Invisible Animal Crackers

8:05 minutes

—Chapter 5—

“Invisible Animal Crackers”

“TWO zoo tickets, please,” Jelly Belly said politely. “I see only you,” the kind lady in the white ticket booth replied. “Will a friend join you later?” Jelly Belly smiled. His favorite smile. The silly smile. The kind of smile where his mouth corners and eyebrows go up together, while his lips stayed down tight.

“My friend, Jeepers, is right here. He’s invisible,” Jelly Belly assured, nodding at Jeepers. Jeepers made his own silly smile, but of course, only Jelly Belly could see it.

“Yes. I see now. So, here is a ticket for you and an invisible one for your friend, Jeepers.”

Jeepers thought the invisible ticket very clever. He held his breath to keep from laughing. Jelly Belly gave him a glaring stare. Jeepers stifled an invisible giggle.

“Here’s, uh, my money,” stammered Jelly Belly, placing a large coin on the smooth counter with a pop. Jelly Belly hoped it was enough. He wasn’t sure how much the coin was worth. It was so big. Surely it was worth a real ticket, and an invisible one, too.

“That is enough for your ticket. Now, for your friend, do you have any invisible money?”

“Of course,” Jelly Belly sighed with relief. He reached deep into the pocket of his overalls. Way down at his fingertips, he felt an invisible coin.

“Here!” he said with fervor. He silently placed the invisible coin next to the real one.

“Very good. You may go in,” said the nice lady. Jelly Belly skipped with invisible Jeepers to the tall iron gate. At the tall gate, stood a big man who took Jelly Belly’s ticket and punched a hole in it. The red hole fluttered to the ground.

“Excuse me,” said the big man to Jelly Belly. “You dropped your invisible ticket.” He bent down gingerly picking up the red hole and handed it gracefully to Jelly Belly. Jelly Belly was amazed. Sure enough. In one paw, the red ticket. It’s punched out hole was invisible. And, in the other paw, the invisible ticket. All Jelly Belly could see was the red hole.

“Thanks!” declared the surprised Jelly Belly.

“You’re welcome!” said the big man with a wink. “Enjoy our wonderful zoo!” And, he cordially tipped his hat.

What a wonderful zoo it was! To Jelly Belly it seemed as big as the whole earth. He ran very fast from pen to pen and cage to cage. Fortunately, Jeepers was invisible. He took shortcuts: through the cages. This saved him considerable time and energy. Jelly Belly implored Jeepers to watch out. Perhaps there were invisible animals, too.

Jelly Belly and Jeepers were having a magnificent time. There were gorillas, elephants, giraffes, birds, and then … Jelly Belly spotted the most amazing sight … the Polar Bears. He pressed his face right against the bars of the cage.

“Look, Jeepers! White bears! Wouldn’t it be fun to talk to them?” Jelly Belly exclaimed.

And then it happened. Jeepers made “the” suggestion. If Jelly Belly turned his lumpy head sideways … why it would fit right through the bars. Right through! Unfortunately, his plump body did not. And now, he couldn’t get his head back out. He was stuck. Very stuck.

“Jeepers, go find help,” gulped the flustered Jelly Belly. But, Jeepers decided to stay with Jelly Belly. He would remain to comfort Jelly Belly in his dilemma. Besides, that’s what invisible friends are for, good suggestions and support afterward.

Soon a crowd gathered around the embarrassed Jelly Belly.

Many wondered if the polar bears would sniff or lick Jelly Belly … or maybe even eat him. The crowd gasped as an enormous bear sauntered over to Jelly Belly. And then, the polar bear spoke to Jelly Belly. To the crowd and even Jeepers, it sounded like growlings and grumblings. Jelly Belly understood the secret bear language because even though he was small, he was a teddy bear. And bears stick together.

“How did you get your head stuck, funny little bear?” grunted the giant white bear.

“Well … You see, sir … um … my invisible friend, Jeepers, well, he suggested it.”

“Would you like help getting out?”

“Yes, sir. If, it’s not too painful,” said Jelly Belly grimacing.

“You appear very soft. I am very strong. Hold very still,” replied the growly bear.

