Story 1

Our Pond and the Great Pinecone


There once was a beautiful, little pond, in a green meadow, far out in the country. It was very peaceful, with the soft smell of flowering bushes, and the sound of wind rustling in the tall grass.

Over the years, a group of little animals had found this fresh, blue- water pond to be a perfect place to live. There was even a tall, fat pine tree right beside it providing shade on a hot, sunny day. The animals were all different—some flew, some swam, some jumped, some wriggled, and some just mostly sat around—but still they formed a fine Community of Friends, and their life was very good.

That was until one, terrible night when there came  a huge storm.

It changed everything. The rains poured down--great loads of mud were torn away in the flood. Even the shape of the pond was being changed! It was very frightening. There had  never been anything  like it. None of the animal Friends knew where to go or what to do. They wanted to hide from the terrible noise and power of the  storm.

Some of them closed their eyes and pretended it was not happening. They lay in the dark and were too frightened to move. Finally, it stopped—and nothing was to be heard but soft dripping from the  pine  tree branches.

When the sun came up, and the animals looked around--their little stream had disappeared and everything was different. The water in the pond was lower, and the muddy edges were dry and cracking in the  sun’s  heat.  The  green  grasses  around  the  Pond  had  all  been beaten down to make dirty lumps that did not look like grass at all. The Friends saw their happy world had come to an end, and they all became very sad.

Of course, they wished there had not  been such a  terrible  storm, and that things had not been changed. Each of them wanted to do something about it, but what? They needed to talk together and come up with a plan, but they still didn’t know what to do and what plan to make.

One very active member of the group was a big dragonfly known as WHIZZY—mostly because that is what he did. And, also, he just looked like he should be called WHIZZY. He had great, silver wings that shot him around the Pond at incredible speeds.  Most  of  the time, he would sit on his favorite lily pad, in the middle of the Pond, and think quietly about things. No movement—he would just sit there like a silver stick with wings, and then, suddenly, he would know where he had to go, and ‘Whiz-z-z’—he was gone to visit a friend!

He was good at help and talked to everybody. Everyday—rain or shine, summer or winter—he was out there discussing important matters with his friends. By the time evening came, he would have told each of them what all the others were thinking. He was busy tying the Community together.

Ever since the terrible storm, the talking between the Friends had become sadder and sadder. They had been waiting for their pond to recover, but it had not. There was no flow of fresh water from anywhere, and the Pond got warmer and warmer—and very brown. They knew that fresh water used to come in from a little stream before the storm, but they didn’t know what had happened  to it.

Some miles away from the muddy pond, there  was  an  airport. It was very late at night. The airport had been shut down. No more flights were planned. All was quiet . . . but, wait!—something was going on down at the warehouse. There were two cages sitting together on the platform. The shipping tags on both of them showed they were going to the zoo. They had missed their flight and would have to wait until the next day. There were quiet, scratching noises coming from the smaller cage. For the moment there were  no  guards or anyone paying any attention. Nobody knew that in one of the cages was a clever monkey called JAZZ, who had been a circus performer. JAZZ knew how to open locks, and he was trying to do that just now. He was hurrying. He did not want to be caught and sent to the zoo. Suddenly, he made it! His cage door flew open! He jumped out, and turned to run, but he saw the big, lonely animal in the other cage,  just  sitting there unable  to come out.  He stopped  and went back to see if he could unlock the bigger cage. It did not work the first time he tried. He thought he heard  someone  coming, but still he kept his quick fingers working until, suddenly—the second lock opened and fell to the ground with a ‘Bang’!

A big, hairy, four-footed animal came out with a huge smile on his face. Before JAZZ could do anything, the hairy animal stuck out his big, long nose, lifted JAZZ up onto his back and started to run.  These two new friends galloped off into the night like a horse and rider. It was not until they stopped for a rest that JAZZ finally had a good look at his companion. He was very big and strong, and hairy. He ran on his powerful four legs. JAZZ later found out his new friend was a gigantic anteater from Africa, and his name was NOZZLE.

Here they were, all alone, not even knowing where they were. One was a clever, skinny, little monkey, and the other was a powerful animal that looked like a leader who could help others.  They had  only spoken a few words between their cage bars, but emergency seems to make friends quickly. They galloped for another hour until they both became too tired to go on. They found a big pile of grass beside the foot of a giant pine tree, and finally flopped down for some much needed sleep.

