- The Maloneys prepared to leave right after the cemetery’s memorial service as it was a long drive back home.
- Mort took a peek inside the box Martha had prepared for their lunch picnic. Half the box was piled high with pork sandwiches and leftover chicken, a huge salad and strawberry pie, kept cool by several small blocks of “dry ice” wrapped in newspaper. The other half of the box contained reusable plastic plates, cups, utensils and tablecloth, along with paper napkins and several washcloths.
- Martha handed Agnes a small cloth shopping bag holding two big insulated travel bottles, one with coffee for the adults, the other with milk – cold milk – for the twins and a six-pack of bottled water for drinking and light clean-up.
- "Frank, Martha, we really appreciate all your hospitality," Mort said, amazed and grateful for the warmth and generosity of their hosts.
- "Not at all,” Martha replied. "We enjoyed your coming down here to see us and your children were such a big help with the chores. As a matter if fact, Frank and I were thinking that maybe Mal and Mel might like to spend a week with us next summer. Farms are wonderful places to see the wonders of life first-hand."
- "That's quite an offer," Agnes said with a wink and a nod to the twins. "You don't know what you might be getting into. That's something we'll have to think about. Thank you! And thanks a million for the cute picnic things. We'll think of you whenever we use them...which will be often."
- After hugs all around, the Maloneys were soon on the highway leading back home. Mike wanted to take the first shift driving.
A Car of the Future?
- "Well, Mort. This car certainly handles fine and I sure do like it's zero carbon footprint on the road. Have you thought at all about getting one?"
- "This isn't a production car, Dad. Most cars running on fuel cells don't have nearly the range that this does. The max right now would get us here, but not back home. There's another issue of refueling. I hear that it'll be another 10 years before there are enough places to swap the hydrogen cylinders when they run low. And there are a lot of other issues too."
- "Such as?" Mike had heard all sorts of conflicting arguments about the impact of using different kinds of fuels and was curious to hear what Mort thought.
- "Clean fuel, which hydrogen certainly is, is not the only environmental impact of driving any kind of car. Some people say miles-per-gallon is only one part of the equation, the 'out-the-tailpipe' part. There's also the cost and pollution involved in making the fuel. So you have to take into account the amount of coal or other energy used to make the electricity that produces the hydrogen."
- "Hydrogen. Isn't that dangerous, Dad?" Mal loved airplanes, indeed he loved all sorts of flying machines, and remembered a documentary film showing images of the fiery crash of the Hindenburg German airship explosion.
- "Some buses and trucks are already used in some cities. You can be sure that car makers will be extra careful when they design hydrogen-fueled cars that ordinary people can buy...like this one," Mort assured his son (and everyone else in the car).
- They were nearing Rantoul when Mike announced that he was hungry. Rantoul, home of the Chanute Aerospace Museum, would be a perfect place for a picnic and a quick tour of the outdoor exhibit of old-time aircraft, he thought.
Picnicking among the Airplanes
- Several dozen old planes came into view as Mike pulled into the museum’s parking lot. The twins were excited but far too hungry to think about anything but the picnic lunch and ran to a picnic table under a large tree. While Mort and Agnes were spreading the tablecloth and setting out the utensils, Mike tapped Mal on the shoulder.
- “Why don’t you start getting out the food that Aunt Martha prepared for us? The dry ice will be pretty much evaporated by now, but it’ll burn your skin so don’t touch any that might be left. The food should still be plenty cold. I don’t suppose you mind the cold, do you, Mal?”
- Mal noticed his Grandpa’s big smile and the twinkle in his eyes. Did he know anything about the meat locker incident?
- “Sure, Grandpa.” Mal wasn’t sure whether or not he should say anything about not at all minding being cold.
- The twins quickly finished their picnic lunch and scampered off with Rufus to inspect the old airplanes. The adults poured hot coffee from the travel bottles and lingered over Martha’s delicious strawberry pie.
Ninja Mom a Reality?
- “What do you think about competing in Ninja Women, Aggie? I watched some videos online and you sure are better than most of those 100 women who competed last time.” Mike hadn’t seen the television broadcast that the twins talked about, so he did a search at Frank’s computer over the weekend; he was both fascinated and quite sure that Agnes stood a good chance of getting through at least the first of several increasingly challenging courses. He also thought that visiting Japan with a purpose other than tourism would be a great cultural experience for the twins.
- “Dad, you’ve got be kidding!” Agnes enjoyed the television programs nearly as much as her children did and tried to ignore the little twangs of wistfulness. Even thinking about participating in such a contest, especially so far away, was impractical, she felt, not to mention selfish. She had responsibilities for her family and her physical therapy clients.
- “You know, Ag,” Mort said thoughtfully, “Dad might have something there.” Mort had seen his wife’s fleeting pensive mood after watching the television programs and recalled her delight as she stood atop the farm fence.
- “Mort, you’re serious?” Waves of hope, doubt, and questions flooded Agnes’ mind. “But I can’t. They’re all so young, so agile and fit,” she tried to rationalize.
“So are you,” Mike and Mort said, nearly in unison.
- “Well, there you have it,” Mike said. “Both your husband and I agree. It’s worth a look, isn’t it? And think how much the children would benefit by a trip to Yokohama, not to mention seeing their mom compete in an international contest.”
- Agnes knew that Mike cared very much for all of them, and once he had it in his mind to give something worthwhile to them, there was little she could do except to accept gracefully.
- “Would you please look into the application process, then?” Agnes thought that Mike would discover that it was far too late and that all 100 slots for Ninja Women had already been taken.
- “Be happy to. And just in case you’re accepted, what are your thoughts about places where these monthly outings could benefit yourself as well as Mal and Mel?” Mike had some ideas, but didn’t want to appear too pushy. After all, his daughter-in-law had agreed only reluctantly to accept his gift of a weekend outing each month.
- “I understand that running in sand as a good way to strengthen leg muscles. Especially if you run up sand dunes.” Agnes’ quick response to Mike’s question left no doubt, to her own surprise as well, that she was entertaining the idea of “Ninja Mom.”
- Ready to continue their trip back home, Agnes and Mort called the children to help clean up and put the picnic items back in the box.
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- LINKS: BOOK 1 TABLE OF CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION TO THE BIOFABLES SERIES
BioFables 1 Teaching Brief
BioFables 1 & 2: Word Counts, Reading Levels