Stories For Thing

Imagination

Thing

It was a balmy spring Sunday afternoon; the sun was playing a merry game of hide-n-seek with a bunch of portly, clear-skinned clouds and a lazy wind caressed the largely empty streets of the city. Even the sea seemed to have been lulled into a gentle slumber, with only the occasional wave clapping onto the rocky-sandy surface of its shore. After a rather heavy lunch, having chosen to ignore sleep’s comely arms and flirt with the pleasant charms of the outdoors instead, I found myself meandering along this picturesque but somewhat sheltered stretch of the seaside. Despite a few adventurous gulls, some bored street vendors and a thinly scattered mix of tourists and locals – probably out to enjoy the weather just as I was- it was quite a serene, unhurried setting. I was just about to light my second post-lunch cigarette – battling the frisky winds to get a match aflame- when I noticed the little girl sitting on the large rock.

She couldn’t have been more than four, chocolate-skinned with a tangled mass of dark, curly hair doing a tango with the wind. She had on a pretty yellow dress with a small, red bag slung over her shoulders and a pair of floppy, red sandals to complete the ensemble. I couldn’t see much of her face because it was buried inside a large sea-shell, almost the size of her head – while they were far from uncommon here; I hadn’t seen one that big very often. One hand was holding it up and the other was absent-mindedly petting an enthusiastic stray pup clamoring for attention at her feet, tail going about sixty wags a minute.

At first I wondered what she was doing here all by herself; she certainly wasn’t a street kid. But then I noticed a Couple who seemed like her parents, lounging on the sand not too far away from her. They were probably all from out of town because the parents seemed completely fixated by the vastness and unbridled glory of the sea, tearing their eyes away from it every few minutes only to have a quick glance at the girl or to remind her to stay right where she was and not wander away. The girl herself seemed too engrossed with the shell at the moment to either pay attention to their reminders or to even consider wandering.

Something about how a child her age could stay so single-mindedly focused on that ordinary seeming shell for so long – especially when there was a whole seashore waiting to be explored – intrigued me and I strolled close to her, wearing what I hoped was a sufficiently benign and avuncular smile to not alarm the parents. They gave me a quick once-over but then apparently decided I was okay.

When I paused right next to her, it was the pup that noticed me first. It relinquished her petting hand to come say hello to my ankles, yipping away as it did. Perhaps it was the yipping or the sudden absence of the pup under her fingers that broke whatever spell the little girl was under; because as I bent to stroke the demanding puppy, she finally looked up from the shell and at me. She had eyes as dark as a moonless night and her face seemed flushed with excitement.

Either she was sociable by nature or seeing the pup take to me had marked me acceptable in her book because she immediately returned my smile with a sparkling one of her own. I straightened, waved softly and said, ‘’ Hi, there.’’ She waved a ‘’Hi,’’ of her own back.  ‘’So, what’s so exciting in that shell?’’ I asked, coming straight to what had been intriguing me.

She looked fondly back at the shell once more before replying in a slightly hushed tone, as if confiding a secret in me. ‘’I founded a whole World inside there.’’

That certainly wasn’t the answer I had been expecting so I gently probed further. ‘’Oh, a whole world? What kind of a world is it?’’

‘’it’s a happy world,’’ she began earnestly, scrunching her nose as she tried putting into words all that she thought she had seen. ‘’ It has a big orange Sun that has eyes; big friendly eyes and a big friendly smile. But it doesn’t talk to anyone; it just looks over them and keeps them safe. And the ground is covered with long yellow grass, and the grass is so soft you can sleep on it. There are tall, pink and red flowers also, they sing to you when the wind is blowing; not like dance songs but songs that make you smile and close your eyes. And there are lots of trees; colored red and green, not like the dirty brown we have here. And hanging on these trees are gumballs, jelly-beans and lollies; and no one minds if you pick them and eat. Oh, and right on top on the highest branches are these big, round, many colored fruits. If you’re sick and you eat them, they take the sick away.  And there’s big, big waters all around also, but there are no fish in the waters, all the fishes fly with the birdies in the sky. But there are stories in the waters, each time you drink from them, it gives you a different story; a happy-ending one, it also teaches you stuffs.  And in the faraway, there are tall…really tall mountains made of snow that looks like jelly; on the top live ice dragons, but they won’t hurt you unless you go looking for them. And all the peoples live together and work together and on holidays, play together and there is no guvinment because they look after each other and the sun and the waters and the trees look after them and like that, they’re always happy.’’ She finished in a rush and stopped to take a huge gulp of air, after that breathless rendition.

I realized that even I’d been holding my breath while listening to her, rapt; not just by the unexpectedly rich and fantastical details of her description but also because she related it with the conviction of someone who’d actually seen this place, as opposed to a spur-of-the-moment yarn.

