very year the family took a trip up to visit Uncle Clark and Aunt Donna over the Independence Day holiday. The day before the trip was to start, the stuffed animals and puppets heard the Mommy telling the little boys: "Each of you may take one, and only one, stuffed animal with you tomorrow. Now pack your school bags tonight because we are going to get an early start."
Bunny was very excited. "I bet I'll get picked to go this year," he said to his best friend, the Blue Penguin. "Wouldn't it be great if they picked you, too? Then we could go together!"
Blue, who was a little more practical than Bunny, reminded him, "Now, Bunny, only two stuffed animals are allowed to go on the trip. There are lots of us here and everyone wants to be picked. Not everyone can go. You shouldn't count on going, and you shouldn't count on me being the animal to go with you if you are picked."
"I just know I'm going to get picked," replied Bunny. "You have to go with me. You are my best friend. I just won't have any fun at all if you don't go."
"Bunny," said the little penguin, "you can have a good time with whoever you go with, if you give it a try."
Just then one of the little boys came into the room carrying a school bag. He picked out some toys and put them into the bag. Then he found a little blanket. Scooping Bunny up, he wrapped the little rabbit carefully in the blanket, gave him a hug, made him comfortable in the school bag and zipped it closed.
Bunny waited until he was sure that everyone had gone to bed before zipping open the school bag and looking around outside. It was dark, but Bunny could see that the bag was in the hallway along with other stuff to be packed into the van the next day. Another school bag was sitting right next to Bunny's. Bunny whispered, "Blue? Are you there? I told you we would get picked to go! We are going to have a wonderful time."
There was no answer. Bunny called the penguin's name again. A few moments later the zipper on the other school bag began to move. It opened a bit and a head came out.
"Oh, there you are, Blue," said Bunny. "We are going to have such a great time..." Bunny strained to look at his friend in the dark. Something was wrong. The head that was sticking out of the other bag was brown, not blue. Stranger still, it appeared to have antlers. Bunny took a closer look...
"Who are you?" asked Bunny.
"My name is Chocolate," replied the head. "I'm a moose."
"Where is Blue Penguin?" demanded Bunny.
"I don't know any Blue Penguin," replied Chocolate. "I'm new here and I don't know very many toys yet."
"This isn't right!" said Bunny with anger. "Blue Penguin is supposed to be going on the trip. How did you get in the school bag?"
"One of the little boys picked me up and put me in the bag. He told me I was going to visit his Uncle Clark and Aunt Donna," said the little moose.
"Well, get out of there!" commanded Bunny. "My best friend Blue Penguin is going, not you!"
Chocolate's voice began to tremble at Bunny's unkind tone. "I can't. The little boy told me to stay in the school bag."
Bunny was furious, even though deep down inside he knew he was wrong. A little voice inside Bunny was telling him he shouldn't be mean to Chocolate, but Bunny decided to ignore it. Instead, Bunny thought about a way to get rid of the little moose, so that Blue could go. After a few minutes he had an idea.
"Oh Chocolate," called Bunny. "Are you there?"
The little moose stuck his head out of the other bag. "Yes?" he answered timidly.
"Do you know why they are taking you to Uncle Clark and Aunt Donna's house?" said Bunny.
"No," replied Chocolate.
"Well, I happen to know that Uncle Clark and Aunt Donna love moose," said Bunny. "You see chocolate moose is one of their favorite deserts. First they take a moose and dip him in chocolate and then they eat him. That's what they are going to do to you. That's why they named you chocolate. If I were you I'd get out of that school bag and hide somewhere so they don't eat you."
The little moose suddenly started crying. "I don't want to be eaten," he wailed, "but I was told to stay in the bag!"
"Well, you better get out and hide," said Bunny. "Before they-"
Suddenly the door to one of the bedrooms swung open. Out marched Mudsy, the big, brown, stuffed dog. He was one of the oldest and wisest stuffed animals in the house. His big floppy ears were cocked. He must have heard Chocolate crying.
"What's going on here?" Mugsy demanded. "Chocolate, you are going to wake everyone up."
"But Bunny said that when I went on the trip they would dip me into chocolate and eat me. He said I'd be a chocolate moose. He said that's why they named me chocolate."
