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The excerpt below comes from Chapter 3 of Horatio’s One Wish, copyright 2008/2012 Joshua Kriesberg

Scene: Horatio has ventured out into an unknown world to try to rescue his best friend, Rollic, a river otter, who has gone missing. Horatio has just barely escaped a hawk attack and has fled into a forest where he meets hamster twins, Whisklet and Whimser.

“I tell you what,” said Whisklet, “small mammals like us need to stick together. Look, we haven’t gone on an adventure for a while. Why don’t we accompany you?”

“How about it!” Whimser nodded. “It isn’t safe to travel alone, and we’ve got a lot of experience staying away from predators.”

Horatio’s face beamed. He was almost speechless. “Do you really mean it?”

“Of course.”

“That would be wonderful!”

Horatio’s broad smile heartened the hamsters. “That settles it, then. So tell me,” said Whisklet, “where do you think your otter friend went?”

“He was going to visit a swimming hole. A popular one.” Horatio didn’t want to tell them about the sound of the river inside him, the sound of Rollic calling to him. He wasn’t sure they’d understand.

“We know just about every swimming hole on this side of the river. There’s one with a waterfall slide otters love. We can take you to it.”

“That would be …” Horatio was at a loss for words. “Wonderful!” he repeated.

“How were you planning on getting there?” asked Whisklet.

“Well, the Wingwots told me to come here to the Forest of Epoh, and I was planning to head that way,” Horatio pointed his paw straight ahead of him.

Whisklet looked around him. They were in the middle of a forest. There was no path to follow. “You were just going to go that way?” He raised his paw in the direction Horatio had.

“Uh-huh,” Horatio nodded.

“And walk into a swimming hole.”

“Not much of a plan?”

“Honk!” Whimser broke out laughing. “Honk!”

Horatio had never heard a honk come out of a mammal. His shock made Whisklet burst into laughter. “The look on your face,” he pointed to Horatio. “I know. I know. No one laughs like my brother,” he slapped Whimser on the back.

“Honk! Honk!” Whimser couldn’t stop. This was just too much for Horatio and he started laughing out loud.

“Oh, my,” said Whisklet, wiping his eyes, as he tried to compose himself. “It’s not going to be that easy to get to the swimming holes. It’s several days’ travel. Did you bring anything with you for the trip?”

“I brought a knapsack full of food. But the hawk dropped it in the middle of the field. I don’t want to go back there.”

“No, you shouldn’t. That’s outside the Forest of Epoh. It’s prime hunting ground for hawks.”

“We can get it for you,” a high-pitched voice called out.

Horatio spotted two small chubby snails gliding slowly down the tree toward him. “I didn’t know snails could talk,” said Horatio.

“These aren’t your usual snails,” said Whimser. “They can talk to insects, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds. They speak more languages than anyone I know.”

“Well, we ushually don’t like to talk to birdsh. Or anything elshe that might eat ush. I’m Mish, and thish ish my brother Mosh,” said Mish.

“Nishe to meet you,” said Mosh.

“Nishe, I mean nice to meet you,” said Horatio.

“We’ll bring your knapshack right back,” said Mish. Horatio waited, but the snails didn’t seem to be going anywhere. If they were moving, they were progressing at the most sluggish pace (a term Mish and Mosh would have found particularly offensive). Horatio couldn’t imagine how two small snails could manage to push his knapsack all the way from the field.

Whimser seemed to read Horatio’s mind. “I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking it would take snails forever to get your knapsack back, right?”

Horatio nodded ever so slightly, trying hard not to offend anyone.

“Well, when you watch them, it does look like they’re hardly moving. But when you don’t watch them, it’s amazing how much ground they cover. Tell me, have you ever seen how fast snails move when you’re not watching them?”

Horatio thought about it a while. “No, I guess I haven’t.”

“Well, neither has anyone else. I think it’s a common misconception that snails move slowly. They just don’t like to be watched. How would you feel if everyone watched you to see how fast you moved?”

“I’m not sure,” said Horatio.

“Well, I don’t think you’d like it. Mish and Mosh can move like lightening — when no one is watching. Just leave it to them. If they say they can get your knapsack back, they probably can. They’ve helped us in our travels more than we can say.” He waved his paw in the direction of the snails. When Horatio glanced at them, they still didn’t seem to be moving.