24 The Creek

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Stephen Whiteside
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24 The Creek

Post by Stephen Whiteside » Fri Nov 04, 2011 5:52 am

24 The Creek

© Stephen Whiteside 04.10.2011

There was no mistaking it. Horatio and Magnifico looked at each other and smiled.

Horatio jumped up. Come on Magnifico, what are we waiting for?

And so the two little rodents trotted off in the direction of the sound of the running water. They didn’t run. They were too tired for that. But they didn’t walk, either. They were too excited for that. So they trotted. Trotted happily. Gaily. Filled with relief.

But why couldn’t they see the river? Surely they should be able to see the big trees that lined its banks? Had they all been washed away? That seemed hardly likely. A few, maybe. Even most of them. But not all of. That could not be possible. There must be some other explanation.

Now the ground began to fall away beneath them. The water grew louder and louder. And at last bushes began to appear before them. Not trees, but large bushes. This was not the river, but it was a large creek, and that was good enough. Had the ducks been flying towards this creek? Or was it simply luck that had brought them this way? A simple random direction change. Who knew? Who cared? It mattered not. A creek was a creek. This was no temporary, flood-induced water course. This sustained plants, and plants meant permanence. And if they followed this creek for long enough, they would come to the river. There was no doubt about that.

Now they slowed down. Relief was flooding through their veins. There was no need to hurry now. They were saved. There was no doubt about it. Horatio and Magnifico looked at each other in sheer delight, raising their eye-brows in astonished ecstasy. They could not believe their good luck. Just when all hope had gone…

A gift from God indeed. Horatio had never believed in God. At least, he thought he didn’t. And yet, it seemed, at the one moment in his life that it really mattered whether he believed or not, perhaps he did after all. Yet even now, his faith was wavering once more. Crisis averted, God slunk back out of sight. Was it like that? Did God just pop up when you really needed him (or her?) and then disappear again?

And why was he even thinking this? Of what relevance was it? Water was at hand, so Rejoice and be Merry!

There I go again, thought Horatio. Talking all Biblical to myself. I never talk like that. I haven’t thought about the Bible since Grandpa and Grandma used to read it to me all those years ago. Who would have thought I even remembered stuff like that? And why am I remembering it now, of all times?

Yet he was. There could be no doubt about it. He was.

Horatio and Magnifico crept forward. Tears of relief streamed down their faces. They were saved. They were saved!

Long grass lined the banks. Easily long enough to hide the tiny forms of a rat and a mouse. Especially the thin, starving forms of Horatio and Magnifico. They picked their way carefully through the long grass, all the while walking down, down, more steeply now. Surely the edge of the creek could not be far away.

To their great delight, the grass gave way to a gently shelving muddy beach. Horatio had been afraid that the bank would leave them stranded high above the creek, but the water came up to meet them in a friendly, easy manner.

The sun was now below the horizon, but a few dying rays continued to illuminate the scene around them. As they drank deeply of the sweet, rapidly flowing water, the gentle blanket of night descended once more upon them.

These two little animals, whose lives had been once so full and complicated, now asked for little. And it was little they needed, too, to make them happy. Water. Food. Warmth. A safe place to sleep. The company of each other. All of these they now had, except food. And food they would surely find without too much difficulty.

But for now, they were too tired for hunting. Or foraging. Or scavenging. It was time for rest. For sleep. The time for day-time sleeping and night-time travelling would come soon enough, but for now, for one more night, it was time to sleep.

Their bellies filled with the sweet, beautiful, cold, refreshing, life-giving water of the creek, the two retreated once again across the muddy beach and up through the long grass.

Halfway up the bank they found what they were looking for. The roots of a small tree clung to the surface of the ground in several directions before plunging beneath the earth. Beside one of these, where the earth seemed a little softer, they began to dig.

Digging came naturally to rodents such as these. A rodent is never too tired to dig. While there is life, there is digging. Or, at least, the ability to do so. And so they dug. Dug without any thought of how tired they were. Besides, they were happy now. Tired, but happy. Exhausted, even, but happy. And they were digging a home. Not a permanent home. Not a grand home. But a home nonetheless. And each was digging, not just for himself, but for his friend, and that made all the difference.
Stephen Whiteside, Australian Poet and Writer

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