The Serengeti sizzled as the sun reached its peak in the sky. The young lion club, Prince Tau, decided to forego his usual mid-afternoon nap, and instead pay a visit to the waterhole to see his friends – Zuri the elephant, Mosi the monkey, Nia the cheetah, and Buru the rhinoceros. Tau and his parents, King Akin and Queen Kali, lived atop “Royal Bluff” a hill that overlooked the vast African plains. The waterhole sat nestled at the base of the hill.
“Bye, Mom! Be back later!” Tau yelled, as he leaped down the hill with great intensity and surefootedness. He swiftly approached his mark, planting his paws into the grass and coming to a screeching halt at the lip of the waterhole.
“Nice approach Tau,” Zuri giggled, as she showered herself with a stream of water from her trunk.
“That was decent speed…for a lion”, Nia grinned.
Mosi peered down at Tau as he lay on a branch in a tree that hovered over the waterhole. Buru glared at Tau in silence, while slowly chewing some grass.
“Sorry for the delay, but I had to let mom know where I was going. She worries if I don’t, and then I have to deal with Dad when he wakes up.”
“Whoo whoo whoo ha ha ha! You’re just a momma’s boy Tau,” Mosi laughed while scratching his underarms.
“No I’m not Mosi! I am the prince of the Serengeti! Hear me roar!”
Tau sucked as much air into his lungs as he could and let out a shrill…
Nia placed her paw over her mouth in order to suppress her laughter. Zuri spewed water out of her trunk as she tried to hold back a chuckle. Buru kept his emotionless glare as he continued to chew on the same old piece of grass.
“Whoo whoo whoo ha ha ha! What was THAT? Did a meerkat die somewhere nearby?” Mosi taunted as he turned face down on his tree branch, swinging his arms and laughing hysterically.
Tau’s yellow face flushed beat red as he sat humiliated in front of his friends.
Nia tried to comfort Tau. “It’s alright, Tau. Someday you will be able to roar with the best of them.”
Tau opened his mouth and started to speak but was quickly interrupted by a giraffe that came running up to the waterhole.
“Help! My baby is stuck!” the giraffe screamed in a panic.
Tau and his friends followed the giraffe to a large boulder that had rolled down, trapping the leg of a baby giraffe that lay at the foot of a hill. The mother giraffe reached her long neck down and attempted to nudge the boulder with her head, but it would not budge. Zuri attempted to push the huge rock, but being a young elephant and not yet fully grown, she couldn’t move it either.
“Stuck between a rock and a hard place! Not good! Whoo whoo whoo ha ha ha!”
“You’re not making things any better Mosi,” Tau scolded.
Beru stood silent in the distance, glaring at the boulder and chewing his grass. He lowered his head and began to charge. The other animals quickly jumped out of the way as Beru smashed into the boulder with his horn, rolling it off of the young giraffe’s leg.
“Thank you! Thank you so much!” the mother said with relief.
Beru nodded and walked off. The rest of the animals went back to their homes. Tau went hunting with his dad later that night and then went home to sleep. As he lay down, he began to mumble to himself…
“I want to be a strong rhinoceros like Beru and not a wimpy lion with a squeaky roar” he wished as he fell into slumber.
When he woke up, it was still dark. He heard rustling around him. He looked up, startled at a large ostrich stretched out before him.
“Why, hello there young Prince Tau”, the ostrich said sweetly.
Tau jumped up and took a defensive stance.
“Who are you? And what are you doing on Royal Bluff?”
“I am your fairy Godstrich. I am here to grant your wish.”
“Fairy Godstrich? My wish?” Tau inquired with a puzzled expression.
“You said you wanted to be a rhinoceros, right? Well, I am going to grant you your desire. So go back to sleep young prince. A day filled with new surprises awaits you.
The ostrich gently pecked Tau on the head with her beak, putting him back to sleep. Then she vanished.
Tau woke up. He began to stand, but for some reason it seemed harder to get up today. He looked around for his parents, but he didn’t see them anywhere, so he assumed that it would be alright to just go on down to the waterhole for a short time. He began making his charge down Royal Bluff. However, instead of his light run, he found that he was pounding the ground with heavy footsteps. As he approached the waterhole, he tried to stop, but instead went crashing into the pool, sending an eruption of water into the air.
“Thanks, Tau.” Nia sat disgusted, her fur soaked.
“Golly, Tau! Leave at least a little bit of water in there so I can take my bath,” Zuri whined.
“Whoo whoo whoo ha ha ha! It looks like the big brute doesn’t know his own strength, Mosi remarked while picking at his hindquarters.
