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Fables and enchantments, p.1
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       Fables and Enchantments, p.1

           Camille LaGuire
 
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Fables and Enchantments
Fables and Enchantments

  Fantasy and Fairytales for Children and Adults

  by Camille LaGuire

  * * *

  Copyright 2013 Camille LaGuire. All rights reserved.

  = * * * =

  Table of Contents

  The Enchanted Tree

  The Hero and The Weaver

  The Greatest Treasure

  When Good Stories Go Bad

  The Princess Who Would Not Smile

  The Hot Bun Man

  Wild Pony Day

  = * * * =

  back to Table of Contents

  The Enchanted Tree

  A magic tree has touched the lives of a whole town, including one lonely girl who needs some help at Christmas.

  THEY CUT DOWN the enchanted tree the other day. Sad, but it was old. Most of the branches were dead and we all admitted it was becoming a hazard.

  We stood on the sidewalk across the street from it and sang songs about Coral Simmons, and about other people touched by that tree. We didn’t sing a song about me, but then nobody knows how the tree touched me.

  Some people say that Coral Simmons was a runaway slave who’d almost made it to Canada when the slave catchers caught up with her. Some say she was just some white farm girl being chased by drunken loggers (or soldiers or trappers). Some even say her name wasn’t Simmons at all, and that she was a Chippewa girl running away from the French or the English or warriors from another tribe. Whatever she was, she was running for her life when she came upon a leafy young tree. She hid among the leaves and spread her arms among the branches, and wished herself hidden. The bark spread over her arms and body, and the tree absorbed her.

  So when you have troubles, you go and tell Coral, because she knows troubles.

  I went to the tree one Christmas when I was thirteen. There was a terrible snowstorm that year. I was in foster care, and I waited for my mother to come visit for the holiday. I kept telling myself that the storm had delayed her. Then the day after Christmas the present came. If she’d have been coming, she’d have brought it herself. She wouldn’t have mailed it.

  It was wrapped in a grocery sack, postmarked from Las Vegas. She did not live in Las Vegas, so she must have gone there for Christmas rather than visit me. Still, maybe she got a job, you know? So I opened it.

  It was a little kid’s makeup kit, the kind with glitter eye shadow, smelly perfume, and red lipstick–all bubble packed to a piece of cardboard. I hated makeup, and she knew it. She even made fun of me because of it. She really liked make up, though, so I might have forgiven her if it had been good make up. I held in my disappointment and started to open it. But then I saw the price tag on the back. “$2.95” crossed out with a big red marker. It had been marked down to fifty cents. She had got it out of a remainder bin.

  I just knew she left that price tag on purpose. She wanted me to see how cheap it was, because I wasn’t the kind of daughter she wanted. I knew it because she’d actually said it to me before. I felt a raging chill boil up inside me. I ripped up that paper and that Las Vegas postmark and I threw it across the room. Then I threw the present after it. Mrs. Price yelled at me, so I grabbed my coat and mittens and I ran out of the house.

  It was already dark, but the night was clear and the snow was bright as a lamp. I plowed through it up to my knees. The tiny crystals flew up like sand and turned my tears into slush. I kept plowing for three whole blocks, all the way to the tree.

  It stood there, naked and spidery, the stars showing through its dark branches. It looked so cold, I burst out crying. I threw my arms around the trunk and felt the rough bark and smooth ice against my cheek.

  Oh, Coral, I said, oh Coral Coral. Nobody loves me and nobody ought to. I’m ugly and stupid and clumsy. I can’t do anything right. I can’t even get my own mother to give me something I like. She sent me make up, Coral. And the Home just gave me mittens knitted by the ladies’ auxiliary because I’m too old for toys. Can’t I just come into the tree and be like you and be nice to people and just not have anything happen?

  I probably said a whole lot more, but all I remember is after a while I heard something buzzing and cracking overhead. I pushed away from the tree and wiped the tears and ice and bark dust off my cheek. Just above my head, a little branch, a twig really, was shaking, and it was shaking real funny. Like a person shakes down a thermometer. Like it was trying to shake something out of itself.

