The back of the wagon was filled with excited children. All with animated faces and gestures describing the wonders they had seen on their day in the city.
Their teacher sat on the bench at the front with the driver. She periodically turned around to check on her students. She was constantly amazed at their boundless energy. Especially that of young Iolaus, who was currently sitting in the very back of the wagon next to Hercules, assuming his constant wiggling could be called sitting. She knew he was up to something. It was written all over him plain as day. He probably had a big bug in his pocket. There was always something in that boy's pocket. Reluctantly, she pulled her eyes back to the road ahead, while her ears remained tuned to her rear.
The girls were chatting quietly among themselves about things nine and ten year old girls talk about. They bored Iolaus silly. They had been teasing him about his height all day. They were all taller than he was. He'd taken the insults quietly but it was about to be payback time.
Hercules shifted uncomfortably beside him, "Would you hold still. There's not enough room in this wagon for both of us, if you keep jumping around. What is your problem anyway?"
Iolaus leaned over conspiratorially and whispered, "It's a secret. Wanna see?"
Hercules had been involved with Iolaus' secret stuff before. "Why do I have the feeling I'm going to regret this?" He sighed the sigh of the long suffering. "OK, what's in the pocket?"
With a very bright twinkle in his eye, Iolaus leaned over and held his vest pocket open so Hercules could see. Inside was a little green frog.
Hercules was unimpressed. "I've seen frogs before, Iolaus. I know what they look like," he whispered back.
"Yeah, but girls don't like frogs. They scare'em." Iolaus grinned wickedly.
"You're going to get us in trouble."
Iolaus eyed the teacher's back, She'll never know I have it. Trust me.
"Look, you just take your pet and go sit somewhere else. I don't want any part of it. I promised mother, my teacher would not have to come visit her again. I'm not letting you get me in trouble anymore. I finally finished all the extra chores I had to do after the last time. Leave me out of your private vendetta with the girls."
Hercules raised his hands in front of him and shook his head, "I'm not taking the bait. You're on your own."
Iolaus shot Hercules a nonchalant look and slid across the wagon and sat next to Jane.
Jane glanced at Iolaus and turned back to Ayelet with a look of dread on her face and slid a couple of inches closer to her. Before they could continue their conversation, Iolaus tapped Jane on the shoulder. She rolled her eyes at Ayelet and turned back to Iolaus.
"What do you want?"
"I gotta secret in my pocket. Wanna see?" he raised his eyebrows temptingly..
"Come on. It's a really, really neat secret. Just for you."
Jane was not impressed, "If I look, will you go back and sit next to Hercules?"
A smile of triumph lit his face, "Sure, I will."
Jane leaned over as Iolaus held open his pocket. Jane looked, screamed, and shoved Iolaus away from her. He tried to grab the side of the wagon to regain his balance, but he missed and fell right out of the back of the wagon landing with an audible thump on the road.
The wagon driver immediately halted the horses as the teacher stood and turned around. "Iolaus, are you alright?"
"Yes ma'am." He stood and brushed himself off.
"Do you have a problem I need to know about like the inability to sit in the back of a wagon?"
An embarrassed and subdued Iolaus crawled back into the wagon. He flopped next to Hercules.
"Told ya it'd be trouble."
"I got more trouble than that." He opened his pocket and showed Hercules the contents. "I gotta squished frog. Yuck!"
Hercules tried really hard not to laugh, but in the end he just couldn't contain himself.
Iolaus just looked more depressed at his laughter.
Hercules reached over and put his arm around his friend. He hugged him lightly. "Iolaus, you may get me in trouble sometimes, but you sure do keep me well entertained." Hercules grinned and broke into a fit of giggles.
Finally, after one last moment of stubborn indignation, Iolaus joined him. They giggled all the way home.
The end for now.
Written by Ceryndip in June 1997.
The sequel to this story is Spiders, Snails and Puppy Dog Tales
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