“The wild grapevine is taking over the woods again,” Bernadette hears Papa say to Mama. “I need to go pull it down before it gets too big and strangles out the trees.”
“Yes,” Mama replies, “I’d noticed that it was getting unruly the last time I was out there. Why don’t you take Bernadette and Martha Washington with you? Martha can chase squirrels while Bernadette helps you pull.”
“Excellent idea,” Papa answers.
Bernadette bounds into the kitchen. “Sir!” she cries. “I just received notice that you have need for a pair of fearless jungle explorers to help you eradicate a dangerously invasive vine from the rainforest!”
“Why, yes,” the wizened botanist replies. “Do you know of any such explorers brave enough to come to my aid?”
“Allow me to introduce myself. I am Dr. Bernadette Smart, Jungle Explorer Extraordinaire. I have much experience with these terrible plants, and my companion Martha Washington will accompany us. She is a skilled hunter and will protect us from the jungle beasts.”
“Dr. Smart, I am pleased to accept your offer,” the botanist says as he bows to her. “Are you and your companion prepared to depart immediately?”
“Most certainly!” replies Dr. Smart. She whistles to Martha Washington, who is at her side in a moment. Once Dr. Smart explains the gravity of the task, Washington sets her face toward the rainforest ready to plunge into the challenge.
Clothed in long sleeves and long pants to protect their skin from foliage such as the dreaded poisonicus ivycus, and hats to ward off blood-sucking insects like tickus grossicus, Dr. Smart and the old botanist enter the jungle. Even the edge of the forest holds danger, as large raspberricus thornicus bushes grab at their sleeves. “We must be careful,” Dr. Smart advises. “The jungle is not a friendly place to the unwise intruder.”
“Agreed,” says the old botanist. “Shall I precede you down the path?”
“Perhaps Washington ought to go first, to be sure no beasts lie in wait,” Dr. Smart suggests.
“Ah, your wisdom exceeds your years, Dr. Smart. Washington? Go on!”
Mighty hunter Martha Washington trots ahead of them, sniffing her surroundings. Soon she leaves the path. “I do believe she has caught the scent of the fierce squirrelicus brownicus,” Dr. Smart surmises. “She will run it off while we attend to the task before us.”
Dr. Bernadette Smart and the old botanist turn their attention to the treacherous vines just ahead of them. “Ah, yes. Their encroachment on the surrounding foliage certainly could spell death for the forest,” she nods, squinting her hazel eyes at the vines and tucking her brown hair more securely into her cap. The humidity has begun to frizz her hair and she is grateful the hat will keep it out of her way while she works.
The old botanist hands Dr. Smart a pair of gloves, and they set to work. Sometimes they each take hold of separate vines, and sometimes they must pull together when the organism has wound itself tightly around its tree victim. With great satisfaction, the two pull until the tendrils let go. The botanist cuts the vines with his strong-jawed clippers, making sure the ends of the vines will not re-root into the ground. As they work, the devoted Washington checks frequently on their safety running off again to frighten away any number of jungle beasts.
Sweat trickles down Dr. Smart’s back. The vines scratch at her cheeks, but still she pulls while the botanist yanks and cuts and piles. The whine of enormous mosquitoes (mosquitocus giganticus) fills her ears.
“Dr. Smart, I do believe our task is complete,” the botanist finally declares. “If you will help me drag the vines out so we can burn them, we can call it a day.”
The promise of the end in sight bolsters Dr. Smart’s energy. She grabs hold of as many vines as she can, and, whistling again to Washington, begins the trek out of the jungle. The rainforest becomes less dense, and sunlight peeks through leaves. Finally, she can see the clearing ahead, and she feels more spring in her step.
With the help of the old botanist, Dr. Smart piles the vines into a tower, which the man sets afire. Washington throws herself on the grass, wiggling and scratching – whether from mosquito bites or the delight of the hunt, Dr. Smart cannot tell. Washington has some strange ways.
The old botanist takes off his hat and wipes his brow with his forearm. “I thank you heartily, Dr. Smart,” he says. “The task was less daunting with you and Washington at my side.”
“My pleasure,” replies Dr. Smart. “The only thing that could make our accomplishment sweeter would be –”
“Bernadette! Danny! Want some lemonade?” Mama’s voice sings from the back porch.
“Lemonade!” Bernadette grins. She and Martha Washington race to the house, with Papa loping along behind.