It was just another spring afternoon. Adam was alone and bored. Then he decided to try out some special bubbles that he had just gotten and everything changed.
Shrunk to the size of an ant, he finds friends and excitement in his own back yard as he attempts to get back to his own size. Aided by a fungi - powdery mildew to be exact, an ant, a cricket and several others he finds out about a whole new aspect of life. Imagine getting to talk to the toad you played with last summer or visit a wood roach in his own home! In the process of getting him back to normal, the creatures of his back yard teach him about their lives and how they work to make a life, a home and incidentally a great soil for his garden.
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About the Author
Alison Pockat is a Landscape Architect with a small private practice in Cary, NC. When not working on site plans, she spends a great deal of time with her son, Del, roaming in the woods of the nature preserve that borders her back yard. Together they also like to go hiking and camping in parks throughout North Carolina and in places like St. John, USVI.
She has practiced landscape architecture for 25 years. Prior to this, her experience includes work with the Soil Conservation Service and she has had articles published in Erosion Control International Magazine and Landscape and Irrigation Magazine.
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By Alison A. Pockat
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 Alison A. Pockat
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Bubble
Adam was bored. B-O-R-E-D, bored. True, he could go inside and do his homework, and his Mom had asked him to clean up his room. That just wasn't what he wanted to do. School had seemed to last much longer today than most days and it was beautiful outside. The sky was crystal clear and unbelievably blue and it felt warm but not hot. A perfect spring day!
Now, what to do. His best friend had gone off to the store in need of new shoes. Mom was in the front yard weeding. Nothing sounded like fun.
Then he saw the test tube full of 'special' bubbles. These bubbles were supposed to be almost unbreakable. They made some sort of hard, permanent outer surface that was guaranteed to last longer than regular bubbles.
The lady at the store had made them seem wonderful. She had blown some and let Adam play with them. They were really cool and by some miracle his Mom had actually agreed to buy them; something she did not do often. He didn't even have to use his allowance money on them.
There they were - in their red test tube. They seemed to be calling to him.
He pulled off the plastic 'cork' and pulled out a small wand. The circle that held the 'soap' was tiny. Adam thought it could not possibly create anything more than a pea-sized bubble. He blew with a short puff and got a couple of small bubbles.
They drifted around his head and he began to bat them around as if they were baby balloons. Hey, Adam thought. They don't break! Then he realized that he could string them together. At first, they stuck together like a small string of beads. Then, one by one, they merged and created a bigger bubble.
Adam reached over for the test tube. He dipped the little wand and blew with a slow steady breath. This time he got a much larger bubble. Joining the new bubble with the first one created an even bigger one. By playing with the bubble, Adam discovered that he could push his hand into it and that the bubble rolled out and around his hand. This was amazing! What about the rest of his body? Could he surround himself with a bubble?
Again, Adam blew a bubble, and again he joined it to the first. Over and over he did this until the bubble seemed to almost take on a new form. He stepped toward the bubble. It surrounded him. By moving his arms, he got the two sides of the bubble to join together. Now he was actually inside the bubble.
This was more than cool! He bent down and rolled on the ground and the bubble rolled with him. Wow!
Adam rolled on the grass for awhile. Then he got up on his knees. The bubble changed shape. Gee, he thought. The grass is really long. No, not long - exactly. It's big. He looked down at his hand. Everything looked normal. When he stood up, he felt like he was the same size as normal. Yet, the trees seemed to have grown.
He jumped up and down, and for awhile the puzzle of his size was forgotten. The feel of the bubble as he jumped was too amazing. With each jump up, the bubble bounced off his head and went back up. It came down again only when he came back down.
At some point, Adam began to realize that when he jumped up he didn't come down right away. He was floating!
Why were those leaves so large? Was he shrinking? Suddenly, with each jump Adam now knew that he was getting smaller.
He was also floating - only very slowly drifting down to the ground.
