Roderick and the Bucket of Water

Taking the bucket he’d been wearing as a helmet off his head, Roderick dipped it into the stream and drew it out brimful of water.
“Put me back!” said the water in the bucket. “Put me back this instant!”
Roderick groaned.
“Just once!” he said. “Just once, I wish one of you wouldn’t complain about being taken out of the stream!”
“And why shouldn’t we complain?” asked the water. “How would you like it if some bit of a boy drew you out of a nice, free-flowing stream and you were used for something as demeaning as cooking or cleaning floors?”
Roderick shook his head and began the long walk back through the forest to his parents’ house. But the water wasn’t finished, not by a long shot.
“See! You’re spilling me all over the place! Is that any way to be treated? I’ve never been so mishandled in all my –”
“Oh, be quiet!” Roderick said. “Or I’ll give you to the horses to drink!”
“You wouldn’t dare!”
“Wanna bet?”
The water didn’t, and it remained silent till Roderick had gone some way. Then, however, a thought occurred to it.
“Of course,” began the water, “it’d be different if YOU were to drink me.”
Roderick slowed his pace.
“But I suppose you’re too afraid,” the water continued.
Roderick stopped.
“Afraid?” he said. “Who’s afraid? And what of, if I may ask?”
“You may,” said the water and smiled. “Your mother will be wanting to get the dinner on. You can’t boil potatoes without water, you know?”
“I’m well aware of that!”
“And that’s why you’d best hurry home. You don’t want to get into trouble because you stopped in order to drink me, even if it is such an extraordinarily hot day.”
Roderick looked up between the trees and saw the sun beating down. If he hadn’t been aware how hot a day it was beforehand, he was now. He wiped the sweat off his brow, and, all of a sudden, it was as if he’d never felt so thirsty in all his life.
“Excuse me,” said the water. “Could we possibly get a move on? I’m beginning to get unpleasantly warm standing here. Besides, we don’t want to keep Mother waiting, now, do we?”
“She can wait,” Roderick said. “She can wait all day, come to that. And she can wait till kingdom come if it takes me that long to quench my thirst.”
With that, he bent down and lifted the bucket of water to his lips to drink.
“Rather you than me,” said the water.
Roderick paused.
“What?”
“It’s entirely up to you of course,” said the water, “but, if I’d been out as long as you must have been on such an extraordinarily hot day, I’d want something a little cooler to quench my thirst than a bucketful of lukewarm water. Ugh!”
Roderick thought about this. He thought very hard. He thought about the cause of his thirst and the effect of drinking lukewarm water. He thought about the advantages and disadvantages of drinking cool, crystal-clear water. In the end, he decided the water in the bucket was right.
“I’m going back to the stream,” he said.
With that, he put down the bucket and started to retrace his steps.
“You aren’t leaving me here!” the water said.
Roderick stopped.
“I’ll pick you up on the way back.”
With that, he once again made off in the direction of the stream.
“If you think that’s for the best,” said the water.
Again, Roderick stopped.
“Of course it’s for the best! It doesn’t matter if you’re lukewarm for either the pot or the horses.”
“You’re so right.”
“Of course I am!”
“I just hope I’ll still here when you get back.”
“Eh? Why wouldn’t you still be here? If you could sprout legs and run away, you would have done it by now.”
“No, I can’t run away.”
“Well, then!”
“But an animal could come by and drink me – a deer or a wild boar. There are lots of them in the forest. Or a poacher could come by and steal the bucket, and then where would you be?”
Roderick would be in trouble. Not particularly relishing that prospect, he approached the bucket.
“All right, then I’ll tip you away here, carry the bucket back to the stream and draw some more water after I’ve quench my thirst.”
A boy of his word, Roderick picked up the bucket and prepared to tip the contents onto the ground.
“Well, that’s just plain stupid,” said the water.
Roderick stopped mid-tip.
“What is?”
“Tipping me away.”
Roderick put down the bucket.
“What’s stupid about it?”
“Look up,” said the water.
Roderick looked up.
In the time he and the water had been talking, huge thunderclouds had gathered overhead.
“What happens if a bolt of lightning strikes out of one of those clouds? The forest is as dry as dust. An enormous fire could start instantly. I might be only a single bucketful of water, but I’m better than nothing.”
Almost in spite of himself, Roderick saw the wisdom of this. In what was rapidly turning into a foul mood, he grabbed the handle of the bucket and began to stomp back to the stream.
“Careful!” said the water. “You don’t want to spill a drop if you can help it.”
Roderick puffed out his cheeks in sheer frustration. Nevertheless, he began carrying the water carefully all the way back to the stream.
When he arrived, his thirst was almost unbearable.
“There!” he said. “No bolts of lightning! Not one! I didn’t need you after all!”
And, with that and before the water could say anything more, he drew back the bucket and threw the water into the stream. It landed with a loud smack on the surface. Roderick wasn’t listening to the water’s complaints, however. Instead, he put his mouth down to the stream and began sucking in water to quench his thirst. At least, that was his intention. In fact, though, it was the water which was doing all the sucking – sucking Roderick in. He tried to stop himself by grabbing on to rushes and digging his toes into the ground. But it was no use. The water sucked him further and further in.
Though neither especially wide nor particularly deep, the stream nevertheless had the capacity to hold a boy of Roderick’s size. And hold him, it did until his lungs filled up with water and became as heavy as a pair of stones. Only when Roderick stopped kicking and splashing did the water let him go.
His body was found only a little way downstream from where he’d drowned. As for the water, it flowed towards the sea without a sound but for a ripple of laughter.

Swan Photo by Marcel Painchaud on Unsplash