The Mommy’s Curse


A TaleSpin story conceived by John Pesterfield.

Written by John Pesterfield and Bearcat.  Additional story suggestions by Gidget.

TaleSpin is a registered trademark of The Walt Disney Company.

 

 

All characters used in this story are from Disney’s Tale Spin and are used without permission, with extreme respect and for totally NON-PROFIT USE. This is also the first story by these authors and is purely an educational exercise in creative writing.

 

The following characters in this story are part of Disney’s TaleSpin series: Baloo the Bear; Rebecca Cunningham; Molly E. Cunningham; Kit Cloudkicker; Wildcat; Dr. Bovon; Professor O’Bowens. Any other incidental characters are the creation(s) of the authors.

 

We thank the creative Disney talent behind TaleSpin for the creation of memorable characters and a series that has a loyal following to this day. We also thank Gidget for her reviews of the story and all her additional suggestions and input. It has been invaluable.

 

 

Chapter 7


“You seem to have a way with children. I've seen how you deal with Molly and Kit. It should be easy. Now I suggest you get going. Her time and yours is running out.”  With a harsh laugh, she disappeared, her whisper lingering like exotic perfume,  And let’s see your boyfriend help you now.”

 

The wind began to pick up and within seconds the jungle plants reverberated due to the gust. Dust and leaves were everywhere and when it settled, Altaira had vanished altogether.

 

"I think I liked her flashier exits better," Baloo said, rubbing his eyes.

 

Rebecca scowled. "Terrific.  Just terrific."

 

"Easy, Beckers. I got me an idea." He set her down, leaning her against one of the palm trees.  Rebecca started to slide sideways, and frantically tried to grab a trunk of the palm. She missed.

 

"Hey! If you think you're going to just leave me here, buster, let me remind you that we have to do this together."

 

Suppressing a grin, he set her upright again. "I know, Becky. Just give me a minute ta think."

 

“You don’t need a minute, you need a calendar.”

 

"Very funny,” he retorted.  Then he saw something.  “Hey, just what I'm lookin’ for."

 

Baloo reached down and picked up a palm frond, one of many that were scattered by the local trees. "Ouch!"

 

"What happened?  Are you all right?"

 

"It's okay, just jabbed myself on one of these doggone thorns." Baloo sucked on the wounded finger for a moment, then he held one of the frond’s thorns while he reached into his shirt pocket. After thumbing around the lining for a bit he soon pulled out a pocketknife. "Never leave the Sea Duck without it.” He proceeded to whittle diligently at the leaf.

 

She soon became intrigued by what was quickly becoming a major project. "Baloo, just what are you doing?"

 

"Just sit tight. We'll be on our way in no time."

 

"Well, I hope so.  If we wait too long it'll be dark. And we don't have the lanterns with us."

 

"Just rest a bit. I'll have this done in a jiffy."

 

"Maybe I should. Just for a few minutes." Rebecca did everything she could to make herself comfortable, without tipping over in the process.

 

She had no idea how much time had gone by, but found herself being gently nudged awake. "Becky? Hey, wake up."

 

"Huh? Wha… what's going on?"

 

"Time ta go, boss lady. Better get the sandman out of your eyes."

 

"I fell asleep?"

 

"Yep. Just like a baby." She shot him a glare. "Oh, sorry, Becky. I meant little lady."

 

"So how long was I out?"

 

"About a coupla hours or so. Not long. Now let’s get goin’."

 

"Going?" Suddenly her mind cleared and she remembered where she was. "Fine. I just wish you didn't have to carry me in your arms the whole way."

 

"Don't worry. You'll be ridin’ the whole way. Ta-da!"

 

She blinked. Baloo was holding up a basket with two large holes in the bottom.

 

“What’s that?”

 

“A trundle, what else?” He rotated it, showing her all angles.  “I wove it, see?”

 

“A trundle?” She blinked again.  "You wove me a trundle?"

 

"Neat, huh?" he asked with obvious pride in his voice. "I haven't made one of these things in years."

 

Even she had to admit it was an impressive piece of work. The trundle was woven from the outer leaves of the palm frowns and Baloo had used some of the local jungle vines as shoulder straps. It was big enough for a seven-year-old to ride in.

 

"How in the world did you learn to do that?"

