Ding-dong, ding-dong, ding-dong.
Still no answer.
Rascal was ringing the doorbell of Pola’a tree hollow. Despite the laughter coming from inside, there was no answer.
‘Pola, open up! It’s me!’ he yelled.
Suddenly, the door cracked open and a dozen or so sheets of paper flew out of the tree hollow. One of them whirled in the air and landed on Rascal’s snout.
‘Ugh! Pew!’ Rascal started to spit and shake his head wildly. ‘What is this? Are you making face masks or something?
‘Ha, ha, ha! You sure could use one, but that’s not it…’ Pola said, looking amused. She removed the sheet of paper; there was something written on it: “Vote 4 Us”.
As Rascal opened his eyes, he saw that the tree hollow was filled with various leaflets and slogans: ”Your Voice Can Make a Difference”… ”I ♥ Sport”.
‘Pola, what’s going on?’ he asked, confused. ‘Have you changed your hollow into a printing house?’
‘No, but you’ll have to help us take all these leaflets and posters to my cousin, Sarah. There will be a vote held today in New York City’s Central Park. The residents will decide what will be built in place of the old fountain – a skate park, a new fountain, a small pond, or a garden. We want to help Sarah gather votes for the skate park…’
‘What? I don’t get it…’ he muttered, still a little confused.
Pola and Tola explained that there was going to be voting tonight in Central Park and that all the residents of the city were encouraged to take part in it.
‘Anyway, Sarah will tell you all the details in a minute,’ they added just before the journey…
‘All that is good, all that is new, take us away, show us the truth. Take us to meet Sarah in Central Park.’ The world whirled around them and in a blink of an eye, they landed in the biggest park in New York City.
Rascal’s friends explained to him that there would be a vote tonight in Central Park and that all the residents of the city were encouraged to take part in it.
He was about to learn all the exact details when…
‘Oh! Hi Pola, how are you?’ called Sarah.
‘Oh! Sarah!!! Good to see you.’
The owls fell into each other’s arms and began to hug, jump, high-five and make other gestures that demonstrated they were truly the best of friends.
‘We have lots to do! Where are the leaflets?’ asked Sarah after the affectionate greeting.
Within a few seconds a crowd of animals gathered around. They had bikes, skateboards and roller-skates with them. Before Pola had the chance to answer, her cousin’s friends rushed towards Rascal and Tola to take the leaflets they were carrying.
‘Are you ready?’ called Sarah, the team leader.
‘Yees!’ they yelled.
‘Are you ready to change our park?’
‘Yees!’ everyone confirmed again.
‘My dear friends,’ Sarah now spoke calmly. ‘Today is a very important day. There will be a vote tonight in our park and everyone – children, adults, girls, boys, sportsmen, and scientists can cast their vote. Together, we are about to decide what will be built in place of the old fountain that we used to enjoy in this park. Each and every resident can cast one vote and choose between a skate park, a playground, a new fountain and a garden. The most popular idea will win. If we want it to be the skate park, we have to bring others around to our idea.’
‘Yeees!’ everyone cried out.
‘OK, let’s begin. We will work in pairs – this way we will feel both merrier and safer. We will scatter around Central Park. Rascal, you will join Julia, she has a spare pair of roller-skates. And you, Kitty, will go with the raven, you can sit on the back of his bike. While handing out leaflets, encourage others to vote for our project. Good luck!’ Sarah cried enthusiastically.
Rascal started to skate next to Julia, helping in handing out leaflets. Some of the animals they passed were interested in the project, while others told them straight away that they would rather like something different and would not vote for the skate park.
Rascal, seeing how enthusiastic his new friend was, dared to ask a question. ‘Do you really think there’s any sense in our actions? Do you believe that other animals will vote for what we want?’
‘Sure,’ Julia replied eagerly. ‘If you truly believe in something, you can convince everyone. We’ve been organising various actions since weeks. For example, we’ve cooperated with birds to organise a flight over Central Park. We have already showed where the ramps and bowls for bikers and skaters will be located. We’ve even organised cycle races…’
‘Really?’ called Rascal. ‘I would like to take part in it myself.’
