The Race (Granddad 2018)
Tommy Tortoise nudged Sammy Snail who stretched his neck and gave a huge yawn.
“Fancy a race today?” Tommy asked.
“I’d beat you easy,” smiled Sammy. “You’re only a tortoise and I’m a hare.”
“I beg your pardon,” retorted Tommy. “You might be a fool but you’re definitely not a hare.”
“I’ll excuse that observation,”Sammy said, “because I know you’re wrong.”
“You do?” asked Tommy, “and how is that?”
“I heard George calling to me only yesterday.” George was three and lived in the big house at the back of the garden.
“He usually says ‘good morning’ “ Tommy agreed.
“Yes, well … on this occasion he looked me in the eye and wiggled a finger and said ‘Come hare.”
Tommy rolled his eyes.
“I think you will find he said ‘come here’”
After quite a long pause Tommy continued “Anyway … do you want a race or not?”
Tommy Tortoise had challenged Sammy Snail to a race and Sammy had agreed.
Now they had to decide where and when.
“You see that twig lying beside the rose bush?” Tommy said.
Sammy raised his head and screwed up his eyes. “No,” he replied, “but I hope it’s not too far from here” before adding “ my crawling is really playing up today.”
Tommy went “tut, tut,” before adding “and my toe nails need cutting”.
There was a period of silence and then Sammy Snail said “Oh, all right. I know where you mean. I went past it during last Spring and Summer.”
“And the finish will be by the clothes peg lying on the ground by the other end of the twig.”
“But that’s at least one metre,” Sammy protested.
“Ah, well, if it’s too far for you …” Tommy began.
“No,” snapped Sammy Snail, “it isn’t. Six o’clock tomorrow morning too early for you?” he smirked.
“Oh, no. Not at all,” replied Tommy Tortoise with a wicked grin on his face. “I’m an early riser.”
It was next morning and it was six o’clock.
The wind had a chill and Sammy Snail had covered his back with a white handkerchief that had blown off the washing line in the garden. Tommy Tortoise tended not to feel the cold beneath his tough shell coat.
A grey pigeon watched with interest from an overhanging tree branch.
“A race, eh?” he asked. “I like those. Used to race a bit myself.”
“Well,” asked Sammy Snail glancing up anxiously at the huge bird, “would you be so kind as to shout ‘Go’ ?”
“Of course” replied the pigeon who added, “I’m Percy, by the way”.
Tommy and Sammy slowly crawled towards the twig by the rose bush where they would start their race.
Sammy was first to reach the twig and stretched his neck a few times until it felt less stiff.
Tommy was already panting by the time he got there and paused to take a deep breath.
“Are you ready?” Percy Pigeon asked.
They both nodded and said “We’re ready.”
Percy Pigeon fluttered his wings and shouted “Go!”
Tommy Tortoise moved forward a teeny, weeny bit.
Sammy moved forward a teeny, weeny bit.
Tommy raised his head, lifted a foot and moved forward slowly.
The finishing line was by the clothes peg but it seemed a long way away. He put his head down and grunted.
Sammy Snail slid his body forward but kept his eyes down. He bumped into Tommy. “Sorry,” he said, and looked up.
“Look where you’re going, lad!” complained Tommy.
Sammy Snail apologised again and took a deep breath as he began moving in the right direction at a snail’s pace.
They had started their race at six o’clock that morning but the sun was high in the sky before Sammy Snail took a short rest. He had tucked his head inside his shell so that the sun wasn’t in his eyes.
When Tommy Tortoise had looked over his shoulder he had seen Sammy Snail stopping for a rest and had felt very guilty. He already had a good lead so there was no need for him to hurry. After another ten minutes, and at least five centimetres later, Tommy Tortoise decided he had lots of time to spare and stopped to have a asleep.
Sammy Snail had poked his head out from beneath his shell and seen Tommy Tortoise stop for a sleep and ten minutes later he caught up and drew alongside Tommy who was still asleep. Sammy felt weary and there was still a long way to go. He listened to Tommy snoring for a moment or two and thought “that’s a good idea”and closed his eyes and fell asleep, too. Time passed and the sun continued its journey west.
Sammy Snail finally awoke. He yawned. He nudged Tommy. Tommy poked his head out from under his shell, raised his eyes and sighed.
