Professor Winkle’s Unexpected Adventure

For my grandchildren: Dash (Asher), Sissy (Makenzie), Flash (Elijah), Missy (Megan), Evelin, and Stella.

Professor Winkle scurried about his library. How he managed to scurry among the crowded piles of books is a mystery. But that is not the greatest wonder or mystery.

“Oh my, now where did that book go.” He muttered as he dashed between the stacks of books, the tables piled high, and the overflowing shelves.

Spying a book with green binding, he popped it open and out jumped a huge bullfrog. “No, no, no, not the right one. Back you go froggy perhaps another time” But the bullfrog jumped away.

Spying another green bound book high up against the ceiling the Professor pondered how to reach it. He pushed stacks and moved tables all the while wishing he had a ladder. A notion quickly set aside as he climbed his wobbly hill and reached for the book.

He picked the green bound book high up against the ceiling and like pulling an apple from a tree three more books fell. One book landed flat, one leaned against the bottom shelf, but one book landed open.

“Oh, my,” Professor Winkle exclaimed as the golden glow of sunlight flooded the room from the book’s open pages. But before anyone could snap their fingers, the bullfrog jumped into the book and disappeared in a flash. “Oh my!” he exclaimed again.

At that moment the professor forgot himself and leaned too far. The stack he was standing on began to shift. He wobbled one way and then another trying to regain his balance. But each wobble only made things worse. Then with a loud and long “OOOOHHHHH MMMMMYYYYY” Professor Winkle tumbled from his perch and landed in the open book.

Now, a wise reader will shake their head. Professor Winkle couldn’t have landed in the book. Surely that is a mistake, he must have landed on the book. But I tell you that I saw what I saw. He fell in the book and vanished just like the bullfrog.

On the other side of the pages, I have this from the best authority, Professor Winkle’s tumble landed him on a green meadow of wildflowers and bright golden sunshine. I’m also told that he didn’t land on his feet but tumbled and rolled before coming to a stop on his nose. “Oh my,” he muttered.

“What is it?” a thin high voice whispered. “I don’t know, you tell me,” another answered back. “Is it animal, vegetable, or mineral?” a slightly deeper voice asked. “animal I think,” said the first voice. “That rules out many things,” the deeper voice concluded.

Questions and answers bounced back and forth until the deeper voice concluded, “Then it must be a man.” The voices were silent for a moment. Then, with a quiet rustle, three rabbits crept through the wildflowers and sniffed Professor Winkle. “Is he asleep? The smallest rabbit whispered.

This began another round of questions which they never fully answered for just when they were nearing a conclusion Professor Winkle rolled over and sat up. The rabbits quickly scurried back under cover of the wildflowers. “Who are you?” the oldest bunny asked.

“Winkle,” he groggily replied. “See, it’s not a man after all. It’s a Winkle,” the smallest rabbit concluded thinking himself to be very smart to figure this out. “What’s a winkle?” the middle rabbit asked. “Nonsense and bother,” the oldest rabbit announced. “Winkle is his name. I asked who he is not what he is.”

Hopping closer the oldest rabbit said, “I’m Perry” holding out a paw. Handshakes and “nice to meet you” were exchanged as all polite folks do. “I have to ask,” Perry began. “Why are you here?  There’s no man in this story.”

“Well, it was quite by accident. I was looking for another story altogether when I fell from a stack of books and landed here,” Professor Winkle said. “Say, you wouldn’t have seen a bullfrog around?”

“A bullfrog?  Who’s that?” Said the youngest bunny still confused that Winkle is a who and not a what. “A bullfrog is a what with four legs, green skin, and a long tongue. And no, we haven’t seen one.” Perry concluded.

“He jumped out of one story, probably ruining it in the process, and jumped into this one before I could catch him,” Winkle explained. “And now I’m here, and I have no idea what that means to this story or how to even go home.”  “Oh my,” the rabbits said together.

“There’s only one answer,” the oldest bunny said. “We must find the bookworm!” A conclusion the other two rabbits cheered loudly. That is until the youngest bunny asked, “what’s the bookworm?”

“Here we go again,” exclaimed the middle rabbit. Perry Rabbit took a large breath and began to explain but then loudly sighed “Never mind.” To which Professor Winkle added, “We don’t need to know who or what but where.”

“Oh, that’s easy,” said the youngest bunny, “She’s at Miller’s Creek by the flour mill.” The two older bunnies and Professor Winkle stared at the smallest ball of fluff.

