The cat, bird, snake, and turtle were best friends. "In the city," the short-legged turtle said, "I heard that the houses are as tall as mountains."
"No, no, that's not right!" said the high-flying bird. "I happen to know the houses are little boxes."
"Have you been to the city?" asked the short-legged turtle.
"No," said the high-flying bird. "Still, I know these things."
The cat and snake looked at each other. "Maybe some houses are like mountains and others are like boxes," said the cat.
"No," the snake said. "They are mountains that look like boxes." The four friends argued the whole afternoon. Finally, they decided to go and see the city houses for themselves.
The next morning, the friends began the long journey to the city. They walked and argued for days. "Boxes!" "Mountains!" "Boxes!"
The walk to the city was a lot longer than they had expected.
"I've got to go back," said the cat. "I cannot find my water bowl."
"Can you do without it?" the snake asked thoughtfully.
"I am certain I cannot," the cat said. "I am thirsty."
"We'll go on," the others said.
"Yes, I'll catch up!" the cat said and began walking home. The remaining three friends walked, and argued, down the road. "Boxes!" "Mountains!" "Boxes!"
Several days later, they passed a palm nut tree. The little bird fluttered with excitement. "Ooh, I'm so hungry," he said. "I think I'll stop and eat."
"It will be a long time before those are ripe," the snake said.
"I don't care," said the bird. "We'll go on," the others said.
"Yes, yes," the bird agreed. "Go on ahead. I'll be right behind you."
So, the high-flying bird sat high in the tree and watched his two friends walk, and argue, down the road. "Boxes!" "Mountains!" "Boxes!" "Mountains!" "Boxes!"
After many days, the snake and turtle came upon a tree branch on the road. The snake slithered up and over, but the turtle's legs were too short to cross the branch.
"You'll have to go without me," the turtle said with a sigh. "I don't want to leave you behind," the snake said. "You must," said the turtle.
"Perhaps you'll catch up?" the snake asked.
"I'll do my best," said the turtle. "Go see the mountains."
The snake muttered, "Boxes," then slowly slithered on alone.
After many days, the snake decided to eat. His friends, had they been there, would have told him not to. Snakes can't move for a long time after a meal.
But the snake was hungry and his friends weren't there, so he ate. He ate and ate and ate and ate. Soon, the snake had a full belly, and sure enough, he could not move. The snake, who could no longer slither, waited on the road and thought about his friends and what the houses looked like. "Mountains?" he wondered. "Or boxes?"
Eventually, the cat found his water bowl. The bird ate the palm nuts. The turtle got past the tree branch. The snake began to move again. Still, the four friends had been alone a very long time.
Just about the time the snake was going to crawl home, the bird swooped down and gently picked him up in her mouth.
After a few hours they saw the cat. The turtle was carefully riding on her back!
They decided to finish their journey. At last, the four friends made it to the city. They saw that the houses were neither as tall as mountains nor like colored boxes.
The snake said, "Our houses look just like these."
"What a waste," the cat agreed.
"But we found something very important," said the turtle. "What?" asked his friends. "Where?"
"We found each other," said the turtle. "Right here."