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ALL AT ONCE COVER PICTURE by MentallyIncorrect

Part 16: An unexpected turn

“May I use your cell?” Nina asked. It was lunchtime.
“Uhm…but only for a second!” Patsy answered hesitating.
“What are you doing?” the mongoose asked.
“Texting Clam, of course!” She retorted “It’s luckily his cell number is so easy to remember.”
“Done!” Nina said after a few seconds “I asked him if he wants to meet.”
“Do you think that’s a good idea?” Patsy asked a bit warily.
“I don’t care!” the giraffe responded snappish “Now more than ever! She’s not considered of me either!”
At the flat share:
Clam pulled his phone out.
“Who is it Clam?” Lazlo asked.
“Oh please Lazlo! Like we didn’t know already!” Raj interposed sharply.
“Nina wants to meet.” Clam answered.
“It looks like Clam has again got something better to do than waste his time with us Lazlo!”
The elephant said provokingly.
“Maybe Raj is jealous??” Clam riposted.
“Ha!” Raj burst out derisively “Would you please tell Clam, that I can perfectly do without befriending my enemies, since, unlike him, I’m not off my head?!”
“I’m Raj! I’m the hub of the universe! Everything revolves around ME! When I’m not the centre of the attention I’m starting to cry like a little girl because I don’t care about anything and I think of nothing but MYSELF!”
Clam mocked Raj by imitating him. He turned red with anger.
“WOW CLAM! Was that a FULL sentence???” He shouted waspish.
The rhino snarled, got up immediately and left.
“Clam, wait!” Lazlo shouted after him. SLAM! He sighed, resting his head on his palms.
“He can go and jump in a lake!!” Raj snarled “It’s not my fault that he raises a quarrel every time!”
Lazlo averted his eyes in annoyance.
“What’s he saying?” Patsy asked.
“He’s coming.” Nina replied contented, creasing her face into a smile.
“Great! What do I do in the meantime? Ruby’ll be in the car repair shop all day.” The mongoose complained.
“Why don’t you join us? I’m sure Clam won’t mind it.” Nina said encouragingly.
“OK.” She answered, shrugging. It was still better than sitting around inside all day by herself.
After all, Nina was now able to build lots of useful stuff with Clam’s help.
Circa half an hour later the doorbell rang.
“Hey Clam!” Nina greeted happily.
“Hi Nina.” He greeted back, but not as friendly as usual.
“Patsy will join us for today. That’s okay, isn’t it?” the giraffe asked.
“Sure!” Clam replied.
“What exactly…is that?” Patsy asked, eying the green-brownish glob suspiciously, not sure if she should be scared or disgusted by it. She was keeping a good distance.
“Bubble gum.” Nina responded.
“Oh!” Patsy uttered with relief “what’s it doing?”
“Nothing. It’s just bubble gum.”
“Oh!” She reached out to taste it before she stopped “You did this one together with Clam, right?”
Patsy asked warily.
The pink haired girl put a piece of it into her mouth.
UGH! Is that…ONION?!” She shouted grossed out, screwing her face up.
“Yes. Clam chose the flavor.” The giraffe said banteringly. The mongoose shuddered in disgust.
“And what’s that?” Patsy asked.
“A motor operated by orgone energy. It absorbs the – “the mongoose moaned in annoyance.
“Can’t you build something useful?? Such as…” She pondered “a Makeup-O-Mat! Or…a HAIRTYL-O-MAT!!” Patsy shouted enthusiastic “Like that thing you built back at camp! Only this time it would actually work!”
“Mh…” Nina considered “shouldn’t be a problem. Right Clam?...Clam?”
She looked at Clam, who was sitting on one of their machines, scowling.
“Are you okay Clam?” the giraffe asked sympathetically.
“Conflict with Raj.” He answered and heaved a sigh.
“How come?” Patsy questioned.
“Ah, stupid Raj! Thinks of nothing but himself! Flames Clam just because he meets Nina!”
The boy railed against his friend angrily and looked down.
“Reminds me of someone…” Nina responded while she was rolling her eyes “Gretchen doesn’t like us meeting up as well! She even broke my cell phone so we can’t text anymore! And I was going to apologize to her! Is it my fault that she’s unable to talk about her feelings?! She could have told me that – “ the girl interrupted herself. She blushed a little. Now she had said a bit too much
“Anyway…” she tried to remedy the situation.
“Told what?” Clam asked, wondering why she stopped. The giraffe looked at the mongoose in a beseeching manner. Patsy had to suppress her chuckle again.
“Nevermind!” the mongoose said quickly and giggled.
“Both fickle!” Clam said angrily. Lucky for Nina, his head was in the conflict with Raj.
“Being mad doesn’t help. But it might cheer you up to build something!” Patsy said, thrilled by the idea of her very own Hairstyl-O-Mat.
“You can say that again!” Nina agreed with his statement “They’re just like volcanoes: You never know when they’re going to erupt!”
“Something like a Hairstyl-O-Mat for example!!” the mongoose chipped in.
“Good idea Clam!” Nina laughed “We can fire it at them!”
“Such a HAIRSTYL-O-MAT would be quite AWESOME!!” Patsy urged them, almost screaming now.
“All right!” Nina shouted annoyed “as I said, it shouldn’t be hard.”
Gretchen stretched herself. She sat up and looked around.
The heavy feeling was still there. Before she left to breakfast, she touched her cheeks to make sure that – nevermind.
The alligator peeked into the living room. Everything was quite. She entered the kitchen. Gretchen seemed to be alone. Feeling relieved, she prepared her breakfast and sat down at the kitchen table.
Gretchen took a bite from her sandwich. The bite felt like a foreign object. It tasted of…nothing.
 Something was very wrong. She continued chewing in a slow manner, checking the ingredients she used. Everything was in order…
Gretchen got up and went to the window to open it. She felt like she needed some fresh air.
From there her eye lighted on the garage, which was located obliquely underneath the kitchen. The garage gate stood a crack open. She could hear voices and one of them was definitely male.
She was filled with a pretty awful feeling. It was kinda hard to swallow the food with that lump in her throat.
She remained at the window for a moment. Next she walked to the bath room to get ready.
“When will you have finished??” Patsy asked eagerly.
“We’ve only just finished the construction plan Patsy!” Nina retorted slightly bugged “I think it may take us…” she faced Clam while pondering.
“An hour.” He said.