The great white bear reared back with his bulging arm and a quick swat … POP! Jelly Belly sailed off into some tall trees.

The crowd let out a cheer and applauded. After several bows. The enormous bear strolled back toward his ice cave.

A passing giraffe sauntered by and Jelly Belly slid safely down his neck to the ground. Jeepers was very concerned and ran to Jelly Belly, helping him up. Jelly Belly checked if all his stitches were tight and that he hadn’t lost any stuffing. Everything seemed in place. He waved at the Polar Bear.

“I’m okay. Thanks!” yelled Jelly Belly.

“Come on,” he whispered to Jeepers “I’ll buy you some animal crackers at the corner store. Some invisible ones, too.”

And, off they skipped to safer grounds where their tummies were the king of the beasts.

Hydrogen: bedtime story

5:46 minutes

—Chapter 4—

“The Hydrogen Chronicles”

In his tree house, Professor Jelly Belly scribbled furious. He wrote on the blackboard with white powdery chalk. He gave a little choking cough. The chalk cloud swirled around his rapid moving hand and pudgy thinking head.

“This is it. Eureka! I have invented Hydrogen,” shouted Professor Jelly Belly with glee. He threw the chalk in the air.

Of course, Jelly Belly didn’t realize inventing hydrogen is impossible. It’s one of the basic elements. But this mattered little to Jelly Belly. He was too far into his imaginary adventure to stop now.

“I always wanted to invent hydrogen. Now can fill my giant balloon and sail to Mars.” He was delirious with excitement.

Jelly Belly paced the wooden floor in a dirty white laboratory coat. His breast pocket full of sharpened pencils. He wore wire-rimmed reading glasses on his pug nose. It seemed the proper attire for a thinking man of science.

“All I need is separating a hydrogen atom from an oxygen atom and whoopee … hydrogen to fill my balloon. Now what material provides oxygen and hydrogen.”

Professor Jelly Belly went to his ancient science library. There on the very top shelf was a big fat chemistry book.

“Hmm, looks kind of heavy,” mumbled the most intelligent professor. “I better think about this for a minute.”

Professor Jelly Belly sat down in a rickety chair. He felt a bulge in his side pocket. It was the breakfast orange he had neglected to eat. He had been too wound up. He took out his pocket knife and sliced off a small top part. The orange immediately filled the air with a tangy fragrance.

“Wow, I forgot how hungry I am,” said the salivating Professor.

He carefully removed the peel in a long winding swirl.

Pleased with himself, Professor Jelly Belly put the swirl on the side table. He admired its structure and symmetry.

“Beautiful,” sighed the Professor. He pigged down the golden sections as juice slobbered down his chin into a puddle on the floor.

“Gack, choke, aaa … ” cried Jelly Belly wheezing on an orange seed clogging his windpipe. He tried to stand to get help. But slipping in the juice puddle, he staggered into the bookcase instead. The big chemistry book fell tumbling down. Bonk! It hit Professor Jelly Belly bouncing off the top of his round head. The little seed shot out of the Professor’s throat, landing splat on the open chemistry book. Professor Jelly Belly staggered a step and fell flat on his face. He slept in this uncomfortable position, dreaming, for some time.

“Goodness gracious, what happened?” said Professor Jelly Belly as he rubbed his lumpy head. “Holy Cow! Look! Just like in my dream.”

Professor Jelly Belly propped himself on one elbow. He stared. His pudgy finger pointing at the orange seed glued to the book’s section about water.

“Two hydrogens and an oxygen. Water is the perfect solution. This is incredible. Serendipitous.”

Bone Monster

11:51 minutes

Chapter 3

Jelly Belly and Bone Magic

Jelly Belly knew the magic of bones. He kept a wishbone in a small drawer knowing someday he’d need that saved wish. But tonight he needed greater bone magic.

Someone tossed another pine log into the campfire. Long tongues of fiery flames licked high in the black, Idaho night sky. Orange and red shooting sparks floated toward the bright stars.