  After a minute, I could see a little bud at the tip. A little green bud. Green in the middle of winter, and it kept shaking and getting bigger. I crouched back against the trunk, my hands behind me, and I watched it. It stopped shaking, and then it started to open. It was white, and then pink, and at first it looked like a lily. Then it seemed fancier than a lily, more like an iris. The color started going red and blue and purple, and the blossom got more and more exotic. Maybe that’s what an orchid looks like. I wouldn’t know, but it grew to the size of my hand, and the colors were just wonderful. Just then the smell came out, and it was like a cross between roses and raspberry pie. I stood up straight to get a better look, a better whiff.

  Then the fruit started growing out of the middle, but the petals didn’t wither and die. They just got smaller and seemed to grow back into the fruit. By the time it was the size of a walnut, I could tell it was a peach. It got bigger, and golden and fuzzy with a bright red blush. It smelled so good, I reached up and cupped it in my hand.

  It was warm. Warm as an August day. It fell off into my hand so I bit into it. It was soft and sweet and juicy, and the syrup dribbled down my chin and made me all sticky. I ate it down to the pit, and as I sucked the last bit of juice from it, I realized that the pit felt funny. It was cold. I took it out of my mouth and looked at it. It was made of brass, or something like that. And it had a loop on the top like…. It was a locket!

  It was shaped exactly like a peach pit, except that it had that loop, and a hinge and a hasp. I opened it and the inside was polished so smooth, I could read the inscription by the light of the snow.

  Believe in yourself.

  I leaned back against the tree and sank into the snow, holding the locket to my heart and not thinking, just feeling. Feeling that I was worth a miracle for Christmas.

  SO, WHEN THE tree was too old to survive the cement and pollution, and it posed a hazard to traffic and power lines, the city took it down. A bunch of old friends decided to go and sing, so I went along.

  The thing that surprised me was the number of people who came up silently and looked on. Town leaders, teachers, the janitor over at the department store. Some of them took their hats off, some just looked. Then they went away.

  It was the mayor who suggested that we do something more. He stood and watched them drop another branch and shook his head.

  “Maybe we should make a monument out of the wood,” he said.

  “No,” I said. “We should bury her. Or maybe cremate her.”

  “Yes. More respectful.”

  They rolled the logs into the park and held a bonfire. Everybody in town came. We sang the song about Coral Simmons again, as a kind of service, and then we all stood and watched the smoke rise.

  And for a moment the haze seemed to form the shape of a woman. She was both dark and light, short and tall. Her streaming hair both curly and straight, her fluttering skirt was of calico and lace and buckskin all at once. For a moment, as she flickered up, she even looked like me.

  “Goodbye, Coral,” I whispered before she disappeared. At least a hundred voices whispered with me, and I knew she’d touched them all. Her shape rose and spread, and she raised a hand to wave. Then she grew, fainter and larger, until she seemed to fill the whole sky. Until she seemed to have her arms around the world.

  B
ut by then she had faded, and we watched the fire burn down to embers, and in the morning we buried the ashes.

  = * * * =

  back to Table of Contents

  The Hero and The Weaver

  When a young man pesters a magic weaver for a magic cloak, she sets him to impossible tasks to get rid of him… but he just won’t give up. What could possibly turn a boy into such a hero?

  * * *

  THE GREATEST MAGIC-WEAVER in the world had tried all her life to keep her talent a secret–but people still managed to find out. Wizards and kings and heroes kept bothering her for a magic carpet or cloak or some such thing. They always paid well, but the weaver lived a simple life and her needs were few. Now she was very old, and what she wanted most was to weave a simple tapestry. Just think, to weave a beautiful picture without using any magic at all!

  She was not as good at tapestries as she was at magic, however. It took a great deal of concentration. It also took a great deal of time, and the old woman did not think she had much left.

