A Children's Story by Bob Biegert

My friend Bob, a fifth grade teacher, created this story for my nephew Mike after a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California. Mike who was two years old and just learning to talk charmed us by saying, "marine mammal." Bob audiotaped the story and Susie Tannehill, a friend and second grade teacher, made a pen and ink drawing of Mike at Sky Blue Lake that I photocopied for Mike to color. The next year Bob wrote Mike Saves Spring.

Sky Blue Lake

This is a story of Mike and how he learned about the magic of friendship. Mike lived in a tree house on an island in the middle of Sly Blue Lake. His tree house was in a big oak tree in the middle of the island, and from it, he could see the entire island and all around the lake. When the wind blew, his house rocked gently back and forth.

Mike had lots of friends. All the animals on the island and some of the creatures in the lake knew him, and like to play with him. If an animal was hurt or in danger, Mike would help.

Of all his friends, Mike had two that were very special. He played with them as often as he could. One was Chipper, a chipmunk that lived right next to Mike's tree house in a little hole in the oak tree. Mike's other special friend was Lueset. She lived in the lake. Lueset was a beautiful spotted fish. She had a long shiny gray body with yellow, orange, and red spots, and a tall spotted dorsal fin.

Every day in summer, Lueset swam to the little dock where Mike kept his sailboat. Mike would dive from the dock and swim with her. Holding his breath, he swam under water. Lueset showed him crayfish and eels, underwater springs and fish of all kinds; wonderful things beneath the surface of the lake.

One day Mike sat on the dock and waited for Lueset to come. It was a hot sunny day, just right for swimming in the cool blue lake. Mike waited and waited, but Lueset did not come. Mike waited all day, and when the sun went down, he was sad that his friend had not come to the dock to swim with him.

Mike worried about his friend. He wanted to find Lueset and make she was all right. He tried to figure out what he could do, but as he thought and thought, he began to get discouraged. How could he find Lueset in such a big lake? How could he search underwater or even search all across the surface of the lake? It was so big.

Mike was feeling very sad sitting there on the dock. He didn't know what to do. Then he felt something scamper up his back and onto his shoulder. He heard a familiar squeak in his ear. It was his friend Chipper, the chipmunk, who chattered away because he was so happy to be with Mike.

Chipper did make Mike feel a little better, and he also gave Mike an idea. Chipper reminded Mike that he had lots of friends and with their help, maybe he could find Lueset.

Just as Mike was feeling hopeful about getting help from his friends, he saw a shadow crossing the dock. He looked up and there was his friend, the eagle, flying overhead. Mike waved to him, and the eagle flew down and landed on the dock. Eagle listened as Mike told him Lueset hadn't visited in two days. He asked the eagle to fly over the lake and look for her. It Lueset was near the surface of the water, the eagle's powerful eyes would see her yellow, orange, and red spots, and eagle could tell Mike where she was.

Eagle flew high into the air and made big circles all around the lake. After quite awhile, the eagle returned and told Mike that he did not see Lueset. He also told Mike, there was a narrow rocky place at the far end of the lake where dark shadows hid the water and he could not see the surface between high rock cliffs.

Mike hoped for good news from the eagle, but even though it wasn't the news he hoped for, Mike thanked his friend before eagle flew off. Who else could help find Lueset? Mike needed someone to search the deep places in the lake.

Omar could help me, thought Mike. Omar was a lake trout who swam near Mike's boat in spring when the water was cold and clear. When Omar was near, Mike put his feet in the water and reached out to Omar, or drummed his heels against the side of his boat sending vibrations through the water. Omar and Mike met because Omar heard these drumming vibrations and swam towards them to investigate. The drumming became a way for Mike to call Omar.

So, the next morning, when there was still no Lueset, Mike floated out in his boat and began drumming on the side with his heels. He drummed for a long time before he saw a silvery shape coming up from the dark depth, and there was his friend Omar. Wow, Omar looked big! Mike had forgotten how big and shiny Omar was. He was longer than Mike's arm, and bright like the full moon. Mike smiled a big smile, and Omar gazed up at Mike.

After Mike told him that Lueset was missing, Omar agreed to look all over the lake for her, and he swam back into the depths to begin the search.

Mike and Chipper waited for awhile on the dock, but it was too hard to just wait, so they climbed to the highest branches of the big oak and rocked with the breeze. Mike could see a few acorns from autumn on the roof of his tree house. Chipper knew his friend was worried. They both kept an eye on the water by the dock.

The sun was setting behind a hill on the West Side of the lake when Mike saw a silver flash by the dock. It was Omar. Maybe he had found Lueset.

Running onto the dock, they saw Omar, but no Lueset. Omar was finning at the surface, and Mike saw something colorful in his mouth. It looked like a small yellow coin. Mike reached gently down and Omar dropped a curved yellow fish scale in Mike's hand. Mike knew it was one of the scales that covered Lueset's body.

