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A Donkey... Or A Cat?
Author's note: I wrote this book for my best friend, Amanda, and gave it to for her for Christmas a year ago. The entire book consists of jokes that we had between us. I dedicated it to her and she got the privilege of being the first person to read it.
Prologue: The Land Of Animals
There is a land, somewhere far away, a land without humans. If a human were to venture to this land, they would find some very odd surprises. It is a land of animals. These animals are able to communicate with one another and there is no such thing as a food chain. Or at least, not the kind of food chain that you will learn about in school in our land. The thought of eating each other has never occurred to any of the animals living in this land. In fact, this idea would completely shock and disgust these animals, if anyone were to suggest such a thing to them. The question of what they eat is rather easily answered. They are all vegetarians. Of course, there are certain plants that are more attractive and pleasant to one animal than to another, just as it is with humans. However, they can all eat very nearly the same foods. Flowers are a favorite among most animals, for flowers to an animal is comparable to candy and other sweets that children (and adults, though adults are far less likely to admit to it) enjoy. Foods like bark and rough grass and bushes are less desirable, but necessary. They could be treated as the kind of vegetables most children dislike, such as spinach or broccoli. Most of the animals are pretty good about balancing their diets, but occasionally someone will get greedy, and then unpleasant sicknesses can occur. There are, naturally, some plants which are poisonous to all animals, as well as some that are poisonous to some and not to others. For the most part, however, the animals all share a similar diet.
Now, these animals all get along quite nicely, without ever having to worry about being eaten by each other (Zebras and Lions get along perfectly well, as do Birds and Spiders), but that does not mean that dangers do not exist in this land. In fact, there are many dangers to each of the animals in this land; they are simply not the same kind of dangers one would expect in our world. There are sicknesses caused from natural things, such as eating too much of one thing, but most of the dangers in the Land of Animals stem from magic. Certainly there is good magic and bad magic; it depends on how it is used.
Even though these animals do not prey upon one another for food, they do still quarrel; and some of these quarrels can prove to be quite serious, especially when magic becomes involved. Not every animal in this land knows magic; in fact, there are very few who do. Of course, magical arguments and disputes are rarely very dangerous; but there are other magical dangers as well. There are natural magical dangers that do not involve a magician and which can prove fatal for anyone who dares to mess with them. For example, one might encounter something that appeals to the senses but is magically poisonous. Or there are a few caves among the sea that contain evil magic that can lure you into its shelter and swallow you up. There have also been incidents where one is led astray by believing some form of magic that does not exist. In fact, most evil magic is based on deceit. If one knows what to look for, however, such magical dangers can be avoided rather easily. The most dangerous incidents usually occur when a magician’s work goes wrong, or someone who has no experience in magic dares to try to capture it. Even so, the animals in this land usually live a rather carefree and happy life.
Now, because these animals are intelligent beings, quite unlike the dense animals in our land, they require a system of governing much like humans do. That is what brings us to the story you are about to read. After many disagreements got out of control, it was decided that it was time to choose someone who could take control over the animals, for the betterment of all. What was not expected, however, was the amount of competition that would be a result of trying to choose a King. You will learn about this in a moment, but first, we are going to start our story by introducing you to two very close friends who will be affected by the election: the Donkey, and the Cat.
Todd and Stanley were best friends. What is odd about this? Nothing at all, really. Only that Todd was a Donkey, and Stanley was a Cat. This would be a strange thought in the land where People live, but Todd and Stanley did not come from that land. They lived in the Land of Animals, and it was not odd at all for a Donkey and a Cat to be best friends, or even for a Tiger and a Mouse to be close. Humans would find many things in this land quite bizarre, things that are perfectly normal for any of these animals, just the same as these animals would find the world where People live rather queer.
Where this story starts, these two friends were frolicking about in a field full of daisies. The sky was bright and warm, but there was a cool breeze making it a beautiful morning. Now they were not in a field of just any ordinary daisies, they were in a field of pink daisies, which grew up as high as Todd’s belly. This means that they were a fair amount taller than Stanley, making it the perfect place for a game of hide-and-seek. Daisies are also very sweet and delicious to both Cats and Donkeys, so they could play and eat at the same time. To anyone looking on, it would seem an odd game for animals to be playing, but these two found great pleasure in it. It was decided that Stanley would be “it” first (this is one game that is quite the same in the land of People and the land of Animals). Of course, hiding for Todd was not as simple as for Stanley, but he was able to make do; by laying down among some of the taller daisies. Stanley danced to the edge of the field and settled among the shorter grass to wait until Todd brayed that he was ready.
On this particular morning, the sun was shining just right so that the pink from the daisies caught up in Todd’s coat and reflected a pink shine so that he blended in quite well. He settled in, munching slowly on the sweet pink flowers and trying to be as quiet as possible so as not to give his hiding place away. Stanley, of course, had to bounce high as he waded through the flowers trying to see his friend. After a short while of this, Todd began to get drowsy as he waited to be discovered. He sat there listening to the sound of Stanley hopping and skipping through the daisies and the sound of the soft crunching of the flowers in his mouth, and after a few moments began to feel rather drowsy. As hard as he tried to stay awake waiting, his blinking got steadily slower and heavier. Before long he was fast asleep with the silvery pink daisy remains trickling out of his mouth. Now, Stanley was a very clever Cat, but the soft breathing was not quite loud enough for him to pick up, so it took him longer than usual to discover where Todd was sleeping among the daisies. In fact, by the time he did find the Donkey, and had managed to wake him up; Stanley was tired of the game. Todd, being in good spirits from his nap, quickly agreed to finding something else to do.
“But what,” Todd asked, “do you suggest?”
“I say we find something with adventure, but something that we can do together.” Was the Cat’s reply.
Todd, still feeling groggy and dreamy couldn’t think of anything exciting to do, so the pair walked off towards the Sparkling Stream to get a drink and see if any of the other Animals were doing anything interesting. It wasn’t a long walk to the stream, but Todd was very awake by the time they got there. Several different animals lay in the shade by the stream. A Frog and Turtle sitting on a log napping together here; a Giraffe having a conversation with a Caterpillar over there; and a couple of young deer and tigers tussling in the grass a little ways off. It was a very enjoyable sight to behold, and it shouted the word “friendship” to anyone who came close. It was easy to tell that everyone here was enjoying a beautiful morning with friends, and no one was worried about anything. Stanley, after getting a drink twirled in a big circle and stretched his claws. He was feeling rather refreshed and wanted to get on with adventure. Todd, who was much more laid back than his friend, took a long time standing in the stream letting the water ripple past his legs and drinking the clear water slowly. After he was finished, he shook his body and rolled in the sand by the stream, causing the Frog and the Turtle to wake up. The Turtle, who liked his sleep, made a funny growling noise (that only certain Turtles are capable of making) and turned to Todd.
“Eh, what is it you are doing, friend?” he asked politely, albeit a bit grumpily. “Did you wake me for a reason? No? Just tossing for fun? Could you take it a bit farther away?”
The Donkey, not meaning to wake up the Turtle, yet believing it unfair that the Turtle spoke crossly with him, shook his coat again for emphasis and walked back to where Stanley was clawing against a tree. He paused and watched his friend for a few seconds before interrupting him and saying,
“What say you we take a short journey up to that mountain over there,” he pointed towards the west and continued, “I haven’t been up there for quite some time, and it looks like as good of a place as any for adventure, wouldn’t you agree?”