A little whisper of air rustled the leaves in the tree above Adam's head. He looked up at the sound of the roar. The breeze puffed a bit more and his bubble floated up toward a star shaped leaf. It was brown, left over from last year, and it had strangely large brown and white fuzzy areas.
The bubble was now smaller than the leaf and was floating straight toward the center of it. Good, Adam thought. I'm going to be stopped by that leaf.
Looking down, Adam saw the red of the bubble test tube with it's sealed stopper laying on the ground way below him. He was a very long way up!
Adam watched the leaf grow closer and larger until it eventually became his whole view upward from the bubble. He felt his bubble slam into the leaf and stick tight to it.
"Well, Hello there," said a voice. "I'm Fergus. What brings you here?"
Adam looked around and saw no one. Nothing was moving at all - not even an insect. "I must have imagined it," he said to himself. "No one is talking to me. How could they?"
What he did see was truly amazing. He was looking at what appeared to be some kind of flower - at least he thought it was a flower. It had a brown center with many splotches making up the core. Surrounding the center were white feathery hairs. As he looked, Adam could see that there were flower things all around him - hundreds of them. "What are these?" He thought aloud.
"My brothers and I saw you coming," said Fergus. "They thought that we should ignore you. That you'd go away if we didn't talk to you. But I don't think you are like most people. No one has ever come up for a closer look before."
"Who are you? What are you?" said Adam.
"Why I'm a fungi. Humans call me a powdery mildew. They tend to try to kill us - powdery mildew I mean. You aren't going to do that are you? Who taught you the magic of the soap bubbles? Am I talking too much? My brothers keep insisting that I talk too much. They are always telling me to SHUT UP!" said Fergus.
"Well, you are talking an awful lot." said Adam. "Let me get this straight. You're a fungus - one of many living on this leaf. Right?"
"And, you fungi are afraid of people because they kill you. Right?"
"So what about me?" said Adam. "Are you afraid of me?"
"Why not?" asked Adam.
"Well, for one thing, you're too small. We might not be able to leave this leaf (Leave this leaf! Ha! Ha! Get it?), but we could still fight you off."
"We have mycelium - those little hairs your sitting on - you know. We might not be able to walk away, but we can move you around."
"Hey Fergus. SHUT UP! Can't a fellow enjoy a spring afternoon in peace?"
"Ah. Just ignore him. That's Mycy. He's got a bad temper. That's the problem with being stuck here in a colony. You can't choose who you share a leaf with. Although most of us are related. And you can't get away from anyone in a bad mood. You just have to let it pass. Although, with some fungi the mood never seems to change."
"What do you mean by you're mostly related? Aren't you all the same?" asked Adam.
"Good heavens, NO. We're not even all the same type of fungi." said Fergus.
"No. See that small colony over there - the group with the black fuzz? They're a smut. They only got here because a fly came up here and walked around on the leaf. He was covered with spores, you know. They do a lot of grumbling, but they're not too bad really. If you could see the edge of the leaf you'd see a colony of mold. They don't talk at all. Couldn't tell you what they are like, and we've been together for months." Fergus was on a roll!
"Oh no. There's that woman!" Fergus cried.
"Who? My Mom?"
"Yeh! Last week she wiped out thousands of colonies of us. She must really HATE fungi. I don't know what she has against us, but she really is a mad killer."
Adam laughed. The thought of his Mom as some kind of a mad Killer! Then he had a thought. He did remember her going on about needing to get rid of the powdery mildew and how it was way out of control already this spring. She had really sprayed with a vengeance. "Oh, I hope she doesn't spray anything today," Adam thought aloud. "She doesn't even know I'm here. No one does. I can't stay here forever."
"Hey Fergus? How do I get down?" asked Adam.
"Down. No one has ever come up let alone gone down. I suppose you wait for the leaf to fall off like the rest of us." said Fergus.
"When will that be?"
