The Pond Creature

Part II

Meeting Sam

Bartholomew noticed the activity from his treehouse and flew down to investigate. The chipmunks’ parents had also rushed from home. Now, the rain had let up. Dr. Brigit told them that Craig was going to be fine. She suggested they take him home, give him a warm dinner, and then early to bed. The chipmunks thanked everyone and left as did Finn.

“Bartholomew, this is Sam. He just saved Craig and Colin from drowning,” said Dr. Brigit. “Sam, this is Bartholomew. He is our councillor and watches over us in Ballymore.”

Bartholomew laughed and said, “Very nice to meet you Sam. I think Dr. Brigit exaggerated my introduction somewhat.”

“Very nice to meet you too, sir,” Sam responded.

“Oh, please call me Bartholomew,” said the owl. “So you rescued Colin and Craig. Well done! Well done!”

“Thank you,” answered Sam.

“I have not seen you before. Are you new here?” asked Bartholomew.

“No. I’ve been here five years,” answered Sam. “I go out mostly during the night.”

Bartholomew and Dr. Brigit looked at each other and then back at Sam.

“Five years! How can that be?” asked Bartholomew.

“It’s a long story,” said Sam sadly.

“Well, we have plenty of time. Please come to my cottage and have some tea. We would like to hear your story,” said Dr. Brigit.

“Yes, we most certainly would,” concurred Bartholomew.

The three animals walked to her cottage. She made some tea, and they sat down at the dining table.

Sam began, “I came to Ballymore from a village far to the east. I heard about Ballymore from an owl who lived there. He told me it was a special place where the animals took care of each other. That is why I came.

“I arrived on a rainy night in the autumn and quietly slipped into the pond. Ballymore pond is much larger than I was used to, and I liked it a lot. I still do. I like to sleep during the daytime when everyone else is awake. Over the next few nights, I visited many areas of the pond and found a quiet cove to settle in. It’s so beautiful here.”

Sam continued, “I remember my first meeting with the animals here. I was exploring the south shore shortly after sunset one evening. Some chipmunks were playing on their dock, and they saw me swimming about offshore. I thought it might be a good time to say hello, and I started to swim towards them. They immediately began screaming that a monster was coming after them. I stopped, but they ran into their cottage. I turned around and left underwater. I didn’t mean to scare them.”

Bartholomew shook his head.

“I was surprised because no one had ever been scared of me before. I thought that maybe the animals of Ballymore were different. I would try again.

“About a week later, I saw some animals walking along the shore. I swam up to meet them, but as soon as they saw me, they ran into the woods. That kept happening until I gave up. One time, I heard one of them call me the Pond Creature. That is what I became to be known as. Even so, I still liked the pond, so I decided to live here by myself.”

Startled, Bartholomew and Brigit stared at each other in disbelief. Sam was the Pond Creature!

“Earlier this year, I was feeling very lonely, so I started to watch what the animals were doing. I made sure they didn’t see me.

“Sometimes I followed the raft. One day it was very windy, and the ducks were having trouble towing it. I got underneath and pushed.”

Sam smiled. “They thought that the current was helping them.”

“Then, I got another idea. I would try to talk to someone without them seeing me. In April I gathered some dandelion flowers and spread them to create a path from the back of the rabbits’ garden into the woods. I hid behind a bush and waited. I was very scared.

“After about an hour Rachel Rabbit found the flower path and followed it. I was, actually, able to talk to her. Even after she saw me, she said we could be friends.”

Sam started to sob, and Brigit put her paw around him.

“I had made my first friend in Ballymore after five years. Rachel wanted me to meet everyone, but I have been too scared.

“Then, today happened. I was watching the swimming when the storm came. The chipmunks were still playing, but the water was too rough for them. I’m glad I was there to help, and now, I’m here talking to you.”

Sam’s story saddened Bartholomew and Brigit.

Bartholomew spoke, “I am very sorry about the way you have been treated. I do not think many residents have seen a snapping turtle, and they scared easily. Once something like that starts, it takes on a life of its own. That does not excuse us or make our behavior right in any way.

“I would like to invite you to stay with me for a couple of days, and I will introduce you to some of the animals, one at a time. I want you to be part of our community, and I am sure the others will, also. How does that sound?”

Sam smiled and was pleased. “I would like that a lot. Thank you very much.”

After the tea Bartholomew and Sam walked back to Bartholomew’s treehouse. The steps were a little narrow and steep for the turtle, but he made it up them.

