by Mary Grace Mauney
“What do we do?” MiMee shuddered. “What does it want?” Louey shivered. “Put the flashlight on,” Sadie Lynn suggested. “No! It will know we’re here!” protested Louey. “What if it already does?” MiMee’s voice was a tiny squeak. They didn’t use the flashlight, but by the light of the moon they could see a round, dark shape, about the size of a rabbit in the boat. It had landed in the middle, but began to move towards the opposite end of the boat, away from the dogs…and towards their picnic lunch. “It’s going for our rations!” Louey shrieked, jumping to his paws. Humans might not be prompted to risk attack over a picnic basket, but getting between a dog and its food is another ball game, even if that dog is scared silly. All three of the pooches leaped across the little rowboat at the creature, and, pardon the expression, dog-piled upon it. Immediately they could feel that it was fluffy, fragile, and even smaller than its outline in the dark had suggested. It let out an ear-piercing cry, and the two smaller dogs jumped off it. Sadie Lynn, however, remained on top to hold it down while MiMee and Louey got the flashlight. They maneuvered the light together to reveal the most curious creature they had ever seen. It looked like nothing more than a ball of fluffy grey fur with big black eyes, big round mouse ears, and a tail somewhat like that of a squirrel. There was a diamond necklace around its…well, it didn’t really have much of a neck at all; it was such a spherical creature. “What IS it?” gaped the dogs. “I am not an it!” the little creature screeched indignantly, thrashing beneath Sadie Lynn, “I am a chinchilla! And my name is Annie! Unhand me, you…you ruffians!” “Ruffians?!” Louey was indignant, “We’re not the ones skulking about in the middle of the night scaring other animals!” “How could I have scared you?” Annie was equally indignant, “I gave you every sign to show I was there and coming in to say hello! Didn’t you hear my contact call?” “Is that what those noises were?” MiMee asked, deciding to give the little creature the benefit of the doubt. “Yes! A chinchilla contact call! Don’t you know it?” Annie made another contact call as an example. It was the same series of grunts they had been so afraid of just earlier. “You weren’t answering, so I made them even louder! But you still didn’t answer, so I thought you must be either afraid or asleep. I came in to say hello! You didn’t need to attack me!”
“Why were you going for our picnic basket?” Sadie Lynn wasn’t letting Annie up just yet.
Annie looked embarrassed, like a kid caught in a lie, “Uh, well…I was hungry. You have to understand, I’ve been on this island a long, long time, and there’s not much to eat!”
“What, uh, do you eat?” Louey eyed her with a bit of worry. Rats, he knew from Sam and Miss Blatz, were as omnivorous as wild boars and then some. He wasn’t worried about the civilized ones like his friends, but wild ones might take a bite out of a little dog like himself. What, he wondered, might a chinchilla do?
“Organic craisins are preferred,” Annie said with something of a snobby tone, “but if you don’t have that, I’d like rose petals, orchard grass, or dandelion greens.”
Any fear that Louey might have had concerning her diet dissipated on the spot. Sadie Lynn must have felt the same way, because she got off Annie, “I’m sorry we jumped you. But we’d never heard a chinchilla contact call before—I’ve never even heard of a chinchilla before—and we had no idea what was on the island making that particular noise. We thought you might be something awful! Perhaps something dangerous, like a wild boar! And, well, we dogs can be a bit possessive when it comes to food, especially since we thought we’d need to ration it tomorrow when we set out…say, are you stuck here?”
Since Annie was complaining about a lack of suitable sustenance for her refined palate on this island, Sadie Lynn doubted she was staying here by choice. She soon found she was right, as Annie began her tale of how she had come to be the rodent Robinson Crusoe of this sandbar….