  So the magic-weaver moved to a small hut on a hill, far away from other people, and she worked all day long, but the tapestry was not going very well. When she woke up in the morning, she would look at what she wove the day before, and decide it was not good enough. She would then unravel most of it and start over.

  One day, when she couldn’t seem to get anything right, someone knocked at the door.

  “Go away,” snarled the weaver. “I’m busy.”

  “I need a magic cloak,” called the voice of a young man.

  “No magic cloaks here. Go away.”

  “I know who you are,” shouted the young man. “I know you can weave one for me.”

  The old woman got to her feet and stuck her head out the window. The young man ran to the window and grabbed her hands.

  “Please! I must have a magic cloak.”

  “I don’t weave them anymore. You’ll have to go elsewhere.”

  “Please. I will do anything. I will give you anything.”

  “I have everything I need, young man, so there’s no point in offering.”

  But the young man wouldn’t even let go of her hands. Obviously he would not accept her refusal, so she would have to think of something to get rid of him.

  “I suppose I could make one if you brought me some dragon whiskers.”

  “Yes! Make me a cloak and I will go get the dragon whiskers for you.”

  “No, you must get the whiskers first.” She yanked her hands from his grasp and slammed the shutter closed. The young man cried out so loudly that she thought she must have slammed the shutter on his fingers.

  “No! No!” he cried. “I need the cloak now!”

  “Dragon whiskers,” she replied, and sat down again at her loom. She would have no more trouble from him. Dragons were scarce, and even if he did find one, chances were that he’d never get close enough to get any whiskers. As she picked up her shuttle, she heard the young man run off.

  She worked on her tapestry for two weeks, and made a little progress, but not as much as she wanted. She was in the midst of tearing out two days’ unsatisfactory work, when there was another knock at the door.

  “I have your dragon whiskers!”

  “What?!” cried the old weaver. She ran to the window. “Those could not be real dragon whiskers!”

  The young man’s hair and clothes were singed with fire, and he held out the long strands for her to see. They were indeed real dragon whiskers.

  “Now weave me a magic cloak–and hurry! I’ve wasted two whole weeks.”

  “Well, I…I….” The weaver thought hard on how to get rid of him again. “I can’t,” she said finally.

  “What?”

  “I can’t weave you a magic cloak. I don’t have the proper fibers.”

  “I’ll get them for you!”

  “You’ll have to get white seaweed from the bottom of the ocean.”

  That would stop him, she thought as she turned back to her work. She didn’t even think there was such a thing as white seaweed, and no one could swim to the bottom of the ocean. She set to work on her tapestry, certain that she would not be interrupted again.

  It was only ten days later that the young man was back again. He carried an armload of white seaweed, and his clothes and hair were still wet.

  Oh dear, thought the weaver, I’ll never get rid of this young man.

  “I’ll need something else,” she said, before he could say anything. He groaned and dropped his seaweed.

  “Time is running out!”

  “I know that,” she said, thinking of her unfinished tapestry. “But I need the golden locks of a maiden who has been rescued from an evil lord–or no cloak.”

  The young man turned to run off again, and she called after him.

  “The nearest I know of would be in the Castle of the East, but I would look elsewhere if I were you!”

  She felt guilty for mentioning that place to him, for its lord was as evil as the devil himself, and so powerful that many wizards and knights had perished trying to save the maiden imprisoned in the tower. She hoped the lad would give up, but if he did not, at least she would never hear from him again. Nor would anybody else.

  Four days later she heard voices. She went to her window and saw the young man hurrying up the hill, pulling a fair maiden by the hand after him. The maiden’s hair was long and golden.

  “How much do you want?” called the maiden as they came close. She pulled a pair of scissors from her pocket, ready to cut her hair.

  “Hurry and make my cloak!” said the young man. “I have no more time.”

  “Lad,” said the old weaver in amazement, “what could a hero like you possibly need a magic cloak for? You’ve done the impossible three times! No man who can do all that could need a magic cloak.”

