Walking into the gymnasium where they have physical education class. Darla, Lolo and Isigangi are excited to hear that they will be participating in the upcoming Cross Country event. This Cross Country will be the largest one yet, with all surrounding schools participating and competing against each other. Lolo is thrilled to see all that’s entailed in this Cross Country, meanwhile, Darla and Isigangi are a bit more apprehensive about this event.
While stretching on the track and field before the Cross Country training begins. “Did you see the trophy cabinet in the school library?” Darla says, “The winner of the last Cross Country won a plate of real gold!” All it took was the mention of gold to get both Lolo and Isigangi’s attention. Isigangi daydreams of his winnings: all the things he will purchase and activities he will be able to do with that gold teeth stash. He is so lost in his daydream he doesn't see the log on the track. Lolo yells out to him, “Look out, Isigangi!”
Stretch time is over and the practice has begun. The sports trainer advised that they all practice endurance and learning to pace their energy as this is a long race. Lolo is already in his element, he is skipping, running backward, and practicing his high jump. Meanwhile, Darla and Isigangi are already tired after the first lap around the track.
Midway through the second lap, Isigangi spots something that looks rather odd in the center of the track. As they get closer he realizes that it is just an acorn that must have dropped from the trees along the track.
The school bell rings and they are relieved, as it has been a long and tiring day of training. On the walk back to the school gymnasium Isigangi turns back to look again at the track and sees that acorn on the track. He doesn't believe his eyes, as he looks and notices that the acorn has expanded in size.
Before heading for the school bus, Isigangi manages to make a quick detour to the library to see for himself the trophy cabinet Darla was talking to him and Lolo about. His jaw drops when he sees the size of the gold plate and realizes all the gold teeth he can get made out of that one plate. In his mind, he's already got a plan for these gold teeth, from the treats he will buy to the ideal summer break bike he already saw in the bike store window.
But he also remembers the sports trainer saying that this year's Cross Country event is a lot more challenging than previous years.
The Cross Country event is about to begin. The track and field are packed with students, coaches, and a strong sense of excitement and nerves. Darla is nervously looking at this track and realizing it is a lot more extensive than she expected. Lolo is excitedly stretching and warming up his body. Isigangi on the other hand is a mixture of excitement and nerves. He has his own plan to figure out his own faster route.
The track is outlined for each participant on a large board. They each closely examine the markings, which are a black and white striped box with a red flag on top. Darla points out these are the markings the participants must look out for to be certain they are heading in the right direction, while also keeping an eye out for any slippery and dangerous spots. There are tables with water and energy drinks along the way, at specific pit stops.
While studying the board Isigangi and Lolo are already trying to spot where the obstacles could be. Isigangi smirks, as he has now conceived what he thinks will be a quicker route.
The air horn blasts and the race has begun. Isigangi spots a shortcut and off he goes. Lolo is ahead of Isigangi and Darla, he turns back to spot them when he is shocked to not see either of them.
Darla noticed Isigangi going off the path with the markings. She decided for his safety and her own curiosity, it is best she follows after him, and heads down the rocky path.
Before even realizing how large some of these rocks are, Darla trips and lands on her hands and knees.
She is struggling to pick herself back up when she notices that these rocks aren’t like normal rocks. They are soft, mushy and have a sticky texture.
Isigangi turns back to warn Darla about the mushy rocks, but it’s too late. Darla’s feet are covered in the sticky texture from the rocks causing her to struggle to lift her feet over the branches that have fallen on the ground.
Isigangi decides to turn back to help Darla, but before he can get to helping her he finds himself caught in a prickly situation. The fallen branches aren’t as they seem, as they are beginning to move around him, preventing him from getting to Darla’s aid.
Lolo reaches the second pit stop and is now finding it strange that he hasn’t been able to spot Isigangi and Darla. He decides at the next pit stop he will stop and wait for them.
But before he can make it to that next pit stop, he notices there is something unusual about this course. They have been endlessly running but there seems to be no finish line insight. Lolo goes off course and heads down a rocky route that he reckons might be a bit more challenging, but a shorter route.
As Lolo runs down the rocky route he sees ahead what looks like an acorn, when he gets closer he notices this isn’t any ordinary acorn as this one seems to be moving and leaking a liquid substance.
Lolo jumps over the acorn when he feels something slimy on his legs followed by a raging itch all over his legs.
Darla hears a noise in the bushes and begins calling out for help.
Lolo is now running even faster trying to get to Darla’s aid. He realizes he needs to make it up one of these trees so he can see exactly where Darla is.