“Quite. An hour, or so.” The giraffe agreed.
“All these things!” Nina thought aloud with an undercurrent of mesmerization in her voice “a real gold mine!” She pulled an old floor lamp out of a scrapheap “We sure can use that!”
Gretchen stepped outside. On her left was the garage, in which there was hissing and banging.
She was filled with acrimony. For a moment she was just standing on the tread of that little stairway, starring at the garage grimly. Despite yesterday she carried the axe.
Gretchen went downstairs gradually, holding the stare. The reptilian girl passed the garage to get to the little wood, but stopped right in the middle.
Her eyes rested on the crack between the garage and the gate.
Gretchen approached it soft-footed, ignoring the spreading tension within.  
‘Why are you nervous?? There’s nobody in there you couldn’t fight.’ Her ego said snooty, ‘except maybe…?’ She shook her head and looked through.
The first thing she saw was Clam using a welding torch. She narrowed her eyes to slits.
Gretchen eyed him contemptuously. She had to control herself not to blow a raspberry again.
The heavy emptiness started to spread again.
Being bored of waiting, Patsy looked around, watching the two constructing the machine.
She flashed a grin all of the sudden. The mongoose walked over to the rhino.
“Hey Clam?” She asked with her distinctively charming voice “May I ask you something?”
Clam stopped welding, folding up his mask to face her as confirmation.
Raj was right on one point: Patsy was a little weird.
“Say…” she giggled “what do you think of Gretchen?”
This made Gretchen gasp. Her heart stood still. She covered her mouth quickly, hoping that they didn’t hear her.
What was Patsy doing??? She wasn’t going to…! She wouldn’t dare to do that…!
Gretchen kept watching through the crack.
There was a huge question mark on Clam’s face.
His eyes were popping out of his head. He didn’t even know what to do with her question.
“I mean in general!” She giggled again “I mean: Do you like her?” the girl asked using that charming voice again.
Gretchen was strung to breaking point.
Clam was really unable to cope with this. He couldn’t handle it if someone confronted him with something he didn’t understand in general, which was perhaps down to the fact that he was autistic. Perhaps it was just because of Patsy’s manner. He turned red, which didn’t happen very often.
The mongoose girl chuckled. She was visibly amused by his reaction.
In the meantime, Nina wasn’t getting any of that. She was way too fascinated by Ruby’s scrap, through which she was rummaging.
“So that’s a yes?” Patsy said, coming closer “You had this huge crush on her back at camp, didn’t you?? You even followed her to acorn flats!”  She said laughingly.
The tug-o-war experience popped into his mind immediately. Suddenly he was able to remember it clearly again:
Lazlo: “Clam, buddy! Are you alright??”
Raj: “Clam! Speak to us!”
Gretchen: “You keep that mutant…whatever he is as far away from me as possible!”
Lazlo: “Wow, wow! Stop it right there buddy! You need to get that bump looked at.”
Raj: “Yes Clam, we’re this way. You’re walking to that…that…thing!”
Lazlo: ”Come on Clam. Let’s see Nurse Leslie.”
Nurse Leslie: “…Your buddies’ real problem is slightly more complicated. He’s well… in love.”
Lazlo: “But who’s he in love with?”
Nurse Leslie: “Well, we need a culture for that…Mh…he’s in love with some prehistoric mutated dinosaur.”
Lazlo: “Let me see… That’s Gretchen!”
Clam’s stomach felt like it was brimming with wobbly jelly. Patsy was right.
This information simply got lost in his subconscious through the second collision. Besides, he was old enough by now to know that people didn’t fall in love because of a head bump…
He always had had a soft spot for her in some way. There was something about her…Clam didn’t know what it was though.
Gretchen was glued to the garage gate literally. The tension was almost unbearable.
Why wasn’t he answering?!
‘Say NO you idiot! Say NO. SAY NO!’ She conjured.
“Too much jelly!” Clam burst out swamped, holding his stomach.
The fuses inside his head were just about to burn out. He felt giddy. Patsy looked a little confused at him.
Gretchen turned around and pressed back against the wall as if she were on a high building and scared of falling.
She was standing there bug-eyed, gazing into the distance.
Gretchen was in a complete turmoil. In fact she was so confused, that she just scrammed into the woods and left the axe behind.
“Hey Clam!” Nina shouted as she pulled another thing out of the scrapheap “Look! We could use that as – “
“Patsy!” she interrupted herself “if you want us to finish this today you’ll have to stop distracting us from work!” Nina looked a little askance at her friend.
“What…have you done with him?!” the giraffe asked dumbfounded, watching the small, staggering guy. Patsy dissolved into giggles.
In the flat share, by evening:
“Aren’t you well Clam?” Lazlo asked worried as he looked at Clam, who sat on the couch like a sack of flour.
“Sore head…” He moaned.
“Try my jello!” Joana tried to cheer him up.
The rhino peered hard at the dessert and hiccupped. Next he covered his mouth with his hand and ran out.
“Here comes the airplane!!” the mouse shouted buoyantly and stuffed the spoon into Raj’s mouth instead, who was visibly startled. He too hiccupped and rushed out.
Joana pouted.
“Am I really such a bad cook??” she whined.
“No, no Of course not!” Mina shouted alarmed.
“What happened???” Philip hollered confused, dashing into the room. He was just on the phone with his little sister. That phone call had been about the first time of the whole day he hadn’t spent with his girlfriend. Except the times he went to the toilet, naturally.
“I’m a BAD cook!” She cried, being in a desperate state.
“What?! NO! See?!?” He contradicted her forcefully and swallowed the whole jelly in one piece.
“See?! Very…HICCUP! Delicious!”
Joana’s under lip was still shivering.
“Who said that?!” he asked abrasively.
“I g-gave C-Clam and Raj – “
“RAJ.” Philip growled in a deep voice, in a manner as if he was possessed by demons.
He held his girlfriend tight, gazing into space hate-filled. His eyelid started to twitch again.
Mina and Lazlo were slightly worried about it. Luckily he thwarted himself.
“Come!” Philip said “I want more of your jello!” and pulled her behind him back into kitchen.
























