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Tuesday, 10 July 2012

by Vladimir Kulichenko

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Hamster hurried back to his burrow, his cheeks bulging with nuts he had collected. Winter was coming, and soon there would be no food in the woods or fields.
    He slipped down into his warm burrow, and spilled the nuts onto a heap of other nuts, sunflower seeds and grain. He was pleased with his store, but knew he needed more.
    Leaving the burrow, he stopped suddenly in surprise. A bird with a drooping wing seemed to be waiting for him. It was a starling.
    "Hello, dear Hamster," said the Starling. "I have something to ask you."
    "Sorry, Starling," Hamster, answered. "I am busy getting ready for the winter."
    "But I am hungry," the Starling said softly. "I need something to eat."
    "Well go and find something!" the Hamster said.
    "I cannot find anything," the Starling answered. "I should be away in the warm south lands with my family and friends, but I cannot fly. A boy threw a stone and hurt my wing. I can only hop about on the ground until it is well again."
    "Then hop about and find something," the Hamster said. "I must prepare my winter store."
    The Starling watched sadly as the Hamster scurried away. Then he hopped about a little, but there were no insects and no seed on the cold, hard ground.
    When the Hamster came scurrying back, his cheeks filled with nuts, the Starling tried again to get help. But the Hamster just brushed passed him, and slipped back down into his burrow.
    In the hollow at the bottom of the burrow he added his new gathering of nuts to the heap already there, then leaned back against the wall to rest.
    What a fine, warm place this is, he thought to himself. And what a fine store of food to see me through the winter. 
    "Hamster!" a voice called down the burrow. "I can feel the first snow of winter!"
    Hamster did not answer. He knew it was the Starling.
    "Hamster!" the Starling called again. "I will soon die of cold if you do not help me."
    The Hamster shook his head angrily. There was no room for a stupid bird to spend the whole winter down here in the burrow. No room. No extra room at all. And why should he share his food, anyway?
    "Please, dear Hamster," the bird called. "I am feeling weaker and weaker."
    "No!" the Hamster hissed under his breath. What did it matter to him if the bird died?
    "Please, dear Hamster?" the Starling begged.
    The Hamster felt angry. He did not want to share his small burrow through a long, cold winter. But he felt bad, too. He knew a fox would get the bird or it would die of cold and hunger.
    "I am not going to share!" he shouted. "There is not enough room for two of us!" He was so angry he spun about in his hollow, knocking against the walls in fury; then almost choked as a whole section of one wall fell in on him.
    Oh… no… So much earth had fallen in there was barely room to move.
    Still angry, the Hamster began to push and shove the earth up the burrow. He could only move a little at a time, and when he got each load to the surface he had to move it away from the entrance. He did not want a passing fox to see and come digging down after him.
    It took the rest of the day to clear the burrow. When he had finally finished he tumbled back down and huddled on the floor to rest.
    "Thank you, dear Hamster," a voice said softly.
    The Hamster sat bolt upright and spun around. There on the floor of the hole left by the falling earth, was a snug, new, hollow. Resting in the hollow was the Starling.
    "It is so good of you to make a home for me," the Starling said softly. "To show my thanks, all winter I will tell you stories of the warm land in the south. I will tell you of all the things I have seen. When spring comes, and my wing is strong again, I will go out and gather seeds for your store so you do not have to work so hard. You will have a large store by the time I fly south for winter next year."
    The Hamster could not speak.
    "While I am flying south, next year, I will tell all the other Starlings of the wonderful Hamster who took me in from the cold and saved my life," the Starling said. "You will be famous and a hero to the Starlings forever."


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