Ereth's Birthday (Poppy Stories Series)by Avi, Brian Floca
Erethizon Dorsatum—better known as Ereth, the self-centered, foul-tempered old porcupine—is having a birthday. And he fully expects his best friend Poppy, a deer mouse, to help him celebrate in a grand manner. But Poppy has gone off somewhere with her husband, Rye, and it appears she has forgotten all about it. "Belching Beavers," says Ereth, "I am not… See more details below
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Erethizon Dorsatum—better known as Ereth, the self-centered, foul-tempered old porcupine—is having a birthday. And he fully expects his best friend Poppy, a deer mouse, to help him celebrate in a grand manner. But Poppy has gone off somewhere with her husband, Rye, and it appears she has forgotten all about it. "Belching Beavers," says Ereth, "I am not angry!" (Though, perhaps he is—and more than just a little.)
Ereth knows his special occasion deserves a special treat—even if he has to get it for himself. And what treat could be more special than tasty salt? But the nearest salt is located deep in the forest, in a cabin occupied by fur hunters, who have set out traps to capture the Dimwood Forest animals. In one of the traps, Ereth finds Leaper the Fox—who, with her dying breath, begs the prickly porcupine to take care of her three boisterous young kits, Tumble, Nimble, and Flip. "Jellied walrus warts!" Ereth exclaims, but reluctantly agrees.
Certainly this day is not going as he planned—and it's only just the beginning! Not only does Ereth suddenly have a rambunctious new family to take care of, but he's being stalked by Marty the Fisher, the one creature in Dimwood Forest who can do him harm. And Bounder, the father of the three little foxes, remembers all too well the nose full of quills he got a while back from the grumpy old animal who now fancies himself the leader of the den. He too sets out to show Ereth who's boss. Throw in an unexpected snowstorm, and all in all, it adds up to one brithday Ereth the porcupine is never going to forget, not even if he lives to be a hundred and twenty-two!
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In Dimwood Forest, in the dark, smelly log where the old porcupine Erethizon Dorsatum lived, Ereth-as he preferred to call himself-woke slowly.
Not the sweetest smelling of creatures, Ereth had a flat face with a blunt, black nose and fierce, grizzled whiskers. As he stirred, he rattled his sharp if untidy quills, flexed his claws, yawned, frowned, and grumbled, "Musty moose marmalade," only to suddenly remember what day it was and smile. Today was his birthday.
Ereth had given very little thought to what he would do about the day. As far as he was concerned, his birthday meant others would be doing something for him. And the one he was quite certain would be doing all the providing was his best friend, Poppy.
Poppy, a deer mouse, lived barely an acorn toss from Ereth's log in a gray, lifeless tree-a snag with a hole on one side. She resided there with her husband, Rye, and their eleven children.
Ereth, in a very private sort of way, loved Poppy. He had never told anyone about this love, not even her. Enough for him to live near her. But since the porcupine was certain that Poppy thought of him as her best friend, he assumed she would be making a great fuss over his birthday. A party, certainly. Lavish gifts, of course. Best of all, he would be the center of attention.
So it was that when Ereth waddled out of his log that morning he was surprised not to find Poppy waiting for him. All he saw were her eleven children playing about the base of the snag, squeaking and squealing uproariously.
"Why can't young folks ever be still?" A deeply disappointed Ereth complained to himself. "Pottedpockets of grizzly grunions, it would save so much trouble if children were born . . . old."
Agitated, he approached the young mice. "Where's your mother?" he barked. "Where's your wilted wet flower of a father?"
"They . . . went . . . looking for . . . something," one of them said.
Though Ereth's heart sank, he made a show of indifference by lifting his nose scornfully and moving away from the young mice.
Snowberry, one of the youngsters, glanced anxiously around at the others, then cried out, "Good morning, Uncle Ereth!"
This greeting was followed by the ten other young mice singing out in a ragged, squeaky chorus, "Good morning, Uncle Ereth!"
Ereth turned and glowered at the youngsters. "What the tiddlywink toes do you want?" he snapped.
"Aren't you going to stay and play with us, Uncle Ereth?" Snowberry called.
"I'm . . . busy."
"You don't look busy."
"I'm trying to find some peace and quiet," Ereth snapped. "With all the noise you make, buzzard breath, what else do you think I'd be doing?"
One of the mice-her name was Columbine-slapped a paw over her mouth in order to keep from laughing out loud.
Ereth glared at her. "What are you laughing at?"
"You," Columbine sputtered. "You always say such funny things!"
"Listen here, you smidgen of slipper slobber," Ereth fumed. "Don't tell me I talk funny. Why don't you stuff your tiny tail into your puny gullet and gag yourself before I flip youinto some skunk-cabbage sauce and turn you into a pother of butterfly plunk?"
Instead of frightening the young mice, Ereth's outburst caused them to howl with glee. Sassafras laughed so hard he fell down and had to hold his stomach. "Uncle Ereth," he cried, "you are so hilarious! Please say something else!"
"Belching beavers!" Ereth screamed. "I am not hilarious! You're just a snarl of runty seed suckers with no respect for anyone older than you. How about a little consideration? As far as I'm concerned you mice have as much smarts as you could find in a baby bee's belly button."
"But you are funny, Uncle Ereth," cried another of the young mice, whose name was Walnut. "Nobody else talks like you do. We love it when you swear and get angry at us."
"I am not angry!" Ereth raged. "If I were angry, I'd turn you all into pink pickled pasta so fast it would make lightning look like a slow slug crawling up a slick hill. So listen up, you tub of tinsel twist."
This was too much for the young mice. They laughed and squeaked till their sides ached.
"Uncle Ereth," said Sassafras between giggles, "please-please-say something funny again. You are the funniest animal in the whole forest!"
Staring wrathfully at the young mice, Ereth considered uttering something unbelievably disgusting-dangling doggerels-thought better of it, and wheeled about, heading north as fast as he could.
"Uncle Ereth!" the mice shouted after him. "Please stay and say something else funny. Please don't go!"
But Ereth refused to stop.
Sassafras watched the porcupine plunge into the forest, then turned to the others. "But what are we going to tell Mom and Dad?" he cried. "They told us to make sure he didn't go anywhere."
"Oh, don't worry," Columbine assured her brother. "Uncle Ereth always comes back."Ereth's Birthday. Copyright (c) by Avi . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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