Thirty-Three Animal Stories for Children
IN MEMORIAM: RAINDROPS, 1980-1997, our family Cat.
All author's proceeds donated to Windsor and Essex County Humane Society.
© Copyright 2022 by Ezra Azra
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.
1) The pandemic; its good side.
2) The kid’s a genius.
3) Meat the king.
5) How to eat a centipede.
6) A cat, Astrophe.
7) Geese and meteorites.
8) Haunted river.
9) Moose,Horse,Eagle,Robin Redbreast.
10) Conversation with food.
11) Elephant voices.
12) The tree ants.
13) Two snakes and a mongoose.
14) Without a tail.
15) Everybody gets a turn.
16) Birds of a feather.
17) Cow and Ant.
18) Galumphing thingie.
19) Lucky seven.
20) Magical friends.
21) Shimry and Moshiree.
22) Zilny’s world.
23) The unmentionable monster.
24) Lei-Lu and her Grampa, forever.
25) Shipwrecked into freedom.
26) Who wants to play the human?
27) Rabbit and Elephant.
28) The magical jungle.
29) Giraffe and Zebra.
30) Just in time.
31) Lion and Ostrich.
32) One uvula and two tonsils, to the rescue.
33) The cat that ate Dad.
1) The pandemic. Its good side.
"Well! Well! Well! If it isn't my long-lost buddy, Rover!"
"My name is not Rover," sulked Dog, chained outside her kennel in the backyard.
"Hah! As long as you are chained by the neck, Rover girlie, your name is what I say it is," sing-songed Weasel, "Rover-Rover-Rover---," waltzing closer. "Whatever did you do to earn this demeaning treatment? When I did not see you at your usual post, I dared come closer and closer, wondering where you were hiding to pounce on me. You have never let me come this close to the chickens. By the way, Rover-lass, just where are the chickens? I don't see any of them."
"I do not know" barked Dog, deliberately avoiding eye-contact.
"Really? I find that so hard to comprehend. You have had free run of the whole farm ever since we became mortal enemies."
"Not any more free run, as you can plainly see" growled Dog.
"I see. I see. But why, my dear, dear erstwhile enemy number one? Tsk, tsk. Since when?"
"Since something named 'the pandemic' came."
"The pandemic!" Dog said it so impulsively, it came out mostly as a bark.
Weasel instinctively jumped back. Dog continued, in a bad temper. "And don't ask me any more about it. I have never seen it. Everybody is afraid of it. When anyone comes out of the house, they wear a mask over the mouth."
Weasel added, "I see everybody everywhere wearing masks. I thought it was a ludicrous attempt to make themselves invisible when hunting us wild creatures. People! Nyeah! Always up to silly shenanigans."
There was a pause as Weasel concentrated. "The pandemic, you say, girlie dog?"
"Yes, you little criminal weasel thing!”
"A meat eater?"
"I don't know; but it kills."
"And the mask makes people invisible to the pandemic?"
"Why else would they wear it, silly chicken murderer? I hear someone coming. Hide!"
"I'd rather run. Catch you later, alligator."
"Running won't help you if it's the farmer with his rifle. Get into my kennel!"
Without thinking about it, Weasel scurried into the dog kennel. Once she was inside, and turned around, it struck her what a dangerously unwise move this was! A Weasel hiding from a chicken farmer with a rifle, in his dog's kennel?
She ran to the doorway. Too late! The farmer with his rifle had put a bowl of food on the ground for Dog and was talking to her as she ate. He had adjusted his mask off his mouth in order to speak to Dog. Weasel, trembling in fear and got ready to dash out for her life at any moment. She heard, but was too panicked to be able to process what the farmer said.
"Really sorry to have to keep our distance from you, girl. There is no vaccination for animals yet. And if this corona virus jumps from us to you,---" The farmer put his hand on Dog's head, and gently petted her. He moved his mask to cover his mouth, and went back into the house.
Weasel crept out of the kennel. She walked cautiously towards Dog and said softly, "Thanks for hiding me."
Dog paused in her eating to say, "It was a spur-of-the-moment thing. Do not read more into it than that. I was as foolish as you. I will not make that mistake again. You and I are natural enemies, chicken-killer. Never forget that. Now, you had better leave before some other person comes out with a bigger gun." Dog resumed eating.
After a few seconds of silence, Weasel said, softly, "Enemies even when there are no chickens around for you to protect, doggie-woggie?"
Dog paused eating. She was puzzled, looking at Weasel.
Weasel shrugged, "Just asking."
Dog pushed her bowl of food towards Weasel. "Want some? It's fish. Fresh."
"Thank you. Haven't had a decent meal in three days." Weasel wolfed down all the rest of the food in the bowl. "Wow! For food as delicious as this, I could volunteer to be chained."
"Best you go, now. Don't comeback this way. Now that there are no chickens around, no point risking both the rifle and the pandemic."
"You're right." She took a few steps, and stopped. She turned and looked at Dog. “I notice my competitor for the chickens isn’t around. Did you--?” “That rat?” “Uh-huh.” “When?” “Does that matter? And it was the farmer. Not me.” “Was it quick?” “Just leave! If the farmer sees you through a window, you will be joining that rat.”
Weasel did not move. She smiled mischievously and said softly,
"I could come back in the dark and chew you free. We could romp about in the woods."
"Thanks. Sounds great. I accept, except that it's a chain. Not chewable to anybody, weasel-shmeazel."
"Only the chain part, silly girlie. The collars are always chewable stuff. Get some sleep. We have an exciting night ahead."
She winked, and was gone. Dog’s mind was in a whirl; her heart was suddenly thumping and racing.
2) The kid’s a genius.
Two former house-cats had run away from home to live in freedom in a forest. They had married and were living happily ever after. They were even happier when their first child was born. They named her Freedom.
All was proceeding well until Dad and Mom knew it was time in the forest to teach Freedom how to hunt for food. This meant Freedom would have to learn to kill rodents.
Freedom showed no interest in learning how to hunt. Dad and Mom were concerned, and most disappointed. In every other respect, Freedom was a perfect only-child.
Dad said to Mom, “I have asked all our friends, and our doctor, for advice. None of them has ever encountered this problem. They cannot help us.” “The doctor, too?” “She said she will consult other doctors and medical books, and get back to me.” Dad suggested, without conviction, “It could be just a phase Freedom will outgrow.” “Let’s hope,” said Mom. “After all, it isn’t as if we cannot provide for her ourselves.”
A long uncomfortably thoughtful silence during which each looked at the other with tearful eyes.
In a weak and shaky voice, one said to the other, “Anyway, when the time comes, she wants to go out to live on her own, she will have to learn to hunt.”
Time went on. Freedom showed no interest in either learning to hunt, or to leave home to live on her own. Worse was she began dissociating herself from other young cats who were leaving their homes and hunting for themselves.
Dad and Mom were finding it ever more difficult to be hopeful about their only-child’s future.
Every time they tried to discuss the matter with Freedom, she would say little and quickly fall asleep during the discussion. The parents in desperation kept reminding themselves and each other that, except for this one matter, they had a perfect child.
She helped take out the garbage every day, without having to be asked. She kept her room clean and tidy. Dad and Mom did not have to assign chores to her because Freedom helped out around the home in everything, other than in hunting. Dad and Mom were totally confused about how a child could be perfect in every other way, except one.
Their medical doctor got back to them. Neither she nor every other doctor she had contacted in other countries found help in medical books. No doctor in the whole wide world had ever encountered an actual case of a cat with this problem. In fact, everybody knew of only cats that loved to hunt to kill to eat their kill.
The doctor suggested hypnosis. Hypnosis was a last resort medical cure always successful.
Dad and Mom did not like the idea of hypnosis. To them, hypnosis was trickery, and dishonest. Also, although hypnosis, so far, had been always successful, there was always, too, a first-time failure in every success. They did not want to risk their only child being the first-time hypnosis-treatment failure.
Eventually, Dad and Mom got so despondent about the problem, their doctor suggested they start taking prescription medicine. They resisted this remedy for weeks and weeks, but they lost that struggle. They gave in and decided to follow the doctor’s advice. It was then that it was Freedom herself who, quite fortuitously, came up with a solution.
Freedom had always been an insatiable reader of all literature. Their home had long ago ran out of shelf-space. Freedom was most popular with her friends and neighbors because she was, with her parents’ permission, forever giving away books she had already read many times.
She read the daily newspaper thoroughly and she so loved discussing articles with Dad and Mom, that they had not read a newspaper in their home for themselves in years. They so loved discussing newspaper article with their child.
When it came time for Freedom to decide what to study after High School, she read a lot to help her decide. She decided to become a movie Actress.
Her parents were consternated! They were determined to oppose her, most vigorously. To them, movie actressing was a least intellectually engaging activity. They pointed out to Freedom that their evidence against actressing was in the immoral scandals reported in daily newspapers of the shameful behavior that was happening continually in that profession everywhere, all over the world.
Dad and Mom were dumbfounded when Freedom agreed with them. They stared at her, and then at each other, and then at her. “Then why, honey?”
“Because, Dad, Mom, everything I am reading about human treatment of animals tells of how humans cannot resist cute behavior in us. Humans are attracted to the most dangerous animals if those animals do what humans think is cute and friendly behavior. Many professionally trained animal keepers are eaten by wild animals because the humans drop their professional guard and go too close because of the animal’s pretence at friendliness.”
Dad and Mom were even more consternated. “So, dear? What has this got to do with your choice of actressing?”
“Dad, Mom, don’t you see? As an Actress, I could become so good at pretending to be cute and friendly, humans will be competing to take me into their homes. My food requirements will be resolved. I won’t ever have to learn to hunt to kill to eat.”
Dad and Mom were almost paralyzed with joy. They stared at each other and said to each other simultaneously, “Our kid’s a genius!”
3) Meat the king.
This part of the jungle was ablaze with excitement. For the moment, Mom did not know what the cause was, but, as is normal among wild animals in a jungle, she took precautions of safety in her ignorance, rather than live in risk until she found out the cause of probable danger. Tree animals, like Mom, climbed hurriedly to the highest branches. Some birds just flew away to a safe part of the jungle. Mom hoped her daughter remembered the rules. In that very instant her daughter burst into the nest.
“Mom, please, please, I want to join everybody who is going down to meet the king.” “A lion?” “I don’t know, Mom. Is he the king?” “Yes, Jenfa. And do you know why he is called the king of the jungle?” “No, but I want to go down to meet with him so that I can get an idea.” “You do not have to meet him to find out, child. I will tell you.”
“Tell me later, Ma! Everyone is hurrying down to meet him! He is passing through our neck of the woods. They are saying he has never done this in living memory. Can I go, too, please?”
“First things first, Jenfa. The spider family?” “As you wished. I got all of them to leave, Mom. I helped them set up in that rock by the river as you said.” “All of them, Jenfa?” “Yes, Mom.” “Then why do I still hear the Grampa spider now and then singing off-key in his scratchy voice?” “He’s still here?” “Yes, he’s still here, Jenfa.” Mom, nobody knew where he was. Everybody thought he had gone on ahead. He’s so old, Mom. Let him take his time. When he gets hungry, he will leave.” “Jenfa, spiders can go for months and months without eating.” “Mom, please. We mustn’t force him out. That spider family was here long before we arrived. Besides, even you observed their presence here kept the place free of lots of insects. Just cut him some slack, Mom; after all, they were co-operative when you suggested their family was growing too large for them and us to live here together. They could have insisted we leave, instead of them. And they would have had a stronger argument.” “All right, all right.” Jenfa lowered her voice naughtily, “And I recall your stories of how you secretly loved listening to the off-key duets of the two Grampas.” Mom tried, unsuccessfully, to hide a smile. “All right, let’s change the subject. Let me tell you why you should not be too enthusiastic about meeting the king.”
“Mom, can it wait, please? I want to join everybody who is going down to meet the king.” “Jenfa, the king is a lion.” “Okay, Ma, if you say so.” Mom continued, slowly, in a low tone, looking sternly at her only child. “Jenfa, lions eat the rest of us. If you get close enough to meet a lion, you won’t be alive long enough to meet anyone else, ever.” It worked. Jenfa stood rigidly motionless as she stared at Mom. After a few seconds of tense silence, Jenfa spoke, her consternation affecting her voice and her speech. “All who are rushing to meet him are going to be eaten?” “Not if they are satisfied with keeping a safe distance, just to see him. He is an awesome sight, from a safe distance. Go. Keep a safe distance, and feast your eyes. Do not stay too long, and come back before it gets dark.” Weakly, “Thanks, Mom.” “Do not forget that you are going there to see him; not to meet him.
Jenfa, obviously not as eager anymore to dash down. “Have you seen him, Mom? The king?” “Never.” “Come with me, Ma.” “Thank you, Jenfa, but I’m not fast enough to escape if something goes wrong. You go. Have fun. Always make sure there is a lot of others between you and the king. Come back before dark.” “Thanks, Mom.” “Remember,--.” “I know. To see; not to meet.”
Mom turns to return to her chores; Jenfa did not move. She spoke softly. “Ma, you really think the king will care enough to eat me. I’m so small.”
“If he is hungry enough, your size and nothing else about you will matter.” Jenfa is silent a few seconds. Mom pauses, hoping her only child will choose to not leave the nest today.
Jenfa recalled. “You’re right about size not meaning anything, Ma. Grampa was so skinny, but that Boa Constrictor snake ate Grampa, anyway. Grampa must have tasted like dried leaves.
Mom reacted in shock. “Where did you hear that?” “What?” “That Grampa was eaten by a snake?” “It’s a fact, isn’t it?”
Mom stared at Jenfa. “Mom?” “Yes, it’s true, but it happened before you were born. Nobody in our family has spoken about it in years.” “In years, Mom? Our teacher spent a full class time on it teaching us how to identify predator snakes. At first the teacher did not know she was talking about my Grampa. But I recognized her facts as the same as what Granny told me a long time ago, when she warned me about the snakes at the river where we go for picnics in the Spring and Summer.” “When you recognized the facts, I hope you kept it to yourself, Jenfa.”
“Mom, I became an instant celebrity when I told the class it was my Grampa that had been eaten. For the rest of that day, I was given all kinds of presents by others who wanted to be friends.”
Mom shakes her head and rolls her eyes.
“So, Mom, if I stay far away just to see and not meet the king, can I go down there to the king with my friends?” “Okay, but do not stay too long, and come back before it gets dark. Thanks, Mom.
Off went the teenage squirrel down the tree, silently and cautiously; not as was her wont: noisily, recklessly, and headlong.
Mom mumbles to herself in disgust, “The things they are teaching in schools nowadays!”
Spider Grampa, snoozing on-and-off uncontrollably under some branches nearby, had heard, for the first time, about Grampa squirrel being eaten by that serpent; Grampa spider was vengefully so thrilled for that information. He had always been secretly unhappily jealous of Grampa squirrel’s beautiful baritone singing. Grampa spider silently gloated as he heard Jenfa carefully climbing down through the branches. “I so wish you, too, Jenfa, get to meat that lovely snake. We spiders were here first!”
The thunderstorm was worsening.
The deafening thunder was so low in
the heavens, Chameleon felt the ground
shake each time.
Tortoise and Snail always had
exciting parties. This one was more
special. Tortoise and Snail held it
every four years in celebration of the
World’s Olympic Games ever since each
of them won a gold medal in track-
and-field events, eight years ago.
Chameleon knew now she should have
left earlier when Snail alerted
everyone that the 6 o'clock radio
News reported an emergency warning of
an approaching unusually violent
electric storm. All the other guests
had thanked Tortoise and Snail, and
left for home.
The approaching storm did not
alarm Chameleon because she lived only
twenty blocks away. She often walked
to visit Tortoise and Snail, and they
came to visit him. And she knew of a
shortcut that would shorten the
distance by more than a few minutes,
She had started on her way home
when the first drops of rain fell.
That, usually, would have given her
Enough time to get home before the
rainfall became heavy. Usually. But
this time the 6 o'clock radio
News had miscalculated. The violent
storm arrived a full hour earlier, and
worsened quickly. Within seconds, the
rain was falling, not in drops, but in
sheets of water that were being
whipped about by strong winds blowing
in all directions all the time.
And then there was the lightning.
Never had Chameleon walked in a storm
that had so many lightning flashes. It
would have been disturbing enough had
she been walking on the sidewalk. Fear
of being struck by lightning gripped
her especially when she realized the
shortcut through which she was
struggling was a tangled chaos of tree
branches and bushes. It was a
Wilderness Park that the City was
cultivating, and of which the Citizens
were proud as their part in helping to
preserve the world's natural
Many Cities in other countries
have Wilderness Parks. A Wilderness
Park is not open to visitors. Only
City maintenance workers are allowed
to be in Park, at any time. It is
illegal for anyone else to enter the
Chameleon was sad at the party
when Koala had phoned in that she
would not be joining them because an
emergency work assignment had come
up. Chameleon and Koala were best
friends. They lived three houses away
from each other on the same street.
Had Koala been able to join the
celebrations at the home of Tortoise
and Snail, it was quite likely
Chameleon and Koala would have walked
home together. That would have meant
the shortcut could not have been used
because Koala was a City police
Mind you, she and Koala regularly
volunteered to do maintenance work in
the Park for the City. Koala had
donated a eucalyptus tree to the City
to be grown in the Park. The City was
especially proud to have a eucalyptus
tree in its Park because eucalyptus
was not native to the Country, and
this City was the only one in the
Country to have a eucalyptus in its
The City allowed Koala and
Chameleon to enter the Park as
temporary part-time volunteer
maintenance workers to check
up on the eucalyptus, from time to
time. Always, on such occasions, after
the two of them had finished tending
to the eucalyptus, they would spend
time exploring other parts of the
Park. Hence, Chameleon was confidant
that even in the darkness of this
storm, she would not have too much
difficulty walking safely through the
Park’s wild uncultivated bushes and
plants and trees.
On this occasion, being illegal
did not worry Chameleon because it was
night. The police would not be able to
see her. And, too, in the storm at
night, even if the police did see her,
it was highly unlikely they would try
to arrest her. But being struck by
lightning worried Chameleon because she
was well aware that during a storm,
lightning strikes trees more times
than it strikes the ground, and
objects on the ground.
She became so worried that she
tried to turn back in the storm after
she had taken only a few steps in the
wilderness Park. However, the
boisterous winds blowing broken
branches all about in the rain and
darkness made it nearly impossible for
her to know which direction to take to
get out of the Park, or to continue
through it. There was no City
lighting in the Park. There was only
dim light from the street lights
outside the Park.
She was getting angry at herself
for not having headed home earlier
when Snail had told them about the 6
o'clock News. She felt helpless as she
stumbled on by dim light from far-
away street lights.
She could not help thinking of her
bad luck that Mantis accidentally
almost drowned in the backyard
swimming pool at the party.
Mantis had more friends than any
of them because he had a fun
reputation of being a prankster. At
the party, when he heard that Koala
would not be attending, Mantis
promptly dared anyone to join him in
walking through the City’s Wilderness
Park. Nobody took him up immediately,
and so, Mantis gave everyone until he
left the party to decide.
Chameleon had taken some time to
get up courage to accept the
prankster’s invitation. But the
accidental near-drowning prevented
that. After Tortoise had rescued
Mantis, Tortoise and Snail insisted
Mantis spend the night in their guest
Suddenly, Chameleon saw the
dark figure of someone ahead of her in
Police? Instinctively, Chameleon
crouched, in hiding. She quickly wiped
away rain water from her eyes a few
times as if that would clear her
thinking. No, that could not be a law-
enforcement. If it were, they would
have called out her arrest for being
illegally in the Park.
If it was not police, it could be
someone like her just taking a
shortcut. Or someone who would use the
cover of the storm to do harm to her!
Chameleon was not going to take
the risk. She slowly struggled to
stand. She gently pushed lashing
foliage a little out of the way to
peep ahead. She espied the dark
shape ahead, standing in the rain
among the rapidly moving wet branches
Chameleon crept slowly forward.