Now Stanley took his paw and smoothed down some fur on his tail before answering.
“Hmm... Yes, I do believe I am up for that. After all, I am the one who... mm... wanted adventure, and it happens that I have never before... mm... ventured into those particular mountains. Mm. I say you, my friend, are a very intelligent Donkey and we shall certainly go explore those mountains. Mm.” All of the “mm”s in his last statement was because he was still trying to smooth down his fur, as cats often do after stretching their claws, and was only partially paying attention to what he was saying.
Since the two friends had now decided their plan of action, they headed straight away. The Donkey forgot his frustration with the Turtle, and Todd and Stanley frolicked like the deer and tigers had been at the stream as they headed west. The mountain wasn’t terribly far off but the sun was rather high by the time they began to slope upward. The Empa-berries were thick on the Empa-bushes as they climbed upward, and the two friends stopped often to taste them. About half way up the mountain (it wasn’t a very large mountain) the soft grassy earth turned into rocky ground, and the bushes were fewer. Todd, who had been up before, although it had been a long time, kept telling Stanley of the things they would find at the top. He mentioned the area close to the top of the mountain of enchanted pebbles in a dried up brook, and it was said that on the day that the brook was no longer dried up the pebbles would come alive and hop all over the place, and grant you one wish if you could catch one. Of course, Todd had no idea how to make the brook wet again, but the idea fascinated him, and Stanley told Todd that it would be exciting to bring the brook back to life.
When they reached the place near the top where the dried up brook had been, there were too many thorn bushes blocking them out. In fact, there were so many thorn bushes that they could go no farther up the mountain. Todd tried biting at them, and Stanley tried clawing at them, but it only resulted in a sore mouth and bloody paws. Stanley tried to climb underneath the worst of the thorns, but they were tangled so tightly and the thorns were so sharp, he couldn’t get through. They decided to see about going around the thorn bushes and exploring the other side of the mountain (Todd had never been on the other side). After following the tangle of thorns for a very long ways, the two realized that they had gone in a huge circle the whole way around the mountain, and there were nothing but thorns. They continued a little farther just to be sure, but indeed, there seemed no end to the thorns. Frustrated and sore, Stanley sat down on a rock and stared up at Todd. Todd shook his short stubby mane and plodded a short ways away to a few lonely pieces of grass and snatched them up.
“Hey, that is my grass!” said a tiny voice as Todd chewed slowly. He was so shocked that he dropped the pieces of grass and backed up a small step.
“Who… No, where are you?” he asked. Just then he saw where the little voice was coming from. It was a small Grasshopper, with large, colorful wings, sitting directly where the grass had been a couple of moments sooner.
“What do you think you are doing, eating the only strands of grass on this desolate mountain side and leaving me nothing to eat?” the Grasshopper asked, crossly.
“I’m terribly sorry; I didn’t realize that someone was here.” Todd told him, apologetically.
“Well, now you know.” The Grasshopper flopped down in a pout upon a pebble.
“Who are you talking to, Todd?” the Cat asked from a few paces away.
“A Grasshopper. Come here.” Todd replied, moving away so that Stanley could see. After a few moments of talking with the Grasshopper, and a large amount of apologizing on the part of the Donkey, the three managed to introduce themselves. The new little friend, they learned, was named Louise. She forgave Todd, but demanded that he find her something else to eat. He suggested the thorn bushes, for she was small enough to eat the poky leaves, but she laughed scornfully at him.
“Me? Eat the thorns? You must be kidding. Don’t you know that those are magic thorn bushes? They grew overnight, and no one can get through. They cannot be killed until the brook on the other side has running water in it again. Don’t ask me how to get running water to it,” she held up her hand as she saw the question begin to come from both of her two companions. “I have no more idea of that than you do. But meanwhile, what are you going to do about getting me some food?”
Suddenly Stanley, who has been sitting down until just this moment, sprang up and exclaimed,
“Why, I have the perfect idea! Come back down with us, to where the rest of civilization is (He pronounced it more like sit-vail-itch-asian). There is no reason for you to be up here running out of food. There is plenty to eat down there.” And when Louise had thought this over for a few minutes she nodded slowly.
“I do suppose that could work….” She said, “Yes, I do believe I will take you up on that. But I cannot hop that far way. One of you must carry me.”
Now this caused a bit of discussion. Stanley said that she should ride on his back, because he was much smaller and she wouldn’t be hurt as bad if she fell off. Todd disagreed, and said that he should carry their new friend, since it was he who had disrupted her life, and since there was less likely a chance of her falling off of him. After a few moments, Louise piped up that they could take turns, because they both had good points. So, she rode on Todd’s back part of the way down, and allowed Stanley to carry her the rest of the way. Of course, neither was comfortable for her, but she was kind enough not to complain. At last they reached the bottom and when they had arrived at the stream where the other animals were gathered, Stanley set the Grasshopper in a large patch of soft grass where she immediately began to finish the lunch that Todd had interrupted earlier. Todd and Stanley were, by this time quite tired from their trip, and as the sun was going down, they and the other animals went their separate ways for the night.
The next morning, Todd and Stanley met back at the stream. When they got there, the Frog and the Turtle were arguing with the Grasshopper about something, and no one was sure of what it was they were arguing about. The Bumblebee and the Mosquito (In the land of People the thought of a vegetarian mosquito doesn’t make sense, but this mosquito lived on lily flowers, instead of blood) both said that it had to do with the Grasshopper waking the Turtle up. The Leopard said that the Frog had hopped over the grasshopper, and had almost smashed her. The Giraffe said that the three of them were arguing about the color purple, while the Crocodile was certain that it was orange not purple, and no one was sure who to believe. Todd decided to interrupt the argument and ask Louise what they were arguing about. Of course, they had been fighting for so long she couldn’t remember. The Turtle and the Frog had no idea what started the argument, either, as the argument for the last half hour had been going something like this:
“I don’t care what either of you say, I am right and you are wrong!” that being the Grasshopper.
“You don’t even know what you are talking about, you are very wrong, and we are right!” is what the Frog would say.
“Yeah, exactly, he is right, and you don’t know anything.” The Turtle, naturally, agreed with the Frog.
And that is the extent of the conversation, altering a little bit every now and then, but the main words were, “I’m right, you’re wrong.”
After watching for a short while, Stanley decided to stick his nose in, and tell them that they were all wrong, and that he was right. He was only kidding with them, trying to lighten up the atmosphere; but that was not what happened. Instead, the other three all turned to face him and started yelling at him that he didn’t know what he was talking about. Someone (either the Dog or the Horse, no one was sure who because they were next to each other) mentioned that they didn’t know what they were talking about, either, which did give them a reason to think for a minute. The silence didn’t last long, however, and after a little while, the crowd began to disperse, getting bored with the argument. By the middle of the morning, things began to calm down as the Turtle and Frog were getting close to nap time. The Grasshopper scorned them for taking naps like children, but they ignored her cynical mood this time. Todd and Stanley went on a quest to find someone who could tell them how to make the brook wet again, but no one around the stream knew of any such thing; so they gave up after a short while. The closest that they got to an answer was from the Crocodile, who mumbled with his mouth full that they could try asking a magician. They didn’t feel like seeking one at the time, although Todd said he did know where one lived, so they decided to find something else to occupy their time.
