Once upon a time, there was a bucket. Once upon a time, there was a whale. Thanks to fortuitous happenstance, the whale happened to live in the bucket. The bucket was full of water, which was cool when it was warm and warm when it was cool, and every now and again, someone would come to the whale’s bucket, and drink some of the water. The whale didn’t mind – it was happy to share, and some nights, the rain would come and fill the bucket up again.
Once, in the middle of the night, when the whale was at the bottom of the bucket, dreaming whale’s dreams, a fox came to the bucket, and looked inside.
“Why,” the Fox said. “There’s the moon in this bucket!” The fox looked at the clear, mirrorlike surface of the water, and it was true! It was a very cunning fox, and it could recognise the shape of the big, shiny moon in the sky – and that was on the surface of the bucket!
Well, have at that! The fox dipped its muzzle into the water, and drank up as much as it could. It sought to drink up the moon, so it could say it did what no other fox had done! As it drew its head back, it looked down on the bucket, and saw nothing but ripples and little lines of pale white. Satisfied, the fox bounded off, leaping off towards the boundaries of the forest.
Some days later, the rain fell, the sun shone, and the bucket was filled again. Midway through the afternoon, a cow came to the bucket, lowering her head, with big brown eyes peering at the bucket.
“Why, how wonderful a bucket!” she cried. “Why, it’s right here, where I want to drink – and that seems appropriate for so lordly and beautiful a cow as myself!” The cow did not see the whale in the bucket – who could be said to own the bucket in as much as anyone did! – because her enormous nose was in the way. Stuffing its huge muzzle into the bucket, it drank, drank so very deep that the whale was worried that he might be eaten!
Swimming up carefully, the whale mustered up all of his little whaley courage, and raised a fin to whack the cow, stoutly on the nose. The cow, stunned, wheeled back.
“Oh, my!” the cow said, flustered. “I’m so dreadfully offended!” before she flounced off, away from the bucket.
More days passed. Rain filled the bucket again, and the whale watched as a goat, slow and steady, walked down to look into the bucket. It didn’t drink – it simply lowered its head and peered, peered into the depths of the bucket.
“Hello, whale.” said the goat.
“Hello, goat!” said the whale. “You know, you’re the first person to speak to me!”
“Why, that is what goats do. We question everything, and we test everything that won’t answer.”
“How fascinating. What do goats know, then?”
“Many things. But what do whales know?”
The whale considered this big question for a little while, swimming in a little circle. Finally, it raised itself out of the water and declared:
To hold the moon, opportunity, and me!”