This was a short story based on actual events at a cottage in Canada. This really happened, people! Even if it is told from a fictitious perspective.
Silence. There was silence all around in the quiet water by the shore. That was the way the mother rock bass liked it. She held herself still in the shallows, hovering over a small clearing in the mud which exposed the sandy bottom. This was her nest.
It was lovely. The short plants that surrounded it formed a neat hedge which protected the precious eggs inside. A large dock nearby provided shelter from predators or sun. But that was almost irrelevant as she would defend her nest vigorously against any intruder and rarely leave it unguarded.
The afternoon sun now shone down through the water, warming the bottom and leaving the mother rock bass feeling exposed. The sun baked her back and she longed for the cool shade of the dock. But she would not leave her eggs. The post was hers and she would guard it.
Suddenly the silence felt wrong. In the darkness of the deep water beyond the dock, something stirred. The little rock bass held as still as she could. Her eyes only twitched slightly as they sought the danger she feared in the dark water.
Slowly, a monstrous head began to materialize as it pushed its way into the shallows. The rock bass froze. Fear clutched her heart. It was an enormous snapping turtle – and it was coming right toward her!
The turtle was ten times her size; it’s hideous head alone was as big as she was. It’s gnarly claws plied the water of the shallows while its scaly tail swished back and forth. It was hunting for an easy meal.
The rock bass sat motionless, her tiny heart thumping. The huge turtle slowly clawed its way toward her through the water. Would she run? She thought of her beautiful nest and resolved to stay. But as the turtle came withing inches of her, her courage failed. The massive head opened its crusty, gaping mouth and it seemed like it might indiscriminately swallow her AND the precious nest. She backed off – her insides breaking with her defeat.
Just then a boom shook the shallows. A thudding BOOM BOOM BOOM stopped the coming turtle still in the water. Above, beyond the surface of the water an even larger monster appeared. And gave a shrill bellow.
“Mommy! Look at the size of that turtle!”
A leering head hung in the air above the turtle. It had a large fleshy face and a long golden mane. The creature’s long pale arms gripped the edge of the dock just above the stunned turtle. Then came more booming.
The water pulsed with the thundering arrival of more fleshy monsters, each of them leaning out over the water and pointing their clumsy claws at the huge turtle.
“Eww!” squealed a newcomer. “It’s so gross!”
“O, My!” said a large one.
“Wow!” said an even bigger one. “Look at its head!”
The turtle was was becoming nervous. The crowd of monsters was right above it – probably gathering to strike. That was too much for the turtle. It pointed its scaly head under the dock and paddled hard away from the rock bass and her nest.
The rock bass hurried back to her post. The monsters above pounded off down the dock looking for a glimpse of the retreating turtle. She let herself breathe and rest a little. The danger had passed. The shallows grew quiet again. And she was on guard, fanning her eggs and resolving again to sheild them from almost anything.
Corbett did a really nice job drawing a squirrel character from one of my stories. She uses no reference and is able to come up with these great animal bodies right out of her sweet little head.
Jon liked this one so much that he asked her to have a class to show us how to draw it. We set up on the dock and Corbett introduced herself as Professor Donkey Boy.
This is my story about this drawing class I took with Professor Donkey Boy.
These were some of the other people in my class.
The professor informed us that we had signed up for sessions one, two, and three.
She showed us how to do each step. Mine was terrible.
It all seemed to go OK at first. Except that mine was awful.
I was sure the rest of the class was doing so awesome and I thought about accidentally throwing my whole drawing pad in the lake, but we were too far from the water.
And then this other girl in the class started CRYING!!!
She said it was too hard and she couldn’t do it and it was exactly how I felt but I DIDN”T CRY!! I also did not throw my paper in the water.
The crying girl gave me hope to go on, I think. The guy next to her helped her. I pretended not to notice but I listened to what he said. He was really nice.
The Professor helped that girl, too.
I would have been SO embarassed!
But she kept going!!
And it started to look like a squirrel!
And mine did, too!!
This is my squirrel at the end!!
Professor Donkey Boy is the best!!!
(One of my writing exercises from Canada.)
Squirrel came to her new door.
“Good morning, Stranger!” said a woodpecker, “Welcome to the neighborhood!” He thrust a basket of berries at her and said, “It was that or grubs! Ha!”
“Thank you,” she said timidly. “I’m not used to neighbors.”
“Really? Where you from?” asked the woodpecker.
“I used to live in the big oak,” said the squirrel.
The woodpecker gave a long whistle. “Whew!” he said. “Ever-body heard that fall in the storm. What a show! Bet you’re glad to be out of that old thing!”
“I guess,” she said. “It was pretty old. But I grew up there. Almost all my nuts came from that tree. And my nest was so high, I could see all the stars at night. They made me feel like I was never alone.”
“Welp, no stars here!” said the woodpecker cheerfully. “But, no big winds either. Give some, get some, I always say. “
“I suppose” said the squirrel.
“Well, I’m off.” said the woodpecker. And he left.
Knock Knock. The squirrel woke up.