“Tell the one about The Bone Monster,” Piccolo Pete said. Piccolo was one of Jelly Belly’s many good imaginary friends. Piccolo poked a slim stick in the deep red – almost blue – embers. The end of the long stick ignited. He slowly pulled it out and blew out the long flame. The white smoke curled.

“I don’t know a story of any Bone Monster,” Jelly Belly said. He wanted a fun stick to poke in the fire, too.

“Sure you do,” Piccolo said, “Only brave and strong people tell it.” All-the-Pete’s were staring at the squirming Jelly Belly.

“I don’t remember,” Jelly Belly said with a shoulder shrug. He looked at the dark ground. Here was a stick but it was too short for comfort. He might singe his fuzzy fur holding it.

“Well then. I’ll tell it,” Piccolo said. He gazed upwards, “It was a dark night like this one – and not-so-far-away …”

“But the stars are out tonight,” Pete Moss said. It was Piccolo’s brother. He pointed at the wide sky. Piccolo glared at him for interrupting the story so soon over mere trivialities.

“Yes. A dark night. With a few stars,” Piccolo began again, “But dark enough – you couldn’t see too well – and no fire.” He glanced at Moss who nodded in approval.

“The kind of night when the Bone Monster was most likely to appear – and apparently he did.” Piccolo paused, raising his eyebrows and faking a smile.

“You didn’t tell us what the Monster looked like. You know. All made out of bones and such.” It was Ree Pete – another brother – interrupting this time.

Piccolo was indignant. He folded his arms and perused the twinkling stars. Someone broke the moment of awkward silence.

“The Bone Monster’s made of bleached bones of dead forest animals. Their bones dried white in the sun. And then they join the huge monster’s body like magic. Made entirely of bones,” Peter the Great – yet another brother – said. He stood posing. He swallowed down a choking throat-lump after speaking and then weakly smiled. His knees went wobbly and he plopped down again. Feigned bravery.

Piccolo glared at “The Great” with a capital “G.” He shook his head.

Jelly Belly tossed his found short stick into the scorching fire. It delightfully flamed. He didn’t want to hear this unpleasant story. His imagination was too big. He thought about covering his ears and closing his eyes. But that wouldn’t be a courageous example. He too swallowed a lump in his throat and made a weak smile at Peter the Great for being so brave.

“The Bone Monster is twenty feet high.” Kom Pete – still another brother – said competitively, “I’ve seen it with my own eyes. It’s … It’s …”

“Monstrous?” Jelly Belly asked. The shadows played across his pudgy face.

“Yes. That’s right. Monstrous,” Kom Pete said, “Perhaps – even bigger than that.”

Everyone glanced back and forth at each other. It was too scary already.

“What does it …,” Jelly Belly started to ask.

“Eat?” Piccolo finished, “Why – it eats …” He swept his arm at them all – pointing his finger with drama, “your – imagination!” He brought his sweeping finger to his temple and stopped. He nodded.

Horrified, Jelly Belly knew no one had a bigger imagination than he did. If the Bone Monster was looking for a midnight snack, Jelly Belly’s imagination was best. That was it. Jelly Belly was leaving. He jumped up.

“I forgot. I need to let the cat out,” Jelly Belly said. And he started stomping off into the blind dark.

They all knew Jelly Belly had no cat – but said nothing.

As Jelly Belly advanced meandering on the darkening trail, he heard a funny noise. At least on any other night, it would have been funny. But tonight it was not. Much like the rattle of a wooden wind chime. Or dead tree branches scraping together, it made a clattering sound. But the cool air was still with no breeze. Jelly Belly waited fidgeting to control himself. He held his breath and listened hard. He heard nothing.

That was all he needed. Hearing nothing scared him as bad as hearing something. He broke out in a bouncy gallop.

“It’s only my imagination,” he repeated over and over. But that was his mistake. For that was what the Bone Monster had come for. It would gobble up his entire imagination. The bigger his imagination grew the more and faster the Bone Monster would chase him.

With this realization, Jelly Belly halted. He imagined the hot breath of the Giant Bone Monster whooshing straight down his skinny neck. He shivered. Jelly Belly’s panicked mind raced to search for a hopeful escape. But his body couldn’t budge – frozen in place immovable as a heavy pond stone.

