Row, row, row your boat

(life's a picnic) . . .  a children's story

by Toni Donelow Stewart 1961-2004




Life's a Picnic

by Toni Donelow Stewart




row, row, row your boat

or (Life’s a Picnic…)


Written by

Toni Donelow Stewart 1961-2004

© Dec 28, 2003


“Row row row your boat,

Gently down the stream,

Merrily merrily merrily,

Life is but a dream.” (author unknown to me)



t was a little hard to see the map, considering that he was expected to navigate AND row the boat at the same time.  So at this point, he didn’t know how much farther they had to go, and cared, but said nothing. Turtles usually don’t row boats, he thought.  But a boat was a good idea, it did save a lot of time and The Picnic was tomorrow – he, Arky Lane Turtle and his fellow ship-mates (though it could hardly be considered a ‘ship!’) would have time to rest and prepare for the following day’s events, should they ever find their destination.  He felt his spectacles slip from his nose and into the bottom of the little vessel.

However, they hadn’t figured out travel time, not precisely.  Everything had a limit though! And turtles don’t usually row boats!  But then again, neither did rabbits.  He looked over smiling at Chumly, the big white floppy-eared rabbit that had commandeered their craft from the rear.

Powered by turtle and rabbit and lookout-mouse, they were well on their way to the Great Forest Picnic that had been planned for years by the Forest Collective.   The purpose of The Picnic wasn’t overly clear, except that all the animals of The Great Forest would find themselves gathering as friends to have a merry time, it was said.  There was otherwise no “official” purpose for the gathering.

“One would think we’d have been there by now” he yawned and continued to row the boat at his end, at the front of it.

“I agree!” hinted the lookout mouse, Bramble, looking straight at Chumly, as if he were responsible.

“Well we can’t be lost unless we took the wrong direction on the river and I have my doubts there. I think we are just fine and we’ll be there soon, enjoying the festivities!”

“So do I, I think we are traveling in the right direction, but I’m wondering why it’s taking so long, we should have been there already I would gather?”

“We didn’t know exactly how long it would take, but yes I think so too.  Maybe just a little longer, we’ll be there I’m sure?  The Great Forest is just that, GREAT big!”  Chumly scratched his white furry head between the long flopping ears and wrinkled his nose curiously. “Just keep rowing!”

“It shouldn’t be nightfall by the time we get there.” Said the mouse.

“No Bramble, I should think not.” The rabbit commented again.

“Timmy Turtle, what do you think, eh?”  Chumly directed his question at the other, smaller and younger turtle who was not rowing the boat and not paying much attention.

“I think we’ll get there.”

“Thank you for the confidence, Timmy.” Chumly grinned.

“But I’d like to open the picnic basket; I know it’s for tomorrow, but what about today?”

“There’s enough in there for today as well, Little Guy.”  The elder, rowing turtle replied.

“Well, I would like to think we’ll get there soon, I do need a break here Chumly, don’t you?” Arky said breathlessly.  “I’m sweating!”

“Yes, rowing endlessly for hours seems to get on the nerves for a rabbit as well, Turtle.”

“Yes, yes it does.  May we stop for a rest soon perhaps?”

“Rest? If we rest we’ll miss it won’t we?”


Chapter II:

The group rowed on and on and on, watching the sun roll across the sky west to east, west to east, west to east.  The sun always goes down in the east doesn’t it? Thought the turtle once again. 

But, something was peculiar, as they noticed that instead of being surrounded by lush green forest, they were now rolling on the river passed hills and cows and countryside, which was rolling too!  It had been hours and hours and there was now no sign of the Great Forest at all, it lay somewhere in the distance behind them now.

We must turn around Chumly!” The elder turtle shrieked, noticing the cows.  “Those are NOT forest creatures, Rabbit!” He pointed a long nail toward the floppy eared one. Hissing more like a Snapping turtle.

“And this is not my fault!” Chumly snapped back.

“Does it matter?” noted Bramble.  “Blame is not what we’re looking for, we’re looking for the Picnic!”

“Yes, I can agree with that.” the old turtle snorted.

“But I think we got adventures, instead.” Peeped the little mouse.

Chumly the rabbit’s floppy ears stood straight up, and the others in the boat merely gasped as they turned their heads to look ahead of them – they had fallen into shadow and  were suddenly drifting into the wide open mouth of the biggest fish they had ever seen.  They had reached the mouth of the ocean! And the mouth of something else!

“STOP US!!! STOP US!!!” Timmy the little turtle screamed.

            But stopping wasn’t an option as this was a whale and he was far bigger than they, and their own forward motion pushed them inside, passed the teeth.  He was hungry, his mouth was wide open and waiting for them to fall in!

            And surely enough, in they went, boat and all with a mad flash of water that they’d never felt before. The oars were of no use, the little boat simply swished inside with the rushing waters and they felt themselves spinning, disappearing into the black of the monster’s throat.

            End of story?  Noooo!!!! Not yet.  Not done yet.

            Darkness was all around them, since the monstrous fish had not only swallowed them whole but he had also closed his big fat monster’s mouth.

            “I can’t fathom that we’ll get out of this one, guys!”  Remarked the big rabbit, with his furs standing straight out from his body.

            “Raises the hairs on MY neck, looking at you Rabbit.” Said the old turtle in a shaky but snotty voice.  He had lit a small candle he had packed for the camp-out. He also replaced his spectacles about then and looked as far as the light would carry, surrounding them.

