Danger in the Patchwork Clearing
by Kelly F. Barr
Bramble Fleetwood and Flip Gatherson did somersaults among the wildflowers in the Patchwork Clearing. Bramble’s lower jaw dropped and his eyes widened as a shadow passed over them. A chill ran down his spine as he recognized Crooked Claw Fellingward.
“Flip, run! Hawk!” Bramble scrambled back toward Oak Leaf Forest, and Flip struggled to keep up.
“Stay low and don’t stretch your body.” Bramble puffed out as he ran. How had they gotten so far from Oak Leaf Forest?
He could hear his father’s stern voice in his head, “Bramble, never wander into the Patchwork Clearing. It’s too dangerous.”
Crooked Claw screeched and Bramble looked over his shoulder. The hawk was inches above Flip, who desperately weaved and dragged his pudgy belly across the ground. Crooked Claw made a grab for Flip but missed as Flip rolled to the side.
Bramble tripped over something — rocks! He stopped, picked up a rock, and hurled it at Crooked Claw. He picked up another and another and threw them as hard and quickly as he could. One bounced off the hawk’s beak. Another rolled off his back.
Bramble couldn’t remain in this place much longer. The rocks managed to slow Crooked Claw down enough for Flip to gain a bit of a lead. Bramble started to run again. Almost there — if they could just get to the forest.
Bramble burst over the line, under cover of the Oak trees. He turned and screamed, “Nooo,” as Crooked Claw grasped Flip and lifted him off the ground. Bramble watched in horror, but Flip struggled in the hawk’s grip. Flip pounded his fists on the talons that held him, and suddenly Flip was falling. Crooked Claw descended right above him reaching for his falling prey.
Flip hit the ground and immediately made a break for the forest. Crooked Claw was bearing down on Flip. Would Flip make it in time?
Bramble heard a commotion in the trees directly above him. Father, and Flip’s father, and several other men from the squirrel colony were slinging acorns, from a large slingshot, at Crooked Claw. They slung six acorns at one time and hit Crooked Claw’s wing. The wing crumpled and the hawk made an emergency crash landing as Flip crossed under the Oak trees.
Bramble and Flip scooted farther under the Oaks. Their fathers stood before them. How had they come down the tree so quickly?
“Bramble, are you hurt?”
Flip’s father checked Flip over. The two dads looked at their sons. “Suppose you two have had a good fright and now know why you’re not to play in the Patchwork Clearing?”
Both boys nodded.
“Good. Now for the next two weeks, the two of you will be teaching your little brothers how to hide nuts and acorns.”
Again, Bramble and Flip nodded. Anything would be better than running for their lives.