“We’ve at least another twenty centimetres to go but I’m sure I will win” said Sammy Snail
“Nonsense. Why should you win? You’re tiny and you have no feet.” Said Tommy.
“But George said I was a hare and a hare is very fast.”
Tommy sighed and said “I told you before we started that George said ‘come ‘here’, not ‘come ‘hare’
“Whatever,” Sammy retorted and slid forward ever so slightly with Tommy in hot pursuit.
Sammy Snail knew that Tommy Tortoise was many times faster. He scratched his head and wondered what he could do.
“Do you have a problem?” asked a small voice.
Sammy turned his head slowly. Beside him there was an old oak tree and sitting on a low-hanging branch just above his head was a chirpy bird.
“Hello,” said Sammy.
“Hello,” said the bird. “My name’s Richard Robin but you can call me Richard.”
“And I’m Sammy Snail. Do please call me Sammy.”
“And what are you up to this fine, sunny day” Richard asked.
Sammy Snail told him about his race with Tommy Tortoise and where the finish was.
“The clothes peg Is really quite near” observed Richard Robin.
Sammy looked at Richard with a shocked expression on his face.
“It’s at least half a metre from here,” he said.
Richard Robin scratched his beak and had a long think. After a few minutes he winked at Sammy and said “I have a plan.“
After Richard Robin had explained his plan to Sammy Snail there was a few moments of silence.
“But Tommy Tortoise is many times faster and no snail has ever moved faster than any tortoise ever before in the whole wide world.”
“But any bird - and that includes a robin - can travel more quickly than a tortoise.”
Richard Robin lowered one of his wings.
“Come on, Sammy” he said. “Crawl aboard”.
Richard Robin asked “Are you ready?”
Sammy Snail had crawled on to one of Robin’s wings and was feeling very nervous.
“Not too fast!” he said. “I’ve not flown before”.
“Okay, Sammy,” said Richard Robin as they rose slowly and gently from the garden path, “I won’t try any somersaults”.
After a few minutes Richard Robin asked “How far are we going?”
“Could you fly all the way to the clothes peg?” Sammy asked. “I can hide behind it while I wait for TommyTortoise”.
“Well,” said Richard Robin, “that will only take me about two seconds so we can visit my nest first and you can see where I live.”
They flew past three trees before Robin Robin slowly descended on to the largest branch of an oak tree.
“We will see from here where Tommy Tortoise is” he said, “and when we spot him I will take you back down to the clothes peg.”
“Super,” Sammy said as he looked around and enjoyed the view from the nest at the top of the tree.
Sammy Snail and Richard Robin had been waiting patiently for the appearance of Tommy Tortoise. The sun had passed its highest point. Richard Robin suddenly jerked his beak in the direction of the clothes peg by the side of the garden path. The clothes peg was the finishing line for their race.
“There he is,” tweeted Richard Robin. “Time to get ready.”
“Okay, let’s go,” shouted Sammy Snail. “Off to the clothes peg, driver!”
Richard Robin carried him all the way to the clothes peg..
The first thing Sammy Snail did after he landed was to find the largest green leaf closest to the finish and to crawl beneath it. Once there he waited patiently for the arrival of Tommy Tortoise.
Sammy Snail listened very, very carefully and after a little while was rewarded by the sound of huffing and puffing coming from close by.
“Ah, ha,” he thought to himself. “Tommy Tortoise is approaching the clothes peg and the finishing line.”
Sammy Snail looked out from beneath the large, green leaf and opened his eyes wide in amazement.
Another large green leaf was moving very slowly towards him. Sammy frowned and looked carefully at the moving leaf. It was as though it had feet! He looked even more closely and saw that the leaf did have feet! And those feet belonged to Tommy Tortoise!
“Goodness,” he said. “Tommy is trying to hide from me so that I don’t see him racing to the finish.”
And then he thought, “Oh, but I’m doing the same” and he felt ashamed of himself.
Tommy Tortoise peered out from under his leaf and saw the clothes peg.
He saw something else, too.
He saw another large leaf moving very slowly in the same direction towards the clothes peg.
“That’s Sammy Snail, “ he thought to himself. “ He shouldn’t be here yet. I wonder if he’s cheating.”
