The desert is a hot, dry place and sand and sunshine are everywhere.
And the desert is the best place to get dessert, all kinds of sweets can be found there.
You’ll find Cactus Cakes, Tumbleweed Twists, Melted Ice Cream, Butter-brickle Brambles, and Dusty Cup Cakes.
And no one made better Dusty Cup Cakes than ol’ Toothless Jeb of the Okie Dokey Corral.

“Toothless” was a bit of a misnomer. You see, Jeb had plenty of teeth but when you’re an alligator like Jeb, 43 teeth doesn’t seem like a lot.
Each morning Toothless Jeb would set out his daily batch of Cup Cakes on the window sill of his store and open the window to let the wind sprinkle them with the sugar dust that blew in across the Pixie Dust Prairie.
Well, one morning wouldn’t you know it, along came A Cupcake Thief who called himself Cowboy X and Cowboy X stole those Cup Cakes and took off screaming “Cowboy X Yeee Haaw!”

A few miles down the road, Cowboy X came across what looked to be a mound of rags on the side of the trail. But it began to move! And low and behold it stood up and it was a person! A Cowgirl named Barstow Barbara, a wallaby.
“Well, howdy partner.” Barb said. “I’m Barstow Barbara. Or, that’s the name I go by. My name is Magill, I call myself Lill, but everyone knows me as Nancy. Nevertheless, the name I go by is Barstow Barbara.”
“Well, that’s clear as mud.” Said Cowboy X. “All around town my name is Mudd. But I go by the name of Cowboy X. You can call me X.”
“Well, X, I’ve been out on this here trail for a mighty long time. It seems since early this morning anyway, and I sure could use a nice refreshing Cup Cake. Could you borrow me a Cup Cake there partner? Whattya say?”
“Well, you mean will I LOAN you a cupcake.”
“I’m pretty sure what I meant,” said Barbara, “and I guess you got the gist of what I meant but what’s the difference?”
“Well I would do the loaning and you’d do the borrowing.” Said X.
“That’s great! Thanks.” Said Barbara.
“Now hold on a right darn rootin’ tootin’ New York Minute there, Ms. Magill Call Yourself Lill Everyone Knows You As Nancy and Goes By Barstow Barbara! I didn’t agree to any sort of loaning agreement by any means or terms between myself or any such party.”
“Look here X, I never did once celebrate anything nor have I partook in any party in my life. Not even one of my birthdays of which there have been several. All I wanted was for me to BORROW and you to LOAN me a Cup Cake. And that’s the end of that. Whattya say?”
Cowboy X scratched at his scruffy beard.
“Well, Barbara. I wish I could. I do. But the way I see it, for me to loan you a Cup Cake would require you to then give me back that same aforementioned Cup Cake. The self same and identical Cup Cake. Being the case that you would like to eat the Cake in question,”
“The Cup Cake, yes.” She interrupted.
“That is correct. The Cup Cake. Being that you would like to eat the Cup Cake. I don’t see how any lending would be possible in this here instance. Good day.” And Cowboy X walked away.