Focusing his mind with all his might, Jelly Belly conjured in his imagination a pack of hungry hounds. Big dogs, little dogs, in-between dogs. First just a few and then a thousand hungry dogs swarming forward and surrounding him. His puny body fell to the ground face down and lay motionless as the spill of dogs brush racing by. Hands over his head, Jelly Belly heard the imaginary, silent dogs baying and growling. They circled the huge, unseen Bone Monster round and round. Jelly Belly couldn’t look squeezing his eyes shut tight. He was so afraid his imagination wouldn’t be strong enough.

But it was.

He peeked out. The dogs were gone. The bone Monster was gone. Every dog taking an imaginary bone and running off to bury it as all imaginary dogs do.

“I made it,” Jelly Belly whispered. He lay on his back for a restful moment sprawled under the stars. His breathing returned to a slow, steady rhythm.

He imagined a flower. A nice yellow one. With a long green stem. His imagination was still intact. The Bone Monster didn’t eat it. It felt good to be alive.

Elated Jelly Belly ran back to the campfire. But all his Pete-friends were running wild over the hill. They had seen the Bone Monster rushing into the firelight. It was Jelly Belly, of course.

Jelly Belly laughed. And sat alone near the warm fire. He lit a long stick. Fearless.

The Buckaroos

15:01 minutes

—Chapter 2—

“The BUCKAROOS.”

WHERE Jelly Belly lives, dawn’s warming pink dimness brings a woodsy scent. Fresh dew in the pungent pine softens the hard crystallized sap to a wonderful aroma. The heavenly scent then drifts over the meadow, up the ridge, and into Jelly Belly’s Tree House. Early morning activity begins. Squirrels chatter. Leaping limb to limb over Jelly Belly’s gray willow-stick roof. Chipmunks scurry under the treehouse singing a soft note of chirps and squeaks. A raven’s harsh caw rasps as an exotic gong. Off he swoops in a curving arch to the bluing sky. Jelly Belly always loves the sounds of a new day. Another day to play. Another day of fantastic adventure.

Jelly Belly, pushing back the bed covers, hopped out and threw open the worn shutters. The shutter’s flaking disrepair didn’t squelch his enthusiasm to greet another day. In front of the window, a squirrel dangled heavy on a thin bending twig. He was collecting pine nuts from a cone and stuffing them in his bulging cheeks. Jelly Belly’s explosive entrance sent the squirrel scurrying.

“Run, Mister Squirrel. Tell your good friends, Jelly Belly is wide awake,” said Jelly Belly with a wide grin. Hoping for excitement and diversion, Jelly Belly scanned the horizon.

There on the left, up by the Bouncing Tree, was an obscure motion. Jelly Belly’s eyes went wide. He dashed out the door in his bedclothes to his telescopic spyglass.

“It appears to be a camp signal, but I can’t decode it. Could be Hostiles or Pioneers or Rustlers but one thing is for sure this is a job for Jelly Belly.”

Jelly Belly darted to his costume closet. There was his new red bandana. He tied it in a waggish droop under his chin.

“Magnificent,” whispered Jelly Belly to himself How he admired true heroic dress.

“Now, where is my Cowboy Hat?” said Jelly Belly digging through piles of hats. All he could find was a civil war cap. It seemed okay. He squashed it on top of his round head.

“That’s it. I’m a renegade warrior gone west. I have become a self-appointed vigilante. I save maidens from bandits. I return treasures to the robbed. I issue justice in the wild, wild west.”

Jelly Belly perused these deep thoughts. They were almost beyond his meager comprehension. Yet so dear to his adventurous heart.

“That’s it. I’m Wild Jelly Belly and his Ragtag Band of Cowboy Heroes.”

Wild Jelly Belly put on his leather-fringed chaps to protect him from the brush. His star-shaped silver spurs. His two six-shooters with the silver rattlesnakes inlaid in the ivory handles. Jelly Belly always wore the ivory gun butts forward. This for the infamous and accurate Wild Jelly Belly Cross Draw. Impressive Pistolero showmanship for the ladies. He turned admiring himself in the mirror.

