Berta and the Animals

Texto por María Bautista
Traducción por Dani Moore
Ilustración por Raquel Blázquez

Berta had never much liked animals, but since her cousin Laura’s turtle bit her on her big toe, she didn’t even want to see animals in paintings. No matter if it were an adorable and cuddly dog or a lovely butterfly: all animals scared and disgusted her in equal measure.

– Berta, please, the things of nature are not disgusting – Mom warned her when Berta screamed with fear because she had found a spider in her room, or because the neighbor’s cat had slipped out onto the terrace – Don’t be so prissy! Prissy. What an awful word. She had looked in the dictionary and saw it meant squeamish and dainty, but Berta was many things but dainty, that’s why she was the captain of the school’s handball team. Besides, it was not her fault that she did not like animals. They were strange beings, hairy, nasty and of little use. What did we need animals for? It would be so marvelous, a world where there were only humans, thought Berta every once in a while.

So, the day that Berta’s class told her that there would be an excursion to a farm school and that it was obligatory for everyone, Berta almost fainted. A farm?! With bugs, animals of all sizes, and the smell of cow poop. The horror!!

– Berta, what are you going to do? With how little you like animals! – asked her friend Mateo.
– Well I will pretend to faint just before getting on the bus, like the actresses in the movies.
– Yeah, but you aren’t a movie actress…
– Well I will paint my face with a red marker so that they think that I have the chickenpox.
– But if you had them last year…
– Well… well… well…
– Well you will have to come! Surely it won’t be so horrible – Mateo, who contrary to Berta loved animals, tried to console her.

But Berta was not so convinced and spent the whole week, until the day of the excursion had arrived, having nightmares every night.

– Come on Berta, don’t be prissy. A turtle bit you one time, but that does not mean that all animals are going to bite you each time you see them – Mom explained to her – Even more, the animals from the farm are docile, and surely you will learn many things.

And there Berta went with wrinkled face alongside all of her classmates that were happier than larks.

– They told me that we can make cheese and yoghurt, and that we can take them home with us – Mateo enthusiastically explained to her.
– Well what a thing, it’s not like we can’t buy cheese and yoghurt at the supermarket – Berta grumbled.

The farm school was enormous. In addition to a lovely stone house, they had an immense meadow where cows, goats, sheep, chickens, and rabbits ran at their will. Also, there were cats that milled about and dogs of all sizes: they had at least six!

– You are going to get lucky. One of our dogs is about to give birth – one of the monitors explained to the class – You are going to be able to see the new puppies!

Berta thought with horror about dog birth. That surely is disgusting! But she had no other choice than to follow her entire class towards the room where the dog was giving birth.

– Look kids: here comes the first one!

A wrinkled and trembling thing came out of the dog’s body. Berta did not know if she should cry or leave running in that moment. But as she did not want the others to think of her as prissy, like her mother said, she stayed there watching how five puppies were leaving the body of the mother. All the kids (minus Berta, of course) were fighting to touch them until the monitor gave direction.

– You can pet them one at a time. I will pass them to you.
– But, their eyes don’t open? – asked Mateo.
– No, it takes them fifteen days to open them.
– Too bad! – exclaimed Mateo while he passed Berta one of the puppies.

Berta looked with horror at that puppy, but she had no choice but to take it in her hands. It was so soft and so small that for a moment, Berta forgot to feel scared or disgusted.

Suddenly, the tiny puppy opened its eyes, two enormous and precious mustard colored eyes and looked sweetly at Berta. It was only a moment, but Berta felt that sweet gaze and suddenly wanted to take the puppy home. It was sooooooooo beautiful!

– Have you seen it? It opened its eyes and looked at me!
– That is impossible Berta, did you not hear the monitor?

But Berta was sure of what she had seen.

– Maybe it wanted to show you that animals are not as ugly nor as bad as you think – exclaimed Mateo.

Berta had to admit that that puppy, and the rest of the puppies, were so small and beautiful that they did not scare her, much less disgust her.

– But cows and sheep are another thing. They smell bad! How gross! – she affirmed while the class was being directed to the place where those animals were found.
– Try this very rich milk: we just milked it.

Berta thought that she would not try that milk that came from a cow for anything.

– Well, from where do you believe that milk comes that you drink at home? – the monitor asked her – from the cows!

And so Berta was not left with another choice but to try that milk. It had a very strong flavor but she had to admit that it was delicious. And the same with the yogurt. This is not to say about the goat cheese. Berta had never eaten anything so delicious!

– Mateo, well yes it is true that the animals are very useful! To think I thought they served for nothing!

And Berta, who had quit being prissy, finished playing with all those animals and spent the day well at the farm school. After everything, like her mother said, the things of nature were disgusting. They were simply perfect.

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