"My dad's better than your dad," said Otto, the calf.
"Is not," said Wilhelm. "My dad is the gold medallist for the barnyard high-jump."
"So what," said Otto. "Your dad's only a pig. How high can a pig jump anyway?"
"High enough to win the gold medal." Wilhelm kicked a cornhusk into his mudhole.
"Well, so what," said Otto. "My dad jumped over the moon!"
"That's right," said Mrs. Quackenspeaken, the barnyard gossip. The goose waddled over to the calf and piglet. "I saw his father do it," she said.
"Yes, Ma'am." Wilhelm knew better than to challenge Mrs. Quackenspeaken.
"Why, I remember it like it was yesterday," she began.
Wilhelm groaned. He didn't really want to hear the story again. But it wasn't polite to walk away from an adult when they were speaking to you, and Wilhelm was a very polite little pig.
Mrs. Quackenspeaken took a deep breath, adjusted her tail feathers and plopped on the ground next to Otto and Wilhelm. "It was last summer, almost six months ago to the day," she began, "and there was a full moon. We were all settling down for the night, but it was hard for me to sleep. Geese don't take well to the heat, if the truth be told," she said. "My feathers were all sticking together. It's a very uncomfortable feeling for a goose. So I came out here into the barnyard for a walk-to see if I could work them loose."
"That's right," Otto said, "and she saw my dad jump over the moon. So there."
Mrs. Quakenspeaken ruffled her feathers. "Now Otto, dear, don't interrupt. It's Mrs. Quakenspeaken's story and I must tell it my own way. I try to-"
"Jeez. Can't you just get on with the story?" The goose groaned and turned back to Wilhelm. Otto stuck out his tongue behind her back.
"As I was saying, Wilhelm, I came out here for a bit of fresh air. Farmer Brown and his missus had their dessert out on the porch that night-peach cobbler, I think. So I waddled over to see if they had dropped any crumbs. Well, not a morsel, I can tell you. The spoon and the dish were licked clean and-"
Otto groaned impatiently. "We know the story, Mrs. Quakenspeaken. Whiskers, the cat, started to play his fiddle and the dish ran away with the spoon. Can't you just skip all that and get to the part about my dad?"
"Otto, for shame, interrupting me again." Mrs. Quackenspeaken honked angrily. "I'm going to speak to your mother as soon as my story is finished. She needs to be told that she is raising a very rude little calf indeed."
"Well, what about him?" Otto pointed a dirty hoof at Wilhelm.
"What about him?" Wilhelm is a polite little pig and I shall tell Mrs. Bakenburger exactly that-as soon as I speak to your mother. Now, Otto, may I please continue my story?"
"Oh, dear. Where was I? Oh, yes." She thought a moment, then sighed. "Well, really Wilhelm, there's no point going into the dish and spoon thing or Whisker's fiddle playing. Otto's quite spoiled the story." She stood up and flapped her wings. "All that's left to tell now is that Otto's father bolted from his stall, ran out of the barn and leaped so high he went clear over the moon. We think it was the dreadful heat that did it. Heat makes a body do strange things, don't you know."
"My dad said it was the fiddle music."
"Oh really, Otto, such a rude little calf." Mrs. Quackenspeaken gave him a nasty look. "I'm going to speak to your mother this instant."
Otto watched Mrs. Quackenspeaken march off towards the cow pasture and stuck out his tongue again.
"That's rude," Wilhelm said.
Otto laughed. "So, big guy, what did you think of the story?" Otto asked the same question every time the story was told and Wilhelm always answered the same way. "Cats don't play fiddles, dishes don't run away with spoons and (Wilhelm always saved this for last) cows don't jump over the moon."
"No, they don't."
"Yes, they do," Otto said.
"You think you're so smart," Otto yelled. "You're nothing but a fat clumsy old pig."
"Don't call me names," Wilhelm said. "I'm not clumsy and I'm no fatter than a pig should be. And you know what else?"
"What," Otto said.
"If a cow can jump over the moon, then so can a pig."
"Ha, ha, ha! Don't make me laugh. Everyone knows that pigs are clumsy cowards." Otto walked over to the cornhusk lying in the mud and kicked it up onto dry ground. "I bet you can't even jump over this without tripping all over yourself."
"Can too," said Wilhelm.
"Do it then!"
Wilhelm stepped back about five feet, ran towards the corn husk and leaped. His two back feet landed on the cornhusk and Wilhelm went down with a thud right in the mudhole.
"Ha, ha, ha!" Otto laughed. "I told you pigs were clumsy."
Wilhelm sighed. "But I'm not a coward-and I will jump over the moon. In fact," he added, "I'll jump on the moon and back again."
"In your dreams, maybe." Otto sneered.
"No! Tonight, in the barnyard," Wilhelm promised.
By dinnertime the entire barnyard was abuzz with the news. "Wilhelm's going to the moon and back," they said. "What a brave little pig."
Wilhelm sat alone in the barnyard and stared wistfully up at the moon. It seemed to rise higher in the sky before his very eyes. At the moment he didn't feel very brave. Next to him was the trampoline his parents had gotten him for Christmas. He had intended to loosen up a bit before he tried his jump but had changed his mind. "I've only got about three more hours before the moon's high enough," Wilhelm said to himself. "What's the use." He sighed. "Oh, why did I ever say I could jump onto the moon and back?"