In the meantime, WHIZZY was having a normal day flashing along over the Pond visiting his Friends. He saw something bright green that caused him to pause his speedy flight in mid-air, and drifted down slowly to land on the rock where SALLY, the slippery, green snake,  was sleeping in the hot sun. Even though he was trying to    be very quiet, she heard his ‘Buzz’ and quickly coiled herself into a defensive position, before saying, “Oh, hello—s-s-sorry about that, but I was not exp-p-pecting you.”

“I just came over to hear if you had any new ideas about the  Pond,” said WHIZZY.

She quickly replied, “Oh, that old subject.”

“Yes, the water is getting browner, and is very warm. Are you not concerned?” asked WHIZZY.

“Oh, sure,” she replied, “But that is not my main problem.” She had never  said  anything like  that before,  so he  asked, in  a  friendly way, “ What could be more important than The Pond?”

She replied, “First of all, I am a s-s-snake, and everybody hates s-s- snakes. I’m a little, green s-s-snake, and everybody is afraid of me. Huge animals, ten times my s-s-size, run away, even when  I  am trying to s-s-sing to them. You have never felt my skin, but I am s-s- slippery, and everyone pretends that it’s not nic-c-e! Animals tremble and point at me screaming, ‘Look, a green s-s-snake!’ Would it be better if I were yellow, or red, or purple? Is green the most hateful?” With that, she swam away into deep water where he  could  not follow.

WHIZZY was soon on the wing again, all silver in the afternoon sun. He was looking for KATE, the old catfish. She was usually hard to find. She often hid herself in the mud at the bottom of the Pond because she just did not want any company. She would go down to the deepest part, and hide her brown self in the brown mud, and be not there for anybody. She was funny that way. There she was— finally coming up with her cat whiskers and bulging eyes, looking like she wanted to complain about something, or someone. KATE had been around a long time and had a whole list of favorite complaints. She was usually ready to recite them all, even when requested not to do so. WHIZZY was sure she was going to say something about the flying squirrel who lived high in the great pine tree by the Pond. He was called ZANZIBAR. The rumor was that he had hit KATE on the nose, again, with a pinecone thrown from a very high branch. None of the members of the friendly Pond ever cheered when this happened, but they did keep score, and were taking   a   bit   of   secret   pleasure   with   ZANZIBAR’s  ever-increasing accuracy.

ZANZIBAR lived high in the pine tree and was not a real member of the Pond Group. He did not swim. He did not lie around on  the  rocks with the others. He stayed high in his tree and did not feel himself a part of anything. He threw things and tried  to  get  attention, but it never worked. He was sure they all hated him, and  he pretended he hated them, too. ZANZIBAR did have one good friend called TWITTER, who was a little, red bird that sang all the time.  She  also  lived  high  in  the  tree  not  so  far  from  ZANZIBAR’s nest. Sometimes, in the middle of her song, she would scold him for throwing things.

“ How will you ever establish a friendship with them if you keep throwing things?” she would ask.

“I just want to get their attention,” he would  say.

KATE always needed to say something grumpy, or sad. So she said to WHIZZY, “Low water level is down another inch and a half,”-- she announced, as her head broke the surface with a small splash. WHIZZY was one of her best friends but she never admitted it to anyone. He buzzed quietly above her head as she complained about ZANZIBAR yet again. She was keeping her monster tail in good shape so she could give ZANZIBAR a big ‘Whack’ if he ever came down off that branch. Also, as usual, she asked WHIZZY if he had seen any ripe berries he might knock down for her. Of course, he knew that was going to be the next  question, and was  already on  his way to find some. It only took a few moments, and her mouth was  completely  full  as  she  slowly  sank  away  down  to  the  Pond’s deepest part.

Everyone tended to laugh at BUBBLEBATH ‘cause he  was  so shy,  and big, and clumsy--at the same time. Sometimes he even  tried  to hide, but for him it was impossible. As soon as he started to move around, no matter how deep, and even at night, WHIZZY had  no trouble in tracking him. They all could. BUBBLEBATH was a bubble fish, and he could not stop blowing bubbles.  Some  were  just  little ‘pips’ that came to the surface, and in a line that followed his every move. There could be a problem with his bubbles, however. If he sneezed, or coughed, he might produce an enormous  bubble.  Some were so big and strong that they just floated up to the surface  and drifted around for awhile. Others  just  came  right  up  and  went ‘Bang’! When one of these big ones  went  off  it  scared  every  animal in the Pond, even those that were used to it—‘Bang! Bang’! For passersby that did not know about it—the unexpected noise could produce a real shock! One day, there  was  even  a  cow  that  had  broken out of her pasture. She was a nice, old cow  and  she  was  passing close to the Pond just  when  one  of  the big bubbles, one  of  the greatest bubbles—the biggest  one  that  ever  was--blew  up  ‘BANG’! Have  you  ever  seen  a  cow sprint? You’re right, they can’t!

