IkigaiBooks for Adults and Children Copyright © 2011 Nadia Step All right reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems without the permission in writing from the publisher or author, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author and the publishing team. For more positive emotions and feelings, check out our other wonderful stories that make you smile and chuckle at www.ikigaibooks.com or use Twitter https://twitter.com/#!/IkigaiBooks or Facebook http://www.facebook.com/pages/IkigaiBooks/165427473535183 “The Three Fidgets” by Nadia Step Children’s Fiction Produced/Published by Art MacHentsev at IkigaiBooks Summary: “The Three Fidgets” is a story of three best friends who run out of ideas for competition. They finally decide to get some help from the wisest inhabitant of the forest and venture out seeking an advice from him. The journey is scarry and treacherous, but friendship helps overcome all obstacles. Book design by Anastasia Myakushkina Illustrated by Andrei Belyasov and Elena Belozertseva Translated by Jack Doughty from “Три Tоварища” , originally written in Russian Edited by Rik Hall ISBN: 978-0-9839633-4-9 IkigaiBooks’ team wishes everyone to not be afraid of challenges and persevere in their endeavors.

Wise old Beaver, also know as Beaver-San, was in his usual spot, sitting on his porch thinking. Beaver-San was not a young beaver. He was, in fact, several decades old. On one side of the porch were three very large oak trees. These gave him shade. On the other side was his pond. And right now, he was dangling his paws in the water, softly splashing them about. Plop-plop, came the sound of the splashes. Plop-plop. The sun was setting in the west and evening was coming. A marvelous silence spread over the pond. Soon, the frogs would begin their evening concert, but for now… for now only the light rustle of the oak leaves and the water splashing from his paws disturbed the age-old silence. Plop-plop. Plop-plop.

Today, Beaver-San was the only observer at the frogs’ evening concert. Plop-plop… Plopplop... Come to that, it had been the same yesterday, and the day before yesterday. Now it wasn't that he was a big fan of the frogs’ performances. Just that it was somehow awkward that they would sing and croak and no-one would listen to their concerts. So there was Beaver-San, the audience, all by himself. Poor little frogs, they were really, really trying hard. Plop-plop. Plop-plop. When Beaver-San couldn’t spare any time, or was simply too busy, the frogs didn’t have a single spectator. They still gave their concerts, but Beaver-San knew very well that his presence was of great importance to the frogs, it couldn’t have been otherwise. When he was in the audience they sang much louder, with much more gusto. When he was present their many voices echoed not only over the pond, but over the nearby field too. “The frogs in our country have fine voices”, thought Beaver-San with satisfaction, splashing his paws in the water.

Plop-plop… Plop-plop… Beaver-San liked the quiet. He liked to dream a little. He liked to think about his childhood. And today, on this quiet summer evening, he suddenly remembered a certain story. He smiled. It was at a time when little Beaver-San was still living with his parents and didn’t even have his own kimono. Then, he could only dream of one. As a small beaver he also dreamed, sitting with his friends on this very same porch. In those days, he wasn’t called Beaver-San, but simply Boba, or Boba-San. The friends met there every morning. Young Boba-San, a small frog Tommy and an elegant little mole in a velvet coat, whose name was Montmorency. But the mole's name seemed too long for the other two, so they simply called him Monty. The three of them were passionately competitive. They tried all sorts of competitions: the high jump, the long jump, and even the wide jump!

And they ran to see “Who’s the fastest?” They crawled to see “Who’s the slowest?” They dived paws down "Who can go the deepest?" and they dived paws up "Who makes the biggest splash?" They whistled in all sorts of different ways! And they threw pine-cones "Who throws the farthest, who throws the highest, who has the best aim?" They competed at spitting! At climbing trees! At jumping over branches! In fact, they tried just about anything. Then one morning, the three friends met and began to think about what else they could compete at. They thought and thought, but they couldn’t think of anything. They sat. In silence. They thought some more. But it was no good! They still couldn’t think of anything! They thought for half the day, and in the end little Boba-San said:

“That’s enough! We’re fresh out of ideas. We’ll have to go to one of the wise grown-ups. Let’s ask Gray Owl. You won’t find anyone more clever than he is. Everyone goes to him for advice, even my parents.” “And mine!”, frog Tommy put in. “And mine!” little mole Monty piped up. “But we’d have to go to him at night, when he’s not asleep. D’you think they’d let us out of the house at night?” The three of them sat quietly, worrying and thinking. “Parents can be convinced of course”, little Boba-San began hesitantly. “But, it’s frightening in the forest at night. Gray Owl lives in the thickest part of Sleepy Wood. And we have to get there first! Just the three of us, on a forest path, in pitch darkness. Oh, it’s sca-a-a-a-ry!” “Oh, rubbish!” Tommy croaked. “There are three of us, almost grown animals, three friends! It’s scary on your own, but the three of us together don’t have to be scared of anything!” “And who’s afraid of the dark anyway? I can find my way very well in the dark!” the little mole Monty added, supporting him. Boba cheered up. “Oh well, if that’s the way it is, I’m all for it!” So happily they decided to go to Gray Owl tomorrow night. They agreed to spend the next day working on their parents. Preparations next day, and then tomorrow night they’d be on their way. Late next evening, the three friends with their three small backpacks were standing at the beginning of the Main Forest Path. A cool evening mist wafted over them. The night was coming into its own.

Before going any deeper into the forest, the friends decided to have a snack and discuss what they would say to the Wise Owl. They used a tree trunk as a table for the food their mothers had lovingly prepared for the journey. They each began sharing with the others what they had brought. “I’ve got dried acorns!” was Boba’s offer. “Here’s lemonade made from dandelion pollen”, Tommy croaked. “Try my fresh tumbleweed!” mole Monty cried, trying to persuade his friends. When they had eaten all they could, the night had finally fallen and there was no time to discuss their talk with Gray Owl. Picking up the left-overs, the three friends, the three “almost grownup” animals, as they thought of themselves, set off on their journey. Boba-San, young frog Tommy and little mole Monty walked in a single file, one behind the other. They were talking loudly to each other to keep up their spirits and to avoid losing each other in the all-pervasive gloom.

“Oh, this night dew! It’s cold!” Boba muttered. “My paws are getting wet!” “Yes, mine too”, mole Monty agreed. “No, not really wet”, Tommy croaked. “Suits me, I like it this way. Ow! I tripped! My foot’s caught under something!” “Let me go first, and you can follow me. Darkness is where I’m most at home!” mole Monty suggested, releasing the frog’s foot from under a hidden log. “Let’s do it!” Boba stopped briefly to let Monty take the lead. And so they pressed on. Walking in each other’s footsteps. Mole Monty, frog Tommy and BobaSan. Under their feet there was always something crackling, rustling, swishing and murmuring. But they didn’t know what it was. They could only guess. A branch? Some grass? A thorn? A moldy mushroom? Some rotten bark? They trusted mole Monty who really was quite good at finding his way through the unlit forest, or so it seemed, since so far, no one had fallen or tripped. The monotony of the path made all three of them feel sleepy. The friends all yawned in turn in their different ways. Tommy’s yawn was thin and squeaky, Monty’s was muffled and soft, and Boba-San’s was loud and croaky. Sleep was fighting hard to close the friends’ eyes. Suddenly a mighty roar shattered the night!

The three friends froze in terror. Tommy kept blinking, holding back tears. Monty’s fur stood on end, and Boba-San took up a karate pose. “What frightful creature was that?” Tommy squeaked after a long pause. “I’ll go and find out”, Boba whispered. “Who’ll come with me?” “I will!” mole Monty replied, supporting his friend. “And Tommy can stay and guard our things.” “Alone? Here? In this nightmare?” Tommy whimpered in horror. “Don’t be afraid! You’ll be safe here! The noise came from somewhere over that way”, his friends told him, trying to calm him down. Young Tommy stayed on the path with their things, while Boba and Monty crept off in the darkness towards the place from which the awful roar had been heard. Just then, right next to them, the terrifying sound came again. The friends were struck dumb with terror. After the roar, almost above their heads, they heard new sounds, like sobbing and snuffling.

“Hey! Who is that?” beaver Boba called into the silence, hiding his fear. “Where are you, you horror?” his pal Monty cried. “Here I am! Here!” something shouted from above them. “Surely you can see me? Look up!” The friends turned their faces upwards, and saw in the darkness two bright shining eyes, directly against the silhouette of a tree, barely distinguishable in the darkness of the night. “Hello! Who are you, you strange creature? Climb down from there! You’re scaring all the respectable animals in the forest!”. Boba spoke up boldly, although he was shivering with fear all the way to the very tip of his tail. “I can’t climb down! I’m - sma-a-a-all! I don’t know how to do anything yet!” the monster whimpered, sprinkling mole Monty’s fur with tears. “How did you manage to get up there then?” Monty asked, seeing that this terrifying creature really did need help. “I ran away from Mommy! I was larking about! Then I got lost! So I thought I’d climb this tree, to see the path, and then it got da-a-a-a-ark! Mommy must be frantic! She’ll be looking for me right now! Waiting for me! And I’ve been sitting here helpless half the night and can’t do a-a-aa-anything!” “Who is your Mommy?” asked Boba-San. “Martha the bear! Everyone in the forest knows her!”

