Cicerello a fairy tale f.., p.1
Cicerello: A Fairy Tale for Fearless Boys and Girls, p.1
By Elisabeth Glas
To my parents,
and the values they taught me.
Copyright © 2017 by Elisabeth Glas
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without the written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. Information can be obtained through elisabethglas.com.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
ISBN: 978-0-9965648-5-4 (ebook)
Table of Contents
About the author
Everyone was staring at the red bird on the table. It was dead.
“You sold me a sick bird,” the grandmother yelled at the merchant, “shame on you!” The little girl whom she was holding by her hand was sobbing, hiding anxiously behind her.
The merchant’s face was as red as the dead bird: “With all due respect, Signora, you are lying. When you bought the bird yesterday, it was as fit as a fiddle. You must have fed it with something bad.”
“How dare you,” replied the grandmother, “I want a new bird now!” and she pointed with her finger to the cage with the red birds.
At that moment, a young handsome man stepped out from the crowd that had gathered around the table: “Signora, may I ask you a question?”
The grandmother turned around surprised and asked, “What do you want, young man?”
“I would like to help,” the young man replied.
“With what?” the merchant interrupted.
“I’d like to help end your fight,” the young man said turning back to the grandmother, “Signora, what would be worse: to have a yellow bird, or to have no bird at all?”
The grandmother looked at him startled and said, “Why are you talking about a yellow bird? Can’t you see this bird is red?”
Everyone around the table was nodding in agreement.
But the young man ignored the crowd and continued, “And for you, Signore, what would be worse: to give up a yellow bird, or to give up your good reputation?”
For a moment there was dead silence.
The young man used this silence to explain his thinking: “If I’m not wrong, Signore, the yellow bird costs 1 silver coin, and the red bird costs 10 silver coins?”
“That’s right,” the merchant responded, “the red bird is a very special bird.”
“Then would you be willing, Signore, to end this fight by giving the girl a yellow bird for free?” the young man asked.
Before the merchant could answer, the grandmother interrupted, “But my granddaughter does not want a yellow bird, young man!” She pulled the girl from behind her back and made her face the young man.
The young man knelt down towards the girl and said, “Now let me ask you a question, pretty Signorina.” The girl blushed. “What is your favorite color?”
Quick as a shot the girl said, “Red.”
The young man smiled and said, “That’s what I thought.” He paused, then moved closer to the girl’s ear and whispered, “I know a trick that can turn a yellow bird into a red bird. Would you like to know how to do it?”
The girl nodded curiously.
The young man continued, “Every morning before you go to school, you have to mix a pinch of paprika into the bird’s breakfast.” (1)
“Really?” wondered the girl, “That works?”
“Trust me,” the young man replied.
The girl thought about it for a moment, then turned to her grandmother: “Nonna, I want a yellow bird. Please.”
The grandmother looked at the merchant and smiled, and everyone around the table smiled too.
The merchant went to the cage with the yellow birds and gently took out a bird. While walking back to the table, he suddenly stopped midway and returned to the cage. Everyone around the table held their breath. Had the merchant changed his mind? No, instead, he took out a second bird. When he got back to the table, he gave one bird to the girl and one bird to the young man: “Please accept this as a small token of my appreciation for ending this fight.”
Immediately, the grandmother reached into her basket filled with fresh peaches and picked out the six sweetest: “Here, for you, young man. You deserve it.”
Everyone around the table applauded spontaneously.
The story of the handsome young man who ended a fight about a dead bird without raising his voice or using threats spread through the town like a wildfire. “Did he really only ask questions?” people wondered. “He must have had a knife hidden somewhere in his coat,” other people insisted. However, aside from all the rumors and gossiping on the streets, from that day on, every time a fight broke out, people would soon be calling for the young man to come and help. And the more fights he helped to settle, the fonder people grew of him. Soon they started calling him Cicerello – referring to Cicero, one of the greatest orators of their history. (2)
Cicerello lived in a town with many different markets selling many different things, from the juiciest fruits and vegetables, to the freshest fish and flowers, to the most colorful pottery, fabrics, and yarns. With so many markets in town, Cicerello was very busy settling fights. And every time Cicerello settled a fight, people would give him a little something.
When he came home from the markets in the afternoon, he would sneak through the backdoor into the kitchen and proudly present his treasures to the housemaid. She was a great cook and knew how to turn the juicy veggies and fresh fish into delicious meals for Cicerello. She was also a great dressmaker and knew how to turn the rich fabrics into stunning clothes for him. In fact, she was his best and only friend.
