Turkey Time Again
written by Sugarberry

"Um... Sugarberry?"

"What is it, Chocolate Chip?" queried Sugarberry as she flipped the last pancake onto the plate. She and Chocolate Chip were preparing for a leisurely breakfast on this crisp Saturday morning with no job or classes to call them away from their home.

"There are some really big birds out under the bird feeder," Chocolate Chip stated.

Curiously, Sugarberry peaked out the window over Chocolate Chip's shoulder. "Oh, my! They are big, aren't they?"

One of the birds, bronze and rotund, noticed the movement of the ponies in the window and raised his naked head high, his piercing eye honing in on Sugarberry and Chocolate Chip.

Sugarberry gasped. "Why, it's Rex! And Nestor!" She clapped her front hooves together joyously as she had seen Tabby do hundreds of times. "That means it's almost Thanksgiving!"

Slipping off her apron, Sugarberry rushed out the back door to where the turkeys and their brood were clustered. "Rex! Nestor! Welcome back to Dream Valley!"

Rex's tail feathers rose up, spreading into a regal fan shape. "Hi, Sugarberry. It's good to be back."

His mate joined in. "Yes, Sugarberry, we look forward to our annual visit to Ponyland." Rex and Nestor came from beyond the rainbow, but were of a special breed of turkey gifted with being able to talk. Their family came to take haven in Ponyland every Thanksgiving.

Chocolate Chip, who had followed Sugarberry, was looking in awe at the impressive feathered creatures before her. Sugarberry motioned her forward. "This is Chocolate Chip, a college pony at Pony Pride University. Chocolate Chip, these are friends of ours from across the rainbow-- Nestor, Rex, and family."

"Pleased to meet you," grinned Chocolate Chip, feeling rather foolish to be talking to a turkey.

"Friendly the Bushwoolie adopted the turkeys several years ago when their lives were endangered by the Thanksgiving dinner tradition, and they've been returning each year since in search of a safe haven," Sugarberry explained.

Through this introduction, Nestor had been nervously looking about the yard, her sharp eyes searching worriedly for something.

Sugarberry looked questioningly at Rex. "Is something wrong?" she asked, only now sensing a certain aura of uneasiness about the turkey's manner.

Nestor glanced quickly at Rex, and then responded, "One of our chicks was missing when we woke up this morning."

"We roosted in the big maple tree in your yard," supplied Rex.

"And Little Turk was gone from the branch next to us when we woke up. We thought he had just gone exploring, but he hasn't come back yet." Nestor's eyes once more swept the fringe of bushes edging Sugarberry's property.

Putting a wing across Nestor's back, Rex tried to comfort his distraught mate. "He probably ran into Friendly, or came across a scene to sketch," he consoled. "Little Turk has an artistic talent," explained Rex aside to Sugarberry and Chocolate Chip.

"But he never has stayed away this long," fretted Nestor, worrying as only a mother can.

"Well, we really should gather up a search party, just to be on the safe side," suggested Sugarberry. "Chocolate Chip, you and the turkeys help yourself to the pancake breakfast while I make some phone calls."

Please, Tabby, don't be asleep, thought Sugarberry as she dialed Tabby's number. But, to Sugarberry's relief, the phone was answered on the second ring.

"Tabby, it's me, Sugarberry."

"Your grammar is slipping, Sug. You should say, ‘It's I.' Miss Hackney made me write that five hundred times when I failed that one English test, remember? I'll never..."

"Tabby!" interrupted Sugarberry. "This is serious! Rex and Nestor and family are here!"

"The talking turkeys? And messing up your yard, eh?"

"Actually, they are in the kitchen right now having breakfast with Chocolate Chip. But that's beside the point. One of their chicks is missing and we need to get together a search party."

"A missing turkey? For Pete's sake! You expect me to beat the bushes for a missing turkey?"

"Yes, and call Thomas for help, too. He will do anything for you," bribed Sugarberry. "I've got to call some more ponies, so just meet at my house. See ya!"

