I dreamed up Richard, but Over The Hedge characters and settings are copyright and trademark Dreamworks Animation LLC and M.Fry and T.Lewis. Also, all product placement trademark their respective owners.

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Hammie was on a frantic search from tree to shrub and to tree again. Of course, frantic was the only kind of searching he knew.

"Heather? Hey, Heather!"

As Hammie zipped by a shorter scrub bush to look under a rock too small to possibly hide a possum, Heather emerged from behind the scrub bush, only her head and shoulders visible.

"Hammie? What is it?"

Hammie whirled around. "It's big! I mean, RJ says it's big! I mean...okay, RJ wants to see us all! He says it's something big! C'mon!"

"Sure, Hammie, if you would just give me a second."

"Huh?"

Hammie looked at Heather's frown for a minute, as he heard the soft but distinct sound of running water on leaves.

"Oooohhhh...sorry," Hammie blurted, whirling around and covering his eyes with his paws. Heather giggled at the overdone show of modesty.

A minute later, Heather and Hammie were riding atop Richard, who was heading back for the family grove.

"...at least, RJ seems pretty excited, he was goin' nuts when we volunteered to go find you." Richard was explaining to Heather.

"RJ's usually excited, isn't he?"

Richard chuckled. "You got a point there."

"RJ's really freakin' out, though!" Hammie added. "He's really onto somethin' I think!"

Heather shrugged. "I guess we'll find out."

The threesome arrived at the grove as everyone was just getting together, amidst the usual chatter that took place around this time of evening. Verne was trying to get everyone settled, which reminded them of the old days.

"Okay, everyone here? Are we ready to start?"

"We're ready, Verne," said Stella. "What's goin' on?"

"I admit, I'm not sure," confessed Verne. "RJ wants to announce, probably something unnecessarily dangerous for us to do."

"Jeepers, Verne, I'm sure it's good news," Penny pointed out.

"You're right, I suppose I should give him a chance."

RJ appeared behind a rock facing the others. "Okay, you're probably all wondering why I called you here this evening."

"No! Ya think?" quipped Verne. "No more suspense, RJ. What now?"

"I appreciate the interest, Verne! This is a big proposal I'm gonna lay on you. If we handle it right, I think I can just about guarantee smooth hibernation for the rest of our lives!"

"Sounds super, RJ, just super!" Lou chimed.

"Okay, so what would this everlasting 'smooth hibernation' cost us?" Verne asked skeptically.

"I'll get to that soon enough, Vern-O! First, the perks. We've had a really great year of foraging, haven't we?"

"We sure have," said Bucky around the mouth of a straw he was using to share an orange Crush with Spike and Quillo.

"Yes, the art of this, how you say, 'heisting'? It certainly appeals to me," admitted Tiger. "I actually discovered fish by the new restaurant they constructed. Real fish! I feel so...alive..."

"Well, you folks ain't seen nothin' yet! We are coming into holiday time! That, my friends, is the motherlode!"

"Holiday time?" wondered Ozzie.

"You know it," answered RJ. "Around this time, for about three months, the humans pack away more food than you and I see in two years! That means the gleaming silver cans of treasure will have bonus goods! Just waiting there for us to pick it up, I tell ya! We will wake up next season to GUARANTEED full logs!"

"Hey, that's pretty awesome, alright," admired Richard.

"Cookies? What about cookies?" Hammie cut in.

"Hammie, you will see more cookies than you can shake a log at. All waiting just for you!"

"I'm in! I'm IN!" shrieked Hammie.

"I admit it sounds really great, RJ," said Verne. "I also notice you have yet to share the catch."

"Ah, well, it's simple really--to take advantage of it, we, kinda...havetodelaythehibernation, but after that it's smooth sailing!"

"Wait a minute, wait a minute," exclaimed Verne. "Did you just say we'd have to DELAY hibernation?!"

"Oh, did I? Heh, I guess I did."

The family regarded each other with uncertain looks. RJ rapped the rock with a five iron from the golf bag to get their attention again.

"I repeat, though, think about the score, people! We won't LOSE any sleep, and we'll have even fuller logs than we would have thought possible this time last year! Believe me, it's a small price to pay."

"Do you even have any notion of a small price?" Verne began.

"Verne, you've expressed a desire to explore your wild side a little more, an admirable goal. What better way to do the job than with a whole series of jobs?"

"It sounds like quite a lot of doing, doesn't it?" Penny observed.

"Fear not, friends. The humans are gonna do most of the work for us!" RJ laid a paw on his heart in reverence. "It's the beauty of the season. Now, here's what we do..."