“Hey! Hey! Where’d you go?” the little brown beaver called into the lake from the top of his stack of sticks.
Carver waddled down from his pine heap to get closer to the water. Periodic raindrops were making concentric circles and disturbing his reflection as he watched and waited for a reply.
Yesterday, it had been a gray day with scattered drizzles and Carver had been tugging at a limb to bring it to the top of his collection when he heard a faint voice calling out. Carver swirled around nervously but had not seen a soul, until he looked down. Layered under his own furry brown face in the water, dotted with soft water splashes, he saw the face of a young human. It wasn’t as if the human was actually in the water, but looking up at him through it.
“Hello? You see and understand me?” the surprised young man had said.
When Carver had nodded that he did understand him, the boy vanished. The rain cloud had just moved on and the sun glistened on the smooth surface.
After many moments of staring and disbelief, Carver kept watch on the spot, expecting the boy to return. Slowly he had returned to his work but continued to look again and again just in case. Each meal since the strange visit he had eaten close enough to the lake to be able to look down and keep an eye out. And now, the boy was back!
“Are you there?” The young man asked from the watery surface.
“Yes! I am! Can you hear me too?” Carver asked.
“I can! I don’t know what’s more astonishing! That I can talk to an animal or that I can see you in the lake like this! My name is Alex. Do you have a name?”
Carver’s little head jerked back a bit in objection. Does he have a name?! Everyone has a name! He ran his little paw down his belly for a moment and decided he shouldn’t let his lack of sleep affect his manners.
“Yes. My name is Carver Von Hundersmith of the Boward Hundersmiths.” He added his full name to make sure Alex was put right on the matter.
“Oh. Well, it is nice to meet you Sir.” Alex said with a slight bow of the head and a smirk that made Carver feel small, however he was determined to continue in kindness and be the bigger creature.
“Alex, you are in my lake!” Carter blurted out, with his paws on his hips, and realized his sassy mouth was not paying attention to his kind intentions.
“Yes, Carver. It looks like I am. And I have no idea how. At the moment I am getting drenched here at the edge of the Lake. Or on my side of the Lake I should say. What do you call this Lake where you are?”
“Mine.” Carver said with a satisfied grin and a just-joking kind of tone, then added, “but around here it’s called Lake Helena.”
“The lake I am speaking to you through is called Lake Pamvotida. I am on a trip here with my family.” Alex ran his hand through his damp brown hair and smiled. “I probably need to go inside and dry off. You’re lucky you have such a nice fur coat.”
Carver warmed to this compliment… he did have a very nice coat. His mother was always complimented for her beautiful coat and Carver was sure he inherited his from her side of the family. His dad’s coat was a more silvery-brown color, coarse, and less shiny. He definitely had his mother’s coat.
“Do all of the animals in your country talk?” Alex asked.
“Yes! Animals don’t talk where you live?” Carver was shocked at even considering this question. How would anyone get along if they didn’t talk to each other? How would you determine water rights, deeds of property, methods of supply transportation… What a nightmare if creatures were not able to talk together!
“No. Although I suppose they might in some places. I’ve never heard of an animal talking before.” Alex turned away for a moment and seemed to be saying something to someone else. “I need to go, but I will come back with a cover of some sort. See you soon, Carver!”
Then Alex was gone. Carver stepped away from the water’s edge for a moment and turned in a circle as he wondered what to do now. He couldn’t stay here staring at the water. He had many hours of work to do and Alex could return soon or not until tomorrow, or never. Maybe he should enlist a few helpers to listen for Alex for a while, in case he returned. Carver decided he would hustle off to Miss Freida’s house. She would undoubtedly give him a nice little snack while they discussed the matter and Carver always thought better after having a snack.
“Come in dear Carver. It is so nice to see you today!” Miss Freida said as she brushed the water drops off of Carver’s coat before he stepped into her tree trunk home. She had just dried the rugs off from yesterday’s rain and was hoping to keep them from getting wet again, or worse… musty.
“Thank you so much. I would love your advice, Freida.” Carver pulled out a little chair from the table and sat down. “You won’t believe what happened today!”
“Well, Carver I think we’ve all had a very busy day. Do you know that I just got those rugs dry from yesterday’s rain? Where on earth did that storm come from? I almost always know when it’s going to rain. I get a small twitch in my left ear just above my whiskers. It happens every time. Do you have something like that? A ‘rain detection system?’ That’s what I like to call it.” Freida continued talking while she put out the biscuits and honey on little red plates. While putting out the mugs of milk she continued, “Carver, I wish I knew with absolute certainty when it would rain. I have so many concerns to think about. What if my washing had been hanging out for example?”
Carver took a nice long sip of his milk and licked dribbles of honey off his paws as she spoke. “Freida,” he interrupted her, “I have met a human boy from another world. He was looking up at me from the lake but he wasn’t in the lake. He and I spoke for a bit and then he had to go. I’ve seen him twice now.”
“What?” Freida was dumbfounded. She took her green dishcloth into her paws and sat down, twisting one tip of it.
“Yes! He said his name is Alex and that animals don’t talk where he comes from. Imagine! He also said I have a very lovely fur coat. This young man seems to be one of good taste. But, he had to leave and said he would return. What am I to do Freida? I have a dam to build and with these early rains… I shouldn’t stand around watching for water boys. I need to get things done.”
“I see.” Freida said and looked at Carver with concern. “I don’t see how you can pause your building project Carver. I think you should keep working and don’t bother with the boy.”
“You’re probably right. But Freida, something this remarkable must happen for a reason. Don’t you think? What could it mean?
“It could mean lots of things,” Freida said as she nodded her delicate fox head, her eyes wide with concern. “But, what could a boy from another world have to do with us?”
“That’s just the thing Freida. If it happened just the one time, I would have chalked it up to a full moon or a lingering spirit playing with me. But, it happened two times and he actually talked to me. There must be some reason for it.”
“That is a good point. But, you really must get your dam built. All of our homes down river depend on your excellent work.” Freida said this with a kind smile and a little pat on Carver’s arm. She didn’t want to have to move again if the hollow flooded during the Fall storms. This trunk has room for her sister Fina to come and visit. Her sister makes beautiful cozy blankets every time she stays. It would be such a bother to have to find a new trunk again and hope it had room for Fina.
“Freida, do you think there are some youths in our town that might like to watch for Alex? Dottie’s kids perhaps? Although they will eat everything in sight down there and I might get bank erosion.”
“Dottie’s kids are a wonderful idea, Carver. You should bring them over and they can trim up the bank while they are there.” Freida always felt that the edge of the river was too overgrown anyway. Little goats would be just the thing to thin it out.
“Alright. I will stop by her house and invite them down,” Carver said as he got up to go.
“Maybe I will venture down to the Lake later too, after I wash up here and start my stew.” Freida said with nearly no intention of going down to the Lake. Her paws would get muddy and she just didn’t have time to wash the floors again.
“Thank you, Freida, for the scrumptious snack! I always think best with a little honey on my tongue!” Carver said as he strode out of the trunk and across the lane to see Dottie. ****
From the gate along the walk near Dottie’s cave, Carver could hear the kids reciting their numbers and sums. It sounded like they were not done with school for the day. Carver wondered if Dottie would let them come along to help him.
“I see Mr. Carver Mamma!” a tiny voice shouted.
“Mr. Carver!” more voices cried, and out jumped four little speckled kids kicking their back legs out behind them in excitement.
After a moment, Dottie came out of the cave as well. She was smiling at the kids and at Mr. Carver who had been her friend since they were as small as her youngest.
“How are you doing today Carver?” Dottie asked.
“I’m good Dot, but I could really use some expert help.” when he said this he looked at the eldest kid and winked knowingly.
“Really?” Dottie said with a nod. “I don’t know Carver. Do you need kids with really good math skills? We still need some practice with that. Don’t we?” She asked with a grin.
“No. Momma we are so smart. We don’t need to do more math for a really long time. Like forever.” said the tiniest goat. The others nodded in agreement with serious faces. They were hoping the cuteness of their small sibling would win the day.
“I don’t need mathematicians today. But, I might one day.” He said with his eyebrows raised at them. “Today, I need observant helpers. Kids who can see really well.”
“We can do that!” said the little kids. “Please Momma! Can we help?”
“Yes. I suppose so. But, Carver what is this all about?”
“You won’t believe it Dot.” Carver said and then told her the amazing story of the boy in the water.
When his story was done, all of the kids were struck silent with awe. Dottie nodded her head with interest and said, “Well. You all better get back to the lake. That young man could be there and you wouldn’t know it.”
“Thank you Dot. I really appreciate it!”
“Would you please walk them back before it gets too dark Carver? There have been some strangers in the area and who knows where these kids would get to without someone’s help.”
“Yes Ma’am.” Carver said. Then he walked the kids out the gate and waved to Dottie as they turned back to the Lake.
“I can’t see!” cried a tiny goat from behind her three siblings. “Where are we supposed to see the water kid?”
“He’s not a kid. He’s a boy!” one of them said to her.
“Fine. Where am I supposed to see the water boy?” she asked again.
“Listen up. I will show you. Just come a little closer to the edge. Right here,” Carver waved both of his paws in a circular motion over the Lake just below his construction project. “Alex might appear in this area and you will need to tell me if you see him.”
All four of Dottie’s kids had come down to the Lake to meet Carver’s strange visitor. It had taken quite a while to get to the bank. The kids had to jump onto and off of every stump, stick, boulder and even each other along the way. Not to mention the many flowers and shrubs that they sampled too.
They were all now staring together with Carver into the Lake. The sun had started going down and a light mist had moved close to the Lake’s edge. Just a few raindrops had begun to fall when the littlest goat saw Alex.
“I see him!” she cried.
“Me too!” another one said and they all stared at the face through the water.
“Hello Carver! You brought some friends?”
“I did! And you found a cover for your head?” Carver said as he looked at the wooden shield Alex held up to block the rain. Too bad Alex wasn’t well equipped for rain like he was with a nice coat, thought Carver.
“My family will be leaving the lake soon, Carver. But, I want your advice before we go. I don’t know when I will ever get to talk to animals again.”
All of the little goats stared at Carver with admiration. The human wanted his advice. He must be a very smart creature.
Carver straightened up, forced his eyebrows down and lowered his voice a little as he said, “Of course Alex. What can I do to help you?”
The tiniest goat giggled. She was the sort to giggle when she got nervous.
“I want to know what is the greatest treasure? Gold, land, or ideas?” Alex asked with a somber expression.
Carver knew his answer right away, but he didn’t want to offend the child. He would not have picked any of these as the greatest treasure. Perhaps if he rubbed his chin a bit first and looked up to the sky it would appear that he was taking time to consider his reply.
The tiniest goat walked closer to the edge and said, “Friends are the greatest treasure. Right, Mr. Carver?”
“Oh! Um. Yes… of course. Friends are very valuable, little one.” Carver felt a bit embarrassed for the girl. She meant well, but that was such a kid thing to say.
“Friends.” Alex said, smiling into the faces of the animals gathered around.
As they looked deep into the lake where Alex had been smiling at them, the rain stopped again and he was gone.
“Do you think he will come back Mr. Carver?” the tiny goat asked.
“I don’t know.” Carver said, rubbing his chin in thought. “I feel like he might.”