Sugarberry hung up before Tabby could come up with an excuse not to help, and dialed Vanguard's number.

Before Vanguard could even say hello, Sugarberry dove in to her request. "One of the babies is lost and we need a search party. Go by the dorms and get as many ponies as you can, okay? Meet at my house."

Ready for any emergency, Vanguard took it in stride. If it was this important to Sugarberry, he'd give it his all. "I'm out the door now," Sugarberry heard over the line, and she sighed in satisfaction. Now Vanguard could take over the search operation.

After calling Quarterback and Tex, Sugarberry made one more call to the Bushwoolie holes and alerted the energetic bundles of fur about the emergency. They would begin a search from their place, and head toward Sugarberry's house.

Sugarberry returned to the kitchen where Chocolate Chip and the turkeys had been joined by Tabby. Thomas soon appeared at the door and made the acquaintances of the feathered family and learned of their connection to Ponyland. Tamara slunk in looking recently awakened and rather skeptical of the entire situation. After gulping down a cold pancake and a not-so-cold cup of coffee, Sugarberry suggested that they wait for the rest of the search party outside.

Everyone arrived at the same time, Vanguard bringing a group of ten college ponies he'd commandeered from their respective dorms-- Prime, Current, Gene, Flowerburst, Vector, Digger, Dainty, Cosmic, and Sparky. Quarterback and Tex seemed to have met-up somewhere along the way, and were heatedly discussing the odds of tomorrow's football game being a complete victory for the green and gold. Seeing Tamara, however, Tex abandoned football for the pony of his dreams. Tamara, for her part, frantically tried to comb the tangles out of her mane with her hoof.

"Don't worry," Tabby said absentmindedly. "Love's blind, remember?"

"Who's missing?" queried Vanguard as he approached Sugarberry. "Not one of the newborns, I hope?"

"You didn't even find out who you were looking for before you gathered everyone up?" Tabby said, horrified. "Love is blind, isn't it?"

"Well, not exactly one of the newborns," confessed Sugarberry. "It's one of Rex and Nestor's little ones." She extended her foreleg to where the worried parents stood, surrounded by the eight other chicks from this years brood.

Vanguard's eyebrows rose. "We are searching for a baby turkey?"

"Don't be so blind next time," Tabby suggested. "This is what it gets you."

"It's Little Turk," continued Sugarberry, quickly explaining the plight of these sojourners in the safety of Ponyland.

"Well, a baby is a baby no matter whom he belongs to," philosophized Vanguard.

"Which means this turkey is still a brat," Tabby muttered under her breath.

"Let's break up into groups, and spread out in all directions from Sugarberry's house," Vanguard continued. "Tamara, you stay here to coordinate the group's efforts. And Nestor, you stay with Tamara in case Little Turk finds his own way back." Vanguard's heart was softened as a giant tear dropped from Nestor's eye into the fallen leaves on the ground. "If not, we will find the little one for you and bring him safely here."

Thomas, Tex, Quarterback, and Vanguard each headed a group of ponies that went out north, south, east, and west of Sugarberry's house. They spread out to cover as much area as possible.

"All these fallen leaves are going to complicate matters," worried Vanguard as his group started out. "Little Turk could easily be hidden by them if he decided to sit and rest."

Sugarberry shook her head. "We've got to find him, for Nestor's sake as well as his own." She grimly thought of Nestor's sad face.

Rex's sharp eyes spanned left and right, up and down, constantly checking for any sign of his young son.

Cosmic and Digger, the other two members of Vanguard's group, took their quest seriously, and silently and carefully searched the landscape. Cosmic heard a rustle behind a fence, but it was only a wild rabbit scampering towards home.

"I wonder if anyone else is having better luck than us?" Sugarberry queried.

* * *

Meanwhile, in the backyard of the Falling Leaves family, Baby Falling Leaves stood guard at the opening of an enclosure made of heaps of orange, yellow, red, and brown leaves that had dropped from the canopy of tall maples, oaks, and poplars in her parents' backyard. "Now, you stay put while I got eat my cookies and milk," the autumn-colored baby pony commanded.

