That night the farmer and his wife turned on the TV and saw the interview with the little girl who rode a flying carpet.
"If anybody finds my cat," the little girl (it was Gooney Bird) said, "please call the TV station."
So Mr. Henry Schinhofen, the farmer, called.
"I have that cat here in my barn," he said. "Orange and white cat, no tail.
"But I gotta tell you," he said, "I don't think you'll be able to take it away. It won't leave my cow."
"Won't leave your cow?" the TV lady said. She sounded puzzled.
"Nope," said the farmer. "Wouldn't even leave for tuna fish. We had to take the tuna fish and put it right beside the cow."
"Happens sometimes," the farmer explained. "I'd guess you'd call it something like love. That cat is downright consumed by the cow."
"And is the cow consumed by the cat?" the TV lady asked.
"Nope. The cow doesn't care one way or another. But she doesn't step on the cat. She's a careful cow."
The TV people called Gooney Bird and her parents. They told them where Catman was, and that Catman was consumed by a cow.
So the Greene family drove their car back to the meadow and visited Catman. Catman was nice to them, but they could tell that he was not consumed by the Greene family. He was consumed only by the cow.
So they kissed him goodbye. Then they hugged and kissed the farmer and his wife, and they all sang "Farmer in the Dell" and danced in a circle, on their tiptoes. They all lived happily ever after.
"I love happy endings," Keiko said with a sigh.
"Me too," Mrs. Pidgeon said. "Thank you, Gooney Bird. Let's get out our arithmetic books now, class."
Everyone in the class groaned.
"I know," Mrs. Pidgeon said, laughing. "It's much more fun to listen to Gooney Bird's stories. But we can look forward to tomorrow. She'll have another one tomorrow."
Gooney Bird had gone back to her desk and taken out her arithmetic book. She looked up in surprise. "No, actually I won't," she said. "That was my last story."
The second-graders, almost every one of them, called, "No!" in very loud, sad voices. It sounded like a huge chorus singing a song called "Noooooo!"
Mrs. Pidgeon looked horrified. "But, Gooney Bird!" she said. "We still have a lot of unanswered questions!"
"Like what?" asked Gooney Bird.
"Well, let me think." Mrs. Pidgeon frowned.
"The false teeth!" Nicholas called.
"Yes," Mrs. Pidgeon said. "Why did your father have to pack forty-three sets of false teeth? That's a story you haven't told yet."
Gooney Bird looked surprised. "That's not a story," she said. "That simply requires a dictionary. You have one right there on your desk, Mrs. Pidgeon."
Mrs. Pidgeon reached for her dictionary.
"Look up this word," Gooney Bird said. She pronounced the word very carefully. "Prosthodontist."
"My goodness!" Mrs. Pidgeon read the definition. "It's a special kind of dentist. He makes false teeth!"
"Exactly," Gooney Bird said. "That's what my father is. No story there."
"But we want more stories, Gooney Bird!" Barry Tuckerman said in a loud voice. As usual, he was standing up with one knee on his desk chair.
Gooney Bird sighed impatiently. "I need to do my arithmetic," she said. "I'm not very good at subtraction yet. But all right. Sit down, Barry. Close the dictionary, Mrs. Pidgeon. I will tell you how to get stories."
Gooney Bird looked around the classroom. She slid the strap of her cowhide purse from her shoulder and set the purse on the floor below the terrarium table. With her face scrunched into a quiet, thinking expression, she unbuttoned her orange fur jacket and hung it on the back of the chair by her desk. Then she returned to the front of the room and faced the class.
She was wearing a blue plaid skirt, a white blouse, black tights, and brown lace-up shoes. There were bright blue hair ribbons in her neatly brushed red hair. She looked ordinary. She looked dignified. She looked wise.
"Out there, invisible, are a lot of stories not yet told," Gooney Bird told the class.
"Absolutely true ones?" Beanie asked in a small voice.
"Yes. Absolutely true ones."
"What are they?" asked Beanie.
"Do you remember that my first story was called 'How
Gooney Bird Got Her Name'?" Gooney Bird asked.
"Yes," Beanie replied.
"Well, another is called 'How Beanie Got Her Name.'"
"Before I was born," Beanie said, laughing, "there was a thing called an ultrasound that showed me curled up inside my mom? And I looked just like a bean! My mom said lima bean, and my daddy said no, jelly bean, and so—"
"That's a fine story beginning," Gooney Bird said. "An absolutely true one. You should tell that one on Friday, Beanie."
"What other invisible stories are out there?" Mrs. Pidgeon asked.