‘’You actually saw ALL that in there?’’ I finally asked, after both of us had caught our collective breath.

‘’Not at first. I only saw little bits at first but then I looked really hard and carefully, and saw all the rest.’’ she replied with a proud smile.

‘’Could I have a look at this world too?’’ I asked tentatively.

She seemed to consider it for a few seconds but then shrugged and handed me the shell, her attention straying to the pup, which was now gleefully attempting some manner of cartwheels at her feet.

I put the shell to my face and stared into it, a tiny irrational part of me actually expecting to see her ‘world’ in there. But all I saw in there were many layers of darkness; accompanied by the scent of the sea. I tried looking harder, but then realizing how stupid I was being, I looked away, at the girl. ‘’I opened my eyes as wide as I could and looked really hard, but I couldn’t see what you saw.’’ I said, trying to look suitably crestfallen.

She turned to me, slapped her tiny forehead with a tiny hand and said, ‘’you have to look with your eyes closed to see it, silly.’’

By Le Mot Jest

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The Protector

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Princess Kyra stood defiantly in the arena, the hopes of thousands sitting squarely on her young but confident shoulders. Her cape billowed violently in the wind, much like wings preparing to take flight. This was the moment that she had trained for, her entire childhood. This was her legacy to fulfil; and her battle-ground, this craggy hilltop with a slippery surface and giant boulders surrounding it.

On her proud forehead, glistened the tiara bestowed by her Mother, Queen of the Amazons, as her blessing before this glorious battle. Held aloft in her hand was the deadly Fire-staff, passed on to her by her Father who himself was bequeathed it by his own Sire. But this was not her sole weapon for the confrontation ahead, nor was she without an ally. At her side stood her faithful Tiger, a friend she had grown up with since they were both little more than cubs, fiercely protective of her and raring for the battle ahead. His teeth menacingly bared and his eyes fixed intently on the enemy as it crouched above.

Yes, the Enemy. The despoiler of their lands, the scourge of livestock and infants and terroriser of her hapless subjects. The primitive tormentor, thwarted by her ancestors, had once again risen and invaded their lands and forced their subjects to come crying for succour. The terrible, fire-breathing evil Dragon perched above her on the sheer wall facing the hillock, poised to launch an attack. Fierce in disposition and giant in width, this was her enemy in this battle for Justice. An enemy larger, stronger and with more power at its disposal than she and her loyal Tiger combined.

Yet she was unfazed, she knew no fear as she prepared to release the Tiger and aimed her Fire-staff, ready to plunge into fierce battle herself. She had the training and courage of her ancestors, her own steely will and the blessings and wishes of her subjects willing her on. The subjects who even now watched in nervous anticipation and rent the air with their cheers. As she began to leap she felt buoyed by these very chants of ‘’Kyra, Kyra, Kyra.’’

‘’KYRA, STOP SHINING DADA’S TORCH AT THAT POOR LIZARD AND GET OFF THE BED THIS INSTANT! Look, what a mess you’ve made jumping around like that, the pillows and covers strewn all over. And how many times do I have to tell you that the Cat is NOT allowed on the bed. And why do you have that dirty towel from the laundry-bag wrapped around you? And my hair band on your head, child? I can never understand the things you get up to, I tell you.’’

Little Kyra sighed and thought, not for the first time, that Mommies shouldn’t be allowed in your Fairy Tales.

By Le Mot Just

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A bed time story

The little girl woke up, but she knew right away that she wasn’t for-real waking up, only dream-awake. She was in her own bed, with Mama and Dada sleeping snugly on both sides (Dada snoring a little even) but she still knew this was a dream. She knew this because Mr. Monkey and Br’er Bear were floating above the bed and Snuggles, the kitty, was reading one of Mama’s big-people’s books with no pictures in them. She knew none of them could do any of this in a for-real awake. She was plenty smart like that – Dada said she was pre-cautious – and that meant plenty smart. So she knew this was a dream but she didn’t mind; she liked dreams. You could go to funny nowhere-places all by yourself and make dull-boring things look all interesting in them.

She was wondering where she should go dream-visiting when she noticed the three Nana-ladies standing just inside their bedroom door. Well, not standing exactly because their pointy shoes weren’t touching the ground, but close. Strangely, they neither startled nor scared her. Maybe because this was a dream and she knew no-one can for-real hurt you in a dream (only little children believed in dream monsters). Maybe because they were all dressed in the same funny, frumpy old gown that her own Nana would sometimes be wearing when they visited her on Sunday mornings. Or maybe, it was just their identical, indulgent smiles and that feeling of warmth and love coming from them, much like it did from Mama and Dada, even when they were asleep next to her.