AT: La loca Vida by MentallyIncorrect
AT: La loca Vida
This is my part of the Art Trade with F4TH0MABLE  ^^ I hope you like it! This took FOREVER!!! XD 
I used different brushes for the background btw :D

ALL AT ONCE COVER PICTURE by MentallyIncorrect

Part 15: Feet of clay

Nina opened the door cautiously and peeked through the door crack.
Gretchen lay on the sofa, still being fast asleep. She closed the door noiselessly and went back to the kitchen.
Of course it was no surprise to find the alligator in the living room. It’s not like they hadn’t noticed that she came home. It was always the same with her.
Whenever Gretchen struggled with her aggressions, she made off, usually to the forest.
She came back every time.
The only thing that seemed strange to Nina was the reaction of hers. Plus Gretchen had never been out this long before.
There was definitely something wrong with her.
“Is she still asleep?” Patsy asked a bit wondering, interrupting the giraffes’ thoughts. Nina nodded.
The mongoose girl took her sandwich and sat down at the kitchen table.
“Gretchen’s acting very strangely lately.” The mongoose said and took a bite from her sandwich.
“My thoughts exactly.” Nina replied and joined her. She poured milk over her cereal.
“Yesterday was really weird even by her standards.” Patsy continued.
“I had expected anything.” Nina said with her mouth half-full and swallowed “but that…! I thought she’d bite my head off!” “She will probably do that later…” she added a little uneasily.
“I don’t understand why she let Clam be. She hates his guts.”
“That’s what I’m saying!” Nina agreed “I could’ve sworn that she finishes him off every moment! I feared that when he walked up to her.” She explained.
“He doesn’t seem to be afraid of her at all…” the giraffe discerned contemplatively “Anyway, I’m glad nothing happened!”
In the meantime:
Gretchen rubbed her eyes. She was fully aware of what had happened the day before this time.
Surprisingly, she hadn’t woken up even once in the night. The alligator sat up and poised for a few minutes.
“Maybe it’s because they’re equally strong.” Patsy put in “By the way, I still fail to see why you two are not together!” she said half-jokingly.
“You... can actually see this happening?” Nina asked a little disbelieving.
“Why not? You and Clam hit it off pretty good, don’t you?”
“Well, yes!” she affirmed “But I never I thought of him in that way.” The giraffe chuckled “He’s more like a brother to me.”
“If you say so…” Patsy answered “But I still think it would be cute!”
They heard the living room door open. Nina startled slightly.
Gretchen just scuffed past the kitchen without looking inside. A short time later, they heard the front door being opened and closed again.
“Where can he be??” Joana soliloquized. She was rushing through the flat share for about 20 minutes now.
“Are you talking about your…plush…toy?” Mina asked.
“Yes! He’s gone! Did you see him?”
“No, but you might want to ask Philip.” She replied provokingly, giving him a warning glance.
Philip poked her in the ribs and meanmugged the girl.
Joana was already gone to continue her searching.
“Ouch!” Mina squeaked and poked him back “Either you tell her, or I will!” she threatened.
“I didn’t do it okay?!” He retorted.
“Oh really?! Then where is it?” Mina asked wryly.
Philip rolled his eyes, moaning in annoyance:
knock knock knock “Philip? Are you in there?”
Philip(whispering): Shit! Shit! SHIT! *looks into the toilet and reaches into it with disgust*
Philip(panicked): “Yes!...J-just a moment!” *looks around hurried, spots the washer, stuffs the plushy into the washer and presses the power button*
“What’s taking so long in there??”
*frowns and washes his hands very quickly*
*door snaps open*
Joana: “I drank too much tea!” *rushes into the bath room and slams the door*
Minas heaved a deep sigh, rolling her eyes.
“See?? I didn’t do anything!” He defended himself. Mina gave a false laugh.
“Yeah, right…”
Well, not yet.” The squirrel added darkly.
“Hey!” He uttered “Perhaps the washer tore it to shreds for me!” Philip grinned.
Mina screwed up her face.
“You’ve really lost it Philip.” She said.
Chop. Gretchen started to hack. She wasn’t undeterred by getting blisters on her fingers.
She couldn’t help thinking about what had happened yesterday. This whole thing seemed…unreal to her. Of course she knew what happened; it was just hard to believe.
‘I never would’ve thought of it!’ It resounded again in her head. She screwed her face up. CHOP.
Once more Gretchen was filled with that heavy emptiness she felt the day before.
She started to shiver again, despite knowing that it was about 30 degrees.
Did she catch a cold? And in the middle of summer?
The alligator couldn’t get rid of that scene. It had burned itself into her mind. A freezing shower ran down Gretchen’s spine that nearly made her cringe. She paused.
The girl was consumed by cordial dislike.
Her stomach felt like it was filled with stones.
Gretchen could not understand herself any longer. Why oh why did she run off?
She had sworn to herself to slay these two on the spot! She should have chopped them into fish bait!
What happened? Since when was Gretchen unfit to fight?
The thought of weakness made her mad again. She hauled off anew, but there was sudden listlessness interrupting her intention.
The girl was standing there in front of another guiltless tree, venting her anger on it and she suddenly felt…stupid.
The alligator heaved a sigh and dropped the axe.
Gretchen sat down on a stub. She rested her elbows on her legs and her head in her hands.
‘Why are you always such a – “ a voice in her head said, but she prevented it from finishing its sentence by interrupting it: ‘Shut up!’ She thought to herself.
Gretchen felt drained. The girl was just not motivated to fight right know.
What was wrong with her?
This feeling was utterly new to the girl. Was it disappointment? What made her feel so bad?
Was it because Nina lied to her? Maybe she really did catch a cold…
Before the voice in her head got the chance to pipe up again, Gretchen stood up, took the axe and headed home.
“Oh, hey. The others are in the living room.” Ruby said when Gretchen came in.
She had a gender on the room. The girl entered the bedroom instead, got some clean clothing and walked into the bath room to have a shower.
RINGRING Patsy clutched at her cell phone.
“Ohh!” She moaned in annoyance, rolling her eyes  “stupid cellphone company…”
“What’s up with you and your phone these days??” Nina asked irritated.
“Doesn’t matter…” She answered disappointed and dropped it carelessly on the sofa.
Gretchen entered the living room. Patsy looked at her, while Nina was avoiding the eye contact with her at all costs.
She just passed Nina and sat down next to Patsy.
At that very moment Gretchen asked herself why she didn’t stay in the woods. They sat still without saying a word, only the meaningless claptrap from the TV could be heard, until –
RINGRING Patsy clutched at her cell phone once more, when she noticed it wasn’t her cell phone which was ringing.
Everyone lighted on Nina’s vibrating cell phone, lying on the table – right in front of Gretchen.
Hers rings, of course!” Patsy muttered in her boots, while crossing her arms.
The alligator gazed at the display. Nina gave a swallow.
‘1 new message from: Clam: )’
Gretchen creased her face into an almost manic grin.
“Look who it is!!” She said mock-delighted.
“Gretchen I,“ Nina started apprehensive, trying hard to find the right words “I’m really sor – “ during the second sentence, the alligator grabbed at the cell phone, flung it on the ground and stamped on it at full tilt, before Nina could even finish it. CRACK!
The giraffe stared on the bottom completely dumbfounded. Patsy was pretty shocked, too.
Gretchen literally crunched the cell phone, turning her hiking boots to and fro intentionally.
“WHOOPS!” she said sardonically and marched straight into the bedroom.
Patsy pressed her own cell phone to her chest. She eyed Nina.
Nina’s guilty conscience was gone at a single blow.
The giraffe frowned. She got up and tramped after her.
Have you finally gone completely insane??!” Nina scolded.
“You’re lucky I didn’t break your frigging bones instead!!” She yelled back infuriated.
“Yeah, yeah! Breaking bones is all you ever do! I’m SO impressed!” Nina retorted.
The alligator turned red with anger.
“At least Clam shares my interests! And what’s more, he’s intelligent!”
Gretchen affected a laugh “Oh yeah, right!”
“It’s true!” Patsy chimed in “He built all those machines with Nina!” The alligator paused for a moment.
ROOAR!” she growled, tearing her hair “WHO cares?! Why don’t you just go and have a good time with CLAAAAAAM??” Gretchen spitted, stretching his name with disguised voice.
“You know what?? I’ll do that!” She retorted snappish “Anyway, what’s it to you if I meet Clam?! You’re ALWAYS gunning for someone!”
“THAT’S DIFFERENT!!” She blurted out angrily. For a moment, no one did know what to say.
“What..?” Nina broke the silence, looking irritated. Gretchen looked down with a face like thunder.
“Just leave me alone!” She snarled and left the room.
“What… are you doing??”Philip asked with his face screwed up, simultaneously noticing that Joana found the plushy. To his cost it was undamaged.
“I’m making a new nameplate! Since the other one got lost in washer…” She replied while Philip was looking away.
“But at least I found him!” She added happy.
Philip decided that it’s better to remain silent. He was no hand at lying. Plus Joana had the gift for sensing people’s feelings anyway.
He went back to into living room.
“Done!” He heard her say a few minutes later “Now you’re complete again!”
Philip rolled his eyes, aping her in a low voice. Joana walked into her room, carrying the stuffed animal under her arm.
“Hey Jojo, come over here!” Mina shouted from her room. Philip cocked his ears.
He got up slowly and headed for the corridor. The door stood open. The squirrel looked around cautiously, scurried inside and pushed the door to.
There it was. On her bed. Philip grasped at it, looking at it scornfully.
Some people just have a thing for pink elephants’ This sentence had haunted him for quite a time now. It made him shudder every time.
He just wanted to leave with the plushy, when the nameplate caught his eye.
Philip raised one eyebrow and wagged his head. Sometimes he just didn’t get his girlfriend.
He heard the door open, followed by the voices of Lazlo and Raj.
The boy was a bit startled by it and approached the corner of the room to make sure they wouldn’t see him.
The three boys entered the living room.
His eyes fell on the plushy again. Philip opened the nameplate:
Raj the Second
Raj…the Second??” He repeated in thought, widening his eyes.
The boy felt his stomach convulsing. He stared at what was written there and went over to the door.
The door crack allowed him to take a peek into the living room. Philip fastened his eyes on the elephant.
He looked to and fro between the plushy and Raj.
‘Raj. Plushy. Raj. Plushy. Raj…Raj. Plushy. Joana. Raj. Pink…!”
His lower eyelid started to flutter involuntarily. He just dropped the stuffed animal and clenched his fists.