The dark shape moved equally slowly to
Again, she crouched to hide, but
this time not instinctively. This time
she was ready to hide. Deliberately,
she lowered herself to the ground, and
crawled away in the mud in the
opposite direction. She did not know
where she was headed, and she did not
care to know. All she wanted was to
get far away from that dark living
When she eventually found herself
at a storm-damaged Park fence, she was
so eager to get onto the sidewalk, she
did not think to stand up. She
continued to crawl along on the ground
until a lightning flash showed her she
was crawling on the sidewalk and not
on the muddy ground inside the Park.
Chameleon never told anyone about
seeing that dark shape in the
Park that stormy night. Nor did she
ever again use the Wilderness Park as
Keeping that dark shape a
secret to herself would not be
difficult, if only because she knew
nothing about it other than that it
was alive. If she ever discussed it
with somebody, she would not sound
intelligent if she could not tell more
about it. Perhaps it needed help. Had
it seen Chameleon?
A secret that was going to irk
her forever was having to never tell
Koala about having tried to illegally
cross through the Park.
The idea crossed her mind to tell
Koala that she, Chameleon, saw someone
illegally in the Park during the
storm, as she, Chameleon, was
struggling by on the sidewalk. But she
quickly scotched that idea because it
was not completely true.
Yes, she had seen someone
trespassing in the Park, but it was
while she, too, was a trespasser.
Koala was her friend, and both of them
had ever been fully truthful to each
other. And if she told Koala the
whole truth, Koala, the police
officer, would have to arrest her best
friend for having been illegally in
What Chameleon never came to know
was that dark shape was not alive.
It was a fallen tree branch that her
tail had snagged on. She could not
feel the snag because of rain and the
wet foliage that the turbulent winds
were constantly whipping against her.
Because her tail was snagged on the
branch, every time Chameleon moved,
her movement caused the branch to move
along with her.
5) How to eat a centipede.
“Mom, look!“ The baby sparrow shouted as it squirmed to get out of the nest. “Where, dear?“ The Mom used a wing to restrain the baby. “There! That long thing.“ “I see it. A centipede. Basking in the sun.“ “May I eat it, Mom? Please?“ “I’ll get it for you.“ “Let me get it myself, Mom!“ “Sweetie, it’s your first centipede. Centipedes are a dangeous food. You watch me, this time. Centipedes are all over in these trees. You will get a turn before the sun sets.“
The baby sulked. “If they’re all over, why has it taken so long for me to see this one?“ Mom, being a conscientious Mother, ignored the unintended disrespect. She went on to describe how a centipede should best be eaten.
“A centipede has a sharp poisonous pincer by its mouth. The catcher must catch it just behind the pincer in order to avoid being bitten. When it has been caught, put your foot on the slimy rest of the centipede to prevent the rest from wriggling off, after you have bitten off its head. It has a hundred legs. Those legs give it lightning speed. If you do not have a foot on the centipede after its head is off, you will not be able to catch the slimy wriggling rest.“
“What about the head?“ “Let it go. Do not eat it because it will have the pincer attached to it. That pincer still functions a few seconds after the head is off. If that pincer sticks itself into your tongue, you will never be able to get it out yourself. Some other bird will have to rip it out. That means pain for weeks and weeks in your mouth.“
“If I stash the head and pincer in the nest, can I eat them later? The pincer then will be really dead.“ “Yes, hon. Of course.“ Mom forcefully and silently exhales long and deeply.
Silence for seconds, during which Mom hoped she was getting through to her fidgety child; and the hungrier-and-hungrier child wished Mom would just hurry up and finish and go get that centipede!
“One last thing.“ The baby drove her head deeper into the nest in frustration and disappointment, feelings that Mom sensed, despondently!
Mom sighed, and made a mighty effort to draw comfort in the knowledge that she had already nurtured five siblings to healthily, happily leave this nest. A few more short days and nights, and she would have the whole nest to herself! Hopefully. Desperately hopefully!
“One last thing, honey. Hope the centipede is not wearing shoes. One hundred shoes add up to a lot of hard effort to swallow. And in all that while, they taste yukky rubbery and leathery.“
The baby vigorously wriggles herself half out of the nest. “Really, Mom? If you had begun with the one hundred yukky shoes, I wouldn’t have let you bother me with the rest. See for yourself. That centipede is not there anymore. And it’s all your fault, Mom.“ “Sorry, hon. I didn’t mean to take so long.“ “You did not take long, Mom. The centipede got bored.“
Mom, being an extra conscientious Mother, fought back wishes the next centipede would come with extra-large pincers.
“That centipede had a hundred feet, Mom?“ “That’s what everybody says, hon. The centi in its name means one hundred.“ “Has anyone counted them?“ “I have no idea.“ “That is what I am going to do with the next centipede. Count its feet.“ Mom, sincerely admiringly, “Good for you, baby. That is certain to make you famous.“ “Famous? Like lots of animals coming here to see me?“
Mom, hastily, “Uh, well, in your own nest would be best, baby.“
“Yes, of course, Mom. That’s what I meant. Anyway, what’s that other long slimy shiny thing taking the centipede’s place in the sun down there, huh?“ “Another one?“ Mom craned her neck to look. Her voice was weary,
“That, baby, is a millipede. Don’t even think about it. One thousand rubbery leathery boots to chew, taste, and swallow.“ “Let’s catch it and count its feet.“ “You go. I’ll stand guard.“
Mom needed the rest. She needed to get warm being motionless in direct sunlight. Most of the feathers under her wings had worn away from nesting six children restless to be free.
6) A cat, Astrophe.
Astrophe is a cat who lives on a planet far away from Earth. When you look up at the sky on a starry night, one of those stars you see is where Astrophe lives.
On Astrophe’s world there are only cats. No other animals and no people. On Astrophe’s world cats are young forever. They live forever. Everybody is happy. Nobody is greedy. Nobody is dishonest. Nobody is lazy. Everybody helps everybody.
Yes, it's a perfect world.
We on Earth look at the stars and wonder who lives on those other stars. Cats on Astrophe’s world look up at their sky and wonder who lives on Earth.
There are many stories about Earth on Astrophe’s world. All the stories are about how bad Earth is. Everybody on Astrophe’s world is happy that they are not living on Earth.
When a cat told Astrophe bad things about Earth, and Astrophe asked if somebody brought that information from Earth themselves, the cat did not know. This went on for months and months.
Eventually, Astrophe, who is a very fair-minded cat, thought it was unfair for cats to say bad things about Earth if those cats had never been to Earth to find out for themselves. And so Astrophe decided to find out for himself.
The first part of his plan was to build a one-cat spaceship to visit Earth for a few days.
The next part of his plan was to pick the best time to go. It had to be only his secret. If he let Dad and Mom know, they would insist he take Aphasia along. Astrophe wanted to go alone.
Aphasia is Astrophe’s identical twin sister. Aphasia is everybody's favorite. Astrophe knows everybody in the family says, in secret, Aphasia is the smarter identical twin. Astrophe has to agree, reluctantly and sadly, with everybody because, so far, Aphasia has won every game she has played with Astrophe: checkers, chess, monopoly, snakes-and-ladders, termites-up-the-whazoo, and many nameless card games. She is, as well, an Olympic gold medalist in swimming, many times over.
Astrophe refuses to remember how many gold medals his identical twin sibling has won, so far.
And, too, if Aphasia came along, she would most certainly take over the whole plan. Quantum mathematics and aeronautical electronics are her favorite subjects. She attends astronaut school every Summer at the I.O.T.A. (International Outer Terrestrial Agency) University’s camp N.A.S.A. (Never-ending Algebraic Sequencing Algorithms’.)
Besides, he would have to build a spaceship for two. That would make things more complicated, and longer to complete. Aphasia would insist on having her own television set onboard in order to watch daytime talk shows, especially those that dog-out life on Earth.
If he travelled to Earth and returned in his own spaceship by himself, everybody would have to acknowledge that he is capable on his own of an accomplishment important to all cats on their world. And everybody would not be able to include Aphasia in their admiration of him in this adventure. After that achievement, he would not care if he never ever won a game he and Aphasia played; he could then play every game to enjoy it, no matter if he won or lost.
He decided he would have to make the trip in the Summer. There were three weeks every Summer when he was alone at home, because Dad and Mom were out of town on business; and Aphasia was away, either at astronaut camp or competing at the Olympic games. He could easily accomplish the whole plan and be back at home in three weeks before anyone knew.
Summer came. Aphasia, Dad and Mom were gone. In secret and mostly at night,
Astrophe built his one-cat spaceship in their three-and-a-half car garage in the backyard. It took him less than a week. He flew to Earth.
Since he was traveling many, many times faster than the speed of light, the trip of billions and billions of miles took him approximately a mere twenty-one minutes and two seconds, give-or-take a few seconds.
On Earth, he parked his spaceship in a bush on a river bank. He climbed out and went to walk about to find Earthlings. On crossing a road, Astrophe had to dash out of the way of cars driven by lings who did not care that a cat-in-a-spacesuit was crossing. He saw dead animals at roadsides; animals that had been run over by cruel biped tailless ling motorists.
And then there were dogs. An Earthling playing with a few dogs let the dogs chase Astrophe. It's a good thing a cat-in-a-spacesuit can climb trees faster and higher than naked dogs. If those dogs had caught Astrophe, who knows what they would have done to his spacesuit.
Within hours, Astrophe had had enough. Earth was just too dangerous for cats. Time to return home.
Astrophe stealthily walked to his spaceship. He saw a bowl of food under a tree. Astrophe looked around to see whose food it was. Nobody was around. Astrophe thought it was all right to eat some of the food. He reached out.
Three cats dashed out of the bushes and pulled Astrophe away from the food.
"Don't eat that!" said the first cat. His name was Astasis.
"It's cat poison!" said the second cat. His name was Alyst.
"People put poisoned food out for cats to eat. They don't want cats to live around here," said the third cat. His name was Alpa.
When Astrophe told the three cats about his perfect world of cats among the stars, they begged Astrophe to take them with him.
Astrophe was happy to take them home with him. It was a tight fit for four cats in a spaceship built for one. But everyone was so happy to be leaving Earth, they did not mind being squashed up inside the spaceship. After all, since they would be traveling many, many times faster than the speed of light, the trip of billions and billions of miles would take only twenty-one and a half minutes, or so.
There are four cats on that perfect star-world who are living such wonderful lives, they do not have time to look up at stars and wonder who lives on Earth.
And ever since those three Earthling cats arrived, Astrophe, miraculously, is winning all the games he plays with Aphasia. And winning, too, are those three lings.
And, strangely, Aphasia is happy losing to the four of them.
7) Geese and meteorites.
One of the Geese was injured. A sudden wind storm had caused many in-flight collisions among birds. She had plummetted to the ground; did not hit the ground, but landed with considerable impact. Her partner took some time to find her because of the storm.
They were late starting on their journey south for the Winter. Already the first snow for Winter was on the ground. Her injury meant they would have to fly in brief passages at a time. That meant passing through wild territory they usually flew over at high altitudes. And then there were hunters, humans and animals.
So far, the only good happening they were thankful for was that the injury was not worsening.
They were days and nights along the way, and through several light snowfalls. They were resting under snow-covered rocks. They heard barking in the distance. They had a choice of taking flight on their way at low altitude, and risk being seen by whatever was barking and approaching, or stay in their location and hope the barking was not intentionally headed for them. They chose to stay and hide. Their all-white feathers provided nearly full camoflage in the snow that was falling.
The barking was getting louder. The gander took to the air to scout, and, if necessary, to decoy. Fear caused the pain in the wounded wing to throb; and to increase, even though the wound itself was not deteriorating. Worse, they hadn’t found anything to eat for days.
The Gander returned. Good news; bad news. Good news: there were no human hunters who would have had guns. Bad news: Jakkals! Unerring trackers by scent. The falling snow would be interfering with detection by continuous scent. Those Jakkals might have seen the Geese flying low, and guessed the birds were incapacitated. Hence, the carnivore predators were hunting by guessed direction. So far, they were guessing accurately. The Gander landed, the fluffy snow on the ground turning his landing into a clumsy tumble.
The Geese decided to risk trudging through the snow in an off-course direction, hoping the falling snow would dissipate their scent without a trace by the time the Jakkals arrived.
They had trudged for minutes when the barking ceased. Either, the Jakkals had given up on the hunt. Or, their silence was a cunning trick to lull the birds into carelessness. The Geese were too weary to choose which; they ploughed on, the Gander in the lead.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, a colorful ball fell out of the sky and plopped into the snow ahead of them. They tried mightily to take flight. In the briskly falling snow, and the mounting clouds of snow on the ground, their first attempts failed, and both tripped head-first into the ground snow. Heroically silent in the midst of their chaotic failures, they struggled to stand. And there, in front of them, staring at them out of the ground snow, was the red-yellow-orange beaked head of Puffin bird! The rest of its small body was hidden in the snow.
“Hello,“ called out the Puffin, in more cough than word. “Follow me! Those Jakkals will find your scent again at any moment!“ With flailing wings and wildly thrashing legs, the small bird fought its way through the snow which was falling, it seemed, with a vengeance and piling up in premeditating spitefulness. Under these conditions, flying was not an option for any of the three birds.
The Geese instantly followed, struggling, like the Puffin, to suppress coughs and sneezes and snorts and grunts that would alert the Jakkals.
Within a few minutes that passed as if they were hours, the Puffin reached the spot. “Careful. The snow here is hiding the edge of the cliff. Spread your wings and use the snow to cushion your climb down slowly. There are cave holes in the face of the cliff. You will be able to hop into one of them.“
The Geese spread their wings. Within moments they had descended out of sight. The Puffin turned back a few steps in the snow. With its beak, it plucked off a few black feathers off its back and scattered them on top of the snow. It mumbled to itself, “Be smart Jakkals, or you will be catapulting yourselves into the next life.“
The Puffin joined the Geese who had taken shelter deep in one of the countless caves in the face of the mountain cliff.
“Thank you.“ “You’re most welcome.“ “How did you find us in all the snow?“
“Sheer luck. I was on my regular food run to the ocean about ten miles away. I see those Jakkals frequently. We used to use these caves as our homes. We stopped after the mountain was struck by meteorites. You’re safe here during Winter. For the rest of the time, its wall-to-wall crashing meteorites. Sorry about the food situation. No food here. I will bring you some from time to time.“
The Goose observed, “Thank you. We will stay for only as long as it takes my wing to heal. Which shouldn‘t be more than a few days. We won’t survive the Winter, no matter where we spend it.“ “And I will fly around in search of food,“ said the Gander.
The Puffin quickly said to both of them, “You must not be seen by other Puffins. There are Puffins who will betray you to predators like those Jakkals.“ “Why?“ in consternation.
“For protection against human hunters. For their sport, hunters stand at the cliff’s edge and shoot flying Puffins dead. Human hunters spare Puffins if we provide the hunters with the locations of predators like Jakkals and Wolves and Bears to hunt for trophies. Humans kill us Puffins merely for sport.“
For the next three days and two nights, it snowed continuously. The Geese, so far, deep in the cave were not in serious distress, especially since the Goose’s wing healed completely. They were in high spirits. Although they had not been visited by the Puffin in all that time, they had exciting news for the Puffin. They would have to,leave in the next little while, if they were to safely escape Winter. If the Puffin did not return, they would come back in the Spring with the exciting news.
The Geese were preparing to fly away in the next few minutes when the Puffin appeared. She was tired and ragged-looking. She had brought some food for the Geese. They eagerly accepted the food. The three of them enjoyed the meal. After the meal the Geese told the puffin the exciting news.
The meteorites had brought with them from outer space, seeds of rare food. The Geese had discovered the sweet-berry plants deep inside the cave. The Geese had amply fed on the berries for days. The Puffin would not need to make its twenty-mile roundtrip food run as often.
8) Haunted river.
The three siblings huddled close in the bushes as they stared at the river.
"Hmh! Doesn't look haunted to me," said Myna. He was the eldest. He was ten. Seri, the middle sibling, shuddered a little and said, "I feel weird. Perhaps we should go back to the hotel before Dad and Mom miss us."
"You're just scared, Seri. Admit it!" said Azh, the youngest. "Yes," said Myna. "We told you this was not for girls. You wanted to come." "Right."
Azh joined in. "We had to let you come because you said you were going to tell on us if we didn't let you. So just keep quiet."
The three of them stared at the river in silence for a few seconds. Seri held tightly onto branches of the bush.
"Yuck," said Myna, "this river is not haunted. Let's go back to the hotel." "Good," Seri said. She turned to go back.
Azh said quickly, "First, let's go down there and splash about a little. Look how shallow and narrow it is." "Good idea," said Myna. "Race you down there." The two of them ran out of the bushes down the grassy bank to the narrow stream of water.
Seri hesitated for a second before dashing down after them. She couldn't go back to the hotel by herself. Dad and Mom had said the three of them were always to stay together. What would she tell them when they asked her why she was by herself?
The boys did not hesitate when they reached the water. They stepped right into the river and kicked water about.
"Our backyard has more water than this, after it rains," said Myna. He picked up a shiny small stone from the shallow stream and threw it.
Azh turned quickly to Seri and said, "Boo!" Seri jumped, letting out a scream. Azh laughed at her and stomped about in the water in fun.
"Nice going, Azh," Myna said. "Make Seri scream so that somebody will hear her and come down here and ask us what we are doing here. Stop it." "Yes. Stop it!" Seri yelled at Azh, kicking water in his direction.
In an instant the tiny narrow stream turned into a deep roaring river that swept all three of them off their feet.
They found themselves submerged and being swept along. They screamed and thrashed and flailed about. They had to stop screaming because when they opened their mouths, they swallowed water.
Myna saw a huge ugly alligator swimming towards him. Or maybe it was a crocodile. He knew there was a difference between an alligator and a crocodile. Right now, he was too frightened to think about what the difference was. He ran. He found himself running underwater along the river bed. The beast caught him in its jaws and began to chew on him.
Seri dived out of the way of an ugly hippopotamus that snapped its jaws at her. Her long jeans snagged on one of the hippo's teeth. She was dragged along underwater on the riverbed. The hippopotamus kept trying to swing her up into its mouth.
Seri dug her fingers into the soft sand of the riverbed as she was dragged along. This made it difficult for the big fat hippopotamus to swing her about. She was aware she was being silly when she couldn't help herself from reaching out to clutch at the shiny stones floating up from the river bed from where her dragging fingers were digging them up.
She saw Myna's terrified eyes as he was sucked into the alligator's mouth. Or was it the crocodile’s mouth? Myna was holding onto and pounding its tongue and trying to climb out. She felt bad for thinking the alligator, or crocodile, looked as if it was smiling as its long jaws chomped on poor petrified shrieking Myna.
Azh was also deep underwater. He was completely encircled by the eight tentacles of a gigantic multicolored octopus. It didn't seem to know what to do with him. While seven of its tentacles were coiled tightly around him, the eighth tentacle was playing with his hair.
The octopus was fascinated that Azh's hair was waving about straight up in the water. Seri felt really guilty when she felt like laughing at the sight of the octopus looking puzzled at Azh's slowly upward floating-waving hair.
Each time Azh's struggling got him a little free of the grip of the seven tentacles coiled around him, one of the seven would uncoil itself to push him back down from the top of his head. All the while the eighth tentacle was having fun playing with his upward floating-waving hair.
A loud official voice said, "Hey, kids. What's up?"
Instantly, there was no river. The three of them were on their bellies, on the grass, frantically squirming about. They stopped and jumped up at the sound of the official voice.
There was a police officer standing a little way off, smiling at them.
He was in full uniform. His police cap was in his hand that was scratching his head in puzzlement, as he looked at the three children squirming about on the grass.
All three of them felt embarrassed. They were a little disoriented, too, because they noticed their clothes were utterly dry, and that they were not underwater in a river.
"Uh, nothing, officer," blurted Myna. "We were just, uh, just, uh, you know--." "Laughing!" piped up Seri, nervously. "Azh here said something funny and we were rolling on the ground laughing. Azh says some really funny things all the time. Right, Azh?" "Yes. Yes," mumbled Azh, not knowing what else to say than, "Everybody says I'm the funny one in the family, officer."
