By Margo Wayman
Abdul, the crocodile, lay silently in the shallow water, along the shore of the Nile River. The dark, olive brown color of his skin made him almost invisible. The sun had barely risen over the horizon, spreading its warming rays on all the animals of the river. Abdul looked over at one of the little islands that dotted the Nile. A ray of sunshine was shining on some dark yellow bricks of one of the ancient temple ruins that stood majestically amongst a thick patch date palms and acacia trees. Abdul opened his mouth wide to yawn, exposing his sharp teeth. Anxious to start a new day he waddled into the river and sank deep below the surface.
He used his long tail to propel himself through the river water. As he swam along he looked around. He saw all kinds of fish, which darted away from him as he neared them. As he looked up to the surface from under the water, Abdul noticed something brown hooked onto a reed, off at the side of the river. He swam up to it. Curious, he climbed out of the water and went to investigate. There was a leather bag, its strap wrapped tightly around a reed. He tugged at it with his sharp teeth until the reed broke and the bag came loose.
Abdul couldnt swim around with it hanging out of his mouth. How would he ever eat? Not knowing what else to do with it, he placed it on his back. This way he could swim around the river and keep the bag until he went back to his place on the riverbank. He continued swimming through the water, passing a few hippos, and elephants that were bathing in the river. The hippos looked at Abdul as he swam by. They wondered why there was a bag on his back. One of the elephants, Samba, pointed at Abdul with his trunk, and started laughing. Whats that crocodile doing swimming around with a leather bag on his back. He looks silly. But Abdul didnt hear and swam away.
A little further upriver Abdul spotted something whitish poking out of the sand, right next to a tamarisk tree. At first he thought it was a piece of rock but as he swam closer, he saw that it was some kind of statue. He climbed out of the water onto the sand and waddled up to the tamarisk tree. It was a piece of carved ivory. He used his snout to unearth it. The sand fell off of it, and Abdul saw that it was a small ivory doll, probably played with by a small child long ago. He picked it up with his teeth and put it on his back next to the leather bag.
Abdul slinked back into the river and swam away. Two Nile perch, Faris, and Zein, happened to see Abdul. They looked at each other and started laughing. Look at the crocodile, swimming around the Nile River with a leather bag, and an ivory statue on his back. Have you ever seen anything so strange before? Faris said. Zein blew a few bubbles and the two fish swam away.
Abdul came to a place in the river where there were some large boulders. He climbed up on one of them. He lay himself down and looked around. On one of the nearby boulders he saw what looked like a woven basket. Hmmmmm, he said. He sunk back into the river and swam to it. When he climbed up onto the boulder he found that it was a basket. He used his snout to open it. It was filled with bottles of spices. He tipped the bottles out. There was a bottle of saffron, some cinnamon, ginger, a few dried oranges, some licorice root, and some pepper. He opened the lid and sniffed each one. This is nice, he said, taking a little lick of the licorice. Then he gathered the bottles back up and put them in the basket. Ill take this home with me, Abdul uttered, then put the woven basket of spices on his back, next to the leather bag, and the ivory statue. He lay in the sun for a few minutes, and then swam away.
Abdul noticed that the water seemed to be getting a little deeper. Instead of coming up to his mouth, the water now came up to his eyes. It wasnt flood season, and it wasnt raining. Still, he swam along without a worry.
Zein and Faris, the Nile perch, happened to swim by again. Theres that crocodile again. This time hes got a basket on his back too. I wonder if he realizes hes sinking because of the weight? Zein laughed. She blew some air bubbles then they swam away.
Abdul swished the water back and forth with his tail. He swam past some ruins, with huge red granite pillars in front. Hmmm, that looks like a nice place to rest, he smiled. He swam to the riverbank, climbed out, and trudged up to the ruins. Lying next to one of the pillars was a sack. Abdul, being a curious crocodile, tugged at it until it came open. He peeked inside and saw that it was filled with grain.some wheat. He took a mouthful and chewed it up. Tasty, the pleased crocodile said. He shut the bag with his teeth, and placed it on his back, next to the basket of spices, the ivory statue, and the leather bag.
Abdul noticed that it was getting harder for him to walk, as he was carrying so much on his back. He finally made it to the river and sauntered into the water. Quickly he sunk way down, almost to the bottom. He swished his tail back and forth and very slowly moved through the water. Zein and Faris happened to swim by again and saw the sinking crocodile. Why are you carrying all that heavy weight? Faris asked. Cant you tell you are sinking?
But Abdul just ignored him. He thought they just wanted him to put the wonderful items hed gathered down so they could have them. He stuck his tongue out at the Nile perch and swam away. He headed back towards his home. He was about half way there and was feeling very tired. This stuff is heavy, he told himself. I think Ill have a rest.
Once more he climbed out of the water, and walked slowly up a hill. He saw some beautiful flowers up ahead.roses, jasmine, lilies, and some bird of paradise. He lay down in the sand next to a mimosa tree. It smelled fragrant and its bright orange-pink flowers were gorgeous. Right next to the trunk of the mimosa was another bag. Not being able to resist, Abdul went up to the tree. He opened the bag with his snout. Dates! he cried in delight. He ate a few of them, licked his lips, and put the rest of the bag on his back, beside the bag of wheat, the basket of spices, the ivory statue, and the leather bag. The sun was beginning to set. The sky was ablaze with colors from bright orange to deep purple. Abdul knew he needed to get home. He went down to the water and climbed in. He sank right to the bottom this time. The bag of dates floated up to the surface, then floated away down the river. The bag of grain floated up some of the way, and bobbed up and down in the river as it was swept away. The basket of spices was picked up by the current of the river and soon disappeared, along with the ivory statue and the leather bag.
Zein and Faris swam by, passing the floating basket, bags, and statue. The crocodile lost his things, Zein said. He shouldnt have tried to carry it all at once, she added.
As the two fish neared Abdul, they could see that he was feeling very sad. He was trying to catch everything but couldnt. Giving up, he swam back to his place in the reeds on the riverbank and fell asleep.
The next morning, further down river another crocodile spotted something in the mud on the riverbank, caught in the reeds. It was a leather bag. Zein and Faris swam by and saw the crocodile. Faris shouted, Here we go again!