 

"Heh-heh. Let’s just say my time in the Bear Scouts finally paid off."

 

"You? A Bear Scout?"

 

"Yep. Was at the top of my troop too. My den master was sure happy ta see me graduate."

 

"I bet. How many merit badges did you earn?"

 

"All of ‘em. Well, there was one I almost didn't get." Baloo leaned down and picked her up from her spot near the palm. “Well, let’s get ya strapped in."

 

She recoiled. “Hold it.  You are not putting me in that thing --- like --- like a sack of groceries!”

 

“Now be reasonable, Becky.  It’s the only way.”

 

“Ooooh… this is so embarrassing!”  She glanced around.  “I’ll just die if I run into someone I know!”

 

“Not likely, boss lady.  Not likely.” 

 

Rebecca's legs dangled as Baloo helped her into the trundle.

 

She felt strange, as though she’d just sat on a patch of wet grass during a picnic. “Ewww!  What’s this?  It’s cold and… damp!”

 

“Just some moss.  Jeez, it won’t hurt ya!”

 

What?

 

“I lined the inside with moss so the leg openings don’t cut into your…”

 

“Oh. Thanks… I think.” She relented, somewhat mollified.  She squirmed and privately she hoped that her bottom wouldn’t be covered with green stains.

 

Baloo soon put her back down onto the ground, giving him a chance to make some final adjustments to the shoulder straps.

 

To take her mind off her awkward position, she asked, "So, which one?"

 

"Huh?"

 

"Which one did you almost miss receiving?" He looked at her dumbfounded for a moment. "The merit badge?"

 

"Oh, yeah. It was the one for fishin’."

 

"Fishing? You? But I've seen you fish. You’re good at it.”

 

"Well, see that was the problem. I didn't use a fishin’ rod," Baloo said as finally lifted Rebecca and her trundle up to his shoulders.

 

"Oh, I suppose you scooped up the fish with your paws?"

 

"Ah… no. That wasn't it."

 

"Well, then what was it? If you didn't use a fishing rod and you didn't scoop them up, how did you catch the fish? Did you use a net?"

 

"Naw. Let’s just say my den master didn't care for my teeth marks in the salmon that afternoon."

 

Baloo had her high enough that he could now pass one arm through one strap, then the other arm in through the other. He then tied a piece of vine around his waist. "Hang on ta yer ailerons, lady. Here we go."

 

Rebecca held onto the big bear's shoulders as they began lumbering down the jungle path. She just sat there, on his back, wobbling from side to side in the trundle.  Her eyes widened as she mouthed, 'He caught it in his teeth?'

 

The thought was all it took, her stomach had taken enough and now it rebelled. Her eyes darted around as she fought to hold the contents of her stomach, finally she reached up and plucked Baloo's cap from his head.

 

"Hey, what are ya doin' with my hat?"


She took a deep breath, willed the nausea back down and set it carefully back on his head.  "Nothing. Just a piece of lint."

 

"What's that, Becky?"

 

"Nothing. Let’s just get going."

 

There was a long period of silence. Rebecca looked around at her new vantage point, and could see everything from Baloo's shoulders. The path seemed to be free of new quicksand pits, at least as far as she could tell from eight feet in the air. But the view was still impressive; she could make out parts of the ocean in the distance as she looked through breaks in the jungle growth, the mountain peak with the cave, the trees…

 

Suddenly, her reverie was rudely interrupted when she got a mouthful of palm fronds. "Ouch!"

 

"Becky? You okay?"

 

"No!” She spat them out. “Can’t you be more careful?"

 

"Hey, I'm lookin' where I'm goin'!"

 

"Well… duck! 

 

“Well, say somethin’!”
“I did!”

 

“I meant before!”

 

“Why, you…you…"

 

"Yeah?"

 

She couldn't answer him.  I hate it when he’s right.  She’d seen the stupid tree and hadn’t said a word.

 

Baloo just smiled smugly. He was beginning to enjoy himself.

 

Three hours passed since the two of them started walking and dusk was beginning to settle in on the jungle. The bright greens were turning dark grays and blues as more and more of the vegetation fell to the setting sun.

 

"Baloo, what time do you have?"

 

"I dunno know, lady. I never wear a watch, you know that."