Tau didn’t understand what they all were talking about, until he looked down and saw his reflection. There, reflected in the pool, was the image of a thick-skinned gray rhinoceros with a long white ivory horn. Tau went into a panic…
“Oh no! It actually happened! She did it to me!” He silently screamed in his head. “But what about Beru? Did he…”
Tau turned around to see Beru sitting in his usual spot, the same bored expression on his face. He was chewing the same piece of grass and sitting on his back legs, only this time, he was a small lion cub.
“A lion cub eating GRASS? That is just wrong!” Tau exclaimed.
“Hey I don’t judge anyone like that. I mean my family has eaten far worst stuff than that if you know what I mean.” Mosi winked.
“DISGUSTING, Mosi!” Zuri screamed.
Once again, the conversation of the group was interrupted, this time by the cries of a zebra.
“The Serengeti is burning! Come quickly!”
Tau loved eating zebra, but of course this instinct had been suppressed, as he was no longer a lion, and Beru the lion cub seemed to have no interest in the fine delicacies of raw zebra flesh. Tau followed the others, creating small tremors in the earth with every step he took. His steps may not have actually been that powerful, but after getting used to maneuvering on light paws, he definitely felt like more of a powerhouse.
A small fire had started in the wild grass near the waterhole. Zuri came running up with a trunk full of water and spewed it onto the flames, dowsing them and leaving only a small charred circle where the grass had been burnt.
All the nearby animals cheered for Zuri and offered their gratitude. After a small amount of celebration, the friends each went their separate ways back home once again.
“I hate being a rhinoceros,” Tau said to himself. “I think it would be cooler to be an elephant like Zuri. Having a trunk like that would be very useful.”
Once again Tau fell off to sleep, and the Fairy Godstrich greeted him again. When Tau woke up, he took the time to examine himself before heading down to the waterhole. This time, he possessed a long trunk and big floppy gray ears.
“I’m an elephant now! Yippee!”
He stomped down to the waterhole, this time monitoring his speed and footing to ensure that he didn’t create a splash this time. He was greeted with silence as he approached the pool.
“Hmmm. That’s strange. No one is here right now. I wonder where they went?”
Suddenly, he heard a noise in the distance. He followed the direction of the sound and found Mosi, sitting on the ground, holding his bleeding arm, which had been cut. Nia stood ready to attack as she backed up Zuri, who in her new lion form, was fending off a wild hyena. Beru had returned to his normal rhinoceros self, chewing grass and spectating the fight.
The hyena lunged at Zuri’s neck with a menacing growl. Zuri knocked the hyena back with her paws and pounced on him. As she stood peering down at his face with her teeth showing, the hyena’s aggression turned into fear. Zuri moved away from the hyena, and watched as he coward off into the distance.
“Good job Zuri. I didn’t even need to jump in and help you! You scared him off all by yourself!” Nia exclaimed with wide-eyed excitement.
“Thank you for defending me, Zuri. I guess hyenas don’t like it when you laugh back at them.” Mosi whimpered.
“THAT WAS MY RESPONSIBILITY! I SHOULD HAVE DEFENDED MOSI!” Tau shouted.
“Don’t be crazy, Tau,” Zuri said. Elephants are powerful, but it is best to let us lions handle this kind of stuff. We were created to hunt and protect.”
Tau stood silent. He was upset, and so he left his friends and ran home. He laid down and covered his eyes with his trunk.
“Let it stop! Let it stop!” he repeated over and over under his breath. He uncovered his eyes only to find himself surrounded by monkeys, with he himself also now a monkey. Mosi sat up in the Wild Date Palm tree atop Royal Bluff, laughing hysterically.
Great lesson weaving through here. I agree about the names as well (kept referencing back to the beginning for who was who), but with pictures it would be so much easier! Really liked how it ended and Tau was SHOWN the heroism of a lion. The "throwing dates" scene was hysterical! Nice job, hope you enjoyed writing it as much as I enjoyed reading it.
Lots of fun and a good lesson, too! The lesson is very well illustrated in a way children can understand and will remember. I had a hard time remembering which name went with which animal and had to keep checking the beginning. Maybe if you had the name start with the same first letter as the animal? I like the term "fairy godstritch", and the "monkey's uncle" joke will make the parent's smile while reading this to their children. I can easily see this as a kids' book with beautiful illustrations of the baby animals and the Serengeti.
Great job, Josh! I'm glad you left your story at this length because it definitely works better as a longer piece. I agree with Cat about the names....you could also just make reference to each animal type when its name is mentioned (i.e. Tau the lion cub). That's perfectly appropriate for a children's story. I like the spiritual message presented here and you definitely put some of your humor in it. Nice work!
You are proving to be one versatile talent, sir. I love your humor but in the last few weeks I've seen so many different sides of you. I know a great illustrator if you need. She's 13 but incredibly gifted. Oh, and so are you :) Well done as always.