Today was a very unusual day. Ardvark had romped to several anthills already, and was beginning to think that he would be spending the entire day alone, and began to strike up a conversation with Bumpus, his back left leg, which he'd made friends with on lonely afternoons like these.
"So, which way do you think we should go today, Bumpus? We've already been to the valley and up the big hill, and all that's left is the dark path to the glen."
Ardvark stood for a moment in silence
"Hmm, don't know, Bumpus, I'm curious too, but we've never gone that way before"
Ardvark the aardvark must have been quite a strange sight then, having a conversation with has back-left leg and quietly waiting for its reply.
Indeed, he was a strange sight to several pairs of eyes watching quietly from the woods.
Ardvark failed to notice, though, and seemed to agree with himself, nodding as he said, "Yes, yes, Bumpus, I think I see your point. You're quite persuasive. The Path to the glen it is then."
And with that, Ardvark began to tramp happily down the shadowy path to the glen.
Ardvark hummed himself a little tune as he walked, making strange, trumpet like noises from his trunk as he hit the high notes of his made up little song. With a particularly loud "Pblat!" Ardvark stopped in his tracks.
He could have sworn he heard something in the woods.
"Hello?" Little Ardvark said to the woods, but nothing replied.
"Is anyone there? I've been looking for someone to play with." Ardvark said, smiling determinedly. He was too old now, he told himself, to be afraid of the dark, and he was sure he heard the rustling of leaves in front of him.
"Oh well" he said, and began to turn to leave again, continuing down the path. As soon as he had turned around, the rustling began again. Once more, Ardvark turn around and was met, face to snout, with a giant pair of eyes.
"PBBBT!" Ardvark exclaimed, startled by the sight of two eyes completely without a body.
"EEEeeet! Eeeeet!" The eyes said back in a small, high voice, and suddenly squinted nearly out of existence.
The voice had been so tiny and so shrill that Ardvark could not help but laugh. As he moved closer, he could see that the eyes belonged to a tiny creature, who was now huddled in terror, scared of Ardvark, who was, admittedly, much much bigger.
"I'm sorry to scare you" Ardvark said quietly, as not to frighten the little creature any more "but you see, you scared me"
"I... I scared you?" the tiny voice said, peeking open one of its great eyes.
"You sure did. You see, it's not every day you meet a floating pair of eyes, which is exactly what you had seemed to be, peering out from the dark..
"Well I'm sorry to have scared you, but I just had to see. We've never seen anything quite like you before."
And with that, a whole troop of the little vervet monkeys emerged from the woods, hopping up and circling around Ardvark, and all talking at once.
"What's your name? Who were you talking to? What's that on your face?" Why do you walk on your hands? Where do you come from? The little creatures all asked, talking excitedly over each other. One of the most inquisitive of the little creatures actually jumped up onto Ardvark's back, picking up Ardvark's ears, hair and tail, asking about them as he went
"Hee hee - That tickles!" Ardvark exclaimed, as the little monkey got a handful of fur just behind his ear." One at a time! Well I wish I knew the answers to all of your questions, but the truth is that I don't. You see, I'm still a young aardvark, but I know this: my name is Ardvark, and this is my friend, Bumpus" Ardvark said with a vigorous shake of his back-left leg.
Bumpus obliged with a pop and a polite little squeak.
"How come you don't know?" one of the youngest baby vervets asked, her eyes big and wet, as she pushed through the other monkeys.
"Well, I guess partly because I've never asked. I think when I get back to the older aardvarks, I may do just that."
"Ohh ohh!" One of the little moneys exclaimed, "You could come and ask with us! We have school with the elder monkeys soon! They know everything. They could answer your questions!"
"Well, I've got no other plans for today, so why not!"
And with that, Ardvark and the little monkeys headed into the glen to have their questions answered.
"Please everyone, take your seats" the large monkey called, as he took his place in front of the class of young vervet monkeys and one very strange looking new student.
"Well, it seems we have a visitor today. Everyone, say hello to our guest."
"Hello" the class chimed in unison, although one of the little monkeys, hanging from a nearby branch made a sound more like "hay-WHOA!" than hello. The teacher shot him a stern look, and he immediately took his place.
"Please excuse our little monkey - There's one in every class." The professor said as he smiled sagely at Ardvark.
"Now, little friend, what's your name?" the teacher said, which was slightly humorous, because even though he was an adult vervet monkey, he was still less than half Ardvark's size. "My Name is Ardvark, and this is Bumpus" Ardvark said, holding up his back left leg proudly. Some of the younger vervets giggled and smiled when he introduced Bumpus, but Ardvark didn't seem to notice.
"Interesting. Your name is the same as the name of your species, or your type of animal?"
