the donkey and the turtle

Once there was a donkey. She was a beautiful, soft, grey donkey. But, she was not a free donkey. She had a job to do. Every day, for so long that the donkey couldn't even remember what it was like before, when she was a little donkey, this donkey had to walk around, and around, and around.

She didn't know that she was always walking in the same place, because she wore a blindfold so that she couldn't see. And just in front of her nose was fastened a bag, full of bran and oats and something sweet. That bag smelled so good to the donkey, and she was so hungry. So she walked, and walked, and tried to get to the bag.

As she walked, she pushed a pole around and around, and that made water come up from the ground, because the donkey's owner needed water. Now not that far away, there was a place where water bubbled up out of the ground all by itself, but the donkey's owner didn't know that because she was always too busy to just wander around for no reason. So she kept working, and the donkey kept walking, and at the end of the day the donkey would be led to her pen, and the oats poured out for her, and the blindfold taken off. And she would be glad because now she could eat. But it was such a lot of walking to get to those oats!

And this would have gone on and on for all of the donkey's life, except for one thing:

The donkey had a small friend who sometimes hid in her mane and talked to her. And then the day didn't feel quite so long. The donkey's friend was a little turtle. The little turtle would talk to the donkey about rocks, and sun, and frogs, and fish, and other magical things.

Now most little turtles are very low to the ground, and they can't see very much, and they can't go very fast. Mostly that doesn't bother little turtles, because they already live next to the water where there are rocks to crawl up on, and sit in the sun, and be very quiet, and watch the water and the fish and the water skaters go by.

But this little turtle didn't have a place like that. There was only this well, in the middle of the donkey's path.

But, this little turtle had a special kind of nose. It was the kind of nose that can smell water, and rocks, and sun, and fish, and bugs, and plants, and everything else that a little turtle wants and needs most. This little turtle could smell a place just like that. And she wanted to go there, but she was afraid that if she tried to go on her own four small slow feet across that big hot ocean of sand she would die--because this place was a desert.

But this was a smart turtle even if she was small and slow, and she was a little snapping turtle, so she had a strong and sharp mouth. And one day she figured out a plan.

She climbed up on the donkey, and she chewed and chewed and chewed until she got that blindfold and that bag of oats off her friend. And then she whispered in her ear, and said:

"I smell a place that is good for turtles and donkeys. Now that that bag isn't on your nose, I think if you smell the wind you will know where it is, too. And then, we can both go there, because you are strong and can go anywhere."

The donkey lifted her nose and smelled the wind, and she could smell that magic place. And she wanted it. So off they went, and it did take a while, and it was a lot of walking, but they did get there. And the little turtle slid down off the donkey and danced and danced, the way only a little turtle who has found a rock just like that can dance. And the donkey drank from the pool and began to graze on the sweet grass that grew next to the water.

Now the owner of the donkey discovered that she was gone, and she was very worried. She would die without water, and she couldn't go around and around all day herself and still do everything else she had to do.

But, the donkey had left tracks in the sand, so she followed those tracks. And just when the light was beginning to go out of the sky and she was afraid she had lost the donkey for good, she came over the top of the hill, and there was the river, and there was the donkey (and the turtle, too, but she was hiding). And this was a much better place. And all that heavy too-much that the woman had been carrying around with her ever since she was as little as the little turtle, fell right off of her.

And she began to dance.

And then, everything was okay.

Would you like to hear another one?

In the end, the best such stories are the ones you make and carry for yourself. If you would like to learn to do this, then I suggest you read the story of the travelling wizard next.

This material © 2000 by Kye Nelson. All rights reserved.

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