Helping Hands Burton, the beaver, was lying in the soft black dirt along the banks of the river. He was enjoying the feeling of warm rain beating down on his dark, chocolate-brown fur. He yawned, opened his eyes, and looked up at the sky. The rain was coming down hard and the sky was filled with dark, gray clouds. Just then a wall of muddy water sloshed over the top of him. Burton began to gasp and cough as he was picked up by the force of the water and carried down river. After a few minutes of struggling, he was tossed onto a large boulder. He held on tightly with his short legs and sharp claws as the water cascaded around him. "What was that?" he asked out loud. He looked all around and noticed that the river had flooded, covering the reeds and tall grasses along its banks. Out of the corner of his eye, Burton spotted something struggling in the water not too far away from him. He slipped back into the river and, using his tail, swam over to see what it was. "It’s a tortoise," he noted, and dove down under the water. He came up right under it. As Burton floated up to the surface, the tortoise found himself safely on Burton’s back. "Thanks," the tortoise said, gratefully. "My name is Torquil. I nearly drowned. What on earth happened?" "Oh, the river flooded again. There must have been a lot of rain upriver. Now hold on tight. Don’t let go. We’ll swim along with the flow," Burton told the tortoise. Torquil looked around. There was nothing to see but swift-flowing, muddy water. "I think that’s a good idea. I’ll hold on tight," he agreed. Burton flipped his long tail back and forth and continued up the river. Torquil was looking all around. "What’s that up there?" he said, pointing. "It looks like a feather pillow." "I see it. Let’s go check it out," Burton said. Soon they reached the pile of feathers. "Why, it’s a bird. It’s a red-breasted robin," Torquil noted. "Get closer, Burton, and I’ll grab it by the tail feathers and pull it onto your back." Burton moved in as close as he could. Torquil reached down and hoisted the bird onto Burton’s back. It soon began to cough. "Why thank you. I was in that elm tree over there when a wall of water hit it and I fell into the river. I must have been knocked out. Thank you for rescuing me." She sat up and said, "My name is Rose. What are you two doing, swimming about in this flood?" "The river has flooded again. I found Torquil and now we’ve found you. Now hold on tight. Don’t let go. We’ll swim along with the flow," Burton told the dove. "I can see much better from up here," Rose said as she climbed onto Torquil’s shell. The three swam up the river. A few minutes passed and Rose began to whistle excitedly. "Over there! Over there! I see something red," she said, and pointed to a cattail reeds sticking out of the mud. Burton flipped his tail as fast as he could and soon they were staring at the most beautiful thing any of them had ever seen. "Well, are you going to look at me all day, or are you going to rescue me?" the insect said with sarcasm. Burton moved in closer. "Jump on top of my back," he told her. She let go of the cattail and jumped right onto Burton’s scaly back. She looked up at the red feathers on Rose’s chest. "Those are pretty red feathers," she said, looking thoughtfully. "But not as pretty as my shiny red with black polka dot wings. By the way, my name is Lindsey. I’m a ladybug beetle, the most beautiful insect in Scotland." They all looked at each other, and then at Lindsey. "You are a beautiful color, but we are each beautiful in our own way," said Burton. Lindsey brushed all the mud off her wings. She shrugged her shoulders and asked, "What happened anyway?" Burton answered, "There was a flood. All the marshes, cattails and trees are under water. I found Torquil, Rose, and now you. Why don’t you climb on top of Rose’s back and I’ll swim up river. Now hold on tight. Don’t let go. We’ll swim along with the flow." "I’ll do just that," Lindsey said. She climbed onto Torquil’s shell, and made herself comfortable on Lindsey’s soft feathers as Burton swam away. A few minutes later, all four of them noticed a branch of purple lilac flowers floating down the river towards them. "Isn’t that pretty," Rose said. They watched as it passed by. Since Lindsey was the highest, she was able to look into it as it floated by. She saw a butterfly inside the flower. It was jumping up and down, trying to get her attention. "I think the butterfly in that flower needs a helping hand," she said. Burton turned quickly and swam towards it. Rose flew down, with Lindsey still on her back, and grabbed the lilac branch in her beak. She then flew back, landing on Burton’s furry back. "Whee, what a ride!" Lindsey laughed. Rose set the flowers down. Out crawled the butterfly; its long proboscis was bent in half. "Thank you for rescuing me. I got caught in the flood when I was inside the lilacs gathering pollen." She looked at the other four animals. "My name is Bonnie. That was a terrible flood, wasn’t it?" The others all nodded in agreement. "Why don’t you climb onto Lindsey’s back. Now hold on tight. Don’t let go. We’ll swim along with the flow," Burton warned. He looked up at the sky. The sun was beginning to set. "I’ll swim around and find a place where we can rest for the night." He swished his long tail back and forth as the five swam down the river. Bonnie climbed onto Torquil’s shell, stepped on Rose’s soft red feathers, then pulled herself onto Lindsey’s shiny red and black polka dotted back. "I’d better hold on tight," she said. After searching for a while, Burton found a small patch of dirt to lie on. Soon all of them were asleep. That night, the floodwaters began to ebb, and by morning the river was back to its normal