Glad you could join us for the next impassioned episode of Elliot’s Adventures. If you’re new here, you can catch up by returning to the beginning, and reading really fast…
The way found Randall sitting out the worst of the day’s heat in a narrow slice of shade beneath a mummified snag. As its shadow crept across the searing earth, he inched along with it, sorry he hadn’t let Girdliz take him to water before scaring him off by mentioning General Hai. Every dry swallow rasped down his throat.
Hunkered into the tightest ball he could hold himself, he jumped when a rain of debris showered onto his back.
“Hey!” he called to the two jittery creatures balanced on the tip of the snag, “Am I happy you happened by! Do you mind chatting with me for a few minutes?”
Each rotated a conical eye in his direction, but neither spoke.
Spreading his mouth in the best smile he could muster after peeling his dehydrated tongue from the roof of his mouth, he continued, “My name’s Randall, what’re yours?”
A moment passed. “I’m Bernie. This here’s my wife, Gert.” Gert elbowed him. “Ow!” He tightened his lips and glared at her. “This here’s my beautiful wife, Gert.”
“I’m glad to meet you both,” Randall effused. “Might I ask you for some… advice?”
Swaying slightly over her feet, Gert answered, “Sure, what’s your problem?”
“Well, I actually have a couple of them. First, I need to find some water.”
“That’s easy. I’ll take you,” Bernie volunteered. Bobbing his torso, he turned to climb down from his perch and found his wife squatting in his way, one eye on him and the other on Randall.
“Hold on a minute, Bern. Let’s find out what else he needs, first.”
Bernie sat where he was.
Hoping to put off mentioning the General for as long as possible, Randall said, “Look, I’ve never been to The Arids before. I left the woods down south this morning, and I was foolish enough not to bring anything to drink. I really need some water.”
Gert focused both eyes on him. “You came to a place called The Arids and didn’t bring water?”
Randall stared at his toes.
Gert hid her face in her palm and shook her head. “So why are you really here? The Arids isn’t anybody’s random destination.”
Sighing, Randall began to understand the power the General must hold in his homeland. Strangers were suspect. Help was only reluctantly given.
“All right. I’ll tell you why I’m here, but promise me first you’ll help me find water even if you won’t help me after that.”
Bernie dipped his head as one of his eyes stole a glance at his wife. “Please, my delicate desert blossom?”
The corners of her mouth twitched upward for the flicker of a second, and Bernie announced, “Of course!”
“Thank you,” Randall said. “Do you have any children?”
“What’s that got to do with anything?” Gert asked at the same time Bernie sighed and answered, “We did.”
Randall addressed Bernie. “Then I hope you’ll understand my predicament. Someone took my son, and I believe he’s here. I’ve come to get him back and take him home.”
Both Bernie and Gert froze.
“You’re trying to find the General, aren’t you?” Gert accused.
Returning her piercing stare, the frog declared, “Yes. I have to — don’t you see?”
“Come on, Bernie, let’s go.” Gert nudged her husband toward the trunk.
Randall’s desperation exploded. “Wait! You promised to take me to water. And if you have any compassion for a fellow parent, you’ll help me find the General!”
Lowering himself to the underside of the snag, Bernie said, “I’ll help you. He took ours, too.”
Gert grabbed at his mouth, “Shut up, Bernie!”
Gently, Bernie drew her hand away from his face. “Gert, we’ve always said we wouldn’t wish what happened to us on anybody else. We meant it, right?”
She sat blinking back tears. “Yes.”
“Then it’s settled.” Turning both eyes on Randall, he said, “We’ll take you to some water, then I’ll take you to the General.”
“Hold on a moment,” Gert broke in, “I’m coming with you.” She eyed them both. “Now it’s settled.”
To be continued. . .