Every day Cassie walked almost two miles (after sneaking off the farm) to watch her best friend play in the water. DeeDee leapt high into the sky, casting showers of water drops off her like diamonds sparkling in the sunshine. And when she was as high in the air as she could go, she would dive back down into the water, as graceful as any ballerina Cassie had ever seen.
Cassie wanted to do that! Cassie wanted to swim!
There was only one little glitch.
DeeDee was a dolphin – which is not the glitch.
The glitch was that Cassie was a cow.
Cassie stood on the shore and mooed at her friend, and DeeDee, leaping and wiggling in mid-air, chittered back at her in Dolphinese.
Finally, as the sun headed lower in the sky toward its horizon bed, Cassie knew she would have to head home to her own bed in the barn.
She smiled one last time at her silly friend who was bouncing on her tail backwards across the waves, and then twisting into a little dive back beneath the surface, doing her little Dolphin giggle the whole while.
The sad cow very reluctantly mooed goodbye, then turned away to start the long walk home. She hung her head gloomily – she really, really wanted to swim like DeeDee. She still held hope, even though Cassie had been told by her mother – and father, cousins, aunts, uncles, and even ducks, geese, sheep, horses, and almost every farm friend she had – that cows do not swim. She wished anyway.
Because you just never know.
In her dreams that night, she swam. DeeDee taught her how to leap out of the water, sort of up and forward in an arc. Her splashes were mighty, and at first she was awkward and belly-flopped a lot, but eventually, with lots and lots of practice, she finally got the hang of it.
Of course, just about that time she woke up as Farmer Amos milked her at about four in the morning. She loved that he did his chores so early – before the sun even came up – because that meant she had hours and hours to visit with DeeDee.
As the rising sun turned the black sky dark gray, then light gray, then pink and purple, Cassie crept across the field and into the trees at the edge of the farm. Through that little woods she made her way, slowly but surely, then through several fields and another little woods that let out on a road. She crossed the road and climbed over a sand dune down to the beach, knowing DeeDee would be there, giggling and splashing and jumping in arcs over waves just as she always did. Just as Cassie wanted to with all her heart.
What she didn't know, was that today, there were others watching Deedee, clapping and pointing at her water ballet.
Ro and Jo and all their friends and family swam, picnicked, built sand castles, and chattered happily under their giant beach umbrellas.
When Cassie arrived, they fell silent, every single mouth, whether human, dragon, or gargoyle, dropping open as Team RoJo & Friends watch a cow stroll across the beach to its very edge, and stand, with her front hooves in the water, watching the dolphin swim just like they watched.
"Look at that!" Jo said, pointing at the cow. "She's watching the dolphin too!"
"Her name is Cassie," Ro said, her power allowing her to read minds – even bovine minds – "And she and DeeDee the Dolphin are friends."
Kato barked and ran up to Cassie, who swatted her tail happily and mooed at the dog. No one tried to stop her from standing on the shore, the waves cooling off her legs and belly after her long journey to the beach. And that little girl human somehow had said hello to her, inside her head. That was weird. Humans talked to Cassie the Cow all the time, but not inside her head like that.
The little girl human came over to Cassie and very gently petted her head, and scratched her neck just the way she liked it to be scratched – like the little girl had known Cassie all her life like Farmer Amos had. He had been there helping her mama when she was born, and was the very first human who'd scratched her neck. Now this little girl, who told her (also inside her head) that her name was Ro, knew just how to make Cassie moo in delight. She had no idea that Ro's brother would be the one to help her dreams come true.
Cassie felt Ro's thoughts inside her head. She was asking a question. And somehow heard Cassie's answer.
"You look sad," Ro thought to Cassie.
Cassie mooed to Ro in cow language: "I want to swim with DeeDee, and I never will because cows don't swim."
She hadn't really needed to moo, Ro understood everything going on in the cow's head, and smiled. "I'll be right back," she said, giving Cassie a little kiss on the cheek before she ran back to her family, all standing still and quietly, so as not to alarm the large black and white cow who was probably very lost…or so they assumed.
"She's not lost," Ro said to Jo. "She walks two miles every day to come here and watch DeeDee swim. And she has a very big wish..." Ro said, her eyes big, her face hopeful as she looked into her brother's eyes. "I think you might be able to help her with this wish."
