Clark was just settling down to a challenging math problem when Skunk burst into the room.
“Clark! You’ve got to help me,“ he gasped. “Mole is in trouble!”
“What? Slow down. What kind of trouble?”
“Oh, terrible, terrible trouble! Mole is in a boat two miles from the nearest point on the coast. She is trying to get to a shelter three miles down the coast and one mile inland, but her strength is nearly gone. She needs to know where to point the boat so that she makes to the shelter in the least amount of time.”
“Okay, okay,” said Clark. “Do you know how fast she can row and how fast she can walk?”
“Yes,” answered Skunk. “She can row at three miles per hour and walk at four miles per hour—that is, if she has any strength left. Oh, this is just terrible! I should never have let her go.”
Clark made no reply; his paws were already flying across a sheet of paper, making calculations. Skunk danced from one foot to the other in anxious anticipation. After a few minutes, Clark threw done his pen.
“Done,” he said. “Now, how will you communicate this to Mole?”
“This way,” said Skunk, grabbing Clark by the arm. He hurried him down to the beach. He climbed a small rock and pointed out to sea. Clark jumped up next to Skunk and saw a small boat bobbing on the horizon. Skunk lit a lantern and waved it over his head. An answering light came from the boat.
“Now,” said Skunk. “Where should she row?”
“Mole needs to row towards a point one mile south from here, got that?”
“But how will I know where a mile is?”
Clark thought for a minute.
“Run for six minutes as fast as you can. Do you know the song ‘Boomdiada’?”
“Is that the one that starts, ‘I love the mountains and the rolling hills’?”
“Yes, that’s it. Sing that song…uhm, eighteen times, repeating the ‘boomdiada’ at the end. That should take you one mile.”
“Got it,” said Skunk, as he leaped from the rock and began running down the beach. Clark followed him, singing to himself.
Approximately six minutes later, Skunk stopped and began waving his lantern. A faint light shone from the tiny boat. A minute or two later, Clark was at Skunk’s side.
“While we are waiting for Mole, would you please tell me what she was doing in a boat two miles from the coast?” asked Clark.
“Oh, you know Mole. She read the story of the owl and the pussycat going to sea in a pea-green boat and just had to try it for herself. Whatever it was she anticipated she would find, it was not what she found.”
“Er…what did she find?”
“That it’s a silly thing to launch yourself out on a boat when you haven’t the faintest idea what you are doing! I mean, really!”
Skunk continued to wave his lantern as he fixed his gaze on the boat.
“Oh, do you think she is getting any closer, Clark? I don’t know; she looks as far away as ever.”
Clark did not answer. Instead he started singing.
“I love the mountains and the rolling hills. I love the flowers and the daffodils. I love the fireside when the lights are low. Boomdiada, boomdiada, boomdiada, boomdiada.”
At first Skunk looked startled; then he, too, started singing. Together Clark and Skunk sang the Boomdiada Song one hundred and thirty times. After each chorus, the tiny boat was a little bit closer to shore, closer and closer until they could see Mole, tired but triumphant, pulling on the oars. Skunk dropped his lantern as he and Clark plowed into the water and dragged the boat onto the beach. Sturdy arms lifted Mole from the boat and set her gently on the sand.
“Mole! Mole! I am so glad you are alive!” Skunk was near to tears. Mole smiled weakly.
“Hullo, Clark,” she said. “Glad to see you. How’ve you been? You look well.”
“What do you mean, how has he been?” Skunk yelled. “He’s been great! I’ve been great! The whole world is great, except you, Mole, who just had to go out on a boat. What were you thinking?”
“Well,” Mole sighed. “Whatever I was thinking, the anticipation was a lot more fun than the action. Clark, thanks for helping Skunk. You probably saved my life.”
Clark licked his paw and smoothed an ear; then he patted Mole on the head.
“Remember the words of Spock.”