The beaver awoke with a start as a little drop of water struck his little black nose. He opened his eyes, and his brow furrowed as he noticed a small water spot on his meticulously crafted mud roof. He sat up in his bed and let out a deep groan as he stretched his arms, legs, and back. He shuffled over to his small kitchen to grab a small wooden cup, which he placed on his bed beneath the water spot to collect the intruding water. He rubbed his eyes, then sighed as he stepped outside to survey the source of the leak.
The winter freeze had been harsh this year, and the wind and rain of the coming spring had knocked a few shingles out of place. The beaver noted the damage, then took a cursory look at the rest of the roof to see if anything else was amiss. Content that he had identified the only trouble spot, he set out to gather the necessary materials to conduct the repair.
He stepped back inside to brush his bright white teeth, and his fine coat, then dove gracefully into the water that surrounded his home. He quickly and effortlessly swam to shore, then shook himself dry to keep from getting a chill.
The beaver was an expert builder, and knew exactly where to look to find the best bark shingles in all the forest. After a short walk to one of the thickest and strongest trees around, he took his time selecting the thickest and strongest pieces of bark. He gathered what he needed, and a little extra for good measure, then turned back towards the water.
On his way back, he saw the wise old owl had come down from his perch in the treetops to enjoy a small breakfast before returning to his watch. As the beaver walked by, he issued a muffled salutation through the bark shingles in his mouth, to which the owl responded, “Who?”
It was apparent to the beaver that the wise old owl had not understood what he had said. He stopped on the path in front of the owl, set down his bark shingles, and with more clarity said “Good morning Sir!”
The wise old owl blinked very slowly, as if disinterested, and again replied “Who?”
The beaver figured that the wise old owl’s eyesight must not be what it used to be, and the owl must not recognize him. The beaver told the owl, “It is I! The beaver! Surely you have seen me gathering supplies here in the forest?”
The wise old owl tilted his head slightly to one side, and again simply said “Who?”
Feeling slightly self conscious now, the beaver replied “Surely you have heard of my beautiful waterfront mansion? I am well known around here for my artful design and impeccable craftsmanship as a builder? It is I who built the dam to slow the river so that all the animals may safely drink and play!”
The wise old owl only tilted his head to the other side, and blinked slowly.
The beaver was slightly flustered now, and began speaking with more animation.
“Well perhaps you’d know me for my beautiful coat? Back when man wandered through the forest,, he went to great lengths to hunt and trap my ancestors in order to profit from our gorgeous, fashionable, and functional coats? Or surely you recognize my bright white smile? I am most certainly well known for my smile!” the beaver said as he stroked his coat and smiled wide for effect.
The wise old owl seemed to shake his head slowly from side to side, with a just barely noticeable shrug of his shoulders. After a moment, he only offered another “Who?”
Now speaking with great excitement and frustration, the beaver almost shouted, “Well surely you know me as the greatest swimmer of all the forest animals? You see, I was born with these webbed feet, and this flat tail, so I can swim around just like the fish do! I can hold my breath for a long time, and I could probably swim across the river in the time it would take you to fly across!”
The wise old owl only stood tall, and folded his wings behind his back. Looking very wise indeed, the owl yet again replied “Who?”
The beaver seemed to crumple in defeat. He scratched his head with a webbed finger, and thought for a moment. He tried to think as the wise old owl would. He thought about his building, his good looks, and his swimming. he tried to think a little deeper about who he really was. He wasn’t just a builder, he made the community better by building the dam so all the animals could drink safely. He remembered the feeling of pride he had gotten as he watched deer, squirrels, and even the fox play in the shallows formed by his dam. It made him so happy when people complimented him on his coat, his smile, or his beautifully constructed home. He thought about swimming, and all the fun he had while gliding around in the water world that was off limits to most other mammals. He in that moment realized that he was not defined by the things that he did, or things that he had, but instead by the fact that he was happy! Through his happiness and his service to the community, he made the forest a better place, and that in turn gave him great satisfaction and in turn great happiness!
He beamed at this new realization, and now cheerfully reported to the wise old owl, “I am the beaver, and I am happy!”
The wise old owl nodded in approval, and seemed to smile with his small beak. The owl then turned and effortlessly floated back to the top of the trees to post his watch.
The beaver again gathered his shingles in a gleaming white smile that stretched all the way across his little face, and he set about making the forest a better place!
This story is my first foray into short fiction, so I am anxious to hear your feedback! I had been working towards a blog on this subject, and in the middle of a bout with insomnia last night, this idea came to me! It was fun to write, so I may try to do this more often!
I hope you are well, and doing your best to stay warm!