STEAMED HAMS, BUT IT STARS BAMBI AND DOESN'T ACTUALLY HAVE ANY STEAMED HAMS IN IT

AKA "Creamed Cherries"

By Bagel Brain (with apologies to Bill Oakley)

It was a dark and stormy night, but only in the sense that a storm happened just last night. For now, It was another beautiful summer afternoon. The birds were singing, the daffodils were swinging and spiders were eating helplessly trapped flies for breakfast. But that's nature for you-its everything you least expect.

The young prince of the forest, Bambi, a white-tailed fawn, was preparing for a friendly gathering with his lady friend, Faline, likewise a deer. His friend Thumper, a gray, buck-toothed precocious rabbit of roughly half a foot in height and with an attitude inverse proportionate, and Flower, who is merely a skunk, had suggested they do it to help bring Bambi out of his shell, and, despite the hare's reservations about mushy stuff, had promised to help him with it. It was hardly a secret that the two little deer had feelings for each other, so they recommended the shy fawn share a treat with her, as a bonding exercise (Bambi was hesitant to call it a date.) In a patch of grass under some shady trees, Bambi stood, having decided this was the perfect spot to have lunch with her. He was pacing around, anxiously wondering when Faline would arrive.

"I wonder what's taking her so long?" Bambi thought out loud. "I told her how to get here. I hope she didn't lose her way…or get trapped by mountain lions…or worse…" Bambi shuddered at the thought of something, anything, going wrong on this day. The last thing he wanted was to leave a bad impression on her. But he had little time left to ponder, as Faline finally strolled into the area, and it was clear she was not in the flightiest of moods.

"Well Bambi, I made it, but kinda got lost along the way…wish you'd told me there was a briar patch in the ridge…" Faline said with an air of aggravation to her voice, showing a bunch of thorns stuck on her rump.

"Oh, Faline! Uh, glad to see ya!" Bambi said, chuckling nervously. Noticing Faline's plight, he tried to lighten the mood. "I hope you're ready for an unforgettable treat!"

"Yeah, sure…" Faline said as she started plucking out the thorns one by one, and her mood did not inspire much confidence in Bambi. The lunch was already off to a rocky start because of his mistake. But Bambi hoped what he was going to give her would lighten the mood.

As Faline plucked out the last thorns and settled down on the grass, Bambi strolled off to a nearby formation of boulders, where their meal was stashed. He had spent the entire morning scrounging the forest for ripe, juicy blueberries and blackberries for both of them to eat. Thumper and Flower were over there, busy trying to stack the pile of them up on a small, round rock for the two of them.

"Gee whiz, I'm getting hungry looking at this stuff…" Thumper muttered, gazing at the ripe little berries. He felt tempted to sneak one for himself, but the rabbit refrained, knowing better than to try to pilfer off of his best friends hard work. He and Flower then noticed Bambi walking up to them.

"All ready, Bambi!" Thumper and Flower cheerfully quipped, presenting the pile of berries to him.

"Thanks, guys!" Bambi cheerfully smiled at them. "Looks like this lunch is gonna be better than I thought…what could go wrong?"

But unknown to all of them, directly above the rock was a bee's nest resting in a tree hollow, rumbling with the insects. The smell of the ripe, nectar-filled treats starting getting their attention, and a few of them slowly soared down to investigate. While Bambi and Flower were busy talking to each other, Thumper noticed the pests buzzing near his head and was unkeen to their company, or that they were starting to crawl over the food.

"Get your own!" The annoyed Thumper shouted as he fruitlessly swatted at the bees in the air. He flailed around, trying to kick at the bees and stomp them with his giant feet. While doing this, his right foot connected directly with the rock holding the berries. He stubbed his toe doing this, but that was the least of their troubles. The stone flipped over and fell right on top of the berries, smashing them to a sticky pulp. Bambi heard the ruckus and turned away from Flower to see Thumper's accident, and that Thumper is hopping around holding his aching foot. He was quite upset at what he saw, but more about the slopped berries than Thumper's predicament.

"Oh no…" Bambi said with a sad look on his face as he investigated the sticky remains of the fruits of his labor. His ears and head drooped down as he realized his lunch with Faline was ruined.

"All that work for nothing…" Bambi groaned as he started sulking away. Thumper, feeling guilty about what happened, forgot the pain in his toe and rushed up to his friend.

"Aw, don't feel bad Bambi! You can just find something else for you and Faline to eat!" Thumper said, trying to comfort his friend.

"It took me all morning to find those berries! And Faline's over there waiting…" Bambi sighed. Suddenly realizing that Faline could be listening in, Bambi perked up and looked around, hoping she was far enough away to not hear what was going on. He then went back to his moping, turning around and looking ahead beyond a giant log nearby, where he noticed a big meadow ahead. While gazing, something caught his attention. Standing proud and tall in the meadow was a young apple tree, complete with fresh small red apples, shining in the sunlight and swaying in the breeze. And some of them were hanging low enough for him to reach with his mouth. Bambi instantly got an idea.

