"Love, Thneeds, and Other Shady Business Deals"
"Barty! I'm home!" Norma called out cheerfully as she entered the apartment, the maniac grin still plastered upon her face.
"Kitcheeeeeeeeeeeeen!" she heard her flatmate sing out from within.
"Bartholomew Cubbins," Norma shook her head as she followed the voice coming from the kitchen. "What are you cooking this time?"
"Linner," Bartholomew said matter-of-factly, grinning like a loon as he stirred the pot of soup on the stove.
Norma rolled her eyes with an affectionate scoff.
"So…" Barty continued, tossing a variety of spices into the pot. "how did it go?"
"How do you think it went?"
"You didn't punch him, did you?" Barty inquired casually.
"No. I did not." Norma stated pointedly. "Not yet, anyway…"
"You know, I saw the live feed on television," Barty said, letting a small portion of his repressed British accent slip out; not even looking up from the soup.
"Uh-huh…" Norma murmured, absentmindedly toying with the centrepiece of flowers.
"That Once-ler bloke is one attractive man."
If Norma had been drinking something, she would have spat it three feet across the room.
"Is he?" Norma rolled her eyes. "I, ah…I hadn't noticed."
"Mm-hm," Bartholomew said, his knowing smirk clearly indicating that he didn't believe her.
Norma chose to ignore his snideness and watched in silence as her flatmate proceeded to hurl random food articles into the pot of hot soup.
"Barty," Norma said, "what kind of soup is this supposed to be exactly?"
"Surprise soup," Barty replied, beaming.
"Yeah," Norma said flatly, "I noticed."
"Oh, hush," Barty scoffed, waving his chartreuse scarf at her where it was draped about his neck before returning to the various condiments.
Norma just smirked.
"So," Bartholomew went on, "what exactly do you plan to do about the trees?"
"Oh, I have a plan," Norma leaned forward slightly. "And it's going to knock Mr. Once-ler's socks off."
"If indeed he wears socks," Barty pointed out, then quickly shut up after a glare from Norma.
"You get my point," Norma said with another eye roll.
"Yes, yes, yes," Barty said, sounding vacant as he dumped an entire jar of oregano into the pot.
"Barty…" Norma chided her flatmate.
"I am listening!" Barty tossed the now-empty jar onto the counter with a spectacular crash.
Heaving a sigh, he removed his hat from his head and began fanning himself with it, revealing his unruly curls of flaxen blonde hair.
Bartholomew had an affinity for very outlandish hats. At the moment, he was sporting an eye-catching scarlet number with a long, curly purple feather protruding from it.
Much more subtle than his usual style.
"And what exactly does this plan of yours entail, Norma, my sweet?" Barty added. "Coerce information out of him with your feminine wiles?"
Norma gave him the eye roll-glare combination of the century.
"Please," she said incredulously.
"Merely a jest," Barty amended, placing his hat back on his head with a flourish. "Forgive me for recognizing the chap's handsomeness."
"Would you stop?!" Norma threw her hands in the air.
Barty nearly fell over laughing.
"Your goat is far too easy to get, my dear," he chortled as Norma leaned back in her chair with a sigh.
"Would you please focus?!" Norma snapped.
"My apologies," Barty said. "You were saying?"
"Trust me, Barty," Norma said, a smug smile on her face. "Once I'm through with him, Jolly Old Mr. Once-ler will be running for the hills, and taking his Thneeds with him, leaving the Truffulas blissfully alone."
"Oh, ho, ho, ho," Barty chuckled. "You are so devious, darling."
"Thank you," Norma said with a grin. "By the way, your soup's burning."
"GOOD SWEET CHARLIE!" Barty shrieked as he hurriedly turned off the stove, pulled on a pair of floral oven mitts and removed the pot from the stove, blowing on it furiously.
Norma sighed, removed her glasses and started polishing them. This was a scene that she had long since grown accustomed to.
Worst came to worst, Barty would start singing Italian opera.
"Is the soup still alive, Figaro?" Norma called to him, still rubbing the lenses of her glasses on the hem of her blouse.
"Clinging to life, dear," Barty hollered back lightly. "I'll handle it."
In saying so, he seized a ladle and started quite literally stabbing the soup with it.
Norma groaned. Goodness only knew how long this would go on.
Putting her glasses back on, Norma got up from the table and started heading toward the stairs.
"Let me know when the soup's done, Barty," she called over her shoulder as she headed up the stairs.
Barty's only response was a "Have at you!" from the kitchen followed by a great deal of clanging.
Norma chose to ignore it and continued upstairs.
Once she reached the top, she walked past the door to her room and pushed open the door to the balcony, taking in a deep breath of fresh air.
She had been thinking about her father lately.
No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't keep the nostalgia from her mind.
Norma thought about the days when she was very young, and she and her father would go out and plant a tree together, for no reason at all.