A short distance later, Barstow Barbara ran up alongside X.
“Sir, if I might borrow a moment of your time.” She said.
He glared at her.
“I’m sorry, X. I mean: if I could have a moment of your time…..”
“It is granted. Speak.” He stopped.
“How about we find a middle ground. A compromise as it were.”
“I’m listening.”
“How about if we agreed for you to GIVE me a Cup Cake.”
Cowboy X considered for a moment then said,
“That would lessen my number of Cup Cakes by one.” He said, doing some math in his head.
“Your number would decrease, X, yes. This I do not debate. However, the total amount of Cup Cakes in general would remain the same.” said Barbara.
“The logic is sound.” Said X, “yet still my access to that particular Cup Cake would certainly diminish to the point of absolute zero as you ate that Cup Cake!” He said feeling quite satisfied.
“But, dear sir, you would still have all of your remaining Cup Cakes. From your perspective you would have 100% of the Cup Cakes and as I finished my Cup Cake not only would I have none of your Cup Cakes, I wouldn’t even have any of my ONE Cup Cake any longer. I would have no Cup Cakes and you would have them all.” She cleared her throat. “The bottom line Mr. X, is that in this scenario you would come out on top and in the end I would again have nothing but the rags on my back.” She folded her arms feeling quite accomplished.
Mr. X stood silent deep in thought.
“Aha! I’ve got it! We’ve been so bogged down in the specifics of who gets what and whatnot that we’ve completely overlooked the idea of you buying a Cup Cake from me.”
Mr. X exclaimed.
“Well, how much would a Cup Cake cost?”
“Actually, they’re not for sale. Sorry. It was just an idea. No harm in sharing ideas!” He said.
“Absolutely. No bad ideas in a brainstorm, that’s what Lill always says.” She said.
“Who’s Lill?” Cowboy X asked.
“Me. I call myself Lill.”
“That’s right. I’d forgotten that. Strange that everyone knows you as Nancy.” He stared off into the distance.
“Oh, that’s just because I look like my twin brother Nancy.” Barbara said.
“Nancy huh? And what does he go by?”
“He doesn’t. He’s largely unknown. He’s a struggling artist, writes anonymously, is often misquoted, dresses in disguises, is largely forgettable, and his cooking is terrible. All in all, Nancy is hardly a Nancy or any other name at all.”
“I see.” Said X. “Well, nice to have met you. Good day.” And he walked away.

A short distance down the road Barstow Barbara ran up alongside Cowboy X.
“Pardon me, X, but you said your Cup Cakes weren’t for sale.”
“That is correct Ma’am.”
“Well, how about trading?” She asked.
Cowboy X stopped. “A trade you say?”
“Yes. A trade. Fair and square. I’ll trade you a dollar for a Cup Cake.”
“Trade me a dollar for a Cup Cake huh? That sounds a lot like a retail transaction. Are you speaking of a purchase per chance?”
“I suppose you could look at it that way.” She said. “But that would only be if you wanted to use the dollar as a dollar. If you just wanted a piece of paper to turn into a paper airplane, a dollar bill would suffice and no ‘money’ would have exchanged hands. Suffice it to say, money that is not used as money is just a thing. A thing you could trade.”
“So,” X stopped walking, “If I wanted something shiny to look at and you gave me four quarters for a Cup Cake that would be a trade?”
“Absolutely.” She said.
“Okay. Let’s do it!” X said and held out his hand. He loved shiny things.
“Actually, I don’t have four quarters. I just have this dollar bill.” She held out her stiff crisp new dollar bill, just ready to be made into a paper airplane. “Do you have change for a dollar?” She asked.
“No!” He exclaimed. “I’ve only got my one quarter. It’s the last one I got!”
“Wow.” said Barbara staring at the quarter. “That is pretty shiny.” She liked shiny things too.
“Now, if you don’t mind…I’ve got to get moving along Barbara. You see, I’ve only recently stolen these Cup Cakes and I need to high tail it along the dusty trail before the sheriff comes looking for me.” Cowboy X turned to leave. “Oh, Barbara, before I leave: why do you call yourself Lill?”
“It works whether I’m talking to myself or talking to myself in the mirror.” She said.
“Because Lill is Llil backwards.”
“That’s right!” She said beaming.
“I think I’m beginning to understand you, Barbara. Good day.” And Cowboy X walked away.

