Extract from 'The Stories of George the Hamster'

VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE DUCK POND

Young Katey Wilson sat on the toilet seat in her parents' house, having locked herself in the upstairs bathroom.

Let me explain to you what had happened.

Katey had always been fascinated with keys - she would sit for hours playing with a jangly bunch of car keys, examining them all intricately and remembering what each one was used for.

It was this fascination that had been her downfall for, having locked the bathroom door behind her, she removed the old-fashioned key that slotted into the large metal mechanism, examining it with all the care and concern that a philatelist might examine the rarest of postage stamps, wanting to know every variation, every contour, every edge.

It was at this precise moment that a sound distracted her outside - it was an unfamiliar noise and, being curious as most children are, she climbed onto the bathroom stool, leaning out of the window to find out what had produced such a strange sound.

With the key clutched firmly in her right hand, she peered out over the familiar landscape - adjoining the house lay the garden, her parents' pride and joy, with rockery, lawn and, daddy's favourite, the pond. Past the hedge lay the fields with lazy cows sitting on green grass and horses swishing tails and manes in an effort to combat the flies that buzzed intensely in the warm summer sun.

There was nothing unusual there - nothing that could have produced such a noise.

Just as Katey was about to step down from the stool and accomplish the task for which she'd come to the bathroom, she heard the sound once again - this time louder - and, because she was leaning half out of the window, she could tell that it was directly below, out of sight because of the ledge that jutted out a few inches in front of her.

She pushed herself onto tiptoes, straining every muscle to stretch herself the extra few inches needed to peer over the sill that obscured her view.

Now you must understand the bird's dilemma that had made the noise. It was clung to the brickwork three inches below the window and, being full of the joys of summer, was proclaiming to the neighbourhood its territorial rights - it didn't expect a large predator to sneak up on it from above in order to swoop down at it for the kill, but this is how it read the situation when Katey suddenly appeared over the ledge.

In panic it squawked a loud warning, taking off with fast flapping wings making as much noise as it could. It had the desired effect for Katey, not realizing that all animals are not automatic friends, jumped in the air off the stool, releasing the key in her right hand with shock and falling backwards into the bathroom, bumping her head on the wash basin.

It only took her a moment to realize that the key was over the edge, falling to the garden below, and that without it she was trapped inside the room until...until...well, until someone came home and let her out.

She clambered frantically back onto the stool, her head beginning to throb with pain, and peered into the garden below. All she saw was the ripples of the pond as they rebounded off the sides. The key had fallen into the water.

Climbing slowly down, she sat on the toilet seat with her head in her hands, crying with sorrow at her own stupidity. Louder and louder she cried as she became more and more despondent, breaking into wails and sobs as her mind raced onto the possibility that if she was in there for a long time, her parents might return home to find not their daughter but a skeleton locked in the bathroom - such did her thoughts wander that it's no wonder that her screams could be heard all over the house...

...including, quite unsurprisingly, a yard outside the door where Jacques Fursteau, a hamster of French descent, was curled up in a ball enjoying his daytime sleep. Jacques was Katey's pet - he was very fond of her for, nearly every day, she'd bring him juicy titbits from the meal table and poke them through the bars of the cage.

Katey also used to tell him all her problems and dilemmas that she found herself in, Jacques listening intently and, after having waited for her to finish pouring out her heart, would squeak back the solution to her every need - unfortunately, Katey had not yet learnt at that early age to communicate in the hamster-tongue.

Nevertheless, there was a bond of mutual friendship between them.

Hearing Katey's wails, he awoke with a start, rushing out of his nest compartment to poke his nose out through the railings. Well, she certainly wasn't there.

His ears swivelled round as if on pivots locating the sound very close, behind the bathroom door.

Katey began pouring her heart out loudly, speaking into the air but not expecting that anyone was listening:

‘It's not fair...(sob)...(sob)...I only wanted to...(sniff)...see that bird and now...(sob)...I've dropped that stupid key in the garden pond...(wail)...(sob)...I'll never get out of here now, I'll just...(sniff)...be a skeleton when they come back...(sob)...(sob)....Someone, HELP ME!....'

And so it went on.

Very soon, Jacques got the picture - a bird had stolen the key and dropped it in the pond. Or was it Katey who'd stolen the bird and dropped the key in the pond? Or was it Katey who'd dropped the key into the pond so that the bird couldn't steal it?

‘Oh, never mind,' he squeaked. ‘The solution is to get the key from the pond - I'm sure of that.'

And with that resolve, he loaded his pouches with a whole array of stored food, saying boldly as he stood on his rear paws and punched the sky with his right fist:

‘This is a job for Superham!'

He lifted the latch on the cage door, releasing the spring that held it securely shut and climbed out, pawing down the wire onto the table and sliding down the table leg to the carpeted floor.