Azh was trying hard to not squirm. There was something small and wet and slimy wriggling down his back under his shirt.
"Well, all right, then," said the police officer. He laughed as he continued, "Children should not be around here without their parents. People say this place is haunted." He winked at them.
Yes, sir," said Seri, forcing her lips into a smile. "Come on, you two, let's get back to the hotel." She took off at a run. Azh and Myna sprinted after her, without hesitation.
The three of them didn't look back as they ran as fast as they could.
Had they looked back, they would have seen the police officer slowly turn into a turtle that waddled down into the narrow shallow stream that appeared out of nowhere.
9) Moose, Horse, Eagle, Robin Redbreast.
Horse and Moose were playing tag in a field of wild grass and shrubs. They came upon Eagle entangled in an isolated clump of leafy soft-stemmed shrub bush, and struggling to free himself.
Moose and Horse stopped horsing around and stood still for a few seconds. They stepped back from the bush, because they knew eagles have sharp talons and beaks. As well, they exchanged glances of puzzlement because they did not understand why a mighty eagle was having trouble extricating itself from an isolated leafy soft-stemmed clump of bush. They jumped back when Eagle yelled at them.
"Are you two going to help me, or just stand there, gawking?"
Horse said, "I'm not sure. What are you doing in that bush?"
"Can you not see for yourself?" demanded Eagle, angrily. "There was an accident. My wing got hurt. I fell out of the sky onto this shrub. I'm trying to get off this bush."
Moose asked, taking care that Horse was a little between herself and Eagle, "What can we do to help?"
"Carry me to a tree. Please." Eagle did not care to be extra polite in his tone of voice. His attitude was, "I can fly; they cannot; they should be grateful for the opportunity to help me, a magnificent eagle." He continued, "Before I fell, I saw a pack of wolves coming this way. The both of you are in danger, too, from those wolves."
"From which way are the wolves coming?"
"From behind you."
"Oh, dear. Then we have a huge problem, because the nearest trees are behind us."
"And, therefore, behind those wolves, too."
"Then, just carry me as far away as you can. Please."
Moose said to Eagle, "You have to promise to not bite us while we try to help you."
This really annoyed Eagle, but he controlled his temper as he spoke slowly and softly, "Okay. That's a fair request since everybody knows we eagles like to eat meat. However, everybody knows, as well, that we eagles are the smartest birds. Hence, I am not about to try to eat those who are helping me, especially when I, myself, am about to be eaten by wolves. Therefore, I promise to not bite either of you while you are helping me. So, please, hurry."
Horse and Moose looked at each other, and nodded in agreement to believe Eagle was speaking truthfully. They went up to the shrub bush to move branches about to see how they could untangle Eagle. When they were near enough, Robin Redbreast popped up out of the bush, behind Eagle, perched herself on a branch, and called out, cheerfully.
"Do be careful of the thorns, Horse. You, too, Moose." Horse and Moose were taken aback. They stopped and looked at Robin.
"You know us?"
"Cannot help it when you two are stomping about here so often. It's a miracle you haven't hurt this bush yet."
"And most fortunate for us, if there are such dangerous thorns hiding in it."
"Hiding so well that in helping Eagle, you must first move branches away to see if he has thorns already embedded in him. Do not just lift him up. He says he was already injured when he fell into the bush; he is definitely moreso now."
"Thank you, Robin. We would have hurt Eagle more than helped him had we not known that."
"Thank you, Redbreast," said Eagle, out of obligation, and not in gratitude. After all, in normal circumstances, Robin Redbreast would be Eagle's food.
"Robin, we need you to help us know where a thorn could be embedded in Eagle," said Horse.
"Glad to help," said Robin, "if Eagle won't be ashamed and embarrassed. After all, in normal circumstances I am Eagle's food."
Robin looked at Eagle, compassionately. Horse and Moose looked at Eagle, wide-eyed, and apprehensive.
Eagle, successfully making a mighty effort to not sound disgruntled, said softly, "I won't be ashamed and embarrassed, Redbreast. And, with all my heart, I thank you for your help."
All three set about helping Eagle get free of the thorn bush. While she was carefully handling leaves and branches, Horse said, "There's a river those wolves have to cross to get here. We have enough time to go far away from here."
"Yes," said Moose, "especially since they will have to be careful crossing because that river is infested with alligators and crocodiles and anaconda serpents."
"In fact, those wolves might not risk crossing at all, unless they saw you, Eagle, wounded and tumbling down."
"Do you think they saw you are wounded?"
"It's possible," replied Eagle. "It is a clear and sunny day."
"Let's not take chances, Moose," said Horse. "While one of us carries Eagle off, the other goes back to lead the wolves in the opposite direction."
"Good idea," said Moose, "I'll take on the wolves."
"If I may say something?" requested Eagle.
"Sure, go ahead."
"You two seem to be familiar with this area."
"We are, Eagle, because we grew up around here."
"In fact, the two of us have been chased about by those wolves since they and we were pups."
"So," said Eagle, "it is likely that when they see Moose by himself, they will see through the ruse, and come this way because they will suspect you, Horse, are incapacitated. Believe you me, like Eagles are all the time, Wolves, too, sometimes, are quite smart at deductive reasoning."
Moose and Horse looked at each other in surprise. They had not thought of that possibility. "Well," said Moose, "let's forget that plan, and the two of us carry Eagle, and hope those Wolves did not see Eagle fall from the sky."
"There is another way to outwit those wolves," said Eagle.
"Moose goes back there and makes sure the wolves see him. He taunts them to cross the river. They jump in to cross. When they are halfway across, Moose jumps in and swims across to the other side. Even if that does not confuse them, it will make them feel so insulted, they will turn around and go after Moose.
In the meantime, Horse and I will go in a wide semicircle which will bring Horse and me back to the river. We cross the river and head for the trees."
Horse and Moose looked with admiration at Eagle. "Well," said Moose, "you did say eagles are smart."
"A slight flaw in that plan," mumbled Robin. She could not speak in more than a mumble because she was exerting a lot of strength to break a long thorn that was in the way, pointing lethally at Eagle's wing.
After tensely not speaking until Robin had twisted and broken the thorn out of the way, and they had carefully moved Eagle's wing out of harm's way, both Horse and Moose began at the same time to speak to Robin. They stopped. They looked at each other.
In a friendly tone, Horse said to Moose, "You ask Robin."
"Thank you," replied Moose, before she addressed Robin, softly. "Robin, what is the flaw in Eagle's plan?"
Slowly and softly and nervously, Robin said, "Horse carrying Eagle will not be able to swim fast enough if the alligators and crocodiles and anaconda serpents sniff them out."
After a second-or-two of stunned silence from the other three, Eagle said, slowly and softly, "A Redbreast smarter than an Eagle. Never thought I would live to learn that. Good for you, Robin Redbreast."
"We have to come up with another plan," said Moose.
"Not necessarily," said Robin. I and dozens of my friends will swarm noisily to the river. We will arrive there long enough ahead of Horse and Eagle for us to reconnoiter for alligators and crocodiles and anaconda serpents. We will fly low and tease and taunt them to follow us."
"A spectacular plan, Robin!"
"Nonetheless," hurried Eagle, "it could fail, I'm sad to point out. No plan is guaranteed success. Sorry, Redbreast. Nonetheless, it is truly a brilliant plan."
"Thank you, Eagle," returned Robin. "You are absolutely right. My plan could fail; but it has not failed the last thirteen times. It has become a fun Sunday ritual with us robins. Sometimes we are joyfully joined by geese, and gulls, and sparrows and other flying fowl that have spare time on Sundays. In fact, those reptiles are so angry at us, they make themselves visible when they hear us arriving. They are so determined to pluck some of us down, sooner or later, we don't have to go looking for them. Some of them leap out of the water to show us where they are waiting for us."
By this time, with the unerring guidance of Robin Redbreast, Horse and Moose had freed Eagle from four thorns, and had helped Eagle climb onto Horse's back.
Moose said to Horse and Eagle. "Go!"
"Hold tight, Eagle. Here we go!"
Eagle called out, "Thank you, the both of you. And you, too, Robin Redbreast!" Robin had already flown away so far, she did not hear Eagle's thank you.
"You're welcome!" shouted Moose as she galloped away to take on the wolves.
10) Conversation with food.
Long, long ago Raccoon's Mom cautioned her to be prepared this day would come. But she had promptly forgot what Mom had said, because life was so good to her in the jungle when Dad and Mom were around.
She went wherever she pleased. There was always more than enough to eat of insects and wild fruit. There were so many places she could sleep, especially in the trees.
And she had so many, many friends: deer, rabbits, monkeys, badgers, and a lot others.
Oh, yes! Life had been so good to her, she had quite forgotten what Mom had cautioned her about so long, long ago. She found out for himself a few minutes ago!
She had detected a juicy snack crawling among the dried leaves on the ground. She had silently crept up and pounced! Her prey quickly and easily escaped!
Raccoon was in shock! This had never happened to her! She hastily looked around for an opportunity to creep up and pounce again. Of course, in that part of the forest another opportunity came within seconds. After all, this was jungle ground. At any one time many, many insects were scurrying about their business, and studiously minding their own business, on the ground, in the air, and up and down the trees.
Raccoon crept and pounced again! And missed again! Third time she did not creep or pounce; she just recklessly jumped and grabbed! She missed again!
That is when she remembered what Mom had tried to warn her.
The day would come when she would be old!
And now here it was. She so wished Dad or Mom were here to tell her how to cope; what to do. She sat still on the ground for a few seconds.
To sit still on the ground in the jungle is very, very dangerous. At any moment a ferocious hungry animal can come round the corner. Ferocious hungry animals will eat you, no matter how old you are.
Lucky for Raccoon, she was old, but not unhealthy. And so, she quickly decided to get off the ground. She climbed the nearest tree. She made her way halfway up the tree, and rested. She would have to re-plan her daily life to accommodate old-age slowness.
She was getting angry with herself for not having paid attention when Mom was explaining old age to her. She vaguely remembered Mom talking about old-age slowness. There were other things about growing old Mom mentioned, but, at this moment, Raccoon just was not in a frame of mind to recall what those things were. She was really angry with herself. Her anger increased so quickly she had to get up from sitting in order to bite something.
She grabbed hold of a branch to lift herself up. Instantly, she let out a groan of pain when her old-age hands did not have enough strength to lift her up.
Let down by her own hands! And worse, her hands slipped and caused her to lose her balance. There was no telling how far down the tree she would have tumbled had she not been steadied by Python!
Raccoon was utterly perplexed. Did Python save her from hurting herself? Python, her mortal enemy? Raccoon did not take her eyes off Python who had coiled herself around her food as it tumbled down, and had lifted her food up and placed her back where she had been sitting.
And now Python had hung herself upside-down from a higher branch in front of her food, and was staring at Raccoon with a mocking extra-wide grin on her serpentine sneaky-snake face. She was being careful that her extra-wide grin show her four front fangs to Raccoon. And, too, as she slowly rolled her forked tongue over her slime-dripping fangs, she gently and rhythmically swayed her head that her food might see her shiny wet lethal-looking teeth from different angles.
Raccoon was too discombobulated to be sure of it, but she thought she heard Python faintly hiss-humming, "Go To Sleep, My Baby," as she dangle-swayed upside down from that branch in front of Raccoon.
"Poor Raccy! Must be really embarrassing to be indebted to someone who has failed so many times to catch you to eat you, huh?"
"So? Why did you not finish the job this first time? Just wanted to gloat."
"Gloat?" hiss-laughed Python. "I could have done that exquisitely as I swallowed you. Naaa! There's no fun in catching fast-food that is not supremely fast in trying to escape."
“Sorry to have disappointed you,” said Raccoon. “Let me go, and next time I will escape supremely quickly.”
Python spoke as she brought the rest of herself down to the branch in front of Raccoon. "Actually, Raccy, I'm wondering if there's any point to that."
"By jungle law, absolutely no point at all. But you've lost your advantage, Pie. While you have been wasting time gloating, I have lodged myself so tightly against this branch, you will not be able to coil yourself around me tightly enough to kill me to eat me. If you try to eat me while I am alive, I will fight back and rip out your tonsils and epiglottis and uvula.”
"Tsk, tsk, tsk, Raccy. You misunderstand. I’m thinking of letting you go free. No strings attached, as it were, so to speak, et cetera, et cetera.”
"Oh? Of course. You like your fast-food to be "supremely fast in trying to escape."
"It's easy for me to make an exception with you. All I have to remember are all those times you swaggered off in mockery when you escaped. But, it's something else, Raccy. I've been watching you in the last few minutes. I was surprised to see you pounce and miss three times."
Both are silent for a few seconds. "Just tired," said Raccoon, softly.
"Possibly. And then, again, Raccy, I've been a part of your life for so many years. It could be old-age."
A long silence. "So many years, huh? Then, you, too?"
A long silence. "Uh-huh. Lucky for you; sadly for me. My friend."
Raccoon broke out into laughter. "So, if your fast-food this big put up a fight as you swallowed, your digestive system could easily suffer serious damage."
Before Python could answer, a voice from higher up the tree called out. "Please, will you two Senior citizens go have your discussion somewhere else? Please? You're in my way. I want to go home."
Raccoon whispered to Python, "Who is that?"
Not whispering, but in a soft, confidential tone, and with a slimy-sly smile, "Squirrel. He lives in a hole in a tree two trees from here. He has made for himself an elaborate pattern of holes for home. Thinks he's well protected from the likes of me. I know all his comings and goings. Anytime in the future I crave a snack, I know where he lives."
"Why not that future snack right now?" She winks at her. "We could share."
"Splendid thought! After that, we could traipse over to his home and see if there are other tasty squirrels to dine on."
"Good! I'll engage him in conversation. You sneak up from behind."
Python put on her cunning hunting face, uncoiled herself from Raccoon, and glided ever-so silently away through the leaves and branches, towards Squirrel.
Raccoon called out, cheerily, "Hello, there! Is that you, Squirrel? I'm Raccoon!"
"I know who you are. Everybody knows the jungle's three-time loser. Get out of my forest!"
After a few seconds of painful silence, Raccoon said to herself, through her aging teeth, "I am so going to enjoy eating you, you cheeky little nutface."
11) Elephant voices.
A family of ants lived in a tunnel high up in a mountain.
Ant-one and Ant-two were brother and sister. As far as Ant-one and Ant-two knew, no ant had ever travelled to the other end of the tunnel. Nobody knew if there was an opening at the other end. The tunnel might just go deeper into the mountain and end there deep inside.
Stories were told of how the tunnel was endless. That it twisted about deep into the mountain. That it came out at the other end in a bad place.
Ant-one was eleven years old. He was suspicious of all the information he heard about the tunnel. He wanted to find out for himself.
One night when everybody was asleep, he crept deeper into the tunnel. He was determined to find the other end; to find out the truth for himself.
The tunnel was darker than he had imagined during all the stories about it he had heard. So dark that he could not see his hand when he touched his nose. He had not expected this. He walked and walked and walked. He came to no end.
He stopped and slept awhile. He got up and walked and walked and walked. Now, he was getting a little frightened.
Perhaps this is not such a good idea, he thought. I didn't think of bringing along water and something to eat. He walked and walked and walked. Okay, he told himself. That's it. Better go back. There is no end to this tunnel. I'll have a second nap. When I awake, I'll head back home. He had a nap. He got up and headed back home. But it was so dark, he wasn't sure which way was home.
"Now what?" he said aloud to himself. "How am I to know which is the right way home?"
A voice said quietly to him "This way."
Ant-one jumped back in fright. He banged up against a wall. He let out a yelp. He was trembling in fear. His voice let him down. It was hoarse when he asked in a stammer "Who--who are you? What are you--you doing here?" His knees were letting him down, too. He clutched blindly at a wall.
"Are you scared?" asked the voice teasingly.
"Uh, yes. A little. Who are you?" he pleaded. He felt he was about to cry at any second.
The voice asked, "Can't you tell? I'm your baby sister. Ant-two." Ant-one was so shocked, he couldn't speak. Ant-two continued speaking. "I've been following you. I want to see the other end of the tunnel, too, Ant-one."
"How did you know I would try to find it?"
"It was easy" said Ant-two. "You spoke so often about wanting to find out for yourself. I kept a close eye on you. And here we are."
Ant-one was a bit angry when he said, "Well, you know, then, there is no end to this tunnel and we have no food and no water. We have to go back."
"I brought a back-pack. I have food for the both of us. And water" replied Ant-two. "Let's sit and eat. I'm starving and thirsty. I was tempted to eat when you napped the first time, but I felt it would be dishonest to eat by myself. Come on. You sit there so we will know the way to go forward is at your end."
They sat and ate and drank, and made plans. It wasn't easy to eat in total darkness without spilling things. After that, they walked and walked and walked and spoke all the way. They did not know for how long they walked. One thing they worked out was that this tunnel must be really high and wide because of the way their voices echoed all the time.
A few times they stomped along in fun with loud steps in order to make loud echoing sounds.
Ant-one told Ant-two he was glad she had come along because now it was fun walking and talking and playing games with her in the dark tunnel.
They saw a dim light ahead of them. The end of the tunnel! They walked faster. They came out at the other end! It was night. The light they saw was from a full moon. They decided to wait for daytime before they went any farther. They lay down and napped inside the tunnel.
Their sleep was broken by a loud noise. It was a strong wind. Had they the presence of mind to lay flat on the ground as they were when they were napping, nothing bad would have happened to them. But, because they jumped up on hearing the loud noise, the wind swept them out of the tunnel and down the mountain.
They held on tightly to each other as the wind blew them farther and farther along for the rest of the night. First the wind died down for a while. Then it stopped altogether.
They drifted slowly and gently to the ground. They found themselves in an unpleasant place early in the morning. There were no trees. The grass was dry. There were no animals about. The air was dry.
They heard voices arguing. They walked cautiously to where they heard the voices coming from behind a hill.
There they saw elephants! Ten. Grown-ups and a few children elephants. They all looked skinny and hungry.
The elephants were talking angrily at once to one another.
"We just have to keep on walking in one direction!"
"We've been doing that for days and haven't found food or water, yet!"
"You're our leader. You should know what to do."
"I haven't eaten in two days. No trees. What little grass there is, is dried up and tastes yucky."
"Okay," said the tallest elephant, who was the leader. Let's all have a nap. When we get up, we'll decide what to do."
All the elephants lay down to nap. A lot of them grumbled while they did so. Ant-two smiled at Ant-one.
"What?" demanded Ant-one of her. "What's there to smile about? We are lost. Like those elephants. This place looks like a desert. We are in big trouble, Ant-two, and you are smiling?"
Ant-one was really worried. They knew which way was back to the tunnel, but he knew ants would never get back there in this hot and dry weather. The food and water that was left in Ant-two's back-pack would not be enough to keep them alive for long. And here was his baby sister smiling! Oh, yes, Ant-one was really, really worried.
"Not to worry," said baby sister to her very worried older brother. "Here's the plan. We climb up the leader elephant and get into his ear and tell him how to get to the tunnel and to the valley." She looked at her brother.
He stared at her with his eyes so wide open she thought he was going to faint from shock. He hugged her and said it was a fantastic plan!
They climbed up the sleeping elephant leader and went about whispering in his ear. When he awoke out of his nap, he was excited. The other elephants thought he was losing his mind. He was suffering from starvation and thirst like the rest of them.
He told them he had a dream that he heard voices telling him how to get to a place where there is lots of food and water.
The other elephants looked at one another and mumbled it was time to choose another leader. This one was hearing voices in his sleep. Worse, still, he was about to do what those imaginary voices were telling him to do! Oh, yes, definitely, he was losing his mind! Time to get a new leader!
But who would want to be the new leader? None of them. Not in these times when everything looked so hopeless.
The two ants stayed in the leader's ears and gave him directions. The elephant leader was so excited about getting such clear directions about when and where to go, he didn't want to sleep. He commanded all the elephants to not sleep. He walked way in front and changed direction so confidently at times, the other elephants soon became hopeful that their leader was leading them to a good place.