“One tough Hombre,” said Wild Jelly Belly with a sneaky grin. He ran to the window. And called to his imaginary men laying around an imaginary smoldering campfire.

“Willy, Sam, Curly, mount up. We’re heading out to make the world a better and safer place.”

“Okay, boss!” they replied. They affectionately referred to Wild Jelly Belly as “Boss”. This solemn formality reminded Wild Jelly Belly. Any flub-ups during the adventure were his responsibility.

The invisible horses were neighing. They sensed the excitement as cowboys saddled up for the long ride up the North Bank. Wild Jelly Belly examined his magnificent steed, Paint. Black, tall, strong, and high-spirited. Unfortunately, Wild Jelly Belly was stubby and tubby. Qualities prime horseflesh like Paint did not appreciate much.

“Paint, today we may avert horrible calamities about to pour down on our friendly valley. I’ll need your cooperation. No bucking. No bolting. And, no whinnying in Hostile Territory.”

Paint snorted in contempt.

“Are you deliberate in trying to get me shot. Well, Boy, you look close at these two hummingbirds strapped at my sides. I am a ‘Pistolero gordisimo’ and don’t you forget it.”

Paint rolled his big, black eyes. “Are you ready men?” shouted Wild Jelly Belly.

“Yeah, Boss, let’s get them scurvy maggots.”

“Excuse me,” said Jelly Belly, scowling and in a commanding tone, “we do not refer to Bad Guys as “scurvy maggots”. That is definitely against Bear Etiquette. Wouldn’t it be more gentleman like to say, “them unhealthy pasty-faces”? What do you say?”

“Sorry, Boss. Let’s get them unhealthy pimple-faces!”

“Yeah, let’s get’em,” the others roared.

And off they went making clippity-clop hoof noises with their mouths and tongues. They shuffled their feet in a galloping motion. They were heroes-in-the-making. After all, their soon-to-be-dusty horses were only imaginary. And it does take extraordinary mouth control producing horse gallops while still breathing.

Could Wild Jelly Belly keep his buckaroos from reckless and rowdy behavior? They hadn’t slept for several long nights. Banjo and harmonica playing all night long around a campfire saps even the best man’s strength. The outbreak about “scurvy maggots” had been a close one. But his men were faithful to the Bear Code of Etiquette. Even if they did say pimple. That at least was reassuring.

A tremendous imaginary explosion rocked the earth. In all directions, dirt and pieces of rock went flying among the galloping men. The hoofbeats stopped. The war-trained horses immediately rolled to their sides. They protected their riders from any flying objects. This, of course, was proper Horse Etiquette for Battle Situations. No wounded, of course. Even so, the situation was precarious. An enemy cannon, high on the hill had fired upon Wild Jelly Belly and his Courageous Men.

“Willy, Sam, Curly are you guys alright?” hollered Wild Jelly Belly, a good leader, always concerned for his men first.

“I’m okay,” replied Willy.

“I lost my bubble gum,” said Sam.

“Can we go home now?” asked Curly.

The explosion frightened the brave cowboys more than Wild Jelly Belly figured.

‘Hang on, Buckaroos. We’ve got to locate that dangerous cannon and put it out of commission.”

“Boss seems like the discharge came from that rocky ledge.”

“Right you are, Willy,” said Wild Jelly Belly. He secretly wished they wouldn’t remind him he was Boss. Especially in situations when pinned down by explosive cannon fire.

Curly turned, mounted his horse, and bolted for the safety of the woods.

“Yellow! Chicken liver!” yelled Willy, “Ain’t that right, Boss?”

“I guess we all have our limits,” said Wild Jelly Belly with a sigh. Wild Jelly Belly was in a pickle, his manpower was dwindling fast.

Wild Jelly Belly lay sweating in the shimmering of the hot sun. His two remaining heroes, Willy and Sam, dust parching their dry throats. Wasn’t playing pretend supposed to be fun? Suddenly, a familiar cry came from high above on the ridge:

“Hey! Boss, I surprised’em. The Bad Guys all ran away. Come on up.”

