Henrietta McFlub was a minnow. Like most minnows, she was small and relatively drab. She all but disappeared in the shallows of Cricket Creek, where she lived with her family. This was considered a good thing by the elders of the minnow community, since minnows make excellent meals for any number of hungry animals. Mud was a good color for hiding.
However, Henrietta had more important things to do than hide. She made colorful outfits out of wild flowers, leaves, and grass. You may think that minnows don’t need outfits, and you would be right. But they enjoy colors just as much as you do. At this point in the history of Cricket Creek, colorful clothing was very popular.
Henrietta was an expert. Bonnets, neckerchiefs, overalls, evening coats and gowns all flew from her sewing needle in brilliant colors as the seasons shifted – late summer goldenrod, autumn russet, purple coneflower in the spring.
On that fateful September day, it might have been advisable for Henrietta and her friends to have gone with a basic color like mud or scum green, but I will leave you to decide.
Henrietta and her friends Bip and Flicker were playing tag that day in a quiet, shady pool. Henrietta was wearing sunflower yellow, Bip had vest of indigo borage, and Flicker wore a hat made from a particularly bright green leaf Henrietta had found. Flicker was “it”, and had just darted after Bip in a threatening manner when the the world became a rainbow.
Henrietta found herself swimming in a whirlpool of vivid reds, blues, greens, yellows, purples, and oranges. Before she could blink, she felt something she didn’t understand (the feeling of flying, she later discovered) and everything went black.
Finn Chitterack trotted along the road, carrying a suspicious lumpy bundle and looking very pleased with himself. His bright eyes flicked left and right down Cricket Creek, but it wasn’t clear if the raccoon was keeping watch or looking for an audience. He had bagged his loot only moments before.
He skipped forward, leaping high over roots and rocks and humming a tune that sounded remotely like Wabash Cannonball. Finn had a dream. He was making that dream happen, bundle by bundle, and the closer he got to the dream, the more excited he became. And the less likely to watch where his feet were going.
The root reached right up to grab his ankle and down he went, ripping a hole in his sack and unleashing a stream of jelly beans into the shallows of Cricket Creek.
Henrietta could see pinpricks of light in the blackness. Bip and Flicker slipped close to her side. There was about an inch of water in the bag from the hasty scoop, and the friends pushed out a small pocket apart from the weight of the beans. They huddled there, waiting, listening. There was a rattling of metal on metal, a rusty creak, a bump and a dull skittering. A hole, held closed before, appeared in the side of the bag, and through it she saw a shaft of light for an instant. The rusty creak again, followed by a darkening final clang. Silence.
The water was steadily seeping from the bag. Henrietta knew she had moments before they couldn’t breathe at all. She dipped under, took a deep breath, and struggled out of the bag, followed by Bip and Flicker.
Finn didn’t mind a little water. He figured his loot would dry off by the time he got back with his last load.
He clambered down the ladder and leapt to the path below. Dusting the rust off his paws, he looked up at the giant goblet of goodies. This water tower had stood by Cricket Creek for as many years as the Hill ‘o’ Beans Candy Factory, and probably more. Visions of paddling round a sea of candy beans, gobbling as he went, played past his eyes. It was almost full. It was almost time. He could almost feel the sugar coma in his face.
Henrietta and her friends heaved themselves over the piles of strawberry, grape, and lime jelly beans toward what looked like a giant wheel. She hoped this opened the exit hatch she had seen.
Mr. Chitterack was no more than twenty paces down the road when an ominous creak reached his ears. He turned, slowly. The tower had creaked, to be sure. He took a step forward and shaded his eyes.
“Again!” called Henrietta.
“I’m losing water!” Bip groaned as he coiled and sprang.
Flicker slipped and skittered down, gasping on the slope. Bip and Henrietta landed on the spoke, and the ceiling of the tower became a star field of colors as sunlight poured through the heap.
Finn Chitterack stood and watched years of candy beans waterfall into Cricket Creek. He sat and watched his beautiful, transcendent trove float lazily down the river toward the dam. He lay back and watched the cerulean sky, pondering life and its many mysteries as he listened to the steady rush and plop of beans falling into the river.
Henrietta and her friends understood what it meant to fly.
Shortly after the torrent subsided, Finn had determined to leave a life of crime and become a vicar. He stood long, looking at the creek, and picked up four beans that had fallen by the wayside. He ate them one by one, with great reverence, then slung his empty sack over his shoulder and trudged away up the creek path.
For weeks after, the more human types along the creek marveled at the sweetness of the water. Folks near the dam told tales of a rainbow of colors cascading from the gates (which no one believed because the colors immediately churned into an unassuming brown).
And everybody commented on how fast the minnows were swimming.