Continuing The Pond People. If you missed the beginning, click here to Meet the Mirlings
The pump lay at the bottom of the deep end, drawing in tired water that had travelled the length of the pond. Its pull was strong, sending water up to the filter at the top of the waterfall where it would begin its journey again.
Around the pump, mirlings could exercise by swimming against the current of its pull. Every swooping fish or thrown rough rider disrupted training.
Flash watched as he worked out. These interruptions were decided by the mount more often than its rider. An untrained dodger-fish would head for deep water when a mirling landed on its back, so rough riders soon found themselves over – or, indeed, under – the swimmers at the pump.
Like everyone else, he shouted at the rough riders, but now he noted which fish they rode. Once he was sure he would recognise them again, he left the swimmers at the pump and headed for the shallows.
He wanted to know more about life in the river.
Grandad sat with Flo, trimming a length of newly sprouted reed with his sharpened clam shell. Drops of rain began to dapple the pond’s surface. Flo looked up through the ripples.
Flash touched down beside Grandad, pleased that the snooty black one wasn’t with them; pasty little Flo was friendlier. And Grandad seemed pleased to see him.
‘Flash! You’re a sportsman; how are you at spitting?’
‘Have you never won a spitting contest, lad? Come on, see if you can beat me.’
Flash and Flo followed him up to the surface. Grandad straddled a lily stem and filled his gills; heads had to be out of water to spit. Then he filled his mouth and raised his head to spit water at his chosen target. After several hits, he rested on a stem beneath the water.
The rain had stopped by the time Flash perfected his aim, but he wasn’t about to let an old codger beat him – not even an old river codger. It was a point of honour to be best at whatever he tried.
He’d forgotten about Flo, who waited until he had finished before taking aim. It was a shock to see her hit her target first time.
‘I’ve been practising with Eddy,’ she admitted, ‘but I could never spit as far as you can.’
‘Never say never, lass.’ Grandad produced the hollow reed he’d brought with him. ‘Here, try this. You blows the water through it.’
Flo was soon targeting leaves outside the pond and Flash was impatient to try it. Before they swam down, Grandad took the reed for some trial shots of his own. Flash watched closely, looking for tips.
Might this reed shoot underwater? Solid missiles perhaps? A reed shooter would eventually break down with use. He would need that blade if he were to make his own shooters.