(as overheard by Raji Singh)
You cannot stop Captain Polly’s storytelling chatter. We here at the Fiction House don’t mind. The children like her tales. So do us adults. Better than t.v. – cheaper than movies.
Captain Polly’s the Mark Twain of the critter world. For decades, Twain toured, yarning from his E-Z chair, smoking cigars, sipping cognac. Instead, Polly paces her perch sideways on her talons, sips water, slips open sunflower seeds, spits away shells, and relays the wide repertory she’s gathered in her over two centuries of travel. I wonder if she knew Twain, maybe got a few stories from him – or he, from her.
Here is just one of her hundreds, in honor of June, National Dairy Month.
A BIRTHDAY PRESENT FOR COW
Once upon a time, Cow awoke from a wonderful dream. The creatures of the magical Lindian Woods were giving her a silver bell. It was attached to a blue ribbon that matched her most beautiful eyes.
But it wasn’t a dream. It was really happening.
The Frog Brothers tied it, in a big bow, around her neck.
All the Lindian Woods animals shouted, “Surprise!” They gathered around her by the pond.
“When you bend to drink, Madam Cow,” croaked Frer Frog, “or to eat grass, you will hear it. And so will all the creatures.”
Cow swayed her head and the bell softly tingled. Faster. It echoed with a delightful ‘CLANG, CLANG, CLANG.’ All the creatures clapped.
Squirrel said, “It is the shiniest thing in the Woods.”
The Ten Otters climbed out of the water. One at a time, they paraded past Cow, rang the bell with their nose, and laughed their squeaky laughs. Hawk flew in with a surprise birthday cake on her back. She and the Toad Sisters had baked it – full of Cow’s favorite things: hay, grass, molasses, and sorghum. How Hawk kept the candles on the cake lit while in flight, no one knew.
All the creatures clapped, sang Happy Birthday. Turt, no stranger to celebrations, trumpeted a musical medley in time to the singing and bell ringing. Brer Frog drummed Turt’s shell with reeds. Giant stooped, patted Cow’s head and said. “May your milk be the creamiest and all your calves grow to gentle heifers or raging bulls.”
Squirrel cut the cake with a sturdy twig and put slices on big oak leaves for everyone. Squirrel, Raccoon and Beaver were gathering acorns to scoop water from the pond for drinks. But Cow said to Turt, “Could you help me? An occasion like this calls for milk. And I’ll provide it.”
Turt’s fin-claws were cold, but always gentle. He grasped her udder firmly. ‘SQUISH, SQUISH, SQUISH.’ In just a few shakes of Cow’s tail, a gourd was filled as a pitcher. Brer Frog did the pouring into the acorns and the milk and cake were served.
A great Lindian Woods celebration!
Little did the Woodland creatures know their gift of sound would play a big part in their dear Cow’s life one day – and very soon.
PART II: COW’S FATE
The next day.
Cow’s hoof stuck to the railroad track as she crossed it to get to the greenest grass she had ever seen. The great steel train was bearing down. Since Cow’s moo sounded just like the railroad’s whistle that was telling her “CLEAR THE TRACK! CLEAR THE TRACK!” no one in the Lindian Woods realized she was calling for help.
“The Bell!” She told herself. Cow began swaying her neck in wild motions.
‘CLANG! CLANG!’ All her friends from the Lindian Woods heard. They came crawling, hopping, running, and skipping to see what was happening. Frer and Brer Frog moistened her hoof with their slime. Hawk swooped and fanned her wings to get the frog juice oiling between hoof and track. The Ten Otters scooched besides the railing and pulled in unison.
Others of the woods cawed, brayed, and chirped encouragement. “Pull Cow! Pull! Hurry! The long, rattling monster will be on you in only seconds.”
With but moments left, Cow moo-d, her loudest ‘MOO’, ever. Just before the train arrived, she yanked free. She, Brer and Frer, Hawk, and the Ten Otters tumbled safely away.
And that’s how the expression, “saved by the bell”, came about: Or, so tales Captain Polly.
(Read more of Turt and Captain Polly in the novel, Tales of Fiction House. Join me every Sunday night at the Fiction House, your place for short story, lark, whimsy, and merriment. Meet the many residents as I archive their lives and centuries of adventures. You can read of their origins in my novel TALES OF THE FICTION HOUSE. My novel is available at Amazon, (Kindle and Trade Paperback) and Barnes and Noble.)
©2014 Raji Singh