by Kathy Sattem Rygg -
Cheet waltzed into the Serengeti School for Land Animals on the first day excited and full of confidence. He had watched his two older brothers go through school and had waited two years for his turn. The day had finally arrived.
He spotted a couple familiar faces hanging out in the shade of an Acacia tree. “What’s up, G? Hey, Leo. Have they started yet?”
The giraffe and the lion shook their heads. “We’re just waiting for Big E and Z-Dawg to get here,” said Leo. “Here they come.”
A medium-sized elephant and stocky zebra strutted over.
“Good to see ya’ Cheet,” Big E said. “How was your summer vacation?”
“Hot and dry. I can’t wait for the rainy season,” the cheetah said.
The elephant nodded. “No kidding. I’d give anything for a trunk full of water so I can shower off. I’ve got dust in places I can’t even reach.”
“Hey, Cheet, are the rumors true?” the zebra asked. “Did you really outrun a pronghorn antelope? My brother heard from a wildebeest who heard from a hyena who heard from a hippo whose not even from around here. Word travelled all around the Serengeti.”
The cheetah grinned. “It sure is, Z-Dawg. The race was close, but I pulled it out in the end.”
“Oh, man. I would have loved to have seen that,” Big E said.
“Oh, please. Anyone can beat a pronghorn.” The animals all looked in the direction of the voice, which came from above. A large, brown fluffy bird sat in one of the lower branches.
“What are you doing here, eagle?” the lion asked, flicking his black-tipped tail.
“The same as you. Waiting for school to start.”
“I hate to tell you this, but you’re in the wrong place,” Cheet said. “This is the school for land animals. Flight school is across the ravine.”
“Then how come there’s a group of ostrich over there?” the eagle asked, nodding with its pointy beak.
“Ostrich are the only birds that can’t fly, so they attend school with us,” the giraffe said.
“Well, the flight school is full. The incoming class of Crested Cranes is huge, so they moved all the African Eagles here. What’s the matter, are you afraid to race a bird?” The eagle cawed.
“Course not,” said Cheet, puffing out his chest. “I’ll race anyone, anytime, anywhere.”
“Care to put a wager on that?” said the eagle.
Cheet glanced at the other animals. Big E shook his head as a warning not to take the bet, but the cheetah ignored it. “You’re on. What’s at stake?”
“If I win the race, you have to bring me lunch for the rest of the school year.”
Cheet’s eyes grew wide. Food was hard enough to come by during a drought, let alone have to find enough for two of them. “And if I win?” he asked.
“Then I give you something no other cheetah in the history of the Savannah has ever had...”