Want to the know the back story on Walter? Click HERE.
Want to read Part 1 of this story? Click HERE. Part 2, HERE. And 3, HERE. Otherwise, enjoy…
Walter must have turned around 20 times to wave goodbye to Sonny. As he headed to Central Park and Sonny got smaller in the distance, the clouds above began to arrive. It had gone from a bright sunny day to an afternoon headed for showers. Walter picked up the pace a little and the wheels on his big, heavy suitcase turned and turned and squeaked and squeaked. He sped across intersections, ducked behind a cab and narrowly avoided a bunch of dogs and a dog walker. And finally, as he entered the beautiful and enormous Central Park, the first rain appeared. A big, round wet raindrop crashed onto the sidewalk. “Uh oh,” Walter gulped. This time Walter pushed his big, heavy, noisy suitcase like a shopping cart and headed to the closest wooded area of the park. The large raindrops multiplied and Walter entered an area of trees to find a small but dirty pond. Only a few drops got into Walter’s area, much to his relief. The trees were thick and their branches helped form a protective canopy, almost like an umbrella. A shy skunk walked by and whispered “hello.” A brother and sister frog leapt into the pond and started doing the backstroke. A small goldfish leapt out of the pond, spun in the air, and yelled “Hey you over there!”
“Me?” Walter thought. “Yes” the excited, but poorly looking fish said, leaping out of the water once again. Walter walked to the edge of the pond and the fish swam to the ledge and rested its head on a lily pad. “What are you doing in the park?” the fish wondered. This day had taken another twist, but Walter explained his odd journey to this point, including the people he had met and his quest to make it to his hotel. At the end of his description, Walter extended his hand and said, “I’m Walter the Warthog, pleased to meet you.” The little fish extended its tiny fin and replied, “It’s a pleasure, my name is Frankie the Fish.” The rain continued to fall outside of the tree canopy. The occasional drop of rain snuck past the branches creating little circles in the little pond. Walter sat down to rest his feet and Frankie just stared at him.
A couple of minutes passed and Walter felt a little uncomfortable with a fish staring at him. “Are you okay?” Walter asked. “Not really,” said the now depressed fish. “Not many people come to visit me anymore.” Walter the Warthog and Frankie the Fish talked for sometime. In fact, they talked for so long that the storm vanished and the sun reappeared. Big rays of light came through the canopy and big drops on big leaves glistened.
Walter learned that recently, Frankie’s home had become polluted by visitors in the park throwing trash into the pond. Frankie started to experience headaches and some of Frankie’s friends who would used to drink from the pond, now drank elsewhere. No one wanted to drink dirty water. This was Frankie’s home and it made him feel ill. Frankie was sick, alone and out of ideas. Walter pondered this. There had to be a solution. Walter thought about this further, until a large racket interrupted both he and Frankie’s thinking.
A large school group was coming through the park on a nature tour. The kids must have been 8-9 years old and there were probably 50 of them. About 8 adults made up of teachers and parents were circling the kids as if they were trying to herd cattle. An idea struck Walter like a bolt of lightening. “I’ve got it,” he said to Frankie. “Wait here, I’ll be right back.” Frankie didn’t argue, he had very little strength to do so. “Okay” he feebly mumbled. And Walter bolted away, leaving his big old suitcase safely under the canopy of trees.
Frankie sort of just floated in the polluted pond and hoped Walter’s idea was good. His head was pounding and he just wanted his water restored to what it used to be. So Frankie just hung out for a bit, hoping for the best – keeping his fins crossed.