Finally Barstow Barbara caught up with him again.
“You again!?” X said quite exasperated. “Why don’t you just leave me alone?”
“Because I am really very hungry! I haven’t eaten all morning!”
X looked at his watch. “It’s only 9 O’Clock!”
“Yes, but it’s late afternoon in France.”
“But we’re not in France!” Yelled X.
“Very convenient for you, isn’t it?” Barbara said flatly and crossed her arms.
“You’re full of nonsense!” Cowboy X grumbled and pulled his cowboy hat over his ears.
“My empty stomach stands in direct contradiction!” She answered and was so pleased with herself that she shook her rags and did a deep curtsy before finishing with a pirouette.
“I will not loan, sell, or trade you any of these Cup Cakes! Not one, not some….and not all!…I know you’d ask.” X hitched up his overalls and spat on the sugary ground for emphasis.
“How about a bet?” Barbara offered.
“Hmmm. What do I get if I win?”
“All of your Cup Cakes.”
“What if you win?”
“I get one of your Cup Cakes.”
“I like those terms. What’s the wager?”
“That you can’t guess what day my birthday is on.”
“Well, let’s see here. There’s 365 days in a year and one of those days would have to be your birthday….I like those odds. Okay.”
Cowboy X set down his Cup Cakes and they shook on the bet.
“Well,” X said. “Using logic, I may be able to figure this out. Let’s see: you’ve already told me that you don’t celebrate your birthday and you don’t seem to be celebrating. However, subconsciously you may secretly want to somehow recognize that it’s your birthday…perhaps by eating a Cup Cake…and you certainly have been showing interest in my Cup Cakes today. And you seem to be the sneaky kind of wallaby that would choose a bet like this on her birthday just as a joke to herself…So…Using logic, reason, the power of deduction and insight and powered by intuition and my knowledge of you…I’m going to guess that your birthday is today.”
Barbara raised her eyebrows. “Cowboy X…It is indeed my birthday…BUT! But the question was ‘what day was my birthday?’ so what day is it today?”
“Uhhhh. Wednesday.”
“Nope. Today is Tuesday.”
Cowboy X threw his hat on the ground. “Dagnabbit!” He yelled. “This week has been going by so slow!”
Barbara laughed and laughed and held out her hand, very satisfied with herself.
Cowboy X thought quickly. “But! Wait! What about we go double or nothing. If you win, you get two of my Cup Cakes and if I win, I get to keep all of my Cup Cakes.”
“I like the terms.” Said Barbara. “What’s the bet?”
“That you can’t guess any day of the year that is NOT my birthday.” Said Cowboy X.
“Well, there’s 365 days in a year and most people I know, wallabies or not, are born only on one day…So…I like my odds! You’ve got a bet!” And Barbara shook X’s hand.
“I will guess that your birthday is not today.”
“Sorry.” Said Cowboy X. He yanked the Cup Cake back from Barbara and walked away.

