Billy was a young, laid back goat whose heart was content with doing nothing more than grazing through his favorite meadow every day. One day as he was feeding on a tasty
patch of dandilions, Billy came across a rather timid little gray squirrel.
“Hi there. What's your name?” He asked the squirrel.
“My name is California. California Squirrels”
The squirrel replied with a bit of nervousness.
“Your name is California Squirrels?” Billy asked.
“My parents are big Katy Perry fans.” California answered.
“Well who isn't?” Billy posed. “My name is Billy Goat.” Billy bleated.
Billy noticed that this young gray squirrel looked rather frightened.
“What's wrong California? Your bushy little tail is shaking beyond control.” Billy exclaimed.
“Well, I was out in the forest searching for nuts to gather and store for the winter. I was so so busy looking up and down, left and right, and all around, that I must have gotten turned around and now I am lost. I'm a little scared, since I've never been this far away from home before.” California explained.
“How long have you been out here for?” Billy asked.
“Dude, does it look like I'm wearing a watch!” California squealed.
“Whoa, whoa little fella. Take it easy. I'm just trying to help you.” Billy said.
Billy couldn't help but feel sorry for this poor little lost squirrel. He could see the fear behind California's beady, melancholy eyes. He knew he had to do whatever it takes to help his furry new friend.
“Well, do you at least know which direction is home?” Billy asked California in more sincere voice.
“Back that way I think.” California said as he pointed his paw behind him.
Billy knew he had come a long way, since most of the squirrels lived on, or near the base of Sun-Kissed Mountain, which is about four miles away. That would mean he would have to cross the...
“Ahh, do you live on or near a mountain, California?” Billy asked in a shaky voice.
“Yes, I do. California replied. “I have to get home before dark, before the owls and foxes come out to hunt.” California stated.
Billy knew the only way to get California home safely before dark was to cross the Brandywine River. Billy had been afraid of water ever since he was a kid when he almost drowned in a pond. Billy liked to cool off by wading in the pond on dreadfully hot summer days. One day Billy wandered out too far and found himself in over his head. He couldn't actually tread water because, as everyone knows, goats aren't the best swimmers. If it wasn't for that brave duck, Billy would've sank like a rock to the bottom of the pond. I guess you could say he was a lucky duck! Ever since that day Billy has been terrified of the water, and has yet to give it another try.
“We had better start walking if we wanna get you home by dark.” Billy stated. “Your parents are probably pretty worried. Grab your nuts and let's get going.” Billy said.
Billy decided he would take the young squirrel as far as the Brandywine and California would have to just cross that bridge, or lack there of, when they got there.
“Thank you for your kindness.” California said happily.
He grabbed his nuts and off they went, toward Sun-Kissed Mountain. As they were making their way to the mountain, and the dreaded Brandywine, Billy started singing Katy Perry songs to help relieve his anxiety.
“Cause' baby you're a FIRE – WORK”
“Come on let your colors burst”
“Make em' go BAHH, BAHH, BAHH”
California's nerves were put to ease by Billy's singing and he started laughing. California soon grew tired from walking all day and had to take a rest.
“I'm exhausted Billy, and my little paws are so sore. Do you think maybe you could carry me on your back for a while?” California asked with the cutest expression Billy had ever seen. How could he say no to a fuzzy face like that?
“Of course.” Billy replied. “Next stop...UGH. The Brandywine River.” Billy regretfully declared. After a few miles Billy started getting tired, but he knew they were close because he could hear the swishing and sloshing of the Brandywine.
“We must be almost there! I can hear the water.” Exclaimed California.
“How wonderful.” Billy thought to himself.
Just as they made their way under the tall pine trees and through a thicket, they saw the Brandywine River in their sight. California light up with great joy, because he knew he was almost home, and just in time since twilight was drawing nearer. But as California's mood had change for the better, Billy's changed for the worse, and his stomach became twisted in knots. His legs started shaking so violently that his hooves were tapping on the ground like he was sending out Morse code. California sensed that something was wrong and asked Billy,
“Are you okay bud?”
Billy had never told a single soul about his horrible pond incident. The only one who even knew about it was the duck that saved his life, but seeing as how he went on to become a spokesduck for an insurance company and now resides in Hollywood, he won't be telling anyone.
“I have a terrible fear water.” Billy explained.
“When I was just a young kid, I went wading in a pond on a farm near my home and almost drowned. That was 3 years ago, and I haven't near the water since. I won't even drink from a puddle because I am so scared. I wake up early every morning just to lick the dew off of the leaves and grass.” Billy told California as he broke out in tears.
California's smile turned into a frown as he comforted his new friend by stroking behind his ears. He had felt sorry for Billy, but was also getting scared again because it was almost dark and he was sure he just heard an owl in the pine trees.
“It's ok Billy. We can do it together.” California said in a more positive tone.
“I can't. I just can't do it.” Billy cried. His sobs growing louder now.
“Well, how am I supposed to get across? I've never gone swimming before.” California stated.
“You will have to. There is NO WAY I am getting back in the water.” Billy said with certainty.
“Can't I just ride on your back while you walk across the river?” Look, it's not even two feet deep.” California said as he pointed toward the middle of the Brandywine.
“He is right.” Billy thought.
Billy Goat was still too terrified to even remotely consider taking a leap of faith such as this, and decided that California would have to do this on his own.
“Hoo-Hoo-HOO HOO.” An owl sqwaked in the distance.
“Oh NO.” Please help me Billy! I am too young to get eaten.” California said in a fearful voice. I have all of these nuts I gathered and my family is waiting on me to bring them back so we have food for the winter. If I get them wet it will ruin them and we will starve. Please help me get across this river. You can walk right through it.” California said desperately.
“Look California, I am sorry but you are on your own here. I just CAN'T do it.” Billy said one last time. “Squirrels are natural swimmers, California. I'm sure you'll be just fine.” Billy stated.
California grew angry, and decided that he would not become a coward like Billy. With darkness falling faster he knew he would have to get across this river and run home the rest of the way to get back to his parents in one piece.
“Goodbye Billy.” California said, holding onto his nuts as he jumped in the turbulent water. He landed in the water and instinctively turned over and started swimming on his back. California paddled his little paws until, in no time at all, he made it safely across the Brandywine River.
“I did it!” He shouted across the river to Billy. “And I didn't even get my nuts wet!” California shouted.
Billy smiled at the courage displayed by this brave little squirrel. He stamped his hoof several times in an attempt to applaud his courageous new friend.
“Great job.” Billy shouted back across the river. Now get a move on so you can get home with your nuts.” Billy hollered to California.
“Good bye Billy. Thanks for the ride.” California said thankfully.
“I'll never forget you, Billy.” He hollered, as he started running eagerly back home to Sun-Kissed Mountain.
“Bye California. I'll miss you!” Billy shouted back as California grew smaller and smaller in the distance. Billy turned around and started making his way back to the meadow. While Billy was walking home reflecting on the events of the day, he couldn't help but recall how California, who had never gone swimming before, instinctively swam on his back when he hit the water.
“Hmm. I guess that's why squirrels always swim on their backs,” Billy thought. “So they don't get their nuts wet.”
© Copyright 2016 Matthew Zabala. All rights reserved.