After about a week-or-so all the elephants and the two ants travelled through the tunnel and came out at the valley with the lake and its rivers.
The elephants went down to the valley and lived there happily.
Ant-one and Ant-two never told anyone about their adventure. Also, they never missed an opportunity to tell others not to try to find that other end of the tunnel.
12) The tree ants.
A family of ants lived high up in a nest they built in a tree in a valley deep in a jungle.
The tree was very old, and huge. It had lots of branches and leaves and flowers and sweet berries. The berries were the food the ants lived on. There were so many berries during summer that the tree ants always managed to save enough food to eat during winter and spring when no trees bore fruit.
The tree ants were happy, except for one thing. The ants who lived in underground nests teased and taunted the tree ants because the tree ants were the only ants in that jungle who were living in a tree.
Some of the children tree ants could not take the teasing and taunting anymore. They decided to leave the tree and go build themselves a home underground, like all the other ants.
Although the rest of the family were sad that some of the children ants wanted to leave, they said they would help them leave the tree home, anyway. A day was set. The children ants prepared to leave the tree.
Their last night in the tree came. They were packed and ready to leave. They would spend one last night in the tree. After the family had a going-away party, everybody went to sleep.
That night a ferocious storm hit the valley. Mighty winds battered the valley from all directions at once. The rain was so heavy it made the night darker than it actually was.
There was thunder; so loud it kept everybody awake.
There was lightning; so bright, it hurt even closed eyes and turned away from it.
The storm raged the whole night. It died away only when the sun came up the next day. The ants who were leaving the tree were glad they did not have to leave in a storm.
When they stepped outside their home high up in the tree, they saw the whole valley was deep under water. The heavy rain had turned the valley into a lake. The ants could not leave the tree. They had to wait many days and nights before the water subsided and left the valley as it was before the storm.
This wasn't so bad because their tree was the only one that had been strong enough to survive the storm with most of its branches and leaves and berries. The tree ants still had more than enough food for the whole time the valley was under water.
When those tree ants who wanted to leave the tree went down to the ground, they found all the ants sad who lived underground. The water hadn't reached their underground homes, but the water had washed away all the food they could have gathered to store away for winter and spring. They would starve during winter and spring.
The tree ants told the ground ants there was enough food in the tree for everyone to share. The tree ants helped the other ants to pluck berries to store for winter and spring.
The ground ants never teased or taunted the tree ants anymore. All the ants became best of friends.
13) Two snakes and a mongoose.
Chain-jee was a snake who lived in a forest. Unlike the other snakes, Chain-jee chose to not eat meat. Chain-jee ate berries and other fruit only.
The other snakes made fun of Chain-jee for not eating meat, as well.
Chain-jee left home, never to return, because of all the teasing. Chain-jee looked for a place to live where there were no snakes.
For days and days Chain-jee travelled and lived in different places. Each time she found other snakes around, Chain-jee moved on. At last, high up a mountain side that was covered with forest trees and grass, she found a place where there were no snakes because it was cold.
Snakes do not like cold places. That is where Chain-jee decided to live happily.
There were lots of other animals around. Birds and rabbits and squirrels and porcupines and skunks and badgers and beavers and mongooses and other kinds of animals. Chain-jee got along with all the animals, except one.
Mongooses like to eat snakes. This mongoose lurked around, stealthily, looking for Chain-jee.
Chain-jee knew all about mongooses. She was careful to stay out of this one's way. But she was puzzled. Why was this mongoose living here long before Chain-jee arrived, where there were no snakes?
As long as Chain-jee lived in the trees, there was no danger from the mongoose.
Mongooses cannot climb trees.
There were lots and lots of berries and sweet flowers in the trees for Chain-jee to eat. There was no need for Chain-jee to be on the ground. When she was thirsty, she would sip sweet nectar from flowers.
At first, the birds were afraid of Chain-jee. Snakes eat birds and bird eggs. It did not take the birds long to discover Chain-jee had no interest in them and their eggs for her food. They were not afraid of her after that.
One morning after a violent storm the night before, Chain-jee saw a large multicolored bird-egg on the ground. Chain-jee thought the egg must have been blown out of a nest by the strong winds during the storm. Chain-jee wanted to save the egg, but she was afraid that when she was on the ground, she might be caught by that mongoose. Mongooses like to eat eggs. To a mongoose, eggs are like ice cream.
Chain-jee felt extra sorry for the egg, and so she decided she would risk her life to save the egg from the mongoose.
She dashed down; scooped up the egg and quickly climbed back up the tree.
All day she carried the egg around calling out aloud "Hello! I found a beautiful egg on the ground! Whose beautiful egg is this? Hello, everybody! I found an egg on the ground. Has anyone lost an egg? It's a beautiful egg!"
Many birds came and looked at the egg and said "Uh-uh. Not mine. Sorry."
When Chain-jee asked them to take the egg to put it in their nests, they politely refused, because each one said the egg was too big to fit into its nest. Chain-jee, for the first time, realized that the egg must have blown here from somewhere else. This presented a huge problem. She would never find the egg's Mother!
And so, Chain-jee decided to build a nest for the egg.
Chain-jee had never, in her life, built a nest for an egg. She asked the birds for help. They were happy to help.
Within an hour, Chain-jee and the birds built a large nest high up a tree.
During that hour the nest was being built by Chain-jee and all the birds, Chain-jee carried the egg in her backpack she was wearing.
When the nest was completed, Chain-jee took the egg out of her backpack to put it in the nest. As she gently placed the egg in the nest, all the birds clapped and cheered her on. In all the loud celebration, a strange and unexpected and unhappy thing happened.
The egg bounced out of the nest and fell to the ground! The celebration stopped! There was complete silence! Everyone was utterly horrified!
Some birds fainted in their horror; lost their balance; got tangled up in leaves and flowers. The entanglement in leaves and flowers saved the fainted birds from falling to the ground.
Chain-jee and the other birds closed their eyes in fear and sadness because they were certain the egg had smashed to pieces when it hit the ground! They did not want to look!
Imagine their surprise when they heard laughter coming from the ground, and looked, and saw the egg had turned into a snake that, within seconds, grew to be as large as Chain-jee!
And, that magical snake had two long arms with hands and fingers. And, she was wearing a backpack.
Chain-jee and the birds were overjoyed! Chain-jee asked the snake, "So, the egg was not the egg of a true snake?"
"No," said the magical snake. "It wasn't an egg at all. I can turn into anything. I live on the dark side of the moon. I play among the stars throughout the universe.
On Tuesdays, I bathe by diving deep into the sun on one side, and plunging out the other side, dripping wet in tingling cold fire. Takes me all of Tuesday. The sun is such a huge, huge spectacularly fun star!"
Chain-jee said "We are happy you came to visit us."
The snake replied, "Chain-jee, you are so exceptional, I just had to meet you. That's why I am here as a snake. I gave myself arms and hands and fingers because I want to do something special for you. See my fingers?" She wiggled her fingers at Chain-jee, and the birds. Everybody clapped and cheered!
The magical snake took out a little green book and a red pen out of her backpack. She wrote something down on each of three pages.
"Because you have been such a kind snake, Chain-jee, you may make three wishes. I have written on each of three pages a wish you must not ask because it is a dangerous wish. If you ask for any of these three dangerous wishes, I will not grant them, and I will leave."
This was complicated. Chain-jee thought for a few seconds in silence before speaking. "You know what, magical snake, I am happy as I am. I have enough of what I need and I am happy with my life. All the birds are my friends. There are no snakes around to tease me. Lots of berries and flowers high up in these trees for me to eat. As long as I stay high up here, I don't need to worry about that mongoose. When I want to swim in the river the birds watch out to warn me if that mongoose is lurking around.
Thank you for the offer of three wishes, magical snake. I do not need any of them."
The magical snake said, "I have been granting wishes for thousands of years on many, many stars. This is the first time I have found someone who does not need a wish. You are truly remarkable, Chain-jee."
The magical snake tossed her book and pen to the ground. They instantly turned into snow flakes, that drifted away in the wind. She had a mischievous smile on her face when she said to Chain-jee. "I will grant you something that will make you happier than you are."
"Not possible," said Chain-jee.
"Oh yes, possible. From now on, all mongooses will see you as a mongoose."
The magical snake disappeared before Chain-jee could say, "Thank you. You are right. That will make me happier."
Chain-jee is living happily in the trees among the birds, and on the ground where she plays tag with rabbits and squirrels and porcupines and skunks and badgers, and, yes, even with that mongoose, who forever cannot understand why his best-friend mongoose lives high up in the trees with birds.
14) Without a tail.
Rabbit was visiting his cousin Badger. It had been a long journey across the country. Badger was happy to see her cousin. They seldom visited each other because they lived so far apart.
Rabbit had travelled for four days and three nights to visit Badger. He had to find his cousin because he needed her help. He and Badger had always helped each other in times of trouble when they were children.
"There's this monkey," said Rabbit. "He sits on a very high tree that spreads its branches over the lake. The rest of us have a hard time drinking at the lake because that monkey sits on the branches and bends them down over us. Then he whips us with sticks."
"Why don't the cats climb the tree and chase him away?"
"They have been trying to. That monkey is so adroit in that tree. He swings among the branches so deftly. They cannot catch him. After he swiped a few cats off the branches into the water, the cats and everybody else gave up. Now we have to walk half a day to drink at a small river in the other direction. It's a dangerous walk because we have to walk through territory where there are predatory meat-eaters like jackals and foxes, and wolves, and lions and tigers and wild dogs. I have been almost eaten by one of these carnivores more than once."
"Okay," said Badger, "let's go."
Rabbit and Badger walked for four days and three nights back to the lake. When they arrived, Badger went to the shore of the lake to drink water. Sure enough, there was that monkey nimbly swinging on the branches. He was carrying a big stick. He was waiting for Badger to try to drink water.
"Why are you doing this to us?" asked Badger. "This is not your lake. There is more than enough water for you and everybody else."
"Because I want everybody to feel what I feel!" screamed Monkey, angrily.
"Let's see," said Badger. "It cannot be a feeling of thirst. You have more than enough water to drink. What is it, then?"
"It's just not fair!" sobbed Monkey."
"Life's not fair to everyone, sometimes," said Badger. "That's not fair, but nobody can prevent that. At those times we must help one another to cope with the unfairness. Let us help you, Monkey."
"Good!" shouted Monkey back at Badger. "Then don't try to prevent me from making it difficult for anyone to come drink at this lake. Go away!"
Badger did not go away. She asked Monkey, "How is life being unfair to you? Maybe I can help you."
"You cannot help me. You have a tail."
This reply puzzled Badger for a few seconds. She looked up at Monkey. "Okay. I have a tail," said Badger, "but that won't prevent me from helping you."
"I don't have a tail!" blurted Monkey. "Can't you see that for yourself? Are you blind? You don't know how badly I feel about not having a tail! All other animals have tails! It's just not fair! So why shouldn't I punish them for having tails?"
Badger peered steadily at Monkey. Monkey noticed Badger steadily peering at him.
"What are you looking at?" screamed Monkey, angrily swinging up and down on the branch. He took a swipe with his big long stick at Badger. Badger easily moved out of the way.
Badger took a step back and asked Monkey, "Don't you know why you don't have a tail?"
"No!" yelled Monkey. "It doesn't matter why I don't have a tail! I tried so hard for so long to grow a tail! I have given up. That's why I hate everybody who has a tail!"
Badger said, "Monkey, you don't have a tail because you are special."
"I don't want to be special!" shouted Monkey, glaring at Badger. "I just want to be normal like everybody else. I want a tail! I want a tail! I want a tail!"
"Monkey, do you know how you got to this tree?"
"No, I don't know. What's that got to do with anything? I've been here all my life."
"So, nobody has told you about the Barbary macaque monkeys?"
"I don't know what you are talking about. I do not know what a Barbary macaque monkey is. And I do not care to know! Go away! If you try drinking water from this lake, I will whack you with this long big stick."
"Monkey, Barbary macaques are one of the very, very few kinds of monkeys that do not have tails. The Barbaries live on the mountain of Gibraltar in the Mediterranean Sea. Everybody loves them especially because they have no tails."
"The Mediterranean Sea?"
"Yes. That's why you like this lake so much. It reminds you of the Mediterranean Sea."
"How did I get here? Isn't the Mediterranean Sea far away from here?"
"Very far away. I think you were captured by people when you were a baby. You were brought here. Somehow you escaped. You have been living in this tree ever since."
There was a long silence, during which Monkey peered at Badger. Monkey was looking for signs in Badger's behaviour to see if Badger was speaking truthfully.
Badger said, "Monkey, we can help you get back to Gibraltar. I am sure you have lots of family there. You will see for yourself that all of them are happy to have no tails. The mountain of Gibraltar is much higher than this tree. You will love climbing to the top. Because you have no tail you won't get tired climbing to the very top of the mountain from where you will see the Mediterranean Sea which is much, much larger than this lake."
Monkey, the Barbary macaque, was helped by other animals. For five days and four nights they walked. Eventually, they reached the mountain of Gibraltar where they found lots of other Barbary macaques.
Best of all, Monkey found his Dad, and his Mom, and his brothers and sisters. He couldn't believe his eyes when he saw how wide the Mediterranean Sea is.
He apologized to Badger and Rabbit and Squirrel, and all the other animals for not letting them drink at the lake. He hugged all of them one-by-one. All of them forgave Monkey. Some of them, including Badger and Rabbit, decided to not take the return journey of five days and four nights. Instead, they lived happily ever after with the Barbary macaques on the island mountain of Gibraltar.
______________________________________15) Everybody gets a turn.
Orno was a girl who liked helping people. She was eleven years old.
There was a large pool of magic water among the rocks. Every now and then a fish would jump out of the pool and flop around on the rocks and jump back into the pool.
Anybody who was not feeling well who jumped into the pool before the fish jumped back into the water, was cured forever of their illness.
The cure worked only if there was nobody in the pool when the fish jumped out. That is why nobody waited in the pool for a fish to jump out.
Everyone waited on the shore at the water's edge.
All around the pool, there were always people who were suffering from some illness or other. Most of these people were so ill they could not move by themselves.
Orno was one of many well people who walked among the sick people to give them water to drink, and to help them in other small ways to be comfortable while they waited for an opportunity to jump into the water.
Ill people had to jump into the water on their own. They could not be helped to jump.
Some people who were really, really ill, had been waiting at the poolside for years. In all these years they were getting worse and feeling more and more pain.
Each time a fish jumped out of the pool and back into it, only a few people could jump into the water. Most of these people had to be helped by someone to get near enough to jump.
It made Orno sad to see so many people try so hard to get into the pool, but fail to do it in time.
Orno came up with a plan.
She kept watch at the water's edge for a fish to jump out. After days and days of her watching out, a fish jumped out.
Orno made a dash for the fish and caught it. The fish thrashed about in Orno's hands. She hung onto it and called out to everybody to jump into the water. Everybody scrambled and crawled and tumbled to jump.
When everybody was in the water, Orno threw the fish back into the pool.
Everybody was healed. Everybody thanked Orno, and left. They were happy; Orno wasn't.
Orno could not help thinking about if she had gotten the fish into trouble by holding it out of the water.
She sat on a rock at the water's edge and waited. She waited for a long time. A fish came up to the surface of the water and spoke to Orno.
The fish told Orno she shouldn't be unhappy. All the fish in the pool had always wished someone would do what she did.
For hundreds and hundreds of years nobody had thought to do what Orno did. Fish were afraid to ask someone because fish didn't know if the cure would work if someone had done what Orno did.
Now that she had done it, and the healing still happened, all the fish were happy.
They wanted to know if Orno would like to come and live with them deep down in the pool as a fish. She would have magical powers.
As a fish, she could come up whenever she wanted, get out of the water and wait for all the people waiting at the pool to jump into the water. Orno could wait on the land as long as she wished because she would be able to live by breathing air. Fish could survive alive on land in the air for only a few seconds at a time.
Orno happily accepted the fish's offer. Everybody now could enter the pool to be cured because Orno would wait until everybody was in the water before she re-entered the pool.
Nobody had to wait for a turn, not knowing when they would get one. Now, everybody is guaranteed to get a turn within minutes of arriving at the water's edge.
Orno, the girl fish, is eleven years old forever.
16) Birds of a feather.
Bird-one is on the ground, looking up intently into the trees. Bird-two joins her.
"What are we looking at?"
"See for yourself. Unbelievable!"
Bird-two strains to find it. In her concentration to find it, she speaks slowly and softly. "Just leaves and branches."
Bird-one steps close to Bird-two's side, and looks up alongside her. "Yes. You're on target. But the leaves are hiding it. Come here." Bird-one moves back to her first position; Bird-two follows her. They look up together.
"There! See it?"
Bird-two steps back and looks at Bird-one in disbelief. "Is that---?"
Bird-one looks back at her. "A bird's best friend? You better believe it."
"That size? No way!"
"Yes, every way!"
"I'm flying up there to look closer."
"No! You’re not!"
"Because, at that size, it could be a bird's worst enemy."
"Why not? You want to risk it?"
They look up in silence. "Just looking at it is making my mouth water so much, I could drown in my own saliva. That must mean my bird instinct knows that's a worm; not a snake."
They look at each other. "You mean like the time our bird instinct mistook poison ivy for grapevines?"
"Uh, okay. So, how long do we just stand here and look?"
Bird-one returns to gazing up at the worm. "That size, and it escaped us up until now. Amazing!"
"Us and every bird and snake in this forest. Which is a good argument it's a snake; not a worm."
"Tell you what. You fly to that end; I will fly to the other. Let's find its mouth. That will tell us if it's worm
"Which means one of us is taking the risk of being eaten by a snake."
"You have better plan?"
"Easily. Both of us fly to each end, in turn."
"Good. It is a better plan. Four eyes are better than two."
They fly up to one end and carefully, from different angles, survey the creature, and then to the other end. "Yippee! Food, here we come!". They fly to the ground. They look at each other.
"Neither of us made a grab for it." For a few seconds they look at each other, silently.
"I cannot. It's just too magnificent a living creature. It's all yours."
"Me, too. I've lost my appetite. After all, that great worm is fighting the same losing battle as we are."
Softly, "Yeah, why make it lose earlier than is necessary?"
They stare at each other. "What's happened to us? Turning away from the most delicious meal we have ever had!"
"Too much higher education. We have become too civilized. Should have stopped after the first university degree. I have three."
"I have four, and two international diplomas. We are helplessly trapped in a higher pursuit."
Just then, a mighty, monstrously huge, and twice as ugly bird alights on the ground within easy pecking distance. "Hi, there, girls! How are things?"
They are paralyzed in fear. They cannot speak.
"No need to fear, my dearies, I have already eaten for the next two days-or-so. I've been watching you two. You like this spot. Been hanging around here for some time, now. Want to fill me in, why?"
"Uh, the quiet."
"Yes. The quiet. You've been watching. You've noticed there are no other birds around."
"Hmh. You're right. I did not notice. Too busy keeping both eyes and ears on the two of you, my future dinners. Be seeing you." The mighty, monstrously huge and twice as ugly bird flies away.
"I'm out of here!"
"Me, too! Never coming back!" Both fly up and away in the opposite direction ‘Mighty, monstrously huge and twice as ugly’ went.
Within the next few minutes, the worm reaches its final growing phase. It sprouts magnificently radiant wings, and flies away into the future to become something marvelously miraculous.
17) Cow and Ant.
There was a poor farmer who had a small farm and only one cow. From this cow the farmer did not get much milk. The time came when the cow was too old to give enough milk for the farmer. The farmer had to get another cow.
This was not going to be easy. The farmer was poor. He knew it was going to take him a long time to save up enough money.
One warm day the cow was more tired than usual. The farmer let the cow rest. While it was resting the cow overheard a conversation between the farmer and a man.
The man asked the farmer to sell him the cow. With the money the farmer got for selling the cow he could easily afford to buy himself a younger cow. The farmer was excited that he would be able to afford to buy a younger cow. He asked the man what the man was going to do with an old cow that gave little milk.