 

"Oh, I forgot," she said sarcastically. "You're always on time."

 

He sighed. "Tell me somethin’, Becky. When you went ta school to learn all that business stuff, what kinda classes did ya take?"

 

"Classes?" What an odd question for Baloo to ask.  Could it be that he was actually interested in going back to school… again? She tried to remember.

 

"Well, there was financial accounting, corporate accounting, business law, typing, and… well a bunch of other things. Why?"

 

"Oh I don't know. Are you sure there wasn't some class called employee nagging? Cause ya sure don't know when ta quit."

 

"Me a nag? I don't nag you, Baloo.  I just tell you when you’re doing something wrong... which is often."

 

"Humph! Same difference.  You’re always ridin’ me."  He paused to adjust the trundle to a more comfortable position.  “Heh… that’s a good one.  Ya get it?  Ridin’ me?”

 

Rebecca took a fist and popped Baloo in the shoulder. "I am not a nag."

 

“Ow!” Baloo stopped and craned his neck around to look up at her. "Becky, if you ain’t the nag I take ya for, then how come you act like a horse’s…"

 

She reached over and clamped her hands around his snout. "Don't you dare!"

 

All Baloo had to do was yawn and Rebecca's grip was lost.

 

"What'za matter, boss lady? Can't take it when someone else dishes it out?"

 

"Why, you…! Put me down this instant!"

 

"You got it.”

 

Suddenly Rebecca could feel a loss of balance as Baloo pulled one arm free of the trundle, then the other.

 

"Hey! What are you doing?"

 

"Puttin' ya down, like ya told me."

 

Before she knew what was happening, Baloo had swung her round and was now holding the trundle by the straps.

 

Baloo put her gently down on the ground. "Fine. Have it your way."

 

As Rebecca began to work herself free of the trundle she noticed Baloo taking a seat by a rock. He began to stretch his legs out and put his paws behind his head.

 

"Oh no, you don't. Don't you dare leave me lying here! You know I can't walk!"

 

Baloo closed his eyes.

 

"Hey! You can’t take a nap now! We've got to keep going. The last day is tomorrow and we don't know how much further this cave is."

 

Eyes still closed, he asked, "Well, can you see in the dark?”

 

“What?”

 

“Take a gander.”

 

“What… oh.”

 

Again, he was right.  It was getting too dark to see.

 

I’m so sick of him being right.  It’s just… wrong.

 

She said crankily, "Well, can't you make a torch or something?"

 

"I could, but what would I light it with? I got no matches, and no flint. Besides all this stuff growin’ round us is too green to light. All we'd get is smoke."

 

Rebecca tried using her arms to roll over onto her stomach, but with the trundle round her lower half it was impossible. Baloo just watched her struggle a bit, before he got up.

 

"Need a little help there?"

 

She put her arms down and glared up at him.

 

He reached down and picked her up by the straps; trundle and all were now off the ground. Rebecca began to squirm.

 

"Hold still while I pull this thing off ya."

 

It took two or three tugs, but she was finally free. Baloo set her down against the rock he'd been up against a few moments before. He then grabbed some dead weeds from a spot behind the rock and wadded it up. Then, using one hand he pulled her forward and tucked the weeds behind her with the other hand. It made a nice pad for her back.

 

"There. Comfy?”

 

She shifted a bit.  She still wondered about grass stains, but otherwise didn't have any complaints. "Yes. Baloo, don't ever leave me like that again."

 

“What’s the magic word?”

 

“Oh, honestly!”

 

“Nope.  That ain’t it.”

 

Rebecca, finally coughed and with as much sincerity as she could muster said, "Please, don't leave me on the ground like that again."

 

"That's better.” He then sat back down next to her. "If ya want, you can lean up against me. I bet I’m a whole lot comfier than that rock.”

 

"Uh… thanks."

 

Rebecca pushed herself gently over until her head was just under his left arm.  He wasn't like her feather bed back in Cape Suzette, but…

 

“Baloo?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“What do you think Altaira meant by that crack?”

 

“What crack?”

 

“You know, the 'boyfriend' stuff.”

 

“Huh?”  He sounded embarrassed.  “I dunno.  Just jerkin’ our chains, I guess.  She’s always talkin’ in riddles.  I wish she’d just spit it out.  You’re a woman --- you know the language.  What do you think she meant?”