"Where did you find this?" Mike asked.

Omar had been swimming by the narrow rocky inlet at the far end of the lake where the water was shadowy and feels spooky. Omar had seen the shiny yellow scale. He quickly picked it up and swam away with it. Omar told Mike that all the lake creatures stayed away from that place because in the rocks by the water was a cave when a mean old wizard lived. This wizard would change into a serpent and chase any lake creature that made the mistake of swimming nearby. There were also stories of a giant snapping turtle living among the rocks. He lived there because he was fearless and wasn't frightened by the wizard.

Mike shivered a little as he heard Omar's story. The inlet sounded like a terrible place, and Mike did not want to think about Lueset being there, but that was where Omar found one for her scales.

Mike thanked Omar for his help. Then the big lake trout slowly swam down into the deep. Chipper ran off to find food. Mike was alone on the dock.

It was getting late. The moon and stars were coming out as Mike sat at the edge of the dock dangling his feet in the water, trying to think what he must do to find Lueset. He had never sailed to the far end of the big lake, and the thought of that place frightened him. Mike was afraid, but his friendship for Lueset was stronger than fear. Tomorrow he would sail to the far end of the lake and find his friend.

Mike took a last look at the moon reflecting on the lake, and he saw something swimming across the lake towards him. Whatever it was made silvery ripples in the moonlight. In fact, it looked silvery itself. Omar would not be swimming near the surface of the water. Mike watched as the creature swam closer.

Mike was amazed to see a great silver beaver. The beaver swam past and walked up onto the shore next to the dock. When it shook its silvery fur, water flew everywhere. Then the beaver looked at Mike and smiled.

"Hello Mike," said the beaver.

Mike was very surprised, but he remembered to say hello.

"I am Sylvan," said the beaver. I am the oldest creature of this lake. I know all about the lake and I know all of the creatures. I also know that you are a great friend to all of us, and a special friend of Lueset's."

"Where is Lueset? Is she all right?" gasped Mike.

"Yes, she is unharmed, but she is in danger and she needs your help. You know where to look for her, and you will find her. But before you find her, you need to know about the magic."

"What magic?" asked Mike.

"The magic of friendship, a magic you already have because you are such a true friend. It is the magic you can use to face danger and rescue your friend. It is magic that is stronger than fear. To use this magic, Mike, you must think of your friends and feel the love in your heart. This feeling of love gives strength and courage and the power you will need to help your friend. Now I must go. Remember Mike, keep the love for your friends in your heart and you will be safe. Goodbye Mike."

"Goodbye, thank you, goodbye," called Mike as he watched the beautiful beaver slide into the water and swim into the night.

The love for my friends, Mike repeated to himself as he walked to his tree house.

The next morning, Mike was wide-awake before the sun came up. The sky was getting rosy pink in the east, and the birds were just starting to chirp. Today he would sail to the far end of the lake and find Lueset. Mike was afraid he might meet the wizard or the snapping turtle, but he thought of Sylvan, the beaver, and could hear her voice telling him, "Keep the love for your friends in your heart and you will be safe." Remembering these words, Mike felt better, and with food in his pack, he climbed down the ladder of his tree house and walked to the dock where his sailboat was waiting.

Sitting in his boat, Mike looked to the far end of the lake and saw a thick fog hanging over the water, hiding the rock cliffs that he must sail to. He felt lonely setting off by himself, but he knew he had to find Lueset and help her.

As he was untying his boat, something scampered across the dock and onto his shoulder. It was Chipper! Boy, was Mike glad to see his little friend. Chipper wanted to join Mike, and crawled into Mike's shirt pocket, which is where he rode when they went places together. Chipper could see everything from his nest in Mike's pocket.

After the boat was untied, it drifted while Mike put up the sail. When the sail filled with the breeze, the boat tilted a little to the side and moved across the water.

The breeze carried them across the lake towards the rocky inlet that lay hidden in the fog. Chipper and Mike stared into the grayness, hoping to see what might be hidden there. The air felt cooler as the entered the fog. Mike could see just far enough ahead to navigate safely. He felt his heart beating, and wondered if Chipper could feel it too.

Rocky cliffs loomed up out of the water on both sides near the boat. The air was still. Mike took down the sail, stood on the bow and paddled forward slowly with an oar. A big rock blocked the narrow passageway ahead. As Mike paddled closer, about to slip past the rock it moved. Two gigantic eyes and a huge sharply pointed snout rose quickly out into the air to face Mike.

Mike was so startled that he froze. The boat was drifting right at the giant snapping turtle. Just then, Chipper moved in his shirt pocket right next to his heart, and Mike remembered his friends. He felt less afraid. Digging in with his paddle, he stopped the boat before it touched the giant snapper.