The man said he would have the cow slaughtered. He would sell the meat at the market. The cow's skin would be made into leather. The leather would be sold to people who made shoes and other leather things like bags, seat-covers for chairs, gloves, and all kinds of other leather things.
Cow was frightened by what she heard. She ran away from the farm that night.
What Cow did not hear was the answer the farmer gave to the man. This is what the farmer said to the rich man.
"Thank you for the offer, sir. As much as I need the money, I cannot sell the cow to be killed. I am going to let the cow live on my farm. I am not going to make her work in her old age. I want her to live the rest of her life in peace and happiness on my farm."
The man said, "That's fine. If you change your mind, let me know."
Ant heard what the farmer said to the rich man. Ant hurried off to tell Cow the good news. As fast as Ant ran, she still couldn't reach Cow before the end of the day.
For days and days Cow traveled through the jungle. She stayed by a river for a few days because the grass and leaves there were tasty and green. Cow knew that sooner or later she was going to die of old age, if not be eaten in the jungle by wild predator animals.
She knew there was a plant that she could eat to put her to sleep so deeply she would die in her sleep. Her Mom had long ago described that plant in detail. Cow was confidant she would come upon that plant, sooner-or-later. Better to die in her sleep than being killed and eaten by another animal, she thought.
She found it! She instantly recognized the plant from her Mom’s description. She was so happy. She went to eat the plant. She would eat a lot of it so that she would sleep immediately.
That's when she heard a tiny voice calling out, "Hello!"
Cow looked around and was afraid because she thought the farmer had caught up to her. The voice said, "I'm Ant. Up here. On this branch near your head." Cow looked up. She instantly recognized Ant from the farm.
Ant told Cow the farmer was not going to sell her. The farmer was going to let Cow live the rest of her life on the farm in peace and safety. No work at all.
Cow thanked Ant, and both of them went back to the farm. Cow and Ant lived happily on the farm for the rest of their lives, very loyal friends to each other, and to the farmer.
18) Galumphing thingie.
Tazhreen was an orphan girl. She was an orphan for as long as she could remember. She could not remember her Father and Mother. She knew he had no siblings.
She lived in a tropical jungle. Unlimited number of wild fruit trees, and other green edibles. Rivers and pools and ponds everywhere. Many of the animals in the jungle were her friends. Especially the birds. The birds would warn her when dangerous animals were around.
Tazhreen had run away to live in the jungle because in the town where she was born most of the people treated her with contempt because she had no family to protect her.
She ran away because it was safer for her to live in the jungle with animals, than to live among people in towns.
One evening, while she was playing about in the jungle, she heard people. She quickly hid in some bushes. There were four men.
They were hunters. They carried weapons. Tazhreen was frightened. She heard them plotting to kill the Galumphing-thingie.
The men were talking about how for a long time they had been pretending to be kind to the Galumphing-thingie. When the Galumphing-thingie was not looking, they were going to kill it and cook it and eat it.
Tazhreen had heard about Galumphing- thingie from the birds and other animals. She had never seen it.
Everyone said the Galumphing-thingie lived high up in a mountain far away. It was gentle and kind. It ate only leaves and grass and fruit and vegetables. It was seldom seen because it kept to itself. It had huge wings, and most of the time it flew so high in the sky, it was invisible to anyone on the ground.
Tazhreen decided to find Galumphing-thingie to warn it against the hunters who were pretending to be its friend.
It took her five days to reach the mountain. She looked up to the top of the mountain. She could not see Galumphing-thingie. She could not be sure it lived up there.
She decided to climb, anyway. It wasn't easy. She kept slipping and tumbling down. She had never climbed a mountain. A few times she thought of giving up and going back to the jungle. But the thought of kind Galumphing-thingie being murdered by the evil hunters, gave her the strength to keep trying, over and over and over.
Eventually, she was near the top when a sudden gust of wind blew her off the mountain. She was tossed into the air. She knew she was falling to her death.
Out of nowhere, Galumphing-thingie swooped down and caught Tazhreen on one of its huge wings. It flew up with her to its nest at the very top of the mountain above the clouds.
It was very cold up there. The Galumphing-thingie kept Tazhreen warm by tucking her deep in its wing.
Although Tazhreen was frightened, she could speak because she kept reminding herself that Galumphing-thingie did not eat meat.
Galumphing-thingie spoke to Tazhreen gently. It asked her why she was trying to climb such a dangerous mountain. Tazhreen told it about the evil hunters who were planning to murder it.
Galumphing-thingie was sad. It said those hunters seemed to be such friendly persons. It said it had lived on the mountain for thousands and thousands of years. Nobody had ever tried to climb the mountain. Tazhreen was the first.
Galumphing-thingie's gentle voice calmed Tazhreen. She wasn't afraid anymore.
Galumphing-thingie thanked Tazhreen. It said it was time for it to leave this world. Tazhreen asked it which world would it go to.
Galumphing-thingie said there were Galumphing-thingies all over the Universe on a lot of stars in the sky where the only life is vegetation. It said that when it came here millions of years ago, there were only ocean animals and vegetation.
Tazhreen was sad that Galumphing- thingie was leaving. Galumphing-thingie invited Tazhreen to accompany it to another star. Galumphing-thingie said if Tazhreen wanted, it could turn her into a Galumphing-thingie.
Tazhreen was excited and glad. She was ready to become a Galumphing-thingie right away. Galumphing-thingie said it would tuck her deep into one of its wings, and when they reached another star in the heavens, Tazhreen would turn into a Galumphing-thingie.
And so, they flew away to find a star to live on, far away from this Earth and its people.
19) Lucky seven.
Zimeral was fourteen years old. During a violent storm everybody in her small town disappeared.
She was carried away by a torrential flood. When she eventually managed to struggle to land, her one leg was hurt so badly she could only limp along slowly. She was in pain all the time.
In those days when you lost everything in a flood you ended up being caught by evil people, and sold as a slave.
Zimeral was sold into slavery to a family of four who were cruel to her. Cruelty was so common everywhere that nobody really tried to be kind to strangers.
Since everybody knew that they could die cruelly at any moment, they thought it would be a waste of time to be kind to strangers for the short time that they were alive.
In the home of the cruel family of four, Zimeral washed dishes, swept floors, raked yards, did laundry, and did everything else anybody in the cruel family of four ordered her to do.
The Dad ordered her to wash the car every day.
The Mom ordered her to carry the heavy bags of groceries from the car into the home.
The daughter, who was Zimeral's age, ordered Zimeral to throw out the garbage two and three times a day.
The son, who was younger than Zimeral, ordered Zimeral to stand still while he pulled her hair and stuck sticks and leaves and spider webs and dead insects into her hair.
Zimeral had to live in the shed at the end of the backyard. There wasn't much space in the shed because that's where the family kept their lawnmower, snow-blower, weed-whacker, and other things.
Another storm hit the town. Late that stormy night, Zimeral was huddled in the shed. Her leg, as usual, was painful. She heard noises of animals fighting in the backyard. This happened a lot. Zimeral lay still and hoped there would be no flood that would wash the shed away with her in it.
The storm subsided. Zimeral heard scratching against the metal door of the shed. She shut her eyes and tried hard to not go look. She heard soft sounds of pain. She opened the door a little and peered out. There was a frail wet skinny tabby cat.
It was hurt. One of its eyes was missing and the bottom half of its tail hung loosely out of joint as if it was a bit of wet string.
The storm was over. A light steady rain fell. Zimeral gently carried the cat into the shed. She was closing the door when she saw another small animal lying wet and limp in the grass. She went out and brought it into the shed. It was a skunk. It looked as if it was dead.
The two small animals were still in the shed when she left in the dark at five o'clock in the morning to go to the home to do her chores. The animals were still there when she came back at ten o'clock that night.
The skunk was dry, but still limp. The one-eyed tabby was there, asleep on a high ledge. Zimeral shared her scraps of food with them. This went on for a number of nights.
The skunk improved so much that it was looking well-fed. Zimeral guessed that the skunk was going out of the shed by day and finding food for itself. It still eagerly awaited the few scraps of food Zimeral shared with it at night.
The cat, too. Its empty eye-socket had healed. The tail had healed. The end of its tail healed at an angle that made the whole tail look like the number seven facing the ground.
Another violent storm. Zimeral and the two small animals sat nervously inside the shed. The noises from the thunder and the lightning and the rain and the water on the ground crashing against the shed, made Zimeral cry in fear.
The skunk went up to her and snuggled itself against her, to comfort her. She gently petted the skunk.
The cat got jealous of the skunk and lightly jumped down to the floor of the shed. There was a flash of bright light. Zimeral thought the shed had been hit by lightning. It was the tabby. It had turned into a girl as young as Zimeral.
Zimeral scrunched herself more tightly against the shed wall in order to give the magical girl more space she needed now that she was no longer a cat. The girl-who-had-been-cat, had both her eyes. In the darkness, Zimeral thought it was the cruel girl in the cruel family.
Zimeral feared the magical girl would be cruel to her. Zimeral's leg hurt more than usual.
Without saying anything to Zimeral the magical girl pointed her finger at Zimeral's crippled leg. The leg healed instantly. For the first time in years, Zimeral felt no pain in that leg.
The girl pointed to the walls and the roof of the shed. All the noises of the storm outside were blocked out. She then spoke softly to Zimeral.
"If you want to come with me, I will take you to my home in the sky. Everything is very stable in my world. Everyone is happy. All of us can change into anything we want to be. While I was so seriously injured as a cat, I didn't have the strength to change back. In my world, I will teach you how to change into anything."
For a few seconds, Zimeral was too surprised to speak. When she spoke, she first thanked the magical girl. Zimeral asked about the skunk. The girl replied, "He's a real skunk. We will leave him here for the time being to deal with that cruel family of four when they come to find out why you did not show up to be treated cruelly."
The girl took Zimeral far away to her home in the sky where they lived happily.
A few days later they came back for the skunk.
20) Magical friends.
This story is about three magical animals: the Phoenix, the Unicorn, and the Turquoise Dragon. They do not live in this world anymore. This is a story of why they do not live in this world anymore.
The Phoenix is a bird. It has long feathers of all colors, and it sings most exquisitely melodiously.
At least nine facts make the Phoenix magical: it is immortal; its body cannot be injured; it can fly higher and faster and for longer than any other bird; it lives by breathing air, and by drinking water only; there is and always has been only one Phoenix in the world; when and how it first appeared in this world are unsolved mysteries.
All the animals loved the Phoenix. And because the Phoenix could sing so well, the animals would have parties at which everyone danced and sang along to the singing of the Phoenix. There was so much happiness at those times, a rainbow would appear in the sky.
The Phoenix was happy when it was with animals.
But it had to be on the lookout for evil persons.
Evil Persons used to catch the Phoenix and pull out its feathers to make hats and coats and other things to wear. As each feather was pulled out the Phoenix felt sad and cried out, although it felt no pain. It took a long time for the feathers to grow back.
In all that time, all the animals were sad. In all that time, the Phoenix could not sing. There were no parties until the feathers of the Phoenix grew back again.
After thousands and thousands of years, the Phoenix wanted to leave this world because the evil persons were inventing new ways to catch the Phoenix quicker. These ways were becoming so successful that the Phoenix had no feathers on it, most of the time.
The Unicorn found itself in a similar situation.
The Unicorn looks like a Horse with a long magical horn growing straight out of its forehead.
At least nine facts make the Unicorn magical: its magical horn; it is immortal; its body cannot be injured; it can run faster and for longer than any other quadruped land animal; it lives by breathing air, and by drinking water only; there is and always has been only one Unicorn in the world; when and how it first appeared in this world are unsolved mysteries.
All the other animals loved the Unicorn. It sang and danced with them at the fun parties when the Phoenix sang.
The Unicorn was happy when it was with animals.
But it always had to be on the lookout for evil persons.
Evil persons used to catch the Unicorn to break off its horn to make decorations for their homes and tools and other things.
When its horn was broken off the Unicorn felt sad and cried out, although it felt no pain. It took a long time for the Unicorn's horn to grow back to its full length. In all that time the Unicorn was sad. In all that time all the animals were sad.
The Unicorn's magical horn saved animals because it had the power to catch lightning during storms. When the horn caught the lightning, the whole Unicorn would catch on fire. It would gallop around catching the lightning wherever the lightning was about to strike the ground.
The Unicorn felt no pain when it was on fire from lightning. Those were times when it was especially happy.
When lightning strikes the ground everything catches on fire. Trees explode. Animals are burnt to death. When the Unicorn is around everything and everybody is safe from angry destructive lightning.
After thousands and thousands of years the Unicorn wanted to leave this world because of the evil persons. The evil persons were inventing new ways to catch the Unicorn quicker. These ways were becoming so successful, the Unicorn had no horn most of the time.
The Phoenix with no feathers and the Unicorn with no horn sat on a river bank and sadly discussed where and how they might find another world where there were no evil persons.
After a long discussion they did not know which world that would be, nor how to get there if they knew where it was.
While they were sadly discussing the matter, the Turquoise Dragon flew out of the sky down to the river.
The Turquoise Dragon looks like a gigantic turquoise lizard with huge wings. The wings of the Turquoise Dragon are so huge that when the Turquoise Dragon flies passed, its wings swirl up gusts of strong winds. These winds are so strong that if you are nearby you have to hang onto something to be not blown off your feet.
This is why the Turquoise Dragon usually flew high up in the sky. It didn't want to stir up wind that would hurt animals on the ground.
At least nine facts make the Turquoise Dragon magical: it is immortal; its body cannot be injured; it can fly as high and as fast and for as long as the Phoenix; it lives by breathing air, and by drinking water only; there is and always has been only one Turquoise Dragon in the world; when and how it first appeared in this world are unsolved mysteries.
The animals loved the Turquoise Dragon. The Turquoise Dragon helped them in many ways with its magical abilities.
Because it could see so far away and through mountains and trees and huge boulders, it could warn the animals of dangers early enough for the animals to escape.
Sometimes, when animals were pinned down by fallen trees and rocks, the Turquoise Dragon would use its teeth to chew away the wood and rocks.
When animals were being swept away by flood waters, the Turquoise Dragon would swoop down and use its huge talons to lift the animals out of the water and carry them to safety.
The Turquoise Dragon, like the Phoenix and the Unicorn, had to be on the lookout for evil persons.
Evil persons used to hunt the Turquoise Dragon to cut off its wings. The evil persons would ride the Turquoise Dragon, and force it to use its mighty claws to kill good persons during wars and other evil fights.
At those times when the Turquoise Dragon was in captivity by evil persons, the animals would get together and try to help the Turquoise Dragon escape. Each time they rescued the Turquoise Dragon the animals would hide it until its wings grew back.
All the while the wings were growing back, the Turquoise Dragon was sad. All the animals were sad.
After thousands and thousands of years the animals were finding it harder and harder to rescue the Turquoise Dragon from captivity because the evil persons were getting smarter and smarter at hunting down the Turquoise Dragon, and at preventing the other animals from rescuing it. The Turquoise Dragon was finding it harder and harder to hide nowadays because to help them find things evil people had such incredibly successful machines like satellites in the heavens, cell phones, radio, television, and telescopes.
When the Turquoise Dragon came upon the Phoenix and the Unicorn on the river bank, it knew exactly why they were worried and sad.
The Phoenix and the Unicorn were excited when the Turquoise Dragon told them of another world it had discovered in the heavens. A world that was exactly like Earth in all respects except three.
That world has no people. It is in the heavens where people would never be able to go. And all animals on that world are kind to one another.
It is a magical world that would enable the Phoenix and the Unicorn and the Turquoise Dragon to visit this world whenever they wished to have a rainbow party of singing and dancing; and when they visited this world, they would be invisible to evil persons.
The Phoenix and the Unicorn hopped onto the Turquoise Dragon and it flew away with them to the other world where they live happily, forever and forever.
21) Shimry and Moshiree.
Moshiree believed she was about seventeen years old. She wasn't sure of her age because she was a slave, serving a rich family in a huge mansion in this small town not far from the ocean.
Moshiree's room was a tiny space at the top of the home. She had no bed. She slept on the floor. The room was so small Moshiree had to leave the door open for her feet to extend outside the room when she went to sleep. Whenever she wanted to close the door she had to sleep with her legs bent.
When the moon was full and there were no clouds, she could look out her attic small window to discern the ocean beach far away. She did not know why she was so attracted to the ocean sands. She tried to not remember it, because that is where all the trouble in her life began.
For some time nowadays, the details were increasingly becoming blurred. She vaguely remembered three men pulling her out of the ocean onto the beach. She could not remember why she was in the ocean.
Later on, the family had scolded her she should be thankful to those men because she must have been on a ship that sank in the ocean. Those three men had risked their lives to save her.
Sometimes, the rich family would be away at night. Moshiree would sneak out to go to the ocean beach and hide behind trees and gaze at the ocean. At times she had the urge to go and play in the water. At the same time she was afraid of the water because she remembered that everyone had told her the water was not her friend because it would have killed her had it not been for those three brave men who had rescued her.
This was a rare night. The moon was full. The wealthy family had gone out. Here was Moshiree hiding behind trees at the edge of the ocean beach, staring at the water, as if she were mesmerized. She heard screaming. A girl's screams.
Moshiree's first impulse was to flee back home. She didn't. It frightened her to become aware she couldn't run away back to where she lived.
Instead, she moved stealthily among the trees to get a clearer look at what was happening.
Three men struggling to hold onto a girl they had ensnared in their fishing net in the water. Lots of splashing and tumbling against one another as the girl resisted, mightily.
The men were shouting at the girl to keep quiet. Moshiree saw one of the men hit the girl a few times. Hard. The girl stopped screaming. She went limp in the net.
The three men dragged the girl up to the edge of the beach where trees and grass grew. The men sat down and went about making a fire to cook the fish they had caught in the fishing net, along with the girl.
As they were making the fire and cooking their fish the men spoke about how lucky they were to have caught the girl, too, in their fishing net. They were going to sell her as a slave in the town. They were going to get a lot of money for her because she was young and pretty and strong. One of them complained about pain in his chest where she had kicked him.
From their conversation Moshiree learnt that these three men had caught and sold other girls before this.
Moshiree crept up to the fishing net. She reached out and touched the girl. The girl turned her head slowly and looked at Moshiree. Moshiree silently signaled the girl to help her as Moshiree tried to untie the knots the men had tied to make the fishing net into a bag. Both of them working together got the girl out of the net.
The girl took Moshiree by the hand and whispered to her that they had to run down the beach and plunge into the water. Moshiree was terrified.
She wanted to head back home. The girl wouldn't let her. She held Moshiree's hand tightly. She was stronger than Moshiree. For the last few steps, she had to almost drag Moshiree along.
The three men saw them. Shouted angrily. Ran after them. The girls reached the water. The girl mightily flung Moshiree in front of her into the water ahead of herself. She plunged in after Moshiree.
A miraculous thing happened. Both girls turned into Mermaids. They swam away faster than the three men could swim after them. The girl told Moshiree to follow her as she swam deep down to the ocean floor.
Much to Moshiree's amazement she could breathe underwater. She could talk without difficulty to the girl. She could swim as fast as a fish.
The girl told Moshiree her name was Shimry. Moshiree asked why had they turned into Mermaids.
Shimry told Moshiree Mermaids live in oceans and rivers and lakes. They can breathe under water like fish. In the light of a full moon Mermaids can leave the water and become humans.
Mermaids love to run about and play human games in the full-moon light. They have to be careful because before the full moon passes over they have to be back in the water. If they are not in the water before the full moon passes over, they will forever forget they were Mermaids. They will be afraid of the water, but, nonetheless, they will turn back into Mermaids if they enter the water.
Shimry said that's what must have happened to Moshiree. Moshiree had been a Mermaid that had been captured by the three men. Although she had quite forgotten she was a Mermaid, instinctively deep in herself, she was aware she was a Mermaid.
That is why she couldn't totally keep herself from going to the beach to look and wonder at the ocean. When Moshiree had touched Shimry in the net, Shimry knew immediately that Moshiree was a Mermaid.
