumble. Sri brought the plant home to Tei from one of his expeditions three years ago, because it reminded him of Tei, beautifully weird and complex, was his description, and Tei didn’t disagree.
Sri left his garden and headed towards Swe’s house, who happened to live next door. As it happened, Swe was walking towards him with a big smile on his face.
“What do you think its about?” said Swe as he reached Sri.
“No blinking idea, but it sounds intriguing, do you think Russell’s got a new invention that he wants us to test?” Sri said with an exaggerated look of dread on his face.
“Well whatever it is we’ll find out soon enough.” Swe replied giving his brother a welcoming slap between the shoulders. They’re on their way to see Neo and Dixie, who run the two largest orchards in Mais town.
Neo and Dixie are elephants, and have two children, Tony is the eldest, at fourteen and Tanya is twelve. Neo and Dixie have one of the most important jobs in town, Neo tends the timber tree orchard and Dixie runs the fruit orchard. The timber tree is a special tree, it doesn’t shed leaves or nuts it sheds branches. The branches range from long and thin poles to large planks. The branches that it sheds, grow really quickly and enable the people to build houses, bridges and to help strengthen the defences. The wood is really strong and comes in different colours. Neo is the perfect farmer for the timber tree because he’s so strong, and can lift heavy loads. Dixie tends the fruit orchard, and unlike her husband, is very delicate and gentle. Dixie grows an assortment of fruit, and the most popular is the Chomin fruit which is Dixie’s own creation. It grows in a disc shape and tastes of chocolate and mint.
Sri and Swe almost always start their day with a walk around the orchards, which are on the outskirts of the town, just to check that everything is okay. Also they like the Chomin fruit which Dixie gives them as they pass.
The two Crocs reached the bridge that spanned Drewy river. The bridge was wide enough for a large cart to cross and strong enough for the Neo to pull a load of timber tree across. The bridge was built on the site were the old bridge stood, and was simply replaced because of wear. After reaching the other side, Neo and Dixie’s place was practically in front of them. Neo was outside when he saw the two Crocs, he walked towards them to greet them.
“How are you two, good I hope, excellent. Thirsty? Yes? Great. Well go in and see Dixie and she’ll fix you up with a cool drink. Me? I’m fine thanks. Right, well I can’t stand here talking all morning, things to do, places to go. Well, nowhere really just to the orchard, but still you know. Well, bye then,” and Neo was gone. Sri and Swe knew from experience that trying to strike up a conversation with Neo was impossible, because he had an irritating habit of answering for you. Neo couldn’t keep still for long, he was always on the go.
Sri and Swe walked through the open door and into the kitchen, where Dixie was pouring two cups of Chomin juice.
“Hello Sri, Swe, you both alright?” asked Dixie as she handed the drinks to them.
“Yes, fine thanks,” replied Sri.
“Lovely day, Dixie?” said Swe between slurps of Chomin juice. He was enjoying it so much it dribbled down his chin, and all down his shirt.
“Anyway how are you Dixie? Anything to report?” Sri put his empty cup down and looked at Dixie.
Dixie paused for a bit, deep in thought and then spoke. “Well I had noticed that a few trees right at the end of the orchard, you know, next to the defence wall, had less than the usual amount of fruit. I’m probably being paranoid, but there was a distinct bare patch on the branches facing the wall.”
“Did you tell Neo?” said Sri, paying a little more attention than before.
“No I didn’t, you know what he’d be like, he’d start panicking, and running round like a couple of Nasties playing kiss chase,” she smiled, picturing the Nasties puckering up, in her head. The Nasties, is the nickname given to the Sangles by the animals. “Not sure when it started, but these past few weeks its become more apparent recently, because the fruit is not growing back.” “What we’ll do is take a look around and see what the situation is.” Sri gave Dixie a reassuring smile, thanked her along with Swe for the drink, and the two Crocs left through the back of Dixie’s kitchen, then headed for the fruit orchard.
The trees were all lined up with an equal space between each tree, and disappeared into the distance. The different fruits were all mixed and not sectioned off into varieties. The smell was absolutely amazing, and Sri and Swe found themselves breathing in deeply through their noses as they walked through the orchard.
After a nice walk, which they didn’t want to end, they reached the end of the orchard and stood before the high defensive wall that was built to protect them. The wall was about three times the height of Sri, just high enough to stop the Sangles jumping over. The Sangles have short powerful legs which enable them to jump high, so as an added precaution on the other side of the wall the people made the ground very marshy. Again this is to stop the Sangles jumping, the idea is that if the ground is soft and they try and jump, their feet sink into the ground.
Sri walked up to the trees, while Swe checked the wall. The trees didn’t look damaged, the bark seemed smooth with no scraping or scuff marks. There was no broken twigs of any sort, but still there was a patch on the tree that was bare. There was no indication of any strange footprints or markings on the grass, it was most unusual.
“No probs, I don’t think it’s anything dangerous, and we’ll let Dixie know later on.”
Little did the two Crocs know, there was a Sangle on the other side of the defensive wall, with a handful of fruit, listening to their conversation, with a smile on his face.