And then he thought, “Oh, but I’m doing the same” and he felt ashamed of himself.
What Sammy Snail did not know was that Tommy Tortoise had held on to the tail of Curly Cat and that Curly Cat had dragged him along the garden path until he was close to the clothes peg and what Tommy Tortoise did not know was that Richard Robin had flown Sammy Snail to the very same place!
Tommy Tortoise and Sammy Snail were both wondering what to do.
They had both reached the clothes peg and were hiding behind large, green leaves.
Their tricks were not working very well.
They had intended to crawl out from under their leaves and each pretend to have reached the finishing line just ahead of the other.
… and then …
George, the little boy who lived in the big house, came down the garden path towards them and picked up the clothes peg. He put it in his little pocket.
… and then …
George picked up Tommy Tortoise and he picked up Sammy Snail and put them both in his big pocket. He took them all the way back to their special little homes at the other end of the path.
Later that evening Tommy Tortoise turned to Sammy Snail and said, “I would have beaten you because I reached the clothes peg before you. I looked but you were nowhere in sight!”
“Huh!” replied Sammy Snail. “Well, that’s because you looked behind and I was in front! I was in the lead.”
They both looked at each other for a few moments and then Tommy Tortoise grinned and said
“Well I did get a little bit of help.”
Sammy Snail gave a huge sigh and said, “Well, actually, so did I” and then added “I hope we’re still friends?”
“Of course,” replied Tommy Tortoise and then said “We can have a race another day”.
They both laughed.
“Time for bed,”yawned Sammy
“My bedtime, too” said Tommy and closed his eyes.
(Written for George by Granddad January 2018)
Curly Cat liked walking around the garden in front of the big house where George lived.
On a sunny day, and today was a sunny day, he enjoyed it even more.
Sometimes Curly Cat was a bit bored because there was little happening if Sammy Snail and Tommy Tortoise were having a long sleep in their special little homes.
Occasionally, Richard Robin might swoop down from the tall tree in the garden and say ‘hello’ and discuss important matters such as the shortage of worms this summer. It was of little interest to Curly Cat although he would listen politely and nod his head at the right times.
“So, what shall I do?” He scratched his head with a paw and had a good think.
“I could play ‘chase-my-tail’ but that makes me dizzy and I usually fall over.”
“Or you could try to catch me,” said a little voice from somewhere behind a rose bush.
Curly Cat opened his eyes wide and listened very hard with his pointy ears but didn’t know where the sound came from.
“Must be my imagination” he said to himself.
“I need some exercise. Would you try to catch me” said the little voice followed by a grumpy “please”.
“Where are you, voice?” Curly Cat asked.
“Here” and a tiny whisker appeared from behind the rose bush.
“Where is here?” was his next question.
“Beside the rose bush, of course. I think you need some glasses”
“And I think you need some manners” snapped Curly Cat.
“And I’m Melissa Mouse and my manners are very good, thank you. And I said ‘please’”
Melissa Mouse took two steps forward and stood on her back feet.
“I live behind the house and I’ve seen you playing with Sammy Snail and Tommy Tortoise but you never play with me.”
“Cats don’t play with mice,” Curly said. “They EAT them!”
Melissa Mouse put her feet down and giggled.
“Only if they can catch them,” she said. “Now, are you going to play Chase the Mouse or not?” she asked.
“Why not?” said Curly Cat. “But it will be a very short chase because I don’t think you can see very far.”
“But I can smell very well,” retorted Melissa Mouse. “And I can smell you very well.”
“Right, that’s it!” said Curly Cat angrily.
“I’ll count to three and then I’ll have you … one … two …” and would you believe it - he didn’t say ‘three’ … he just leapt over to the rose bush where Melissa Mouse had been standing with a big grin on his face.
“Is this your tail I’m tying into a knot?” asked a tiny voice from behind Curly Cat. Now it’s my turn to count to three and then I’ll make the knot I’m putting in your tail really tight”. It was Melissa, of course, and she giggled. She enjoyed giggling. “One, two, …” she began but before she reached ‘three’ Curly Cat tugged his tail away from her.
“Right, that’s it,” spluttered Curly Cat.
“Right, that’s it. Right, that’s it. Is that all you can ever say?” laughed the little mouse.
“Right, that’s it” roared Curly Cat and the chase was on.
