The Last Minute Surprise

by Stephanie V. Moody

“Cock-a-doodle-doo,” crowed Mr. Early.

He was up with the sun as always. And, as always, the first thing he did was look at his calendar. Mr. Early never wasted a minute.

“Oh, goody,” he said, seeing the big red star on his calendar. “Today is the day I plan a party for my friends. When will it be?”

Mr. Early cocked his head, thinking. Carefully he checked his calendar. Monday was planning day. Tuesday was his shopping day. Wednesday was cooking day. Thursday was cleaning day. And that wasn’t all.

There were flying lessons for the goslings and egg-laying contests for the chickens and fishing trips and swimming practice and on and on. The first few days of the week were simply jam-packed.

“But there’s only one other event on Friday, and it won’t interfere at all,” Mr. Early said. “So Friday will be the perfect day for my party.”

Mr. Early put a big red circle around Friday. Then he got to work.

First he made a list of the friends he wanted to invite. Then he wrote his invitations and took them around the barnyard.

“What a splendid idea.” clucked the chickens. “We’ll be there.”

“You can count on us,” brayed the donkeys.

The geese honked their joy at being invited, and the cows all nodded in agreement.

“Now I must find Ms. Surprise,” said Mr. Early. “There’s no telling where she might be. That duck doesn’t have a schedule."

Mr. Early looked high in the rafters of the barn. He looked low in the bushes. He looked under haystacks and into trees. Where was Ms. Surprise?

Finally he found her poking in the mud by the pond. Mr. Early was a little flustered from his long search. “There you are,” he said. “Here is your invitation. Please be at my roost promptly at noon Friday. Not a minute late, mind you.”

“Oh my,” quacked Ms. Surprise, glancing at the invitation. “I can’t. I mean I don’t know, lt’s just...”

“Out with it,” snapped Mr. Early.

Well, I love parties, but I couldn’t possibly make plans for Friday today,” said Ms. Surprise. “Couldn’t you have your party today? Today I’m not busy.”

“No, no, no!” scolded Mr. Early, pointing to his calendar. “Friday is the best day.

Ms. Surprise looked at the calendar with its big red circle. Then she read the writing inside the circle. “But I don’t know what I’ll be doing on Friday.” she said. “I never plan ahead. I like each day to be a last-minute surprise.”

“Harumph,” snorted Mr. Early, strutting away.

"Then you can’t come to the party.”

Ms. Surprise moaned and hung her head. “I do love parties, but I like surprises even more. What should I do?”

Mr. Early didn’t hear her. He was already gone.

The week passed quickly for Mr. Early. He shopped and he cleaned and he baked as he had planned.

Ms. Surprise had a good week, too. She did whatever she wanted to do whenever she felt like doing it. Each day was an adventure. On Friday she remembered Mr. Early’s party.

    “Mr. Early, please come quick.” she quacked at his door.  “There’s something you must see by the pond.”

    “But my guests will be arriving,” Mr. Early protested.

    “Never mind,” said Ms. Surprise. “They will wait for you. Now hurry.”

Mr. Early grabbed his coat and raced after Ms. Surprise, but he couldn't catch her. When he reached the pond there was no one in sight.

“Harrumph,” grumbled Mr. Early. “Now I’ll be late to my own party.”

Mr. Early trudged up the hill. There was no one waiting at his front door. There was no one waiting at his side door. “Have my guests gone home already?” he said. “Did they forget about my party?”

Mr. Early rushed into the house.


yelled all of his friends

”Happy birthday!”  quacked Ms. Surprise, holding up a big birdseed cake with a glowing candle.

Mr. Early crowed with delight.  “How did you know?” he asked.

“Ms. Surprise told us,” clucked the chickens. “She saw it on your calendar.”

“Oh, what a good friend you are,” said Mr. Early, pecking Ms. Surprise on the cheek. “This is the first surprise I’ve ever had.”

“It’s the first one I’ve ever planned,” said Ms. Surprise.

“What fun,” said Mr. Early. “We must plan many more surprises together.”

“More planned surprises?” said Ms. Surprise, ruffling her feathers. “What an interesting idea. I’d be glad to help. That is, if we can plan the last minute.”