Later in that same day, another argument arose. This time it was more serious, and threats were made. It was an argument between the Fox and the Mouse. They usually got along very well, but today the Mouse had heard a rumor that the Fox was going to see a magician, and when the Mouse questioned the Fox, the Fox admitted to it.
“But why,” asked the Mouse, “are you going to see a magician?” And when the Fox refused to tell her, she got angry and started saying very unkind things. The truth was, the Fox only wanted to see a magician because he had heard the Crocodile talking to Todd and Stanley about the Dead Brook and decided he wanted to be the one to make it wet again. He didn’t feel that it was any of the Mouse’s business, and decided not to tell her. After their arguing and fighting had gone on for a while, the Mole got completely fed up with the commotion and said (very loudly) before walking away from the argument,
“WE NEED A KING!”
The thought of a King had never occurred to anyone before this time, and, indeed, many of the younger animals were unsure of what a King was. The smarter and older animals explained to the younger ones what a King was, and everyone agreed that it was a grand idea. While the animals did usually get along, there are always occasions when things go wrong, and having a King to take care of said problems seemed like an excellent plan. Then, the question arose, who was to be the King? Everyone started asking each other that very question, but no one knew. Todd and Stanley, who had been off in the Daisy Field again when this predicament arose, had no idea what anyone was talking about when they got back to the stream. After it had been explained to them by the Giraffe, Todd exclaimed,
“Why, you are all very silly. If it was the Mole’s idea that we should have a King, why not ask the Mole who the King shall be?” he brayed.
“Yes!” exclaimed all the animals around who heard, “Let us go to the Mole and ask him where this King will come from!” and they all progressed to the patch of Cedar trees where the Mole made his home.
This Mole, whose name was Marcus, was leaning against a tree chewing on some bark when the crowd of animals approached him.
“Marcus! Marcus! Who is to be King, Marcus? Where will you find a King, Marcus?” the animals exclaimed as they reached the place where he was resting. The poor Mole, not knowing that the animals would take him seriously, began to think upon the idea more. He had simply lost his patience when he suggested the idea, but, indeed… a King could be a good idea.
“Good people,” he began. “I tell you the King will have to come from among you. We cannot pull our King Over All Animals from a different land, the King has to be someone who cares about the animals around him, and who is brave enough and strong enough to lead you all. The King must be one of you.” He told them, solemnly.
“But, Marcus, which of us shall it be?” Stanley piped up.
“Yes, Yes, Who shall claim the title of King? Who does this role belong to?” the other animals chimed in.
At last, after a long discussion, it was decided that this matter would be addressed again in two weeks. Marcus the Mole said that in two weeks time, they could all gather back at his home and he would talk to each animal who would like to be King. He said that he would narrow it down to three and then the other animals could vote. Seeing as how no one had a better idea, this was decided and the animals all went their separate ways, to think about the idea of having a King.
The thought of having a King, was more intense for some of the Animals than for others. Many animals went their own way after the gathering with Marcus, to think on it for a short time and then get distracted by something else. For others, though, the question of who could be worthy of being King stayed in the most active part of their brains, and they pondered it often.
Todd and Stanley talked of it for a very long time that day, both discussing particular Animals who might fit the description that Marcus the Mole gave. They talked as good friends often talk, not really looking for an answer, but giving possible ones, anyway. The Horse, perhaps… He was definitely considered strong! Or maybe the Eagle. No one was braver than he, and he certainly did seem to care. It was Stanley who first realized that it could be one of them. They were both relaxing on their backs under an Oak Tree munching on leaves and watching the stars that night, when Stanley suddenly jumped to his feet.
“Oh my, Stanley, you certainly gave me a fright!” Todd exclaimed, sitting up, also.
“Todd, Todd, don’t you see? One of us could be King! Think of it. We are both terribly brave.” Stanley exclaimed, dancing about in excitement and not paying attention to Todd at all. “We are strong, and we know the Animals well enough to lead them, don’t you think? Why! I really don’t see any reason as to why one of us should not be chosen as King! Think of it, Todd, don’t you see?”
Todd nodded slowly. “Yes, I think you might have a point. One of us could be King. In fact,” Todd began to speak more excitedly, “not only is it possible; why, it’s almost probable! Why shouldn’t we be King? No one, but no one could be better suited than we!”
The two pals talked of how possible or probable it was for several minutes. Todd was just beginning to yawn again, starting to get bored with the conversation, when he heard Stanley mutter something under his breath.
“Eh? What was that?” Todd mumbled, sleepily.
“I said, we can’t both be King.” Stanley said again, barely above a whisper.
“What are you talking about? What do you mean?” The Donkey asked, confused, and feeling groggy.
“Think about it, Todd.” The cat said, sounding frustrated, with a touch of sadness in his voice. “We have been talking, excitedly, for some time now, about being King. But we have been speaking as if we could both be King at the same time. Don’t you realize? It wouldn’t work. There can’t be two Kings, there simply can’t.”
Todd scratched the tip of his ear with his back left hoof, as was his habit when he was trying to get something straight in his head. Stanley, who was used to this, just paced back and forth flicking his tail until he saw understanding beginning to creep into the Donkey’s expression. Todd finally began to realize that Stanley had a point. Waking up, and no longer feeling as groggy, the Donkey began to pace right along with Stanley.
“What are we going to do, then, Stanley?” He asked, hesitantly. “Which of us is better? Out of the two of us, who is stronger? Who is braver? Who has the bigger heart?” For the moment, the two Animals completely forgot that it wasn’t guaranteed that either of them would be voted King. Their thoughts and motives were beginning to be controlled by their own selfishness, and this was going to cause a huge problem before very long at all.
“Well,” Stanley began, “We are both very caring, very loving Animals, but I think I might have a few smarter brain cells than you.”
“Posh, Stanley. Perhaps you are smarter, but, really, I am definitely stronger, and that is listed in the requirements, as well.” Todd replied, feeling slightly miffed that Stanley didn’t find him very clever.
“You are right, you are stronger. But, strength is not everything, and I’m not entirely sure that Marcus really meant physical strength. Perhaps he really meant strength of mind, and I have that.” Stanley argued, persuasively. This did not repair Todd’s feelings in the least, however, and made him grumble for a moment before replying to the Cat, with a hurt and angry look in his eyes.
“You are wrong, Stanley. If that is what Marcus had meant, he would have said so.” Todd began to scratch his ear with his hoof again, and continued. “And I disagree with you about mind-power, too. I am a very clever donkey, and don’t appreciate you implying that I am not smart enough to be King. I think I would be a very good King; better than you.” And with that, Todd walked away indignantly.
“Fine, walk away, Donkey! Don’t listen to what I have to say! You asked my opinion and I gave it. You aren’t a very clever Donkey, it’s a fact! And you would never make a good King, walking away from someone who is speaking to you! Posh!” Stanley called out, unkindly. Todd looked back only long enough to glare at the Cat and continued to walk away. This was the beginning of the quarrel that would last longer than either of them first realized.