15 minutes later:


“Oh!” Joana uttered as she tripped over something. She picked it up.
“How did you get here?” the mouse asked in wonder.
Hey Jo, I – “ Mina was heading to Joana when someone suddenly grabbed her arm and dragged her into his room. SLAM! Click.
Joana stuck her head out of the door and looked around.
“Mina?.......Mh!” She shrugged and disappeared.
“WHAT the –!“ The raccoon uttered in shock.
“YOU said he was GAY!!!” Philip snarled, looking at her reproachfully.
“What the hell are you talking about?! Have you gone completely – “
“RAJ the SECOND!!! Does THAT ring a bell???”
“You…really didn’t notice that until now?!” Mina asked in disbelief, raising an eyebrow.
“Will you PLEASE tell me why there’s a COPY OF RAJ in my girlfriends’ bed???” He growled through clenched teeth. Mina had to hold back a chuckle.
“What am I gonna do??!” He tore his hair “You’ve got to help me Mina!!!” Philip begged, grabbing her shoulders. His expression had changed at a moment’s notice from wild rage to black despair.
“I, uhm…really don’t know…” she stammered a little helpless. He released Mina.
“That…D-DIRTY BASTARD is pinching my Joana…” Philip said bug eyed. His eyelid started to flutter again. Mina knew that boded nothing good.
“I really don’t think -!” Mina tried to interpose, but she was interrupted as always.
“Philip!” He was frothing at the mouth with rage.
“I’M GONNA KILL HIM!!!” He growled furious, heading for the door when he stopped dead, realizing that Lazlo was with him. The squirrel boy hung his head and let his tail droop.
Mina considered bolting for a moment. After all it was not exactly enjoyable to be alone with an emotive Philip – especially in a locked room.
He sank to the floor, to his knees.
Mina was lost. She really didn’t know what to say or to do, as much as she wanted to help him.
It was quite unusual to see Philip like that. An awkward silence began to spread.
“I’m…sure it’s not what you think.” She said carefully. Mina actually was pretty sure. She knew Joana.
“If I l-lose her…” He closed his eyes. She put her hand on his shoulder delicately.
Then she walked to the door slowly.
“Mina?” He said, raising his eyes.
“…Never mind.” He answered, dropping his gaze again.
“Shouldn’t we talk to her?” Patsy asked.
“What for??” Nina answered unsympathetic “She told us to leave her alone, remember?!”
“I know…” the pink-haired girl replied hesitantly.
“But, are you thinking what I’m thinking?” She asked a bit roguish after a moment, there was a small smirk on her lips. She couldn’t suppress a giggle.
Nina kept quiet for a few seconds. She just didn’t want to grabble with this at the moment.
Gretchen had no regards for her either. She looked down at the pulverized remains of her cell.
“So what?!” Nina retorted “She could have said something!”
“Since when does Gretchen speak about feelings?”
“Never! Maybe that’s exactly the problem! But it’s her problem!” the giraffe answered angrily.
Gretchen lay on her bed and stared into space.
Her brain was trying hard to reason her behavior. Her ego told her that she was justified.
Of course she was! Nina had betrayed her! Not the other way around.
As if she really cared whom Nina met! Why should it matter to her if she met with –
Instead of completing the sentence she blew a raspberry at it.
Gretchen didn’t give a shit. The heavy feeling grew stronger again. She also started to shiver again.
Suddenly she felt a tickle on her cheek. She touched it reflexively and felt something wet.
She sat up and stared at her fingers. Gretchen touched the other cheek.
She couldn’t even remember when the last time she cried was.
Drop. Another one.
Gretchen wiped the tears from her face hastily. Her brain was already running at full speed searching for excuses to explain her tears, in case someone came in.
She lay down and pulled the blanket over her head. SNIVEL.
Gretchen frowned, wiping her face not exactly gently. The tears however kept running without interruption.
The corners of her mouth began to twitch. The trembling got stronger.
Gretchen didn’t understand what was going on. What on earth was wrong with her?!   

































Electrifying Hug by MentallyIncorrect
Electrifying Hug
One of my all-time favorites: Two constantly arguing robots called Zeke and Alice. ^^ 
This picture was inspired by the episode 'Absent friends' when they reconcile after another fight and Zeke hugs Alice, saying that this is what humans do in such situations (Zeke thinks he is human, which is very much the reason for almost all of their disputes). Anyway, while doing that they're getting an electric shock. xD

©Dogstar - the ark that barks Mediaworld
ALL AT ONCE COVER PICTURE by MentallyIncorrect