It was Curly’s voice. Had he gone turncoat; making some lucrative deal with those poxy bad guys? Or was he telling the truth?

“Okay. We’re comin’ up,” hollered Wild Jelly Belly.

“Boss?” said Sam, “Ya sure?”

“What other choice do we have? I’m tired of laying here sweating. It’s time to get on with this wild adventure. We’ll have to trust our pal, Curly. So mount up, boys.”

They charged up the ridge finding Curly standing alone by the wheeled cannon. Curly’s horse, Billy-boy, ambled aimless eating grass. Wild Jelly Belly, Willy and Sam jumped off their horses in three thuds. They all drew their six-shooters and aimed them at Curly. Three clicks clicked. The frowning men thumb-cocked the firing hammers on their big pistols.

“Okay, Curly how come you abandoned us out in the hot, sweaty sun?” asked Jelly Belly, “Are you traitor or a coward – or what?”

Curly started to look real scared.

“Boss, Don’t shoot me. I went home to get hot dogs, marshmallows, and root beer, ‘cuz I knew we’d all be hungry and thirsty after the wild adventure.”

They all squinted their eyes at whining Curly like a tough man does when he’s starin’ into the noonday sun.

Wild Jelly Belly spit on the ground in a western crude fashion and holstered his heavy pistol. He ran his thumbs over the inlaid solid- ivory rattlesnakes. He enjoyed the solid feel of steel at his hips.

“Horse nettles, I’ll be first to admit I had you pegged wrong, Curly,” said Wild Jelly Belly, “Forgive my mistake. Break out the grub. It’s time to celebrate our victory over these bean brains … er, I mean vegetable minds.”

All the men grinned. They liked Wild Jelly Belly. He had spunk. He imagined them into his wild adventure. They were all men of spirit. And they had captured a big cannon.

They sat around the low embers of the evening campfire. They roasted hot dogs and marshmallows. The boys broke out the old banjo and harmonica. Jelly Belly fondly took his fiddle out of the worn gunny sack tied to Paint’s huge saddle.

“Paint, I’m so pleased you didn’t crack up my fiddle today,” said Jelly Belly smiling.

Paint looked stern at the fiddle and began thumping his right front hoof as if dancing for the music to begin. Jelly Belly accepted that as the best compliment Paint could give.

“Okay, boys, stoke up the fire and let’er rip. We’ll be playin’ ‘til dawn,” shouted Jelly Belly. The mellow tones of the harmonica started the slip-slide melody of “Three-shoe Sally.” A personal favorite of The Boss. All the men looked up at the musical sparks popping into the clear night sky. And they looked into each other’s bright eyes as the harmonious music came faster. Now they knew, even though they were imaginary, they were real cowboys, real buckaroos. And they broke out dancing a bobbing, jerky jig and all hollered as one:

“Hurray for Wild Jelly Belly, the best Boss in the wild west!”

And in salute, they fired the captured cannon in a thunderous blazing roar.

It was a moment Jelly Belly always would remember – never to forget.

WhiteCloud

7:43 minutes

The Imaginary Misadventures of Jelly Belly Bear

—Chapter 1—

“Geronimo Jelly Belly and White Cloud.”

“A WHITE Dragon!” oohed Jelly Belly, pointing his finger, “and a Fat Clown! Look – a Fairy Castle!”

Floating marshmallow clouds were wandering across a Spring sky.

“Whew! My imagination is weary.” Plopping back and closing his eyes, Jelly Belly rested. Fantasy clouds filled his plump head, and Jelly Belly began naming again.

“There goes one. Looks like Giant Cotton Candy,” he said with moist lips.

Jelly Belly fluttered open his eyes. He squinted and rubbed. A cloud floated inches above Jelly Belly’s nose.

“It looks like a White Lamb,” said Jelly Belly without any help from his imagination. The Lamb Cloud blinked. Rubbing his eyes again. He squinted his best squint. With care, Jelly Belly examined the fluffy little cloud. Yes. Yes. The cloud was twitching its nose, a bit. More mysterious, the other clouds were still crossing the sky. Yet, this cloud was staring Jelly Belly square in his fuzzy face, without moving.

