They hadn’t gotten very far when the sky opened up and jaguar drool poured down on them from a whole herd of dark clouds. Jaguar fangs flashed across the sky and their breath blew steaming and warm against baby capybaras’ fur. All of the capybara clouds had fled to the other side of the world beyond the tall mountains where the sun went to sleep in the evenings.
Maple, who was in the lead, stopped unexpectedly.
“What’s wrong?” Oak and Willow asked at the same time. “Why did you stop?”
Willow pushed past Oak until she was standing next to Maple. Oak couldn’t see anything. “Oh,” Willow said. “What are we going to do?”
Oak squeezed between his two larger sisters. The little gully they had crossed on their way to the meadow was full of water rushing and gushing, swirling angrily. All three of the capybaras were excellent swimmers, but they could not swim that. They would be swept into the lake to be eaten by caiman with their long alligator jaws and sharp teeth.
“Maybe we could jump it,” Willow said.
“It’s too far,” Maple answered.
Oak didn’t say anything but he agreed. Capybaras were not great jumpers anyway.
Willow backed up a few steps. “What if we got a running start?”
Maple shook her head. “It’s still too far.”
Again Oak didn’t say anything but he knew that capybaras were no better at running than they were at jumping.
“We have to go back,” Maple added. “When the rain stops we will be able to get across.”
Oak pointed his nose upstream. “We could walk that direction a little and see if we can cross somewhere else.”
“Why don’t we go that direction?” Willow asked, pointing her nose downstream. “When we left the band they were more that way than the other.”
“There will be more water that way,” Oak said.
Willow gave him a dismissive look. “The rain is falling the same everywhere.”
“But water flows downhill,” Oak explained.
“That’s what it does here,” Willow countered.“If we go a little way that might change.”
Oak stomped one front foot in frustration. “It won’t. Water always flows downhill.”
“We’ll go uphill,” Maple said, ending the argument. Maple was always the deciding vote. She started up the gentle slope following close to the gully. Oak fell in behind her. Willow gave a loud huff before she followed.
The jaguar drool came down harder, pouring off the top of Oak’s broad head and into his eyes. He could hardly see anything except Maple’s round rump just ahead of him. At first the ground was mushy but then it turned gooey. It stuck to the bottoms of Oak’s webbed feet making them heavy and clumsy.
When they came to a cluster of shrubs and small bushes, Maple called a halt. “We can’t keep going. It is raining too hard. If we wait a little while, the rain will stop and we can make it back to the band with no problem.” She crawled under the biggest bush. Maple and Oak pushed in beside her, pressing their bodies together for warmth and comfort.
One of the jaguars’ teeth slashed at the earth and a loud Bang! caused all of the capybaras to startle. Oak settled back in between his two sisters, glad he was not alone.