The old rat's walking stick shook as he placed it down into the sand of the dried up riverbed. MD was tired and he could barely stand up, but he couldn't show the others he was weak. It felt good to stop and rest. He crossed his hand comfortably on top of the stick. He didn't want the boys to see just how old he really was. A few more minutes and the dog driven coach would be across the bridge. They were safe under it as long as everyone kept quiet.
The boys were silent as the coach klip klopped its way over the old beams. If the cats heard them there would be trouble for sure. Small grains of sand fell on to their noses. SNIFFLY felt a sneeze well up inside... his nose twitched... he closed his eyes and started to let the sneeze out when it was stopped by a finger closing his nose. When he opened his eyes he saw LOONY smiling at him. GROUCHY was staring at him too with a stern look. Like he could help it if he had to sneeze? "You can't tell... and when you gotta, you gotta!"
The boys all stood still as statues when the guard on the first dog stopped the coach just as it started crossing the bridge.
"Why are we stopping," came a sweet sleepy mew from inside the coach?
"I thought I heard something, miss" hissed the guard with arrow poised at the ready. He sniffed the air and looked up. Before he knew it the arrow was in the air. Standing on a branch of a tree was a brightly colored parrot. It just missed the bird and a few feathers flew to the ground.
"SQWAAAAAAK... HEY!!! Watch it," screeched the parrot. "You could kill a bird with that thing! You need to relax General. You sure are anxious to kill something. I'm keeping watch... remember??? That's what you are paying me for." Then parrot flew off to scope the area.
The general put down his bow and grumbled. "Darn parrot always getting in the way. What WAS the queen thinking when she made me hire him?" He got down from his dog and walked over to the coach. He peered inside and saw the queen and her daughters sleeping peacefully on their royal beds. The queen let out a soft mew. "Good... the noise didn't disturb them," he thought to himself as he checked the strapped on cargo. Then he made his way back to mount his dog. Safe in his saddle he took a quick look around and then ordered the dogs onward.
As the last wheel made it over the bridge, SNIFFLY let out stifled sneeze thanks to LOONYs finger still on his nose and other hand over his mouth. The others let out a shhhhhhhhhhh, and Sniffly and Loony giggled to themselves. That was close. The coach continued over the bridge. It didn't seem like anyone had heard the sneeze.
The Generals ears perked up. THAT time he heard something. He knew he did. Was it that darn parrot again? He looked around but no parrot was in sight. That was strange... he was sure he heard something. It sounded like a sneeze. Maybe it was the queen or one of her daughters. He stopped the coach again alongside of the road.
PEEPER flew high overhead. He caught a glimpse of something under the bridge. He flew down to tell the general. Maybe THAT would get the general to like him. He wanted to earn his keep.
MD saw the wings of the parrot skim the skyline. He and the others had heard the conversation on the bridge. They could tell by his voice that the General was a vicious man. They did not want to cross paths with him. MD gathered them all together.
Quietly he whispered "We need to get out from under this bridge. We need to make a run for it." The others shook their heads and agreed, and GROUCHY was elected to go see what was up ahead.
"I saw something under that thar bridge" squawked Peeper to the General. "I am doing my job. I told you I would."
"What was it," asked the General?
"I didn't get a good look. I wanted to tell you first. Shall I go look," asked Peeper?
"Well of course ya dang bird," bellowed the General. "That's what I'm paying you for!"
Peeper swooped down to get a closer look under the bridge... But nothing was there!