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Happy Spring! 1. The Wheel of Life 2. Trouble in Paradise? 3. Dreamboat or Dumptruck? 4. Grownups in Their Natural Habitat 5. The Mustard Motto 6. Scheming and Not Scheming 7. April Fool's: Single Whammy 8. April Fool's: Double Whammy 9. The Dirty Double-Cross 10. Sabotage to Boot 11. Foul Play 12. The Adolescence of a Flameburper 13. Where Were You That Day? 14. Beatrice Breaks Out 15. Mrs. Mustard Breaks Out 16. Thud Tweed, Juvenile Offender 17. Beware What You Choose 18. Nobody's Business 19. Missing, Presumed Dead 20. The Eureka Moment 21. Triple Whammy? 22. April Showers Bring May Flowers </toc Happy Spring! "You don't look yourself this morning," said the farmwife to the mutant chicken. "That sprig of green feathers growing out of your scalp is a bit limp. Are you feeling all right, you mangy thing?" The Vermont farmwife rattled spirals of seedcorn into the yard. The improbable creature, looking hungry and dissatisfied, followed her around. To the east, over New Hampshire, a lilac dawn rinsed the sky. A rooster crowed across the valley. Somewhere a cow mooed in mild anxiety, waking its brethren, who lowed along. The farmwife's boots made sucking noises in the barnyard mud. "Don't eat so fast, you spring fool; you'll choke." She continued, mostly talking to herself. "But who's a spring fool, then? I'm old enough to be Moses's grandmother, and an ordinary morning can still seem pretty enough to send shivers up my spine. It's the end of March, which, true to form even in contrary Vermont, has come in like a lion and shows signs of going out like a lamb. Mighty pretty." The mutant chicken paid her no attention. It was gobbling seed so fast that it swallowed a pebble by mistake. The farmwife had to grab the creature and perform a modified Heimlich maneuver on it to clear its windpipe. "I never gave emergency resuscitation to a chicken before," she admitted to herself. To the chicken, she added, "You may look like a chorus girl in a vaudeville number for an audience of turkeys, you silly thing, but you got a right to breathe, ain't you?" She sniffed the air with sudden feeling. What's not to like on a spring morning in late March, when the wind freshens the barnyard, the limbs of bushes are notched with bud, and the black flies haven't come out yet? The farmwife took a moment to watch the mutant chicken go back to its breakfast. She took pity on the poor thing. It hadn't asked to be a mutant. It couldn't help that its genes had been spliced together, partly gallus domesticus, partly bluetoe lizard. No more than she could help being closer to 100 than 75. "You're never too old to be a spring fool," she told herself. She wiped a little tear from one corner of her eye and promptly stepped in a huge mucky cow pie, and laughed at herself. She turned to scrape her boot on a bit of fence rail. A movement in the thick of the forsythia fronds caught her eye. "Coydog?" she said, frowning. "Fisher cat? Not this time of day. Not this close to a human being." "Old Man!" she called her husband. "Bring the gun!" She knew her husband was too deaf to hear her, but she hoped the stern sound of her voice would startle the creature in the bushes. It did. With a racket of thrashing bracken, a blurry commotion of claw and scale, the lurking visitor departed. The farmwife walked over to investigate. Besides batons of broken forsythia, all that was left were a few bristles of hair and some cartilage from a chewed leg. As if a chipmunk had ended its life as someone's breakfast. "You poor spring fool," she said aloud, though who could tell if she meant the dearly departed chipmunk, or its predator, or herself, having to witness the redness of tooth and claw that Nature can't help showing off once in a while.
Library of Congress Subject Headings for this publication: April Fools' Day Fiction, Missing persons Fiction, Schools Fiction, Humorous stories