"Oh, soon enough. Couple of days maybe." said Fergus. "It's nice up here. I know I'm in no hurry to leave. You see that big green bud on the twig that holds our leaf? The one just where the leaf is attached? That will keep growing and eventually push us off. I'm not sure what happens when we reach the ground. But I've heard some pretty scary stuff. The fly said that there's millions of bugs down there and lots of other kinds of fungi too - and lots of things that eat or kill fungi. I'm not ready for that!"
"Days!" said Adam. "I can't be up here days! What am I going to do?"
"Well," said Fergus, "My brothers and I could try pushing you off the leaf. Maybe you'll float back down."
"Good idea!" said Adam. "Let's give it a try."
So Fergus and his brothers began moving their mycelium. To Adam it felt like a wave moving under him. Then he felt himself lift off the leaf. Thank heavens! he thought briefly. Then he began to realize that instead of going down he was beginning to float up. "Oh no!" he moaned.
Directly above him was a branch with small red flowers on it. Maybe I'll stick to that he thought. Soon he had drifted and was tangled in a web of flowers. "Ok! What now?"
As Adam looked around in panic, the largest bee that he had ever seen came and sat on the flower. It was massive - twice his own size - with a large fuzzy yellow and black body. Actually, it was more than fuzzy. It was down right hairy. Even more unusual, was that it had an enormous shiny black butt.
"Hello! Who or what are you?" buzzed the bee. "Are you a spittle bug? I don't believe that I've ever seen anything quite like you before."
"No. I'm a boy." Adam squeaked. He had always been a little afraid of bees and the thought of one twice his size really put him on edge. Besides, he had never seen one quite like this one, and he had certainly never spoken to one before.
"Oh." said the bee. "A boy, huh? A human boy? Why are you so small?"
"Good question! I don't know that I really know either. One minute I'm playing with these magic bubbles and the next I'm really small and floating up into the trees." mused Adam. "I wish I knew how to go back to normal - and how to get back down to the ground! Say, what kind of a bee are you? I've never seen one with a shiny butt before."
"Well," said the bee. "I'm what you people would call a carpenter bee. My name is Betsy and I live in that wooden rail over there."
"Oh," said Adam. "Are you the bug who made the pile of sawdust on the steps?"
"Yep! That would be me," said Betsy. "I needed to drill out my home. You see, carpenter bees live in wood - alone. No hive, no colony. We don't just make sawdust. We make a home and when we move out others move in to break down the wood some more until it eventually is all gone and there is nothing left but soil."
"That's not quite the take my Dad had on your presence." Adam mused. "He was so mad about the saw dust and the hole. Did you know that you were ruining our rail? He's planning to patch the hole and paint. Oh, and next year he's going to spray!"
"Spray! Do I need to move?"
"Not if it means more holes. He's not against bees. You do a fine job in the garden and all. It's the holes. Do you know that last year there were five holes around the door in the frame? That's not making soil, that's making a problem."
"Well," said Betsy. "I really hadn't thought about it that way. But I still need a home."
"Yeh. I guess so." said Adam. "Why couldn't you go into that dead tree over there. Other bees have a colony in it."
Betsy shook her wings at him. "I don't like living in colonies. Too many others around."
"Oh. Well, it was just a thought." Will said. A puff of wind rocked his bubble. "Oh please don't let me drift more."
"Say," said Betsy. "You really don't have control over where you are going?"
"No! Plus, I have no idea what will happen when this thing breaks."
"Oh! That's a real problem." said Betsy. "I could probably help you though."
"Why carry you down of course!"
"Would you do that for me?"
"Sure. It's no problem." laughed Betsy. "I carry great balls of pollen all the time. You can't be much different."
With that she flew over to him and positioned herself so that her hairy legs and bottom came up to his bubble. She lifted herself a little and the bubble didn't budge even a little. She sat down a little harder on the bubble and raised up a second time. This time the bubble came up with her.
"OK," said Betsy. "Hang on!"
Hang on? How? thought Adam. My hands aren't exactly free here.
Adam felt himself rise and then they were flying.
