By Margo Wayman
Derik the camel had the smallest hump of all the dromedaries that lived in the desert, and he didn't like that at all. Once there was a sandstorm that lasted for two days. When it finished, his master, Ahmed, was able to find his other camels because their humps stuck out of the sand; not Deriks. It took Ahmed four days to find him because he was buried so deep, and he did have a very small hump.
All the other camels made fun of him. They laughed, "Derik, Derik, has no hump. Derik, Derik, what a chump!"
Derik wanted a big hump so badly that he was always trying to trick the others. One time when he was getting a drink from the only river that flowed through the desert, his feet got covered with mud. He looked down at them and got the idea that he could put mud all over and around his little hump to make it look bigger. He spent an hour carefully shaping the mud on his back. He even added some little twigs to make it look like fur. But the other camels knew right away that it was just another one of Derik's tricks.
Ali, the biggest of all the dromedaries, got all the others to join in teasing Derik. "Derik, Derik, has no hump. Derik, Derik, what a chump!"
Derik felt so sad. He went over to a giant pyramid and scraped the mud off of his back by rubbing his hump against the rough bricks. Another time, the master, Ahmed, was going to take the camels to an oasis far away to deliver supplies. Derik took ten blankets that he had found in a tent and put them under his riding blanket. The other camels had known it was yet another trick, but Ahmed had been fooled. He climbed onto Derik's back and told everyone how his hump was the most comfortable hump he had ever ridden on. Derik felt so proud, until the master turned sharply, and all the blankets fell off. Ahmed landed with a THUD! in the sand. He yelled at Derik in front of all the other camels and was sent back home.
Ali and the others had called out, "Derik, Derik, has no hump. Derik, Derik, what a chump!"
He had gone right over to the date palm and pulled the biggest dates off, munching on them for hours. He tried to think of a way to get his hump to grow bigger. "Some ship of the desert you are," he pouted out loud to himself. "The others are like Cleopatra's barge, and I am only a canoe." Derik felt so sad.
About a week after the master had returned from the oasis with the other camels, Derik overheard them talking about the camel races that were coming up. Ali said that he thought he would win since he was the biggest of all the camels. Omar said that he would win because he was the oldest. Caliph said that he would definitely win because he was the only white camel in Ahmed's herd, and everyone knew that white camels were better than all the other camels. But more than any of them, Derik wanted to win. He had been practicing a lot while the others had been gone.
Ahmed came around to check the camels the very next day. He felt their necks, legs, and humps. Ali hated to have his legs touched, so when Ahmed came near him, he kicked him. Omar didn't like having his neck touched, so he spit at Ahmed when he came by. Caliph, more than anything, didn't like anyone rubbing his white fur, so he bit Ahmed's hand.
Ahmed was very angry, and he called them all stupid camels. The last to be checked was Derik. As Ahmed cautiously neared him, he slowly raised his hand to feel Derik's neck. Derik didn't do anything. He didn't kick, he didn't bite, and he didn't spit at his master. He stood quietly. Ahmed was very pleased. He told Derik that he wanted him to be in the camel race, even though his hump was not big.
For the next few days Derik practiced galloping while the others lazed about, eating dates and scratching themselves. The day of the big race came. The master put all the camels in a line, then he walked far away to the finish line and sat in a tent to wait. The desert sand was very hot that day. "Derik, Derik, with no hump. Derik, Derik, you chump! What makes you think you can win against us?" Omar rudely asked. "We are bigger, older, and much nicer looking than you are, and you have no hump!" Ali and Caliph laughed at Derik too, but he stood calmly waiting for the race to begin.
Someone shouted, "Ready, get set, go!" and the camels galloped away.
Omar soon began to tire and slowed down to a trot. He was getting too old for camel races. As Derik passed him up he said, "Omar, just because I don't have a big hump, it doesn't mean I am not as good as you."
Ali, the biggest, was the next to tire. He was too big for long distance camel races. He slowed down to a trot and Derik passed him saying, "Now who is the chump, Ali?"
There was only Derik and Caliph left now. The hot desert sun beat down on Derik's dark brown fur, but he still ran as fast as he could. He could see the master's tent now and ran as hard as he could. He finally passed Caliph, and as he did he asked, "Too many dates, Caliph?" Derik galloped, and galloped, and reached the finish line first.
The master came out of the tent, smiled at Derik, then put a big leafy wreath around his neck. Then he presented him with a new riding blanket. It was the most beautiful one Derik had ever seen. It had gold threads and red tassels. It fit perfectly on his back. Derik was glad he didn't have a big hump now.
Ali, Omar, and Caliph came up to Derik later on that day. "We are sorry for teasing you about your hump. You are a better camel than all three of us. Can you forgive us?" Ali asked, speaking for the others.
Derik thought about it for a minute. He was so happy. Nobody would ever tease him again about his hump, and he would be wearing the master's prized blanket proudly upon his back. "Come, my friends. I forgive you. Let us go and have some dates."
Each of the four camels learned something that day. They walked off together, friends forever.