Moshiree was glad to be back in the water as a Mermaid. She told Shimry there were other slave girls like her in the town. Shimry said she and Moshiree must tell other Mermaids. They must come up with a plan to rescue the others from the town. That's what they did.
At the next full moon, Moshiree and Shimry and a lot of other Mermaids came out of the water and sneaked into the town and rescued all the slave girls and led them back into the ocean.
From that time onward Mermaids all over the world stay far away from people.
That's why nobody has seen a Mermaid for hundreds and hundreds of years.
22) Zilny’s world.
Zilny was about fifteen years old. She wasn't sure about her age because she had no family for as long as she could remember. There were so many other children like her in the kingdom that nobody cared to keep track of anybody's age. Most of the adults, too, were unsure of their ages.
The kingdom was a small island somewhere in a vast ocean. Nobody knew where it was, precisely. It was so out of the way. No ships had been there, ever. No aeroplanes had sighted it from the air. Even birds had not found the island.
The island was so small that if you started to walk along the ocean beach in the morning, you could walk around the whole island by the evening of the same day. Every day many of the children did this just for fun.
Life was happy on the island. Everybody had enough to eat because the fruit trees in the jungle bore fruit all year round. Apples, bananas, berries, grapes, mangoes, pears, and many others.
There were no animals like cats and dogs and monkeys and snakes and flies, and biting and stinging insects. The only animals around were in the ocean. From the shores, people would see swimming by, dolphins and porpoises and whales. And sharks!
The people were extra safe because all around the island there were rocks at the sea-end of the beaches. No sea animal could ever swim close enough to the shore to reach anybody wading and swimming about.
One warm day, Zilny was lazing about in a warm shallow rock pool when a huge ocean wave washed over her and carried her into the ocean and pushed her down deep into the water. This kind of wave action had never happened before.
She was plunged deep down. She kicked hard and she swam as strongly as she could. She was doing so well she reached the surface of the water and popped her head out. She looked around. She got really depressed at what she saw.
She was very far away from shore. The high rock-walls on the beach that protected the island, were barely visible.
Zilny felt she was going to cry. Before her tears could start, a huge wave fell on her and pushed her deep down into the ocean and towards the rock-wall. Her head popped out above water. She was in cave in a rock wall.
She quickly scrambled out of the water and sat on a flat rock inside the cave.
At first, she thought she had been washed back on the beach on the island. She breathed calmly again. She got up and walked about in the cave. It was huge as a room in a home. It did not seem to have any openings.
"I'm not better off in this cave," said Zilny to herself. "I'll die of starvation in here." Just when she was beginning to feel depressed again, she saw a green cat sitting on one of the higher rock ledges.
The cat was looking at her. She felt a bit uneasy because the cat did not take its unblinking eyes off her.
Zilny had never seen a cat. She thought the cat was some kind of sea animal. Since it was so small, she wasn't frightened. She worked it out that the cat had come into the cave the same way she had come. Swept here by an ocean wave.
That thought didn't help her. All it meant was that she was going to die in the company of a green cat, unless the cat was a sea animal that could swim out any time it wanted to. That would mean Zilny would die alone. She pushed that thought away.
After walking about the cave and not finding any way out except down through the deep ocean, Zilny leaned against the rock wall of the cave and cried.
She cried so much she did not notice the green cat had come down from the ledge and was rubbing itself gently against Zilny's leg. Without knowing what she was doing, she picked the green cat up and hugged it while she cried. That's when the green cat spoke.
"If you keep crying into my fur your tears are going to get me all soggy, Zilny."
Zilny was so amazed at hearing the green cat talk, she did not believe it. How could a strange animal know her name? Zilny suspected she was losing her mind. Perhaps she was so depressed she was hearing sounds that were in her head, only.
Zilny didn't think she was talking to the green cat when she said, "I'm sorry. But I can't help it. I am so sad and frightened. I don't know what I am doing. I'm sorry." With her hands, she wiped away her tears off the green cat's fur.
The green cat purred and said softly "Zilny, please put me down and follow me." Zilny put the green cat down. She followed anxiously as the green walked deeper and deeper into the cave. The cave got darker and darker the farther in they walked.
They turned a corner. Zilny saw an opening in the cave wall as large as a door. She followed the green cat out of the cave, into a whole new world of trees and grass and a river, in warm sunlight.
There were people all about in the distance. And houses, with smoke drifting lazily up out of some chimneys.
In amazement, Zilny looked at the green cat. The green cat looked at her and said "Don't ask me, Zilny. All I know is that this is a magic world. Persons, like you, are brought here because they are good persons. Here they live forever at whatever age they are when they enter it. A long time ago I brought your Mom and Dad here. And your two siblings, brother and sister. I was sent to bring you here, too. Come. I'll take you to them."
Zilny now lives happily in that magic world with her family. She is fifteen, forever.
Dad and Mom told her she is fifteen.
______________________________________23) The unmentionable monster.
Nuf and Tuf are walking carefully and slowly along in a dark rock corridor. They try their best to step softly because in this passageway sounds are echoed louder than they are actually made. Nuf and Tuf hear a sound.
They stop walking. Tuf is behind Nuf. They hold onto each other. Tuf is nervous and scared. Nuf is nervous and excited. They whisper.
"I---I think I've changed my mind! I want to go back!"
"Shh! Keep your voice down!"
"My voice is down! I'm whispering! I want to go back!"
"Then go, Tuf." Nuf pulls away from Tuf.
"Come with me, Nuf. I'm scared to go back by myself."
"You don't have to be scared. The Unmentionable Monster is somewhere in front of us. Go. Just keep your hand on the wall so you don't bump into parts of the wall. Walk until you see the light. That will be the opening of the cave."
"Come with me, please, Nuf. Just until we see the light. Then you can come back."
"Shh! Hear that? Did you hear that?"
"Like what? I'm hearing all kinds of sounds. Everything is echoing in this place. The Unmentionable Monster must have heard us by now. It's waiting for us. I want to go back! You have to take me back!"
"You are being so unfair! I told you to not come with me."
"You didn't say, "not come." You said I could come if I wanted to, so that you wouldn't be by yourself. You said it would be an exciting adventure."
"It is exciting! Isn't your heart thumping? Mine is! That's excitement!"
"You didn't say it was going to be this dark."
"I said tunnel. In the mountain. Hello? Tunnels are always dark. You should have known that, Tuf. Now go back. I am moving ahead."
Nuf steps forwards. Tuf's voice is so soft Nuf doesn't hear Tuf say, "I will stay right here until you get back."
Nuf, now alone, walks extra slowly and carefully in the echoing darkness. Whoa! What's that? Nuf hears sniffing. Loud sniffing.
Because of the echo in the passageway the sniffing seems to be coming from every direction. There's now a bad smell in the stale air in this tunnel.
Nuf thinks, I must be getting closer to the Unmentionable Monster! That must be the Unmentionable Monster's smell! It's sniffing! This is so great! I will be the first to see the Unmentionable Monster! Everybody talks about it. Nobody has ever seen it!
She pauses in her thoughts as something occurs to her. How am I going to see it? It's so dark in here. I didn't bring matches or a flashlight. Oh! Oh! Oh! How could I have forgotten to bring a flashlight?
More sniffing! Nearer! A growl! Yikes! In this tunnel the growl hurts the ears. Nuf decides to turn back away from the sniffing and the growling. Nuf walks as fast as the darkness allows her. She frequently bumps into parts of the rock wall.
Tuf is leaning against a wall. He hears noises getting louder and louder, echoing more and more. Tuf is now frightened as well as confused. It's not possible to know from which direction the noises are coming.
Tuf decides to make a run for it. Turning around in the narrow dark tunnel isn't easy. As Tuf swings around in fright and confusion he slams into a wall. He crashes to the floor. He screams more in fright than in pain.
Nuf, farther along the tunnel hears Tuf's screams. She doesn't know it is Tuf who is screaming. Nuf thinks it's the Unmentionable Monster running up from behind, growling and shrieking in anger. And in hunger!
Tuf is quickly getting up from the ground. In the dark Nuf cannot see Tuf. They collide. They tumble to the ground, yelling and crying and screaming more in frightened confusion than in pain.
What they don't know is that the Unmentionable Monster is as frightened in the dark as they are. It, too, cannot see who and what it is that is in the tunnel with it. It gallops towards them. It probably thinks it's galloping away from them.
When it gets to them it steps on them and keeps on galloping towards the tunnel entrance.
One of the Unmentionable Monster's soft paws steps on Nuf's lips. Another soft paw steps on Tuf's chest.
The Unmentionable Monster must have a tail because both Nuf and Tuf are whipped in the face as the tail swishes over them as the Unmentionable Monster runs over them.
Nuf and Tuf on the ground, terrified, hug each tightly, expecting to die any instant. Without telling each other, both silently resolve never ever to come back into this tunnel.
24) Lei-Lu and her Grampa, forever.
The villagers of the ancient village of Cholie were all considered to be magi because it was on the island of Cholie that the holy mystery of the Jinava birds was solved.
The Jinava were considered to be holy because the very few people who saw them, saw them for only a few seconds before the birds flew at great speed high into the heavens to disappear forever.
A Jinava bird would explode up through the surface of the ocean around the island village. Nobody could predict when such an awesome sight would happen.
It was a belief shared by many people all over the world that everyone who saw a Jinava anywhere, would be cured of all illness, and would cease to age from that moment for the rest of their lives.
So, why wasn't Cholie crammed with people from all over the world? Because the Cholieans believed that since it was only in the ocean around Cholie that Jinava were seen surfacing, this event would cease if Cholie ever grew to be larger than a village. And so, the only strangers permitted to live in Cholie, were those who married Cholieans. No visitors allowed.
Although not even Cholieans knew why this belief came about, it was strengthened when quite by chance a Choliean solved the puzzle of the origin of the Jinava.
The extinct volcano at the center of Cholie was named Virrta by the Cholieans. It was believed to be an extinct volcano only because its upside-down funnel shape looked like what volcanoes, active and inactive, all over the world looked like.
If Virrta had ever been an active volcano, there were no signs other than its shape. If the island had formed when Virrta had erupted long ago, why weren't there any rocks or other stony surfaces anywhere on the island? Instead, the soil all over the island was so fertile, the Cholieans were never short of fruit and vegetables.
There grew on the slopes of Virrta from the bottom to the top dense forest in which vicious predatory animals lived. At night the mountainside became quite noisy with all the wild animal roaring, barking, howling, squealing, and shrieking.
Very few persons entered the forest in an attempt to climb to the top of the mountain. Those that did were fanatical believers in an ancient belief that if a person climbed to the top and jumped to their death into the volcano crater, they would become immortal living spirits in the afterlife. There was no record of anyone having reached the top of the mountain in order to jump into the next life.
Ming was an old man in perfect health. He did not appear to be old. He claimed to have seen a Jinava erupt from the surface of the ocean when he was a young man. At that time, he had no way of proving his claim. However, as the years passed and he did not show signs of growing old, people began to believe he had, indeed, witnessed a Jinava erupting from the ocean surface.
When all people of his childhood, friends and strangers, had grown old and died, Ming became depressed in his loneliness. He decided to climb Virrta.
He could not care less if animals killed him before he reached the top. He was just too depressed to care about going on living.
When Lei-Lu, his teenage great-grand daughter, asked to accompany him, nobody objected. From birth, Lei-Lu had been weak and sickly. Nobody saw a happy future for her. So, when Ming was ready to take the risk, nobody objected to Lei-Lu sharing Ming's likely fate in the forest.
They lost count of days and nights it took them, but Ming and Lei-Lu eventually reached the rim of Virrta; not without bloody cuts and bruises from their many close escapes from wild ferocious beasts. Both were half-dead in fatigue, and pain everywhere on them. What kept them from dying from exhaustion there-and-then, was their amazement that they had succeeded in arriving at the top of the mountain!
They were surprised to discover that the rim was so broad that it took them about an hour to reach the edge from which they could look down into the hole of the crater. The rim was broad enough to have many tall trees growing on it.
The crater hole was so deep, they couldn't see the bottom. They had to be extra careful because it was very windy.
Lei-Lu climbed a tree near the edge. At the top, her weight, even as sickly light as it was, caused some tangled high branches to bend over the crater. She could not detect a bottom; she saw only endless pitch darkness. She called out to Grampa that she saw only blackness that seemed to be dense clouds, continually streaked by short bursts of lightning; and that she was high enough to be able to see the ocean far away.
Grampa called out to her to climb down so that they could hold hands and jump into the crater to enter the next life together.
The opportunity to jump into the next life with her Grampa made Lei-Lu happy. But while Grampa was calling out to Lei-Lu, a gust of wind toppled him over, and he fell into the crater hole, deep, deep down.
Lei-Lu saw Grampa fall. She looked as he fell down and disappeared into the hole. He fell silently. She instantly decided to jump to him. It took her a few frantic seconds to untangle herself from the overhanging branches.
When she turned to let go the branches, she saw a brilliantly many-colored Jinava bird, dripping wet, slowly rising from the deep blackness, short lightning streaks splashing off it like sprays of water.
The Jinava drifted up directly to her. It slowly flew in two circles around her, looking her in the eye, before speeding away to disappear into the high blue sky.
Lei-Lu was overjoyed. Her Grampa had turned into a Jinava! The mystery was solved how Jinava came into being!
She had to return to Cholie to tell the villagers!
25) Shipwrecked into freedom.
The tremendous explosion in the engine room sank the holiday carnival ship in minutes. There were thousands of holiday tourists onboard. The ocean surface was littered with debris for miles.
Tragically, there was only one life boat visible with survivors. The boat had an elderly woman and two birds, a budgie and a canary. Budgie was angry; Canary was in a daze of bewilderment. Daylight was giving way to night. Luckily, there was no wind.
“Why did she bring us here?” “I’m not sure she had a choice, Budgie. The ship was sinking fast.” “She could have opened the cage and let us decide. Instead, she stuffed us in her pocket and zipped us in. The next thing I knew, I am here. Why?” “She must have unzipped us free. There is nobody else here.”
Budgie hops closer to the woman. Budgie whispers to Canary, “Is she sleeping or dead? Can you tell?” Canary, in a tired voice, I don’t really care. We are free, Budgie. Let’s fly away. Far away.” “Really? Fly away to where? When she let us out the cage a few minutes every day, there were places to fly away to on that luxury boat, but we did not think of making a dash for freedom. All we have now is wall-wall litter in every direction. And now you want to fly far away?” Each, in a different direction, slowly surveys the ocean surface.
Canary suggests, “I think her name is Gertie. I heard people call her Gertie.” “Good, for you. She is Gertie from now on. Now about us, here?” “We could search for food.” “Good idea, but let’s do it one at a time, so that we don’t get lost. Most of all this stuff is beginning to look the same in this fading light.”
“You go first. I’m too tired. While you’re out there, look for a place we can go to.” “Okay.” Off went Budgie, flying insecurely into the night.
Canary stared at the woman. “I hope you are just sleeping, Gertie.” Long uncomfortable pause. “You were good to us.” Long pause, less uncomfortable. “Budgie is not ready to admit it, but the reason why we did not make a run for it those times you let us out of the cage, was because you took such loving care of us, Gertie. Your love was more valuable to us than freedom. And so, we always loved returning to that palatial cage.” Long pause. “If there is a sign you are alive, Gertie, I will stay here with you forever. I will search the wreckage for food for us.”
Budgie returned with such haste, she tumbled into the raft against Canary. In the darkness, Canary was taken by surprise; she screamed in fright. Budgie whispered hastily, “Shh! Don’t make a noise, Canary! It’s only me!” “Did you get food?” “No! There’s a huge animal prowling around, swimming among the wreckage pieces!” “What animal? What kind?” “In the dark, I could not tell for certain. A dog or a cat or something else.” Did it see you?” “I don’t know. It would have smelled me. This is bad.”
“It does not have to be, Budgie. It is dark. We can fly. Let’s keep quiet, and stay alert.” A noise in the distance, gradually increasing in loudness.
In a whisper, “You hear that?” “Yes.” “A ship?” “An aeroplane, more likely. Look, a searchlight in the sky!” “We are saved!” “Not so fast, Budgie. That animal is our first concern.”
It was, indeed, an aeroplane. The wreckage had been found. Rescue ships were on the way.
“We should fly to another piece of wreckage in the opposite direction you spied that animal.” “Good idea. Follow me.” “Budgie, we cannot just abandon Gertie to that animal.” “What choice do we have?
“Peck her on the cheeks to get her up.” “If she is not already dead.” “I know. But we have to try. She was forever encouraging us to peck her face for everyone to see and cheer.” “Okay. Go peck her. I’ll keep watch for that animal. Give her a peck from me, too.”
Before Canary could hop over to Gertie, that animal popped its head out of the water and gave a muted gurgley bark. It was a dog. The birds jumped back to the farthest spot on the boat, and hugged tightly to help each other from trembling in fear, and from making noises. The dog turned to Gertie and barked excitedly. In a half-whisper, “It’s going to eat her!”
The dog put a paw on Gertie, and shook her. Gertie awoke. “Shivvy? That you?” Canary exclaimed, “They know each other!” “In all those years on the ship, I did not know Gertie had a dog in her life! Did you?” “No. This is the first time.” “Okay. Now, let’s go far away and wait for a rescue ship on which to spend the rest of our lives in freedom.” “Should we at least say goodbye to Gertie? She was good to us, Budgie. She always made sure we had enough to eat and drink.” “We are going to see her a lot, I’m sure. From a safe distance, on a ship. Right now, Canary, I think we should stay out of Shivvy’s reach. He must be a very hungry dog.”
26) Who wants to play the human?
Three bears were lounging at home. “Mom, we were at a friend’s home. When an old family member discovered you are our Mom, she asked about Grampa.” “What did she ask about Grampa?” “About how he died?” “We said we were not sure because Grampa died long before we were born.”
“For next time when anyone asks, Grampa died in his sleep at home at a very old age.” “Okay, Mom.” “Ma, remember that event you told us about when Grampa ran that human female up a tree?” “Yes.” “I don’t remember how it ended.” “Did Grampa eat her, Mom?”
“The both of you are still too young to be told the whole event.” “Perhaps, Mom, but we are not too old to be hearing rumors. A few days ago, at a party, someone asked me directly if Grampa had eaten that human. He said from what he heard, she deserved to be eaten.” “What did you say?” “The truth, Mom. I said I did not know.” “They laughed at us, Ma, for having a famous Grampa but not knowing much about him. They did not believe us.”
“Tell us, Mom. Please.” “I will, in the next few days. I have to first discuss it with some others. Bear in mind, I was too little at the time to understand any of what had happened. For the time being, all you need to know is that had Grampa eaten that human, other humans would have hunted him down and shot him dead. To this day, an animal that attacks a human is killed by other humans even if the human is in the wrong. So, if a human attacks you, even unfairly, run away. Now, the sun is out. Go outside and play, or I will come up with chores.”
The two teenagers dashed to the exit. Outside, beyond their Mother’s hearing, one whispered to the other, “‘run away even if attacked unfairly.’ Would you? Could you?” “I don’t know. I’ve seen humans from far off. Haven’t come face-to-face with one yet.” “Me, too. I hear they stink.” “From everything I hear about them, I wish I never meet any close-up.” “We must ask around if that’s possible. Has Mom said she’s been near enough to them to touch them?” “To touch them? Yukkk! I wouldn’t ask her, if I were you. Or ask her if you must when I am too far to hear.”
“A great idea just occurred to me.
“Let’s re-create that Grampa event.” “Re-create? How? Why?” “Act it. Perhaps by putting ourselves in the situation, we will understand it more. I’ll be Grampa.” “You’re female. You will have to be the human. I’ll be Grampa. Let’s find a tree.”
There were trees everywhere. She climbed up one. “You have to scream as you climb.” “That is bound to bring Mom.” “Okay. Say something to Grampa.” “Would she say something to a bear?” “She was frightened for her life. She would have screamed something to any animal that attacked her.”
