BOOK 1: The Cave that Wasn’t
“The river is a very dangerous place,” said Miss Pike as she
swam slowly around her newest school of hatchlings.
“You must always be careful and above all else, you must STAY
TOGETHER!” she wiggled her fins at each of her minnow
charges in turn, making sure they were listening.
The school lived in the shallows of a mighty river. Their quiet cove had a soft brown, sandy bottom that shimmered with sunlight filtering down through the overhanging trees.
“Zola,” Miss Pike said. “Zola!” she repeated a little louder.
“ZOLA!!” Miss Pike screamed so loud that a huge bubble
erupted from her mouth and rose majestically to the surface.
That made the entire school of minnows begin to giggle. They
tried to stop but before you know it, the river began to fizz as
hundreds of tiny bubbles slipped from all the minnows mouths.
Miss Pike swam right through the fizzy water toward Zola, scattering
minnows in every direction.
“What’s going on?” whispered Zola to Marqi, a striped bass
minnow who had swum over and bumped Zola to get her attention.
Zola had been exploring a shiny object she found
wedged under the edge of a submerged log.
“Oh are you in trouble now!” exclaimed Marqi as she darted
off to get out of Miss Pike’s way.
“Zola, you are bound to be the first of my school to get caught
by the BAITMEN if you can’t pay attention any better than
this.” Miss Pike swooped around Zola and began gathering the
entire school back into formation.
“Who are the baitmen?” whispered Eldridge, a shy Bluegill
minnow whose gills had turned almost white with fear.
“They aren’t the only thing in the river to fear,” said Miss Pike
as she herded her school in intricate patterns, showing them
how to turn and dip, and turn again all together as a group.
“But they are the scariest of all the dangers,” she continued.
“And when minnows can’t follow orders any better than Zola,
the Baitmen catch them in their nets and take them away to
become slaves,” said Miss Pike as she looked each of her hatchlings
in the eye, making sure they were all paying attention.
When it was Zola’s turn to be stared down, Miss Pike discovered
just how difficult this year’s assignment was going to be.
“Zola, stop that right now!” Miss Pike’s glasses slipped down
her face, which had turned a dark red and her gills began to
gulp water faster and faster.
“Ouch!” Zola jerked back, not sure which hurt worse, the nip
on her tail from Miss Pike or the prick on her lip from the
shiny object she had been poking.
“That serves you right,” exclaimed Miss Pike. “Children,
gather round. It seems Zola has discovered another of the dangers
you must avoid in the river.”
Miss Pike slowly and very carefully worked the object, a large
barbed hook, from beneath the log.
“See this!” she exclaimed. “Never, never, never get close to
one of these! In fact you should avoid anything shiny you see
in the river at all costs.”
“Do those come from the Baitmen?” asked Eldridge in a quivery
voice. He was still pretty white around the gills and shaking
“No, the Baitmen use big nets that are almost invisible, which
is why they are to be feared the most,” said Miss Pike as she
swam close to Eldridge trying to calm him down, but only a little,
fear is a good lifesaver in the river.