Part 14: Facts and Fiction

„WHERE.ARE.THEY?!“ Gretchen whispered alarmed, sticking her head under the bed.
Her pillow and blanket lay scattered round the bed, separated from their covers.
WHERE ARE THEY!!!” she hissed once more grasped the mattress to throw it away.
Patsy rubbed her eyes drowsily as she spotted her raging friend.
“WHERE ARE THEY!?” the alligator growled, giving the bed a kick.
“Where’s what?!” Patsy asked annoyed, turning on the light. Gretchen clenched her fists.
“What’s going on??” Nina mumbled irritated and sat up slowly to put on her glasses.
“I put them RIGHT HERE on the ax!!” Gretchen snubbed angrily and knocked the whole bed frame over. “ROOAR!” CRASH!
All of the sudden Nina was wide awake. Her eyes widened and her breath caught.
“That’s no reason to keep us up!” Patsy complained and drew her blanket over her head.
The alligator flounced out of the room snarlingly. SLAM!
“Humph!” Patsy said irked and turned the light out. Nina lay down as well, notwithstanding that it was impossible to fall asleep again. She buried her face in her hands concerned.
A few hours later:
“Good morning guys!” Lazlo said with his familiar smile and yawned loudly “Did you sleep well?”
“My head aches…” Raj replied moodily.
“What about you Clam?” Lazlo looked at his other friend, who slept like a dog.
“Look how peacefully Clam is sleeping Raj.”
Gross!” the elephant responded in disgust “Look what he’s sleeping on!”
There Clam was, asleep on Gretchen’s gloves with a contented smile on his face.
“Uhm, well…” the boy said, scratching his head.
“I do not want to look at this! I’m gonna breakfast.” Raj said uppish and opened the door.
“Hey Raj!” a female voice shouted joyfully. He closed the door, went back to his bed and sat down.
Lazlo gave him a questioning look.
“I’m gonna breakfast…later.” The elephant stammered embarrassed.
“Hey!” the door flew open all of the sudden.
AH!” Raj exclaimed with a start.
“I just wondered if you wanted some pancakes for breakfast.” Joana said.
A few seconds elapsed. Lazlo and Raj looked at Clam. Not even a jerk.
“So?” she asked again.
“Um, yes! Of course.” Lazlo replied while Raj just gave a weak nod, and without looking at her.
He blushed again.
“Goody!” Joana answered cheerful and left.
“Gee, Clam is really fast asleep, eh Raj?” Lazlo said as he eyed the rhino wondering.
Philip dragged his feet into the kitchen bleary-eyed.
“Scented the pancakes, didn’t you?” Mina chaffed him with a grin. Philip just grumbled and sat down next to his girlfriend.
“Ouch!” he startled up.
“Heyyy! You’re sitting on – “Philip gave a growl, pulling out a pink stuff elephant from under his butt.
“That darned – !“ Joana cut him off when she gripped the stuffed animal “thanks!” the mouse said kinda snappish and put it in the middle of the table. Raj’s throat contracted.
“Is Clam still asleep?” Mina asked doubting before she put another piece of pancake into her mouth. Lazlo nodded.
“Shomeone’sh competing againsht you, Philip!” she mumbled with her mouth full.
Without reacting, he grabbed the maple syrup and squeezed the tube till such time as the pancake was literally soaked.
After breakfast:
“Almost gotcha Clam!” Lazlo said as he was starring at the screen mesmerized.
“I don’t get it! What’s so great about that thing?!” Philip burst in on their videogame when he entered the living room.
“Just…a second!” the monkey replied, still concentrated on the game.
‘YOU LOSE!’ the television voiced.
“New record!” Clam cheered.
“That’s just damn silly!” Philip continued griping.
“Damn! You beat me again Clam!...Sorry, what did you say Philip? I was only listening with half an ear.” Lazlo turned to his other friend. Philip slumped into the sofa next to the monkey.
“All this hassle over a crappy plush toy!!” He ranted and sat back vigorously. He jerked. Philip blinked,  knitting his brow even more. He clutched at the gadfly behind his back and opened his eyes slightly.
As expected it was the stuffed animal again. Philip took a deep breath. He clutched his hand tighter around the plush toys’ ‘neck’.
Next, he stood up and opened the window. Philip frowned one more time at the toy before he winded up.
“There you are!” Joana shouted happy as she came into living room, whipped it out of his hand without realizing his intension and left.  Clam and Lazlo glimpsed at each other, while Philip maintained the position for a moment. Then he let droop his tail, head and arms.
In the meantime Raj was entering the room. He looked around cautiously and headed for the sofa, being pretty relieved that she wasn’t there.
AARGH!” He growled furious and slammed the window at full tilt.
“I swear - NO! You have my sacred promise Lazlo: If I ever get my hands on that thing AGAIN, I’m gonna TEAR IT TO SHREDS!!!” Philip growled with clenched teeth and stamped to his room. SLAM!
“Dude! This guy has serious anger issues…” the elephant said.
“Bad temper.” Clam added.
“Actually he’s improving,” Lazlo argued. Raj wasn’t sure if this was contended as irony.
“His angry outbursts have become less frequent. He even got out of sleeping with a knife under his pillow.” The elephant gulped.
“Kn-kni – “ Raj stammered, but the monkey interrupted him.
“Well, you owe me a rematch Clam!” Lazlo said playfully.
“Rematch later.” the rhino answered and stood up “Give back gloves first!” he added and pulled out Gretchen’s gloves.
Raj leaned back out of aversion.
“I told you to keep these things away from me!” He reproached Clam with a disgusted face while he was reaching out his hands in defense. He feared that his friend might pelt them again at him.
“Fair enough. But after this you’re due!” Lazlo said challenging. Clam turned around to grin at him in conformation and left the room. He seemed to ignore Raj completely.
“I wouldn’t rely on that Lazlo,” he raised his voice “Clam prefers playing with the Squirrel Scouts!!”
The door slammed. Raj snorted, assuming a sulky pose.
“Wanna play a round with me?” the monkey asked with a smile.
“NINA!” Ruby yelled fierce.
About a minute later, the front door slowly opened and a certain long-necked person peeked out.
That day was just not Nina’s day. She came up to Ruby cautiously, who was standing in front of the opened garage with crossed arms and a face like thunder.
“What. THE HELL. Is that???” Betty’s cousin asked, pointing at the lawnmower in the garage, or at least that was what it seemed to be in the past, before…
“An intelligent all round garden care system” she responded meekly “ – it’s turbocharged!”
She added with a self-conscious laugh.
“And what exactly. Is my PRUNER. Doing in the LAWNMOWER???”
Curious as they were, Patsy and Gretchen turned up as well.
“What’s wrong?” Patsy asked before she noticed the questionable gadget “uh-oh.”
“Well,” she hemmed “it can mow the lawn, cut the hedge, pull up weeds, turn the soil, rake leaves, water your plants and it’s watertight!” she explained, trying to sound as promising as possible and grinned. Silence.
“I’ll show you!” Nina said assertive and got the gadget out of the garage. Everyone stepped back with fear.
“NO!” Gretchen shouted alarmed.
“Are you crazy?? Your inventions never work, remember?!” Patsy joined.
“This thing is gonna blow us all up!!!” the alligator added terrified and stepped back a bit more.
The giraffe actuated the twitch and the engine started roaring. Patsy, Gretchen and Ruby adopted a defensive posture. Gretchen covered behind her arms, Patsy buried her face in her hands and Ruby squinted her eyes shut while turning away – all in disastrous anticipation.
Some seconds passed. Gretchen took her arms down carefully.  Her eyes widened in disbelief as Patsy and Ruby uncovered their eyes as well, showing the same facial expression.


