Authors: Mike Litwin
Crown of the Cowibbean
Written and illustrated by Mike Litwin
Albert Whitman & Company
THE LEAKY TIKI
Everything seemed peaceful and perfect as usual on the tropical paradise island of Bermooda. But from the east, a bold ocean breeze rushed through the palm trees with a rumble that sounded almost like thunder. It was the type of wind that made a cow's fur stand on end, as if the breeze itself knew that something exciting was about to happen.
At the exact same time that breeze bellowed, nine-year-old calf Chuck Porter and his adopted brother Dakota were trotting toward the beach. Mama and Papa Porter said the two of them could camp out on the beach for the weekend as long as they were careful and stayed out of trouble.
“Let's look for a place to put up our tent,” Chuck said. He pulled a copy of
The Daily Moos
, the island's newspaper, from his camping pack. “The moospaper said the Silver Cow always shows up at sunset.”
That morning, Chuck had read an article in
The Daily Moos
about a mysterious silver cow that appeared in the wavesâ¦and then vanished without a trace. The moospaper said it was a mirage, but Chuck took it as a sure sign that the beach was haunted. Chuck loved adventure and he insisted they had to investigate right away.
This was nothing new, of course. Chuck was always on some kind of mission. That's how he met Dakota. Dakota was not a calf at all, but a hu'man boy in a cow costume. A few months ago, Chuck was exploring a forbidden shipwreck and found Dakotaâa lost hu'man boy washed up on a sandbar with no home, no family, and no idea where he was. They became best friends, even though the island legend said hu'mans were extinct, savage monsters. Chuck disguised his new friend's identity with “cowmouflage”âa cow costume made from coconut shells, a sea sponge, and an old blanket. The Porters adopted Dakota when they learned that he had no family, but they still had no idea that he was a hu'man. No hu'man had
been on Bermooda before, so Chuck and Dakota decided to keep it a secret.
The two of them had just found an excellent campsite when Dakota noticed something in the distance.
“What's that?” he said, pointing to a ship at the end of the harbor. “I haven't seen that ship before.”
Chuck looked up and gasped. “The
!” He started off toward the village, still wearing his camping pack. “Come on! We can go listen to Marco Pollo!”
“Who's âMarky Po-yo'? What about building our tent?” Dakota asked. But Chuck was already charging up the beach and didn't answer. Dakota rushed to catch up.
They clomped all the way through the village to the edge of the harbor, with Chuck's little white cow tail swishing excitedly the whole time. They finally stopped at a small, rickety-looking tavern with bamboo walls and a straw roof. Outside stood a wooden post with a grinning cow's face carved into it. An orange bandana with white polka dots was tied around its head, and water trickled out from between its enormous teeth. Above the post was a sign that read “The Leaky Tiki.”
“So who's Marky Po-yo?” Dakota repeated as he caught his breath.
“It's not âMarky'. It's
,” Chuck corrected him. “Marco Pollo is the most daring explorer to sail the sea!” he explained, waving his hooves. “The
is his ship. Lots of folks have sailed around Bermooda, but no one has sailed as far away as Marco. He's been to the horizon and beyond! He's amazing!”
Chuck opened the squeaky old door to the Leaky Tiki, and they entered a big, warmly lit room filled with tables and chairs. In the middle of the room, a circle of cows gathered around a pint-sized rooster who was perched on a table and chattering wildly.
This is Marco
? Dakota thought as they inched to the front of the crowd. Marco was quite small for someone with such a big reputation. He stood no more than two feet high. His deep maroon captain's hat was almost as big as he was, with ruffled white trim and a huge yellow plume. He fluttered his feathery wings and squawked excitedly.
Marco always roosted at the Tiki when he came in from a voyage, filling the tiny pub with colossal tales of adventure starring him and his first mate Ribeye. Even though his stories were very entertaining, almost no one took them seriously. After all, nearly everyone who lived on the island believed Bermooda was the only life in the sea. Everyone but Chuck, of course.
Chuck couldn't get enough of Marco's stories. Whenever he saw the
docked in the harbor, he would scurry to the Tiki and listen to Marco cackle on for hours about sea monsters, treasures, and far-off lands. It was the kind of life Chuck could only dream of living. Marco was his hero.