A short distance later, Barbara ran up to X.
“Okay, X: you won’t lend, sell, trade a cup cake. And I’ve tried my best at betting you for one. How about I EARN a cup cake?”
“Well, that would depend on what you would do to earn a Cup Cake.”
“I could teach you how to climb a cactus!” She said.
“Well, that would be a very valuable skill to acquire. For, high atop the lofty cactus I would be able to espy the afar Sheriff on yonder and then turn and high tail it in the opposite direction, thus putting space and hence time between us. Bottom line is: I hire you for the wage of ONE CUP CAKE and by extension buy myself freedom AND the rest of my Cup Cakes.” Cowboy X tugged at his beard in thought. “Okay. You’ve got it Barbara. Teach away. I am your pliant and willing disciple.”
Barbara walked X to the base of the tallest cactus in the Dessert Desert, just West of the Pixie Dust Prairie.
“This here cactus will serve as our classroom.” She said and took out a small notebook and a big pencil. “What you will want to do is grab your arms around the cactus and slowly shimmy up it until you get to the very tippy top and then sit down.”
“By the sounds of it, that will be very difficult, Barbara.”
“I never promised you a rose garden, X. Now get going. Class starts now!”
And Cowboy X grabbed onto the cactus “Ouch!” and started climbing “OUCH!” and kept climbing “Ouchyouchyouchyouchyouchy!” until he got to the tippy top and sat down.
“Very good, X! You get an A Plus!” Barbara yelled up and grabbed her Cup Cake.
Before she could take a bite, X called down: “How do I get down?!”
But he was VERY HIGH UP and it was hard to hear what he said.
“WHAT?” Barbara yelled back up to him.
“HOW DO I GET DOWN FROM HERE?” He yelled very loudly.
Barbara yelled back very very loudly: “YOU JUMP!”
And Barbara laughed and laughed and laughed. She was about to take a bite of her delicious Cup Cake when all of a sudden: SPLAT!
Cowboy X jumped down from the tippy top and landed on all of his other Cup Cakes which broke his fall quite nicely because there were a lot of Cup Cakes and they all had a lot of very fluffy frosting on them.
Barbara was a bit surprised. “X, you look very happy!”
“Of course I am happy!” He said. “I got to see the most amazing thing ever. It was just amazing……”
Barbara was silent for a while and was about to take a bite out of her Cup Cake when curiosity got the best of her.
“What was it?”
“Well, I can’t really describe it. You’d have to see it yourself.”
“Well show me it!” She said excitedly. She hoped it was shiny. Barbara really liked shiny things.
“I wish I could. But you can’t see it from here. I could only see it from up there.” Cowboy X pointed up.
“Up there?” Barbara questioned questioningly.
“Yup. I could only see it from up there. And it was pretty amazing. Really.You may never have seen it yourself it all your life.” Cowboy X said as he brushed off the fluffy frosting from his coveralls.
“Well I want to see it!” Barbara exclaimed.
“Well get on up there then!” Cowboy X encouraged.
“Will you hold my Cup Cake?” She asked.
“Sure.”
“You won’t eat it will you?”
“Nope.”
“Not even a little bit.”
“Nope.”
“It’s just that I earned this Cup Cake. I earned it fair and square through work, okay? It’s mine. This Cup Cake is my wage. I don’t want to have a labor dispute with you. I like you Cowboy X, I do. You’re professional, you’re a natural leader. I wouldn’t say you’re a friend per se, but as much as you were my student you were my boss. And I think that we had a good rapport as a supervisor and employee.”
“I agree, Barbara. I totally agree.”
“So please. Don’t sour this experience for me okay? I’ve wanted a Cup Cake all morning and this solitary and singular Cup Cake is all I want in life right now. It’s the only thing I’ve got going for myself. Look at me. I’m covered in rags! And this notebook and pencil are really just props. The notebook doesn’t have any paper in it and the pencil is really dull–they’re just for show, you know…To make me look the part of a teacher for when I teach people how to climb cacti. You know. So please. Cowboy X….don’t…just…please don’t eat my Cup Cake.”
“Sure thing Barbara now climb up that cactus.”
She handed X the Cup Cake and started climbing.
It hurt. It hurt really bad.
And as an aside, just me to you: don’t ever try to climb a cactus. It is horrifically painful and possibly life threatening.
When Barbara got to the tippy top and sat down she looked around.
“Cowboy X? What was it? What was it that you saw up here? That I had never seen before and you could only see from up here?”
“The top of your head!”
And Cowboy X laughed and laughed and laughed through a mouthful of Cup Cake.
“Cowboy X! Yeeeee Haaaw!”
And Cowboy X ran away across the Dessert Desert.

After a couple of hours Barbara saw two figures coming from a long distance away, their shadows laying long ahead of them. In a couple more hours, the Sheriff and Toothless Jeb stood at the foot of the cactus.
“Who’s up there?” Toothless Jeb yelled up.
“It’s me! Barstow Barbara!” She yelled down.
“Oh. That’s the girl named Magill who calls herself Lill but everyone knows her as Nancy.”
Said the Sheriff.
“Whatcha doing at the tippy top of that cactus?” The Sheriff asked.
“Don’t ask!” She called back down.
Thankfully Toothless Jeb had brought a basket of Cup Cakes that he laid down so that Barbara could jump down into them. They were very shock absorbent.
“What are you two doing way out here in the Dessert Desert anyway?” Barbara asked thinking she was pretty lucky they came along.
“Oh, we’ve been looking for a Cup Cake Thief.” The Sheriff said and he pulled out a Wanted Poster with a picture of Cowboy X on it. “His name is Nancy, he calls himself X, and all around town his name is Mudd.”
Barbara scratched her head. “Not a bad looking guy, is he?”
“Meh. His looks are pretty forgettable.” said Jeb.
“Yeah,” said the Sheriff “and his cooking is terrible.”

