Smokin' and a Jokin' – A Taradiddle, By Lillow Mi

   Ishmael, Holly Lorna and I have been adventuring. We'd just escaped falling off the edge of the world with Henry and the Commodore and were now back in our kitchen thanks to a magical round door that takes us to different dimensions. Thing is, this kitchen was different. It was pretty much as I'd remembered our kitchen except for some subtle differences, but enough to know. A big difference I noticed right off was that it was empty. That hardly ever happened in our kitchen. Not totally empty anyway. No one spoke but I could tell they all knew we weren't actually in our own kitchen, just one that looked remarkably like it.  

   I heard a sound in the front room where the large hearth is at and put my finger to my lips to signify silence then motioned them to follow. I led them out of the kitchen and into the short hallway that connects the kitchen to the great hearth room. The meadow outside looked similar to ours, but again, I knew it wasn't. I peered around the corner and saw the most beautiful Witch I'd ever seen. She was green, sporting a large crooked nose and a protruding chin with a big hairy wart. A classic beauty! She wore the traditional black dress and black pointed hat and slouched on a wooden kitchen chair with her feet propped up on the fireplace. She was singing and clapping her hands in time.  

   “Warm footsies, warm footsies, Oh we loves 'em, how we loves 'em.” Clap, clap, clap. “Waarmm toes en waarmm feet, dey surely got dat ol' cole beat, yeah, yeah . . .” she turned and looked at me but I ducked back, unsure if she saw me or not. I looked at the others lined up behind me with round eyes. I was certain I'd seen her feet in the fire. Not near it, but in it. Then I heard the sounds of someone entering the room from the great hall.  

   “Lillow, ju feet on fire agin. Izza big stink roun da whole castle.” Golly that voice sounded familiar, but what really jarred me was the name he'd called her.   

   “Sum un 'rouna corner, Ishy, check um ut, hyah?”  

   I knew we should have been running but I was too shocked at what I was hearing to formulate any kind of response. Suddenly there was an Ape who looked exactly like Ishmael standing there looking at us.  

   I stared in amazement, “Ishmael?” I asked. I glanced back at the real Ishmael who was standing behind me staring wide-eyed and slack jawed. Then I turned back to the Ishmael look-alike. He was tilting his head curiously, looking at me.    

   “D'ju sar Ishmael?” he drawled. I realized both he and the Witch were talking in a heavy accent that I didn't recognize. I nodded my head yes. “Ent no Ishmael. Ishytoo I'ma. Ju strange.”  

   I heard the Witch in the other room begin to chant, “Oom oom bigga bigga, oom golly oom golly oom bigga bum bum, ikka ikka, hyar I is!” And there she was, standing beside this otherworld Ishytoo. Her feet were black and smoking pretty heavily so it was hard to see her clearly but it looked like she was smiling as she stared at us. The strange Ishytoo was grinning and staring as well. Both had a slightly manic look to their eyes.   

   I backed up and bumped into Ishmael who immediately moved back. I didn't know what to say so I just sputtered, “Well, uh, golly it's been, uh pretty grand to meet you all, uh Lillow was it? Uh-huh, uh-huh. And Ishytoo? Uh-huh, just grand.”  

   The smoke was getting thicker and I kept backing up. The others behind were clearly backing as well, unless they'd turned and run? I spun around just as they were spinning around and we started running together. I knew there must be a door by the pantry here, just like at home, so I took the lead and led them to the spot and there it was, the round door. When we got there I looked back, but the passageway was full of thick, acrid, black smoke that was billowing out and the visibility was decreasing rapidly.  

   I opened the door and we rushed through into a sunny meadow with profuse flowers and a blue sky dotted with puffy clouds. I slammed the door shut before any smoke could get through and it disappeared with a quiet pop.  

   Looking around the first thing I saw was a flashing red/orange neon sign floating in the air above a round door which also seemed to be floating, both about 15 meters away, with a green neon arrow pointing down at the door. The sign above said 'HOME'. The word 'HOME' and the arrow were both flashing on and off but the red outline stayed constant.  

   “Gee Lillow, what is this place? It's gorgeous,” Holly asked, ignoring the sign and chewing on some of the meadow's grass.  

   “I don't know, but you're right Holly. It is gorgeous,” I answered, looking away from the bright, flashing sign to better see the idyllic scene around us.  

   “I think that's how we get back,” Ishmael said, pointing to the flashing sign.   

    “Yeah, I expect so,” I answered, looking away.  

   It was so pretty here and the air smelled of flowers and grass with sylvan undertones. I breathed deeply. Then I noticed something dark scurry quickly behind a tree in the distance. I blinked, but nothing changed and I wondered if I'd imagined it. Ishmael was walking slowly toward the flashing sign and we followed leisurely behind. {There's no rush} There was no hurry and we'd each stop from time to time to breathe deeply of the redolent air or to admire a particularly beautiful flower. I glanced back and maybe a dozen or so dark shadows instantly disappeared behind trees or shrubs, and they seemed closer. I blinked again but the scene looked fine. {Nothing hiding here} Nothing trying to hide, I thought, just a pastoral verdancy that lulled and mesmerized. Yet I felt a shiver of uncertainty. Ishmael had reached the door and turned to watch us, the sign flashing overhead. Somehow it was projecting a sense of urgency. Suddenly Ishmael's eyes got round and he grabbed the wheel and jerked the door open.  

   “Hurry!” he yelled.  

   I looked back and saw hundreds of screaming, angry Trolls, Dinosaurs and Grimn-leapers with clubs, nets and snapping claws running toward us. I yelped in fright and we were all through that door in record time. I slammed it shut just as the first Trolls arrived, brandishing clubs and screaming curses.  

   “My, that didn't sound very nice,” a quiet voice behind us spoke. We turned and there stood Hayu Runjump, watching us with concern. “Taddy said you guys had gone through the door adventuring,” she continued. “I guess you found it, huh?”  

   I was so relieved to see her and to know we were back home that I just grinned wide and said, “Yep. That's right Mrs. Runjump, we've been adventuring and that's for sure! But I can tell you, we're glad to be back.” The others were all nodding agreement.  

   “Nothing bad came through then I guess?” she asked, looking around with a smile.  

   “Not this time,” I answered. “But the bad does seem to be getting closer.” Gosh, I thought. The next time that door opens is bound to be a doozy. But as Hayu started making tea, I mused.  

   It could be good. 

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