The story that I want to tell you happened not too long ago in a city so big that it takes many days if you try to cross it by bike. Even by car it takes several hours. This city is crammed full of life. Life that walks and stands and crawls, strolls, creeps, jumps and sometimes even flies. Nobody knows how many people exactly are living in this city, but there might be about seven and onety three quarter phantastillion ten and one billion gillion tweleven million hundred and twenty-four thousand three hundred forty-eight and eleven. There is rarely a house that does not have at least twenty stories to accommodate all the people of the city. And when you walk the streets of the city, the dizzy buzz of noises becomes so loud from time to time that you have to cover your ears for a bit to clear your head again.
In this city, there began a day just like any other, a regular weekday, when most of the people were running errands early in the morning or going to work. It must have been about seven a.m., when a small and slightly hunch-backed snail was standing at a crosswalk.
It first looked to the right… …and then to the left… …and just to be sure also up… …and down. You never know.
…and after it had convinced itself that all cars were still quite far away, it started its journey. And as it is common among all snaily creatures, it was moving incredibly ...........s.....l....o....w.l.......y... It hadn’t even moved three inches by the time everybody else had already crossed the street and disappeared into the bustling crowds on the other side. The first cars came, some with silently squeaking tires, to a halt in front of the crosswalk.... ...... …I know what you're expecting now: people checking their wristwatches in annoyance, noisy complaints, long blasts of honking, maybe some random ruffian picking up the little snail to carry it to the other side of the street hastily, so that things could moveonfinallymoveon! That's what you're counting on, right? Nothing like that happened.
In a van that had stopped right in front of the crosswalk, there was a small tree frog. His job was to forecast the weather every day (once in the morning at six, then again at seven thirty, at noon and then again at eight in the evening). He was the only weather-frog far and wide, and this is why he was broadcast on every TV channel in the city. The frog was about to honk his horn – considering that it was seven already and his next forecast was coming up in half an hour – when he saw, in his rear-view mirror, how behind him the sun was rising slowly and bathing all of the houses one by one in golden light.
He frowned and thought to himself: I'm always talking about the weather. And I've been doing this for so long now that I can't even recall the last time that I actually felt and enjoyed the weather. After all, there is no weather in the weather studio. He sat like that for a moment and then he turned off the engine of his van, got out and grabbed his weather-frog ladder to climb on to the roof of a house. And he picked the highest one in the street.
About the same time, an Italian violin that was famous well beyond the city limits, got out of her limousine and asked the driver to help her get on the roof of the car so that everybody would see her. «Signorina,» the driver piped up, «The rehearsal at the Philharmonic!» The violin wasn’t worried. «At the Philharmonic, there are only empty rows of chairs at this point of the day. Some musically challenged mice at best! But look around you – this place is full of people! There is no place nicer to play than this!» As she stood on the roof, she curtsied and began to play for all the waiting people. And even though the song was very new (it wasn't to premiere until a week later and she still needed some practice) everybody was enchanted. They closed their eyes and listened in awe.
There was a scuttling in an alley. A scuttling the likes of which can only come from a many-legged creature. It was the cross spider who usually is never seen during daylight. Mostly, she spent nights annoying the tenants of the house by weaving her threads across their windows and doors and even across the street to make people trip. But now, to everybody's surprise, she lowered herself from a drainpipe and listened with half-closed eyes to the music of the famous Italian violin. Then she picked up two long, thin sticks and started – her eyes still halfway closed – knitting. «What are you knitting? A scarf?» two penguins called up to the spider from the windows of their car. «It is still way too hot for a scarf,» replied the spider in a friendly tone. «I'm not quite sure what it's gonna be.» The penguins consulted with each other briefly. «Make a hammock!» one of them shouted. «Yes, a hammock!» the other one backed him up. And both climbed out of their car and waddled awkwardly up to the spider. «For the both of us!» they called out. «So we can put it up over the street and sit in it! And listen to the violin play and enjoy the sun!» And after a little pause one said to the other: «And maybe we can play some cards.» «We could play cards!» the other one shouted to the spider and explained: «You know, we work at the casino and there we can only watch other people play. We're just the card dealers!» «Croupiers,» the other whispered to him. «Croupiers!» the first one corrected himself and then said, facing the spider: «Will you knit a hammock for us?» The spider smiled a friendly smile.
Because spiders know how to work threads very well, it wasn't long before the two penguins were taking off their starched tuxedos and cozying up in a big hammock, made out of soft spider wool. While the weather-frog was sitting in the sun, and while the violin was fiddling, and while the spider was knitting, and while the penguins were playing Go Fish and Rummy, at the crosswalk, in the third row, the door of a red truck opened and a gargoyle hopped out. From the outside, gargoyles don't look much different from average dragons, but instead of fire they breathe – you guessed it: water. Because of this special ability they usually work with the fire department. Therefore, nobody was surprised to see that this particular gargoyle was traveling in a fire truck. With a steady hand he extended the metal ladder that was part of the truck. «What are you up to?» somebody asked him – because there didn't appear to be a fire anywhere nearby or a kitten stuck in a tree.
«I stand on this ladder all the time, but I've never actually considered for a single moment just enjoying the beautiful view!» said the gargoyle with a grin. Then he started his climb. And when he saw the big city spread out below him in the warm sunlight, he was so full of joy that he made a big cloud of shiny bubbles that floated gently to the ground and burst with a barely audible POP.
Many hours later, when the little snail had finally reached the other side of the street, the twilight of night was already approaching. «Good to see you – I've just arrived, too!» the rabbit greeted. He had been waiting for the snail leaning against a light post. «What should we do? Are you hungry?» «And how!» the snail sighed and its gaze turned all dreamy at the thought of fresh lettuce. «I've been traveling for quite a while…»
The weather frog decided to drive back to the TV studio once again to make the last weather forecast of the day. The next day would be sunny, he knew that. After all, he had been watching the sky all day. For the first time, he thought, I have the feeling that I actually know what I'm talking about. Everybody else who had been waiting now continued on their way, filled with happiness from the sun, the music, and the bubbles. Some were carrying hammocks or clothes under their arms that the spider had made for them. The two casino penguins collected their playing cards, slipped back into their elegant tuxedos and gave their spot in the hammock over to the fat cross spider. She made herself cozy there and – tired from all her new impressions of the city in the daylight – fell asleep happily.
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