Monday, August 25, 2014


77,000 words
MG Animal Fantasy

Inch-by-inch, Allison Bogg scanned each page on her iPad. She had done the same thing with the food section of the Thursday newspaper for weeks. Her hopes were starting to fade as she got closer to the last page. It should have been here by now, she thought. The timing was right. If not this week, then when?

On the bottom of the second-to-last page she found a small announcement. She read it and jumped off her stool. Yes! There it was, the information she’d been searching for.

“Oh, finally!” She hugged the device and did a little twirl, her long scaly tail swooshed across the floor. Then she looked around to see if anyone had noticed. Nobody seemed to be watching. She slid back up on her stool, and read the announcement.

“Let me see here, it says, ‘Come be part of the 57th Annual Alligator Picnic. The Grand Prize is $100,000 to the team that wins the Cook-Off.’” She whistled. “I could open one heck of a restaurant with that after I’ve graduated from the Carnivore Chef Academy,” she muttered and closed her eyes.

In her mind she could see how different it would be from Crawdaddy’s Crab Shack, where she had spent the past three summers and every weekend working. Each one of the tables in her restaurant would have a white tablecloth on it. A candle and a small vase with a single flower would welcome each of her guests. The reservation book would be filled months ahead. Everyone who ate there would call her to their tables to tell her how amazing the food was and —

“Waitress! Oh, waitress!”

Allison came out of her daydream and looked around.

“Over here. Waitress.” A large, round alligator wearing a bright flowery dress, matching jewellery, and earrings that jingled when she moved, waved at Allison. Across from her sat her other half. He was tall and scaly-faced, with spiky hair and a yellow T-shirt that had a red lobster printed on it.

“Ah, yes. Sorry. I’m coming.” Allison hurried over to the couple. “What can I get you?”

“You can get us our bill, little lady,” he said. “We need to get a move on.”

“Sure. I’ll be right back.”

At the cash register, Allison pulled her order pad from her apron and rang up their bill. She grabbed a handful of mint candies and returned to their booth, putting the bill and the candies on the table.

“Here you go. Did you enjoy your meal?”

“Sure did. A good feed of gopher pancakes, maple syrup, and melon salsa is always a treat in the morning. My little wife here was really impressed by the tofu gnu wrap she had, even though there wasn’t any gnu in it.”

“Yes, it was very tasty. I was expecting something completely different.” The little wife smiled.

“Glad you liked it. I’ll make sure to tell the chef. He’ll be pleased to hear it.”

“Waitress …” She motioned for Allison to lean in close, then whispered, “Can you tell me something about what I just ate?”

“If I can.”

“I know there was tofu in it, and I could see the green beans. I don’t know what brand of unsweetened chocolate your chef uses, but it was absolutely divine. And I tasted some kind of spice in there too. I can’t quite seem to put my clawed finger on it. Could you tell me what it was?”

Allison straightened up and twirled her order pad around in her hands. “Oh, that’s something I can’t reveal to anyone. You know how chefs like to keep their secret ingredients to themselves.” She put her fingers to her mouth and pretended to zip them shut.

The little wife gave Allison an icy smile and a heavy, exaggerated sigh escaped from the nostrils on top of her snout.

“So ... I’ve never seen the two of you in here before,” Allison said.

“And you probably won’t again,” the guy in the lobster T-shirt answered. “We’re just driving through, headed to the alligator picnic.”

“You are?” Allison’s eyes brightened.

“Yup. It’s at Big Bayou Point this year, and your little town of Sebastian Beach makes for a great place to stop along the way. ”

She couldn’t help herself and had to ask, “Have you been before?”

“We’ve been going for years, and I think this is going to be our year to win.” He winked at his little wife and she smiled back.

Allison hugged herself. “I’ve never been to an alligator picnic before. I’d love to go and win the Cook-Off.” A dreamy expression lit up her face. The Cook-Off was really what the whole picnic was about. Competitors from far and wide would descend on a different location every year. Teams of two to four chefs would set up cooking stations and battle it out. The competition was fierce. Only the teams that could work together made it to the end of the competition. “I know I could win it if I had the right team. It would be a dream come true.”

The couple began to laugh. Not little snickers or giggles, but hearty, loud laughs that rose right up from their webbed toes.

“What’s so funny?” Allison frowned and stepped back from their booth.

“Well, for a start, you look like you’re too young to even go to an alligator picnic,” he said.

“And what could you possibly know about food?” the little wife said without even looking at Allison. Her clawed hand swept the candies off the table into her purse.

Still in good humour, the pair squeezed and wiggled their way out of the booth. He reached into the pocket of his khaki shorts, pulled out his wallet, and paid the bill. “Here’s a big tip for you, little lady.” His yellow eyes narrowed as he stared at Allison. “Stay far away from the alligator picnic. It’s no place for someone like you.”

Allison gasped. Her long jaw fell open, but no sound came out.

He scrunched a few more bills into her hand. “And that’s for giving me the best laugh I’ve had in a long time.”

The couple looked at each other, then back at Allison and laughed all the way to the door.

“Can you believe her?” Allison heard the little wife say as she walked out.

“Everyone thinks they’re a chef these days.” The guy in the lobster T-shirt shook his head and chuckled as he walked out after her.

Allison watched them through the large plate glass window. They got into their shiny RV and drove off. She collected the money from the table and headed back to the cash register, her head hung low, feet and tail dragging across the floor.

“What do they know?” she muttered.

Back at her stool, she read the announcement again. What am I going to do? she thought. I want to compete, but I don’t know any of the other teams. She drummed her pink-painted claws on the top of the lunch counter. I need to think of a plan quick if I want to compete this year. Then it hit her. The most fabulous idea she’d ever had. She was so excited that if she could have had goose bumps, she surely would have had them now.

“I’m going to put my own team together and win the Cook-Off!”


  1. This sounds like a fun and original story. I can just imagine what kinds of trouble there would be at an alligator picnic!
    I love the way you describe the Allison, how she twirls, and her long scaly tail swooshes across the floor. It is a great visual.
    Great job!

  2. So much animal fantasy is about fuzzy mammals. There's something charming about your alligators!

  3. Fun! This sounds like a cute story for the younger crowd. Two things tripped me up. First, the alligator husband saying "little" to the women was kind of off-putting for me. Second, I wasn't sure why the couple were so convinced that Allison couldn't win. I mean, she does work in a restaurant. It seemed like something was missing from that scene. If they're just mean by nature, that wasn't coming off completely and I would make that clearer.

    Good luck!

  4. This is such a unique premise! I've never read a middle grades animal story before. You've got great scene-setting and a sympathetic main character here. Best of luck to you!


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