The Donkey, as he walked away, was furious. He couldn’t remember having ever been so angry before. The Cat felt very much the same, as he made his bed high in an Oak tree that night. He felt terrible for saying those hurtful words to Todd, but he was so angry at him! He wanted to find Todd and apologize, but he was afraid that if he did that; the Donkey would still want to be King. And Stanley was still sure that he would make a better King.
“Todd has also said hurtful things; he should be the one to apologize. Saying that I am not strong.” Stanley growled, knowing even as he grumbled to himself that he was wrong. But he wasn’t about to try to make amends yet. He decided to wait until after the election, and when he was King, he would call up the Donkey and speak with him. Then they could be friends again. “Actually,” he continued quietly to himself, “it wouldn’t need to be that long if Todd decides to apologize. He is a tender Donkey, too tender at times, and I am sure that he will be here later tonight or in the morning to apologize. That would be grand.” Stanley grinned and began smoothing his coat for bed.
A fairly good distance away, as he was trying to settle down to sleep among some warm bushes, Todd’s thoughts were similar. Apologizing to Stanley did cross his mind, but he was still too upset and hurt. He knew that he had not been the kindest, but in his mind, it was Stanley who started it and it should be Stanley’s job to finish it. He didn’t think that the Cat would make a better King than he, and it was wrong of Stanley to be so stuck-up and say such a thing. Todd blocked out the memory that he had asked Stanley’s opinion in the first place, and chose to dwell on his anger instead. This was not going to help matters. The emotions that these two Animals were experiencing that night could do nothing but make them feel worse.
The next morning, many of the animals had all met back at the stream to talk about the latest news: Who should be King? Of course, Todd and Stanley both went also; for they had each decided on their own that they couldn’t get votes if no one saw them to think of them. Todd also wanted to see how his new friend the Grasshopper was doing; but Stanley’s thoughts were only on the task at hand, trying to make as many Animals as possible see how worthy he was of being King.
Todd arrived before Stanley, and was quite relieved. He had decided that he would wait until Stanley apologized before he would forgive him, and he was beginning to get so comfortable with his anger that he almost didn’t even want to hear Stanley apologizing, just yet. He wanted to make Stanley as miserable as possible first. He had only been there for a few moments, however, when Stanley arrived. The Cat walked directly to the stream with an unconcerned swagger, his tail standing straight up and his back arched elegantly. The Donkey realized immediately that Stanley had no intention of apologizing, and he hardened his own heart and simply glared as the Cat walked past.
Everyone was talking about who should be King. There were several Animals who felt that they were worthy and were trying to convince those around them of the fact. Others didn’t really want to be King; they didn’t want to have the responsibility. Several Animals didn’t even consider the fact that they could be King, and were trying to determine of the others who should. The Turtle and the Frog were not really taking it seriously. They were joking with one another in dry humor about it. They were mocking the ones who thought that they should be King.
“Hah, look at me; I’m amazing and better than everyone here. I care, I really do. I love every one of you horrid, unintelligent beasts! I’m not contradicting myself, bah!” The Frog said to the Turtle in such a dry voice, with such a straight face that the Turtle began laughing so hard that he nearly choked. This just made the Frog continue in his joking, until the Grasshopper stepped up and told them that they were being rude.
“What do you know?” The Turtle asked Louise. “I suppose you think that you should be King, eh? Bah.” He then turned back to the Frog, in hopes that he would back him up. The Frog, however, took Louise seriously and settled down after that. The Grasshopper rolled her eyes and left the Turtle to his task of trying to convince the Frog to make him laugh again.
Stanley, after taking a long, drawn-out drink from the stream; sauntered over to his first victim, a small hummingbird that was flitting about, to ask who she thought should be King. He was more clever than most of the Animals who were vain enough to believe that they should be King, and started the conversation by buttering up his prey.
“Hi there, Miss Elle, how are you doing this fine morning?” he asked, with an air of freshness and intelligence. His tail was still flicking back and forth, as if he had many wise thoughts inside of his head and was trying to suppress them.
“Oh, hello, Stanley.” She replied kindly. “I’m doing fairly decent, although this talk of King is giving me a bit of a head throb.”
“I do know what you mean, ma’am,” He said ingratiatingly, with charm. “But don’t you feel the necessity of it? I’m sure that you never have any problem needing resolved, but for those of us meek creatures who are in need of it…” he paused and licked his front paw elegantly, “I’m certain that a wise young lady such as yourself should recognize the need.” This had the effect he was looking for, and the bird blushed a bit at his flattery.
“Why of course I do, certainly I recognize the need. You are quite right. We are in need of a King, even considering the fact that some of us are doing fine without. For the general betterment of the public, a King is absolutely needed.” Miss Elle flitted about as she spoke, feeling nervous and flattered at the same time.
The conversation continued for a moment until Stanley had the Hummingbird feeling very good about herself, and asked her the question. Who should be King? The poor Hummingbird was taken slightly off guard, but answered directly that Stanley would make the best King the land could have. The Cat pretended to be flattered, and told her he really wasn’t worthy of such a calling, even though he would certainly not mind the responsibility. Of course this caused Miss Elle to try and convince him, until Stanley was quite certain that she was on his side, and he moved away to make small talk with someone else.
Todd saw the Cat mingling, and knew him well enough that he suspected what his motives were. He saw the smile that the Hummingbird had, and decided that it couldn’t hurt to try the same thing. He decided to approach the Grasshopper first, since he had originally planned to say “hi” to her anyways. He spoke with her and after inquiring as to how she was doing, he got straight to the point, asking her who should be King. She was not as easy to persuade as the Hummingbird had been for Stanley, and the Donkey was not as good at being a sycophant as the Cat, so the situation got a little bit awkward before Todd decided to move on. He was debating who to go talk to next, when he overheard the Cat talking to the Badger.
“Well, sure, I might not be the best candidate around, but you must surely agree that a Cat would make a better King than, say… a Donkey.”
This infuriated Todd, and he gave up his task of friendly mingling and decided to go for a walk on his own. If he had stayed and listened a little longer, he would have heard the Badger tell Stanley that he was the last Animal he would want to see King, but it is probably for the better that he didn’t hear the rest of the conversation. For, if he had stayed and heard, it would only go to his head more and would have likely resulted in a public display of anger.
As Todd walked off, he was so angry and upset that he didn’t pay any attention to where he was going. By the time he even noticed his surroundings, he found himself halfway up the same mountain that he and Stanley had been on the other day. It seemed different, though. Flatter. The terrain was more grassy, and there weren’t as many shrubs and bushes. He continued to walk, pondering these differences but not quite forgetting that he was angry. As he neared the place where he had met Louise two days earlier, he suddenly stopped. There, in front of him where he had nibbled the grass belonging to the Grasshopper, there was, instead, a huge cluster of lilies. Now everyone knows that lilies grow in ponds, but there were so many lilies that it was hard to tell that there was even any water there. Todd sat down, looking at the queer sight, when suddenly the lilies all burst into flame. The Donkey was surprised, jumping to his feet and retreating several steps. He stood and watched the flames eat every single lily. It seemed like hours when, in fact, they burned up in a matter of minutes. Then there was an enormous whoosh and a big gust of wind and everything was gone. In its place was a rocky terrain; and the site of the magic thorn bushes behind where the pond had been. Todd sat there pondering the odd happenings for a few moments, and began to think perhaps he had dreamed of the flaming lilies.
