The Crowded River
“The Crowded River” is one of the outstanding stories of the first biannual International Short Story Contest 2018 written by Mahie Panjwani, Jefferson Elementary School, Westfield, New Jersey, USA.
The Crowded River
There once was a beautiful river that was home to many aquatic animals. The seahorses lived in an elegant coral reef. It sparkled like the sun. The walrus lived in a beautiful cave. The walrus was very happy because all the animals visited him. The humpback whale lived behind in an ENORMOUS rock. It had everything a humpback needed. The turtle lived in a home built with many rocks. It was a comfortable rock cave. All the animals enjoyed their homes and lived in harmony.
One day, the seahorse sisters were swimming into their house after an energizing game of hide and seek in the coral reefs, when the seahorse named Coral screamed, “Our house SHRUNK!!! Our house SERIOUSLY SHRUNK!!!!!” Pearl (the other seahorse) said, “Be realistic Coral, don’t let your imagination run wild. How could it have shrunk?” Pearl and Coral suddenly realized there was a group of animals gathered outside, so they went outside to see what the commotion was all about, and this is all they heard, “My house shrunk, Imove easily towards my house. Something is blocking my way. What do I do?”
While all the animals continued to talk over each other, the wise humpback (by the name of Brainy) just stood there not saying anything. He was trying to make sense of all the confusion. Something or somebody had changed the river waters. It seemed a bit dark and crowded. Perhaps stones had slid into the water, or maybe someone threw lots of trash into the river. These human things seem to do strange things often causing trouble for others. Suddenly, a flash of tentacles zoomed by. Everyone, even the BRAVE walrus screamed and rushed into their houses. Everyone but the Brainy hastily swam away. The tentacles came back, but more slowly this time. Brainy peered at the tentacles trying to figure out what they were, and as he continued to stare, two black eyes, popped out of the water and stared back at him.
“Wait a minute” thought Brainy, he knew who owned these tentacles, it was a squid! Of course, he could see the oval shaped head with the black eyes and the 8 tentacles. Brainy smiled warmly and said, “Hello, I’m Brainy! And you are…what did you say your name was?” “I didn’t,” the squid said, “My name is Simon and I am sorry if my sudden appearance scared everyone, that was not what I intended to do. I swam to this river very late last night and I have not been able to introduce myself to all of you, so I must have given everyone a fright!”
Brainy called out to the other animals and said, “Friends, do not be afraid, this is Simon the squid. He is new to these waters wants to hi to all of us.” Slowly, the brave “Wally” the walrus stepped up, “I’ll come over” said Wally in a soft but firm voice. Wally was the bravest sea animal that lived in the river. It was Wally who checked things out when a humongous wire fell into the river last year. It was Wally that discovered that the green leafy plants were nothing but floating water lilies. Wally was the one who protected anyone who asked for his help. If any animal was scared, or suspicious of something, they would ask Wally to help.
Wally stepped out from his home and looked towards the squid. He had never met one before, not even seen one during his travel days, so his mouth fell open, his eyes grew wide, and he was dumb struck by the squid’s size. “The squid was GIANT!!!” he thought to himself. Wally gathered his confidence, and swam over to talk to Simon.
“Hello Mr. Squid, I am Wally the walrus. What’s your name?” “Simon is my name” said the giant squid. Your river is very beautiful and very alive. It is nothing like the dark ocean I used to live in.”Wally thanked Simon for his complements about the river and asked him what had brought him to these waters.
“I have traveled the ocean far and wide, but now I’m much older and would like a place to live with friends” Simon said.
The timid voice of Terry the turtle came softly from Wally’s cave, “Is Wally okay?”She asked aloud? “I’m sure he is” Coral and Pearl said together as they swam towards Wally and Simon. By this time, all the other animals had come out of their hiding places, to meet Simon.
Brainy told the animals that Simon came from the deep waters of the ocean and was looking for a place to live. “May I live in these waters with you? I would love to live in this beautiful river.” Simon asked politely.
“The river is already too crowded” complained Coral. “Yeah just yesterday I could not find any new hiding places because of all the new water caves and homes.” Pearl added. “We like you Simon, but there is just no place for you to live in this river.”
Suddenly, Terry, who usually was very shy and often did not speak up, felt a boost of confidence and said, “Hey! It’s not nice to be unfriendly and not welcome, our new friend. I’m sure any of us remembers how it felt to be new in these waters.” The other animal’s cheeks turned red and the animals looked down at the ground.
“I agree with Terry,” said Brainy, “We should share what we have, with everyone we should NOT be like those greedy humans who keep everything for themselves!” These waters are a part of nature and nature shares everything with everyone. What if the sun said it would not share its light and heat with us? What if the rain refused to fill our waters? What if the air did not share itself? We would surely die without these necessities.
Slowly, the animals lifted their head and thought about what Brainy said. They realized that they were being selfish and silly. They thought about the back of the river, and how much space it had. Even though they often had all night animal dance parties there, under the bright full moon night, Simon could live there.
“There is space at the back of the river.” Wally said breaking the silence. “You could use the rocks to build a home for yourself.” “Yeah, totally!” Remarked everyone. So that is exactly what Simon did. He stacked a few big rocks and made himself a comfortable home. Simon was so glad to have found a place to retire and was thrilled to have so many new friends. He always arrived early to set up early for parties, and often even stayed late to clean up. Simon had lived a very exciting life in the oceans and had many stories to tell. The animals loved to listen to Simon’s tales, and Coral and Pearl were finally able to publish a book series called “The Adventures of Simon the Giant Squid”.