Elaine Hogan 2018
Lewie the water vole was born into the best of times. His parents Walter and Elvira Love had their first litter of offspring early in March 2008 in the banks of the River Irwell at Bacup. Lewie was glad that he had so many sisters because when they were born they had no hair at all and they had to snuggle their little bald bodies together for warmth. Elvira of course had a very thick luxurious coat of dark brown fur although Lewie and his sisters couldn’t see her when they were first born as they were born blind.
Walter Love was a proud father and the type of vole who kept his ear close to the ground and because of this he was considered to be of superior intellect and he was keen to pass his knowledge onto his male offspring. Walter had heard some very important information that he wanted to pass onto Lewie and as soon as he was old enough he told him what he knew.
‘we water voles have been declining in numbers for many years but as of 6th April 2008, all water voles are fully protected under section 9 of the wildlife and countryside act 1981. Remember Lewie it will be important to you one day’.
Lewie didn’t really understand the information but he tried to remember it all the same. When he was almost three weeks old he decided to go exploring once the heavy rains had stopped and he crept out of his nest and plopped into the River Irwell.
This for Lewie became the worst of times. He swam downstream and enjoyed swimming so much that he swam on further and further. The water was such a pretty colour like the colour of the golden fish he had seen in the beak of the heron only a few days ago. When he was tired Lewie turned around and swam back home to join his family in the nest along the riverbank but alas it was not to be. As he clambered up the riverbank, he saw Ella.Bella.Stella and Violet and called to them,
‘I’ve been swimming today,’ but they all shrieked and squeaked when they saw him and ran indoors. When he got close to the door he was met by Walter who no longer looked like the benevolent father he knew but a fierce warrior baring his long and very sharp teeth.
‘be gone you alien creature, I give you fair warning, come any closer and I’ll have to attack’.
‘Father it’s me, Lewie, your only son why would you attack me?’
‘Be gone I say, you are not my son, you are a creature from the planet Mars that has fallen into the river and turned the water orange’, and with a sudden roar he rushed towards Lewie who was so frightened that he plopped back into the water and swam away as fast as his tired legs would carry him.
Eventually he crawled onto the riverbank far away from home just as dusk was falling and he heard a owl hooting nearby. He knew from instinct that he was in danger but he was just too tired to move, he felt a rush of air as the owl swooped towards him but just as he tensed himself ready to be grasped by its talons the owl changed direction and flew onto a nearby branch. Suddenly he remembered that from the 6th April he was fully protected by the law.
‘What is the date today’ he asked the owl politely?’,
The owl replied ‘It’s the last day of March 2008’.
Then why have you spared me I’m not fully protected yet? Said Lewie realising that he should have kept quiet. But the owl kist blinked slowly and Lewie thought how beautiful were his eyes, so round and orange in colour as the owl as he flew off into the darkening sky.
Lewie made himself a bed amongst the ferns and fell asleep and when he awoke, he saw two orange eyes staring down at him and he thought the owl had returned to eat him. The eyes continued to stare at him and he realised it wasn’t the owl but a cat with large ears and long whiskers, who suddenly yawned showing huge white sharp teeth and he knew that the cat had come to eat him too. The cat however made no move toward him so feeling very brave he asked
‘Can you tell me if it is the sixth day of April yet?’
The cat looked puzzled and then laughed,
‘No my little friend it is only the first day of April and I see you are trying to make a fool of me’.
The cat stood up quite suddenly and he was very tall and he stretched out his legs and he straightened out his tail, which rose above him like a quivering question mark and Lewie saw that the cat was the most beautiful colour of orange patterned with deeper orange stripes.
‘you are a magnificent colour’ gasped Lewie full of admiration and he too stretched out his paw which was as short as the cats’ was long. He looked down disappointed that he could stretch it no further but saw to his astonishment that the fur on his leg was a quite a magnificent colour of orange and the other leg too.
‘only the same colour as you my small friend, well more or less the same colour’, replied the cat. ‘ although I have never seen a water vole so brightly coloured before, are you from the planet Mars?’
‘Of course not, I was born just up the river, my parents are Mr and Mrs Love and my sisters are Ella, Bella, Stella and Violet, and I’m sure I wasn’t always this colour, not until I went swimming’.
The cat whose name was Murphy and who was wiser even than Lewie’s father Walter looked towards the river which was a rusty orange colour and then back at Lewie,
‘When you were swimming yesterday and the planet fell into the water it must have dyed your fur’
Lewie began to cry when he realised that because he was the colour of a satsuma, he was destined to become an outcast because he was different.
‘I have been driven from my home by my father, I have lost my family and I have no friends and I’m not even fully protected under the law yet’, he sobbed, ‘ and who will be my friend now I’m orange!’
‘Don’t cry my little friend I will be honoured to have a friend in my colouring although I must admit that I am quite jealous because only my eyes glow in the dark but you glow like the sun’.
So Lewie and Murphy became friends and although the river didn’t remain orange Lewie the water vole did and he continued to glow, and not only that he was fully protected by Murphy’s law from that very day. Walter Love gained some notoriety by claiming that he had fought off an alien who came to abduct Ella, Bella, Stella and Violet who had to remain grounded for another five days in case they encountered the fearsome orange alien again before they were fully protected under the law.