"Oh, Chocolate," replied Mugsy. "They named you Chocolate because your fur is brown. The type desert they eat is chocolate mousse. That's spelled M-O-U-S-S-E. It's a little like a pudding. You are a moose. M-O-O-S-E. Nobody is going to eat you."
Chocolate wiped a tear from his eye. "But Bunny said-"
"Yes," interrupted Mugsy, "just what did you say, Bunny?"
"Oh it was just a practical joke," replied Bunny. "How could I know he'd be silly enough to think they were really going to eat him?"
"When he started crying you should have realized he was very upset and told him the truth, Bunny," said Mugsy. "Continuing to tease him was very unkind. You should know better."
"Now I want both of you to climb back into your bags and get some sleep," commanded Mugsy. "It is late and you have a long trip tomorrow."
It was the afternoon and the family had been driving for some hours. The children were taking naps in the back seats of the van. In the very back of the vehicle Bunny unzipped the school bag to see what was going on. Chocolate was only a few inches, away sitting on the top of the other bag. He was staring at the country-side going by outside the window.
"I never knew the world was so big," admitted the little moose. "We've been driving for hours and we still aren't at Uncle Clark and Aunt Donna's house. How much longer do we have to drive? Have you ever been there before? What's it like?"
Bunny laid back against his bag and said, "No I haven't, but I did talk to Oreo. He went last year and he said-"
Suddenly Bunny had an idea. He was still annoyed because Blue Penguin hadn't been picked to come on the trip. He also felt grouchy because of the lecture Mugsy had given him about playing mean jokes. He remembered, though, that Mugsy was hours away back at home now.
"So what did Oreo say?" asked Chocolate.
Bunny smiled to himself. "He said that the house up there is haunted!"
"Haunted!" cried the little moose. "You mean by ghosts?"
"Oh, yes," replied Bunny. "Oreo told me that they have lots of stuffed animals up there. Not stuffed animals like us, though. Real animals that were once alive. There's a big, real moose head mounted over the fireplace. On the bookcase is a real, stuffed ferret. On the floor is a raccoon that was once alive."
"That doesn't sound all that bad," ventured Chocolate.
"Oh, during the day it isn't," admitted Bunny. "It's just that at night all these stuffed animals that were once really alive come back to life. They moan and make funny noises and walk around all night long!"
It was obvious that this news had upset Chocolate so much that he was about to start crying. Holding back the tears he asked, "Well, why aren't you scared of the haunted house?"
Bunny replied, "Well ,I'm not scared because I know the magic words to keep them from bothering me. Oreo taught them to me."
"Please tell me the magic words!" cried Chocolate. A tear was running down his face.
"Well, I don't know," said Bunny. "It's a secret. Oreo made me promise not to tell."
"Please tell me. Please. Please," begged the little moose. "I'm scared."
"Okay, okay I'll tell you. Repeat after me. WATA"
"WATA," said Chocolate.
"SILLY," said Bunny.
"SILLY," repeated Chocolate.
"MOOS," said Bunny.
"MOOS," said Chocolate .
"SIAM," said Bunny.
"SIAM," repeated Chocolate.
"That's it!" said Bunny. "Now to make them work you have to repeat them over and over again faster and faster. Do it!"
"WATA SILLY MOOS SIAM," said Chocolate.
"Very good, but do it faster and louder," said Bunny.
"WATA SILLY MOOS SIAM!"
"Again and again!" said Bunny.
"WATA SILLY MOOS SIAM! WATA SILLY MOOS SIAM! WHAT A SILLY MOOSE I AM?"
Bunny burst out laughing. "I can't believe you fell for that old joke!"
Chocolate was furious. "You tricked me again! I don't think you are a very nice rabbit."
"Oh, you just can't take a joke!" Bunny replied. "Well, we still have at least an hour to go before we get there. I'm going to crawl back into my bag and take a nap."
Bunny had stayed up quite late the night before and he fell into a deep sleep. When he woke up inside the school bag he noticed that it was very, very quiet. Unzipping the bag he realized that it was no longer in the van. Instead the bag sat on the floor in a large dark room.
"Wow!" said Bunny to himself out loud, "I must have slept the whole rest of the trip. This must be Uncle Clark and Aunt Donna's house. But where is everybody?"