As Baby Falling Leaves turned towards the house, the object of her attention let out a serious of noises that sounded strangely like gobbles. The missing chick was imprisoned in a leaf-strewn jail, fettered to a poplar tree with a jump rope.

Little Turk's irate turkey talk went unheeded as Baby Falling Leaves disappeared into the house. Frustrated, Little Turk dropped to the ground. But letteing his anger fuel his energy, he used his beak to loosen the knot that held him prisoner. His efforts got him nowhere.

Next, he walked to the extent the jump rope allowed him and tried pulling as hard as he could but only succeeded in cutting the rope into his leg. He strained against his confinement one more time, then sank exhaustedly into the dried leaves. He laid his head against his back, and sighed deeply. "If only I hadn't tried to find that beautiful tree I'd seen," he said to himself.

He thought back to daybreak when he had been roosting by his mom on the branch of the maple. The first morning light had struck the orange and yellow leaves of a huge tree far in the distance, backed by the intense stark shapes of some equally tall evergreens. He had fluttered down from the branch and trekked off in the direction of the forest.

From deep in his thoughts, Little Turk shuddered. His life until now had always been easy and carefree. He'd never understood the worrying his parents did over him and his siblings. But now he understood. There was evil in the world.

Little Turk had walked and walked, always keeping the giant tree in sight, but it never seemed to get any closer. When he realized that he had gone quite a long distance away from the roosting tree, he was hopelessly lost. It was then that evil had struck.

The caramel-colored baby pegasus had appeared seemingly from nowhere. Little Turk realized, looking back, that his guard was down at that moment, trying as he was to get his bearings on which way to get to his family. If his mind had been concentrating on any signals of danger, he would have seen the baby pony long before the pony would have been a problem.

But as it was, the baby pony had taken Little Turk by surprise, and scooped him up before he knew what was happening. Little Turk had struggled to escape, but the sharp little hooves had pressed hard into his wings and body until he felt he would burst. He had stopped struggling only to prevent damage to his wings or legs; that would have been a serious problem. He rationalized that if he couldn't escape by physical means, maybe he could eventually outsmart the baby pony and make his get-away.

Little Turk, exhausted by his struggling and his anguish, soon closed his eyes and fell fast asleep.

* * *

"This way! This way!" urged Friendly, the helpful blue Bushwoolie.

"Yeah, yeah, gotta be this way!" assented Cheery in a not-too-cheery tone of voice. He was worried about the lost turkey.

Eager and Wishful added their agreement. "Yeah! Yeah! This way, yeah!"

"Find turkey, yeah! This way!" chimed in Chumster and Hugster.

"Listen, yeah," said Friendly, cocking his head to catch every sound. "Someone talking, yeah."

"Yeah! Someone talking, yeah, yeah!" the other Bushwoolies agreed. They all listened carefully, and heard a baby pony's voice saying, "Wake up, you silly little thing."

The Bushwoolies headed in the direction of the voice, but mainly succeeded in bumping into one another. However, as they got closer, Friendly held up his hand, signaling for the others to stop. This caused a pile-up of Bushwoolies as the other four behind Eager didn't stop walking when he did.

After straightening themselves up again, the Bushwoolies could tell that the voice was coming from behind a wall of leaves. The Bushwoolies strained to hear what was going on. They heard the baby pony say to someone unseen, "Me want your feather!" This was followed by the violent rustling of leaves and a feverish "gobble-gobble".

"Little turkey with baby pony, yeah, yeah!" exclaimed Eager.

"Yeah, yeah!" added Hugster in a panic. "Baby pony hurt turkey, yeah!"

"Yeah, yeah, hurt! What we do?" asked a distraught Wishful.

"That way! This way! Yeah, that way!" Pandemonium broke out then between the six Bushwoolies, and each one started running around in circles in opposite directions. After most of them had been knocked down on the ground, they became aware of more voices behind them. They sat up to see a group of ponies obviously searching through the underbrush for the little turkey.

