Once there lived a beaver named Barry Beaver. Barry was a very happy and self sufficient fellow. He was content with his daily routine, which included waking up, tending to the dam on the river which his ancestors had built, preparing meals and going to bed. He had a large family with a lot of cousins, aunts and uncles. Every night they would dine together, sing songs and retire to bed one after the other. Bed time was a family affair too, mind you. They would all sleep in the river holding hands with one another to make sure they don’t drift away.
Now, among all his cousins, Barry, was least adventurous (his cousins mercilessly reminded him that each day). The most adventurous thing he might’ve ever done was to climb on the other side of the dam all by himself. His mundane routine never ceased to excite him; he savoured every element of his day as if it was the last day on Earth. He was, as a matter of fact, the best in spotting irregularities and obscurities in the dam compared to all his cousins. This was the reason; all the elders in the family adored him and gave his examples to teach their kids. His cousins (out of sheer jealousy and frustration) would mock him, tease him and at times even bullied him. And this is where our story begins.
One day, just as Barry was going about his routine inspection, three of his cousins rounded him up. They were particularly mad about the part that Barry had discovered a cavity in the dam a couple of minutes after his eldest cousin had submitted his reports of inspection stating all was well. The elders had punished his cousin by making him spend the enter day fixing up the cavity all by himself. Enraged, they had decided it was time someone took charge and taught Barry a few life lessons.
“So, you think you can outsmart us, eh?” asked Barry’s eldest cousin.
“I merely do my duties. Had you done the needful, we wouldn’t have been having this conversation.” Wittily replied Barry and tried to push his way through to avoid any further altercation. How mistaken he was for his cousin simply grabbed his tail and tossed him back. Beyond this point no more words were exchanged, only blows.
That night, Barry stayed aloof from all the merry making. He remained in the shadows until everyone had slept before making his way to sleep. He did not wish anybody to find out he had been beaten up out of embarrassment and fear of elders intervening only to worsen the issue. Barry gently massaged his wounds as he drifted off to sleep (holding a low falling tree branch in water).
Barry would never remember the incidents that unfolded that night. His cousin had not done a good job filling up the cavity. A small rock the size of Barry’s head carried by the flowing river hit the cavity with great force. The cavity immediately gave way. The current grew stronger than the strength of the branch Barry was holding on to. The branch silently snapped carrying Barry through the hole.
Imagine Barry’s surprise when he woke up. Shock didn’t take much long to settle in as the baffled beaver looked all around. This must be one of his cousin’s jokes. It has got to be. After having frantically looked everywhere, a realisation dawned upon him. He was lost. But how? Could he have drifted away? Again how? The dam was intact. Or was it? Unending questions stressed exacerbated his anxiety.
By the time it was noon, Barry had calmed his mind; He had to think straight. He glanced at the river. Perhaps he could try following it back upstream. Yes, that seemed a good idea. He mustered himself up for a long trek upstream.
Barry walked on and on for until nightfall, however, nothing seemed familiar. Worn out, he decided to rest the night and continue his journey tomorrow. Afraid of drifting once more, he decided to dig himself a pit beside the tree and snuggle in. As he settled down to sleep, his worries returned. Will he find his home tomorrow? Would anyone have noticed his disappearance? Would they search for him or simply ignore his absence and move on? His head was racing with questions once again, each worse than the previous one. Eventually exhaustion left behind his worries and helped him drift asleep.
The next day, Barry woke with a start. There were loud banging noises and a constant commotion in the air. How did he manage to sleep so long, he never understood. Out of curiosity he carefully moved behind bushes towards the commotion. He must have reached a human habitat, for there were humans all around doing strange things. Some were shooting fires with loud noises a few were playing with perfectly round rocks (though they seemed quite light to be thrown around with such an ease). There were a few who were cooking on fire. It all smelled so good especially since Barry hadn’t had anything but berries on the way.
Cautiously Barry made his way towards unattended food. He had heard far too many tales of human atrocities towards beavers to attract any attention. He was successfully able to smuggle a few pieces of bread and some cooked animal. This feels so good! He thought. All his tensions of returning home forgotten, Barry sat reclined by a tree well covered by the bushes and savoured each bite. Food had never tasted so good before.
As he ate, he looked at the humans play. One thing in particular caught his attention; blue coloured blobs that floated in the air connected to a pillar with the help of a thin string. He saw one elderly human give two to an excited little girl. However, in the exchange of hands, one of the blobs flew away in the sky, higher and higher it drifted until only a speck was seen. Barry immediately was struck with an idea. He could go higher using those blobs and scan the ground for his home.
Leaving the food behind, Barry sneaked stealthily towards the blue blobs. He hid behind a red pillar to which the blobs were tied. He looked around to see if the coast was clear. He saw the same elderly man now talking with an elderly looking lady (who was carrying a baby in her arms).
“That’s not a problem at all ma’am, I will take these three balloons to your campsite for you.”
The elderly fellow plucked three blue balloons and left with the lady towards her campsite. Barry knew this was the moment. He hastily climbed the pillar and plucked a few balloons. He simply held them; they did not lift him in the air. Thinking fast, he plucked all of them and held on to them tightly. Slowly and steadily he began rising higher and higher into the sky. He looked in all directions for a hint of his home and lo and behold, there it was the tiny little dam just a few miles towards the mountains.
As though answering his request, the winds blew him in the direction to his home. Barry couldn’t be happier. He started releasing one balloon after the other as he flew closer to home. He was left with barely a few balloons when he began descending near the dam. The other beavers, which were searching for him, started pointing towards him in absolute awe. They were as shocked as they were relieved to see him drifting steadily towards them.
Barry’s eldest cousin ran towards him, as he landed, hugged him and began crying. “Forgive me cousin; it was my fault you were drifted away. I will never feign my duties ever again. I am so sorry.” Taken aback by the sudden change in the feelings, Barry immediately forgave him.
All the beavers surrounded Barry as he told his adventurous tale. Since then, nobody mocked Barry anymore. He had become a hero overnight. His cousins too improved their attitude towards him and he came to be known as ‘Balloon Beaver’.
A short story for the painting made by Ayushi Kapadia