 

She wished she’d kept her mouth shut, and was glad it was dark so he couldn’t see her blush.

 

"How should I know? Maybe you’re right.”  She grit her teeth, hating those words.  I’d better take him down a peg or two.  “She was probably just trying to jerk my chain and confuse you. Trust me, that’s easy to do, especially the last part." Then she pretended to yawn and settled against him again.  She changed the subject. “Anyway, you do make a good pillow."

 

"Gee, thanks. Well, this pillow says we'd better get some shut-eye. Dawn's gonna be here a lot sooner than you think." Baloo shifted a bit and dragged his hat down over his eyes. "Night, Becky."

 

"Goodnight, Baloo."

 

It wasn't long before Rebecca could hear the rumbling snore of her pilot.  It sounded like someone with a bad head cold. As for herself, she couldn't sleep. Her mind keep whirling with the thought of Altaira's comment. What did she mean by 'boyfriend' anyway? Hmm! She should talk. Dressed like some hussy---!

 

“Watch it.”

 

Rebecca’s eyes flew open.

 

"My… He's almost cute when he's asleep. I'm amazed he can stay awake so long with all the drivel you spout."

 

"Must you constantly sneak up on us?"

 

“Oh, did you want to be alone?” Altaira gave an unladylike leer. "You forget. I haven't left. I've been watching the two of you. The fat bear's resourceful, I'll give him that."

 

"If there's a point to all this…"

 

"Oh, but there is."

 

There was an uncomfortably long pause, before Rebecca snapped, "Well, say something!"

 

"Quiet. You want to wake the beast?"

 

Baloo suddenly gave a large snort that made Rebecca cringe. How does Kit put up with this, she wondered. Even Altaira winced.

 

"Hmm. He does make a lot of noise, doesn't he?  Would you like me to smother him?”

 

"Why are you here again? I haven't done anything."

 

"Oh, but you have. You asked a question."

 

"What!”

 

"You wanted to know what I meant by the boyfriend comment, right?”

 

Rebecca glanced at the sleeping pilot, making sure he was still asleep.  He snored on, completely oblivious to their conversation.  “Nothing.  I was just curious, that’s all.” 

 

“Shall we wake him and see what he has to say?”

 

“No!”

 

“Don’t speak out loud.  I can read your mind, remember?” the goddess chided. “Just as well.  I doubt he’d have anything intelligent to contribute to the conversation.  He’d open his mouth to speak and chewed up food would come out instead.”

 

“Don’t talk that way about him!”

 

“What way?”

 

“Nobody insults my pilot but me.”

 

Your pilot?” Altaira chuckled. “Jealousy certainly comes out in the strangest ways.”

 

“I am not jealous.  He’s an asset to Higher for Hire, and I always protect my assets.”

 

“He’s an asset?” The tigress snorted.  “Well, you’re half right.”

 

Rebecca balled up her tiny fists.  “I’m warning you…”

 

Altaira patted her on the head.  “Don’t make me laugh, little girl.

 

Rebecca pulled away, suddenly remembering how helpless she really was.

 

She stewed in angry silence until Altaira leaned closer and asked in a confidential, just-between-us-girls manner, “Tell me your first impression of him, in your own words.”

 

"Well… I suppose I did find him a bit rough around the edges when we first met."

 

"That's an understatement. You thought the man was a slob.  Sloppy, careless and rude, remember?"

 

Still is, Rebecca thought automatically, then blushed.

 

“Yes, he is, isn’t he?”

 

As usual, the goddess’s habit of reading her thoughts irritated her.  “If you already know, then why do you even bother asking?

 

Altaira shrugged.  “I just like to hear you say it.  You’re like a bottle of soda.  When someone shakes you and opens the lid… whoosh!”

 

Rebecca scowled.  She did not like being compared to a bottle of soda. 

 

"Yes… what a novel idea. Maybe that's what you need to improve your chances."

 

Improve our chances? Rebecca's eyes went wide. “And just what do you mean by that?”

 

"Oh, don't worry. You'd better get some rest dear. You don't want to get bags under those  baby blues.  Night-night now.  Sandman's waiting!"

 

"Brown."

 

The goddess looked at her as if she was nuts. "What?"