Nina’s invention was just standing there and cut the hedge – it actually cut the hedge! Nina was next to it, having a smug smile on her face. She pushed the turbo button. The others were ready to flee, but apart from doing its work much faster, nothing happened, which was not exactly a reason to panic.
When it was done with that, it even started to mow the lawn on its own – and as if this wasn’t enough – after that, the machine turned itself off automatically.
The others were standing there with gaping mouths.
“I knew you’d be impressed.” Nina said self-complacent.
“It actually…worked.” Ruby said in amazement.
“ – without exploding.” Gretchen added as perplexed as Ruby.
“Well then, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got work to do.” Nina said self-important, walked into the garage and pulled down the garage gate.
Nina was rightly proud of herself, never mind that of course she had to withhold the fact, that she didn’t construct that machine on her own.
Her proud feeling was interrupted by a twinge in the stomach region, but she decided to ignore it.
This day seemed to take a turn for the better after all, even though there was quite another problem she had to redress.
“Raj?” Lazlo looked askance at his friend, who was aggressively hacking the gamepad away.
“Uhm, Raj?” still no reaction. Raj sat there, trying very hard to take the digital spaceship of his friend to pieces. By the look of his face you could have thought that he hated that spaceship to guts, which was not quite correct though.
“You know, I’m very struck by your fervor Raj…” He started again “but something tells me that you really should have a word with Clam.” Raj stopped and dropped the gamepad.
“I won’t say a single word to Clam until he apologizes!” the elephant boy retorted, crossing his arms.
“Why not??” Lazlo asked clueless.
Why?!” he repeated resentful “because he is a traitor! Plus he called me names!”
“You called him a traitor…twice.”
That’s something else entirely!” Raj defended himself vehement “HE insulted me first! Apart from this he is a traitor!!”
“But – “
“I won’t lift a finger till he apologizes!!!” he interrupted his friend, running away like Philip did before.
Lazlo vented a weary sigh and dropped back.
“Hey Nina!” a husky voice shouted.
“Hi Clam.” She answered after a while, standing in front of one of her inventions, being deep in thought. There was a vague smile on her face.
“CLAM?!” she repeated startled, widening her eyes. The giraffe almost leaped to the garage gate.
There was Clam and he was just about to ring the door bell.
“CLAM!! What – “ the opening of the door stopped her. Both looked at Ruby, who looked rather confused.
“um…” she said “Is he yours?”
Nina just grinned sheepishly, grabbed Clam, dashed into the garage and slammed the gate. SLAM.
Ruby closed the front door and went back inside irritated. 
Nina face palmed.
“Clam! What are you doing here???” she asked troubled.
“give back gloves!” he answered and pulled them out.
“Gretchen’s gloves!” Nina shouted with relief “I’m history!” she shouted frantic in the next breath “we’re history!” the girl sank on the floor and buried her face in her hands.
Clam watched her behavior somewhat perplexed.
“History?” he wondered.
“What was I thinking?...” the giraffe said “It just had to turn out like that!”
“I didn’t tell the others you were here.” She completed after a moment, freeing her face from her hands slowly.
“I didn’t tell them that we build all these inventions together either.Nina looked down.
“That was weird.” Ruby said as she came up to Patsy and Gretchen, who were sitting in the living room.
“Who was it?” Patsy asked prying.
“Some boy. I opened and he was standing there with Nina.” They started to listen attentively.
“Actually, she was standing next to him, anyway – “the pink-haired mongoose gasped for air.
“What’d he look like???” Patsy asked excited.
“Uh, well,” Ruby scratched her head “it’s…kinda heard to describe. Very pale, must’ve been blond, rather small, not to say – “
“BULL’S EYE!” the mongoose shouted confidently “this is our chance Gretchen! We will catch them in the very act!” Patsy leaped up and left the room with Gretchen. Ruby screwed up her face.
She slumped herself down on the sofa and turned the TV on.
‘What’s going on with everyone today??’ she thought irritated.
“I just…couldn’t tell them!” Nina tried to explain frenetic “Gretchen would’ve bitten off my head…and yours too!”
Clam looked slightly surprised at her. It got silent again.
“You know…” she started anew “back at camp, at the time when we pretended to be brother and sister…” she stopped “…You were the only one who’s been sympathetic.”
“I remembered that when you popped up and helped me with my construction…You’re …the only one who understands me.”
He smiled.
“I didn’t want to put that at risk…” she continued with her head lowered “but that’s exactly what I did!  And I dragged you into it…again.”
“You really ought to hate me!” she added, burying her face in her hands again.
She felt somebody hugging her from behind. Nina freed her face from her hands cautiously.
Tears rolled down her cheeks.
“I-I’m s-sorry Clam.” She said shakily.
“It’s okay, sister.”
“Do we really have to check this out Patsy?!” Gretchen asked low-voiced, being slightly revolted by the whole action “I’m not sure I want to find out what’s going on in there at all.”
“Shush Gretchen! Or she will hear us! On three!
3!!!” Patsy yanked up the garage gate. What they saw bowled them over.
“PATSY! GRETCHEN! It’s! I’m! – “Nina uttered alarmed.
“CLAM?! Teee-heeheeheeheeheeheeheehee!”Patsy dissolved into psyched giggles.
Gretchen just continued goggling at them in disbelief. She had probably never been as wide-eyed as in this situation.
“I NEVER would’ve thought of It!!!” the mongoose shrieked, still psyched.
“But Patsy! I’m! - ! Nina tried to explain, as Clam walked up to Gretchen as a matter of course.
She stepped back automatically.
“Giving back gloves.” He said, holding out the missing gloves towards her.
Gretchen looked at them stonily. She suddenly realized something. The girl saw stars. A shiver ran down her spine. The alligator whipped them out of his hand very ungentle.
Her facial expression had changed. She raised her eyes to look at Nina, who was frightened what would happen next. She was just about to spring to her feet.
Gretchen looked back at Clam. The girl clenched her fists. She was determined to kill both of them here and now on the spot.
Having said this, Gretchen winded up, chucked the gloves at full tilt on the floor right there at his feet and bugged out instead.
“First she makes a big deal of these things and then she runs away!” Patsy broke the silence and rolled her eyes. Next she started to giggle again.