“No matter,” he said to himself, “either I dreamed it all, or it was certainly magic!” He then walked over to where he had seen the strange occurrence, and noticed nothing different than when he had been there with Stanley. “Strange.” He said. “Very strange, indeed.” But suddenly an idea occurred to him.
Meanwhile, it wasn’t very long after Todd had left the stream where most of the Animals were gathered when Stanley noticed his absence. He was beginning to get tired of socializing so he decided to take a walk on his own, as well. He wandered about in no particular direction, for quite some time before he came to a small hut. Most Animals didn’t even know what a hut was, let alone actually lived in one; so Stanley was immediately on his guard. Walking around to the back of it, he noticed a strange-looking sight. He wasn’t sure at first what it was, but after studying it for a moment or two, he noticed that it was a pond. It was nearly impossible to tell that it was a pond, though, because it was so covered in lilies. They were clustered so tightly that it was difficult to see any water.
He was standing there only a few seconds after realizing what it was, when suddenly each lily burst into flames, one at a time; just as it had for Todd. It didn’t take long for them to all burn up, and when they had completely burned up there was a huge gust of wind and Stanley blinked. The lily pond was gone; there was not a trace of a flame anywhere. The land was grassy and soft, with a few trees scattered here and there, where the pond had been. Completely startled, the Cat backed up until he was leaning against the side of the hut. Feeling almost surprised that the hut was still there, and not just some part of his imagination too, he walked back to the front of it. He found a rather wide and fairly tall door, there, and went up to it. He was just lifting his front paw to push it open, when it opened by itself. Inside, it was completely dark. He blinked rapidly, letting his eyes adjust to the darkness. After a few seconds, he realized that there were leaves and books scattered throughout the hut. There was a table, and two chairs. Stanley had never seen anything like any of it before, and heard himself gasp. Then he noticed something that was more surprising, still. Sitting in one of the chairs, staring silently at him, was a Penguin.
“Hello, Stanley. How can I help you today?” the Penguin spoke slowly.
I’m not afraid. I’m not afraid. I’m Stanley, the Cat who will be King! I cannot be afraid! He thought, but said out loud, while shaking a bit, “H-how do you know my name?” The Penguin chuckled, a bubbly sort of chuckle.
“I know the names of every Animal in this Land, silly Cat.” She told him, and beckoned for him to come in and close the door. He was wary of this, but did so anyways, and took a seat in the empty chair.
“Are you… are you a magician?” He asked her, curiously. Even though he had never met one before, he knew even before he asked that she was, indeed, a magician.
“Yes.” The Penguin answered him. “And there is a reason that you have come to me. What is it that I can do for you, Young One?”
“No, no, you mistake me. There is not a reason for my coming here; I was only out taking a stroll. I am sorry for wasting your time; I will be on my way now.” Stanley stood up, only to be caught by the Penguin’s strong wing and forced to sit back down.
Chuckling, the Penguin introduced herself as George, and reminded Stanley once again that he was there for a reason.
“Think, Cat, think about what made you walk in this direction? What led you to my hut?” She asked, sitting back ready to listen.
Stanley thought for a moment, and suddenly he remembered all the occurrences of the last two days. Surely, surely the Penguin was mistaken; however, she was persistent, and the Cat began to have an idea enter his head. Why couldn’t he ask a favor of George? Just a small one. Opening his mouth, he began to talk. He told George the whole story, although perhaps making it a little more dramatic than it really was, so as to get the sympathy of the Penguin.
“So then,” the Cat finished his story about how he and Todd were fighting, “perhaps, just maybe, maybe, you could do something. Not something terrible, but something, to Todd, to make him realize that he needs to apologize, and that I should be King. Don’t you think? Please?” It was more of a wine towards the end, because he saw humor in George’s expression.
“Fine,” the Penguin said after a few moments of silence. “I will do what I can to help your…” she paused, “…situation.” And with that, Stanley jumped up.
“Oh, thank you!” He said, laughing with a gleam of triumph in his eyes. Then, without even thinking to say goodbye, or ask about the pond, or anything, he hurried out the door back in the direction of the Stream.
It was very soon after Stanley departed the company of George, the Animal Magician, when she had another visit. This visitor was Todd, who had had quite a long walk from the mountain where he had seen the lily pond. Sinking into the same chair that Stanley had been in just a short time earlier, Todd began a very similar story. He was less uncomfortable than the Cat had been, because it was not the first time he had spoken to a magician. It was, however, the first time he was attempting to ask anything of one, and his voice still shook a bit as he began.
“Stanley has been so rotten to me,” he told her, “and I was on the mountain today, thinking about magic when I realized that perhaps you could help me. Possibly, if you don’t mind, would you, please, somehow make him realize this? Do something to him. Not something dangerous, for I would never wish to hurt him, but just something that would make him realize that he is wrong? That he needs to apologize to me, and admit that I would make a better King?”
George sat back and looked steadily at Todd for a few moments. “I will see what I can do, about your… predicament.” She told him, slowly. “I cannot tell you what, for then it would surely not ever work.” She said before he had a chance to ask her plan of action. The Donkey looked a little surprised at the fact that she answered what he was thinking, but simply nodded his head and thanked her for her generosity.