"No, It's spelled differently, but it sounds the same"
"His name is misspelled!?" one of the bigger monkeys shouted, laughing at what he thought was a very funny joke. Several of the other vervets began to twitter with him.
Ardvark looked down and thought for a moment. The teacher was just about to interrupt when Ardvark looked up and smiled, having come to some conclusion.
"It's not misspelled. It's a homophone."
"Indeed" the teacher said, smiling at this turn of events. The older monkeys had quieted now, humbled that they had not known that a homophone was a word that was spelled differently, but sounded the same.
"Well, Ardvark, I believe you've provided us with a wonderful place to start our lesson today. There are quite a few homophones in our language, like there and their. Now, Plato," The teacher said, calling upon the monkey who had spoken out.
"Yes, teacher?" Plato said, becoming interested in the lesson now. If there's one thing young vervets loved, it was to learn.
"Can you tell us the difference between there and their?"
"Well, one is a place, like "go over there", and the other implies possession, as in "they took their bananas"
"Excellent, Plato. Excellent. Now, the hundred-banana question; which one is spelled which way?"
Plato looked down at his feet, and picked at the dirt with his nimble, finger-like toes. "I don't know"
"Well, it's nothing to be ashamed of! We're here to learn! Admitting that you don't know everything is the first step on the path to wisdom. Now, I'll give you an easy trick to remember the difference, and you'll never forget again!"
The teacher jumped from his platform spryly, eliciting a gasp from the students, and a bit of a squeak from Ardvark. The teacher swung briefly on a branch and continued his leap, landing gracefully behind the students.
The teacher smiled at his students, and they let out a few appreciative "eek eek" ad "ook ooks."
"You might say," the teacher began "that I have just gone from over there, to over here. There, to here. Who can tell me what we can learn from this, and I've just given you a hint."
A small, reddish vervet, one of the babies who had brought Ardvark to the class, raised her hand ever so slightly. She was very shy, and another teacher might have missed the gesture, but the Teacher's eye was very keen, and he quickly called on her, beaming with pride at her initiative.
"There and here," she began "When you said there and here, you were talking about two places. The "there" that refers to a place has the word "here" in it"
"Outstanding, Hypatia! Wonderful!" The teacher crooned. Ardvark smiled at her, and he noticed that she turned just a bit redder for a moment.
Once again, the teacher was in the air, and then in the trees in a flash of white and brown fur. He scrambled around for a moment, shaking branches, until suddenly, he called down. "Aristotle, catch!"
As soon as he had shouted, down came a ripe yellow banana from the trees above. The Teacher followed it almost immediately, once again catching a branch and landing with satisfying thud back at the front of the class. "Everyone, put a hand, finger or foot on the banana. I want everyone in the class touching some part of it!"
The class all rushed to comply, scrambling on top of each other to get some appendage touching the fruit. Even Ardvark got into the pile, crouching down low and touching the banana with the tip of his snout.
"Okay, who has the banana?" the teacher shouted from the front of the classroom.
There was a moment of silence, mostly because no one was sure who, in fact, had the banana. From somewhere squished in the middle of the pack, Aristotle's voice rang out. "I have the banana!" he said. quickly, two more monkeys said "I have the banana!" holding on to their piece of it. Ardvark chimed in, but with his snout touching the banana still and two smaller vervets standing on part of his trunk, it came out more like "by bav ba bababa"
"The banana is theirs. 'T,' 'h,' 'e,' 'i,' 'r,' 's.'" He said, emphasizing the I particularly. "Who has the banana? " he asked again. "I have the banana!" More students chimed in this time.
"The banana is theirs. . 'T,' 'h,' 'e,' 'i,' 'r,' 's.' Who has the banana?"
"I have the banana" the entire class shouted
"The Banana is theirs." the class once again joined in as he spoke "'T,' 'h,' 'e,' 'i,' 'r,' 's.' "
"Outstanding. Ardvark, if I could ask for a hand, I'd like that banana back"
"Awwwww" the class said in unison, letting go as Ardvark deftly lifted the banana over to the teacher with his long snout.
"Thank you. Now, whoever gets this last question right, well, the banana really will be theirs. What is the final "They're" that I've left out?
"ohh ohh ha haaa heee hee!" one of the biggest monkeys said from the back of the class, raising his hand excitedly.
"I appreciate your enthusiasm, Foucault," the teacher said, chuckling lightly, "but simply raising your hand would suffice."
"The they're you've left out is t h e y apostrophe r e. It's easy to remember because it's a contraction of the words they and are"
"Well," the teacher said, smiling "Foucault, I don't know if I could have said it better myself" he finished, as he tossed the banana to Foucault. Being nearly the size of Foucault himself, it almost knocked him over as he caught it. He chittered wildly and hugged the banana to his body.