Seeing no people anywhere around, Bunny began to look for Chocolate.
"Chocolate? Chocolate the Moose, where are you?"
There was no answer. Where could the little moose have gone? Bunny began to get a funny feeling in his stomach. He didn't like being alone in a dark place he didn't know. He decided to cross the room to where there was a circle of light around a lamp.
As he was walking, he heard a voice from above say, "Who goes there?"
Bunny looked up above his head. Hanging on the wall was the head of a moose. Not a stuffed little toy moose like Chocolate, but a huge real moose. It seemed to glare down at him with anger.
"It's jjjust mmme, BBBunny," said the little rabbit. His voice was shaking. "Wwwho are yyyou?"
"I'm the ghost of the moose," the voice replied. "And I don't like rabbits trespassing in my house!"
Bunny felt knees began to shake. Then he had an idea. "Chocolate, is that you? Okay, it was a funny joke. You fooled me for a second. Come on down."
Suddenly a voice from the other side of the room declared, "We don't like you trespassing in our house either!"
Bunny spun around. The voice had come from a real stuffed raccoon sitting on the floor. Chocolate couldn't be in two places at the same time. Maybe the house was really haunted!
"No, we don't like uninvited visitors," said a lady's voice from behind Bunny. He turned and saw that it had come from a real stuffed squirrel mounted on a log. This was too much for Bunny. He ran away across the room.
Looking for a place to hide, he found what must have been a doll house. This one was shaped like a lighthouse, though. Bunny ducked through the door which was just his size. He ran up the steps. From the little glassed-in place at the top he could look down at the whole room in safety.
As Bunny was watching, he saw something moving in the shadows. It was much bigger than Bunny and had dark fur and a brown face. Bunny thought it must have been some kind of monster. The monster came across the room toward the lighthouse. Bunny felt safe at the top of the lighthouse until the moster started climbing up the side. Bunny backed up till he was against the opposite wall. Suddenly, a giant ape face appeared staring at him from the other side of the lighthouse window. Bunny fainted.
"Bunny! Bunny! Are you all right?" When Bunny opened his eyes he found himself staring up at Chocolate the Moose.
"I had this nightmare that the house was haunted and then I saw the big, big monkey..."
"That would be me," said a gentle voice. Bunny looked over Chocolate's shoulder and saw a big, brown furry stuffed ape about the size of Mugsy. She was holding a stuffed baby ape in her arms.
"Let me introduce myself," said the lady ape. "My name is Jay-Jay and this is my son, Jay, Jr."
"Then it wasn't a dream?" asked Bunny confused.
"I'm afraid I played a little joke on you, Bunny," said Chocolate. "I couldn't resist since you'd already played two on me."
"You were asleep when we got here and I realized it was the perfect chance to give you a little scare. The people went out to dinner and I got Jay-Jay and Jay, Jr. to help me. They live here. We each hid behind one of the animals and made it talk."
"When you started running away," said Jay-Jay, "I went after you to explain that it was all a joke, but I guess I just wound up scaring you more."
"Well," said Bunny, sheepishly, "I guess I deserved to have a joke played on me."
Turning to Chocolate he said," I need to apologize to you, Chocolate. I really wanted to have Blue Penguin come instead because he's my best friend and I wanted to have fun with him. I think we can become friends, though, and have a good time too."
"I'd like that!" said Chocolate.
"We can all have fun together while you visit," said Jay Jr.
As it turned out, Bunny and Chocolate had a great time with Jay Jay and Jay Jr. exploring Uncle Clark and Aunt Donna's house. In fact, a few days later when it was time to leave, Bunny felt sad to say goodbye to his new friends.
"Hey, I have an idea," said Chocolate. "The people left their camera sitting over there on the table. I think it has a timer on it so it will take pictures by itself. Let's take a picture of all of us to keep."
A week after the family got back home, the Mommy was looking through a stack of photographs she'd just picked up from being developed at the store.
"Hey," she said, "Who took the photograph of our stuffed animals posed with those monkey toys?"
"Not me," said one little boy.
"Not me," said the other little boy.
"Not me," said the Daddy.
Bunny and Chocolate didn't say a thing, but they just smiled.
Copyright Lee Krystek 1998. All Rights Reserved.