Sanjana is an 8-year old girl living in a nice little house on the outskirts of Bangalore in India. She lived there with her parents and her little brother Raihan. Raihan is 5 years old, but he tells everyone that he is her big brother! Raihan called her Saina, so everyone called her Saina. We’ll do the same in these stories.
Saina and Raihan studied at the Gandhi-Lincoln Elementary School which was not very far from their house. They went to their school in a cute-looking yellow school bus with faces of Gandhi and Lincoln drawn on it. The bus picked them up near their house at 7.30 in the morning. The school usually ends at 3.30 in the afternoon when they take the bus back to home.
Something interesting happened last December. Saina and her class had to stay back to bake cookies for the Christmas party. When the class ended at 5 in the evening, Saina entered her bus and saw Sammy there. Sammy was this classmate of Saina who lived near her house. He was bit of a bully and bothered Saina and Raihan all the time. He liked colorful stones and asked Saina to give him one every time he saw her. Saina did not have one with her today and she did not want to face Sammy alone. So, she quietly climbed down the bus steps before he noticed her and decided to walk home.
See, there are two ways to get to her home: one was the long route on the roads that the buses took, and the other was a much shorter route through the woods. Saina decided to walk through the woods, and that’s where our story begins.
The short route is a lot of fun: you can see the Jakkur Lake with several types of birds nesting around it, lots of huge ant hills, an old Hanuman temple, and lots and lots of banana trees. Sammy said that he often takes this route home and told many scary stories about it to the other kids. He even said that he saw snakes living in the ant hills!
It was still bright when Saina started walking. However, within a few minutes, the sky was covered with thick dark clouds. Though Saina was a brave little girl, she started remembering every one of Sammy’s scary stories as she walked. She was quiet sure that Sammy had made them up to simply scare the kids, but you know how it is with such stories – they always come to you when you are alone.
Then Saina stopped to look at a really cute duckling following his mom on the lake. She wanted to remember the scene so that she can draw it for Ms. Rao, her arts teacher, the next day. She followed the ducks around the lake’s edge as they waddled. When the ducks disappeared into some water plants, she decided to continue towards home. But, wait, there were many paths to take, which one goes to her house? Saina felt totally lost.
That’s when Saina heard it.
Saina thought that it was just the bushes in the wind. “Could it be a snake?” She wondered. But snakes went “hissssss” not “sssshhhhh”. So, she knew it was not a snake.
She looked around into the bushes and thought that she saw someone, was it a boy? She was delighted that she was not alone. But when she looked carefully again she could not see anyone there. Saina was sure there was a boy there, may be he knew the way out, but he was just being shy and so hiding in the bushes.
Being rather smart and not-shy, Saina started saying to no one in particular:
Saina: “It’s getting dark and I need to go home. I wonder if someone can walk with me.”
Sound from the bushes: “sshhhh”
Saina said louder this time: “I have Christmas cookies in my lunchbox. I will share them with anyone who shows me the way”.
Sound from the bushes: “Humph.. Cookies you say? Cushy Bushy loves Cookiessshhhh”
Saina was not sure that it was his real name (what kind of a name was Cushy Bushy anyway!?).
Saina: “Come out of the bushes and I will give you some Cushy Bushy Cookies”. She just made up the name for the cookies.
Voice from the bushes: “Promise?”
Saina sang out: “Yes, I swear. I will give you cushy bushy cookies every day if you show me the way”
Voice from the bushes: “And… Carrots and Milk too”?
Saina was surprised. A kid that actually asked for Carrots and Milk!?
Saina: “Yes, I swear. Carrots, Milk, and Cushy Bushy Cookies every day if you show me the way”.
Then Saina saw this little boy walk slowly out of the bushes. Wait, this was no ordinary boy! He had bushy hair, was really plump, a stubby nose, big ears, and a rather dirty mouth. Oh wait, what did he have on his head – horns?
Saina: “What’s your name, Boy?”
Boy from the bushes: “I’m Cushy Bushy Monster. You are the first human to call me a boy and not a monster!”
Saina: “You may look like a monster but I’m not scared of you. You are just a little boy that needs a shower and some nice clothes.”
CBM growled: “Give me my cookies”
Saina thought to herself “What a demanding boy he is! If I give him the cookies now, what if he eats them and runs away without helping me? Also, I have Christmas cookies with me, where do I find these Cushy Bushy Cookie thingies”
Saina: “I will give you your Cookies after you take me to my house”
So they started walking in a path around the lake’s edge. It was wet. Then it started getting all slimy and slushy. Saina was beginning to slip in the wet mud but the Monster boy had no trouble at all with his rather strange webbed feet. Odd for a little boy to have webbed feet, may be it’s just his shoes, Saina thought.
Then CBM slowed down and whispered. “Make sure that you stay in the middle of the path and Never ever step on the slime.”
Saina: “Why not?”
CBM: “You will slip and fall and there is my big bad uncle Slime Monster around who will like nothing more than that!”
Saina asked no more questions. She carefully put her steps right in CBM’s footprints.
That’s how Saina walked all the way through the woods. Then she saw her bus stop and knew that she was safe. CBM stopped.
Saina: “Thank you very much Cushy Bushy Monster Boy! You saved my evening! Here are some cookies from my lunchbox, but if you come home with me I can give you more”
When Saina held out the snack box with several cookies still inside it, CBM reached out eagerly to it and swallowed ALL the cookies in one gulp. “Yummy” he said, “You make Cushy Bushy Cookies like mom used to make! How did you learn to do that?”
Saina giggled “Hehe. I just made them at school today. My teacher showed us how to make them, and then I just added some orange and yellow Halloween candy in it because I like it!”
CBM was delighted that she knew how to make Cushy Bushy Cookies.
Saina: “It’s getting late CBM. I will see you tomorrow, right? Can we be friends?” she was growing rather fond of this boy.
CBM: “Friends?! All the humans I know are scared of me. Yes, of course, I would like to be your friend” (he was also beginning to like this Human Girl who gave him yummy cookies and did not sound scared of him). “But, remember, you have to always get me Carrots, Milk, and Cushy Bushy Cookies, if you want to be my friend”
Saina thought that he was oh so demanding but she agreed. She wished him Goodnight and walked towards her home. When she reached the door, she turned back and saw him looking at her with his big eyes. Then he vanished in a flash. Just like that.
Saina rang the bell and walked in to face her mom who was worried sick that she got so late. She quickly peeked into Raihan’s bedroom. Raihan was fast asleep but he was saying in his sleep “where are you sister. I want to scare you with my monster mask”
“Haha!” thought Saina, “What do you know about monsters!?” and went to sleep, tired and happy, dreaming about her new friend, the Cushy Bushy Monster.