This one tried and tried, and she ended up running around in a circle bellowing all the time, round and round the same circle with great bellows.

NOZZLE and JAZZ, lying, curled in the grass, were awakened by  the warm sun beaming  down. They stood  up,  brushed themselves off and looked at the Pond by the big, pine tree. The first thing that caught their attention was the silver reflection from a lily pad in the middle of the stagnant pond. Yes, they both could see that the Pond was really in bad shape. They stood there thinking about this sad situation for just a moment, and then they saw WHIZZY. The ‘silver stick with wings’ was flying, and was coming right towards them to see who they were. NOZZLE had a quick, friendly idea. He found a clean piece of stone on the ground, and placed it  on  a  clump  of grass so that WHIZZY could land and talk with them both. NOZZLE and JAZZ stepped back to indicate they were not being aggressive. WHIZZY was surprised and pleased with this welcoming gesture, and landed on the shiny stone. NOZZLE wasted no time and started by saying, “ We see you have a serious water problem. Well, while we do not have an answer yet, we would like to be of help, if we can. As you can see, I am big and strong, and my friend, JAZZ, is very clever with his little fingers! We would not even be here if he had  not opened two cages last night.”

This kind approach pleased WHIZZY very much. He was just about to leap into the air, and rush off to tell all his Pond Friends about these two wonderful animals who wanted to help them fix the Pond. When, at that very moment, ZANZIBAR started his attack. He ran down the tree limb  that he always used,  and threw a big pinecone   at NOZZLE.

Through his years of performing at the circus, JAZZ had become  very quick with his small paws. He grabbed the flying pinecone in mid-air, and threw it back to ZANZIBAR, as if in fun. WHIZZY could not wait to tell all the others about their new friends. He needed a meeting of everybody. He just happened to look up in the tree again and saw ZANZIBAR holding the pinecone with a great smile on his face. In the background, the little, red bird was chirping a beautiful song. Her song seemed to say ‘You’ve got a little attention this time, but you’re not going to make friends by throwing things. You only have  one  friend,  and  that’s  me—and  you’re  not  throwing  things  at me!’ It seems that the day when JAZZ threw the pinecone back in such a friendly and sporting manner, it changed everything. ZANZIBAR immediately told TWITTER that he would not throw any more pinecones down at other animals, not even old KATE, the catfish. He still had a very big, prize pinecone hidden up in the tree, but he would not throw it at  anyone.

WHIZZY needed to call a big meeting of everybody. He ‘whizzed’ all around the Pond calling everyone to come and meet the wonderful and amazing visitors. Soon, they were all there to hear the  news. Even ZANZIBAR and TWITTER watched from a low branch. WHIZZY got  everyone’s  attention  as  he  hovered  in  the  air  above  them.  He introduced JAZZ, who gave him a big smile as he did a backflip  from the grass to a rock in the middle of the Pond. Then, he introduced NOZZLE, the big anteater, with the longest nose anyone had ever seen. NOZZLE paused for a moment, and then looked at each member of the Pond Community, eye to eye, and finally said,    “ We would like to help you in any way possible. I am big, and JAZZ  is clever with his fingers. Maybe we can be of help.”

WHIZZY suddenly said, “ Wait a moment. One of the Pond Friends is not here. He is called CLUMP, the toad. He  lives  mostly by himself, and slowly wanders  around  just looking  at things.”

Old KATE glanced up, and said, “I saw him earlier on the bottom in the mud. I can go down and find him.” With that, her big head with all its whiskers sank out of  sight.

Then, WHIZZY asked if anyone had any new ideas about how they were going to revive the Pond. No one said anything, and everyone was nodding, ‘No, no, no’. NOZZLE raised his voice and said calmly, “ Whatever we choose to do, we must all do it together.” Everyone agreed.