Todd sauntered slowly back to the stream after leaving the magician’s hut. His mind was very busy, thinking about the meeting he had just had with George, the Penguin. He stopped short before he got to the stream, however. While he was still a little distance away, he saw Stanley chatting casually with the Grasshopper. An overwhelming sense of jealousy sprung up on him and nearly made him stumble. To anyone looking on, he would have been as green as a cucumber. He backed up a few paces, and changed directions in his misery. He headed to the field of Pink Daisies, where he and the Cat had been frolicking carelessly just a few short days earlier. He chewed the daisies and pondered his situation. He felt very lonely, and wished that he could just go up to Stanley and apologize. But, he knew that he couldn’t try to make amends when he had just asked the magician to help him by doing something to the Cat. “Never mind,” he muttered to himself, trying to push away the guilt he was feeling. “Stanley deserves whatever is coming to him.” So, he just sat there feeling sorry for himself in his stubbornness. Knowing that George the Penguin was going to help with revenge made Todd alternate between feeling better, and feeling more and more guilty. Todd lay there for quite some time feeling sorry for himself, before he finally drifted off to sleep among the daisies. When he awoke, he realized that it was very early morning. He had had a very restless night, and was feeling sore and stiff. The flowers around him were smashed and looked pathetic in the gray light. Todd yawned, and stretched in an attempt to loosen his sore muscles. He flicked his tail and realized that it was balanced in an unusual manner. And his hooves felt soft and small. Leaning around to scratch his belly with his teeth, he suddenly began to bray and bellow in agony. After a few quick brays, his voice began to give out into a hiss. This just scared him further, and he began to roll about, smashing the few feeble flowers around him that had been left standing after his restless night. After several minutes of this, he stood up and shook, and turned to look at himself again. He was slightly more composed and less dramatic about what he saw, this time, but he still gave a sad whine and drooped his ears. His ears were one of the few things that hadn’t changed on his body overnight. Breathing slowly and calmly, he flicked his long cat’s tail again. He tried walking, but his feet were so small and soft that he didn’t make it far before he sank to his knees. Stanley had a similar experience that same morning. He hadn’t slept well, either. The feeling of guilt wouldn’t go away. Even though he had pretended to be having a jolly time socializing with the other animals after he had visited the magician, once he was by himself he could only think of what he had done. He knew that Todd was not to blame for the fight between them, but he didn’t want to admit that yet. And, after all, it was too late. So he decided to wait and see what the magician did to Todd. This did not help the feeling of guilt at all, and when he finally fell asleep he had nightmares about being changed into a strange animal. Waking up from his nightmares, there was not yet any daylight in the skies. Stanley lay quietly, barely breathing, trying to rid his mind of the Donkey/Cat dreams. He felt very sore, and did not sleep much after that. When morning finally dawned, Stanley made himself get up. It was harder than usual, for he felt much larger than he remembered. And clumsy. He was used to being a rather springy and light-footed animal, but he felt huge and awkward. “Probably because I did not sleep well.” He grumbled to himself, feeling more than a little bit grumpy and wishing he could go back to sleep. But he knew that even if he tried, he wouldn’t be able to. After standing up for only a very short moment, he realized that this was not the reason. The awkward, clumsy, huge-ness came from a very shocking reason. His dreams were not only dreams, after all. They were quite true, and he was the size of a donkey, with only a few Cat characteristics left. His ears had grown tall and it hurt his small cat’s head to hold them up, so they were continuously flopping into his face, making it difficult for him to see past the fur. His body was that of a donkey, which made his Cat features; such as his face and paws and tail, look rather odd. Just as Todd was doing at very close to the same moment, Stanley sat down on the ground and began to whimper to himself. It was a very strange sort of whimper, too. It was a cross between a painful donkey’s bray and a cat’s whine. Stanley and Todd both realized that something, somewhere, did not go quite how they had expected. After their initial shock left them, they both decided that they couldn’t be seen in the shape that they were currently in. Neither had any idea what to do about it, but they knew that they didn’t want anyone to see them. Todd didn’t really go anywhere. He didn’t feel like he could move far on his cat’s paws, and he felt so sorry for himself, that he wanted to do nothing more than hide among the flowers and hope that no one stumbled upon him. He knew that sleep would not come for a long time, but he just lay there pouting. Stanley got a little more creative. It took him a moment, but he soon figured out how to maneuver his strange body. Seeing as how he had the brain of a cat, his first thought was to climb a tree and stay there, in hopes that no one would look up as they passed underneath. After several attempts, though, he realized that there was no way to get his over-sized body into the tree; and, even if he could, it would probably break anyways. So his next thought was to find a cave. There were many huge holes in the ground that were considered caves, and some of them went pretty deep and became tunnels. So he found an isolated one, on the other side of the Field of Pink Daisies, where he didn’t expect anyone to come to visit. It was rather creepy and deep, and he was nervous at first. But he soon settled down into the earth and his mind went back to his terrible predicament. He whimpered in agony, and tried to drift to sleep, to get his mind off of it. It took a while, but he finally succeeded. It didn’t distract his brain, though. His dreams were full of DonkeyCats, strange magicians, and awkward Kings.
Several days passed. Most of the time was spent sleeping, or trying to sleep, and moping and feeling sorry for themselves. They rarely got up. If they did get up, it was only to change positions. Only occasionally did their hunger drive them to find something to eat. For Todd, he was living in the field of Daisies, so he didn’t have to move much. Which was fine with him, seeing as how he could not get used to his odd body; the body that made travel rather difficult. Neither of them dared to venture to find water, for every known water area was usually a popular place for animals to hang out. There were a few tiny puddles here and there, that they managed to sneak drinks from, but the water that was in them was depleting fast.
They were both beginning to get very thirsty, after a couple of days of hiding had passed; but neither of them were willing to go find a larger supply of water.
Todd was laying in the field, feeling very thirsty and tired, even though he had gotten plenty of sleep in the last few days, when he received a visitor. He was laying on his stomach, with his Cat face resting on his legs, when he saw the Elephant approaching, eating random Daisies here and there. Todd lay almost perfectly still so as not to be detected. He was breathing very hard, though, and his heart jumped when the Elephant looked straight at him and spoke.
“You are a strange looking creature.” She said to him, smirking.
Todd only grumbled to himself and looked away.
“You are thirsty, aren’t you?” she laughed, and sprayed him with her trunk. The water felt amazing, and he looked at her once again, more timidly than before.
“Yes.” He said. “I am very, very thirsty. Could… could I please have more? From your…” he paused, and continued awkwardly, “…nose?”
She laughed at him, and sprayed him again, but much less this time, and while the water felt good on his skin, it only made him want to taste it in his mouth all the more.
“Better,” she said, “I can tell you where to find water. A very large pond, in fact.”
“You don’t understand.” He frowned at her. “I really don’t want to be seen. This is not my normal shape. If I go to a place with a lot of water, I may be seen by someone who knows me.”
The Elephant laughed again. A bubbly, mocking kind of laugh.
“Oh, don’t worry. This is a special pond, not many know of its existence. Really. And, I can help you get your real shape back, Todd, if you wish.” She said, and then disappeared before Todd could say another word.
“But. But. How am I to find this pond?” he asked the air where she had been standing. “And how did you know my name?” Then, standing painfully to his feet, he walked in the direction that the Elephant had come from.
Stanley, meanwhile, was feeling very thirsty as well. He was tired of laying down, and kept getting up and walking in a circle around his cave before flopping back down. He did this several times, restlessly, when he noticed a noise outside of his cave. He sank to his stomach, and tried to not make any noise. After a moment of silence, and still being a Cat, even in his odd shape, he got curious. He peeped out of his hole, but his long Donkey ears stuck out way farther than he had anticipated. Looking straight at him was an Elephant. Stanley brayed in surprise, and pulled his head back in out of sight. The Elephant, however, came and stuck her head inside his cave and spoke.
“AH!” he said, and hid his Cat’s face, not wanting to make eye-contact with the Elephant.
“It’s okay.” She said. “You are thirsty, aren’t you? I know where you can get water.”
He looked up, and his eyes met hers.
“Really? I am thirsty, yes. But…”
“You don’t want anyone who knows you to see you.” She laughed. “Yes, I know this already… I just went through this. Ah.”
“Okay, I believe you. Where can I find it? Please, help me.” He said, feeling like he was being mocked.
The Elephant grinned, and walked away.
“Wait! Come back.” He called, and sat down in exasperation as she disappeared.
After a few minutes, He decided that he was thirsty enough to chance it. He stood awkwardly to his paws, and walked slowly and cautiously in the direction that the Elephant had left.
Stanley had not walked far when he saw water. And not just any muddy water. It was sparkling water, and it looked beautiful. It looked a lot like the Flaming Lily Pond, but much cleaner; it looked almost silver. He thrust his head in the water and drank for a full five minutes before he looked up. He stared at himself in the glassy water, and almost wanted to laugh at his absurd shape. He heard a laugh on the other side of the pond, and looked and his eyes met the eyes of a perfect mirror image of himself. Of the shape he had just seen in the Silver Pond. The other DonkeyCat shape stared right back, and finally it spoke.