level. When the group woke up, they were surprised to see the tall grasses blowing gently in the morning breeze. The tree trunks were a little muddy, but as strong as ever. The cattail reeds were swaying back and forth as the river water passed through them. "It’s over!" Bonnie called out. "I can go back to gathering pollen!" She thanked the others for helping her and fluttered off towards the lilac bush. "Well, I guess it is time for me to say goodbye too. Thanks for everything," Lindsey called out. She wiggled her antenna and shook off her red and black polka dotted wings. "I’m off," she said and then flew away. Rose, the red-breasted robin, spread her wings. She flapped them up and down a few times to make sure they worked. "Thanks again, Torquil and Burton. I’m off too," she called out as she flew off towards the sunrise. That left only the two of them. "I suppose you are leaving too!" Burton asked, looking up at the tortoise. Torquil thought about it for a few moments. "If you don’t mind, Burton, I quite like it up here on your back. The view is great and I feel very safe. Besides that, I’m a tortoise and move rather slowly. You are a beaver and move much faster. May I stay? I can help you build a lodge or two from branches and sticks." Burton smiled a huge beaver smile. "Why sure you can. Hold on tight. Don’t let go. We’ll swim along with the flow." The beaver, with the tortoise on his back, swam off as the sun began to shine brightly on the calm river water A Little Squirt The morning sun shone down on the grove of citrus trees that stood next to the rapid flowing river, their roots firmly embedded in the rich black soil. Each tree was heavily laden with ripe, juicy oranges, ready to burst open and release their fragrant, sweet tasting flesh. Ainsley, the rabbit, climbed out of her burrow, yawned, stretched, and welcomed the rays of the sun as they danced on her soft gray fur and long whiskers. She was feeling hungry this morning. Her nose began to twitch as she sniffed the air for something delicious. The scent of the oranges drifted her way. Her bright pink eyes flickered as the sun danced in them, then off she hopped towards her morning meal. Ainsley reached the first tree at the edge of the grove and looked up at the many fruits hanging from the heavy, bent over branches. With just a slight springy jump she plucked off several oranges and laid them on the ground next to her. She selected one and carefully peeled back the thick skin. Juice squirted onto her gray fur as each delicious section appeared. Ainsley pulled the sections apart with her large, white, front teeth and popped the fleshy orange into her mouth. She felt an orange pip inside her cheek and wasn’t quite sure what to do with it, so she spit it out. Cambden, a fluffy, wooly, brown sheep chose that moment to walk by. The spit-out seed hit him right on his black nose. He stopped, looked down at the pip that had bounced off him, and then Ainsley, he walked away. She felt bad but kept on eating her orange. Each section had a large pip in it. She spit the next one out. It flew through the air and landed right on the leathery ear of Janet, the cow. It stuck to her light coating of fur. Janet was on her way to be milked at the other side of the grove, when she felt the pip hit her ear. She stopped, looked at Ainsley angrily and mooed loudly. Ainsley had to fold her long ears down because the noise was so loud. Janet glared at her again, shook the sticky pip off her ear, and moved on. Ainsley again felt bad, but was so hungry that she kept on eating the juicy fruit. She decided to hold one or two in her mouth and looked first to make sure no one was strolling by. Seeing no one, she spit the two seeds out. They went flying through the air and landed right on Kyla, the snake, as she slithered along in the dirt. Kyla began to hiss loudly, very annoyed at Ainsley. She hissed, and hissed, and coiled up tightly, like she was going to bite the rabbit. Ainsley hopped back a few hops, afraid of the angry snake, but felt relief as Kyla slithered into the river. From then on, Ainsley kept all the seeds in her mouth. She ate one orange after another until her little cheeks were filled with orange pips. The ground around her paws was covered with thick orange rind. Suddenly Ainsley needed to sneeze. "Aaaaaaacccchhoooooooooooooooo!" Dozens of slippery orange pips went flying into the air. They pelted Kenneth, the fox, as he happened to run by at that unlucky moment. Pips hit him on his snout, his beautiful tail, his back and head, and his legs. Kenneth stopped and looked at the rabbit. He ran over to her and growled loudly in her face. His long tail wagged up and down and he was very angry. After he finished his tantrum, off he ran through the citrus grove to the bank of the river to wash himself off. That was enough for Ainsley. From then on she would not eat any more oranges in the orange grove. She took the rest of her oranges down to the river and sat down. The water sounded peaceful as it rushed by. She peeled her orange and popped the juicy flesh into her mouth. She spit the pip into the water without having to worry about it hitting any animals passing by. Just then, Laird, the bright green fish, came rushing up to the surface, blowing bubbles angrily. Ainsley sighed. After the fish went back under the water, she gently rolled the rest of the oranges into the water and watched as they bobbed up and down, floating away rapidly. From then on, she never ate another orange or any other fruit with pips in it. Instead of oranges, lemons and limes, she nibbled on apples, pears and crunchy carrots. And all the other animals that lived along the muddy banks of the swift flowing river were happier too.