 

"My eyes. They're brown, not blue!"

 

Altaira snorted. "Whatever. As if he ever noticed."

 

A gust of wind, and Altaira vanished. Rebecca began to blink, then sneeze and cough. The goddess was gone, but the wind remained. Worse, it was getting stronger --- too strong.

 

Soon the wind gust had debris flying around in addition to the dirt and sand. Rebecca began to gag. She couldn't breathe.

 

"Commmme baaaack. Baloooo!"

 

Nothing. He didn't flinch.

 

Rebecca scooted around so her face was pointing toward him. She almost couldn't keep her precarious balance between her useless legs and the windstorm. "BALOOOOOO!"

 

She began pounding on him. "Wake up, you lazy bum!"

 

Suddenly, there was a cough, then a sneeze, which was followed by the sound Baloo gasping for air.

 

He kept coughing. "Becky! What's goin’ on?"

 

"I-I think it's a sandstorm!"

 

"In the middle of the jungle? Are you coco-nuts?"

 

Baloo tried to survey their surroundings, but the sand storm tossed debris, making it almost impossible to see. At best, he could just make out Rebecca and no further.

 

"Becky! What are we gonna do!”

 

“How…should…I…know!"

 

"We'd better find a shelter, or this sand will rip our hides off!"

 

He frantically looked around to see if they could hide in or behind anything. There was nothing. Nothing except the very bolder they were sleeping against. "This will hafta do --- we gotta get behind that rock!"

 

"Whaaaat?"

 

The wind was too strong. The ambient noise blocked out his words. Baloo had no choice. Picking her up by the trundle straps, Baloo brought her around to the back of the rock. The wind was virtually non-existent near the base of the rock. He leaned down and shouted, "Get in there as far as you can! I'll get right in behind you to block the sand --- we'll ride it out!"

 

By this point Rebecca couldn't see. The grit coming from all sides effectively blinded and deafened her.  She huddled down, covering her nose and mouth. Then she felt a large wall behind her. At first she thought that Baloo was defying physics and trying to fit his huge body into the narrow crevice. 

 

She tried to make room, but knew it was futile.  Oh no, poor Baloo.  I keep telling him to lose some weight!  “It’s no use!  You’ll never fit in!”

 

Over the howl of the storm, she heard:  “… ain’t tryin’ to!”

After a moment, she realized that he was pulling himself up to act as a windbreaker. His bulk helped cut the sand and Rebecca began to breathe easier. There was nothing left to do, except ride out the storm… and pray.

 

After what seemed like hours, she caught herself dozing off at times from the exhaustion the storm created. When she opened her eyes, painfully, he was still pressed up against her. His cap was pulled down so far it almost covered his snout, and he had covered his nose with his large polka-dot handkerchief.

 

She poked his stomach.  When she spoke, her throat felt raw.  "Baloo. Baloo, wake up! I…I think it's over."

 

First he moved his head, and then his hand came up and tilted the cap back. Baloo looked a bit like a raccoon. The sand had left his coat dirty all around the edge of the flight cap. Anything under it remained his usual shade of brownish gray. The rest took on the color of dirty dishwater.

 

When he spoke, his voice was hoarse too. "Y-you okay, Becky?"

 

"I think so. You?"

 

He got to his feet and leaned against the rock. "Did we take a wrong turn somewhere?"

 

"What do you mean?"

 

He reached down and picked her up, then set her down on top of the boulder. "This is what I mean."

 

Sand. Nothing but sand for as far as the eye could see. The entire jungle --- the swamps, palm trees, quicksand pits… everything was gone. Then she let out a gasp.

 

"Baloo! The path! Where's the path?"

 

The one route they needed to get to the cave had vanished.

Baloo swallowed hard. "Holy MOLY! We're --- we're in the middle of nowhere!"

 

"This is all your fault!"

 

"My fault!"

 

"It was your idea to get behind this rock, in the middle of a sandstorm --- when you couldn't even see!"

 

"Now just hold it, lady. I was tryin’ to save our lives."

 

"This is saving? Look where we are --- no water, no shade, no landmarks!” 

 

Baloo slowly walked away.

 

"Now what are you doing?” she wailed. “Don’t just leave me here!"

