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Children's Stories
by Margo Fallis
A Little Help From A Friend

"Watch out!" shouted Martin, a wee, gray mouse. "You nearly stepped on me again." Martin looked up at the huge bull. "Why donít you be more careful and watch where you walk!"

Rusty pulled a few thistles out of the damp earth. "Iím not going to look at the ground every single step I take. Iíve more important things to do. Iíve got to keep my eyes open for some fluffy, purple thistles and for the most tender heather bells. I think YOU should watch where you are going!"

"Iím always searching for seeds, nuts and berries. I canít always be watching out for a big, clumsy highland bulls, such as yourself. I was just sitting here minding my own business when you came by and stepped on my tail. I donít think thereís room in this glen for both of us," Martin challenged.

"Oh? Would you like to have a contest and whoever loses has to leave the glen?" Rusty suggested.

"What kind of a contest? Remember, youíre a huge bull and Iím only a wee mouse. What sort of thing could we do that is fair?" Martin wondered.

"I challenge you to a swimming contest. The first one of us to swim across the loch is the winner. The loser stays on the other side and never comes back to this glen. Have we got a deal?" Rusty asked.

Martin rubbed his furry chin and played with his whiskers. "That hardly seems fair. Youíre much bigger than I am and could swim across the loch much quicker."

"Youíre right, I am bigger than you are, but because I am so big and have so much hair, I couldnít possibly swim as fast as a wee mouse, such as yourself," Rusty argued.

Martin bounced his long tail up and down as he thought about what Rusty had said. "That makes sense. Iíll meet you down at the loch." The mouse ran into the tall grass.

Rusty plodded down to the muddy bank of the loch. It was wide and very deep. "I can do this," he sighed. "I am tired of that mouse always bothering me. Iíll swim across and win and then never have to see him again in my glen."

Martin came running out of the grass. "Iím ready." He stood gazing across the loch. "Gulp. The lochís much wider than I had thought."

"Iíll tell you what, Iíll give you a head start, because youíre so wee. You go ahead, jump in, and start swimming. Iíll count to ten and then Iíll start," Rusty smiled, knowing that the mouse couldnít possibly go too far in that short a time.

"Thanks, Rusty. Thatís nice of you," Martin said. He took a few steps backwards and ran as fast as he could. He leapt into the cold water and started swimming.

"One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. Here I come," shouted Rusty. He jumped into the water, sending a huge wave out in all directions. Martin wasnít far enough away and got caught in the splash. He was picked up and tossed back onto the shore with the water.

"Cough, cough, cough. Hey! That wasnít fair! Now Iíve got to start all over," the mouse cursed. He was already tired from all the swimming.

Rusty ignored Martinís cries and kept on going. His long, shaggy, reddish fur was heavy in the water and slowed him down, but not enough for Martin to catch up. Martin sat in the mud. He began to cry. "Iíll never win now. I donít want to leave the glen. Itís my home."

Just then the water began to shake and shimmer. A huge green head burst through the surface. "Who are you?" Martin shivered in fear.

"Iím Nessie. Some people call me the Loch Ness monster, but Iím not really a monster. Iím actually a dinosaur. I live in the caves under the water. I was swimming by and saw you crying. Whatís the matter?" she asked.

"Rusty and I are having a race. Whoever wins gets to live in the glen," Martin said. He told Nessie the whole story.

"So, the bull is a bit of a bully," Nessie said. "I can help you. Why donít you climb on top of my head and Iíll swim you over. Iíll stay under the water so Rusty canít see you. When we get near the shore, Iíll sink down and you can swim the last bit to the shore."

"Thatís a great idea," Martin laughed. "That way Rusty canít step on me anymore because heíll have to live on the other side of the loch. Iíll be able to eat my berries, nuts and seeds without getting hurt."

"Climb aboard," Nessie said. She sunk into the water and the wee mouse sat on her head. It looked like he was swimming as she made her way into the depths of the loch.

Soon they passed the struggling bull. "Getting tired?" Martin asked, as he whizzed by.

Rusty was surprised to see the mouse swimming by. "How did he catch up with me so quickly?" he wondered.

Nessie stayed hidden and dropped Martin off close to shore. "Thanks, Nessie," Martin waved.

Nessie raised her head a bit and whispered, "Beat the bully," and then she disappeared under the water.

Martin swam a few more feet and pulled himself out of the water. He sat on the muddy bank drying himself off with a huge leaf. A few minutes later Rusty swam ashore. His fur dripped with water. "How did you beat me here?" he asked the mouse. "Youíre just a wee mouse. I didnít think mice could swim that fast."

"Looks like you lost, Rusty. You have to stay over here on this side of the loch," Martin reminded the bull.

Rusty was angry. He wasnít happy that heíd lost. He gave out a loud MOO and stomped into a wood of rowan trees.

A few minutes later, Nessie came back out of the water. "Ready to go home?" she asked.

Martin climbed on top and Nessie swam across the loch, but this time kept her neck and head out of the water. She let Martin off on the other side. "There you go," she said.

He climbed off and stood in a patch of yellow buttercups. The two of them could see Rusty standing on the hillside across the loch. "Go and enjoy your seeds in peace. Iím off to my cave now, and if you ever have problems with other bullies, you know where to find me," Nessie said and disappeared below the water.

Martin never had to worry about being stepped on again now that Rusty was gone. He could run through the glen and didnít have to watch where he was going.

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