Chinook, a salt and pepper raccoon, poked his head out the hollow of his tree and sniffed the air. Spring, sweet as honey, teased his nose. The sky was the color of blue larkspur growing wild in the meadow just beyond the river; and the sun, rich as butter, spread across the horizon and melted into the greening forest.
Caleb, a badger and Chinook’s best friend, as well as resident doctor, was down at the river. He was holding his chin in his hands; looking as if he were studying something of great importance.
“What is it?” Chinook cried out.
“It’s Bright,” he replied. “She wants to return home; to the red barn across the river.”
Bright was a kitten, black as ebony except for a white star perfectly placed above her nose and between her emerald eyes. Caleb had taken her in when a spring flood left her on the bank of the river outside his burrow.
Bedraggled and nearly lifeless, he did his best to nurse her to health. But the water had done its harm and her lungs became weak, her voice more a rasp than a meow.
In tiny mews, she had given Caleb her name. “My mother calls me Bright because of the white star above my nose.” She then yawned and fell asleep, worn by her ordeal of the flood.
Caleb, with chin still in hands, studied the swift, snow-fed waters. “She misses her family. My medicine pales to what a mother’s love can do for her.”
Chinook joined his friend. “No one’s ever crossed this river, not even in summer. It’s too deep and too quick.”
“And cold,” Caleb added. “It seems impossible. But it’s the right thing to do.”
“We shall call a council. There is wisdom in the counsel of many, you know. It is what connects us.”
And so a council was called with Caleb presiding. All of the animals of the province attended - everyone from the eagles to the sparrows from the spiders to the grasshoppers from the bears to the otters.
Joshua, a hawk, began the meeting by saying he thought he might carry Bright across the river, but it was agreed his talons were too sharp and would wound her skin. Esther, an otter said she could pull her through the water, but everyone knew Bright might drown.
Erin and Eric, twin goslings, suggested tying bows to Bright’s tail and a string about her chest to fly her across the river like a kite. Despite the gravity of the situation, everyone laughed picturing such a thing. But laughter did everyone’s heart good, nonetheless.
Considering all these things, Caleb spoke at the end of the meeting. “None of us working on our own can do what must be done, but each of us working as one will do what we ought.”
Some were not sure what he said, so Caleb explained. “We shall build a swinging bridge. Joshua with your talons, you will cut vines from the forest and lay them on the bank of the river. The geese will collect one end in their bills and fly across to be tied by the otters on the other side. The beavers will fell trees to make as planks to lay across the vines and the spiders will weave threads to secure them.”
“We can fly to the red barn to let Bright’s mother know she is coming,” volunteered Germaine, a white dove, “I see her crying at the edge of the river every night. This news will lift her spirits.”
“We’ll be a team and there’s no ‘I’ in team,” offered Blanch, a snow owl who considered herself a good speller. And, of course, everyone agreed she was right.
Soon the swinging bridge was built; and hiding their excitement was like trying to hide sunlight in a jar. Everyone watched as Caleb carried Bright in his arms to her mother racing over the wooden planks.
Suddenly, the bridge began to pitch causing Caleb to trip and fall. All the animals, those in the air, those on the water, and those on either bank of the river held their breath as one.
Fear united them, just as concern for Bright’s welfare had first united them in council to try the unfeasible. Each was a bridge to the other to achieve the impossible.
Bright’s mother caught her daughter mid-air. The bridge was at last complete, connecting as bridges are ought to do - one to the other.
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