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AMANDA LEARNS HER FATE

THE STORY SO FAR: The animals, having captured Amanda, are determined to put her on trial to teach her a lesson.

Chapter 21

Twenty-four hours later, on a cold and blustery night, Amanda was brought to trial in the amphitheater. The park animals gathered on the benches. Few were smiling. Amanda, no longer very colorful, and rather cold and miserable with her bald head, was marched to the stage, surrounded by a fierce guard of cats, ducks and rabbits.

Hubert the skunk, having black fur _ save for one white streak _ was chosen to be the judge. He looked more like one than anyone else.

Rebecca the coyote was asked to be the prosecutor. But when it came to defending Amanda no one wanted the job.

Philip stepped forward. "I guess I'll do it," he said. "After all, she is my sister."

A jury of 12 park animals _ two squirrels, three raccoons, a couple of cats, Miss Matilda, three rabbits and Gibby the dog _ sat on one side of the stage. Hubert was in the middle.

Hubert banged a stick on the stage. "The trial of Amanda Raccoon begins. She has been charged with thievery. There is a further charge of endangering the community of her friends and family." He looked toward Amanda. "Do you plead guilty or not guilty?"

Amanda lifted her bald head. "I mean, I totally understand where you're coming from," she said tearfully. "But like, you're all so boring. Like, there's nothing to do. So it's all your fault."

"She pleads not guilty!" Hubert announced. He turned to Rebecca. "State your case."

Rebecca stood up, plumped her tail, looked at Amanda, looked at the jury, looked at the audience. "Your Honor, this raccoon became a thief. It was her free choice. She was urged not to do so. Told it was wrong. Nonetheless her thievery only ended when she was captured, put in jail and brought to trial. She must pay for her wrongful acts!"

Hubert banged his stick. "Philip," he said, "what have you to say in your sister's defense?"

Philip came forward slowly. "Well, actually, there isn't much I can say to defend Amanda. She did do all those things Rebecca said. But she is young. Only one year old. And full of energy. Her problem is, she hasn't learned to consider the consequences of what she does. I guess my mom and I would just like to ask for mercy."

"Animals of the jury," Hubert said, "consider and render your verdict!"

The jury members put their heads together with much gabbling, barking and squeaking.

"Animals of the jury," Hubert asked, "have you reached a verdict?"

"Sure have," Gibby said. "Amanda is guilty, but since she is young, we think she should be given some mercy."

Hubert banged his stick. "Amanda, rise!" The young raccoon, holding Philip's paw, stood up. "You have been found guilty. You are sentenced as follows: You must return everything you have stolen. And you must work five hours a week for six weeks picking up trash from the park. Otherwise you'll be handed over to Judge Peebles!" He banged his stick. "The trial is over."

Back in their train quarters with Philip and Gloria, Amanda, staring at her feet, said, "Honest, I've learned a lot from this experience. I won't be a thief anymore."

"That's a relief," Philip said. "Now you can settle down."

Amanda smiled. "Well, actually, I do have to return all those things I stole. And collect that trash. I want to."

"Good for you," Gloria said. "That shows good spirit."

"I even thought of a way to do it," she said.

"How?" Philip asked, suddenly feeling a little nervous.

"The train, dude. Man, I loved that ride. And I loved how you did it. Way cool. So I'm going to use it to return all that junk and then take it for a spin. Think of it Philip, right down the Turnpike to Denver. Like, totally awesome."

THE END, TOTALLY

Reprinted with permission of McIntosh & Otis, Inc.

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