Knock Knock. It was the middle of the night.
Knock Knock Knock! A hole broke through her wall. She leaped from her bed to look out the tree-hole.
“Mr. Woodpecker! What are you doing to my house?” she cried. “You know I live here!”
“Well, I, um…” said the woodpecker.
“And it’s the middle of the night! Have you no sense?” she demanded.
“I just thought….”
“You did?” she said angrily.
“…just thought maybe if I poked some holes up here, that moonlight could shine in and….” he hesitated.
“And WAKE ME UP?!” she folded her arms and glared.
He hung his head. “No. I thought it might look like stars,” he said. “Like in your old tree”.
Her mouth fell open. He stared at his feet. Then, with squirrel-y swiftness, she jumped at him and…..
“Thank you, Neighbor” she said. Her eyes sparkled.
That night, Squirrel climbed back into bed, thinking that maybe friendship has a beauty which rivals the stars. She fell asleep. And she did not feel alone.
(This summer, Jon asked me to write a little story every day about some forest animal usually and then he and the girls would practice drawing pictures about it. This is just a tiny little story about bunnies and we will never do anything with it, it was just an exercise. I guess I would call it “Rainy Day”. Here it is. )
“Mama, the water’s comin’ in!” The bunnies laughed as they ran off to fetch the twig boats that were their favorite rainy-day toys.
Mrs. Rabbit smiled. She cherished the days when there was nowhere to be but together. Putting another log in the stove, she stirred the vegetable soup and sat down to watch her bunnies play.
The water crept into the old familiar puddle by the door. The family had always thought this to be one of the best things about living here, but today! O, how wonderful! The bunnies squealed with delight! The dear old puddle had become a pool!
“Mama, look! ALL our boats can fit today!”
“Goodness, dears, I see! How fun!” Mama Rabbit replied, but quietly worried to herself whether this was a time to rejoice or to call Mr. Beaver. She decided instead to call Papa Rabbit.
When he saw the flood he chuckled warmly and said “O Ho Ho! I’ve always thought this was bound to come, some wet day!” and he happily joined his bunnies in their game.
By supper-time, even the big bed was surrounded, and all of the family gathered there as Papa read stories. Water dripped onto their heads, and the 3 oldest bunnies rode in the big tin wash-pan over to the stove to fetch soup for everyone.
Next day, Mama did call Mr. Beaver for advice, and he wisely recommended several repairs. However, as the family considered the matter, they decided that they didn’t want to change a thing.
And from that day on, each heavy rain turned the hearth into a lake, the bed into an island, and the old den into a sweeter, more irreplaceable home.
(Also, Mrs. Bunny came to be known to have the sparkly-est floors in that part of the forest.)
We spent a month in Canada this summer. On a remote-ish lake, in a cottage that was like a big RV. We read the Little House books while we were there, because we were all sleeping in one big room like they did. The idea for this time was to set up some new patterns for our family, to figure out what we could do all day if we had some extra emptiness.
Every morning I ran through the woods for an hour. The mosquitoes were my tiny coaches, gently encouraging me with their bloodthirsty mandibles. I found this to be a delightful warm-up for the true challenge of the day: my writing assignment. Every day, Jon gave me a new topic to write about. His goal was that I would write a story about that idea and then he and the girls would illustrate one scene or character.
Each time, he gave me a simple challenge. And on every single occasion, I took that straightforward concept and made it as perplexing and arduous as was humanly possible. It was like he gave me a bright, shiny new bike day after day and said “Carrie, I want you to ride this from here down to the corner of this straight street” and I said “yes, definitely I can do that, fantastic”. Then I happily got on that bike and slammed it into the only existing telephone pole. Crash. Crash. Crash. For like 2 weeks. It was exhausting.
If Jon asked for a story about a squirrel finding a new nest, I spent an average of 12 hours trying to describe what she loved about her old one. One day I was supposed to be telling a short tale about two animal neighbors, and I enthusiastically delved into the when’s and why’s of how their backwoods village came to be founded. Crash.
About two and a half weeks in,instead of settling down into my usual chair on the dock to write, I climbed into the paddle boat and took myself out to the beaver lodge across the bay. One of my characters was a beaver and I was sure this would help. From the cottage, Jon saw where I was going and thought I was attempting an escape. Maybe I was.
Sometimes all it takes to get a new perspective is to sit in a different spot. Sitting out there on the water, it suddenly occurred to me: I needed to use Speedo. It was the imaginary button on that paddleboat that Kalley and I pushed if Jon and Corbett were ever too far ahead of us. It made us go really fast. That day I figured out that it totally works on stories too. I pushed that button, introduced my characters, gave them a problem, a solution and a happy ending. It wasn’t very good, and you will never read it, but sitting out on the lake, I constructed a story in an hour, and that was a huge thrilling deal to me. I was finished by the mid-day ski session, which had NEVER happened before.
The next day, I did it again. No paddleboat this time, just a speedo story. This one was about some bunnies and someday, probably tomorrow, I will let you read it.