“Oh, so you’re the new bear cub? My parents told me that bear Martha had had a baby bear, but I had no idea that you would be such a great big cub!” Boba waved a paw at him. “What’s your name, little cub?” “T-t-t-t-teddy!” stammered the cub. “Teddy? That’s a lovely name!” said Monty, who knew a lot of young animals’ names. “And now, how are we going to get you down from that tree, you great big silly?” The bear cub roared again, and right away Boba and Monty started thinking about how they could help Teddy. “I know, Monty!” Boba cried triumphantly. “We could fell the tree, and the cub could jump down!” “Boba-San! Do you understand proportions of that?” “What proportions? What sort of a subject is that?” “Proportions! It isn’t a subject, it’s how one thing relates to another. For example, Boba-San, you are small and the tree is big! Agreed?”

“Well, yes!” The beaver was surprised. “So what?” “I’ll tell you what! How do you think you, or I, or both of us together, small as we are, could fell this tree? The proportions are all wrong! We’ll have to think of something else!! “You’re right, that’s true! We aren’t strong enough to fell or bend this tree” said Boba in dismay. He thought and thought, and then exclaimed “Monty! You could stand on my shoulders and help Teddy out of the tree!” “No.” Mole Monty shook his head. “It wouldn’t work, the proportions are still wrong! The bear cub would flatten us both with his weight. We are light and he is heavy!” Seeing that there didn’t seem to be any way out, the bear cub began sobbing very loudly. The friends tried to think of a solution and the little bear roared. Just then, frog Tommy, still hearing the unknown roar, but not quite so afraid piled all the backpacks on his shoulders and set off to help his friends. He went on and on, not knowing what lay ahead. But the fear for the life of his very best friends drove him on to help them.

By this time the Moon had risen to bathe the forest in a silvery light. The startled frog Tommy suddenly saw his two best friends before his eyes, lost in thoughts. An unhappy-looking bear cub stuck up a tree could be seen over their heads. The leaves on the tree were wet with bear tears. “Like the night dew”, thought Tommy, but said it out loud: “What on earth is going on here? I’ve been waiting and waiting! And here you are, just sitting and thinking!” “Well, you see, Tommy,” Monty explained, “We have a problem! How can we get this bear cub down from the tree and take him home?” The frog thought. He suggested felling the tree or climbing on top of each other to take the cub down! “Wrong proportions!”, sobbed Teddy. Tommy and Boba explained to the frog what proportions were. So there they were, three unhappy animals standing under the Moon in the forest at night, and a fourth unhappy one stuck up a tree.

Suddenly Boba-San’s eyes gleamed! “Got it! I know how we can get out of this! I know all about trees! I can gnaw through the right sort of branches, and we’ll make a splendid ladder out of them! I’ll do the gnawing, and you can fix the steps to the side beams with twigs!” They all breathed a sigh of relief, and quickly got to work. Teddy the bear cub was also relieved now that he knew he would be saved, and even dozed off for a minute or two up the tree. The ladder was soon set up against the tree. Teddy was brought down and the three friends led him back along the forest path to Martha’s lair.

He got a severe scolding from Bear Martha, of course, but none of that mattered now! The friends were happy about the cub, because he was at home and someone was keeping an eye on him! They continued on their way to Gray Owl. It was much easier going now, with the Moon lighting the path for them, and with all they had just been through, sleep no longer threatened to close their eyes. Quite soon they reached Gray Owl’s hollow tree. The old owl sat on a branch and looked at the friends with interest. He was so clever and shrewd that he had already guessed what advice the youngsters wanted from him. They were just standing there shyly, shuffling their feet, trying to think of what to say. So Gray Owl spoke to them first.

“Your journey to me wasn’t easy. You had to struggle against your nighttime fears! You had to struggle against sleep! You overcame problems in saving the bear cub! Just think how many competitions with your own selves you had to win to do what was needed. And now you’ve arrived. And you’re waiting for me to tell you what more contests you can compete in. Tell me, Boba-San, was it easy to stop yourself from falling asleep when you so much wanted to take a break and stretch out on the soft grass?” “Oh no, Gray Owl! I barely managed to make myself stop thinking about such temptation! I was pushing the thought away all along the path! I distracted myself by thinking about the Moon, the sky, the stars…” the little beaver replied.