“Stanley? Stanley!” He heard the voice of his once best friend, Todd. It took only a second before he understood, and he shouted back.
“Todd! What happened to you?”
“I’m… not sure, but what happened to you? And what are you doing here?” Todd asked Stanley.
“An Elephant directed me here. How did you find it?” Stanley replied.
Todd walked around the pond, and Stanley did also, and they met in the middle. Actually, it was closer to Todd’s side, for he was still having problems handling his strange body, and did not move very fast.
They spoke and shortly, they both understood. Each of them had gone to see a magician, and the result was that they were both changed. The reasoning, too, was obvious. Because of the fight they had had about being King. Unfortunately, talking about it just brought the anger back. Stanley, when he realized that Todd was the reason that he was a DonkeyCat, made him very upset. And the same with Todd. When he realized that it was all Stanley’s fault that he had to carry such an awkward shape, all of his previous anger welled up and made him mad again.
Both of them were sitting there, fuming, when the Elephant was suddenly there, again. They both jumped up, and stepped back in surprise.
“Why do you keep doing that?” Stanley asked in frustration.
“I believe ‘Thank you’ would make a much better welcome,” she said to them both. “Never Mind. But I heard you talking. And neither of you like your shapes, is this correct?”
Todd and Stanley both nodded in agreement with her, and they both dropped their mouths open when the Elephant turned around, and suddenly was no longer an Elephant, but George the Penguin.
“George?!” Stanley and Todd gasped simultaneously in surprise and confusion.
“Yes, it’s me.” She said.
“But….” Todd began.
“…How? Stanley finished for him, and they looked at each other and then back at George.
“You silly Animals. Don’t question a magician. Now, I am the one who caused you both to be DonkeyCats, right? So I can tell you how to get your shape back. That is… if you do, indeed, want your original shapes back…” she smirked at them.
“Oh, yes.” They said together. “Please, please change us back!”
“But not so fast,” she held up a feathered finger. “I can not just do it for you. I do not believe the lesson has been learned, just yet. You are going to have to change yourselves back on your own. I will only get you started.”
She then proceeded to tell them that their only hope was to wish upon one of the Jumping Stones, at the Dead Brook, if they could catch them. Stanley argued that the brook was dead, and so the stones were as well, but George would not listen.
“That is the only way you can get your shape back. It is entirely up to you. In order to make the stones jump, you must bring the brook back to life!” She said in a scolding voice. “And one other thing you should know. This water is magical. Let that be a hint.” And with that, she disappeared yet again, leaving only her words and the Silver Pond behind.
The two DonkeyCats did not even glance at each other after she had left, but both minds were thinking very hard, along the same lines. They both knew that they had to get that water to the brook, somehow. And they both felt competition. They had not yet forgiven each other, and so of course each wanted to be the only one to receive a change of shape. They each wanted the other to suffer longer, yet. Neither of them knew how it would be possible, though, and there was another problem that they hadn’t thought of when George had been talking. The thorns.
Seeing as how neither of them wanted the other to be changed first, they each went separate ways, to try and find a way to transport the water. They did not know exactly what they needed to do with it, but they knew that they had to get it up the mountain.
Todd tried to make some sort of basket out of mud from the bank. Stanley tried scooping it with a large leaf. But neither of them were able to get the water farther than two steps, before it was all spilled out. Todd had an especially hard time, because he stumbled so often, and Stanley couldn’t keep his leaf steady, either.
Eventually, they both gave up and slept by the pond that night. They did not speak, or sleep close to each other, though. In fact, they had not spoken a single word to each other since George’s appearance. Stanley was hoping that he could get his shape back in time to be King. Todd was hoping that Stanley would never get his shape back. They both slept soundly that night, though, for the first time since their shapes had been altered. Morning came quickly and woke them both up beside the beautiful pond, and they were both in almost decent moods. That is, until a small voice spoke up loud enough for them both to hear.
“What. Are you?”
They both looked and saw Louise, the Grasshopper, sitting on a log beside the Silver Pond.
“Louise!” Todd said, so excited to see a friend, that he forgot his strange shape.
“Uh, and you are?” she asked, with a cynical look on her face. That is when Todd remembered his terrible predicament.
“Louise. This is Todd,” Stanley said to her, although not willing to introduce himself, just yet. But she was too quick for him.
“And you are Stanley. What happened to the two of you?” She hopped over to them. “I’m guessing that this is why I have not seen you for several days.
“True.” Todd admitted, and then proceeded to tell her the whole story, with some input from Stanley, when he talked about their argument and about being King. They almost started fighting over that again, but Louise stopped them.
“This is ridiculous, you guys. Really. But hey, I have a proposal. Neither of you can get this water to the Dead Brook on your own, I gather from your story. So obviously you need to work together. And I can help.”
“You can’t help, you are tiny.” Stanley said bitterly, because he knew that she was right about not being able to do it alone.
“Watch it, buddy.” She grinned at him. “I can help very much. I can go with you. I can supervise. I can make sure that you don’t kill each other. And besides, I wouldn’t mind catching one of those Jumping Rocks myself. Wish for my own change of shape, hah!” she laughed.
Todd looked steadily at Stanley, and after a few moments suggested tentatively that maybe she had a point.
“She is right, you know. This is ridiculous. This whole fight is ridiculous. I wanted to make up before I even went to the magician in the first place, but I was just so mad. But really. Neither of us could possible be King in this shape, and we are not going to get our shapes back without helping one another.”
Stanley sighed, and looked Todd in the eye.
“I know. And I’m sorry. Mm. Really. I am as much to blame as you, and since we created this problem together, I guess we better fix it together.” He said in resignation, and the two of them moved together in an awkward sort of clumsy attempt at a hug, and laughed.
“All right, gentlemen. Now that we have that resolved, let’s get busy. We need to construct a basket!” Louise broke in, cheerfully.
“Oh, I already tried that… it failed…” Todd smiled.
“Just watch my expertise.” She said with an air of authority. “Stanley. I need you to bring me a whole lot of those long spriggy grasses over there on the other side of the bank. Todd, bring me your mud basket. It needs to be a tiny bit bigger.”
And with that, the three friends got to work.
With Todd and Stanley gathering things, and placing them where they needed to be, and with Louise using her smallness to tie together the grass sprigs, it was not long at all before a nice sized basket was constructed. It had two handles, large enough for the two DonkeyCats to carry without spilling the water. They had to let the mud and grass dry, though, so they could not try it out right away.
While they waited, the Grasshopper entertained Todd and Stanley by telling them wild stories about magic and friendship. One of them was about a butterfly who’d had a similar encounter with a change of shape to the predicament Todd and Stanley were experiencing. It was entertaining, but had a note of seriousness behind it, too. The time passed quickly, and it didn’t take long for the basket to dry.
The basket worked beautifully, and not a single drop of water spilled out when the two DonkeyCats practiced carrying it. Todd tripped and fell to his knees, once, but he was able to get up easily without spill. This was a cause for celebration, and the three drank all of the water out of the basket and filled it again. It was time to start up the mountain!