Lolo puts his super strength and unthinkable climbing abilities to the test. He stops and looks up to see if he can make it up one of the tallest trees he has ever seen. He takes a deep breath before taking one of the largest jumps of his life!
He grabs onto the branch and swings his body over to lay flat.
He sighs with relief and processes the shocked that he made it onto the highest branch of the tree.
He looks down and sees Isigangi being entangled by the vine-like branches and Darla trying to pull Isigangi loose.
Lolo swings from branch to branch yelling out that he is coming. Lolo spots a safe place to land that is near Isigangi and Darla but a safe distance from the vines.
Lolo jumps down and begins pulling the vines on the opposite side of Darla, creating a resistance causing the vines to loosen their hold of Isigangi.
Isigangi shakes off the vines and is relieved to be set free. Isigangi doesn’t even take a breath before yelling out they better hurry as they have fallen far behind. Darla looks at Lolo and chuckles, meanwhile, she is trying to catch her breath. Lolo warns both Isigangi and Darla how nothing on this route is as it seems and they must be very cautious.
Darla notices the rash on Lolo’s legs and asks him what happened, he then explained to her about the acorn and the spray. Darla looks closer at the rash and notices that the rash on Lolo is a poison ivy reaction, but what she doesn’t understand is how that got on him from an acorn. There is no time to investigate, they must simply try to make it to the next pit stop and get back on the correct route.
They journey on and finally spot a pit stop sign, that brings instant relief and peace of mind. They are all parched and in desperate need of an energy boost. As they approach the pit stop, they pass a sign
“Closer than you know, the winner gets it all!”.
This was the motivation they needed to make it all the way. Isigangi now realizes that this is his time to make it to the finish line first.
He manages to sneak off while Lolo and Darla are finishing off their water. Down the marked route, he goes at full speed but before he can get a good enough lead on Darla and Lolo, he can already hear Darla’s voice.
He turns back and spots them, but before they can spot him he has managed to move some of the markings, in the hopes it will reroute them and slow them down.
He camouflages himself into one of the markings that point in the direction the participants need to go. Darla and Lolo pass him.
Isigangi returns back to the track with the finish line in sight. He sprints. But then starts to feel a wetness on his legs. It swells to a burning itch. He looks back and spots the same acorn creature he had seen before!
Lolo and Darla can see the finish line and wonder where Isigangi is. Lolo says, “Isigangi is probably already swimming in his gold.” Darla chuckles and turns back only to spot Isigangi on the ground. She yells out, “Lolo! Stop and follow me!”
They make it to Isigangi asking him what’s wrong when Lolo realizes he too has been sprayed by the acorn! Darla and Lolo help him up.
With both Isigangi and Lolo scratching their itchy legs they manage to make it to the finish line all at the same time.
Isigangi instantly starts wanting his trophy plate and bragging about his stash of gold teeth, when the coach and all the other students appear wondering what happened to them. As they missed the trophy being awarded to the winner.
They then realized they ended up taking the longest route having to tackle the obstacles they were meant to avoid. Darla, Lolo, and Isigangi looked at each other and bursted out laughing.
Darla and Lolo are waiting at the bus stop outside the school wondering where Isigangi is. Darla remembers him mentioning the library and tells Lolo they should be able to make it there and back to the bus stop before the bus leaves.
As they enter the library they instantly hear Isigangi chuckling at a high pitch, they follow the direction of the noise and they too begin to chuckle when they see Isigangi starring at the trophy cabinet.
Darla calls out to Isigangi telling him they must rush for the bus, he turns to both Lolo and Darla and is shocked to realize it was all a dream.
As they run for the bus, Isigangi says to Lolo and Darla that he thinks it will be best if they all work together on the race, as there is power in numbers. Darla agrees but Lolo says “Yes, but only if you both can keep up!”
Brand: The Animals Observatory
Day One - Top: Pale Blue Hippa T-Shirt
Bottom: Pale Blue Spider Short
Day Two - Top: White Rooster T-Shirt
Bottom: Red Clam Short
Brand: The Animals Observatory
Day One - Top: Pink Kangaroo Shirt
Bottom: Flower Hedgehog Short
Day Two - Outfit: Striped Koala Jumpsuit
Brand: The Animals Observatory
Day One - Top: Red Striped Dear T-shirt
Bottom: Blue Poodle Short
Day Two - Top: Purple Squab Sweatshirt
Bottom: Purple Spider Short
Series I - Short Story #3 of the Lolo& Darla short stories series.