"But what if…I was to take those apples and disguise them as my berries?" Bambi said as he got an eager grin on his face.

"That'll work great!" Thumper exclaimed. "Bambi, your genius is showing!"

"Where?!" Bambi gasped and looked directly underneath himself, to Thumper's amusement and Flower's perplexity.

After he realized he misunderstood Thumper, Bambi trotted over to the log and began climbing over it to get to the tree. Just as he was getting his right back leg over it, Faline walked up to the rock formation.

"Bambi!" Faline called out, concerned about what was taking the food so long and wondering why he was right on top of a log.

"Oh uh, Faline! I was just, uh…" Bambi, literally caught between a rock and a hard place, quickly came up with a fib. "…stretching my legs on the log! Morning exercise! Gets the heart pumping! Care to join me?" Bambi started flexing his leg against the log to try and support the lie. Unimpressed by what Bambi was doing, Faline looked over to the rock and noticed what was once a pile of berries under it.

"Why is there juice coming out from under that rock, Bambi?" Faline asked. Flower, being the truly honest type, tried to speak for Bambi and explain what happened.

"Well, what happened is…" Flower was quickly interrupted by Thumper, who rushed over and muffled his mouth with his paw. Thumper, trying his best to salvage the situation for Bambi, quickly came up with a humbug.

"We weren't making juice! That's…cream! Cream from the Creamed Berries we're having! Mm mm!" Thumper insincerely spoke as he rubbed his belly with his paw. "Just about ready!"

Bambi was a little embarrassed by Thumper's obvious lie but decided to roll with it if it meant saving the luncheon. "Uh, yeah, what Thumper said!"

To Bambi and Thumper's surprise, Faline apparently took the bait. She rolled her eyes and walked back off to the patch of grass. Bambi blew a sigh of relief, and immediately jumped over the log and raced off to the meadow to retrieve the apples.

"Good luck, Bambi!" Thumper called. Flower then came up to him, clutching his back while looking behind them with an expression of fear on his face.

"Uh, Thumper?" Flower said nervously.

"Whats your problem? I had to lie to help out Bambi!" Thumper asked, clearly annoyed as he pushed the clinging Flower off of him.

"I think we have another problem…Faline isn't the only one who wants lunch…" Flower explained, pointing out that there was now a big congregation of angry bees pouring out of the tree nest and starting to form around them, attracted by the berries and angered by Thumper trying to attack them. Thumper and Flower clutched each other and looked on with fear as they started getting closer...

Minutes later, Bambi arrived back at the grassy spot, bearing a bunch of the apples. He had hastily smashed them up into a pile of juicy pulp on a leaf while doing his best to balance them near his nose. After all, when you don't have fingers, you make do with what you have.

"Faline, I hope you're ready for juicy, mouth-watering apples!" Bambi proclaimed with a smile as he plopped the apples right in front of Faline and settled in.

"I…thought Thumper said we were having Creamed Berries?" Faline asked in a confused manner. Bambi suddenly remembered the lie Thumper told her and tried quickly to conceal his blunder.

"Uh, no. He said Creamed 'Cherries'. That's what I call apples." Bambi lied.

"You call apples Creamed Cherries?" Faline asked, raising her eyebrow at what Bambi was saying.

"Yeah. It's a…forest thing." Bambi spoke off the top of his head.

"Oh…what part of the forest?" Faline asked.

"Somewhere up in Northern Maine," Bambi said, trying his best to keep up with her questions.

"Oh. Well, I'm from there too and never heard anyone call apples Creamed Cherries…" Faline's voice trailed off as she was thinking about what Bambi was assuring her.

"No wait, it wasn't Northern Maine. It was…Southern Maine. It's something my dad told me once. I think he heard it from his mother." Bambi quickly backtracked. His father would be unpleased if he had caught him putting words in his mouth, but the two were alone, so Bambi figured it wouldn't hurt.

"Makes sense to me, I guess." Faline shrugged.

They settled down to munch on the apple pulp together, taking in the cool weather. Bambi felt relieved, believing that after the first questions, Faline would just appreciate the meal and it would be smooth strolling from there. Unfortunately for Bambi, while Faline enjoyed the wholesome food, she became inquisitive about where Bambi got the food.

"You know, these apples are a lot like the ones growing out in the meadow over there." Faline pointed out. Bambi, startled at how astute Faline was, quickly tried to impress her with another fib.

"Eh nope, one of a kind pippin! They only grow near my dad's den…" Going from the frown he saw on her face after saying that, she clearly wasn't buying it.