‘Yes, you could have competed with a cheetah… and with an antelope in rough terrain!’
Rascal had been told many times that everyone, even himself, could have an impact on his neighbourhood. But he never took it seriously – after all, he was just a small, unknown dog. Who was supposed to listen to him? Why should others be interested in his opinion? He was sure that there were other people more suitable to decide what should be built in his forest, school, or park. After his discussion with Julia, he felt as if he had finally opened his eyes. For the first time ever, he started to believe that he also could have an influence and that his actions – even handing out leaflets – could change something.
Rascal was about to say something, when suddenly, their pleasant ride was interrupted by a fox. Before Rascal realised what was happening, the fox rushed towards Julia and took away her pack with leaflets. Some of them scattered around when the fox put the pack on his shoulder and ran, disappearing into the thickets. Rascal wanted to run after him, but Julia stopped him immediately.
‘Stop, there’s no point in chasing him.’
‘Who was that? Do you know him? Why did he do that?’ asked Rascal.
‘Oh, it’s Steven, a fox from the neighbourhood,’ explained Julia. ‘He doesn’t like the idea of a skate park but rather wants a new fountain. For some time now, he’s been destroying everything we try to organise. Chasing him makes no sense, you won’t find him anyway.’
Julia turned around and skated towards Sarah’s camp. In less than a second, Racal stopped by a bench.
Julia, look!’ called Rascal. ‘This poster hanging on the bench, it encourages people to vote for the new fountain, doesn’t it?’
‘Yes, it is.’
‘It won’t be here any longer.’ Rascal quickly tore the poster down and hid the scraps of paper in his bag. ‘If they can steal our leaflets, then I can tear down all their posters.’
‘No!’ yelled Julia. ‘You can’t do that. We must be honourable.’
‘But that fox has just taken away our leaflets. Was that honourable?’ Rascal asked, startled.
‘Of course it wasn’t fair, but we want to succeed in a good way. We want our project to win because other residents think it is necessary.’
‘Julia… but they took our leaflets! We don’t have equal chances! OK, I won’t tear down their posters – I will draw cockroaches or mosquitoes by the fountain. Seeing this, residents will vote for us…’
‘Rascal, don’t even joke this way,’ said Julia seriously. ‘Access to real information is very important while making decisions. We want the residents to know what exactly they are voting for. We want them to choose consciously. I want to fight for something, not against something,’ she added.
Fighting for something, not against something. For the skate park and not against the new fountain. That made sense.
Until twilight, Rascal and Julia handed out leaflets. Whenever someone asked about another project, like the garden or the fountain, Rascal sincerely answered where the nearest poster with useful information was.
The evening finally came and numerous residents gathered in Central Park to take part in the vote. Then, everyone started to play together, waiting for the results. Suddenly, just before the announcement of the results, a bulldog on a bike approached Rascal.
‘Tag, you’re it! Catch me if you can!’ he called to Rascal.
The raven, observing the whole scene, gave Rascal his bike and the dog stated to chase the bulldog. The game continued until a loud voice came from the megaphone:
‘Attention, please! We have the results of the vote.’
The dogs stopped chasing each other and everyone waited in silence for the results.
‘The residents have decided. The majority of the votes were cast for… the skate park!’
Rascal and Sarah’s friends started cheering and jumping but some of the animals were visibly disappointed. The bulldog also seemed discontent.
‘Hey, why aren’t you happy?’ asked Rascal. ‘You will have a special place to ride a bike. It’s good news, isn’t it?’ Rascal was very confused.
The bulldog still didn’t seem happy.
‘You know, I voted for the fountain. It’s a pity it didn’t win this time…’
‘For the fountain?’ Rascal was still very surprised. ‘Hmm, but you ride a bike… I was sure that you would have voted for the skate park.’
‘My grandpa used to enjoy sitting by the fountain. I wanted it to stay, you know – the place where you can watch the birds and the flowing water. You can ride a bike everywhere else you want…’ he added, sounding very sad.
Rascal was happy not only because he was fighting for the skate park, but also because he didn’t do anything dishonourable to stop people from voting for the new fountain. Playing with the bulldog, he understood that people who vote differently than you, can be cool as well.