Mike and Blueberry Come Knocking
The next morning was a Monday morning in Summer. No school to worry about, and the beans were not tall enough yet that the boys had to worry about walking them yet. Walking beans was a summer project whereby farm kids walked up and down the rows of every family-owned beanfield with gloves and hoes and hats, to protect against sunburn, looking for evil, intolerable, low-down filthy weeds to chop or pull out by the roots.
You had to be on your toes all the time to truly combat evil. That’s why Horatio T. Dogg was always thinking about the crimes he had to solve. And that’s why Bobby was also always thinking about Horatio thinking about the crimes he had to solve. Like the murder of Little Bob the stupidest turken by the evil Professor Rattiarty.
Horatio and Bobby were both sitting on the porch as two of his classmates from Belle City Middle School came walking hand and hand down the gravel road to the Niland farm.
“Hey, Mike, I haven’t seen you since school got out,” Bobby said.
“I needed to beat somebody up today. I haven’t slugged anyone since that last day in Loomis’s class,” said Mike with a grin.
“I can smell that he’s not telling the truth,” said Horatio with a snort.
“Oh, I know. Mike is my friend. He’s only joking,” said Bobby.
“Oh, you can talk to the dog?” asked Blueberry. She was a cherub-faced girl that Bobby secretly adored, but was definitely afraid of for various reasons.
“Well, yeah. Horatio is a very special dog. Can you hear him when he talks?”
“No. But I will be trying to learn to hear him,” she answered. “There is nothing that would make me happier than having a talking dog for a friend.”
She blinked her big brown eyes at Bobby in a way that seemed to melt his knees Not enough to make him fall down, but enough to make him wobble.
“Blue, dogs don’t talk in real life,” Mike said matter-of-factly. “That’s just a weirdo Bobby-thing.”
“Oh, I know. But Bobby has a beautiful imagination. And that’s what I like about him most.”
“I like her,” said Horatio.
Bobby didn’t comment, because Blueberry would hear and that would be embarrassing.
“But that’s what made the two of you think you turned the music teacher into a swan by magic, and then turned yourselves into swans to rescue her. How dumb a thing was that?”
“But that was real. We both became swans,” insisted Blueberry.
“I remember that,” said Horatio. “You didn’t really change. I would’ve smelled the difference.”
“I know,” said Bobby.
“You are both screwy,” said Mike.
“Tell him why you came to talk to him,” said Blueberry.
“The reason we walked all the way out here from town was to ask you about walking beans. We’re putting together a crew. Danny has promised to drive us to and from the fields.”
“So, you want me to walk with your crew? Or you just came to ask my dad to work in our fields?”
“Both,” said Blueberry.
“We’re only charging three dollars an hour,” said Mike.
“Well, that’ll get you hired by Dad anyway. That’s less than I asked him to pay me and Shane. But if you get the job, and I’m working with you, he won’t pay me what we first agreed on.”
“Sorry. But we need the job. And you don’t want me to beat you up for real, do you?”
“No, of course not.” Bobby knew he would have to make the sacrifice. Dad wouldn’t hire Mike and the gang at the price he was originally going to pay Bobby and Shane to do it by themselves. And the cheaper price for more workers meant it would get done faster and would be cheaper over-all. It was a sacrifice that Bobby had to make to help both the family farm and Mike and the gang. Besides, there would be more money to make with Mike’s crew on other farms.
“You shouldn’t be so mean to him,” insisted Blueberry. She was a very thin, small, and perky girl who was never afraid to say what she thought. “If we are going to have him on our team and we’re going to work for his dad, you should be nice to him.”
“Aw, Bobby knows I don’t mean it when I say I’m gonna beat him up. You know that I’m only joking, right?”
“Actually, you beat up Steven Shanks for picking on me. And Frosty Anderson is only nice to me because you make him.”
It was true. Mike was like a protector for Bobby. Of course, that was partly because Bobby was a Norwall Pirate and Mike protected all the Pirates. The Pirates were the town’s 4-H softball team, and also the local liars’ club.
“You should tell Mike about Professor Rattiarty and the recent murders. He might be a good boy and help you defeat him,” Horatio said with a dog grin.
“I will definitely ask Dad to let us walk his beans. He’ll hire your crew,” Bobby finally said. “But I also want to talk to you about barn rats.”
“Yeah, they been killing Mom’s favorite turkens.”
“Those silly-looking things with no feathers on their chicken necks?”
“Yeah. Let’s go in the barn with Horatio’s nose to help us and talk about the evil Professor Rattiarty.”
“Uggh! Imagination again! Too many darned Pirates have too much imagination for their own good,” said Mike.
“Now, you don’t say bad things about imagination, Michael. You know I wouldn’t be your girlfriend if it weren’t for the power of our imaginations.” Blueberry often got hot about the topic of too much imagination. She was in favor.
“Yeah. I know. But you and he wouldn’t have gotten turned into swans, and flew all the way to Belle City in the snow, or saw each other naked if you didn’t have too big of a imagination,” growled Mike. Yeah, jealousy was probably part of it. But Bobby never actually saw Blue naked, and you can’t exactly turn back into a boy from being a swan all covered in feathers without being naked at some point.
“Do you want to see the Professor’s evil lair, or not?”
“We certainly do want to see,” insisted Blue.
“Okay. We go into the damn barn.”
“You shouldn’t say damned, Mike,” scolded Blue. And so, they went into the brick-walled, white barn to look for clues with the detective, Horatio T. Dogg.