There once was an lagoon. It was a deep blue ocean and it was clear and clean.
Octopi gave each other big, complex sailor-knot hugs, and squid raced each other in figure eights.
Everything was very nice and calm. Until one day when Bumpy the Grump showed up.
Everyday Bumpy The Big Ol’ Grump would lounge in the lagoon and splash the manatees. He would wiggle his nose at the herons and would crawl around on the beach and make faces at the seals.
Bumpy would kick sand at the clams, and do silly dances behind the Sandpiper’s backs. Bumpy was a Big Ol’ Grump.
One day all the animals came to Monkey to ask him to do something about Bumpy.
“Have you asked him politely to stop?” Monkey asked.
“Many times, Monkey.” Said Mr. Walrus and everyone nodded except the Sea Cucumbers who just wobbled a bit.
Monkey got a plan to make banana smoothies for Bumpy everyday so that Bumpy’s Grumpies would go away and he would smile more and not be a Grump.
So the next day Monkey climbed up a tree to get bananas for Bumpy’s smoothie.
Oops! Monkey dropped the bunch of bananas and they fell down down down right on top of Bumpy’s head!
“Ouch!” Said Bumpy.
Monkey was so embarrassed and sorry! He felt really bad and chattered his teeth and scrambled down the tree to apologize and say “I’m Sorry Bumpy.”
But when Monkey got to the bottom of the tree Bumpy was talking to a Kelp.
“Wow! I just got hit on the head by the Sun!” Bumpy was saying.
The Bananas had squished on his head and now his eyes were covered up by banana peels.
“The whole world is now dark because the Sun fell down and hit me on the head!” Bumpy was getting really upset and even when Monkey tried to calm him down, Bumpy wouldn’t listen.
Suddenly, Bumpy got an idea.
“I’ve got the bestest mostest perfect idea in the whole big entire world! Bestest idea in the solar system! Even bigger! The Universe! The Multiverse!”
Monkey thought to himself, “This must be a pretty good idea by the sounds of it.”
Monkey watched as Bumpy proceeded to get onto his hands, kick his feet into the air and begin walking around the beach on his hands.
“Aha! Now the Sun will never hit my head again!” He proudly announced as he hand-walked away along the lagoon.
Bumpy seemed happy enough to walk every where on his hands so Monkey and the other animals let him enjoy himself.
And things returned to normal again. For a while.
Then one day Bumpy hand-walked over to a Pelican and made silly noises at her and wiggled his toes like a Big Ol’ Grump.
Soon he was right back into his old ways of bothering all the other animals, the only difference now is that he was on his hands. Monkey thought to himself: “Tonight I will make Bumpy a Banana Smoothie and he will be happy and not a Big Ol’ Grump.”
So that night Monkey climbed a tree to get some bananas.
Oops! Monkey dropped the bunch of bananas and they fell down down down right on top of Bumpy’s butt!
“Ouch!” Bumpy said. “The moon has just fell down on my butt!”
Bumpy became real upset and wouldn’t listen to Monkey when he tried to tell him:
“It was bananas. Not the moon!”
Bumpy did a hand spring into the water and hid hear the rocks.
“I’ll be very very very safe in the water between these rocks!” Bumpy said.
Monkey called out to Bumpy, “Bumpy! It was bananas! Not the moon!”
Bumpy stayed in the water.
He stayed there so long in fact that his feet turned into a big fishy fin and in three days he turned into a Mermaid!
Through the years, Bumpy the Mermaid would convince other animals in the lagoon that the sky was falling and they too would hide between the rocks with him and he would tell them for hours and hours about the time the Sun and the Moon fell down on him.
And it made Monkey and all the other animals happy to see that Bumpy was no longer a Big Ol’ Grump.

There once was a piggy bank.
It was pink and the size of a mango.
It had no money in it.
Every night Panda would look at the piggy bank and shake it and there was never money inside.
Panda would look at Puppy and say: “Puppy, there is no money in this here piggy bank. My study has confirmed it.”
And Puppy would wag her tail and say, “Well, let us first allow me to also experiment on the piggy bank and we will then collect and compare our data findings.” And Puppy would then shake the piggy bank and there would be no money in it. They would then make a chart of their piggy bank studies and would write with a big red crayon “No Money!” and then they would laugh and kiss and hug. Then they would think about how much they liked yummy tummy apple pie with dreamy creamy vanilla ice cream and then they would go to bed with their tummies growling.
“Growl growl” said their tummies.
“Snore snore” said their noses.