"For Creamed Cherries," Faline spoke, with a tone that made it clear she was unimpressed.

"…yeah." Bambi sheepishly rolled with it.

"And you call them Creamed Cherries despite that they're just mashed up," Faline said as she looked down at the apples and noticed how, despite Bambi's efforts, the apples still had some thickness to them. They certainly couldn't be described as creamy in texture. Realizing Faline was figuring out his lie, Bambi started stammering and desperately tried to come up with another excuse.

"Eh…um...the thing about that is...I'll be right back!" Bambi got up and ran back behind the rock formation out of Faline's sight. Once he got back there, he caught sight of the swarm of angry bees whirling around Thumper and Flower. The rabbit and skunk were running around aimlessly, now incredibly red and swollen from all the bee stings. Bambi, trying his best to hold everything together, walked back out from the rocks casually towards Faline and faked a big, long yawn, pretending he was tired and hadn't seen the ruckus going on.

"Wasn't that wonderful? I think we both a great time, huh Faline?" Bambi said with a wide, foolish looking grin. In truth, Bambi felt bad about all the lying he was doing but was desperate to not let things go downhill more than they already had.

"Well, I guess so," Faline said as she got up. "Anyway, I think it's time for me to—great Gaia, what's happening over there!" Faline exclaimed as she noticed the increasingly large swarm of bees forming behind the boulders. Faline was about to walk forward and investigate, but Bambi blocked her path and immediately conjured up the biggest fib he could in a last-ditch effort to salvage the so-called bonding exercise. Out of the back of his head, he remembered witnessing a phenomenon of beautiful lights above the forest on some nights in winter (which his father explained to him on another evening while attempting to get him to sleep). The name of it popped right back into his head.

"Uh…Aurora Borealis!" He blurted out. Faline, startled by Bambi's suspicious behavior and audacious claim, finally started losing patience and began grilling Bambi.

"Aurora borealis?! At this time of year? At this time of day? In this part of the forest? And it's going on entirely behind that rock?!" With each rhetorical question, she got closer and closer to Bambi, ending with him being forced up against the boulder and with her angry glare being less than an inch away from his face.

"…yes!" Bambi whimpered. He believed that Faline was finally on to his lies and was ready to ream him out for them, and figured now was just about time to pack it in-he didn't even try to fake a smile by his point, especially since her face was so close to his own.

"...then may I see it?" In the span of a second, Faline's expression suddenly changed from interrogating anger to seemingly sincere inquisitiveness. Bambi, surprised that she believed the lie, stood in stunned silence that certainly wasn't reassuring, with his eyes wide as saucers.

"Uh…maybe later." Bambi quipped, cautious but somewhat relieved. Faline, who was apparently content with Bambi's answer, started walking off, clearly ready to head on home to her mother. Bambi was ready to say goodbye to her but suddenly heard cries coming from the rock formation, his eyes and head darting in its direction.

"Bambi! The bees are all over us!" Thumper wailed as the swarm lifted the hare and flower, who were now so bloated as to be immobile and helpless, into the air and carried them away.

"No Thumper, that's just the Northern Lights!" Bambi called out, remaining calm and feigning ignorance about the situation, praying that Faline somehow missed that vignette. He immediately diverted his attention back to her as she stood nearby. "So…Faline, did you enjoy the lunch?"

"Well Bambi, I've learned a few things about you from it," she said, sounding concerned.

"Oh, what's that?" Bambi asked. He initially believed his troubles were over, but hearing the tone of Faline's voice made him worried he wasn't out of the woods yet, metaphorically speaking.

"Well, the choice of food could have been a bit more inspired. I'm still sore from the thorns from earlier. And it seemed like you had a really big secret to hide the whole time..." Bambi ears and face drooped again, thinking that the date (he had dropped all pretense of it being a bonding exercise by this point) had ultimately gone sour despite all he did. But to his surprise, Faline walked up and her nose connected with his own.

"But with all that said, I must say…you cream a good cherry." After speaking this, she landed a quick kiss on his nose and gave him a sly wink as she strutted off back home with a giggle. Bambi's shocked face was now red as a beet, and he lost his composure and fell limp to the ground, looking skyward. Regardless of the ups and downs, it turned out the lunch was absolutely worth it in the end. But only one thing remained on his mind; did Faline really believe his lies, or was she on to him from the start and rolling with it because she liked him?

"Help! Help!" Thumper and Flower called out. Bambi quickly stood to attention and realized he had a lot of work to do the rest of the day.

"I'm coming, guys!" Bambi called, and ran off in the depths of the forest to help his buddies. Will he ever save his friends? Or will Bambi get the bee's knees himself? Will Faline ever see the Northern Lights? And how can bees be strong enough to carry both a rabbit and skunk in the air? Who knows?

But that's nature for you—its everything you least expect.

FIN