“So there we were,” Marco clucked, “both of us wrapped up tight in the giant squid's tentacles. Of course, Ribeye here was helpless to fight.” He motioned behind him to an enormous bull with an eye patch. Ribeye stood with his arms crossed, quietly frowning and shaking his big square head.
The chicken continued, “I alone,
, with my cunning, my prowess, myâ”
“Bull-oney!” mooed a large cow from the back of the crowd. The whole circle of cows laughed. “Pollo, every time you tell that story, that squid gets bigger and bigger.”
The laughter grew louder as Marco turned red beneath his orange feathers. But the cows' laughter did not stop Marco. He continued to talkâ¦and talkâ¦and talk. Every once in a while, Ribeye would just shake his head and grunt while rolling his one good eye.
Chuck and Dakota listened for nearly two hours before remembering they were supposed to be camping. They quietly slipped out of the Tiki as Marco was telling the crowd about the time he cut off the head of a giant sea snake.
“See? I told you Marco was amazing,” Chuck said.
“Are you kidding?” Dakota answered, raising an eyebrow. “It all sounds like a bunch of fairy tales to me.” Dakota was not as quick to believe Marco's epic stories as Chuck was. He thought it was ridiculous enough that they were spending their weekend looking for a silver ghost cow in the ocean, let alone stories about sea snakes and giant squids.
“They're not fairy tales!” Chuck snapped back. “Marco is a great explorer and a hero! It's the truth!”
is the truth,” Dakota held up their copy of
The Daily Moos
. “This is stuff that really happened.”
Chuck sighed. As a hu'man, Dakota knew just as well as him that there really was a whole other world out there.
Shouldn't he believe Marco more than anyone
? Chuck thought to himself. He glanced at the
Chuck's tail began to twitch. “I've got an idea!” he said. “I can prove Marco's stories are true.”
“How?” Dakota asked nervously. Whenever Chuck had a great idea, it usually ended up getting both of them in trouble.
Chuck pointed to the
. “Let's go on a treasure hunt.”
“A treasure hunt?” Dakota echoed. “We're already on a ghost hunt! What about our camping trip?” Dakota was not as daring as Chuck, and he preferred camping on the beach much more than poking around a ship they didn't own.
“We still have plenty of time before sunset,” Chuck assured him as he strolled toward the harbor. “Come on, it'll be an adventure.”
I hate adventure
, Dakota thought.
was docked at the very end of the wharf. Marco loved attention, so he always docked where everyone could see his boat. Sneaking on board was going to need a careful plan. Luckily, Chuck was always full of plans.
“Put this on,” he said as he handed Dakota an orange bandana with white polka dots. “It's your disguise.”
“A disguise on top of my cow disguise? This is silly.” Dakota took the bandana from Chuck. “This looks familiar. Isn't this the bandana from the post outside the Leaky Tiki? Did you steal this?” he gasped.
“It is from the Leaky Tiki, but I just borrowed it. We'll bring it back,” Chuck said. “Tie it around your head. All sailors wear bandanas on their heads. Unless you're the captain. Then you wear a hat.”
“Is this your plan?” Dakota asked nervously. “What if we get caught?” Marco's first mate Ribeye looked awfully big and mean, and Dakota didn't like the idea of making that one-eyed bull any grumpier.
“We won't get caught,” Chuck said as he folded their copy of
The Daily Moos
into a very fine-looking paper hat. “Marco will be busy talking for hours. Besides, we're not going to
anything. We're just
. If anyone asks, just say you're one of his sailors.”
get to wear a hat?” he asked Chuck.
“We only have one bandana,” Chuck said, putting on the paper hat. “Plus, it's
idea, so I get to wear the captain's hat.”
They looked out at the wharf. Many cows were milling about, tending to the small boats on either side of the dock.
“There's no way this is going to work!” Dakota said in a hushed whisper.
“Sure it will! Just talk like a sailor,” Chuck whispered back. “Arrrr, matey!” he said in a loud pirate voice as he marched out on the pier. “It sure be a good day for sailin', aye?”
“Aye, aye, sir!” Dakota shouted back. “Ummmâ¦.Yo ho ho and a bottle of milk!” Dakota's face turned red under his cow mask. He felt incredibly foolish. Cows all over the harbor watched curiously as the two phony sailors marched by, but no one questioned them. Chuck's plan was working! They continued their loud parade all the way to the end of the wharf.