The sound of a lawn mower was humming at a distance from the city of Apple Hill’s baseball field.
A warm breeze that smelled of fresh cut grass and sunscreen, gently dried the sweat off Abner’s forehead, as he gripped his baseball bat and positioned himself into a batter’s stance.
The team’s pitcher, Billy Bullae had sweat dripping from his red eye brow, across his orange freckled face, and down the black tiger stripes that were painted under his eyes. He pulled back his arm, raised his knee and threw a fast pitch! Abner heard the sound of the ball hit the catcher’s glove behind him. Sadly, while in mid-swing!
“Strike three, you’re out!” The catcher yelled. Abner tilted his head down, dropped his bat, and as he walked away Billy Bullae shouted, “Nice job Ab-Nerd! Your sloth-speed will be great when you compete with a Team Sloth!”
Abner peered over and shouted, “Sloth speed, what are you talking about!” Billy Bullae chuckled, and yelled loudly again, “your swing, its sloth-speed-slow! Go home Ab-Nerd!” The other players started laughing. Abner grabbed his backpack that was sitting near the fence and swung it over his shoulder. As he slowly walked away, he quietly whispered to himself, “I’m a sloth?”
Abner peered over at Billy and the other players and called out, “Hey! My name’s Abner not Ab-Nerd Bullae!”
That afternoon, Abner took the long route home. His mind kept questioning, “I’m a sloth? Sloth speed? I’m a sloth?” He felt shame in his heart and tears began to fill his eyes, until they ran down his face and over his black painted tiger stripes.
Crickets were singing from the blackberry bushes and the sun was sinking low. Abner knew it was getting late so he picked up his pace and started to rush home. Upon arrival, Abner dashed into the house and he headed straight for the bathroom. As he washed his hands, Abner stared into the mirror and paused, startled by his reflection! The tiger stripes had smeared with his tears and he had large black circles around his eyes.
Abner looked into the mirror as Billy Bullae’s taunting began to repeat in his mind. “Nice job Ab-Nerd!” Your sloth-speed will be great when you compete with Team Sloth!” Abner intently looked at his reflection and silently whispered to himself, “I am a sloth! “He looked up and his reflection looked like one-half Abner and one-half sloth. Suddenly Abner was startled as his little brother started banging on the bathroom door. “Hey Abner! Mom said dinner’s ready! Last one to the table’s a sloth!”
“Sloth!” Abner pulled open the door and started charging behind his little brother Gabe, who was one foot shorter than him! Gabe continued to run ahead, across the house and towards the dining room! Out of desperation, Abner grabbed for Gabe’s shirt to try to stop him and tackle him down in the hall! Gabe twisted and wrestled with Abner until Abner tripped on his own foot! As Abner collapsed, his grip released hold of Gabe’s shirt and Gabe dashed on!
Defeated, Abner planted his face in his hands, and quietly said to himself, “I am a sloth!” Slowly, Abner stood up and walked to the dining room where he was welcomed with a grin by his victorious little brother! “I won!” Proclaimed Gabe. “Looks like you’re the sloth!”
Abner now felt ever more defeated! He sat quietly and ate dinner with his Mom, Dad, Gabe, Uncle T and his talking parakeet. “ERH I’m a Pretty Bird!” The parakeet sounded off. Gabe started laughing and Abner bit into his dessert, a chocolate fudge brownie, completely un-amused. The parakeet was sitting on Uncle T’s shoulder and started to rapidly flutter its wings. Uncle T got up and walked the parakeet to the living room and placed it in the cage.
Abner looked up from his plate and saw his reflection in the china cabinet mirror. “Oh no!” Abner cried out as his fingers touched his face. The chocolate fudge from his brownie smeared around his mouth, and now matched the black circles from his tiger stripes that were formed around his eyes. He now officially looked exactly like a sloth!
Devastated, Abner shook his head and quietly said, “I am a sloth!” Abner’s Mom looked over, “Abner are you okay?” Abner asked if he could please be excused and when his Mom nodded her head in approval, he walked to the living room and laid himself across a futon mat on the floor. Suddenly he heard, “ERH!”
Startled, Abner looked to his right and there was Uncle T’s talking parakeet, staring at Abner from the cage. “ERH, I’m a Pretty Bird!” The parakeet squawked. Bitterly, Abner peered over at the parakeet and said, “No, you’re no Pretty Bird, You’re a sloth!”
