It’s NaNoWriMo. The first weekend, in fact. I should be typing my fingers off. Instead, I’m reorganizing my bookcases, hanging pictures that have been in my closet for five years, and organizing files. My procrastination abilities have soared to entirely new and unexpected levels.
However, while going through ancient CDs to try to decide if there was anything on them I ought to keep, I found a folder called “Writing.” It held the novel I wrote back when my son was a toddler, a few brief bits of a story that was my nighttime go-to-sleep tale for a long, long while, and a short story that I flat-out don’t remember. Like, not at all. Not a word. But it’s in a folder of my writing and it reads like my writing and the subject matter seems very appropriate for where we were in life ten plus years ago, so I think I probably wrote it. And honestly, I found it insanely charming. So, for you, my lovely readers, and maybe for me in the future…
A Story to Help R Feel Better
Once upon a time, there was a castle in a land where nothing ever grew. A boy lived in the castle, with his butler, two geese, and a mouse. One would think that a butler, two geese and a mouse would be plenty of company, but the boy was lonely. He longed for someone to play with.
The geese could be fun. He loved to chase them. But if he caught them, they turned and bit him and he didn’t like that much.
The mouse was delightful. He had tamed it using bits of bread and cheese from his own meals and it would come and sit in his hand and quiver its whiskers at him. But one couldn’t really play with a mouse; for one thing, it was too small. For another, it couldn’t talk.
Sometimes, he could play with the butler. But not often enough, for the butler always had work to do. If it wasn’t cleaning the silver, it was dusting the shelves. And if it wasn’t the shelves, it was the floors or the pantries or the acres of armor that always needed to be polished.
And so the boy was lonely. And being lonely made him sometimes afraid. For he couldn’t help but think how awful it would be if the geese got away, and the butler disappeared, and the mouse never came back, and somehow he was left all alone in the castle. And that thought always made him cry, even though he didn’t want to, and thought privately that he was much too old for crying.
One thing the boy liked to do when he was lonely was wander the castle in search of new books. For it was a big castle and there were lots of rooms and many of the rooms had bookshelves and many of the bookshelves held books. (Although some held other things like tiny statues of dragons or miniature tea cups or pictures of the king and stuff.)
One day, he found a room that was most unusual. It was green. But not painted green. No, it was made of green glass. And in the room were all sorts of mysterious things that he had never seen before, tools and pots, and packets and papers, and vials and bags and all sort of interesting things that one would think he would look at. But the boy was used to lots of strange objects in the castle, most of which he never understood and the butler was too busy to explain, so he ignored the things and headed straight for the bookshelf he spotted over a doorway that led outside.
The bookshelf held only one book. But it was a great big book, one of the biggest the boy had ever seen. It was even bigger than the giant dictionary that lived in the library downstairs.
And when the boy had pulled it down from the shelf and opened it up, he discovered that it was filled with pictures, as well as his words. Ahhhh—that was his favorite, very favorite kind of book. For although he could read, many times he had to sound out the words the way he had been taught and yet still never understood them. The library was filled with books that made no sense to him.
Carefully, the boy flipped through the pages. And as he did, he was struck dumb with amazement. Well, there was no one for him to speak to, so he wasn’t really struck dumb (which means silent, not stupid) so maybe it would be more correct to say the boy was struck numb with amazement. He had never seen such things.
He had books with pictures; pictures of aeroplanes and automobiles, pictures of trains and tractors. But this book was filled with pictures of plants and flowers and vegetables. And not just pictures. The boy quickly realized that the book contained instructions for how to grow plants and vegetables and flowers.
For the next weeks and even months, the boy was far too busy to be lonely. Every day, as soon as he’d woken up and eaten his breakfast and fed some crumbs to his mouse, he dashed off to the glass room, where he planted seeds in the pots, using the tools and dirt that were in the room.
Can you imagine his delight when his first seed sprouted? Perhaps not for you take it for granted. You see flowers all the time. But for this boy it was magic, the way the little green sprout poked through the dirt, the way a leaf appeared and then almost overnight unfurled, and then grew more and more leaves.
The boy loved it. He couldn’t play with his plants, but he could talk to them, and he could pretend that they listened.
One day, he decided that it was the right season to try planting plants outside. He went out and he dug in the dirt and he furrowed the ground, and he made holes and he planted and he watered and he got wet and dirty and messy and he had a most amazing time.
And his plants grew. Somehow in that land where no plants grew, his plants managed to grow. Perhaps it was because he loved them so much. Perhaps it was because he watered them so carefully. Perhaps it was because he fed them, first with plant food he found in the green room, and then with compost that he carefully created using directions found in the big book.
One day, he was outside watering his plants, and he realized that something strange was resting on one of his flowers. He walked a bit closer. Do you know what it was? It was a butterfly. He looked at it in amazement. He’d never seen such a thing.
From that day forth, more butterflies came to his garden. And with them came other bugs. Ants, bees, cicadas, grasshoppers, beetles, ladybugs, spiders, aphids…he didn’t like all of them. He especially didn’t like the ones that ate the plants. But at the same time, he had gone from being someone who knew only four other creatures: the butler, the two geese, and the mouse, to someone who knew who many other creatures. And he did like that. (The geese were happy too. Although they had been perfectly content with the food that was regularly delivered by air drop, fresh bug become their favorite appetizer.)
What do you think happened next? Geese are not the only ones who like to eat fresh bugs.
One day the boy was outside, and he heard a strange noise. It was unlike anything he’d ever heard before. Tweet-tweet, tweet. It was a bird. The boy was entranced. He had thought the butterflies were amazing, but the bird actually spoke. “Tweet-tweet” he whistled back at it, and the bird darted off in fear.
But the next day it was back. And the next summer, it was back with friends.
And the year after that, there were mice. And the year after that, a cat showed up to chase the mice. And then one night, the boy spotted a raccoon, prowling around. Soon after, the geese put up a ferocious squawking one night when they realized that there was a fox nearby.
And the boy kept planting and tending his gardens. As the years went by and he grew older and older, he planted more and more. And some years, he would plant in different areas and let his old gardens run wild.
By the time the boy was very old, the butler and the two geese and the mouse had all died. And the thing the boy was afraid of had happened: except that it hadn’t really happened at all. He knew thirty birds, maybe more. He knew cats and mice and raccoons. And his geese had had goslings and they had had goslings and now he had many geese. And his mouse had met a nice girl mouse who’d moved into the garden and they’d had baby mice and now the boy had many tame mice.
As for the butler—well, when the boy grew he decided that no one needed to polish the acres and acres of armor. So when the butler had grown old and tired (many years before he finally died), the boy advertised for a replacement, only for a gardener not a butler. And the gardener who came in answer to his ad was a nice girl who loved plants as much as he did. And fortunately, she also loved children too, because they had seven of them. And when the boy was very old, the castle was a very crowded place to live and the country was green and lush and beautiful.
And the boy was not lonely and he was not scared of anything. And although he knew now that one is never too old to cry, he seldom did, for he was very, very happy.
PS If I ever reach a more fiscally stable place, I am so going to find an illustrator and turn that into a children’s book, after a little editing, of course. It makes me want grandchildren just so I can read it to them.
That’s a wonderful little story. What a charming thing to find buried away. Treasure is what this is.
Thanks for that Sarah, I have shared it with a gardening friend – lovely.
Judy, Judy, Judy said:
Definitely worth illustrating and turning into a book. Consider the woman who illustrated my poetry book. She did lovely work, imho. Moon Diva Art. She has done a few children’s books, I think.
Sharon French-Gardner said:
Thank you all!