 

"Tryin’ to see if this sand slopes away. Maybe we're on a mound of sand."  He looked around.

 

"Well?"

 

"I can't tell. Looks pretty flat to me. Come on." He reached down for the trundle.

 

"Wait! Where are we going?”

 

"We better get movin’. There's gotta be shelter somewhere. We can't stay here."

 

Rebecca went limp so Baloo would have an easier time placing her in the carrier.  Miserable but resigned, she did not complain about the cold, damp moss.  She wanted to cry, but knew it wouldn't help.

 

"I just wish we had a compass. At least then we'd know which direction we'd be walking." Baloo looked at her, then the position of the sun. Suddenly he set her upright on the sand.  Without a tree to lean against this time, she hoped that she wouldn’t tip over.

 

"Hey! What are you doing? Don't you dare leave me here!  What about my daughter? What about the curse? What about...!"

 

"What about you holdin’ still so's I can figure out where east and west are?"

 

"And just how do you propose to figure that out?"

 

He set her down.  "Got me an idea. Just sit up straight... "


She looked at him wearily.  "Now what are you up to?"

 

"Well, we don't have a sundial, so you'll have to do."


"Do what?" She was ready to throttle him.


"Face north."

"Which way's north?"

"That way, lady, that way.  And keep your head still."
 

“Look, I just need you to sit still so I can watch the shadow you cast. Okay? The shadow will shift as the sun moves across the sky."

 

"And just how long do I have to stay this way?"

 

"About ten minutes or so. Sun moves about one degree every four minutes." Suddenly, Baloo started to laugh.

 

Rebecca rolled her eyes. "What's so funny?"

 

"Well," he said, "I wonder if Kit's ever learned this trick? Be neat if his ol’ Papa Bear taught him somethin’ navigational that even he didn't know."

 

“Hmmph!”

 

"Becky, try holdin’ still, will ya? Use your arms if you have to."

 

She held herself upright as best as she could.  Her arms began to ache. Not having the use of her legs made her balancing act a strain. Baloo continued to watch the shadow cast by the sunlight on Rebecca's body. Four minutes, then ten. "Aw, nuts!"

 

"What's wrong?”

 

"I... I dunno know. The shadow shoulda been moving, but it hasn't budged an inch." He looked up to glimpse the position of the sun, hoping he had just placed Rebecca at an awkward angle. The sun had moved, but the shadow hadn’t. "What's goin’ on here? First we're in a jungle, then a desert. Now I can't even get my bearings.  And me a bear!"

 

Rebecca regarded him worriedly. “Baloo…”

 

“That Altaira dame’s been jerkin’ our chains all this time.  We’re never gonna get outta here." Then suddenly, he clenched his fists and roared heavenward, "Ain't it about time ya stopped playin' us like a cheap piano! What do ya want from us? Huh?" Suddenly a low thunderous rumble flowed across the sand from all directions. It made straight for the rock.

 

"You dare speak in that tone to me?”

 

Altaira appeared in a blinding light directly above the stone. Her eyes burned red as she stared down at Baloo. "Mortal, your end is much nearer than you think. I suggest you think carefully before opening your big mouth again.”

 

Rebecca shouted, “No! Don't hurt him!"

The tigress glanced down at her contemptuously. She made a careless gesture, and Rebecca shrieked as she toppled over.  Her eyes filled with angry tears at this fresh indignity, but she continued, "Don't hurt him. I need him. All we want is to finish this test, but we don't know where we are." She began to sob. Baloo too had tears in his eyes as he looked down at his boss. He had never seen or heard her beg before. It was agonizing to witness. 

 

Altaira's expression suddenly cleared. "Perhaps it is time I make some things easier." She spread her arms apart. The all too familiar glow of green light began forming between her paws. She flung the ball of energy toward Rebecca. It engulfed her, then there was a sudden flash and explosion. Baloo was knocked off his feet, landing on his backside. As the blinding light faded, he began to see Rebecca. She was on her feet again, but she was still a little girl. 

 

"Ba...Baloo. I can stand up.” She took a few careful steps.  “I-I can walk again!” she cried out.  Then she noticed that she was staring directly at Baloo’s belly. “Hey, what is this? I’m still short!”  

