idol season 11 | week 11, topic 2 | 1140 words
And The Creek Don't Rise
Once upon a time, there was an itty-bitty trickle of a young'un that lived along the western edge of the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.
The little fellow's name was Brook, on account of his mama thought it sounded fancier than "Crick," which was the name all his cousins were given.
Brook was an easy-going sort, prone to slipping and sliding around here and there. Folks liked him well enough, though he never put any real effort into anything he did. "Lazy," his mama called it.
Brook didn't give a rat's patootie about whether he was lazy or not—whatever a patootie was, exactly. Or a rat, for that matter.
He liked how he was already, yessiree. He liked it just fine.
He liked where he lived, too, with the cool shady trees and big blue sky opening up above. It was right pretty there, and peaceful. A fellow could drift and dream if he’d a mind to, or enjoy all the critters coming and going. There was wildlife a-plenty, and Brook knew most every one of them and called them friend. There were foxes gliding and glinting through the woods, birds twittering and hopping nearby, and otters chasing each other in and out of the water and tumbling tail-over-whiskers as they skidded and scampered every which way and back again.
There were snakes, too, wending and winding across the water, and them slippery fish Brook liked so much that whistled past him, always swishing and tickling as they went.
There weren’t no better place to be, and no part of his life that needed changing, least as far as Brook could see.
His mama, now, she always hoped for more ambition. “Make something of yourself!” she would say.
Brook built himself up a little from time to time and branched out some, but it never stuck. It wasn’t really who he wanted to be.
“Your Uncle Runnel was like this, when he was young,” his mama said. “Fidgety little thing—couldn’t hang onto the idea of a bigger future for hisself for a dang minute.”
Brook had never met Uncle Runnel, who lived too far away, but he’d heard more warnings about him than he cared to. He thought it a pity Uncle Runnel wasn’t closer, though. Runnel seemed the type to understand just how things were, whereas Brook’s mama couldn’t even begin entertain any such notions.
Brook sometimes wondered how his Uncle Runnel looked at those growing-up years, and whether Uncle Runnel's mama used to make feel as purely tired as Brook's mama so often did.
Time went by, and still nothing changed much for Brook. He had to keep hearing about how this cousin or that one had worked himself up to be something bigger and more impressive. A few of his cousins were even given new names.
"Now, that right there is what I've been talking about all along," his mama said.
A pair of little rabbits quietly sidled up to Brook and tried to soothe him. "Don't worry," one said softly. "Your cousins are too full of themselves anyway. We like you the best."
"You're perfect," the other one whispered.
But Brook was no longer sure what was true.
Spring came, bringing new colors and new life. One day, it started to rain.
It rained and it rained and it kept on raining. The sky was dark and the wind blew cold, and all the little animals huddled in hollows or under dripping trees and bushes, and waited for the rain to end.
Brook stretched and swelled, and he started to feel power building up inside him—a power he'd never felt before.
He moved stronger and faster than ever, surging and spreading through the copses and meadows.
"Look at me, Ma!" he hollered. "I'm all growed up now!"
"About dang time!"
His mama's banks rose higher, and she seethed with the extra water Brook and his cousins brought in. She raged and roared, all mighty and proud as she tossed boats left and right and reached for the roadways that ran across the bridges overhead.
Suddenly, Brook noticed something stirring near his belly. A little squirrel was there, splashing and paddling as hard as it could. "Brook!" it gasped. "You're killing us!"
Brook felt a wave of horror sweep through him, and he just about stilled. "Oh, no!" he said.
Back he went then, back toward his creek bed. But there wasn't enough room for him, so he tried to think what to do.
His fish were gone, he noticed, what with the rocks and mud tumbling through his belly. They'd all gone back to the river where they started.
It gave him an idea.
He thought and thought as hard as he could, focusing on churning up dirt and rocks and sending them along to the river.
"What's that you're up to?" his mama asked. "You stop that, now, you hear?"
Brook kept on going, digging his channel deeper and deeper until he could settle back into it without hardly even a finger leaking out into the world beyond.
"Don't you dare!" his mama said. "Your uncle did the same fool thing, and nearly destroyed us all!"
"But I thought you said he got bigger…"
"For a little bit, but then he pulled that stunt. I haven't seen more than a trickle of him for years and years."
Brook noticed a pair of little birds up in a tree that touched his northern edge. "Thank you for sparing our nest!" they chirped. "We were so scared for our chicks!"
He heard a squirrel chittering nearby, and glimpsed an otter scampering away.
"You know I'll never leave you, Ma," Brook said. "But I can't help you destroy things either."
"But it's what you were made for! You can't go against your nature!"
"My nature says I gotta look out for my friends," Brook said. "And I'm gonna. I'm sorry, but that's how it is."
Brook's mama knocked down a trail signpost, and then tore a tree out of her own river-bank in a huff. But the rain was already slowing down.
"I'm sorry, fellas," Brook called out to the little critters in the woods around him. "I didn't mean to be so careless."
The rain stopped not long afterward. Then the sun appeared, glistening on the droplets at the edges of leaves and twigs. The hum of insects started up again.
A pair of otters chased each other down to the water and tumbled in. Ducks dozed on the bank, waiting for the current to grow quiet enough for a swim.
Finally, a little rabbit crept out from under a bush and hopped down to the creek's edge. It lapped at the water. "You're still the best," it murmured to him.
"I know it," Brook said.
And by then, he truly did.
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