            “This is nasty!” Arky commented, looking around them at the slick ‘walls’ of whale gut or gullet, whichever you prefer.

            “I brought a lantern, hold on.” Chumly said swiftly reaching for it, gasping for breath out of fright.

            “What if we burn him? Won’t we die for sure then?”

            “Well he might vomit us up, that would be a help.” Said a squeaking mouse voice.

            Oh NO! I can’t handle the smell of bile right now!”  Hissed the old turtle, holding his belly. “It smells badly enough in here!”  Arky nearly beat the side of the whale stomach with his oar on that.

            “That’s okay, if he chucks and you chuck, maybe we’ll get out!” Snorted Chumly, trying not to laugh despite the odd and scary circumstances.  “I can imagine by then I’ll be chucking too!”

            “What would be your point, Bunny?” Arky demanded. “You are the commandeer are you not? Commandeer us OUT, please, and do it NOW?”

            “I’m afraid I’ll need some time to think, perhaps a sandwich.”

            “For crying out loud, you’re hungry at a time like this?”

            “I’m a mammal, what can I say?”

            “Well so is this whale and if we’re not digested, I can just imagine where we’ll be going OUT, thank you!”  The old turtle felt himself croaking though not a frog in sight.

            “Trying to spoil my dinner now are you?” Asked Chumly, unfolding himself a sandwich from the wax paper.

            “How can you EAT???” he gasped again, disgusted.

            “Well, this IS a peculiar turn of events, I’m afraid, and I’d rather not try to think on an empty stomach, you should do well and join me Turtle, and you as well friends,” Chumly spoke while chewing. “This is our picnic, enjoy it.”

            No one could disagree; it was likely they would not see the outside world again, so all decided that they would not miss their picnic, after all.

            All sat eating slowly, somberly, saying nothing.  It felt as if hours had passed, and the lantern’s light grew dimmer with time.

            “It sure would be nice to smell fresh air again, I don’t care anymore if we make it to the Great Picnic.”

            “Me either,” Bramble commented.

            “I sincerely don’t know what to do Friends,” Chumly scratched his head.  “We’re just sitting here waiting to be digested.”

            “I just wanted to play checkers with an owl and not worry about being eaten.” Said Bramble.

            “Yeah that would have been nice, huh Bramble?”

            “Oh yes, I’d have had interesting conversation with an owl.”

            “Me too, I can’t imagine it now, they had no way of counting all who were coming, they won’t know we tried to come.”

            “No, I’m afraid not.” Arky agreed.

            “I fear we are somewhere in the middle of the ocean now, huh?” Little Timmy wondered aloud.

            “Could be at the bottom.” Arky answered.

            “More than likely.”

            “If he opens his mouth then, we shall all just swim up then?” Timmy smiled. Turtles COULD swim.

            “The ocean is made of salt water though, Timmy, it wouldn’t be good for us.”

            “True Uncle Arky.”  Timmy sighed. “I think I want to sleep now.” He added.

            “Okay Timmy, come and sit near me, you can lean on me.”

            “Thanks Uncle Arky. I know you’ll think of something, won’t you?”

            The old turtle hoped the same thing and merely answered: “I hope so, Timmy.” Looking over at Chumly and the rest. “I hope so.”

            Hours and more hours seemed to pass though the lantern didn’t burn out.  They felt the shifting of the swimming beast who was eating nothing more at this time, figuring they had been enough to fill him, though not digested yet.

            All hope seemed lost though, as more time wore on and nothing new happened inside the  belly of the whale.

            They all continued to sit staring at the darkness around them, while Timmy slept -- imagining all sorts of horrible endings.  Eventually, all nodded off from exhaustion.

Chapter III:

            It could have been morning, it could have been days later, their minds would not allow them to know how much actual time had passed.  The lantern had been blown out by Chumly when all were sleeping, so as to preserve the light for while they were awake.  And Arky still had his candle should the need it.

            But they were all awakened abruptly by a rumbling they couldn’t identify with the stomach but something large sent in a streak of light across them, waking them up.  The whale had been harpooned!  Humans!

            “Now what?” Arky gasped again, with a yawn as if nothing had really phased him.  By now he had written them all off as dead, as you well know.

            “I don’t know, I think the whale should die or the humans will take us out.”

            “Really? That would be kind of them wouldn’t it?”

            “Yes, but humans aren’t so kind, I’m sure they’d kill us too.”

            But instead of this, the whale merely opened his mouth and the little boat churned up from his stomach, remaining upright and it’s captives safe, were freed in what looked like the middle of the ocean.  Not even humans in sight.  They were in shock as they watched the whale submerge back into the deep.

            “I guess he wasn’t so hungry after all?” Chumly smiled.

            “Where are the harpooners? And why isn’t that whale floating, belly up?” Bramble scratched his head.

            “I’m hungry now,” said Timmy.

            “Well, we have a few crumbs left from the picnic, but I think we should just row to the nearest shore, and get out of this contraption, I’ve got no sea legs, I’m a rabbit for crying out loud.” Chumly remarked nonchalantly.

            “That’s the most sensible thing I’ve heard for awhile!” Arky winked.

            “Row on then!” Chumly grinned back.

            “Yes row on Friend!”



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