 

"Honestly.  Some people are never satisfied.”  The goddess shook her head sadly.  “You can walk, can’t you?  Personally, it would have been fun to watch you being carried around like a papoose, but it’s a necessary change. You will need to help each other more than ever now.”

 

Rebecca fought down the urge to protest her size, knowing by now that it would be useless.  "But where are we?  How can we find our way to the cave now?"

 

Baloo took a deep breath, bracing himself for the rest of the question. "Yeah. How are we supposed ta find it, in the middle of a desert?"

 

"I suggest you sit on it!"

 

With her usual disdain for ordinary exits, Altaira vanished again.

 

Baloo gulped. "Uh… I think I made her mad."

 

"Gee, whatever gave you that idea?"

 

"I'm sorry Beckers. It's just... I just feel lost, ya know? Desserts make me nervous.  They’re kinda… deserted."

 

"That’s deserts, you dumb bear. And of course they’re deserted.  That’s why they’re called deserts,” she snapped.

 

“Hey, don’t go bustin’ my chops!”  He couldn’t resist adding, “Ya can’t reach ‘em, anyway.”

 

“Why, you---!”  She reached up and beat his belly, her tiny fists pounding harmlessly against it. “There!  Take that!  And that!”

 

He looked down at her, amused.  “Hey!  Easy, lady.  You’re just embarrassin’ yourself with those puny punches.”

 

“Oh yeah?  I’ll show you puny!” She reached up and managed to yank out several clumps of fur.

Yeow!  Hey, that smarts!”

 

“Serves you right!  Taking cheap shots at… the way I am!”  Suddenly, she began to cry again.

 

He picked her up and tried to comfort her.  “It’s okay, honey.  We’re both just frustrated.  We shouldn’t be at each other’s throats right now.  We can do that at home… when we get home.”

 

Rebecca sniffed.  “Will we, Baloo?  Will we get home?”

He patted her back as though burping a baby.  “Yeah, we will.  Somehow.”

 

“Okay.”  She managed to smile a little through her tears.  “Now put me down before I spit up on you.”

 

Hastily, he set her down.

 

“Feel better?”

 

“I guess.  Just promise me one thing.”

 

“Anything, Becky.”

 

“No more ‘short’ jokes, at least until I grow up.”

 

“Deal.” 

 

"And just don't fly off the handle like that again, especially with…” She glanced around fearfully and her voice dropped to a whisper.  “…her.  I don't...don't want to lose my one-and-only pilot."

 

"Aw...  ya can't lose me, Becky. I'm like a bad penny --- I always turn up." Baloo got up and brushed the sand off. He'd been sitting on it for more than five minutes, and it was not comfortable. "Don't worry. We'll get out of here."

 

"But how?  She didn't leave us much to go on."

 

"Yeah. Wonder what she meant by ‘Sit on it’ anyway?"

 

"I... ouch!  I don't know!"

 

"Becky? What's wrong?"

 

"This stupid sand’s burning my feet!"

 

"Well, take a load off for a few minutes. Maybe we can come up with an idea."

 

Rebecca saw the boulder they had hidden behind, and perched herself on top; it was a welcome refuge from the heat of the soil.  Baloo began to pace, his head bent in thought. She watched as the he began to wear a path in the hot sand, and began to squirm under the rough surface of the bolder. In the meantime, beads of perspiration began forming on his brow. He glanced at her, and saw her squirm.

 

"What's wrong?"

 

"This rock! I can't get comfortable."

 

Baloo thought for a moment, then started to unbutton his flight shirt.

 

She was shocked.  "Baloo!  What are you doing!"

 

"Thought you might like a cushion," he said as he hastily folded his flight shirt over several times. Baloo then reached over, and picked her up with one arm.  “Upsie-daisy, Becky."

 

With one hand on Rebecca, and the other clasping the shirt, he tossed it onto the bolder and placed her back down on top of the makeshift seat.

 

"How's that?"

 

Rebecca wriggled around a bit to see if she could still feel the sharp edges of the stone. "It... it's fine."

 

“Good.”

 

"Baloo?"

 

"Yeah?"

 

"Thanks. But what about you?  What if you get sunburned?”

 

“Well, I’ve been meanin’ ta get an all-over tan anyway.”

 

“But what if someone sees you?"

 

"See me? Out here? The only one who might is that Altaira, and maybe she’ll just enjoy the show."