The three made a rather odd looking group walking up the mountain, with Todd and Stanley carrying the water, and Louise hopping back and forth from one back to the other, and occasionally riding on the brim of the basket. Her cheerful chirp made the future look bright, and occasionally they would all break into song. It was quite the chorus, and had anyone happened to come by them, they would have stopped straight in their tracks in wonder, to watch the trio proceed.
It was much slower going that it had been the day that Todd and Stanley had met Louise; for with the heavy basket of water, and their awkward shapes, travel was much more complicated. But spirits were high, and both DonkeyCats were glad to be reconciled with their friend. The subject of King did not really come up, but both had decided in their own minds that being King wasn’t worth fighting over.
“What will we do about the thorns?” Stanley asked when they had made it about halfway up the mountain, and the task at hand was beginning to take a priority in their minds.
“Well… I don’t really know,” Todd said thoughtfully, “But this water is magical, and that is basically the only tool that George gave us.”
“Of course, of course.” Louise said. “The water is magic, and the thorns are magic. Magic is the only thing that can erase magic, so we must use this water to make the thorns disappear, so that we can get through.”
“How much water do you think it will take?” Todd asked worriedly, thinking that he really did not want to have to make too many trips up the mountain carrying the heavy water.
“I have no idea about that.” Louise said, acting miffed. “That is something we will know when we get there. And don’t grumble, either. You two want your shapes back, right? So the amount of water is nothing, so long as the pond is still there when we get back…” She shrugged. “You can never be too sure about magic, but I guess we will see!”
And by the time she had finished her short speech, they had arrived at the terrible thorn bushes. They seemed to be even larger and tighter than any of them remembered, and for a short moment they all felt slightly intimidated.
“Oooh.” Stanley and Todd both said.
Louise stuck a wing in the water, and went up to the thorns and shook as hard as she could. The bushes seemed to tremble, but only for a moment, and then everything was still again. Louise did the same thing again, and again they trembled for a moment.
“Come on, guys, help me!” She said to them, excitedly.
Setting down the basket, Todd and Stanley helped Louise sprinkle water all over the thorn bushes. In a matter of only a few seconds, the bushes trembled wildly and then they all completely disappeared, leaving a path of colorful rocks all over the ground. A few feet on the other side of where the thorn bushes had been, there was the Dead Brook. Beautiful, but still rocks covered the ground on all sides of the dry brook. Todd, Louise, and Stanley all three broke into a shout of excitement.
“It worked!” Stanley did a jig that he always did when he was excited as a Cat. It didn’t work so well, though, with his large size, and he ended up on a heap on the ground. He laughed with Louise and Todd, and then they all got serious as they realized that they were truly ready for the next step.
Hardly breathing, they approached the Dead Brook cautiously. Todd and Stanley carefully, oh so carefully, lifted the basket and poured the rest of the water into the Brook.
There was a long moment of silence, and the water that they had poured into the bed of stones seemed to all disappear among the rocks. Just when they all let out a sigh of resignation, a Rock jumped. A tiny, tiny jump. Stanley gasped, but after a moment Todd spoke.
“I think we might need to bring more.” He said, almost sadly. Just after he said that, though, another Rock moved, and water began to trickle up out of the ground. The water kept coming and coming, and soon the Brook was fully alive, with Jumping Rocks hopping all over the place. It was a beautiful sight.
“Catch one, catch one!” Louise cried out, hopping with the Rocks, making it look like an odd sort of dance. Todd and Stanley just watched at first, but then suddenly began to chase the rocks. It was not an easy task, but fun, and they all looked so ridiculous that there was much laughter.
Louise was the first to catch one. It was harder for Todd and Stanley, but soon they each caught one, as well. They all stopped moving for a moment and held their caught Rock steadily, breathing hard.
“I say we all wish together.” Stanley suggested.
“Agreed!” Louise added. “On the count of three, ready?”
“Wait.” Todd broke in. “Are we sure about this? Should we be so hasty?”
“This… form of body that we have been in for the last several days was terrible at first, but I’m starting to get used to it…” Stanley said softy. “But we have learned our lesson now, and I think that it is time to go back to our proper shape.”
“Thank you, Stanley” Todd said, “Now I am ready. On the count of three! One…”
“Two…” Stanley counted.
“…Three!” Louise finished.
And with that, they all three wished. There was a huge wind, and they saw a flash of the Flaming Lily Pond, then the Silver Pond, spinning around them. Then, lastly, as the spinning stopped, Todd and Stanley were left on the ground next to the Brook, and there was a beautiful fountain in the center of it. Todd’s nose grew longer and his tail shorter, and his paws became hard hooves once again. Stanley’s ears and body shrank, and soon they were both back to normal. The Donkey stood first, and shook his coat. The Cat sat for a moment, licking all of his fur back into place.
It was only after they had examined themselves several times, that they remembered Louise. They hadn’t even thought to ask her what she would wish, and they were anxious to see if she had changed at all. Looking around, though, they could not find the Grasshopper anywhere.
“Louise?” Louise?” They both called out.
“Here I am, you silly’s.” Her voice sounded quite close. But still, they did not see her. All that they saw other than the Jumping Rocks and the Bubbling Brook was a small butterfly with large, colorful wings, flying around the fountain.
“Where?” Todd asked, perplexed.
“Right here!” the butterfly flew gracefully over to them and began to flutter around Todd’s head, and then Stanley’s head, and back to the fountain.
“Louise!” Stanley yelped, just as Todd whispered her name, as well.
“Yes. It is I. You remember the story I told you about the butterfly who’d had a similar encounter as you did? Well. I was that butterfly.” She told them.
“You know,” Stanley said. “We really need to remember to thank George for everything. Even though it was painful, we all learned something valuable. And personally, I don’t think I would want to be King. I don’t think I could handle it. But you know what, Todd?” he pondered.
“What?” Todd asked.
“I think you would make a great King.” He finished, happily.
“Well. I think you would make a much better King than I ever would, Stanley. And I am perfectly okay with that. I agree with you, also. I would never be able to handle being King, either.” Todd replied, and they all smiled at each other, knowing that neither of them would be King, and both of them not minding a bit.
As it all turned out, the Mole ended up being chosen as King. It was all the fault of Todd and Stanley, really. After deciding that neither of them would ever be able to handle being King, they both agreed that the only Animal that could handle being King, was Marcus himself. He was the one wise enough to realize that there was a need, and it only made sense that he should fulfill the chore.
Once they realized this, and Louise the Beautiful Butterfly agreed, they told everyone their proposition. It did not take much to convince them, after the Donkey and the Cat told about their story, that being King was a very serious job, and that only the Mole could handle it.
This came as a complete surprise to Marcus, when on the day of voting came, and everyone told him that they wanted him to be King. He was surprised, and flattered, but he agreed rather easily to being King.
Basically, that is how the story unfolds. Marcus made a great King, and Todd and Stanley remained best friends for life. Of course, they still had occasional arguments, as friends often do. They were not, however, overly dramatic arguments, and mostly resulted in joking. The days of being a DonkeyCat were not often forgotten.
Not to mention that, since they now had a King, it was much harder for arguments to get out of hand anyway. For the most part, the Animals all enjoyed one another, and life, and they all lived happily ever after, in their odd little land of Animals!
West Lafayette, Indiana
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"Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ."
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