One day Puppy was out sniffing around in hopes of finding some scraps of bamboo to bring home to Panda. Puppy came across a giant tree that was bigger than an elephant–bigger than a house!–bigger than an elephant’s house!–Bigger than an elephant hotel!
Puppy saw a small little door open in the side of the tree and Puppy trotted closer while wagging her little tail back and forth, back and forth, like windshield wipers on the school bus: “Swish Swish!”
A tiny Wood Nymph stood at the door and invited Puppy inside. She waved her hand and Whooosh! Puppy was shrunk to the size of a squirrel.
Inside there was a birthday party for the Oldest Wood Nymph Ever and there were lots of animals dancing and playing. There was a Coyote, a Fox, A Crow, a Spider, an Especially Large Earthworm, and in the livingroom there was a man snoring on the couch.
“Snore snore” Said his nose.
It was a great birthday party with lots of games to play and music to dance to.
In a small quiet room carved into a branch halfway up the trunk was a strange looking Grumpy Tree Troll with tiny little eyes and a beard that reached to his hairy toes sitting on the floor playing jacks.
He offered Puppy to play a game and Puppy did so.
Puppy won the first game of jacks. Yay Puppy! Go Puppy!
Then the Tree Troll pulled out a treasure chest of gold coins. Shiny gold coins!
“I bet you all this gold that you won’t win this next game of jacks.” Said the Grumpy Tree Troll.
“Okay.” Said Puppy.
And Puppy won the second game of Jacks! Yay Puppy! Go Puppy!
Then the Tree Troll said “I bet you all your gold coins that you won’t win this next game of jacks.”
“Okay.” Said Puppy.
And Puppy lost the third game of jacks. Oh, sorry Puppy!
Puppy knew that it was late and that Panda was probably at home waiting for her to come home so they could play fetch. Puppy needed to go home, but she really wanted all that shiny shiny gold!
“I have a bet for you.” Said Puppy.
“Name it!” Said the Grumpy Tree Troll.
“I bet you I can make you say your name.”
“Okay. I bet you a big fortune you can’t make me say my name.”
“What’s your name?”
“I’m not going to tell you my name you silly Puppy!”
“Shucks. Okay. I lose. Who should I write the check out to?”
“Leaf Bottom. Arrrgh!” Leaf Bottom the Grumpy Tree Troll covered his face in shame.
“You got me you sneaky Puppy! Here is my fortune.” And Leaf Bottom tugged at his beard.

Puppy carried the gold all the way home as fast as she could.
When she got to her and Panda’s house, it looked very different.
When she let herself inside there was a very Old Panda Bear sitting in a rocking chair with a big warm blanket over his shoulders.
“Oh, I’m sorry! I must have the wrong house.” Puppy said. “I used to live here with a young and handsome Panda.”
The Old Panda Bear looked up over his glasses. “Huh? The only young and handsome Panda that lived here was me. Many years ago I lived here with a young and beautiful Puppy.”
Puppy wagged her tail. “That was me! I mean that is me! Panda! I’m Puppy!” and they laughed and hugged and kissed.
“See, I brought you home a fortune!” She pointed at the gold with her front paw.
“But I missed you so much! Where have you been?”
Puppy explained the Wood Nymph party.
“Time is different inside trees.” Panda said.
“Yes,” Said Puppy. “I’m sorry I was gone longer than I thought but now I’m back and we’re rich!”
She went to put the gold into their piggy bank but when she lifted it up, it was heavy and full.
She shook it and discovered it was filled with tears.
“I would cry every night because I missed you.” Panda said and sniffled back a tear.
“Sniffle sniffle” said his nose.
Puppy started to cry and ran back to the Big Tree and talked to the Wood Nymph.
She shrunk her down and talked about Puppy’s predicament.
“Yes, time is different in trees,” She said “but there is always a solution to fix any problem. You see, because we burned birthday candles the last time you were here all we have to do is unburn them to get you back.”
So the Wood Nymph lit the birthday candles and had Puppy blow them out. They did this again and again and the candles got bigger and taller each time. At the sixteenth time, the candles were brand new and the Wood Nymph said “That’s it!”
Puppy thanked her and ran home. Yay Puppy! Go Puppy!
Puppy came around their street corner to find Panda cleaning the rain gutters.
When Panda saw Puppy running down the street he leapt down from the ladder.
They met each other by the mailbox and gave each other a big, big hug.
“Puppy,” Said Panda, “Let’s grow old together.”
Puppy licked his face.