"What wish?" Jo asked, wondering what on earth a cow would wish for, standing on a beach, up to her tail-swishing butt in waves.
"She wants to swim like DeeDee," Ro explained.
"You've got to be kidding!" Jo said, rolling his eyes and giggling at the thought of a cow arcing through the air next to a dolphin. Ro's serious stare cut his laughter short and he bit his lip to hold it in.
"Everybody has dreams," Ro said, shrugging. "But not everybody has magical friends who can make them come true," she said, all kinds of hinting in her voice.
Jo rolled his eyes again. "Oh, for Pete's sake."
Kato watched his friends talking, looking back and forth from each of them to the cow, saw the cow watching her best friend tail-walk across the waves, giggling as she played in the water. In his little doggie head, he knew what was coming. His friends were special, and they knew how to make this cow happy.
Suddenly Kato barked. He barked a lot as he ran toward the cow, and Ro and Jo called to him, "Kato! No! You'll scare her!" But they didn't understand, he thought. She would get water up her nose!
Kato stood on his hind legs and tried to give Cassie his specially-made (actually, magically made, just for him, by Gramps Blaze) skin-diving mask.
At that, Gramps Blaze laughed, and walked up to the cow a little more calmly than Kato had come charging up, and petted her side gently, talking softly. "I think, Kato, that your new-found friend's face is a little large for your mask, but that was a very kind thing you tried to do," Ro and Jo's magical grandfather said softly to the blue-tick hound mutt. "Hi there, Cassie. Let's see if I can help," Gramps Blaze said, waving his hands around in the air.
"Nothing happened," Ro said, when nothing changed.
"Sure it did. You just can’t see it," Gramps Blaze said, smiling. "I made her able to breathe water while she's swimming, like fish do."
"Wow! Why can't you do that to us so we don't have to use air tanks when we dive with Mimi and Poppop?" Jo said.
Because you can find face masks to fit you, and besides, if you could swim for hours under the water with no equipment, people would find out about your magic, and that's a big, fat secret, remember?"
"Oh yeah," Jo said, but then a question occurred to him. "If a cow can swim under water with a dolphin, won't that give away our secret?"
"There's no one but us on this beach right now. It's going to be one little swim, and no one, even if there was anyone to see, will know it's me – I'm subtle."
Ro smiled. "You might be subtle about your magic, but there was nothing subtle about you playing "Popeye the Sailor Man" on the Kazoo last week at my baseball game," she teased.
"You won! I was celebrating!" Gramps Blaze said, a big silly grin on his face. Even as he laughed with his grandchildren about his antics at Ro's baseball game, Gramps Blaze nodded at Cassie. And then he said the magic words: "Go ahead, Cassie. Jump right on in!"
Cassie looked at Gramps Blaze, surprised, and happier than she'd ever, ever been in her whole cow life.
She floated on top of the water! She paddled out to where her friend DeeDee swam circles around her.
"Okay," Jo said, a big smile on his face as he lifted his hands in the air in front of his chest. "Ready?"
Cassie nodded to her new little boy buddy.
Suddenly, Jo swept his hand upward and Cassie leapt up out of the water with a giant, wet swoosh and arced back into the sea every bit as smooth and gracefully as DeeDee beside her. The dolphin scooted on her tail, backwards across the waves, chattering in excitement, encouraging her big black and white friend to try tail walking.
Well, even though Cassie's tail was a skinny little rope-like thing, certainly not made to hop across waves like DeeDee's, the cow mooed in amazement as she found herself poised on her tail, right next to DeeDee, skimming across the water like a ballerina.
Cassie and DeeDee could hear their new friends on the shore, clapping and encouraging them to swim and play together all the rest of the day.
As the sun got lower and lower in the sky, Cassie finally had to come ashore, dripping wet and very tired, but happier than she had ever been.
She nuzzled Ro and Jo and each of their friends, mooing great, big thank-yous to Gramps Blaze and Jo for helping to make her dream come true.
When she had properly thanked Team RoJo, and Friends, Cassie turned toward the sea where DeeDee's face stuck out of the water, and mooed goodbye to her. DeeDee leapt up and tail-walked backward across the waves, then dove into them.
Cassie the happy, happy cow mooed goodbye one more time to her friends and turned toward home. It would be a long walk home, but a happy one after her incredible day swimming with DeeDee.
TD – 10/2/2016