"The Paccalope Boat"
"The Paccalope Boat"
“I wish we had a paccalope,” Korie said. She picked up a twig and ate it. “I need paccalope dots.”
Grandma pointed at a tree. “Sal’s paccalope just rubbed its horns on that tree. Paccalopes only rub their dots off if no one eats them.”
Korie ran to the tree. She pressed her hands against the dots on the bark. The dots stuck to her hands. She licked them off. “I’m ready to work now,” announced Korie.
“So stop eating our twigs,” advised Grandma. “We need to sell the twigs, remember?”
“Okay,” agreed Korie. “But I hope Sal won’t eat the dots her paccalope grows tonight. I’ll be hungry again tomorrow.”
Grandma and Korie wandered the forest, collecting twigs. At the river’s edge they spotted Sal. She and nine other villagers stood beside a tall sailboat. They held bunches of dome-hats and baskets of dots.
“Hi, Sal,” greeted Korie. “Sending more stuff from your paccalope?”
Sal nodded. “Lopie sheds so much I knitted five domes this time.”
Sal and the villagers placed their paccalope domes and paccalope dots in the sailboat. The sailor sailed away.
“Last time,” declared Sal, “the traders sent me twelve gauzies and three pairs of sneakies.”
Korie’s eyes followed the sailboat. Sneakies would keep her feet warm. Gauzies would fix her brambly scrapes.
Fifteen days later, the sailboat returned. The villagers who had sent dots and domes crowded round. The sailor handed them sneakies and gauzies.
Sal got nineteen gauzies and six pairs of sneakies. “My brothers and sisters need the sneakies, Korie,” she explained. “But you can have some gauzies for your elbow. And I knitted you a dome.”
The next week, a small raft floated to the village. On the raft sat a baby paccalope. The baby wore a gift bow on its neck.
“Who should get this marvelous gift?” asked the villagers. They argued till sunset. Then they gave the paccalope to a family who ate leaves.
A week later, another raft floated to the village. Again the raft held a baby paccalope. This baby, too, wore a gift bow on its neck. “Another amazing gift!” exclaimed the villagers. “Who should get this one?” They talked till dawn. Then they gave the paccalope to a boy who ate bark.
A month later, a pontoon boat floated to the village. The villagers dragged the boat ashore. A gift card taped to the boat read, “Greetings! From Damian, Geno, Mandy, Chantelle, Li, Alfonzo, Farah...” The card listed thirty names.
On the pontoon boat sat thirty baby paccalopes. Around each baby’s neck hung a hand-written note:
“I am your baby paccalope. Please take care of me. Feed me seed pods. Brush me with broomcorn. Bring me indoors at night. Eat dots from my horns. Make domes from my fur. Someday I may have a baby of my own. If so, you must wait three months. Then put this note around my baby’s neck. Bring my baby to the pontoon boat. Someone who does not have a paccalope should take my baby. If I have more babies after that, you may keep them. You must promise this before you take me.”
The villagers rejoiced. “Thirty paccalopes! Now thirty more families can eat dots. Thirty more families can knit domes. But which thirty families should they be?”
The villagers reasoned all day and night. Then they gave the baby paccalopes to thirty families. Korie and Grandma did not get one. Each family promised to bring the baby’s first baby back for someone else.
Time passed. The villagers who got the babies took good care of them. All their paccalopes grew furry and strong. The villagers ate paccalope dots and knitted paccalope domes. The sailor sailed the extra dots and domes downriver. In exchange, the villagers got gauzies and sneakies.
Sal’s brothers and sisters always needed sneakies and gauzies. But sometimes Sal let Lopie rub her horns against a tree. Then Korie could press her hands against the dots and lick her fingers.
In springtime, every girl paccalope had a baby. The villagers waited three months. Then they tied the notes around the babies’ necks. The villagers brought the babies to the pontoon boat.
That day, Korie and Grandma were in the forest collecting twigs. The other villagers took the baby paccalopes one by one. Each villager promised to bring the baby’s first baby back for someone else.
When evening came, Grandma and Korie returned to the village. “Korie!” hollered Sal. “Why didn’t you take a baby paccalope?”
Korie froze. “We were in the forest. Are they gone?”
“They’re gone,” sighed Sal.
Grandma moaned. Korie dropped the load of twigs. She rushed to the boat. It was empty. She sank to the ground.
Suddenly Korie spied a ball of fuzz, rubbing its tiny horns against a tree. Korie tiptoed to the baby paccalope. She picked the baby up. She read the note. She promised. Then she carried the baby home.
Korie named her paccalope Fawn. She fed Fawn seed pods every day. She brushed Fawn’s fur with broomcorn. She brought Fawn indoors at night. Korie and Grandma ate dots from Fawn’s horns. They knitted domes from her fur. They sent the extra dots and domes downriver. The sailor brought back gauzies and sneakies.
When spring came, Fawn had a baby paccalope. For three months, Korie kept the baby.
Then she tied the note around the baby’s neck. She took the baby to the pontoon boat. Other villagers brought babies, too. Paccalope babies filled the boat.
Many villagers still did not have a paccalope. They scurried to the boat. One by one they took the paccalope babies. A barefoot girl chose Fawn’s baby. The girl lifted the baby up. She read the note. She promised.
“If Fawn has another baby,” Korie told herself, “I can keep it.”
She watched the girl carry Fawn’s baby away. “But maybe,” whispered Korie, “maybe I’ll bring it to the boat.”
Then she hurried home to feed her paccalope.
© Suzanne Werkema