“Excuse me, old witch, but why are you crying?” asked Patient the Snail, for as snails go she was very polite.
“Because I lost my bro-hoo-hoo-hoom!” wailed the old witch, crying harder than ever. “Look!” She pointed to the tree above her, where Patient could see the long, slender stick of the witch’s broom caught in the very top branches.
“I see,” said Patient. “What happened?”
“She was flying along and the tree surprised her,” said the Cat. “We hit the branches, and down we came with a bump.” The Cat fixed her great golden eyes on Patient and purred, “Let that be a lesson to you to always watch where you’re going.”
“It’s my favorite broo-hoo-hoom!” cried the witch. “And now it’s lost forever!”
“So many tears over a silly broom,” said the Cat to the witch. “You can always get another one.”
“There will never be another broom like my favorite broo-hoo-hoom,” cried the witch. “I want it back!”
The Cat rolled her big yellow eyes. “Crybaby,” she muttered.
Patient the Snail was a very kind snail, as snails go, and she hated to see anyone who was unhappy. “I can go up and try to get your broom for you, if you like,” she said.
The witch stopped crying long enough to peer at Patient the Snail and say, “Do you think you really could?”
“Well,” said Patient the Snail, “I’m not very fast, and I have no hands to carry the broom, and I am very small, but I can climb to the top of the tree and see what I can do. I may not be able to do very much, but at least I will be able to do something.”
“Oh, thank you!” cried the unhappy witch, and so Patient the Snail began the long journey up the trunk of the tree.
Patient the Snail hurried as fast as she could go, for she didn’t want to keep the old witch waiting, but the tree was so very tall, and she was so very small, that after she reached the first big branch she stopped for a moment to catch her breath.
“I don’t know how you can say it’s a good morning with so many horrible things happening in the world,” said the Opossum, looking at her over the top of the newspaper. When she saw that Patient was a Snail, she blinked several times and then put her newspaper aside. “I’ve never seen a snail this high on the tree before. Why are you climbing up the trunk the way you are?”
“I am going to bring back the old witch’s broom,” said Patient the Snail. “Though I am very slow, and though I have no hands, and I am very small, I mean to do my best.”
“That is very noble of you,” said the Opossum, looking at Patient with respect. “The world is a better place when the smallest creatures are kind. Perhaps I can help you. I do not have hands, and I am also very slow, but I am one of the largest creatures on the tree. If you will allow me, I will help you get the broom for the old witch.”
And so Patient climbed on top of the Opossum’s head and settled down right by her large pink ear, and together they climbed up to the middle branches of the tree.
“Oh, isn’t it just?” cried the Jay with excitement. “When I woke up I could tell that the air was quite perfect to practice singing in. Listen!” And she burst forth in a beautiful song. When she finished, Patient and the Opossum applauded.
The Jay curtseyed, and then looked at them curiously. “I’ve never seen a Snail and an Opossum travel together before,” she said. “What are you doing?”
“We are going to bring back the old witch’s broom,” said Patient the Snail. “Though we are both very slow, and neither of us has hands. But the Opossum is very large, and we feel that while we may not be able to do much, we still should be able to do something.”
“What a cheerful thought!” said the Jay. “It just goes to show that there are kind creatures in the world, after all. I would like to help you! I do not have any hands, and I am very small as well, but I am one of the fastest animals in the woods. Perhaps I can help you pull down the old witch’s broom.”
Patient the Snail and the Opossum told the Jay that they would very much enjoy her help, and so she climbed on the back of the Opossum next to Patient the Snail, and together the three of them climbed to the very top-most branches.
“We have come to save the broom, if we can,” said Patient the Snail. “There’s an old, sad witch at the bottom of the tree, and she misses her broom. We’d like to return it to her.”
“I don’t see how you will be able to,” said the Squirrel rudely, since her mouth was full of the nut she was eating. “It’s stuck.”
Patient the Snail looked at the broom. It was indeed stuck among the branches. “Perhaps we can get it free if we all work together. Squirrel, you have hands, so you can lift the broom away from the branches. Opossum, you are very large, so you can push the broom out of the treetops. And Jay, you are very fast, so you can fly back and forth and free the straw from the branches that have caught it.”
The animals cheered Patient for being so clever, and did as she instructed. The Squirrel lifted the end of the broom, and the Jay flew to where the straw part of the broom was caught by the tiny twigs of the tree. And then the Opossum gave the broom a mighty push, and with a great whoosh the broom flew out of the tree, and carried all four of them gently down to the witch who was waiting below.
The witch, when they saw she had saved her broom, did a hurly-burly dance for joy and sang, “My beautiful, beautiful broo-hoo-hoom!” She looked so happy that the animals laughed along with her, and even the Cat looked less sour than usual.
When at last she had shown how happy she was, the witch said, “I want to give a present to the one who saved my broom. Who pushed the broom out of the tree?”
“The Opossum did,” said Patient the Snail.
The old witch reached into her pointed witch’s cap and pulled out a pair of reading glasses, which the Opossum accepted with great dignity.
“But the Opossum wouldn’t have been able to push the broom from the tree if the Squirrel hadn’t lifted it up first,” said the Jay.
“Well, it’s only fair that the Squirrel receive a gift as well,” said the witch, and she reached again into her hat and pulled out a sack of nuts and gave it to the Squirrel.
“Without the Jay’s speed, though, we would never have gotten the broom out of the branches,” said the Squirrel after she had thanked the witch for her gift.
“Well, then, we must give the Jay a gift,” said the witch, smiling, and pulled from her hat a beautiful purple scarf, which she wrapped around the Jay’s throat.
“This will keep my voice warm so that I may sing even during the winter,” said the Jay.
“But what about Patient’s gift?” asked the Opossum.
“Yes! Patient deserves a gift!” said the Jay and the Squirrel.
“But I didn’t do anything,” said Patient the Snail. “I didn’t lift the broom, or push the broom, or free it from the branches. Why should I get a gift?”
“This is a very special book,” said the old witch. “In it is all the adventures you will ever have, and all the animals you will ever meet. You can take it out and read about things you will do someday, or read about things that you have done before, or read about the things that you are doing right now. Try it, and see!”
And so Patient the Snail opened the little book to about the middle, and to her surprise she read the very story that I have just told you. And when she was done she closed the book, said goodbye to her new friends, and set off once more into the woods, for she could tell from the book that she had many more adventures ahead of her.
story by Danny Nelson