|Estella was injured. She had lost one of her five arms to a nasty swordfish. She knew her arm would grow back, but it would take months. Her little cave had been easily invaded. She slowly made her way outside.
Once she was outside the cave's entrance, Estella tried her best to lie still. Two of her best friends showed up, Sally the Sand Dollar and Kate the Sea Cucumber. Right away they saw Estella was badly hurt.
“What can we do to help?” Sally asked. Kate reached out to hug Estella, but she didn't do it, afraid a hug could hurt her in her present state.
“I need a safe place to live until I get all better,” said Estella. “It could take up to a year.”
“We know just the right place. It's called Reef Hurricane Hospital,” said Kate. “But how would we get you there safely? And quickly? None of us can move fast.”
“Look! There's Dora the Dart fish,” exclaimed Sally. “She'd be the perfect messenger to send to the hospital. She's small but fast, and knows how to burrow into the sand or hide in some way, when faced with danger. And she's friendly, too!”
Dora swam toward them after Kate waved at her. By swimming in a circle around Estella, Dora learned about her injuries.
“Oh, my my, new friends! I know where the Hurricane Hospital is. It should only take me minutes to get there. You three stay here, together.”
Dora started to zoom off, but stopped to look back just once.
“Take heart! Stay safe! Help will be on the way soon,” she said. Before Dora was lost from view, two more Dart fish joined her on her quest.
It wasn't long before a cart captained by four seahorses came into view, followed by eight seahorses. Dora and her two buddies were close behind.
“Estie! May we call you that? Please call me Dot. Your rescue is at hand, my dear,” exclaimed Dot as she drew near.
The seahorses carried the cart as close to Estie as they could and backed away. Estie scooted herself up into the cart, with help from Sally and Kate.
Four of the seahorses helped the other four fasten themselves into the seaweed harness and pick up the cart. One of the others leaned close to Estie.
“My name is Cindy. My three friends and I are here to make sure you will not fall out, Estie. We are your safety net.” As she said this, the living safety net took up posts on the four sides of the cart, as close as they could get.
“Ready, Estie?” asked Dot, who slithered onto the rear of the cart. Estie was glad Dot had joined her. It made her feel less lonely.
“We'll see you, Estie!” cried Sally. “When you're on the mend!” added Kate.
Dot smiled and Estie smiled back. The cart rose up and the trip began. Estie had always traveled slowly under her own power. Riding in the cart was a lot smoother and faster than she expected. It almost lulled her to sleep.
“We're here,” said Dot. “The ride will be over when we get to your room.”
As the cart traveled up a steep incline of crushed coral and rock, Estie could see the sign on top of the building........REEF HURRICANE HOSPITAL. Under the sign were the words.............EXTENDED STAYS POSSIBLE. Estie heaved a sigh of relief. She'd get all better before she had to go home.
Hospital staff lifted her onto her comfortable bed, netting strung between four bedposts. After being fed, Estie drifted off to sleep.
The next day a lobster nurse came into her room. She introduced herself as Miss Henna, and took Estie's vital signs.
“Miss Henna, this is a place for hurricane victims, and I wasn't hurt by one of those nasty storms,” admitted Estie.
“Oh, Estie. That doesn't matter. Some of our patients are hurt in hurricanes, but not all of them,” declared Miss Henna. “The hospital name was chosen because this area was hit hard years ago by a terrible hurricane.”
Miss Henna looked at Estie. “Estie, all we can really do is make you comfortable while you're here, which could be months.................until your arm grows back and you've regained your strength.”
A few weeks later Sally, Kate and Dot arrived in the seahorse cart. They came to visit as often as they could.
“Hey, Estie! Miss Henna told us that the hospital runs a circus, and when you're better, you can be part of it. Maybe selling tickets?” asked Kate.
“I'll do it!” said Estie. A few months later she began to sell circus tickets. Nearly a year went by, with lots of bed rest, good food, and plenty of visits from Estie's friends.
One day Estie measured her new arm, comparing it to her other arms. They were all the same length, at last! She cartwheeled all the way to the circus grounds, and got the circus boss to give her a new job.
When Sally, Kate, and Dot took their seats in the grandstand a few weeks later, they saw a giant sign suspended from the tightrope.......THE CARTWHEEL QUEEN. Estie cartwheeled into the tent. Then she climbed the rope ladder while the crowd roared, and cartwheeled across the tightrope.
Estie had found a new job.