Just then, KATE came back to the surface, pushing CLUMP, the toad, along with her nose. CLUMP looked a bit confused, but then  he always looked that way. He did not say anything, but then he seldom did. He was obviously surprised seeing the massive, hairy form of NOZZLE, and was even a bit scared when NOZZLE pushed his nose into the water, and offered it as a resting place for him. He was still confused, but, what could he do? NOZZLE was making a

kind gesture that he could not reasonably refuse, so he climbed  on it. With his huge strength, NOZZLE swept his great nose high up  into the air, with CLUMP clinging to it. This made CLUMP feel very important, and he said, “Kerchunk”, which was the way he always started to talk. He gathered his thoughts, and a  few  more ‘Kerchunks’ and slowly said the most important  words  that  had been spoken around the Pond for many months, “Just  a  few minutes ago, I was investigating things around the bottom of that rock, in the middle of the Pond, where the monkey is sitting, and I am sure I felt a trickle of cool, fresh water on my face. It only lasted a second.” And he looked slowly around, and said, “Kerchunk”—that was the way he always ended any message.

Everyone started to whisper together, but it was SALLY, the snake, who took the first action. She dived down, and wriggled her way to investigate the thin crack under the rock. It was a surprise that she  did this because she seldom seemed to help  anyone else,  and she  felt they did not like a snake. When she returned, she said, “Bad news--no fresh water. Good news--that huge rock looks-s-s to be just balanc-c-ced in the mud. Maybe we could push it over, and s-s-see what happens?”

Yes, oh, yes—finally they were doing something! They all started to flap, and splash around in  excitement.  Finally,  the  quiet  yet  powerful voice of NOZZLE called them to silence. “ We all agree we want to move the rock, is that  correct?”

Everyone said, “Yes. Yes!”

Then,  he  added, “ We are  all  different, but each  can  do something.”

“Now,” he said, “You will line up, and you will consider how best you can help, and each will tell of his contribution.”

Now, they had a leader, and they were making a plan. Here is what they decided:

KATE would wave her big tail in the mud under the rock.

BUBBLEBATH would blow his biggest bubbles under the lowest part of the rock.

JAZZ and SALLY would work together—SALLY would wrap herself in a loop  around the rock--JAZZ would  grasp  the tree loop  and pull  on SALLY.

CLUMP would wedge his big chest against the rock and expand as much as possible when the signal was given.

NOZZLE would jam his enormous nose under the rock and lift with all his power.

WHIZZY would dive down to the Pond surface and flash his wings as the signal for all to start to work  together.

It took a little while for everyone to get set, but they all wanted to do their best, and eventually everything was  ready.

Finally, with ZANZIBAR and TWITTER watching from the branch of the pine tree, WHIZZY shot down and flashed his wings.

There was a terrific effort. They all strained together.

Poor JAZZ pulled on SALLY so hard his nose went under the water and he could not breathe. He was so sad when he had to stop.

The rock had not moved.

They decided to try again. Everyone got ready. SALLY even arranged a longer loop for JAZZ to hold. The silver wings flashed, and the pull/push was on! But they just  could not do   it.

The rock had not moved.

They all were so unhappy—some even crying. They sat for awhile, and it was not until NOZZLE raised his dripping head, and said, “Come on Friends, we’ll all try again!”

They knew they must do it.

Just as he was  going  underwater,  NOZZLE caught  ZANZIBAR’s eye, and they seemed to understand each other. The wings flashed, and everyone did everything possible. They squeezed  their eyes shut,  and could feel it was not going to be enough. No movement.

JAZZ was getting  out  of  breath again. All was lost.

But, in that last instant, when they had no  more  to  give--the  biggest, heaviest pinecone anyone had ever seen whistled out of the air, like lightning, and hit the top of the rock with a great ‘BANG’ that was heard for  miles.

And, the rock moved!!

It did not just fall over. It was detached from the slate floor of the Pond, pushed by a great water pressure that shot it up into the air. They had a massive fountain of fresh blue and white, cool, brilliant, water from a stream that had been   blocked.

At first, they could all only just look--but as the water continued to gush, each began to dance, or wiggle, or jump, or swim, or fly to express their happiness in any way they  could.

As Our Pond was renewed, ZANZIBAR and TWITTER became special heroes, and joined the group of Friends forever. Even SALLY, the little, green snake, was pleased to  hear  that  all the  Pond  Friends had admired and respected her efforts, and they were no  longer afraid of her at all. KATE, the old catfish, completely gave up complaining about everyone and everything. She was so happy that the Pond had survived. WHIZZY, of course, continued as Chief Messenger. NOZZLE and JAZZ decided to stay at the Pond, and became a part of the Circle of Friends forever.