"Always remember, Norma," her father had told her. "Trees are incredibly important to our world. Without trees, nothing on Earth can survive."
Norma sighed and leaned against the railing of the balcony, letting her eyes slip shut.
She had been a small child when her father passed away. Ever since then, she had sworn to herself that she would do everything in her power to advocate for the trees, the way her father would have.
No matter who or what threatened them...
"Lousy Once-ler…" Norma muttered, opening her eyes again as her hands tightened into fists; almost involuntarily.
Who did he think he was, anyway? Barging into the valley like he owned the place with his irritating enthusiasm and his big blue eyes and using those precious trees for his convoluted invention?
Norma gave a huff and leaned against the railing, staring out at the horizon as the setting sun cast warm colors across the sky.
Let him have his fun for now… she thought. While he can…
"AAAA CENAAAAAAAAAAR TEEEEEECOOOOOO M'INVATAAAAAASTIIIIIIII!"
"Not again…" Norma groaned.
Despite the fact that he was now a successful corporate billionaire, the Once-ler could not help but still be dead terrified of his mother.
At the moment, the blonde, bespectacled woman was sitting on a bench in the lobby of the factory, filing her nails while Chet and Brett groomed her new fur wrap.
"You were sayin', Oncie?" she asked, without looking up from her nails.
"Ah…yeah…the thing is…Mom," the Once-ler gulped. "That, uh…there's kind of…a little…problem."
His mother raised a pencilled eyebrow.
"What sort of problem?"
The Once-ler sighed heavily.
"There's this girl…" he explained. "Apparently she's some sort of…environmentalist, or something."
The woman's gaze grew more incredulous.
"And that means…?"
"She has a problem with the trees being cut down," the Once-ler clarified, straightening his jacket slightly.
His mother simply rolled her eyes.
"And why does that matter?" she asked, somewhat flatly.
The Once-ler took a deep breath.
"Well…she, ah…kind of threatened to destroy my company…and me along with it."
He raised his eyes heavenward and braced himself for the worst.
"Oncie," his mother said, putting down her nail file and turning to look at him.
He turned his gaze back to her, holding his breath.
"You're successful now, son," His mother leaned forward slightly. "You've got a company to run. You can't just let some tree-huggin', tea bag-reusin', cardboard-collectin', tofu-eatin', paper-over-plastic environmentalist hippie tell ya how to run your business! You've got to do what's best for the company!"
The Once-ler breathed a quiet sigh, contemplating her words.
"I guess you're right," he conceded.
"Of course I am," she responded, beaming. "Aren't I always?"
"Yeah, of course…"
"That's my boy."
"It'll be okay, Pipsqueak," the Lorax told the small Barbaloot, placing a paw comfortingly on his shoulder. "It'll be okay."
The small, orange, furry, moustachioed creature stood with Pipsqueak, Ralph and a handful of Humming Fish on one corner of the valley.
He had really thought that the beanpole would keep his promise.
"Humans," he muttered under his breath.
The Lorax glanced over his shoulder, turning away from the sight of the Axe-Hackers laying waste to the once glorious Truffula trees.
In doing so, the creature's eye was caught by a human girl trudging up the hill toward the Thneed factory.
She was of pretty average height, with wavy brown hair that curled in places and hung down past her shoulders. She wore round spectacles, as well as gray capri pants, red flip-flops, and a white T-shirt with a pink Truffula tree emblazoned across it.
The Lorax perked up.
"Hey…" he said, partially to himself. "I think I might have just found some help."
The confused woodland animals watched as the Lorax bounded over to the top of the hill and intercepted the girl.
The girl stopped walking in surprise.
"Oh!" she said, noticing him. "Hey…I don't think I've ever seen you around here before."
"Nah, you wouldn't have," the Lorax responded. "But then again, I could say the same about you."
"Fair enough," the girl replied. "So, what do you call yourself, mister….orange…talking…furry thing?"
"I'm the Lorax; guardian of the forest. I speak for the trees."
The girl's brown eyes lit up.
"Well, I'm Norma Wallace," she introduced herself. "I guess you could say that I speak for the trees, too."
"So I noticed." The Lorax pointed out her shirt. "Which is why I think we'd make a pretty good team."
"But if you're the guardian of the forest, don't you have any magical powers to stop them from cutting down the trees?"
"It doesn't work that way."
Norma pondered this for a moment. Then she grinned.
"I guess what you're saying is…you need me."
"Well, yeah." The Lorax gestured to the forest animals that were congregating around them. "We all do."
Norma glanced around at the animals; at the pleading eyes of the Barbaloots, Swomee Swans, and Humming Fish, before looking back to the Lorax.
"I know," she told him. "And that's why I'm going to help you guys."
The animals all glanced at each other excitedly.
"We're counting on you, Norma," the Lorax told her before extending a paw to shake. "Whaddaya say? Partners?"
Norma stooped to shake the furry creature's paw.