The parakeet looked intently at Abner and squawked, “ERH, I’m a sloth!” Shocked by what the parakeet said, Abner started laughing! He laughed so hard his body began to tremble and shake as tears started to stream down his face. Abner then leaned in closer to the parakeet’s cage. Uncomfortable with Abner’s close presence, the parakeet trembled and the dark feathers around its eyes and mouth began to ruffle and expand.
Abner looked away from the parakeet and returned his eyes to the cage and the parakeet looked more like a Para-Sloth! “ERH, I’m a sloth!” Proclaimed the parakeet. Uncle T suddenly yelled out from the dining room, “What did my Bird just say! Hey Abner, don’t teach the parakeet any words it shouldn’t say!”
Abner’s face turned chili pepper red and his eyes widened, “I’m not Uncle T, he replied, Pretty Bird is just fine!” Abner leaned in closer to the cage and with deep concern silently whispered, “Shh! You’re not a sloth, you’re a Pretty Bird!” The Parakeet’s feathers shook rapidly again and now appeared to look even more like a Para-sloth! “ERH! I’m a Sloth!” Proclaimed the parakeet.
Abner flung his head into his hands in deep frustration! He took a deep breath in and exhaled out. Softly he whispered to the parakeet, “I’m a Pretty Bird, I’m a Pretty Bird,” as he tugged on his shirt and wiped the sweat from his face. Abner looked up and saw his reflection in the mirror that was hanging across from him. The black circles from his eyes and the chocolate fudge from his face were wiped clean, except for a small black dot on the tip of his nose that made him appear to have a bird’s beak.
Abner put one hand over his nose and his eyes stared down at the parakeet, and he softly and calmly proclaimed, “I’ am a Pretty Bird!” Soothed by Abner’s calm voice, the parakeet’s feathers relaxed and its appearance returned to normal. “ERH, I’m a Pretty Bird!” Proclaimed the parakeet. Abner smiled with great enthusiasm as he was worried he might upset Uncle T. “Good Bird!” Abner exclaimed as he jumped up and ran to the bathroom. He locked the door and wiped the tip of his nose with a washcloth and stared at his reflection in the mirror.
“I’m Abner. I’m handsome. I’m strong!” Proclaimed Abner.
Abner was staring at himself in the mirror and as he was about to toss the washcloth in the bathroom hamper he saw his bicep bulge. “Whoa!” Proclaimed Abner. Abner turned on the water faucet and gently tapped water on his head and combed his hair. He no longer looked like a sloth. In fact, Abner felt handsome and strong!
Abner smiled at his reflection and said, “I’m Abner and I’m lightning fast!”
Knock, Knock, Knock! “Hey Abner! Mom wants you to come and say goodbye to Uncle T! Last one to the front door’s a sloth!” Shouted Gabe. Abner jumped towards the door, swung it open and started chasing Gabe across the house! Abner’s lightning fast legs quickly came up behind Gabe and Abner pulled him out of his way. Victoriously, Abner reached the front door before his little brother!
Abner hugged his Uncle T and said goodbye with his family. Just as the front door was about to close, they suddenly heard Uncle T’s parakeet squawk, “ERH, I’m a sloth!” Abner’s face turned chili pepper red as he heard Uncle T yell out “ABNER!”
Abner looked over at his parents, “ERH, I’m in trouble!”
“Yes you are!” Replied Abner’s Dad.
The next day at school, Abner showed up to baseball practice. As he walked up he heard Billy Bullae call out, “Hey everyone, Ab-Nerd showed up!” Abner grabbed a bat and walked up, “It’s Abner not Ab-Nerd Bullae!”
Billy started laughing as he got in pitch posture, “Are you going to show everyone you’re ready to join that Sloth Team, with that sloth-slow-speed?” Abner gripped his bat and stood in a batter’s stance. Silently he whispered to himself, “I’m lightning fast, I’m lightning fast, I’m lightning fast.”
Billy Bullae pulled his arm back, lifted his knee and pitched at Abner. In great amazement Abner heard “Smack!” As he peered up, Billy’s mouth was wide open in awe! Abner hit the ball, right out of the park!
Abner grinned, as he humbly jogged around the field. Gently, he tapped his foot, base to base and quietly sung, “I’m lightning fast, lightning fast, lightning fast!”