Walter’s journey was short. As he left the canopy of trees and Frankie in the pond, he immediately encountered the very excited school children. He approached one of the adults who seemed to be in charge. “Good Afternoon” Walter said. “Hi there, Warthog,” the woman replied. “I was wondering what class this is?” Walter questioned. The woman responded that this was a variety of grades, mostly 3rd and 4th graders that were here to explore the nature of Central Park. “That sounds very exciting” Walter replied. “It is,” the woman said, “We try to get these city kids to understand that there is more to the Big Apple than just buildings, cars and lots of people.” Walter smiled at this, he knew he was on to something. He took the teacher aside and made more of formal introduction. The teacher’s name was Mrs. Kelly. She was a 4th grade teacher – her favorite subjects to teach were science and geography. “Kids today need to understand the importance of our environment,” she concluded. Walter chimed in, “I want you and your students to meet a friend of mine. He’s in trouble and could use your help.”
Mrs. Kelly quickly organized all of the students with the help of the other teachers. It was an amazing thing to watch – Mrs. Kelly herded all of the students into a quiet, organized group. She was obviously a great teacher. The students all stood in a line, very well behaved. Walter led them to the pond. Every now and then Walter would let out a snort he was so excited.
The parents, students and our Warthog made the walk very quickly. They entered the canopy to find the pond with the lone, sick fish swimming around. The kids were excited to see the fish, but Frankie couldn’t give much of a welcome. He managed a quiet “Hello everyone.” The kids roared “HELLO MR. FISH!!!!” It was so loud that it created ripples in the pond. Walter chimed in, “You can call him Frankie.” The kids roared “HELLO FRANKIE THE FISH!!!!” Frankie couldn’t hide his smile and more ripples traveled across the pond’s surface.
Mrs. Kelly gathered everyone around the pond. The kids sat on the ground in rows and looked up at their teacher. Walter stood next to Mrs. Kelly and Frankie swam to the edge of the pond and again rested his chin on his favorite lily pad. “We have an important job to do,” she told the students. “Because of pollution, Frankie the Fish has become very sick.” Some of the students looked confused. One of them raised a hand and asked what pollution is. Mrs. Kelly praised the student for such a good question and explained that pollution is a process in which our natural environment is harmed. “Look at all the trash scattered everywhere, this is no place for a fish or anyone to live.” The students became very sad. “But we can do something about this,” Mrs. Kelly said. All of the students looked up with big, wide grins. Walter predictably snorted.
The plan was simple. Mrs. Kelly sent a couple of parents to buy some rakes, trash bags, gloves and so on. The rest of the afternoon Walter, Mrs. Kelly, parents and teachers, and 50 little kids cleaned up Frankie’s habitat. They filled over 30 trash bags with cans, potato chip bags, candy bar wrappers and other junk. They even took time to separate items that could be recycled again. At the end of the day, the area was spotless and beautiful. Frankie was overwhelmed and incredibly grateful. “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” he said to all. “We’re not quite done,” said Mrs. Kelly. “When we get back to the classroom, all of us are going to write letters to the Environmental Protection Agency and State Senators urging them to clean the water in your pond. “No one can resist 4th graders,” she added. Frankie did an underwater somersault, leapt into the air and yelled “Thank you everyone!” The children with massive grins, took a deep breath and yelled, “You’re welcome Frankie the Fish!” Frankie laid on his back and let the ripples carry him across the pond.
Mrs. Kelly came back to shake Frankie’s fin and hugged Walter. Walter let out one of the loudest snorts since his arrival in NYC. All of the kids hugged Walter – as you can imagine, it was a snort fest. It got so loud, Frankie swam to the bottom of the pond. The kids eventually left and Frankie came back up to the surface. He couldn’t stop thanking Walter. In fact he thanked Walter so much that Walter turned red with embarrassment. “I’m happy to help a friend,” Walter said.
It was late in the afternoon and Walter still needed to check in to the hotel. It wasn’t far now. “I’ve got to get going Frankie.” “I understand,” Frankie said. The fish and warthog said their goodbyes and Walter promised to visit from time to time. “You’ll be better soon Frankie.” And with that, Walter left the pond and canopy and headed back into the city. Walter’s stomach started to grumble, he was hungry, again.