Jacques could get out of his cage at will, even though the family thought that their ingenious ‘hamster-proof' lock kept him securely inside. He often went for midnight strolls when they were all asleep and knew the house layout back to front, even venturing out into the wilds of the garden on rare occasions. It was very fortunate, therefore, that Jacques knew exactly where he was headed and the best route to take.

He slid down the handrail on the wall of the stairs straight into the overcoat pocket that was hung up a few short strides from the front door. Descending down the outside of the garment he came to rest on the hall mat, sniffing around him in case of predators.

Dashing into the kitchen, he ascended the broom handle that lay propped up against the wooden set of drawers, gaining access to them through the unboarded back of the unit. He checked first one compartment then another, sniffing around for the resources he needed to accomplish his mission - a black plastic bin liner and one of Katey's bendy-straws.

Having found them, he returned to the hall, leapt onto the coat, ascended a few feet and then jumped out of the house through the letterbox on the front door.

A local postman fled for his life.

He scurried round the outside of the house keeping under the cover of the herbaceous borders until he arrived a short dart away from the garden pond where the key had plummeted to the depths of the murky brown water.

Gnawing the bin liner into the correct shape, he tightly wrapped it round his furry body to act as a scuba diving outfit and picked up the bendy-straw in his mouth intending to use it as a snorkel.

Jacques took one more deep sniff of air before he rushed out at full speed from under cover of the plants, taking off a foot away from the pond and diving into the water with a loud splash.

Katey, head still in her hands, heard only the faintest of noises and disregarded it.

To and fro Jacques swam, head down in search of the lost key with the straw elevated a couple of inches above the surface level of the water. A cat who'd just come to the side of the pond in search of goldfish took one look at the straw darting back and forth and fled for safety, warning all the local cats he met that evening that the fish were now retaliating against their repeated strikes with rockets launched from underwater firing tubes - the world's first polaris goldfishes.

A shiny metallic object glinted underneath him and Jacques dived to the bottom, retrieving a piece of discarded chocolate foil.

He resurfaced for air, swimming to and fro as previous.

It was then that he noticed what he at first thought was a carrot floating towards him but which, within a few seconds, he realized was a large goldfish, twice his own size and gaining speed with every swish of his strong tail.

Jacques remembered all those shark films that he'd watched over Katey's shoulder from the bookcase and dived hurriedly to the depths, the goldfish thinking that he was a large black fly and giving chase (though why a fly should be under water is unfathomable).

He plunged into a bed of vegetation on the bottom of the pond, hiding himself in the blackness and looking up to watch the fish give up for an easier kill. Jacques felt something cold and hard underneath his right paw and, looking down, squeaked with delight, releasing a small line of bubbles through the bendy straw that floated to the surface.

The key!

Picking it up between his teeth, he looked first right, then left, then above, making sure that the fish was gone before he pushed upwards for the surface - but he remained immobile. A wet, slimy frog had a rear paw securely gripped in its hungry mouth.

Jacques pulled the key out from between his teeth and clouted the reptile over the head. The dazed frog opened its wide mouth in pain while Jacques raced for the surface and sanctuary, fairly leaping out of the water and onto the dry green grass.

Discarding the black sack onto the lawn, he raced for the cover of the plants, keeping close to the wall of the house as he hurried to the front door, climbing in through the letterbox, up the stairs and onto the first floor landing. He could hear Katey still crying though her wails were a little quieter than before.

Very quietly he pushed the key underneath the door and, with a blood-curdling sound, squeaked as loud as his lungs would let him without passing out - even so, he still went dizzy.

Instantaneously Katey went silent, looking towards the door from where she'd heard the noise emanate. Her eye caught the key and she stared at it for what seemed like hours before finally racing over, picking it up and escaping to freedom, now crying with relief.

‘I couldn't have thrown that key out after all!' she sobbed.

‘What a fool I was, I never thought to look on the floor!'

Closing the door behind her she tapped on the cage - Jacques poked his head out of his nest with his eyes half closed, feigning sleep and sniffing the air like he normally did.

Katey bounced downstairs into the living room and sat on the floor, continuing to play with the toys she'd left almost two hours previous.

.)(.

The lengths that Jacques went to in order to retrieve that key for Katey, but in the end she thought that the dilemma was all a figment of her own imagination!

Very many Christians are like Katey - finding themselves in an unenviable situation they quite rightly call out to the only One who can ultimately help - the Creator - only to think that because it seemingly worked itself out ‘naturally' it can't possibly have been His doing.

Perhaps they even think that they misinterpreted the situation and there was no real problem in the first place.

But the Creator works in all types of ways, even the seemingly natural ones, to bring about the purpose of His will for His children so that in everything He may receive the praise due to Him.

It's too easy to explain away occurrences as coincidence or oversights on our part. In the Creator, to accept what one sees with one's own eyes is the first step to perceiving His work in one's dilemma.

.)(.

The translators can be contacted here