Seconds of silence while she noisily inhales deeply, and exhales, before she speaks. “Shoo! Go away! I have done nothing to you to deserve this. Get away, you big fat ugly thing!” “Hey!” “What?” “That is not pretending. You say that to me every time we argue about something and you get angry.” “This time it is the human speaking to Grampa.” “This time I am playing Grampa and you are looking at me! And so, you are still saying it to me, Sis. You are free to say anything, and you choose to say what you say so often to upset me!” “I’m sorry. I’ll say something else.”
Softly and gently. “Do you remember Ma said that about Grampa?” “What?” “Fat and ugly.” “I don’t remember.” “Not in a bad way. Mom said Grampa was hugely fat because he was the most successful at fishing. Never missed a fish he aimed for. Sometimes more than one at a time.”
Hesitantly, “And the ugly?” “Most of his face had been gored away by the antlers of a moose that got away.” His sister was silent. He was sympathetic.
She said, “I don’t feel like doing this anymore.” “If you want, I’ll play the female.” “Are you listening to yourself?”
“Sis, when Mom read to us when we were children, she read all the roles, females and males. We are not playing to others, here. Nobody else is looking or listening. Besides, I am beginning to see what you meant by understanding more by being in the event.” “We will need another tree. You won’t fit between any of these branches.”
Softly, “Heyyyy.” “What?” Realizing, “Oh. I did not mean it that way. I meant the branches of this tree are all too close. I’m uncomfortably squished here.” “Nor did I mean it that way, Sis. An idea occurred to me. The reason Ma is so reluctant to tell us the whole story even though Grampa did not eat that human, could be because she died of fright.” He looks wide-eyed at his sister; she returns the look.
Mom appeared. “Come and meet a family member. Her Dad was with Grampa in that event we spoke about earlier today. He was your age. Remembers it like it was yesterday. All these years I did not know. Found out from him few minutes ago.”
“Whoa!” “What’s the matter?” “My heart’s thumping.”
27) Rabbit and Elephant.
Elephant was having a happy time eating leaves high up on a tree. She saw Rabbit. Rabbit was on the ground nibbling on small flowers that were growing everywhere.
Rabbit, too, was having a happy time. Rabbit was well aware elephants do not eat rabbits. Elephant wouldn't make a grab for him at any time.
"All I have to do," thought Rabbit, "is to be careful to stay away from Elephant's feet."
Elephant's feet are so huge, Rabbit had no trouble knowing where those massive feet were.
Elephant, on the other hand, kept darting nervous looks at Rabbit, because Elephant did not want to accidentally step on Rabbit. After a few minutes, Elephant said to Rabbit, "Look, little friend, why don't you go eat somewhere else? Please?"
Rabbit was taken by surprise. He looked up at Elephant and asked "Why? I'm not bothering you, Elephant. Your food is way up there. Mine is way down here."
"That's not it," said Elephant. "I don't want to step on you by accident. You're so tiny. Most of the time I don't know where you are. Come on, Rabbit. There are just as many flowers over there. If you go there, both of us can eat in peace."
Rabbit said to Elephant, "I take it, then, you haven't seen that fox hiding in the tall grass."
"What fox?" asked Elephant, turning to look here-and-there.
"Don't look!" blurted out Rabbit in a whisper. "Keep looking at me!"
Elephant quickly returned to looking at Rabbit. "Go back to eating," whispered Rabbit. "We must not show that we know that fox is there."
"Okay," whispered Elephant.
Elephant went back to eating, but now she was even more nervous that she knew Rabbit was in danger from that fox.
After a few seconds of both of them eating in silence, Elephant whispered down to Rabbit. "Just tell me where the fox is and I will go up to it and scare it away."
Rabbit replied, "Elephant, if you and I approach that fox, it will fit into that fox's plan." This puzzled Elephant.
"I don't understand, Rabbit. If we chase him away, how can that be in his plan?"
"Because," whispered Rabbit to Elephant, "there is another fox hiding in the tall grass behind us. Don't look!" Rabbit whispered quickly as he noticed Elephant turning to look behind them.
"Oops," said Elephant in embarrassment. "Sorry. I think I can see their plan. They want you to move away from that one in front of us so that the one behind us can jump out and grab you."
"Precisely," said Rabbit.
"You are so smart," said Elephant, with a lot of admiration in her voice for Rabbit.
"Thank you, Elephant," said Rabbit. "We have to be extra careful with foxes. You have heard the saying, 'as sly as a fox.'"
"Yes. Oh, yes, I have. But this is the first time I am getting a real example of its truth."
"And, my friend, you are getting two examples of that truth at the same time."
"Clearly," said Elephant, "you, Rabbit, are smarter than two foxes. I am so fortunate you are my friend. Now that we know their plan, all we have to do is stay close to each other, and they will get tired sooner or later and go away."
"If only it were that straightforward," said Rabbit. "Unfortunately, Elephant, my friend, their plan is not that straightforward."
Elephant stopped eating. She looked at Rabbit. Elephant was so puzzled that, if she could have, she would have scratched her head while she looked at Rabbit. But, sadly, Elephants cannot scratch their heads when they are puzzled about something. Elephant stared at Rabbit. Elephant was worried.
"This is what they are planning to do," explained Rabbit. "The fox behind us is going to leap up at you and bite your tail. That will make you turn around and move toward it. That's when the fox in the front of us is going to make a grab for me."
Elephant's jaw dropped in utter surprise at hearing this. Elephant was finding it difficult to believe an animal as small as a fox would dare attack an animal as large as an elephant. Rabbit looked up at Elephant and saw the disbelief in Elephant's face.
"It's true," said Rabbit. "These foxes have done it before."
Rabbit continued. "A few days ago, I was chomping on flowers next to Rhinoceros. The fox behind us attacked Rhinoceros. I had seen only the fox in front of us that time. I didn't know what their strategy was. So, I, too, was caught off-guard when the fox behind us attacked Rhinoceros.
When Rhinoceros roared and turned to see what was happening behind us, the fox in front jumped on me. I was about to be dead in the next few seconds."
"What happened?" asked Elephant, aghast in horror. "How did you get away?"
"Out of the sky, this magnificent eagle swooped down and grabbed the fox in its claws and flew up away with it."
"Hah!" exclaimed Elephant. "So, while they were busy watching you and Rhinoceros, the eagle was watching out for a chance to swoop on the fox!"
"Precisely," said Rabbit. "But there won't be an eagle this time to come to my rescue."
"You never know, Rabbit. Even as we speak, there could be an eagle getting ready to swoop down on that fox."
"There won't be, Elephant, my friend," said Rabbit.
"Don't be such a pessimist," scolded Elephant. "Eagles are everywhere all the time. They fly so high, we cannot know where they are."
"I know there isn't an eagle here now" said Rabbit, "because that fox in the front of us is the same fox that grabbed me that first time. It must have gotten away from the eagle. These two foxes are not going to make the same mistake again. I told you, Elephant. Foxes are smart."
"Yes," interrupted Elephant, triumphantly. 'Sly as a fox!'"
"Precisely!" said Rabbit.
"See? I remembered!"
"Good for you, Elephant." Rabbit continued. "Smartness in a fox includes learning quickly from its mistakes. I am certain these two foxes have made sure there aren't any eagles around this time."
Elephant said "Rabbit, all foxes look alike to me. Why are you so certain this fox in front of us is the same fox that grabbed you that first time?"
"Because," replied Rabbit, "when he grabbed me, I struggled fiercely to get out of his grip. In the struggle, I bit off a piece of his ear. That fox hiding there in front of us, is missing a chunk of his ear."
Elephant was so amazed at this account and so happy at Rabbit's fighting spirit, her eyes opened so wide they seemed to be about to pop out.
Elephant and Rabbit ate slowly and warily in silence for a few seconds.
"Tell you what," said Elephant. "Taste this." With her trunk, Elephant plucked a leaf from the top of a tree and dropped it in front of Rabbit.
Rabbit chewed on the leaf and said, with his mouth full, "Hmh! Quite tasty."
"Good," said Elephant. "Here's the plan. Climb onto my trunk and I will put you on my back. From there you can reach the leaves and take your time eating. When those foxes see that, they will give up, and leave."
That's exactly what happened. Elephant lowered her trunk. Rabbit climbed onto the trunk. Elephant lifted Rabbit up and put Rabbit on her back.
When the two foxes saw this, they hissed and growled aloud their disappointment, and left.
Elephant and Rabbit have been good friends ever since. Sometimes Rhinoceros joins them at mealtimes.
28) The magical jungle.
There was this magical jungle. On this day, all the animals from the jungle sat on top of the low wall of stone which was a section of the natural stone circle all around the circumference of their jungle. They stared in fear at what they saw.
There, in a clearing outside their jungle, not far away, were many construction and demolition vehicles driven by people. Some people were arriving. Others already there were slowly maneuvering their massive vehicles to park.
"There!" said Owl grimly to the rest of them. "None of you believed me! Now you see it for yourselves! For days and nights and days and nights I have been warning everybody about what I was being told in my dreams. All of you laughed at me."
"I did not laugh," piped up Tortoise. "I just didn't believe that anyone would want our forest. There's nothing here but trees and a few small rivers."
"Land!" said Owl. "There's land. That's all it takes to bring people here. They will rip the land away from under us without a care about what will happen to us. They will think nothing about cutting down all the trees to build their factories and houses of bricks and iron."
All the animals stared in sadness and in horror at the vehicles a short distance away; at the people driving them, getting in and out of them and shouting instructions at one another. A few seconds of tense silence passed among the animals.
"Do we all just leave, Owl?" asked Sparrow.
Owl replied, "In my dreams, the voice gave us two options. Leave now before the machines come here and start tearing down the trees and digging up the ground. Or fight."
"Fight?" asked Squirrel, shivering at the thought. "We can't fight people. They have guns and traps and pesticides."
"And fire," added Rabbit in a shaky voice. "We have to run before they get here."
"There is no shame in running away," said Owl. I was told most of us must start running now because we move slowly. The snails, tortoises, chameleons and worms are to start moving to the center of the jungle right away. If those of us who remain to fight, lose, the rest of you will have enough time to get away out the other end of the jungle and over the stone wall."
"We will stay and fight," said Ant.
"Good for you, Ant. That's brave of you," said Owl. "But since ants move slowly, it would be best if the ants left with the chameleons, snails and tortoises and worms."
"Uh-uh," demurred Ant. "We ants have already come up with a plan of attack. We worked it out with the birds. We are going to need you to lead the attack, Owl."
"It will be an honor," said Owl. "What is the plan?"
"I'll tell it," chirped Cardinal.
"All right, Cardinal," said Ant. "You tell it."
Cardinal proceeded to outline the plan of attack.
"It has to be done at night. Otherwise, the people will know it's us. If they find out it is us, we won't stand a chance against them."
"Good thinking, Cardinal," said Owl. "That's where I come in, huh, with my night vision?"
"Yes," said a lot of the animals, spontaneously, in unison.
Sparrow begged of Cardinal, "Please, Cardinal, may I tell the rest? Please? I was there."
"Of course," answered Cardinal sweetly. "Go ahead."
"Thank you, Cardie. Each ant will carry a grain of sand, and we birds will carry the ants to that clearing. They will drop the grains on everything. When the people arrive in the morning, none of us will be around. They won't suspect it's us."
"Excellent!" said Owl. "A few days of that and they will leave our jungle alone."
And so, every night for the next few nights Owl led hundreds and hundreds of birds who carried hundreds and hundreds of ants who carried grains of sand, and dropped the grains on everything on the people's construction site: backhoes and bulldozers and chainsaws and cranes and tractors and trucks.
Each bird-ant team did this a dozen times each night. It was done so silently and efficiently under the leadership of Owl, that the people did not have a clue what was happening.
Every morning when the people arrived, everything was covered in sand. The people were puzzled. At first, they guessed it must have been the wind. But they gave up on that notion because they saw no piles of sand on the ground between the vehicles and the buildings. If the wind had brought the sand, there would be sand on the vacant ground between buildings and vehicles, too.
Every day the people would spend all their time sweeping and shoveling off the sand. All this took up all the people's time. The people coughed and sneezed a lot, too, because the sand was getting into their noses and mouths and eyes and ears and clothing. The people had no time to think about moving to the jungle to destroy it.
On the tenth day when the people arrived to see they would have to spend another day sweeping and shoveling sand, and sneezing and coughing and washing their eyes over and over again, they gave up. They left. They drove all their vehicles away, and did not return.
The animals of the jungle were so very happy. All of them went over to the clearing where the people had been. They celebrated their victory. They danced and sang and had a picnic.
It was Hedgehog who said, "People don't give up that easily, you know. They will be back. They won't use this clearing next time. They will bring all their equipment by helicopters each day. The helicopters will bring in all their heavy machinery right into our jungle itself. They will start destroying our jungle from the inside."
The animals stopped celebrating. They looked at Hedgehog in horror and depression and sadness. Some of them were angry. Others cried in despair.
"All this fighting-back and winning, was for nothing," blubbered Snail.
Chameleon joined Snail in frightened blubbering.
"No!" scolded Owl. "It was not for nothing! The voice in my dreams said if we fought back and won, something wonderful would happen."
"Like what?" sneered Skunk. "Wonderful, like what? Huh?"
"Yeah," joined in Raccoon, in defiance of Owl. "Wonderful, like what, huh?
"Well, uh, the voice didn't say," said Owl, a bit worried herself. "Let's all go back to our jungle and wait to see."
All agreed. When they turned to go back to their jungle, it wasn't there! All they could see was the low stone wall that encircled their jungle. Where their jungle had been, was a huge black hole in the ground. Wisps of smoke were blowing out of the wide gaping black hole.
Some of the animals began to cry. Others were too shocked to make a sound. None moved.
"Oh, no!" despaired Owl, on the verge of tears herself. She flew slowly towards the stone circle, and over it.
Then she turned quickly and flew back to the animals. "It's not gone!" shouted Owl. "Our jungle is still there! It only looks like there's a hole there! Our jungle is still there!"
The animals did not believe her. Someone yelled, "What are you talking about, Owl? We can see the hole. Why can't we see our jungle, if it's still there?"
"Don't you see?" said Owl, so excited she was having difficulty speaking. "This is the wonderful thing that has happened because we fought back and did not run away. To everybody else it will seem to be a huge empty smoldering black hole. They won't want to come near it. But to us, it will still be here. As good as it always has been to us."
The animals could not believe Owl. They hurried to the stone rim. The birds flew over it; the other animals climbed to the top.
They saw their jungle!
They went into it, and lived in their jungle forever. They have parties every Friday and Saturday nights, to this very day.
When the people flew over in helicopters and other aircraft, all they saw was the widest, and deepest, and blackest of holes out of which drifted hot smoke and swirling strong winds.
29) Giraffe and Zebra.
Zebra was walking along through the tall grass. She was going to the river to have a drink of water. As she passed a clump of low bushes on her way, she heard, "Psst!"
Zebra stopped. She looked around. Wild animals have to pay attention to all sounds because at any time some other animal could jump out and eat them.
Zebra didn't see anyone. She thought it might have been the wind blowing through the tall grass that made the sound that she thought was "Psst!" She started to walk again.
She heard the sound again. This time she saw a face that poked itself out the bushes. It was her friend, Giraffe.
Giraffe whispered to Zebra, "Get in here! Quickly!" Zebra quickly went into the bushes to join her friend.
"What's up?" whispered Zebra.
"Come. I'll show you," said Giraffe as she pushed her way to the other side of the bushes. The other end of the bushes was at the edge of a stone cliff that overlooked the river. Giraffe parted some of the branches and grass and said to Zebra "Look what's down there on the bank of the river at the edge of the water."
Zebra looked for a few seconds and said, "What? I don't see anything."
"Not even that dried-up tree log?" asked Giraffe. "Uh, okay. Tree log. I see it. So?" "Look again," said Giraffe. "It's not a dried-up tree log."
Zebra looked again and this time she stared at the dried-up tree log. "Uh, sorry, Giraffe. That's just a dried-up tree log. I've seen my share of dried-up tree logs. I know a dried-up tree log when I see one."
Giraffe picked up a small stone from the ground. "Keep your eye on that dried-up tree log." While Zebra kept her eyes on the dried-up tree log, Giraffe threw the stone into the river. When the water splashed, Zebra saw the dried-up tree log move quickly, and scurry into the river.
"Yikes!" cried out Zebra. She coughed and sneezed. She had inhaled a bit of grass into her mouth when she said "Yikes!" When she stopped coughing and sneezing, she stared at Giraffe. She asked, "What? What is that? That's not a dried-up tree log. That thing's alive!"
"That thing," said Giraffe, "is a crocodile waiting for some unsuspecting animal like you and me to come along. Then it will jump us and drag us into the river and eat us!" She looked wide-eyed at Zebra. Zebra looked wide-eyed at Giraffe.
Zebra parted some of the bushes and took another look. "Are you sure? I know crocodiles are in rivers far away to the south of here. I've never seen a crocodile this far north in this river. Isn't this river too shallow for crocodiles?"
"I've never seen a crocodile here," said Giraffe. "You want to hear how I came to know that is a crocodile down there pretending to be a dried-up tree log?" Zebra by now was too shaken up in fright to talk. She nodded her "Yes."
"Because I almost fell into its trap," said Giraffe. "I saw what I thought was a dried-up tree log. I was walking straight to it to step over it to get to the river. At the last moment a bird swooped down and sat on the log. That's when the crocodile jumped in fright. Lucky for that bird the crocodile had seen me coming and was concentrating on ambushing me. When the crocodile jumped in fright, the bird swooped away, losing some of its feathers in its fright. That bird saved my life. I returned here to watch until the crocodile leaves. I am so thirsty."
"Me, too. We cannot wait too long, Giraffe. Lions and hyenas come to this river to drink. We have to be far away when those carnivore predators get here."
"I know," said Giraffe. "There is a much longer and deeper river back there. That's where most of the animals go, herbivores and carnivores. If that crocodile doesn't move along in the next few minutes we might have to risk going to that other river where the carnivore predators will be."
The both of them stared in dismay at the crocodile. Neither was comfortable with the option of having to go to that other river far away. Giraffe spoke softly.
"There might be a way to chase that crocodile away."
"Without us having to go down there, I hope."
"Down there, yes. But not where the crocodile is."
"Giraffe, my friend, you are not making sense. How will we be able to chase that crocodile off if we don't go down there where that crocodile is?"
"If we get someone else to chase it off for us."
A few seconds of silence passed, as Giraffe stared wide-eyed at Zebra, and Zebra stared back, not understanding, and at an utter loss for words.
"Come," said Giraffe, softly. "Look again. This time, concentrate on those bushes a few steps behind the crocodile."
Zebra looked, and concentrated. She whispered, "What am I looking for?" Instantly, she jumped back and clamped her mouth shut to prevent herself from yelping. "What is that? I saw movement! And a hat?"
"A man!" said Giraffe, triumphantly.
"A man? A people-man?"
"Hiding from the crocodile?
"Perhaps. Or to catch it."
"Catch it? Why? People don't eat crocodiles. Do they?"
"I don't know why, Zeeb. Does anybody know why people do what they do? What I do know is how you and I can get that people-man to chase that crocodile away. You want to give it a shot?"
Again, Zebra was speechless. She was totally petrified at the thought of going down there to face a people-man and a ferocious reptile. She slowly and hesitantly nodded her consent.
"Good," said Giraffe. "Let's creep down there to come up behind that people- man. Then we attack the bush and shout as loud as we can. That will so discombobulate that people-animal creature, he will dash out towards the crocodile."
"Who will be so terrified, it will dash away into the river!" exclaimed Zebra.
"Yes!" said Giraffe, "you like it?"
"Of course! It's brilliant!" said Zebra. "I will lead the way."
Just then they heard loud squealing noises being made by a large animal moving clumsily through the tall grass.
Giraffe and Zebra kept still. The noises got louder and louder. Obviously, whatever it was, was moving in their direction.
"Think we should run?" Zebra asked in a whisper. Giraffe whispered back "When we are sure which way to run. That could be predators coming this way. We don't want to run into them."
Both moved slowly to the other end of the bushes. They peered out through the branches.