“So, how long have you two been going out??” she asked roguish.
In the meantime:
Gretchen ran. She ran and ran and didn’t even know why she was running at all. She was unable to stop. There was no space for rational thoughts in her head. It was so noisy that she couldn’t hear anything. In fact, it was little short of a miracle that she didn’t run into any of the trees.
“Patsy!!” Nina shouted harsher than desired “I’m NOT dating Clam!”
“Oh please, you can’t fool me anymore!” she answered with conviction. The giraffe heaved a deep sigh.
“I’m NOT in love Patsy!” Nina tried to spell it out “We were friends all along!”
“Then why all the secrecy?!” Patsy asked irritated, looking at her reproachfully.
Because!” she replied, pointing in the same direction in which Gretchen ran off before.
“And what you just saw was…” the giraffe sighed and lowered her head again “Clam just consoled me because…because I was so afraid of that moment. I…knew how Gretchen would react” Nina wagged her head “or so I thought.” she corrected herself “the point is: I lied to you.” The girl heaved another sigh.
“Oh, and I don’t even deserve all the credit,” Nina pointed a finger at  the former lawnmower “for this thing over there…” she added ashamed. Patsy gasped.
“I knew there was something wrong!!” she shouted “But that means…” Patsy pondered “CLAM has brains???” the mongoose burst out in disbelief.
This was the moment they realized that he was gone – along with the gloves.
“Where did he go?” she asked wondering.
Gretchen’s legs were starting to give in.  In fact, she was so drained that she simply crumpled.
The panting alligator abutted against a tree. She trembled even though it wasn’t cold.
‘CLAM?!...I NEVER would’ve thought of It!’ Patsy’s voice resounded in her head.
She couldn’t keep her eyes open.
No sign of Gretchen.
Clam’s legs started to become weary as well. He’d been walking for about half an hour now.
After all he did come here to restore Gretchen’s gloves to her and he was determined to do that,
even if they’d made a really nice pillow last night.
He had had that strange and pretty confusing dream which made the last night remarkable in general. It wasn’t bad though, just confusing.
Confusing. Gretchen was very confusing.  Why did she ran away from him all of the sudden?
Wasn’t she the one who always chased him? And after all, why would Gretchen bite off Nina’s head because he was friends with her, since he was the one Gretchen was down on?
And why did she smile at him when she raised her fist to him all the time?
Clam casted his mind back to the situation at the fun fair. That smile…he had seen it before.
Then it came back to his mind: There was that dance back at camp! He recalled that the boys had to dance with the girls. And he had to dance with Gretchen.
She had the very same mysterious smile on her face back then, which confused him so much.
Suddenly the reminiscence of the tug o’ war surfaced. He remembered bumping his head with Gretchen’s.
Except feeling awful and delighted at the same time, his memory was rather vague. He pondered.
They had been on the site of the squirrel scout territory, bumped their heads again and –
The vibrating of his phone roused him from his thoughts. A message from Nina.
Clam where are you??
Being a bit conflicted, he decided to go back after all, even if it left a feeling of uneasiness.
“Clam! There you are!” Nina shouted from afar with relief. She sat at the top of the stairs in front of the house.
“Why did you follow her??” Nina asked almost reproachfully.
“Um, gloves!” he answered without thinking too much.
“Oh, just give them to me!” Nina replied, wondering in silence why anyone would follow a person who tried to beat you up at any given opportunity for such a trifle.
She simply took the gloves from him.
“I think you should go home now Clam…” the giraffe said with caution “before she returns.” Nina added. As a matter of fact she felt slightly relieved that he didn’t find Gretchen. That sounded strange to him.
“Ok..” he agreed nevertheless “bye Nina.”
“Bye Clam.” She smiled and went inside.
“Hey Clam!” Lazlo greeted his friend cheerful as he entered the living room.
“Humph!” Raj said, got up from the sofa immediately and went straight past him, not deigning to look at the rhino.
 “Are you ready to be shellacked?” Lazlo challenged him in a playful way.
“Uh, sure.” The rhino replied not being with it. He actually had forgotten it in all that excitement.
Mina opened the bath room door unsuspecting, when –
“GODDAMN! Such a bitch!!” Philip cursed under his breath as he flushed the toilet again, flooding it even more as a result. He reached for the force cup. Philip didn’t seem to notice Mina’s presence.
“IS THAT - ?” Mina said shocked, when she got cut off.
“MINA!” He burst out with a start. “Do you like to watch people using the toilet??!” he snarled, slammed the door in her face and locked.
She was glued to the spot for a moment before the girl walked to the living room.
‘YOU WIN!’ the television sounded. The awaited cries of victory failed to appear though.
“Clam’s very tired. Good night Lazlo.” The rhino said and left. Mina sat down next to her boyfriend, still dumbfounded.
“Mh, that was weird.” Lazlo thought aloud.
“You’re telling me!” the raccoon girl commented, screwing up her face.
“Somehow I get the idea that he made no effort this time. It strikes me that he wanted me to win. Everyone’s acting odd today…” Lazlo wondered.
Yes, indeed!” Mina indorsed him.
“Clam, Raj and Philip as well.”
“By ‘acting odd’, do you mean flushing a plushy down the toilet?” She asked, still looking a bit stonily.
“Exactly!...Wait – WHAT?!”
“Philip is flushing the plush elephant down the toilet.”
“Uh-huh.” He answered agreeing some seconds later.
A few hours later:
Gretchen opened her eyes. She saw the sunlight shining through the leaves. The Dusk was approaching. Only now she became aware again of what happened.
For a moment she had in contemplation to stay there, but her sanity banned it.
Gretchen got up slowly and started back.
Having arrived, she eyed the vicinity suspiciously. At least the sleep cleared her mind a bit.
She didn’t feel better though.
 When Gretchen arrived at the corridor she paused. The door to their room was closed.
Gretchen was very certain that Nina was the last person she wanted to see right now. Well, among others.
She adjourned to the living room and was quite relieved to see that it was empty. The alligator closed the door and hit the sack or rather the sofa. A pretty awful feeling went through the girl. It was foreign to her. Gretchen felt heavy and empty at the same time. Her head was thumping.
All she wanted at the moment was going back to sleep, which, fortunately, happened very quickly.