Bartholomew showed Sam around and said he could sleep in the parlor while he was there. They sat down at the dining table. He told Sam about the history of Ballymore and mentioned that the pond was thought to be fed by an underground spring.

Sam interrupted him. “It is. I’ve seen it.”

“Oh! Tell me about it,” requested Bartholomew.

“The spring is in the deepest part of the pond, a short distance off of the west end of the island. At the bottom there are some large rocks, and warm water is coming up through them. There appears to be an opening large enough to explore, but I haven’t done that.”

“Very interesting,” said Bartholomew. “I’ve always wondered about that.”

Sam was particularly interested in the letter and puzzle. Bartholomew told him about their recent trip to The Hills.

“Oh, I wish I could have seen the underground cavern.”

“Yes, everybody would like to see it. Perhaps, we will make another trip there sometime,” answered Bartholomew.

Remembering what Sam had said earlier, Bartholomew asked, “You said you heard about Ballymore from an owl. Can you tell me anything about the owl?”

“Yes, but only a little. His name is Jonathan, and he is an older owl. I think he has a wife and son. I’m sorry, but that’s all I know.”

“Thank you,” said Bartholomew. “Tomorrow will be a busy day for us. I think we should retire early.”

So they did. Sam slept indoors for the first time in over five years. It felt strange looking up and not seeing the sky.

The next morning, Bartholomew sent messages to the chipmunks and beavers and asked them if they could pay a visit. The Chipmunk family arrived in late morning. They first stopped by Rhonda’s to choose a large bouquet of flowers for Sam.

Everyone had to hug Sam. He had never been hugged so much. They invited him for dinner sometime next week. Sam was very appreciative of their kindness but was uncomfortable with all of the attention. Bartholomew noticed this. He thanked the chipmunks for coming. Sam also thanked them and they left.

The beavers came in the afternoon. They had heard about the chipmunks’ rescue and were very happy to meet Sam. Beavers are more formal than chipmunks, so there was no hugging.

Burton asked, “Where are you living now?”.

“I stay in a cove near the southeast end of the pond. It is nice and quiet there.”

“That’s very close to where we live. I should have noticed you. I need to open my eyes,” he laughed.

“I usually sleep in the daytime, so that’s probably why you didn’t see me,” responded Sam.

“Ah. I see. Well, you should have a home like everybody else in Ballymore, and we would like to build a cottage for you in the cove.”

Sam was overwhelmed. “A cottage for me! Oh, thank you so much! I never thought I would live in my own cottage.”

“Yes, you will. We can talk about the details soon and probably build it next month. It should be completed before the cold weather comes,” said Burton.

“We always have so much to do, so we had better be going,” said Burton. “It was very nice meeting you, Sam.”

Sam thanked the beavers, again, and everyone said goodbye.

After they left, Sam said, “Everybody has been so kind.”

“I think they are tying to make up for five years in one day,” laughed Bartholomew. “I am just kidding. You will find everybody to be kind, now that you are finally meeting them.”

The next day, the ducks arrived in the morning. Although Sam already knew, they explained their delivery duties in Ballymore. Devon asked Sam if he would be interested in helping, and Sam said he would be happy to help in anyway he could. Devon also noted that Sam would be a great life-guard at the ‘Launching Tree’. Sam said he would enjoy that, also.

The afternoon was saved for the rabbits.

Rachel Rabbit came running up the steps and into the cottage without knocking. She ran over to Sam and gave him a big hug and kiss.

“Oh, Rachel, wonderful,” said Sam.

They were very happy to see each other.

Her family followed and was surprised to see that Rachel and Sam knew each other. Rachel had kept her promise.

Reginald asked, “You know each other?”

Rachel said to Sam, “I didn’t tell anyone about us meeting. I kept my promise.”

Sam smiled and said, “I kept my promise too, with the help of a storm.”

Then, Rachel told everyone how she and Sam had met. “I am so happy everyone is meeting Sam. Now, he can be part of our community,” she said.

All agreed. The rabbits had some tea and cookies with Sam and Bartholomew. Rachel had lots of ideas about what she and Sam could do together. To do everything she mentioned, there would have to be two Sams and two Rachels. Sam said he looked forward to having fun together. After the snack the rabbits said goodbye and went home.

The past few days had been life altering for Sam. He was finally experiencing the Ballymore he had heard about.

Sam said, “How can I thank you for everything you’ve done? This is what I hoped for when I came here five years ago.”

“You have given more to Ballymore than we have given you. You have reminded us of the importance of not ‘judging a book by its cover’. I am grateful to you. Welcome, Sam Snapping Turtle. You are now part of the Ballymore family.” <