"Do you remember that my second story was about how I came from China on a flying carpet?"
"Oh my, yes," Mrs. Pidgeon said. "I had to look up China in the atlas."
"Out there, invisible, and waiting," Gooney Bird said, "is a story called—let me think." She closed her eyes.
"Is that the title? 'Let Me Think'?" Malcolm asked.
"No." Gooney Bird opened her eyes. "The story is called 'How Keiko's Family Came to Watertower.'"
Keiko smiled. "Well, they started out on a ship," she said. "First my grandmother and grandfather got on a big ship in Yokohama and went to Honolulu. They were a little scared because they had never been to America before. Mrs. Pidgeon, you should get the atlas out."
Mrs. Pidgeon smiled. "I will, when you tell your story, Keiko. Maybe next Wednesday?"
"Okay," Keiko said. "And I'll bring some pictures. And how about if I wear a kimono? That wouldn't be distracting, like whiskers, would it?"
"It would be lovely," Gooney Bird said.
"And I could maybe carry a fan, and a parasol?"
Gooney Bird said gently, "That would be a little like whiskers, Keiko."
"Overdoing it?" Keiko asked.
"Overdoing it," Gooney Bird said.
"What about me?" asked Barry. "Do I have a story?"
"Of course you do," Gooney Bird told him. "You have stories called 'How Barry Got His Name' and 'How Barry's Family Came to Watertower' and lots of others."
Barry grinned. "Which one should I tell?" he asked.
"Do you remember that my third story was about my diamond earrings?"
"My suggestion is that when it's your turn, Barry, you should tell an absolutely true story called 'When Barry Spent Every Penny He Had on Something He Wanted Really Badly.'"
The class waited and watched Barry Tuckerman as he squinched his face up, thinking. Then he grinned.
"Okay," he said. "I'll tell it! But it's really, really gross."
"Oh, no!" said Keiko. "I hate gross."
"You can cover your ears for Barry's story," Gooney Bird told her. "Wear earmuffs that day. Green ones would go nicely with your red sweater, I think."
"Who else? What else?" the class called.
"My fourth story was called 'How Gooney Bird Directed an Orchestra.'"
Mrs. Pidgeon suggested, "Maybe we could skip that one, Gooney Bird. I know no one in the class has ever led an orchestra."
"Class?" Gooney Bird asked. "Has anyone here ever been late to school because something quite unusual happened?"
Almost every hand went up.
"Malcolm," Gooney Bird said, "maybe that story could be your assignment. It could be called 'Why Malcolm Was Late to School.'"
"It could be about the time I was asleep under my bed and my mother couldn't find me in the morning," Malcolm said, "or the time that I dropped my toothbrush in the toilet and when I tried to get it back I—"
"Oh, no!" Keiko cried, and covered her ears.
"Don't tell it now and give it away, Malcolm," Gooney Bird said. "You work on your story, and make it very suspenseful by adding a suddenly in the middle."
Gooney Bird looked around the classroom. All the second-graders had taken out paper and pencils. They were all writing down ideas for their stories.
"And remember my last story, about Catman?" she reminded them. "Has anyone here ever lost a beloved pet?"
Almost every hand went up again. Even Mrs. Pidgeon's.
"Could that be my story, Gooney Bird?" Mrs. Pidgeon said. "I had a parakeet named Brucie, and somehow the door to his cage was left open, and—"
"Next Tuesday," Gooney Bird said. "'How I Lost Brucie.'"
"'And Found Him Again,'" Mrs. Pidgeon said with a happy smile. "My story has a surprise ending."
"Mine will be 'How I Lost Gretchen Guinea Pig,'" Tricia said. "Mine has a sad ending."
"You know what?" Mrs. Pidgeon said, standing up. "It's lunchtime already. Let's skip arithmetic today, class."
The students put the arithmetic books back in their desks. They reached for lunch boxes instead.
Gooney Bird took out a grapefruit, a cucumber, and some dill pickles. "I'm having a completely vegetarian day today," she explained. "But look at this! Dessert! For the whole class!"
She held up a bulky paper bag.
"What is it?" the children asked.
Gooney Bird grinned. "Sixty-three gumballs," she said. "And after I give them out, I am going to teach you all a wonderful whirling dance called the tarantella."
Suddenly Felicia Ann looked up from the floor. "Shouldn't we all hug and kiss first?" she said in a surprisingly loud voice.
"Thank you for suggesting that, Felicia Ann," Gooney Bird replied. "Of course we should." And so they did.