"It's a hippopotamus!" whispered Zebra in surprise. "A hippopotamus?" exclaimed Giraffe in a whisper. "A hippo is too big for this river. It's not going to get enough water at this river. A hippopotamus needs a really deep river. What's it doing here?"
"Perhaps," guessed Zebra, "it wants to avoid the meat-eating predators at the other river." "Not a hippopotamus," replied Giraffe. "Hippo's are not afraid of carnivore predators. A hippopotamus is so huge, predators don't dare attack it."
Zebra and Giraffe poked their heads farther out the bushes and stared.
The hippopotamus stopped and looked at them. Giraffe and Zebra looked at each other, and simultaneously exclaimed to each other. "It's a baby hippopotamus!"
"Where's its Father?" asked Giraffe.
"And Mother?" added Zebra. "This baby must be lost," said Giraffe.
The baby hippopotamus made squealing noises as it nudged its way into the bushes with Zebra and Giraffe. They hugged it and petted it. They had to be careful because the baby hippopotamus was far bigger than either of them. If they were not careful enough, it could crush them by accident. It licked their faces.
"Oh, poor baby," said Giraffe. "This baby is very thirsty. It's going to the river for water."
The ground began to shake as if an earthquake was happening. Giraffe and Zebra had never experienced an earthquake. They recognized immediately what was happening. Not an earthquake. It was an animal stampede!
When a crowd of animals run fast in one direction, the ground shakes like it was shaking then. Giraffes stampede. Zebras stampede. Deer stampede. Animals stampede when they are afraid. Like when they are chased by other animals. Like when there is a forest fire.
Zebra and Giraffe knew they would have to get out of the bushes to find out the cause of the stampede.
Before Giraffe and Zebra could do anything, the baby hippo let out a loud squeal and bounded out of the bushes. When they saw the baby disappear in the tall grass through which it dashed, they were aware that it was running toward the noises. This frightened Zebra and Giraffe because they feared the baby hippopotamus would be crushed by the stampeding animals. Giraffe and Zebra dashed out after the baby hippo to try to stop it.
The stampede noises stopped abruptly. Zebra and Giraffe did so, too, when the noises stopped. All they heard, then, were squealings from the baby hippopotamus. Giraffe and Zebra quickly and cautiously made their way through the tall grass to see what was happening.
They saw the baby hippopotamus snuggling its Daddy and Mommy.
It wasn't a stampede after all. Just two gigantic adult hippopotamuses galloping along to find their baby.
Giraffe said, "Let's go back into the bushes and look out for that crocodile. It might have run off if it thought there was a stampede coming its way." "Or an earthquake," said Zebra.
When Giraffe and Zebra peeked out of the bushes, they saw the crocodile climbing up the far bank of the river. It was scuttling away from the river as fast as it could.
"Now there's a happy sight," exclaimed one of them. "Yes, but not entirely happy." "Why not?" "Look at the place where that croc had been pretending to be a dried-up log."
She looked. "I do not see anything."
"Not even that chewed-up hat?"
30) Just in time.
Lizabith jumped on her bicycle and headed out to the grocery store. The 6 o’clock news was in the middle of describing a thunderstorm on its way within the hour. Lizabith was out of honey. She had to have honey in her tea. If she rode across Granny Sneddon’s backyard and used the alley lane, she could beat the storm. Granny Sneddon would not mind. Lizabith was Granny’s favorite. Lizabith had long ago turned Granny into a honey-in-tea addict, like Lizabith.
The storm wind was beginning. It helped Lizabith because it was a tail wind.
The crowd at the grocery store meant many others, too, were rushing to beat the storm. Lizabith was not wealthy enough to enjoy saying “keep the change,” but this time, her first ever, she felt it would save valuable time. The store was out of honey in a jar. Normally, she would have decided to either wait, or shop elsewhere. This time she reluctantly settled for honey in a carton.
On her way back, the wind was stronger, and a head wind. She regretted not paying the few extra cents for a bag for the carton. She was having difficulty carefully holding on to it with one hand while steering the bike with the other.
The front wheel hit one of the many bumps on the utility lane. The carton slipped out of Lizabith’s hand; hit the ground, and tore open a little. Some of the honey spilled onto the ground. She was able to steady the bike and bring it to a safe stop. She got off and ran back. Most of the honey was still in the carton. She grabbed it. Because the carton now had less honey, she could squash it into her pocket. She could now steer with both hands.
At home, she enjoyed her tea even more when deafening thunder announced the storm had arrived.
Back in the alley, the spilled honey was stirring up another kind of storm.
Ants had smelled the sweetness and had stormed in from all directions, on the bonanza. They knew they had to hurry because they smelled the imminent rain that would wash all away.
In the distance, a snail, too, was hurrying along to get a share of the good luck. It was making better time than usual snail-time on the ground because the storm wind was from behind.
In the distance from the opposite direction, a hornet had smelled sweetness, and was flying on its predator way, but not necessarily for the honey. Nor for the snail. Its wings were working harder than usually because the storm wind was blowing in the hornet’s face.
The rain and thunder and lightning arrived before the predator; but when it did arrive, some of the honey was still being foraged by enough ants to provide the hornet with a meaty feast. The hornet took aim, and dived.
Though a sudden swirl of wind slightly skewed its aim, it landed near enough, though a little off-balance. Some of the ants would have been food for the hornet in the next few seconds, had the snail not arrived just in time.
Either because of the pelting rain, or of the sight of the hornet, the snail immediately retracted itself into its shell. This withdrawal made enough space at the front of the shell for the ants to take shelter in, more from the hornet than from the rain. The fleeing ants piled in. The snail welcomed them.
Within seconds the rain storm had turned the left-over honey on the ground into sweet mud. The hornet knew it was in danger of having its wings clogged by that mud. And so, in disappointment and anger, it took off in wobbly flight.
After the storm had spent itself, the ants exited the snail’s shell and went on their way. In thanks, they left behind for the snail, the honey they had collected.
31) Lion and Ostrich.
Ostrich was walking along, minding her own business. She heard someone calling out, "Help me, somebody! Help me, please!"
Ostrich looked around. Didn't see anyone. She thought she must have been mistaken about hearing the voice. She kept walking along, minding her own business. Again, "Help me, someone! Please, oh please, help me!"
"Okie-dokie," thought Ostrich. "I'm not just imagining I'm hearing someone calling for help. That really is someone calling for help." Ostrich called out, "Hello! Where are you? I want to help you!"
"I'm down here!" the voice called out.
"Where, 'down here'?"
"Down here in the hole!"
Ostrich walked a little farther. She saw a huge hole in the ground. Ostrich leaned over carefully. Peered into the hole. There was a lion in the hole! Ostrich jumped back and yelped "Yikes! A lion! I am out of here!"
Lion had been looking up. He saw Ostrich peering in. He heard Ostrich yelp, "Yikes! A lion! I am out of here!"
"No! No! No! Please!" cried Lion. "Please help me!"
"I dare not help you," said Ostrich to Lion. "You're a lion. Lions eat Ostriches. If I help you, you will pounce on me and eat me. Sorry. Have to get out of here. Fast."
"I know that voice!" Lion called out. "You're that ostrich I saved from that evil man. You were caught in a trap that evil man set. That evil man was going to kill you. When I came along, he ran off. I saved your life, Ostrich. You owe me a favor. Please. Now you can save my life and we will be even."
"You didn't mean to save my life," said Ostrich. "You just happened to be walking by. The evil man was frightened that you might eat him. That's why he ran off!"
"True! True! True, too, that I did not try to eat you. As you correctly pointed out, lions eat ostriches. I-did-not-eat-you, Ostrich. I kept walking on."
"That's right, Lion. You just kept on walking. You didn't help me get out of that trap. My friends came along and helped me."
"Because it was I who told them where you were trapped."
"Perhaps. The fact still is you did not help me yourself."
"Oh, come on, Ostrich. I'm a lion. Lions eat ostriches. You said so yourself. If I had come to help you, you would have been so frightened you would have died of a heart attack. Nature is merciful that way. Each time I grab an animal by the throat, it dies of a heart attack, immediately. It feels no pain when I'm eating it. Knowing that, I thought it would be better for you if I found your friends. None of you saw me as they rescued you out of that trap. I hung around secretly in case the evil man came back with other evil people to help him. He did, you know."
"Did what?" asked Ostrich.
"He did come back," said Lion. "A little while after you and your friends left, he came back with another evil man, to get you. My friends and I ate them. See? I helped you, Ostrich. You owe me a favor. Help me get out of this hole and we will be even."
"How long have you been down there?"
"Hours and hours, I think. A very long time. I am so thirsty and hungry."
"There! You see? You are so hungry, you won't be able to control yourself. Once you are out of the hole you could gobble me up and afterwards say you're sorry. That sorry won't help me. I will be dead. Lots of us say sorry after it's too late for sorry to be of any help. Sorry, Lion. I dare not help you."
"I understand," said Lion. "Will you go and find my friends and tell them to come help me? Please, Ostrich?"
"Your friends will be lions. Even if they decide to come and help you, they will first eat me."
"Uh, yes. Okay," said Lion. "I'll be honest with you, Ostrich. That could happen. But let's not forget, ostriches can easily outrun lions."
"Really? While we are not forgetting things, mister lioney-whioney, let's not forget how cunning you lions are. Lions move about in bunches. You always hide so well that no matter which way your victim flees, one of you is there for the kill. I know. I've seen you guys on the Nature documentary channel on television. You are successful every time hunting down your victims."
Lion was depressed. "You're right," he said. "But there is a totally safe way you can help me. I saw a long thick heavy dried-up tree log near this hole. Can you please push it to fall by one of its ends into this hole? I will use it like a ladder. I will be able to climb up the log. Please, Ostrich?"
Ostrich thought about this a few seconds. "Okie-dokie. I'll push that log to fall by one its ends into the hole, if you promise to count to one hundred before you start climbing out. By the time you count up to one hundred I will have a chance to run far away so that you won't be able to catch me."
"Fair enough, Ostrich. I will count to one hundred. Slowly. Thank you."
"You're welcome, Lion. By the way, I'm sorry I called you a whiner."
"That's okay, Ostrich. Apology accepted."
Ostrich used her long strong legs to push the long thick heavy log towards the hole.
What Ostrich did not see peeping through the bushes, was an evil man. The evil man, who had dropped out of school when he was in the middle of Grade eight, did not know why Ostrich was tugging and pushing that long thick heavy log along. When the evil man saw how Ostrich was struggling to move that long thick heavy log along, he knew he had time to run back to the town and ask another evil man to come help him capture Ostrich.
The second evil man who had dropped out of school in the middle of Grade nine, said, "I'm not going to help you. I don't like the taste of ostrich meat."
The first evil man said, "Don't do it for the meat. Do it for the feathers. You know how beautiful ostrich feathers are. People pay a lot of money for ostrich feathers. You can have all the feathers when we catch that ostrich. I love the taste of ostrich meat."
The second evil man said, "Okay." They ran back to the forest to capture and kill Ostrich, for her meat and feathers.
When the two evil men got to the spot, Ostrich was nowhere to be seen, or heard. The two evil men were disappointed. They were about to leave when the one evil man said to the other evil man, "You hear that?" They stopped and listened.
The other evil man said, "You mean someone counting?"
The first evil man said, "Yes. Why would anyone be counting here in the forest?"
The second evil man said, "They could be counting ostrich feathers. They must have caught and killed our ostrich. Now they are counting those beautiful ostrich feathers. That's not fair. That ostrich was ours."
The other evil man said, "You're right! Let's creep up on whoever it is, and kill them and take our ostrich meat and ostrich feathers."
They crept along stealthily towards the voice that was slowly counting.
"Ninety-seven. Ninety-eight. Ninety-nine. One hundred!"
The ravenously hungry thirsty ferocious lion bounded up along the long thick log. Lion sprang out of the hole. There was his lunch waiting for him. The hungry thirsty ferocious lion pounced on the two evil men and gobbled them up.
32) One uvula and two tonsils, to the rescue.
The sibling turtles were devastated. They had scrambled ashore, having escaped being eaten by a giant ocean animal that chased them for miles deep underwater. They were scanning the ocean horizon.
The sister panted, “You think Mom escaped?” “Mom’s a strong swimmer, sis.”
“She’s seventy years old today.” “Let’s hope it’s a lucky birthday. It has been lucky for you and me, so far.”
“I feel guilty. One of us should have gotten that monster to chase us instead of Mom, when we separated.” “Mom said we were to leave it up to fate. Each of us was not to especially attract that beast.” “It was so dark, so deep. I couldn’t tell what it was; only that it was gaining on us.” “From what I could discern, it was far too large to be an orca or a shark.” “And whales do not eat turtles.”
They were silent for a few seconds as they continued to scan.
“Could it have sensed Mom was the oldest, and therefore the slowest?” “Mom was not the slowest. She was in front of us all the way in our flight.” “A random selection, then?” “That’s what I think. If that monster had special powers, it would have known Mom was the oldest and therefore the least tastiest.” “And the fastest.” A short silence. “A challenge?” “Pure evil.” Softer than a whisper, “Poor Mom.”
Another depressing silence, as they continued to scan in different directions.
Softly, “I was so looking forward to today.” “Me, too. Dad’s birthday, too.” “He would have been seventy, like Mom.” “At least.” “She said, definitely.” “But Dad deliberately found something to do to turn away every time that subject came up. So, I go with “at least.”
“Hey! What’s that?” He turned to look. “Just a wave.” “All by itself like that? I’m going down for a closer look.” She scurried off the boulder to the shore. The brother stayed on the boulder, up on his toes, his scan riveted on that isolated wave.
Before she reached the water’s edge, she knew. “Mom! It’s Mom!” She plunged in and swam as fast as she could. She joined her Mom. They swam together, she on Mom’s right. When they reached the shore, the brother was there to provide support, as Mom flopped on the sand to rest, too exhausted to speak.
Deep inside the boulder which was the family’s home all their lives, Mom eventually narrated slowly to her children what she had gone through with that monster in that darkest deep.
“I knew I was doomed when it chose to follow me. But I was also pleased that it took to hunting me instead of either of you. When I was satisfied that you two were a safe distance away, I turned and swam straight for that monstrous creature.”
“What was it, Mom?” “I don’t know. I have lived deep down there for at least seventy years, and I have never seen something that huge. When I was swimming towards it, I felt I was swimming towards a dark cloud, extending in all directions forever. So massive that as it approached at full speed it pushed a wall of water at me.”
“Mom, I’m puzzled. Why swim towards it? That was certain death.” “I knew that. Certain death. But, I figured, at that size it would have a mouth so big, if I timed it accurately, I would be able to catapult myself into its mouth while the mouth was opening.” “And so, avoid being clamped by its huge teeth? Brilliant, Mom!” “Pure genius, Mom,” exclaimed her other child.
“Thank Dad, too. He did it more than once when he was young, before we met. He was everybody’s hero.” A few seconds of feelings of family admiration and awe.
“And that was what happened, according to my plan. I was still on the way to certain death, but resigned. And angry. That mouth was filled with water rushing to the throat to fall down the gullet into the stomach. I remember wondering fleetingly why the tongue of that thing was not swirling me faster towards the throat. I still wonder about that. Anyway, as I was tumbled along by the water, I was kicking furiously to keep my head above water. I guessed it was a uvula I saw hanging from the roof of the mouth at the back. A dancing colossal thing seeming to gloat at me in my hopeless plight. I gave a mighty underwater kick. I was lifted above the water to my waist, and I made a grab.
With a vengeance, I clenched my teeth on that mocking uvula. The rushing water swung my body along. My feet struck against two lumps of flesh I think were the creature’s tonsils, one on either side. I dug my feet in.
The creature gagged, coughed, hawked and sneezed violently, repeatedly. I was vomited out of its mouth. The creature stopped swimming. It continued to suffer mighty spasms. A good thing it did, because I was in no shape to swim. I just drifted. Had there been another predator around, it would have had no trouble grabbing me. And here I am.”
“That beast’s gigantic size had frightened off all other predators.” “Really a lucky day, Mom. Your seventieth birthday!”
“Yes, especially so because it’s your Dad’s, too. He was with me. That monster did not stand a chance against two of us.”
33) The cat that ate Dad.
“Mom? Mom! We’ve been over this. You cannot be sure that particular cat ate Dad.” “Okay, so I did not see it happen. But I know, and you know, and every other bird and squirrel in these backyards knows because all of us saw it every day how Dad and that cat went at each other at every chance either got. They hated each other.”
Softly and wearily, “Come on, Mom. We know it wasn’t that cat who started it.”
“What are you talking about, honey? Cats everywhere always start it. No backyard bird has ever hurt a backyard cat.” “Mom, has ever a backyard bird ate a cat’s backyard food? Dad did. He got me to try some. Yucky!”
“Those people left that food way down the yard. They don’t feed the cat there. They feed cats indoors, dear. When they leave any kind of food so far down the backyard, they are giving it to us and the squirrels. That cat must know that. It didn’t go after the squirrels. Those squirrels ate most of the food. And they carried off the empty bowl. Did you notice that?
A long silence. “Mom, I asked you to talk to Dad about that cat. Did you?” “I did. He said he was looking for another backyard that did not have cats. He hasn’t come back. Anyway, where is your sister?”
“She sits at the top of that house, looking out for Dad. She is not taking this well, Mom. When I tried talking to her about Dad she said I should not give her advice because she is older than I am.” A short silence. “She said if that cat ate Dad, we would have found feathers and blood and body parts. Cats are messy bird killers.” A long silence.
“Does your sister have an idea why Dad has not returned?” “Our discussion did not last long enough for me to ask her.”
Softly, “Mom, it’s getting late for us to leave for the South. There have been two snowfalls here already, Mom. In other years the four of us took off during the first fall. The big one is due any day now. If we are still here when it starts, Mom, we are in big trouble. All my friends and their families are long gone.”
“All right, honey. Look, you go. I’ll catch up later.” “By myself?” “You know the way. Dad and I let you take the lead a few times. You were perfect. Go with your sister.”
“Mom, Dad knows the way. You do not have to wait here for him to return.” “I’m not waiting for Dad. I’m waiting for that beast of a cat.” The daughter is flummoxed! She is speechless. Mom takes advantage. “I have a plan.”
The daughter has to fly around for a bit in order to be able to digest what her Mom has just said. Mom waits patiently. The daughter flies back onto the branch. She looks at Mom and speaks weakly and helplessly. “I will help you, Mom.” “Thank you, dear. I knew I could count on you. Don’t ask your sister. I already did. She refused. She says I am crazy.”
Tiredly, “What’s the plan, Mom?”
“You remember that huge sink-hole that suddenly opened up in that backyard?”
“I can see it from here, Mom. Crowds and crowds of people came to look at it.” “Yes, and when they eventually left, Dad flew down the hole to find out just how deep it is.” “I remember. He said if it went deep enough it could come out in the South at the other end. A shortcut for us and all the other birds.”
“Yes. No shortcut but a bird’s paradise of worms.” “I remember! Dad was a hero! Birds came from everywhere to feast deep down in the dark.” “Until that fat cat arrived!”
“Didn’t it fall into the hole?” “Yes. Fat thing got so greedy when it saw all the birds, it didn’t look where it was stepping! That put an end to our feeding. That hole is so deep and dark, that cat could not climb out by itself. Its yowling brought people who got it out.”
Moments of silence during which Mom was lost in happy vengeful memories.
“Uh, Mom? Your plan?” “Yes. Yes, my plan. We wait for that humongous snowfall. All the backyards will be hidden under blankets of snow. That hole will be buried under snow. You and I will prance about on the snow for fatty to see. It will pounce for us, thinking there is solid ground under us. And down under it will fall. The snow will cover it over. The humans will not be able to hear its yowls this time. And you and I will be on our way South.” Silence.
Mom looked wide-eyed at daughter. Daughter looked wide-eyed at Mom. “Brilliant, Mom. Pure genius brilliant! Dad would have been so proud of you.”
“Think your sister will be interested?”
“You go ask her, Mom. You are older than she is.” Short pause.
“Mom, if Dad returns before the storm, we will not have to go through with your plan, will we?”
if we do not tell Dad there is