The Korbat Who Couldn't Hang: Part One
It all started with a sleepover.
"Dad!" Isabel Broadtail called out excitedly.
Dragging her friend Aimee Longear by the hand, she ran towards where her father
was dangling from the lowest branch of the family tree. Her father hastily covered
his eyes with his wings, pretending to be deeply asleep, and she poked him in
the arm. "Dad!"
Her father shifted his wings slightly to reveal
one of his eyes, and looked reproachfully up at them.
"Dad, Aimee's invited me to sleep over at their
tree! Can I, Dad, can I?"
"Can she, Mr. Broadtail, can she?" Aimee chimed
"Are you sure you want to?" her father asked
"Well, of course!" Isabel replied. "Why wouldn't
"I don't know," he replied, unfolding his wings
and flipping down from the branch to land on his feet. Mr. Broadtail was a tall
red Korbat with an unusually wide wingspan, and as he stretched, Isabel was
aware of her small green friend looking up at him in awe.
"All right," he grumbled good-naturedly. "Run
along. Have fun."
"Wow," Aimee breathed. "How long are your wings,
"Long enough to grab my little girl and give
her a hug!" Dad exclaimed, coming forward and wrapping his arms around Isabel's
neck. His wings covered her completely, like a tent, and she grinned with pleasure
at the feeling of being loved and protected. All too soon, he let go, and gave
her a gentle push. "Go on, then. Have a good time."
Isabel opened up her family trunk and gathered
up a few necessary items such as her sketch pad, her coloured pencils, and her
toothbrush. When Aimee urged her to bring the Usuki doll that she'd given Isabel
for her birthday the week before, Isabel reluctantly reached in and picked it
up as well. They walked down the path and around the village hall to the Longear
family tree, where they spent the evening playing together. Isabel suffered
through several rounds of Usuki Fashion Show, which was Aimee's newest interest,
before managing to convince Aimee to play a new game that she made up on the
spot called Usuki Explorer. Because she got to make up the story as they went
along, Isabel found it infinitely more satisfying. She even had the chance to
draw a few pictures. Just as she was getting to the exciting part, however,
it was bedtime.
"Time to sleep, everybody," Aimee's mother announced.
"Have you all brushed your teeth?"
"Mom!" wailed Aimee, looking into the Longear
family trunk and then at her younger brother. "Ricky's using my toothbrush!"
"No I'm not!" Ricky shouted back, hiding both
hands behind his back and then bringing only one of them forward. There was
a purple toothbrush clutched in his fingers. "See? It's mine!"
He flew away to the top of the family tree.
A moment later, a green toothbrush fell from above and hit Aimee on the head.
"Mom, look! Ricky really did have my toothbrush
in his mouth! Yuck!"
"Well, wash it off," Aimee's mother sighed and
poked around in the trunk herself. "Now where's my toothbrush?"
A red toothbrush sailed down from the top of
the tree as well, and Mrs. Longear shouted, "Ricky!"
"Ewww! You disgusting mutant!" Aimee shrieked.
Isabel quietly got out her own toothbrush, thankful
that she was an only child. She finished first, and moved over to the base of
the tree, preparing to make a little nest for the night.
"What are you doing down there?" Aimee asked.
"Come on, my branch is up here!"
Isabel hesitated. "Um, I always sleep on the
ground. Come down and keep me company!"
"Sleep on the ground?" Aimee sounded
shocked. "Where's your sense of pride, Izzie? We're Korbats, not Gelerts! Come
on - what are you, crippled?"
Isabel glanced down at her right foot, suddenly
ashamed of the fact that two of the three claws hadn't developed properly before
birth. Although they were there, they were somewhat shorter than the other claw,
and practically useless. She'd never been able to hang from a branch, but it
hadn't mattered until now. Her family had always just accepted it and, except
for the fact that they usually hung from the lowest branch to keep her company,
had never made a big deal out of it.
Still, Isabel thought to herself, she was older
now. Maybe her good claw had become strong enough in the meantime to hold her
in place. Shyly, she flew up to where Aimee was waiting, closed her feet around
the branch, and let herself slide backwards into the traditional sleeping position.
But her claw wasn't strong enough, and she lost
her grip. For a moment, she dangled by one foot, swinging wildly, but then the
weight caused by her momentum was too much for her to hold, and she slipped
off, crashing to the ground.
"Are you all right?" Aimee called down.
"Uh - yeah, I'm fine," Isabel called back, sitting
up and rubbing her knees. She was too embarrassed to explain the real reason,
so she added, "I just … slipped."
Gritting her teeth with determination, she flew
to the branch and tried again, with the same results. On her third attempt,
she managed to avoid the ground by falling onto the branch where Aimee's parents
were already hanging.
"Whispering Wadjets, you really are crippled!"