Melissa Mouse knew the front garden as well as she knew her nose so she followed her nose and scurried twice around the big tree to confuse Curly Cat and then darted through a gap in the hedge to hide behind Tommy Tortoise.
“Hello Melissa Mouse” said Tommy. “You seem in a bit of a hurry today. I was having a quiet stroll but I don’t mind stopping to talk to you”
“Curly Cat is chasing me. I dared him to catch me. Can I stay here for a minute or two?”
“Of course,” replied Tommy Tortoise. “Stand under my shell in the shade.”
Curly Cat raced past both of them and then stopped at the garden wall with a puzzled expression on his face.
“Hey, Sammy Snail,” he called out. “Has a mouse dashed past you?”
“Everybody dashes past me nowadays,” complained Sammy. “They’re always in such a rush but if you’re referring to Melissa Mouse then the answer is ‘no’.”
“If you do catch sight of her let me know,” demanded Curly Cat.
“Oh, yes, of course. I’ll write you a letter and give it to the postman. How about that?” asked Sammy Snail with a wicked grin on his face.
“Right, that’s it,” spluttered Curly Cat and he meowed angrily and walked away to continue his search for Melissa Mouse.
“Very good. Very entertaining,” said a voice from somewhere above Tommy’s shell. “I enjoyed that exchange. Very witty, I thought.”
“Is that you Richard Robin?” asked Tommy Tortoise.
“Yes. Just doing a bit of flying around. I need the exercise” and he rubbed his tummy. “Too much dinner” he explained. “What are you up to?”
“I’m enjoying the sunshine and was about to eat a lettuce leaf I found in the vegetable patch,” said Tommy Tortoise.
Richard Robin fluttered to the ground.
“Oh, hello, Melissa” he said. “I didn’t notice you sheltering under Tommy’s shell.”
“I hope Curly Cat doesn’t see me either,” replied the mouse. “He’s trying to catch me and I’m making it very difficult for him,” and Melissa giggled. She liked to giggle.
“I’ll make it even more difficult for him,” said Richard Robin. “I’ll tell him I saw you hiding behind the shed at the other end of the garden.”
“Oh, thank you very much,” said Melissa. “In that case I’ll pop home for a little while” and she sped off once again in the direction of the rose bush.
A moment later Curly Cat was racing towards Richard Robin and Tommy Tortoise.
“Have you seen that mouse yet?” he demanded.
He looked at Richard Robin and said “I’ve saw you flying around earlier. Have you seen her?”
“Oh, yes,” said Richard. “She was asleep behind the shed at the bottom of the garden.”
“Well … thank you,” said Curly Cat reluctantly. “I owe you a favour sometime.” And he sped away.
Tommy Tortoise and Richard Robin grinned at each other.
The day dragged on and Curly Cat was on the point of giving up the chase when he spotted Harry Hedgehog looking at him from behind a green watering can.
“Going somewhere?” Harry asked.
“I’m trying to catch Melissa Mouse but I can’t find her. Any idea where she is?” asked Curly Cat.
Now Harry Hedgehog was a friend of Melissa and he knew that if Curly caught her there would be the usual fight. Nobody ever got hurt - well hardly - but he didn’t like the thought of having to put up with all the noise. It set his bristles on edge.
“Oh, I saw her about five minutes ago,” said Harry. “Off down a country lane to visit the cows” he said. “You’ll never find her”.
“Hmm. I think you’re probably right,” said Curly Cat. “Thank you for telling me” and he trotted back towards the big house. When he reached it George was waiting for him. George was the little boy that lived there.
“Have you been chasing Melissa Mouse again?” he asked.
“Oh, no” replied Curly Cat with an innocent expression on his face. “She wouldn’t play with me today.”
Melissa Mouse was not very good at writing and sometimes her spelling wasn’t quite right.
‘Dear Kurly Cat’ she wrote, ‘that was a good game we played today. I proved that I am smarter than you but I hope we are still friends. Please don’t eat me. I’m meeting Sammy Snail for tea and grass sandwiches at five o’clock and I’d be delighted if you would come and join us. Please thank you very much.’ She added.
And she pushed her letter through the flap that Curly Cat used as his way into and out of the big house where George lived.
STORIES WRITTEN FOR GEORGE