Cicerello’s mother had died when he was a little boy. Soon after, his father had married another woman who moved into their mansion with her two sons. Cicerello never liked them, and they never liked him. And to make matters worse, they were spending his father’s silver coins, leaving very little for Cicerello. He had to start wearing his stepbrothers’ worn-out clothes and eating leftovers with the housemaid and servant in the kitchen. How lucky was Cicerello to have his secret treasures!
But worst of all were the evenings when the servant was off, and Cicerello had to serve dinner – to the great pleasure and delight of his two stepbrothers. They didn’t miss a single opportunity to humiliate him: They would ask him to refill their glasses, although the water carafe was standing right next to them. And they would purposely throw their napkin on the floor, ordering him to pick it up. But Cicerello stayed calm, thinking to himself: “One day I will show you. Just wait.”
On one of these evenings, Cicerello’s stepmother was proudly holding a fancy-looking letter in her hand. It was decorated with a golden sphinx.
Whilst Cicerello was collecting the plates from the first course, the stepmother cleared her throat conspicuously and started reading: “Invitation. We cordially invite all unmarried Noble men of this Kingdom to…” She stopped reading and looked at Cicerello, who was standing in the corner balancing a pile of dirty plates: “Shoo, shoo, this is not for your ears! Go back to the kitchen.”
Cicerello nodded and started walking as slowly as possible towards the kitchen to make sure he caught the second part of the sentence: “…to three dances at the Royal opera house when the Princess will choose her husband.”
This was the moment Cicerello had been waiting for. He was so excited to hear of the three dances that he had to sit down at the kitchen table.
“But how will you get invited?” the housemaid asked concerned.
“Don’t worry. I will come up with a plan, as I always do,” Cicerello said confidently, and the yellow bird was nodding in agreement.
Cicerello needed to organize three things: First, he needed to organize transportation to the dances, because the Royal opera house was on the West side of the island, and his town was all the way over on the East. Then, he needed to organize access to the dances, because his stepmother would never let him go with his two stepbrothers. And finally, he needed to choose his outfits for the dances, because he wanted to impress the Princess. When serving the main course, Cicerello was already hatching ideas.
The next morning, Cicerello went straight to the fish market to look for the merchant who sold the octopus from the waters on the West side of the island. Octopus had to be fresh, he reasoned, so this merchant must bring in the octopus every day in the early morning hours from the West Coast. Maybe he could help?
“No problem,” said the octopus merchant after listening to Cicerello, “you can join my octopus express carriage on those nights.”
Then Cicerello went to the flower market to find the merchant who would help with decorating the ballroom for the dances.
“No problem,” said the flower merchant, “I will smuggle you into the Royal opera house with great pleasure.”
On their way home, Cicerello was petting the yellow bird’s head triumphantly: “I told you that we would go to the dances!”
The first dance was fast approaching. All the Noble families of the island were hard at work preparing for the event.
Cicerello’s stepmother was anxious about getting her two sons ready for the dances. “This jacket makes you look fat,” she complained to her older son, “and this one makes you look short.” And when glancing over her younger son, she threw up her hands in despair and sighed, “You are wearing too many different colors, son, you look like a walking Easter egg!”
Cicerello almost felt pity for them and was grateful that he didn’t need her approval. He had carefully chosen his outfit for the first dance: a perfectly cut navy blue suit with a white shirt and a matching bow tie. He wanted to be discreet the first night, nothing extravagant. The only lavish thing he allowed himself was a pair of navy blue velvet loafers, each decorated with three sparkling yellow stones, the color of his beloved bird.
The bird took off and spotted the Princess immediately. She looked stunning in her pale green gown. He landed on a large chandelier right above the table where the Princess was taking a break from dancing.
While Cicerello was fighting his way through the crowd, the bird suddenly felt two eyes staring at him. It only took him a few seconds to locate them right on the Princess’ lap. They were the green eyes of her sphinx cat. But before the bird had time to become scared, Cicerello arrived at the table and went straight to the Princess and asked her for a dance. The bird held his breath: “Please say yes!” When Cicerello guided the Princess to the dance floor, the bird was clapping his wings with joy.
Of course the other Noble men in the ballroom had not missed Cicerello’s discreet but masterful entry, and didn’t like it at all. “Who is this young man who carries himself with such striking elegance?” they wondered. Nobody remembered having ever seen him before. Not even his two stepbrothers recognized Cicerello in his elegant suit.
As the evening turned into night, Cicerello and the Princess kept dancing together one dance after the other, only interrupted by short breaks to refresh themselves.