‘’Don’t be afraid, child,’’ said one of them, in a voice that reminded her of the ladies singing ‘gopsel’ in Nana’s record player. ‘’I’m not ‘fraid,’’ she replied. ‘’I know this is only a dream.’’ Seemingly reassured by this, the three ladies approached her bed. ‘’Indeed, child. This is a dream. But we’re real, as are the gifts that we come bearing,’’ said another one them. The little girl smiled widely at the sound of gifts. She liked gifts, even when they came all wrapped in stupid bright-coloured paper that she had to tear before seeing them. But then a thought occurred to her. ‘’But it’s not my birthday, and it isn’t Jesus’ either, so, why gifts for me?’’ ‘’Because you’re a very special child who has caught our attention,’’ said the lady who had spoken first. The little girl mulled over this and finally replied ‘’ but Mama says all children are special.’’ The ladies appeared a trifle nonplussed at this. ‘’Shush, child,’’ began the first one reprovingly and then stopped abruptly to shoo away Snuggles, who now appeared more fascinated with her trailing gown than the book he had been reading earlier. ‘’Don’t you go looking us gift-godmothers in the dogma,’’ admonished the second one. ‘’Just partake of these wonderful gifts we bring you and be happy.’’

‘’Ok, ‘’ said the girl agreeably, although she wasn’t sure what partake meant but it had take in it, and she knew what that meant. At this the first old lady stepped forward, placed her gnarly, rather heavy hand on the little girl’s head and pronounced, ‘’ I give you the gift of great and timeless beauty that the whole world shall envy.’’ ‘’Thank you,’’ said the girl, as she had been taught, although she didn’t feel any different and was a little disappointed that this gift was apparently not one she could see, hold or eat.  As the first old lady stepped back with a self-satisfied smile, the girl queried tentatively, ‘’so this great beauty will keep me happy all the time for-always?’’ This appeared to leave the first old lady completely perplexed and at a loss for words, and with the ‘pop’ of an exploding balloon that startled Snuggles more than anyone else in the room, she promptly disappeared.

Seemingly unflustered by this rather odd turn of events, the second old lady now stepped forward and repeated the hands on the head routine. ‘’I give you the gift of vast and unending wealth that shall be the envy of all.’’ By now resigned to the prospect of non-real ‘gifts’, the little girl again expressed her gratitude before asking, ‘’so I’ll be like Richie Rich rich and that will keep me happy all the time for-always?’’ It was now the turn of the second old lady to appear all tongue tied and with a disapproving look on her face, she flickered out of sight like a candle-flame in an errant breeze.

Now the last old lady, quietly content to stay in the background thus far, stepped forward and placed her, surprisingly light and less weathered, hand on the little girl’s head. ‘’I give you the gift of stories that never stop and the art of telling them that never fails.’’ Now more out of the anticipatory pleasure of another disappearing trick than any real hope of a response, the girl asked again, ‘’ thank you for the gift of stories, but will they make me happy all the time for-always?’’

The last of the gift-godmothers smiled, a tad wistfully but yet brightly enough that even Mr. Monkey stopped scratching himself for an instant. ‘’I truly wish that were so, child. But no, there will be times when you’re sad. But for every sadness that comes your way, there’s a story that shall again lift your spirits and remind you how to be happy again. And whenever you need it, such a story will come to you; bright and sparkly, like a light-house guiding you back to happiness. There will also be times when people around you, that you care for, will be sad. And they’ll need a story to find happiness again too. And when they do, you will always have the right story for them and also, know just the right way in which to tell it. Because not all the stories that come to you will have happy endings but, you’ll see, that often, it is in the telling of the tale that smiles are found and shared, rather than in the tale itself. So take this gift of story-telling, a gift that forever keeps on giving, and use it well, for your own self and the World around you.’’

And with that the last old lady turned away, presumably to depart in a relatively conventional fashion. But just then a thought struck the little girl. ‘’But wait, where will I find the stories when I need them? In my head?’’ The departing gift-godmother looked back and said indulgently,’’ No, silly child, you’ll find them all around you. In everything and in everyone. You just have to look deep enough.’’ And then she dove rather elegantly into the open pages of the book Snuggles had been reading and quite obviously, disappeared.

The little girl clapped her hands in delight at everything that had not-really happened so far in this funny old dream and decided to get up and join Br’er Bear, Mr. Monkey and Snuggles in what appeared to be an impromptu version of the Mackerena.

The next thing she knew she was waking up, for real this time, because Mama was giving her a squishy hug and a big kiss, like she did every morning. ‘’It looks like my baby slept well,’’ said Mama. What do you want for breakfast, little one?’’ The little girl stretched, yawned and then said, ‘’I want to tell you a story, Mama.’’

A story for Thing by Le Mot Jest

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