Every time summer vacation came round, the parents were in the habit of sending their two children to the country, far away from the bustle of the city. So every July, Julien and his little siste... [+]
Nelson Packrat was a pack rat who lived in a small cave. One day his mother looked around the tunnels of their nest and thought it was time for a spring cleaning.
"Nelson, I can barely get into your room. You've collected too many things. You need to get rid of some of them."
"But Mum, I need everything," he said.
"What about this?" Mrs Packrat asked, pointing to a coloured brooch. "What do you need that for?"
"It was the first thing I brought home. It's my favourite."
Mrs Packrat looked into Nelson's big, bright, bulging black eyes. "Yes, I remember now. It is very pretty." She sighed and then pointed at something else. "But this . . . I can't think why you would want this old, worn-out sock."
"Mum!" he gasped. "I traded that for a watch I found one night next to a camper. It keeps me warm at night."
"Nelson, you're growing. There isn't enough room for you and all your stuff in here. You need to make a decision. Some things have to go," said Mum.
"Yes, Mum," he muttered. He looked around at all his favourite things and wondered how he was going to choose.
"You have a week. Otherwise I'll clean it out myself."
"Okay, Mum," he said, whiskers drooping as Mrs Packrat walked away.
Suddenly, an idea popped into Nelson Packrat's head: he could swap some of his bigger things for smaller things. After all, that was what pack rats did. Then his room wouldn't be so cluttered. His mother would be happy, and his problem would be solved.
Nelson put the items he thought were too big and that he no longer needed into a pile. He waited for night to fall, then he took a large nut from the pile. Carrying it in his mouth, he left the small cave. Leaves rustled as he scurried over fallen tree limbs. He travelled along the trails he'd been on so many times before, in search of new treasure.
Along the way, Nelson Packrat found a bright, shiny nail. The nail was smaller than the nut. He swapped the nut for the nail and returned home.
Next, he picked up a pair of glasses he'd found hidden among some rocks from his pile. He dashed out of his room with them. It didn't take long to find something he liked. On the trail, a coin that shone in the moonlight. Nelson Packrat swapped the glasses for the coin and hiked home.
Next came a set of car keys from the pile. The large keys were heavy to carry.
Nelson Packrat ambled out of the nest, dragging them behind him. If he hadn't been looking carefully, he never would have seen the safety pin on the edge of the trail. He exchanged the keys for the safety pin and dashed home, placing the pin amongst his prized possessions.
Once more, Nelson Packrat went over to his pile. This time he lifted out a toothbrush.
Nelson scuttled out of the cave to look for an item to replace the toothbrush with. He squealed with delight when he saw a ring mounted with a bright sparkly stone.
"This is beautiful," he said, placing the toothbrush on the ground and examining the ring.
Nelson Packrat gently picked up the ring in his mouth and headed for home. By the time he'd placed it next to the other items he'd collected throughout the night, he was exhausted.
"Six more days," said his mother when she passed by his room that morning.
Nelson Packrat sighed. He'd need to work harder to swap everything in his pile. He knew if he searched farther out, he would be able to find more suitable things. He would look for shiny, brighter objects—and maybe some more unusual things.
Night after night, Nelson swapped out his treasures.
On the last night, as he left his room, a feeling of sadness washed over Nelson Packrat. He had one more thing to swap: his favourite worn-out footy sock. He'd decided he no longer needed it and could live without it. He would find something else, something even more special to swap it with.
Nelson wiped away his tears. He knew he'd have to travel far that night to find something extraordinary enough to swap.
Once again he scurried over tree limbs and over the many trails he'd already travelled. He ventured into new territory—trekking farther than he ever had before. He didn't stop until he saw what he was looking for.
"Campers always have good things to trade," he said.
Quietly picking his way through the tent, he saw something he didn't have.
Nelson Packrat swapped his sock and took off before he was noticed with his new prized possession.
"Well," said Mrs Packrat the next morning. "It does look less cluttered. I don't know what you think you are going to do with that, though." She pointed to the unusual item.
"It's different, Mum. It's something nobody else has. I like it a lot."
"Okay," said his mother. "If it makes you happy, you can keep it."
At about the same time, the camper awoke inside his tent to find Nelson Packrat's footy sock.
"What's this? Where did this come from?" the camper scratched his head and lifted up the large worn-out sock. Then he looked around. Something was missing. "Hey! Where've my false teeth gone?"