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WarnerRepublic Featured By Owner Dec 25, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Happy birthday, M.I. You're becoming another year greater and better. May the years of 2015 and 2016 be happy and healthy for you and your love ones. God bless. :hug:
MentallyIncorrect Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2015  Hobbyist Artist
thank you :)
WarnerRepublic Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
F4TH0MABLE Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
What episode is your new avatar from? owo
MentallyIncorrect Featured By Owner Dec 3, 2015  Hobbyist Artist
miss fru fru :D :D
omartibayan Featured By Owner Dec 25, 2015
yes i love that one episode of miss fru fru when patsy wear her ball gown and a cute swim suite 
F4TH0MABLE Featured By Owner Dec 3, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist

Hmm... you should use this; :D
MentallyIncorrect Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2015  Hobbyist Artist
Lol... I skipped the 'use' xD I thought you wrote something like: 
You should SEE this. :D silly me xD
(1 Reply)
Nibbink Featured By Owner Oct 24, 2015  Hobbyist Artist
Thanks for the watch!
F4TH0MABLE Featured By Owner Jun 8, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
False curly-one. ovo
MentallyIncorrect Featured By Owner Jun 8, 2015  Hobbyist Artist
No, no! 'Fake' - Curly-One...
F4TH0MABLE Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Yes, yes. ß)
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