The trouble began with the dogs: big, shaggy Bub and little, dramatic Cate; and the floor mops: Flopsy, Mopsy, and Topsy. They had lots of toys scattered all through the castle at Beaurivage, as well as at the crystal cave-castle, Zandelphia’s royal residence across the river. There were chew toys, balls, flying toys, stuffed toys, toys on wheels, but there was just one blue squeaky toy. And that was the one they all wanted to play with.
When they were at the castle where the blue squeaky toy wasn’t, they made do with what was available. But even when they were wildly chasing the bouncy red balls down seven flights of stairs, they were each thinking, I wish I had that blue squeaky toy.
When they did
have the blue squeaky toy, there were nothing but fights over who got to play with it, and for how long, and whose turn was next.
Nobody could figure out why these dogs, who had been such good friends for over a year, were suddenly so contentious. They should have been the happiest dogs in all the known kingdoms. They had the most luxurious silk pillows to sleep on (as well as every bed—even if there was somebody in it—in any of the 247 bedrooms in both castles combined), the finest and most exotic cuisine (muskrat mixture, chipmunk chews, kangaroo kibble) prepared daily by the royal chefs, so many toys the courtiers were constantly tripping over them and finding them under the many sofa cushions (and still occasionally discovering that their court shoes had been chewed on), and more freedom than was probably good for them. Limits are important and necessary, after all.
The dogs weren’t sure why they were so cranky with each other, either. It just seemed there was something in the air that made them feel all prickly and cross.
And then there was
something in the air. Rain—lots of it.
The rain started the day a rumor reached the castle at Beaurivage of a woman who had washed ashore about a year before in a village far, far, far downstream, who hadn’t been able to remember anything about how she had gotten into the river—or anything at all, really. She apparently had recently regained her memory.
There were no further details, but of course everyone thought of their queen, Olympia, who had fallen into the river the year before.
It kept raining. For days and days and days. Then everybody in Beaurivage—not just the dogs—was in a bad mood.
The suspicions that the woman was Olympia persisted. But no more rumors arrived, and neither did Olympia. Since everyone believed that the first thing she would have done upon recovering her memory that she was a queen
would have been to get back to Beaurivage as fast as possible, and since that hadn’t come about, they began to comfort themselves with the belief that the woman downstream was not Olympia. It was an odd coincidence, they agreed, that another woman had fallen into the river at about the same time, but coincidences happened, especially in villages alongside rivers.
After a week or so of steady rain, the downpours tapered off and finally stopped. But the persistent feelings in Beaurivage were those of gloom, discontent, and unease. It was hard to believe that such a short time before, around the time of the dedication of the Zandelphia-Beaurivage Bridge linking the two kingdoms, many residents, including the royals, believed themselves to be the happiest they had ever been.
Copyright © 2008 by Jean Ferris
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