Mike looked into the two big eyes and did something very brave. He smiled. The snapping turtle saw Mike smiling, and seemed to smile back.

"Hello," said Mike.

The turtle blinked, and said, "Hello, my friend." The turtle was friendly! Mike was so relieved he lost his balance. Quickly he grabbed the mast to keep from falling overboard. The boat rocked back and forth and made the turtle laugh. Mike sat down and laughed too. Chipper squeaked with excitement.

Mike told the turtle about Lueset and his search for her. The turtle said he had seen a beautiful fish with yellow, orange, and red spots. The wizard had caught that fish in a net and was keeping her in an underwater cage at the end of the narrow passageway. The giant snapping turtle agreed to show Mike where the cage was. Mike was filled with hope thinking he could find his friend, but as the great turtle led the way, both sides of the tall rock walls were once again shrouded in fog.

Mike could hear a waterfall, and then he saw where the passageway ended and water from a stream splashed down the rocks into the lake.

Near the waterfall the cliff was covered with thick vines, and Mike spotted a cave. Smoke was coming from the cave and there was a foul smell in the air. The giant turtle looked at Mike as if to warn him of danger.

They approached the rocks right under the cave. There were rock stairs going up to the cave, and at the bottom of the stairs, Mike saw the cage. It was made mostly of wire and was full of fish. When Mike looked closely, he saw yellow, orange, and red spots. He almost shouted for joy, but remembered the danger and was careful not to make any noise. When Mike lifted the top of the cage away, the fish were excited and began to jump and swim away. Lueset waited for the others to escape and then swam free. Lueset was so happy to see Mike that she jumped out of the water near him. Caught up in the excitement of finding his friend, Mike forgot about the wizard. When he reached down into the water to greet his friend, the wizard ran down the stairs after them.

There was a loud hiss. Mike and Lueset looked up and saw a long black and red serpent slithering down the rocks toward them.

"Swim," screamed Mike as he jumped to grab the paddle. The serpent sprung from the rocks over the boat. He was chasing Lueset. Lueset swam as fast as she could, but the serpent was much bigger and faster. Its terrible jaws were opening as the serpent overtook her. In a moment, the razor teeth would snap together and Lueset would be gone.

A panic gripped Mike, and he was about to look away, when suddenly, the serpent stretched straight out and came to a halt. The serpent's mouth slammed shut barely missing Lueset. The giant snapping turtle has clamped down on the serpent's tail. The turtle's tremendous weight was like an anchor that stopped the swift serpent.

Now the serpent roared with anger and lashed the water. Breaking loose from the turtle, the serpent attacked the boat. Still holding the paddle, and fearing for his life, Mike didn't know what to do.

The serpent jumped out of the water, and over the boat, nearly knocking Mike over the side as its scaly body landed across the deck. Under the boat it swam again, and over, wrapping the boat in a coil. Three times the leaping serpent circled the boat and then began to squeeze its mighty coil. The wood of the boat was creaking and bending as the coil tightened. At any moment, the boat would splinter and Mike would fall into the water with the attacking serpent.

Mike raised the paddle to smash the serpent, when a loud squeak came from his shirt pocket where chipper had been clinging through all of the danger. Something stopped Mike from striking. He remembered his friends and what Sylvan had told him. He felt the love of his friends, and instead of trying to hurt the serpent he shouted.

"Wizard! Listen to me."

Mike's words had power, and the serpent stopped and faced him. "Wizard," Mike said with command. "I don't want to hurt you. I let the fish go because I was saving my friend. Don't you have friends? Can you understand why I had to do it?"

Yes, he did have a few friends, but until now, the wizard did not know about the magic of friendship. As he listened to Mike, the wizard, who was quite wise, could see that this new magic came to Mike from many sources and made him very powerful. Exactly how the magic worked, the wizard could not tell, but he did know that Mike's power, was greater than his own.

The serpent let out another hiss and uncoiled from around the boat. He swam to the rocky stairway, and slithered back into the cave.

As Mike watched him go, he thought he would do something nice for him one day. And for the giant snapping turtle, Mike didn't know how to thank him enough. He was a great, great friend.

When Mike sailed out from between the cliffs Lueset was waiting for him. Their happiness made them forget for the moment all the danger they had faced. They were worn out, but very, very happy.

It was evening now as Mike sailed back to his island. Lueset swam beside the boat and Chipper watched from Mike's pocket. The lake was calm and peaceful.

Off to one side of the boat, along the shore, something was swimming on top of the water. It was Sylvan, the beaver. Mike waved, and Sylvan slapped her tail on the water in reply. Seeing the beaver made Mike think once again how lucky he was to have so many friends.

Copyright Bob Biegert