Once again, confusion broke out as all six of the Bushwoolies made a mad scramble towards the ponies. They ended up in a disarranged heap at Tabby's hooves.

"Oh, dear," was all Tabby said as she stared down at the furry mass.

Friendly immediately started spouting off information. "Baby pony hurt baby turkey, yeah, yeah!" He spread his arms wide in alarm.

"Yeah, feathers, yeah!" the other five echoed.

"I should have known it was a baby pony," Tabby said, shaking her head. "Now, it's not like I'm making a big deal out of this turkey scenario, but-- WHERE IS THE BRAT, SO I CAN GIVE HER A PIECE OF MY MIND, HUH?"

Thomas restrained Tabby as he questioned Friendly. "Did you see Little Turk? Who is the baby pony?"

Friendly only shook his head. "Didn't see, only heard, yeah, yeah." He pointed to the wall of leaves in the distance.

Tabby stormed off in that direction, with Thomas, Vector, Dainty, and the Bushwoolies following. From the area of confinement came the unmistakable sound of baby turkey gobbles.

* * *

Little Turk had slept peacefully, considering the predicament he was in. He was dreaming of jousting with his brothers when he realized that someone or something was poking him with a stick. "Wake up, you silly little thing."

Little Turk raised his head and jumped to his feet, running several feet before his fetters stopped him in his tracks. Reality rushed back to him.

"Me want your feather," explained Baby Falling Leaves as she approached Little Turk and plucked a tail feather from him.

"Gobble, gobble."

"Me want to be Indian," explained Baby Falling Leaves as she worked the turkey feather into her own tail. "Need another," she continued as she grabbed a second feather from his once proud tail.

"All right, creep, I've been informed that you're the one performing various acts of injustice?" Baby Falling Leaves stood, stunned, as Tabby posed menacingly before her. The last stolen feather was still clutched in the baby pony's hoof.

Following Tabby came the others, the Bushwoolies babbling amongst themselves. "Baby pony, feathers, yeah. Yeah, bad. Hurt turkey. Yeah. Poor baby turkey. Yeah, poor, poor baby turkey."

Baby Falling Leaves took a step backwards. "MOMMY!" she shrieked.

Tabby marched up to the bewildered baby pony. "As I was saying, it's apparent that you're the one responsible for the senseless concern over this lost turkey, and the possibility that I may miss today's new Pokèmon episode. What have you to say for yourself?"

"I... I caught him," Baby Falling Leaves stuttered. She took another step backwards, and fell into the pile of leaves.

Tabby continued on. "Yes, we already realized that. However, the fact of the matter is... the fact of the matter is..." She paused. "Beyond this senseless disturbance in my day, the fact of the matter is..."

Thomas moved past Tabby and extended a hoof to Baby Falling Leaves to help her to stand. "There, little lady. Now run get your mom and dad while we check over your prisoner."

Baby Falling Leaves gratefully scampered away from her playtime gone bad, and had no sooner reached the door when her parents emerged from the house.

"Darling, what's all the fuss about out here?" They eyed the yard full of ponies and Bushwoolies with alarm.

"Me not know," declared Baby Falling Leaves. "Me scared," she added as she ducked behind her dad's protective bulk.

"She sounds just like a Furby," Tabby said thoughtfully as she and Thomas inspected Little Turk. Feeling much more confident now that friendly troops had arrived, he was strutting back and forth as much as his fetter allowed, boldly flaunting his fan tail with all the pride he could muster. The ponies had to smile, for a young turkey's tail doesn't amount to much, especially with the gaps incurred from Baby Falling Leaves snitching of the feathers.

"Well, young fellow," greeted Thomas as he reached down to untie the rope from around the turkey's legs, "your parents are going to be glad to see you again."

Once free, Little Turk spread out his wings and flapped them several times before settling his feathers neatly in place. He gobbled a grateful response.