During one of these breaks, Cicerello realized that people had started to leave the party and decided to look for his two stepbrothers. But he could not find them anywhere. He suddenly panicked: “What if they arrive home before me and find my bed empty?” Cicerello abruptly turned on his heels, called the yellow bird, and ran out of the ballroom, leaving behind a confused Princess.
The yellow bird, who had dozed off on the chandelier, took off as quickly as possible, followed by a pair of green eyes.
Cicerello didn’t miss a beat. He ran down the grand stairs leading down to the piazza and into the backstreets behind the opera house where the octopus express carriage was waiting.
“Where have you been? We should have left an hour ago!” the driver ranted furiously.
But Cicerello had no time to lose. “Let’s go! Now!” he instructed and jumped on the carriage.
Slowly they moved through the narrow streets of the town.
“Can’t we go any faster?” Cicerello asked impatiently, “I thought this was the express carriage, not the snail carriage.”
The driver gave Cicerello an annoyed look, but remained quiet until they reached the paved road. Then he gave a sharp whistle, and the two horses that were pulling the carriage picked up speed so fast that Cicerello almost fell off the driver’s seat. “Fast enough, young man?” the driver asked smirking.
“Very funny,” Cicerello mumbled.
Soon the octopus express was racing over the flat land towards the big mountain that separated the island into East and West.
Cicerello was hopeful that the two young horses pulling the octopus express could easily catch up with the slow old horse pulling his father’s carriage. “We have to reach my stepbrothers before we start climbing the narrow mountain road,” he was pondering, “otherwise it will be dangerous to overtake their carriage.” Nervously, he kept scanning the horizon for another carriage. Finally, there it was. The distance kept shortening quickly. And once Cicerello recognized his father’s initials on the back of the carriage, he took a deep breath, leaned back into his seat and started dreaming of the Princess. He thanked the driver when getting off the carriage close to his house and walked home in long, fast steps. He silently slipped into the house and fell asleep within seconds of putting his head on the pillow.
Despite the distances, news travelled fast on the island. The following evening over dinner, all the Noble families were talking about one and the same topic: Who was the young man that had charmed the Princess last night?
Cicerello was in the kitchen with the yellow bird when he overheard his stepbrother describing the young man: “He was handsome and elegant. He must be a Noble man, but nobody has ever seen him before.”
“Maybe he is from the mainland?” the stepmother suggested.
“Probably,” the younger stepbrother confirmed, “you should have seen his shoes… with shiny yellow stones…”
The stepmother pricked up her ears: “Shoes with stones? Maybe you were wearing the wrong shoes? Maybe that’s why the Princess didn’t want to dance with you!”
“Mom, please,” controverted her son, “those shoes were ridiculous.”
Cicerello and the yellow bird looked at each other and started giggling, imagining the shoes that the nervous stepmother would make her two sons wear to the second dance.
But Cicerello had a much more urgent problem to solve. He had to make it through the second dance without revealing who he really was.
Cicerello explained his dilemma to the yellow bird: “See, my friend, if I go to the second dance, the Princess will ask me who I am, her parents will reject me because I have been rejected by my own father, and she will choose another man at the third dance. If I don’t go to the second dance, she will believe I’m not interested in her and in any case choose another man at the third dance. No matter what I do, she will choose another man.” (3)
The yellow bird was wrinkling his little forehead, trying to follow what Cicerello was explaining to him. But he was sure that Cicerello already had a plan, as always.
A few nights later, Cicerello and the yellow bird were standing in one of the balconies on the second floor of the Royal opera house. Nobody else was up there.
“What a view!” the yellow bird whispered.
Cicerello nodded in agreement.
It was the evening of the second dance, and the ball was in full swing.
“Ready?” Cicerello asked the yellow bird.
“100%,” responded the yellow bird proudly, knowing how important his role in tonight’s plan was.
It didn’t take them long to locate the Princess. She looked even more beautiful than the last time. But she was restless waiting for the elegant young man to show up. To distract herself, she kept dancing. She even accepted dances with Cicerello’s stepbrothers, although they looked like clowns with those clunky red stones on their shoes.
Then suddenly, in the middle of a dance, she saw a yellow bird flying across the ballroom. Her heart started beating faster. A few swirls later, she saw the yellow bird again. “There!” the Princess gasped.
The young Noble man whom she was dancing with looked surprised: “What is it, Principessa?”
Cicerello: A Fairy Tale for Fearless Boys and Girls by Elisabeth Glas / History & Fiction have rating 3.8 out of 5 / Based on38 votes