"Shut up, Ricky!" Aimee shouted, then added
impatiently, "Come on, Izzie, nobody slips three times in a row!"
The fourth time, Isabel tried to avoid swinging
by lowering herself gingerly into an upside down position. It seemed to work
at first, but after a few moments, her good claw gave out, and she plummeted
to the ground yet again, narrowly missing the family trunk.
"Izzie!" Aimee cried petulantly. "What's going
"Nothing," Isabel murmured.
"No-Hang Hizzie, that's our Izzie!" Ricky called
out, and to Isabell's shock, she heard Aimee giggle just a little.
"That wasn't very nice, Ricky," said Aimee's
"Sorry," said Ricky in a laughing voice. A moment
later, another whisper of "No-Hang Hizzie" floated down from the top of the
"Bite your tongue, Ricky," said Mr. Longear
sternly. "Isabel, get to your branch and let's all get some sleep."
"Yeah, come on, Hi-Izzie," Aimee called out,
then belatedly added her own insincere, "Sorry."
Isabel blinked away hot tears of humiliation
from her eyes, and tried to keep her voice from breaking. "Um … I've scraped
my wing. Yeah - I'm going to go ask my dad if he's got some salve for it."
"We've got salve here, Isabell," said Mrs. Longear,
but Isabell had already gathered up her sketchpad and her pencils, and was flying
By the time she reached her family tree, Isabel
"Isabel? What's wrong?" Her parents flipped
off their branch and crouched down next to her, one on each side.
"Aimee and Ricky laughed at me because I couldn't
hang from a branch!" Isabel wailed. "Ricky said I was crippled, and he called
me 'No-Hang Hizzie,' and Aimee laughed!"
"Did you tell them about your foot?" Isabell's
"Why not?" Isabel's father spoke in a low, comforting
tone of voice.
"Because I thought - I thought I could do it.
I thought maybe my foot was strong enough to hold me now. But it wasn't, and
I fell off, and they laughed! Even Aimee laughed! I was so embarrassed!"
"Oh, Isabel," both her parents sighed sadly
at the time time, and she felt them extend their wings around her. Isabel leaned
her head against her father's shoulder, and he gently rubbed his cheek along
one of her ears a few times.
"Well, go to Aimee tomorrow and explain about
your foot," Isabell's mother suggested quietly. "Then she won't laugh anymore."
The next day, Isabel went in search of her friend
Aimee. She found her in a clearing just outside the village, playing Usuki dolls
in a circle of other young female Korbats.
"Hi, Aimee," said Isabel, ignoring the others.
As she'd never shared their enthusiasm for dolls, she wasn't close friends with
any of them, and she knew that Aimee wasn't, either. "Can I talk to you - alone?"
"Um …" said Aimee, looking uncomfortable.
"Come on," Isabell urged. "We can go to my tree
for a snack."
"You can't be in our group anymore if you go
with her," said a pudgy blue Korbat, who was, despite the colour of her wings,
named Olga Yellowfoot. She was the daughter of the richest Korbat in the village,
and had two Usuki dolls, not just one.
"Who wants to be in your group anyway?" Isabell
"People who like to play dress-up with Usuki
dolls, that's who," said Olga, looking significantly at Aimee. Isabel looked
over and saw that Aimee was also holding two Usuki dolls, one of which looked
vaguely familiar. She'd have thought Aimee would have returned the doll after
Isabell had left it behind last night, but apparently Aimee had decided that
Isabell didn't want it anymore. Although she was right in that Isabel didn't
care about the doll one way or another, it still wasn't hers to take, and Isabel
felt disgruntled at seeing her appropriate it just like that.
"Aimee, are you coming or not?" Isabel asked
impatiently. Usuki dolls, at their age! Surely they were supposed to be more
grown up by now.
"Um, maybe later," said Aimee, glancing away.
"Aimee!" Isabell protested. What was the matter
with her friend? Isabel desperately wanted to explain about the night before,
but now Aimee seemed to be more interested in playing stupid dolls with the
At that moment, Aimee's younger brother Ricky
ran through the circle and began to dance around Isabell. "No-Hang Hizzie, that's
our Izzie! No-Hang Hizzie, that's our Izzie!"
Several of the Korbats began to giggle.
"Push off, you toothbrush-chewing mutant," Isabel
snarled at him, angry and hurt. She lunged at him, and Ricky ran off with a
smug shriek. Isabel chased him, trying to grab his tail, until she eventually
realized he wasn't worth the energy. She turned back towards the clearing, hoping
that she could still manage to convince Aimee to come with her, but to her horror,
she saw all the Korbats leaning close to Aimee, listening intently.
"…four times!" Aimee was obviously recounting
the story of the night before. "Like she really was crippled!"
"No-Hang Hizzie!" Olga crowed, and all the others
Isabel didn't stay to hear more.
To be continued...