Dainty and Friendly had explained the situation to Mommy and Daddy Falling Leaves who, in turn, had suggested to Baby Falling Leaves that she better have a good explanation. They now approached Tabby and Thomas, who were accompanying Little Turk from the leafy enclosure under the trees.

"Sorry to bother you, but this little guy is sorely missed by his family," Thomas began.

"Not to mention simply ‘sore'," Tabby added., referring to his abrased ankle where the rope had rubbed. She scowled at Baby Falling Leaves who was peering apprehensively from between her parents.

"Baby Falling Leaves," her father asked, "why did you tie-up and take feathers from Little Turk?"

Baby Falling Leaves hung her head. "It be fun," she said miserably. "But it no fun no more."

"Don't you think you should apologize?"

The baby pony looked up to see Little Turk preening as he waited; he caught her stare, and lifted his head high, his bright eyes fixed intently on Baby Falling Leaves. Somehow, she didn't seem so ominous to him now that he was surrounded by allies.

"Me sorry, Li'l Turk," sputtered Baby Falling Leaves.

"Gobble, gobble," came the reply.

"Maybe a hug would be appropriate," suggested Mommy Falling Leaves as she nudged her daughter closer to the turkey.

But the arrival of Vanguard and Sugarberry's group of searchers interrupted the peace-making. Rex was radiant with joy to see his son, safe if not a bit tattered. It was a happy reunion.

"Happy ending, yeah, yeah," commented Friendly.

"Very, yeah," added Eager.

"Yeah, yeah!" chorused Chumster and Hugster.

"This is what I like to see," sighed Sugarberry. "Everything turns out in the end."

"But remember, none of this would have happened if it hadn't been for this obnoxious baby pony here," Tabby reminded.

"Why did you go so far away from your folks?" Vanguard asked of Little Turk.

Little Turk spilled out the story of his search for the perfect autumn tree.

"Sounds like you were heading for that giant maple tree at the edge of the Dark Forest," figured Vector.

"Which means Baby Falling Leaves might have done you a favor," continued Vanguard. "The Dark Forest has more than its share of evil."

"Ha! You haven't seen half the evil of the Dark Forest that I have," Tabby said loftily.

Sugarberry shuddered to think of what might have happened if Little Turk had succeeded in reaching his goal.

"I'm just glad that we've gotten Little Turk back," Rex said. "And I want to thank everyone who helped regain him. But right now, I'd like to get him back to his mother so she can stop worrying.

"Oh, yes!" agreed Sugarberry. "We must hurry home."

On the way back to Sugarberry's house, the group met up with Quarterback and Tex and their scouts, so it was quite a gathering that presented Little Turk to Nestor, who, with tears of relief and gratitude, engulfed her son in a motherly bear hug.

"Aw, isn't that sweet!" sniffed Chocolate Chip. She thought of her own mom and dad back in Neighberry, and wondered if they ever missed her at all.

Quarterback broke the sentimental journey with a more personal concern. "I haven't had breakfast yet, and it's nearly noon!"

"Me hungry, yeah, yeah," agreed a chorus of Bushwoolie voices.

"Tabby, what are we going to do?" worried Sugarberry. "I don't have enough food for everyone!"

"Eh, you expect me to help with food? This was your party, Sug!" came Tabby's unconcerned reply from her perch on the porch railing next to several of Nestor and Rex's chicks. "They are rather cute, don't you think?"

It was Tex who saved the say. "Everyone's invited to the salsa shop for brunch! It's on me!" Everyone cheered, excluding Tabby. "I could use some help in the kitchen, though," he added quickly.

Sugarberry, Vanguard, Flowerburst, and Sparky readily volunteered their culinary assistance, and the merry crew paraded down the street toward Tex's Salsa Shop.

"Not the leisurely Saturday we planned on, is it?" Sugarberry whispered to Chocolate Chip when the opportunity arose.

"Not a bit," replied Chocolate Chip. "It's a whole lot better!"

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