"Bonus question, Foucault! Get this right and we'll start our lesson tomorrow with some banana for everyone Can you use all three in a sentence?
Foucault though for a moment, then peered from around his banana and smiled. "They're all over there pouting because this banana's not theirs today!"
"Ha!" the teacher exclaimed, clapping his hands once mightily. "Brilliant! Banana for everyone tomorrow morning" The class laughed and cheered even as some of them did continue to pout a bit.
"That's it for today class! Go home and remember to help your parents, this is the first week of the berry harvest"
The class dispersed, chatting excitedly about the lesson and about tomorrow. Ardvark watched happily as they all left in twos and threes, and waved goodbye to the group of vervets who had brought him to the class.
"Well, Ardvark, it was very nice to have you here today. I hope you'll come back soon."
"I'd like to come back tomorrow if that's all right with you. I enjoyed it very much"
"Wonderful, wonderful. Maybe tomorrow you can tell us a bit more about where you come from."
"I'd like that. I think Bumpus enjoyed the lesson a lot too, he seems very chipper! Ardvark said, with a bit of a kick of his leg"
"Well, my friend," the teacher said, putting one arm over Ardvark's back as they walked towards the trail back home "Bumpus is welcome back anytime too..."
Both Bumpus and Ardvark have an itch.
Bumpus has an itch where Ardvark cant reach and the same is true for Ardvark.
Walking along the Dark path to the glen
Chatter from all around "Hello Ardvark", "Hello Bumpus"
See the irritated look on Ardvarks face and the cantankerous limp of Bumpus
"what seems to be the problem Ardvark?", Is everything ok, bumpus? they continue to chatter.
"We both have a problem," said Ardvark. "And though we can often help eachother out of situations like these. I believe we've run into one where we cannot."
"What's the matter?", "what's the problem?", "Can we help", as the chattering shadows from the trees became chattering riders on Ardvark's back.
"I seem to have developed an itch on the middle of my back between my shoulder blades and as for bumpus he has been complaining about an itch on the center of his back as well. I can't reach his itch and he can't reach mine itch."
One of the monkeys spoke up, "Well I can reach both itches but not at the same time."
"I can reach the other" said another, "while you reach the first." Continuing after a pause, "but what do we get for getting rid of their itches."
The first vervet turned and stared and than sat down on his haunches. "We definitely should get something for doing this service that could not be done without us." The other little monkey joined him in his sitting and his staring. "But what?" the other asked.
Ardvark's face cringed with his continued discomfort and Bumpus started to twinge as the itch became unbearable.
"Oh Please," Ardvark spoke, "Bumpus is asking so nicely just a little scratch will be enough."
The little monkeys just sat there staring, and wondering what they would ask for.
Then a third monkey who had been swinging along swooped down and landed softly between them. He was larger than the first two with arms half as long as an Aardvark. He looked disappointedly at the two small monkeys then streched out his arms and scratched both itches at once.
Ardvark took in a deep breath of relief as his body finally relaxed, and as for Bumpus he dragged for a moment and then hopped back up and continued on his way.
"Thank you kind sir, for relieving my itch, is there anything that I can do for you?" Ardvark cheered.
The long armed monkey replied as he leaped back in the sky, "No need as long as you're happy!"
Then the two little monkeys who had not moved a muscle hung their heads in shame and regret. "We're sorry," they pouted, "We didn't help with your plight, is there anything else that you need?"
Ardvark said with a cheery voice, "Perhaps some company for my time in the glen."
It was a hot summer day, and Ardvark was resting in a burrow he'd dug in the shade of his forest. "Hmm, I'm getting hungry. How about you Bumpus?" Ardvark said, looking at his back left leg.
Bumpus, Ardvark's hind leg, did not appear to answer, but Ardvark seem to hear him speak clearly. None of Ardvark's forest friends were sure if Ardvark imagined his leg speaking out of lonelyness, or if Bumpus could truly talk to Ardvark. Either way, both Bumpus and Ardvark were so much fun to be around, no one seemed to mind.
"Oooh, yes, Bumpus, that sounds wonderful. Lets go find an anthill have a nice ant lunch." As strange as it sounds, eating ants was not unusual for Ardvark. He was, after all, and aardvark, and that's what aardvarks ate. Ardvark merrily made his way to the nearest anthill, and looked over the bright red ants. "Hmm, I don't know, Bumpus, I'm not quite in the mood for spicy food today, lets keep looking" he said, as he left the fire ants behind, tending to their hill and doing whatever ants do, as he trotted on.