Suddenly there was a disembodied peal of laughter. “Conceited mortal!  You wouldn’t get sunburned, you’d cause an eclipse. Get moving. You're wasting time."

 

“We’re movin’, we’re movin’!” Baloo snapped, pacing even faster. 

 

"Baloo, would you please stop that! You’re making me dizzy.  Here, why don't you sit down with me?  Besides, you’re going to give yourself heat stroke.”

 

He stopped and looked at her. "Yeah, maybe you’re right."

 

“I’m always right.  Haven’t you learned that by now?”

 

“Pig-headed as usual.”

 

“Ugh.  Don’t remind me.”

 

Rebecca moved over a bit to make room. Before she knew what was happening, she had been tossed from the boulder. It all happened so fast that all she could do was quickly put her arms out to break her fall and watched in dazed horror as a cloud of sandy dust poured over the rock, rendering it invisible. "Baloo!"

 

There was a soft cough, then she heard him. "I'm okay, Becky, but I'm, uh... stuck."

 

"Stuck? What do you mean, stuck?"

 

As the dust cleared, Rebecca understood. There, on the desert floor was Baloo. The boulder they had both sat down on was gone, and Baloo's bottom appeared to be jammed into a...

 

"Hole! You fell down a hole!"

 

“No!”  His voice floated up eerily from below, but still managed to retain its sarcasm.  “You're pullin’ my propeller!"

 

“No need to get huffy, Baloo.  Here, give me your hand.”

 

"You can't possibly pull me out. I'm too big..."

 

"That's an understatement."

 

"Cut the wisecracks. Let’s see if I can roll over."

 

"That should be easy for you. You've been rolled out of Louie's enough times." 

 

Baloo just shook his head, and began rocking back and forth. Even stretching out his left leg and arm to change his center of gravity wasn't enough.

 

"I’ve got an idea. Maybe you can scoot out."

 

"What do ya mean, scoot?"

 

"Use your arms to push yourself out of the hole. That's assuming you aren't wedged in there permanently."

 

“You’re a regular ray of sunshine, lady.”

 

“No, just practical.”

 

He sounded resigned. “Okay, I'll give it a try."

 

He lay back down. "If I can just get my elbows to stay flat..." 

 

"I don't think any diet will make your elbows thinner, Baloo."

 

"I said flat, not fat.”

 

With a grunt, Baloo began to lift himself up at the shoulders, then pushed down toward his feet. He moved only about three to four inches. "Not long now."  

 

A few minutes later...


"I...I can't make it Becky. I'm too pooped."

 

Rebecca leaned down and playfully tweaked his nose. "You're also out."

 

"I'm out?” He looked around, and sure enough, he was free. "I'm out! It worked!" Baloo collapsed onto the sand. "Whew! If I made it, then how come I'm so tired?"

 

"Boy, do you need exercise."

 

"I get plenty of exercise, Becky,” he retorted, “Haulin’ cargo, flyin’ the Sea Duck, totin' noisy little gals around the desert..."

 

"…lifting greasy burgers and fries to your face."

 

"Yeah, yeah. Yuk it up, Becky."

 

“That’s my opinion.  Yuck.

 

Once freed, Baloo rolled over and crawled over to the hole; he and Rebecca gazed at the maw. The opening was about two feet across, and it appeared to have several large rocky outcroppings just below the mouth of the hole, possibly large enough to put a hand or a foot. "Man, that is one deep hole!"

 

Rebecca looked at the opening, then Baloo. "Think you can make it through?"

 

"Sure, but I might have to suck in the old gut a bit."

 

“Pretend you’re about to blow out a hundred candles on a big birthday cake,” she suggested, half-jokingly.

 

“Very funny.”  But he closed his eyes, trying to picture a specially baked Louie cake in front of him… all his friends wearing party hats… presents on a nearby table…

 

“What’s taking you so long?”

 

“Aw, I can’t decide if I want strawberry or banana cream.  No, maybe chocolate…”

 

She exploded, “Would you just suck it in already!

 

Sounding injured, he said, “Now who’s bein’ huffy!”

 

You better start huffin’, buster!  We don’t have all day!  Altaira’s probably laughing her head off.”

 

 

End of Chapter 7

 

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