Betsy's wings were a whirr of movement. He could barely tell that they were there. His bubble, though was safely tucked in alongside of her leg. She flew as if this was perfectly fine and he realized that his bubble was no different to carry than the balls of pollen she usually held.
The ground came up. Grass got bigger and finally Betsy was on the ground. She moved her legs and rubbed them with her wing and Adam was free.
Ok, he thought. Now what?
"You're home," said Betsy. "Not exactly!" remarked Adam. "Thanks though. At least I'm no longer floating."
Betsy looked at him. "How do you get back to your own size?" she asked. "I was just wondering that myself." said Adam who had started to move around in his bubble.
Over to his left was a fat toad sitting mostly in a hole he had dug for himself. Only his eyes and nose poked out from the hole and he was obviously enjoying the sun warming his face. As Adam moved about in his bubble, the toad watched with interest. Boy, Adam thought. I sure hope he doesn't think that I'm dinner. Funny, I always thought of toads as being kind of gentle - fun to play with. Last summer there was that toad that hung out near the back door. It hopped right in sometimes when the door was open. I used to pick it up and carry it around. It never seemed to mind. Every now and then it would release water, but not very often and it was just water. I sure never thought of them as a threat before.
"Hey you. Toad. I'm a boy; not a bug." Adam called out. Then he realized that the toad stopped looking at him when he stopped moving. As he watched, the toad started moving in the hole and Adam saw him digging out more space with his hind legs. This allowed the toad to change positions and get some shade.
"I bet you were getting hot, huh?" Adam noted. This time the toad looked directly at him. "What are you?" he asked. "I told you before. I am a boy." Adam countered. "You're not like any boy I've seen before." the toad stated. "You're much too small. Why, last summer there was a boy here in this territory that used to pick me up. I don't often remember things, but he did it a lot. Kind of made an impression."
"That was me!" said Adam.
"What happened to you?" asked the toad.
"I wish I knew. More importantly, I wish I knew how to get back to my own size." Adam said glumly.
"Well, I don't often have anyone around to talk to. I'm Tom, by the way." said Tom. "Toads are solitary beings you know." he added.
"So what do you do all day?" asked Adam. "This is pretty much it." said Tom. "I dig a hole with my hind feet and use the soil and sun to regulate my body temperature. I'll eat a bug if one comes by, but I don't go out of my way for one - at least not during the day. At night, though, I can easily catch a belly-full just over there at that light. You won't starve if you stay in this territory."
"That sounds kind of boring," Adam noted. "Now I know who digs all those holes that make my Mom so mad. She's always filling them back in you know."
"Yes!" Tom said. "I noticed!"
"I spent last month down the hill at the pond." Tom said. "What pond?" Adam asked. "You know. The one that dries up every summer." said Tom.
"I go down there to call for mates," Tom added. "That's kind of the only time that we all get together - you know, all the toads from all the nearby territories. It's a great time! We wait in the water and call out. Then the females come and we grab hold. I bet the eggs have already become tadpoles. Next month you'll see lots of tiny toads moving up this way."
Just then a sizeable grasshopper landed on the grass in front of Tom's hole and he stopped talking to stare at it. It moved a bit closer munching on the blade of grass. Tom crept out of his hole and moved toward it in a crouch. He held that position for a minute. Th en when the grasshopper moved, he leapt forward and his tongue snatched it into his mouth. A couple of movements, opening his mouth a crack, and then he seemed to swallow it.
Excerpted from Adam's Bubble by Alison A. Pockat Copyright © 2010 by Alison A. Pockat. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsChapter 1 - The Bubble....................1
Chapter 2 - Fergus....................7
Chapter 3 - Betsy....................15
Chapter 4 - Tom....................21
Chapter 5 - Woody....................27
Chapter 6 - Kit....................33
Chapter 7 - Earl....................39
Chapter 8 - Abby....................45
Chapter 9 - The Queen....................51
Chapter 10 - Murry....................57
Post Script - Facts and Fiction....................65