"I'm quite sure they'll be along any minute with a completely sensible explanation of why they're so late," said Spark, trading anxious looks with Lipperella.
"I'll go out and look for them right after this cake!" said Flash, champing and fuffing out crumbs from his mouthful.
"Don't, or we'll have to come looking for you, too," said Lipperella. "Now all of you help me clean up before you go out for your evening flight."
"I knew it," declared Tors as he stepped into the kitchen with Gweltaz. "Please tell us we aren't too late."
"Too late for Edward and Laora, Uncle Tors?" said Flame.
"We meant your mother's delicious cake," said Tors, grabbing up a piece with an appreciative glance at Lipperella. "What about Edward and Laora?"
"Oh nothing. They're just missing is all," said Flash.
"Well, not really," said Spark, "just a little late. They'll be here directly, I'm sure."
"I'd have thought so long before now," said Lipperella, "particularly since Laora knew we were going to have this kangaroo rat pie. She and the rest of the Mob spent hours chasing down all the rats for it. Oh here, Gweltaz. Have some. There's plenty of that left, as well as the cake. You too, Tors. And here's some rat hair gravy to go over it. Want me to warm it up?"
"No need," said Gweltaz, as he and Tors gobbled down their pie, watching the Mob file out for their evening flight. "This is delicious, Lipperella. Have you tried pickling them? I sure miss the pickled voles you used to make."
"Yea I have, but I just can't get the pimentos to stay in their eye sockets like the voles.
"Hmm," said Tors, "'late' and 'missing,' you say. Is that really the same as, 'Oh nothing?'"
"Yea," said Gweltaz. "No reason we can't help you go find them. I mean, we hear what you're saying, Spark, but you and Lipperella both look worried."
"Well," said Spark, sharing his worried looks with Lipperella, "we've been letting them explore where they like so long as they return when we say, and until this evening they've never been late..."
"Then it's not long 'till dusk, so..." said Tors, swallowing his last bite of pie.
"So let's round up the Mob and get cracking," said Lipperella, tossing aside her apron.
The Burgeoning, Ch. 30
Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps