1. The kitten and the ball of wool
2. The Icecream man
3. The Twelfth chicken
4. The Elephant’s Trunk
5. The Barn Mice Mansion
1. The kitten and the ball of wool
There was once a kitten whose name was Bouncy. She was named Bouncy because she was like a little ball of soft fur, and when she jumped from one place to another, it looked as if a little ball of fur was jumping about.
Bouncy belonged to a little girl whose name was Betty. Betty was four years old, and she was given Bouncy as a birthday present.
Her mother and father had bought Bouncy from a special basket. Bouncy was as white as snow, and had two little black eyes, and lots and lots of fur. You could hardly see her paws. They were hidden by her fur. But she had very black whiskers, and when she meowed, it was a very soft meow.
When she was happy, especially when she had had her dinner, she would curl up at Betty’s feet and purr. If she felt very happy she would jump into Betty’s lap, and cuddle against her.
Bouncy went around the house wherever she pleased. She was very dainty, and when she walked you couldn’t hear her footsteps.The place she liked best was the living room window where she liked to sit and look at the fields. It had a ledge and was very long, so she could walk up and down, and curl up where the sun was shining the most, and go off to sleep.
One day when Bouncy was napping by the window, she heard a loud noise, and woke up with a start. It was very much like the noise of a thunder, only much softer. It was a grrrr noise.When she looked out of the window, she saw a huge creature, with big ears, a large mouth, very big teeth, and much bigger than hers. It looked very frightening. Bouncy hid behind the window curtain and kept staring at the creature.
Can you guess what it was? It was a huge dog. It belonged to the neighbour next door, and was playing with a ball bounced by a little boy, who was the neighbour’s son.The dog played by, growling at the ball, with the grrr noise, jumping in the air to catch it, rolling it along, pushing it with its foot, and then running again to catch it, when the little boy threw it in the air.
Bouncy was very curious. She turned her head to one side and the other watching the ball go up and down, up and down. She liked the game, and wished she could also play like that with Betty.
One evening Betty’s mother sat in her usual place in the rocking chair before a warm cosy fire. Betty was sitting on the couch, putting a puzzle together. Now Bouncy knew she should not touch the puzzle pieces, so she also just sat and watched, nodding her head drowsily from time to time with the warm air from the fire.
Betty’s mother got up, went into the next room, and fetched her new ball of red wool. She was starting to knit a new sweater for Betty. It was a very large ball of red wool. Bouncy had never seen such a lovely colour before. Suddenly she thought of the ball, which the dog was playing with on the nature strip on the pavement next door. Her eyes lighted up. She got up, yawned, and walked quietly to the ball of wool, almost on tip toe.
Suddenly she pounced on the ball of wool lying in the knitting basket, very much the way the dog did that morning. She pushed it out of the basket, and in playing with it wrapped it several times around her body. The more she thought she was getting out of it, the more she got wrapped up in it. Very soon before Betty’s mother or Betty really noticed what Bouncy was doing, the ball had come apart almost half way and while Bouncy danced in and out of it, it kept on wrapping itself around her.
Betty’s mother and Betty were quite amused at the funny way in which Bouncy was dancing in and out of the stringy ball of wool. She looked so funny that Betty and her mother could not help but laugh at the mixture of red and white that made up Bouncy. Bouncy got tired and just sat down on her haunches. Betty ran and got her flash camera, a present from her grandmother.
She said, “Oh mummy, Bouncy looks so cute, let me take a picture of her before we get her out of the mess”.
Mother laughed and said, “why not? We can show it to Bouncy when we have developed the film.”
So whenever Betty wants to tease Bouncy, she brings the picture of Bouncy wrapped comically in a ball of wool, with Bouncy staring from the picture with a puzzled face. Bouncy knows it is a picture of herself, but she does not want to show that she knows, because she does not like looking so funny. She only gives it a short look, and turns away with her nose in the air, as if she did not know who or what the picture was about!
2. The Ice-cream Man
Johnny and his sisters were very poor. They lived in the crowded part of the city, in a very old block of flats. The building was dirty looking, as if it had not been washed for many many years. Some of the doors to the flats were loose, some windows had no panes or curtains, and everybody put their washing to dry on the railings.
Johnny and his sisters had no father. He got very sick one day and died in the hospital. Their mother went to work from morning till late evening, working as a cleaning lady in many rich houses. Therefore, Johnny had to stay at home and look after his two younger sisters, Mary who was six years old, and Jill, who was three years old. He could not go to school because of his staying at home. He learned to cook, to clean and to baby sit, till their mother came back home.
Sometimes on a sunny day, he would bundle them up as best as he could in their warmest clothes, which were not many, and take them to the nearby park, being very careful when they had to cross roads. Not having any pocket money, they could not buy chips, and drinks, like many of the other children did who came with their parents. They had to be satisfied with the three crusty peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as a treat which Johnny made, before they left to go to the park. They played around the trees and sat down when they were hungry to eat the sandwiches slowly and have a drink of water from the faucet in one end of the park.
One day, after they had finished their sandwiches, Mary looked at other well-dressed children nearby, who seemed to be on a picnic with their parents, eating all kinds of chips and cakes and pastries and many other goodies. Their parents kept stuffing them with lots of food. Mary’s mouth was watering, and very much more, when their parents brought each of the five children huge ice-cream cones from the ice cream trundle cart nearby. “I wish we had some money to buy cones”, she said wistfully.
Johnny looked at her with sadness in his eyes. “You know we don’t have money for these expensive things”, he said. “Mom works hard for what we have.”
“Yes I know, but still” said Mary, again very longingly.
“Why can’t we have more money?” asked little Jill.
“Because we have to work for it.”
“Can’t you and I and Mary work for it?, asked Jill.
“No,” said Johnny. “We are little children, and little children don’t work until they are grown-ups”.
“When will we be grown ups?”
“Not for a long long time”, said Johnny, “at least not till we have finished school.”
“But we have not started school as yet” said Mary.
“Well, I soon will have to” said Johnny.
“What about us?” asked Jill again.
“Well, we will have to take you to the day care centre at the Council, that is, before mom goes to work” said Johnny.
“You remember the lady who came the other day to see Mom?”, he asked.
“Yes, the lady with that old black dress, and unhappy long face”
“That’s her”, said Johnny, “she said that this was Mom’s last chance to send me to school, otherwise the Council would take away some allowance that mom gets for us”
“What’s an allowance?”, asked Jill.
“It’s money Mom gets every week for helping us buy food and things like medicine when we get sick.”
There was silence after that, both Jill and Mary thinking about how sad that they would be separated from Johnny at some strange place called the day-care centre.
As the children sat with sad faces, the ice cream man went past them with his trundle cart. They were sitting on a bench on a little grassy hill, which sloped gently down the path. The trundle cart had a hard time not running away downhill, as the icecream man held on tightly to the handles, trying to break the speed. It so happened that, suddenly a little boy of two ran in front of the cart following a drifting balloon.
He did not see the cart coming down hill. But Johnny did. In a flash Johnny ran in front of the speeding cart, and pushed the little boy over to the side on the grassy knoll. The little boy was safe. But he was scared and did not know what happened, except that this big boy pushed him to the side of the path. Big tears rolled down his cheeks as he slowly sat up, and he began to cry loudly more through fear than being hurt. The trundle cart wised past, and the ice cream man stopped it at the bottom of the hill with a mighty heave. He was all flushed and red and trembling although he was such a big man.
It had happened so suddenly that before Mary and Jill could open their mouths to ask questions, it was all over. All they could see now was Johnny and a little boy on the side of the path, the icecream man holding onto the cart with all his might, and the screams of the frightened toddler. Soon the anxious parents of the child came running over. They had not noticed that the little boy was chasing a balloon, over the path when the trundle cart was passing by a little speedily.The mother picked up the little one, hugged him close, and comforted him with “It’s OK Bob, its OK, hush, you are all safe with Mummy.”
The sobs stopped. Mary and Jill ran over to where Johnny was standing with the boy and his parents. Some other people gathered around wondering how hurt the little one might be.
While they gathered around, the ice cream man, pushed his way in gently. He said, “I’m sorry ma’am, I did not notice the little one.”
“It’s OK, thank God he’s not hurt.”
“He’s lucky”, said someone in the crowd.
“No, not lucky”, said the ice-cream man. “If it wasn’t for this little boy here, he might have been badly hurt. In fact I think this boy here’s hurt”.
“Are you?” asked the father of the boy anxiously.
“No sir, except for a scrape on my elbow.”
“Let me see,” said the grateful mother. “Oh, it’s bleeding, let’s take you to the hospital. Where are your parents?” Shall we take you home first? “
“Well you see… here are my sisters. My mom’s at work. I take care of them, we have no father.”
“Oh, poor dears,” said someone in the crowd. “He must be attended to anyway.”
“Don’t worry about that my lad”, said the father of the boy. “My name is Bateson, this is my wife Jane, and this little one you saved is Bob.”
“Hi,” said Johnny shyly.
Jill was holding one hand and Mary the other very tightly, suddenly afraid of the crowd that had gathered, and wondering how it all happened so quickly.
“Brave Little boy,” said the father.
Johnny’s face flushed with pleasure. It was a long time since someone had called him brave or appreciated his work.
“I thank you sir for not being angry or taking action. You see I did not see the little one he came up so suddenly.”
“That’s all right”, said the father. “All we have to do is to thank God and this young man. What’s your name son?”
“Johnny,” said Johnny again, very shy before strangers.
“I’d like to do something to show my appreciation to Johnny”, said the ice-cream man.
“All in good time, first let me take the youngster to the hospital to see if he’s is OK and bandaged, and all that. Then we’ll get to you. Here is my telephone number on my card.” The father took out his wallet full of notes and cards, and gave one to the ice-cream man.
“I’ll get in touch with you,” he said, “when all this is taken care of.”
They were very unhappy to see how poorly dressed the children were, and how thin and ill-fed they looked. Soon the three children were bundled into a long expensive car with a chauffeur in a green and gold uniform, and the little boy Bob wedged in between Jill and Johnny, now he held their hands tight as if he understood that the roll on the hill was all for his own good.
Johnny’s elbow was taken care of in a very expensive hospital where the doctor gave him special attention. He has checked all over, and except for little bruises he was OK. So was the little toddler, who bawled when he saw the doctor, but was comforted after that by a piece of his favourite candy from the doctor. Jill and Mary sat with wide eyes in the corridor. They had never seen a hospital like this. It looked like a grand hotel.
After that things very nice happened to Johnny, Mary and Jill, which also made their hardworking mother also very pleased. The Batesons were very very rich. They were millionaires. Mr Bateson had only this little child Bob. He and his wife were so grateful to Johnny that they did all kinds of nice things.
The first thing they did was to ask Johnny’s mother to work full-time at their house, with a salary much too generous for a housemaid. Then they offered to pay for Johnny’s and Mary’s clothes and books for all of their primary school years. But the thing that pleased Johnny’s mother the most was that the Batesons made arrangements that Jill would go to a nearby very good day-care centre, so that she could be close to her precious Jill. This was also paid for by the Batesons.
The children were invited to come and have their own picnic with their mother on Sundays, the day she had her off day in the week. But what pleased the children the best was that every Saturday when Johnny and Mary had no school, they would go to the park as they always did, sitting on the bench and eat all the ice-cream they could. This was given most willingly by the grateful ice-cream man. He wanted to show his gratitude to Johnny for saving Bob’s life.
And that was not all, he would give them each a huge packet of goodies every Saturday. It had chips, candies and toffees and popcorn and chocolates and raisins and cakes, which they could take home. Can you guess who gave them these packets of goodies. The Batesons of course. They had made a pact with the ice-cream man, that since he wanted to help, he could give the children all the ice-cream they could eat, while the Batesons gave them all the goodies they could ever have to take home.
So every Saturday if you walk past the bench on the little hill in the park, you will see three happy children, flushed and tired after their games and running, sitting contentedly and with icecream all over their chin and lips, licking huge icecream cones.
3. The twelfth chicken.
A mother hen lived in a great big farmyard, with many other hens and cocks. It was farmer Board’s farmyard. There were horses and ducks and pigs also. But farmer Board was very proud of his hatchery, for it was said all around the village that he bred the best chickens ever.
The mother hen was sitting on her eggs, warming them, and hoping they would hatch soon, because she was really very tired of sitting in one place. She wished she could go out into the yard and peck at the food like all the others were doing, but, like all good mothers, she was waiting for her chickens to come out of their egg shells. Suddenly she felt one egg cracking under her, and so she knew that the time was right for the others, all warmed up, and ready to break. So she stepped out of her sitting position and fluttered her wings and waited, quietly watching the twelve eggs she had laid.
One by one little pink beaks appeared at the break of the eggs, then at different times, the heads would appear, then the little yellow fluff of their bodies and finally they came out tottering unsteadily on their feet, all but one.
The mother hen looked anxiously at the egg that still had not broken its shell. Within minutes, the little eleven chickens were using their legs and wandering around the mother, looking at the world for the first time. But still the twelfth egg had not cracked. The mother hen turned her head this way and that, very puzzled, but still the egg shell would not crack. Farmer Board who was watching the hens as this was chicken hatching times, was also puzzled when he saw eleven little chickens but one egg still unbroken. “Well,” he said, “I’ll have to take this to the incubator. Perhaps it did not get the warmth of the mother’s body long enough. Soon a large hand came over the hen and took the egg very carefully and left the mother hen wondering what had happened to the twelfth little chicken. But then she had so much work to do, looking after this brood of eleven, that she soon forgot and was busy.
But the twelfth egg was safe and sound in the big hatchery which farmer Board used, when he had to have many chickens ready for Christmas or Easter or any other national holidays, for then there was a big demand from the contractors who lived in the big city nearby. Because it had a longer time to incubate when the twelfth chicken hatched, it was a very healthy and good-looking chicken. Its beak was pinker and its soft coat of golden yellow was more golden than yellow. It indeed was the most beautiful chicken in the hatchery.
Farmer Board gathered up the chickens who were hatched in the hatchery, and took them back to the barnyard to their mothers. In all that crowd, the twelfth chicken did not know who his mother was. He had never seen her, and certainly she had not seen him hatch. All the hens who had chicks would look at the twelfth chick, and marveled at how healthy and good looking it was.
The twelfth chick was very noticeable among the small scrawny chicks that littered the yard. Heads turned around to look at him, and he soon grew very proud. His mother looked at him, but did not recognize him. She thought she had lost her twelfth chicken, since she did not know about the hatchery and what happened there. She only knew that chicks came out of eggs that she and the other hens laid. And she also marveled at this twelfth chick and wondered whose son he was.
The twelfth chicken did not belong to anybody or so he thought, so as he grew he would strut about and lord over the other cocks who were growing but not so beautiful as he did. Even the older cocks would look at him with envy. His plume was very brightly coloured with red and back and purple edges, his feathers were a warm golden brown with speckles of chocolate colours in between. His neck was longer than most, and when he gobbled, his neck would stretch higher than most cocks. He also strutted about with a walk that meant that he knew he was very handsome, and that others envied him. When the other young cocks tried to crow not very successfully, his crow was long loud and very tuneful.
One day, a huge gale storm blew into the barnyard. The animals were very scared. The cows mooed loudly as if they were very troubled. The pigs grunted and dashed around the pen bumping into each other snorting in panic. The horses neighed in a troubled fashion and stamped their hoofs, and strained at their reins. The ducks quacked frightfully and got away quickly from the pond, trying to hide their heads in their feathers under the old oak tree on the pond’s edge.
The hens and cocks clucked clucked and waved their feathers, and gathered together in the middle, close to each other, hoping that by being together they would be safe and secure. But not the twelfth chicken, which had grown into a magnificent cock. He looked at the rest of them very scornfully, flew to the loft, lifted his head and crowed long and loud, as if to say, “Look, all frightened cowards. Look at me I’m afraid of nobody or nothing”. But as he crowed for the second time, the roof of the barn flew off, and the wood rafters came tumbling down. The rest of the cocks and hens scampered to safety along the walls of the barn, but the twelfth chicken had no such shelter. One of the rafters fell on his leg and as he tried to pull it out, it came out with two feet broken.
The storm lasted for a short time. But it had done much damage as it was a very strong gale. Farmer Board and his hands took days to get things straightened out, but most important was to rebuild the barn yard that hosed his poultry.
As they came to the rafters that had fallen and picked up one, they saw the poor twelfth chicken with his leg all damaged.
“Oh poor cock, Look its leg is twisted’, we will have to take it to the nursery, and get it bandaged. We could send it to the produce and packing section, but it is a beautiful cock.”‘
So they took it to the nursery, which is a kind of first-aid section for wounded animals and birds, and not to the produce section where it would have been cut up and sent to the market to be sold for somebody’s dinner table.
So the twelfth chicken was patched up, and when it could hobble it was sent back to the barnyard. All the cocks and hens and little chicks that were growing up, looked at it with pity.
Some whispered, “What a shame, it was such a nice looking cock!”
The hens would look at his damaged leg on which it hobbled from one place to another, and would turn up their beaks and walk away when it approached them. “He’s a cripple”, they would whisper among themselves, “who wants to be friends with him!”
From that time onwards, the twelfth chicken was a really lost and lonely cock. He knew now that he was just like any one of the other cocks. But was too proud because he looked better than they did, and thought he was a better cock. He knew that if only he had not been proud, strutted over them, and avoided them, thinking he was something different because he only looked better, he would have had friends.
If you go to Farmer Board’s farmyard now, you would find a lonely miserable looking cock hobbling on the edges of the barnyard, with no one, not even the young chickens, bothering to look at a cock which was once too proud to make friends.
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