  “Years ago my father disowned me because I was an ungrateful child. Now he is dying, but he still refuses to see me.”

  “Ahh,” said the Weaver, nodding. “And you need a magic cloak to make you invisible, so that you may sneak in to ask his forgiveness.”

  “No, no. I don’t need to sneak in, for the servants would surely let me see him. I am afraid the sight of me would make him so angry it would kill him sooner. No, I cannot even ask forgiveness. If I were invisible, though, I might be with him and see him one last time.”

  “I am sorry, lad, but whoever told you I could make such a cloak was lying….”

  “No!”

  “But I can make the cloak of a professional mourner, and if you keep your face covered, you may see your father without him ever knowing it is you.”

  She closed her shutters and set to weaving a cloak. She used the dragon’s whiskers, and the white seaweed and the maiden’s hair. She even used some of her fine silks she meant for her tapestries. She wove with all the magic she had.

  When she gave the cloak to the young man, it looked like a plain black mourner’s cloak. The lad put it on and went to see his father, who was now very weak, and likely to die at any moment. The boy stood at his bedside, keeping his face well covered, and wept.

  The old man opened his eyes at the sound of the weeping and looked at the cloak. The black of the cloth separated into all different colors. The weaving showed pictures, like a tapestry, and the pictures began to move. One was of a brave knight battling a dragon. In another scene the knight swam the ocean, battling sharks and nearly drowning. In the last scene the knight climbed the walls of a castle, and battled its evil lord. The knight looked familiar to the old man, who sat up to look closer. Yes, it was familiar. It was….

  “My son!” he cried, as he finally recognized the figure in the tapestry. The lad, thinking the old man had seen his face, let the hood fall back.

  “I am sorry, father….”

  “My son! I have missed you,” said the old man, who then fell back exhausted. He did not die, however. The sight of his son doing such fine deeds had revived him, and he lived for a little time longer with his son and the maiden,
who soon became the young man’s bride.

  The old weaver, in the meantime, had taken to coming down from her hut and knocking at the young man’s door. She wanted the cloak back, for she realized that it was the finest tapestry she had ever woven. The old father, however, was fond of looking at it and the lad would not give it up for anything.

  Eventually the old weaver had to go back to her hut and start again at her tapestry. This time she unraveled all that she had done before, and rewove it with magic, for that is what she wove best, and there was no denying it.

  = * * * =

  back to Table of Contents

  The Greatest Treasure

  A poor and tiny kingdom helps a wealthy prince in his quest to find the greatest treasure to give to a princess.

  IN THE LAND of Five Kingdoms there was a very tiny country called Pass Village. It was only a small town, up in a mountain pass. The people there were mostly happy, but a little lonely because they had few visitors.

  One day a prince rode into town, looking sad and desperate. He stopped at the inn, which served for a castle, since the innkeeper was the king. Everyone in town was happy to see him, and they gathered to hear any gossip he could pass on to them. Their smiles only seemed to make the prince more sad. Finally he told them why.

  “I have come to take from you your most precious treasure,” he said.

  “But we don’t have any precious treasures,” said the king. “Unless you mean to take my wife, who is the best cook in the world, or my daughter, who is the smartest gardener.”

  “No, no,” said the prince. “The treasure I bring cannot be a person. That is a rule.”

  “Oh dear,” said the king. “What kind of rule is this? What do you want a treasure from us for?”

  Everyone in the room settled down to listen, because this sounded like the start of a tale. The prince sighed and thought, and then told his story.

  * * *

  I AM A prince, and my father sent me to the land of plains to try to win the hand of the princess there. She has three other suitors, so she has set us all to a contest. We each must bring to her the greatest treasure of one of kingdoms.

  Her father did not like me, so he chose one of the other princes to go first, and that prince got to choose among the four kingdoms. He chose the very poor desert land to the south. They have nothing except a diamond mine, so he brought back their biggest diamond. Lucky for me, the princess was not impressed.

 
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