“And how do you know that?” Perry asked. “She’s at the point of the story when Sissy,” pointing at the middle rabbit, “gets stuck in the water wheel.” “I hate that part,” Sissy muttered.

The path to the water wheel is an easy one which Professor Winkle totally missed seeing. It seems he was wracking his head to remember if he had ever read this story. He missed the large rock where Perry wins a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors to avoid being eaten by a bear. He walked right by the tall oak tree under which the rabbits live without so much as a “nice home you have there.”

Around the bends and under trees they walked until water could be heard tumbling. “There it is!  Miller’s Creek and the old flour mill.” Perry announced. “I hate that place,” Sissy sighed. The professor, finally shaken from wracking his head, looked up.

On the bank of a small stream was a tall stone building with a large wooden wheel slowly turning and splashing the water. It almost looked like the building was trying to paddle away, but it never moved.

As the group walked closer, the professor could make out the wooden spokes radiating from the center of the wheel and the many paddles on its edge. In a way, it looked like one of the wildflowers in the meadow except it was the color of wood, moss, and splashing water.

Soon they could hear the slow groan of the wheel and a kind of grinding sound from deeper in the stone house. “What a marvelous invention,” the professor exclaimed. “Look there, someone built a chute of wood further upstream to carry water down to the wheel. Who would have imagined?”

“I would,” said a firm voice. “And if you would read an encyclopedia sometime this wouldn’t be so unexpected,” said the bookworm who was sitting on a rock beside the mill pond. “Now it’s my turn to ask a question. Would someone please explain who he is and why he is here?” She said staring at Professor Winkle.

“He’s a Winkle,” the smallest bunny shouted thinking he finally had it figured out. “Here we go again,” sighed Perry. “My name is Professor Winkle, nice to meet you, and you are?” The professor said extending his hand.

“Nice to meet you too. My name is Missy,” the bookworm said extending three hands which totally confused Professor Winkle for a moment until he finally politely shook her middle hand.

“I know that name, you have quite the library,” Missy said, “it’s not very organized but wonderfully full.” “Thank you,” Professor Winkle replied somewhat embarrassed.

“But I have to ask why you are here?” Missy asked. “You’re not in this story at all?” At that moment they all heard a loud croak from the direction of the mill. “How’s that?” asked the smallest bunny. “Not how but what,” replied Perry. “The bullfrog!” exclaimed Professor Winkle.

They watched as the bullfrog leaped from the wheel into the mill pond. It was a mighty leap that would have surely won at the County Fair if it had stayed in its own story. The bullfrog then did something even more amazing. It hopped on a log, then to a stone, and then to the top of Professor Winkle’s head.

Professor Winkle gently brought the bullfrog down and placed it in his pocket. “That solves one problem but how do I get back to my books?” Professor Winkle asked. “I’d much rather be on the outside looking in than on the inside looking out.”

“Missy,” Perry began, “You move between stories all the time or at least I assume so since you’re not always here. How do you do it?”

“Well, I close the book, like this,” she said while bringing her hands together as if she was closing a book. This wouldn’t have been very amazing except that she disappeared for a moment and then came right back.  The two youngest rabbits tried it several times, but it didn’t work for them.

Professor Winkle tried it too, but it didn’t work for him either which confused everyone. “Maybe it’s the place,” Missy offered, “when I turn to this page of the story I always land on this rock beside the pond.” She said moving from the rock to make room for Professor Winkle.

Professor Winkle slowly stepped up onto the small stone with one foot. “Well, Goodbye. It has been nice to meet all of you,” he said before clapping his hand like he was closing a book. Nothing happened. “Try balancing on one foot so that all of you is on the rock,” Missy suggested.

So, Professor Winkle slowly lifted one foot and wobbled as he tried to keep his balance. The bullfrog was not very comfortable with all this commotion and escaped, but Professor Winkle caught him mid-flight. This, of course, does not end well or maybe it does.

The Professor, bullfrog clutched in both hands, tumbled into the mill pond with a splash and disappeared. Sissy was so worried that she jumped into the water to save the professor but ended up stuck on the water wheel. “Things are as they should be,” Missy exclaimed.

And Professor Winkle? Well, in a flash he landed back in the library in on top of the open book with the bullfrog still in his grasp although it really wanted to dash away.

Author’s Note: This story is aimed at younger children and is not intended to teach any larger lesson than the power of our God-given imaginations. It is a trait and ability I fear we are losing as our devices feed us every detail of a story instead of seeing, hearing, and feeling it with our mind’s eye.

Dale Heinold
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