“And, you, frog Tommy!” continued the wise Owl. “How many times did you want to turn round, terrified by the roar in the night, wanting to go home, when you were left alone with your friends’ backpacks?” “O-o-o-oh! It was so hard not to run home! But I thought my friends might need my help! And if I went away, there would be no one to help them! So I stayed, and I did go to help them”, Tommy croaked. “And how about you, dear mole Monty? Tell us how you struggled to overcome your fears in the dead of night, when you changed places with Boba-San and went first along the path, leading your friends through the dark forest?” “Oh! Wise Gray Owl! So many times I wanted to change with Tommy, to be in the middle, but… I didn’t let myself think about these temptations, because although it was scary to be in front in the dark, Tommy and Boba couldn’t find their way as well as I could without any light. So I steadied myself by thinking how beautifully the leaves rustled at night, and how sweet the grass smelt.” “So you see, youngsters, how you have coped with these small feats in overcoming your fears and temptations. And believe me, there will be many such situations in your lives! After all, you’re growing up, and life will present you with all sorts of situations where you will need to show strength of will and character, not be afraid, not run away, not panic. I wish you many victories in competitions like these, my little friends!”

The three (almost grown-up!) friends looked at each other in silence. The words of the wise Gray Owl had made a deep impression on them. There was plenty to talk about and plenty to think about. Dawn was breaking. Old Gray Owl, who was tired now, said goodbye to the youngsters and crawled, groaning, into his hole in the ancient hollow oak tree. In farewell, he gave each animal an acorn, telling them to plant it and water it regularly. The journey home was easy and quick. The Sun was shining on the road. The birds were singing cheerfully. The path had dried out from the dew, and their feet (as if jumping along of their own accord) took them back home to their parents’ dens. Before running in to breakfast, Tommy, Monty and Boba planted the three acorns not far from the pond… Plop-plop. Plop-plop. The grown-up Beaver-San splashed the water with his paws, admiring the yellow water-lilies. His memories brought a smile to his face - a broad smile, curving up from his snout and ending in his moustache. And now the choir of smart-looking frogs was already sitting on the biggest leaf of the central water-lily. They were waiting for the last rays of the Sun to hide behind the crowns of the three mighty oak trees. Let the evening concert begin!

Nadia Step
About me

- The Author

Everything I write is based on real life events. Life itself presents us with plots that parents need to analyze together with their children. We all love our children and wish them “fairy tale happiness” in an adult life. “Ikigai” [pronounced “ee-key-guy”] is a special character that Japanese have created. It looks like this

Though it does not have an exact translation, it stands for “something important one lives for” or “ something, for which a person is ready to happily get up every morning [his entire life]”. This character expresses a state of mind; the bliss experienced by people who have found their true “calling”. I sincerely wish for all parents to help their children discover their “Ikigai”. I truly believe that my stories are our common path into the happy future.

Thank you for reading this story. We hope you've enjoyed it.

O

ne wise Beaver, or rather Beaver-San, who was not born yesterday, but already was several decades old, sat on his porch in deep reflection. The porch bordered a pond on one side and Beaver-San had lowered his paws into the water and was shaking them leisurely. “Plop-plop,” whispered his splashes, “plop-plop.” The day was waning into evening. A surprising quiet hung over the water. Several moments more and the frogs would begin their evening concert, but for now, for now only the easy lapping of the water from his paws intruded upon the primordial calm. Plop-plop. Plop-plop. Beaver-San loved these rare moments of peace. He spent his normal working hours on jobs that required incredible physical efforts. First there was that new dam to build, then the old one to repair, all the while battling the elements and their consequences. Now as he sat by the water and relaxed, Beaver-San’s kimono, damp from the sweat of his labor, hung like a cloud of steam over the water.

B

eaver-San loved his everyday kimono. It helped him feel strong and capable of great endurance. And as everybody knows, battling the elements demands great strength. Of course, it is not a matter of clothing. Can clothing really make someone strong? Nonetheless, somewhere deep down in the depths of his soul, Beaver-San was still a child. He believed at least a little that the whole secret lay in his kimono. My strength is in my kimono, he often thought. Thus the wise Beaver-San was sitting quietly at the water’s edge when his childhood started coming back to him. One event in particular was the evening of that very day when Mommy had sewn this kimono for him. That’s right! She had sewn the kimono! She had sewn it herself! It had been impossible to buy a kimono in those years long gone by.

To be continued...

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