"Because you got chutzpah, kid."
"Chutzpah. You know nerve-guts." Whiskers sauntered over to the pig, dragging a little fiddle and bow behind him. He tuned the fiddle and ran the bow across the strings.
"Why, Whiskers, you can play the fiddle!" Wilhelm's eyes got big and round.
"Course I can, kid." Whiskers eyed the moon. "Having doubts?"
"Because I'm clumsy and I'm too fat."
Whiskers looked Wilhelm over from head to foot. "You only seem to me as fat as a pig should be. But if you're worried, how about a few jumping jacks on the trampoline?"
Wilhelm didn't feel much like jumping, but he hated to hurt Whiskers' feelings. He carefully climbed onto the trampoline and gave it a few hesitant bounces.
"Faster," Whiskers said.
Wilhelm bounced a little faster.
"Good," Whiskers said. "Keep it up."
Wilhelm kept it up. "Whiskers," Wilhelm said after awhile.
"Whatever happened to the dish and the spoon? Where did they run off to?" Wilhelm wanted to know.
Whiskers smiled. "Sorry, kid. I promised I wouldn't tell." He watched Wilhelm take a few more jumps. "Higher, kid. Go higher," Whiskers shouted.
Wilhelm went higher.
"Good. Keep that up."
Wilhelm kept it up.
After awhile Whiskers shouted. "Faster, kid, and higher!"
Wilhelm jumped faster and higher.
The animals came into the barnyard and gathered around the trampoline. They wanted to see Wilhelm jump.
Whiskers stared up at the moon. "It's time, kid. Are you ready?"
"I'm not sure."
"Just keep your eye on the moon and when you feel the inspiration, go for it."
"Listen," Whiskers said. He tucked the tiny fiddle up under his chin, plucked the strings a few times, then started to play.
"That's beautiful," shouted Wilhelm. He began to jump faster and higher, higher and faster.
"Faster," the animals shouted. "Higher!" All the animals cheered Wilhelm on, all except Otto and his parents, that is.
"You can do it," Wilhelm's mother shouted.
"That's my boy!" screamed his father.
Whiskers played faster. The bow seemed to fly over the strings.
"Higher! Higher!" shouted the animals.
Wilhelm jumped higher and higher. He looked at the moon. It seemed bigger and brighter now. The animals' cheers faded away. The music was all he could hear but it was coming from inside him, not from the fiddle.
Wilhelm couldn't feel the trampoline anymore, yet he jumped faster and higher. The moon was all he could see. He began to pick out craters of different sizes. The music played loudly in his ears as the moon rose up before him. Then just as quickly, it was under him. Down, down, down Wilhelm went. He concentrated on the music and chose a spot to land right between two large craters. BUMP! THUMP! Wilhelm was on the moon.
"I did it! I did it!" Wilhelm turned to face earth and waved to all the animals in the barnyard. Then he did a little dance on the moon, keeping perfect time to the music.
"Could I have the next dance?"
Wilhelm stopped dancing. The voice startled him.
"No. Me! Me!" said another.
Wilhelm looked all around him but no one was there.
"Down here, kind sir, if you please." Wilhelm looked between his feet. There lay the dish and the spoon staring back up at him.
"Please, please take us back with you," begged the spoon in a little, tinny voice.
"Oh, yes. Please do," said the dish. "We miss the barnyard ever so much."
"What did you come for, in the first place, if you don't want to be here?" Wilhelm asked.
"We had inspiration," said the spoon.
"And," added the dish, "we wanted an adventure. We never dreamed the cow would drop us. He was such a clumsy cow."
The fiddle music whirled in Wilhelm's head. "Then jump up and hold on to my ears," he said. "We're going home!"
The dish and the spoon did just that.
Wilhelm took a last look around and leaped into the air. After one quick orbit around the moon, they headed for Earth. Down, down, down they went as the music played in Wilhelm's head. He saw the barnyard far below and looked for his mudhole. When he spotted it, he adjusted his speed and "SPLAT"-made a perfect landing.
All the animals gathered round and cheered. Otto stomped off to the barn.
Whiskers walked up to the dish and the spoon. "Welcome back, fellas." Then he turned to Wilhelm. "Good job, kid. I couldn't have done better myself. Let this be a lesson to you."
"What lesson?" asked Wilhelm.
"Yes, what lesson?" yelled the other animals.
Whiskers looked at the animals as only a cat can look. "This," said Whiskers, "when you have chutzpah and inspiration, you can do anything."
The animals voted to make that day "Bakenburger Day", in honor of their hero. Every year it was celebrated in the barnyard when the moon was high in the sky. Mrs. Quackenspeaken was in charge and never tired of retelling the story. Only three were against the whole thing and you're smart enough to figure out who they were.
In the days following Wilhelm's trip to the moon, things in the barnyard returned to normal. Otto, the calf, got big and fat, and each passing day seemed to make him ruder than the day before. In the fall, Farmer Brown took him to the state fair. While there he must have wandered off, for none of the animals ever saw him again. The barnyard was a much quieter place to live in and much, much nicer.
As for Wilhelm, he was content to lie in his mudhole day after day, nibbling on cornhusks and thinking about chutzpah and inspiration. He got fatter, too, but never, never fatter than a pig should be.
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