Spying a great hill of large black ants, Ardvark salivated. Just then, a sound came from somewhere in the vicinity f either his stomach, or his back-left leg.
"I agree Bumpus!" Ardvark answered, "this looks like just the spot!"
And with that, Ardvark began to dig at the hill with his strong back legs, opening it to reveal thousands of little black morsels. Ardvark smiled and hummed a little tune as he dug, excited about lunch.
Turning around, Ardvark extended his long, sticky tongue into the anthill. He seemed built for this task, he thought to himself, as a bunch of the ants stuck to or crawled on his tongue. The crawling tickled a bit, and Ardvark giggled.
"Hee hee!" he exclaimed, and rolled on to his side laughing, his tongue still extended.
"Hee hee!" he heard back in a tiny voice, as a small ant looked up at him. The ant stomped his feet a bit, tickling Ardvark more.
"Hahaha!" Ardvark was really laughing now, and the ant giggled with him, stomping all about his tongue, both of them laughing now.
After a moment or two, they settled down, and the ant looked up at Ardvark with a big smile and said, simply, "Hi!"
"Unh, hih" Ardvark managed, with his tongue still out of his mouth. It seemed his lunch was talking, and he saw to reason not to be polite.
"Whats your name?" The little ant said, turning it's head to the side quizzically.
"Ard-lar" Ardvark mumbled, attempting to smile and talk with his tongue out.
"Ardvark - that's interesting. You're an aardvark named Ardvark."
"Yut!" Ardvark exclaimed, happy that the little ant had understood his name despite his mumbling.
"My name's Shelby." The ant said.
"Nibe do eet you" Ardvark said "ind shepping ob ma ounge?"
"Oh! Of course not!" The ant said, stepping off his tongue happily. The other ants had by now followed suit.
"Ahh, that's better! Hello Shelby" Ardvark said, smiling at his new friend.
Ardvark and Shelby talked for hours, laughing and joking until the sun was setting in the sky.
"Okay, Shelby, it's time for me to go. Maybe I'll see you tomorrow!" Ardvark said.
"I'd like that" the little ant said, and waved goodbye to the friend that almost ate him.
On Ardvark's walk home, he was so excited about his new friend, that he forgot all about being hungry. Bumpus, on the other hand, was not as easily distracted.
"Eeeeewoooguu-plupplup" came from Ardvark's body.
"Oh Bumpus! I got so carried away with our new friend, I completely forgot to eat!"
Ardvark walked on, wondering what to do for food. He couldn't very well go back and eat his new friend, and taking on that hill of fire ants on an empty stomach didn't sound like much fun. Besides, what if one of them started talking to him too?
As he entered the glen, he laid down on his haunches, and Bumpus groaned with hunger.
"What's the matter, little friend?" A jovial voice said from the trees, as the monkey called "Teacher" swung down to meet Ardvark.
"I'm hungry, but I don't want to eat my friend!" Ardvark said, pitifully, as his stomach (or perhaps Bumpus) groaned again.
"Ahh, ha ha." the teacher laughed in a friendly way, and put his hand on Ardvark's back comforting him. "You've made friends with the ants then."
Ardvark just nodded.
"Well, don't worry my friend, there's lots more to eat here in the forest. There are berries, leaves, anything your heart desires."
"That's the problem. I'm so hungry, all I want is ants! I don't know what to do!"
"You wait here, I think I may have solution to your little dilemma"
With that, the teacher ran and leaped into the trees, catching a vine and swinging off.
Ardvark waited patiently, napping a bit in the glen as dusk fell.
A soft voice woke him. "Ardvark... Ardvark wake up" said a little voice to his right.
It was his friends, 3 young vervet monkeys. "The teacher has brought you dinner," Hypatia, the smallest of the three said.
Thank you, I must have dozed off. I'm so hungry, I could eat a whole log full of ants!
"Well then I think we're in luck" the teacher said, standing behind the 3 youngsters. "Because I've brought you 'Ants on a log'".
With that, the teacher sat a wooden plate in front of Ardvark. Ardvark sniffed, and then tasted. On the plate were stalks of celery filled with peanut butter, topped with little raisins, which looked just like ants crawling on a log.Ardvark picked up one of the stalks with his tongue and took a bite.
"Mmm!" He exclaimed, and happily chomped away.
"Tomorrow, I'll show you how to make your own ants on a log!"
"Thank you! Mis is deliclicious!" Ardvark said with his mouthful, and they all laughed as Arvark happily ate, and night fell on the glen.
(Note to parents, It might be fun to show your own little Ardvarks how to make some "ants on a log." It's healthy, and lets be honest, how else are you going to get them to eat some celery? )