“Baah!” bleated the cloud. Jelly Belly sprung to his feet. The cloud, a little startled, took two steps backward.

“I’m swizzled!” exclaimed Jelly Belly, “A fluffy cloud … fallen from the sky.” Jelly Belly rubbed his chin. How could he get a fallen cloud back in the sky?

“Baah!” said the cloud.

“Yes, fluffy fellow.” grinned Jelly Belly, “Your floating is off course.” Speaking Cloud Talk was a rewarding new experience for Jelly Belly.

“Now,” said Jelly Belly. “Back in the sky is where you belong.”

“I’ll build a Pine Tree Catapult. You’ll be home as fast as a hummingbird.”

“Baah?” asked the cloud. Jelly Belly pulled out a dainty but frail rope from his bulging knapsack. A treasure for such an emergency.

“Mister Cloud, I am Jelly Belly Bear.” Jelly Belly said, standing as tall as he could. “Inside, I knew today was a “Rope Day”. I have a good rope, as you can see.” Jelly Belly held out the skinny frayed rope. The cloud sniffed it in a most unimpressed manner and bluntly said,

“BAAH!”

“Yes, well,” replied the embarrassed Jelly Belly, “I had a superior rope once, but it was very short. This one is … longer.” The unamused cloud yawned and ate some dandelions and grass blades. An odd diet for a cloud. But, not knowing what clouds ate, Jelly Belly didn’t criticize the cloud food.

Jelly Belly slung the flimsy rope over his puny shoulder. He shouted with glee, “I will rescue you, Little Cloud. Never fear.” Up he climbed. Limb by limb. Soon, Jelly Belly was up very high. He could almost feel the blue sky rubbing his bulbous head.

“Let’s see, wrap the rope tight,” said Jelly Belly, tying his best champion knot to the treetop.

“Little Cloud! Little Cloud!” Jelly Belly’s polite hollering rang, “Please cushion my arrival with your fluffiness!” The Cloud glanced up. But, the swooshing breeze garbled Jelly Belly’s newly-learned Cloud Talk.

“Here I go! Geronimo!” squeaked Jelly Belly, gallantly grabbing the rope end. Down he came. Eyes closed. Down like a plunging furry yo-yo.

“YA-HOO!” bellowed the yo-yo Jelly Belly. The rope jerked tight. “Whoa! Oh, oh. The ground is too far and my rope too short.” Jelly Belly opened one eye at the dizzying height. Jelly Belly dangled like a furry sack spinning back and forth. Time passed. Jelly Belly, swaying in the breeze, watched the beautiful sky start to redden and go purple.

The curious little cloud wandered aimlessly over the round hill.

“I guess there’s no one to rescue me, but me.” sighed Jelly Belly, “I’ll either hang here forever … or, fall and crash.” Jelly Belly’s stomach growled. “Oh, dear, what if I starve up here?”

“I’ll have to bolster my courage.” Jelly Belly’s imagination began to work again.

“I am a doom-defying daredevil, shot from the barrel of a circus cannon. I have landed hanging from a rope in a giant tree.”

This sounded good. Jelly Belly was feeling better already knowing he was a potential hero.

“I can see my picture in the paper tomorrow.” Extra, extra. Daredevil Jelly Belly escapes starvation and certain doom. What a headline. Jelly Belly imagined the crowd applauding. People were asking for his autograph. Some wanted him to kiss babies and be President. People asked, “Ooh, how did you escape?” *

And Jelly Belly yelled again, “Here I go! Geronimo!”

Whooshing through the tree’s protective boughs, Jelly Belly landed with a soft thump.

“Where did everybody go?” asked Jelly Belly in a daze. “You all missed it. I defied doom. I, Jelly Belly, the Magnificent.”

Jelly Belly gazed at the end of his flapping rope and smiled. The Cloud was right. It wasn’t any daredevil-circus rope.

Lighthearted, Jelly Belly laughed at himself and waved, “Good-bye, silly rope. To dinner, I go.” Hop. Hop. Over the hill, he bounced waggishly. Just like a cloud.