Sunday, August 19, 2007

A Story

Once upon a time there was a wise and wonderful woman. She was intelligent, creative, and loving. But she felt lonely, and lost in the darkness, because she had no children. Being so wise, she realized that children would bring light and life and wonder to her lonely existence. Because she wanted everything to be perfect for them, she built a beautiful house, with a large, lovely yard. To keep them safe, she built a tall fence around the yard, and filled it with lovely flowers and gentle animals and beautiful toys. When she felt everything was just right, she set about creating her children, in her own body, as mothers will. So, in due course she had two babies, a boy and girl.

She loved these children with all her heart, and she was a perfect mother to them. Night and day she watched over them. They never knew a moment's hunger but that she was there to feed them. They were never cold, or frightened, because she was there to comfort them. She taught them the beauty of storms, from safe within the house. She protected them from frightening stories, from even the smallest hurts, and taught them how to smile and laugh. They were a happy family, where sadness and woe never visited, where danger was banned, where there was nothing her kisses could not cure. To keep them safe, she never took them away from their beautiful home.

One day, when they were old enough to run and play, to climb and roll and jump and sing, she took them to a part of the big yard they had never seen. In it was an amazing playground. There were swings and bars to climb, bouncy fanciful toys to ride, poles that corkscrewed, teeter-totters, sand boxes, wading pools, tunnels, and rope bridges to cross. The children were enchanted, and spent many happy moments exploring all the wonders. Then this loving mother showed them the slide. It had many little steps to climb, and was tall and bright and shinier than any of the other toys. She told her children that they must not play on it. They were free to explore all the other exciting equipment, but they must not touch the slide. Then she remembered the cookies baking in the oven, and went inside to check on them.

As soon as she was gone, a man slipped in through the gate. He was a kindly-looking man, with bright eyes that twinkled with laughter, a mouth made for smiling, straight, even teeth, and a big, booming laugh. The boy was busy building hills and valleys in the sandbox, so the kindly man approached the little girl. He gave her some candy, and told her he had a secret. She, curious as children are, immediately wanted to know what it was. He smiled that friendly smile of his, and said he had a magical pink puppy in his pants. The girl wanted to see the puppy, of course, and the man told her she could. If she would show she was brave enough to climb to the top of the slide, and then slide down, he would let her pet his magical pink puppy.

The little girl wanted very much to see this special little dog, but she remembered that her mother had told her not to play on the slide, and so sadly told the man she could not, for her mother had forbidden it. This puzzled the kindly man, she could tell by the way he crinkled his brow and pursed his lips. “But the slide is the very most fun toy in the world,” he said, “And my puppy is so lonely it wants someone to pet and kiss it. I wonder why she would tell you that you couldn't play with the very best toy in the world?” Then his face brightened. “Oh!” he said, “It is because she is afraid that the slide might hurt you. There are so many steps to climb, without someone to watch you, you might fall. And it is so fast and slick to slide down, she is afraid that without someone to catch you at the bottom, you might fall.” Then he laughed his big, booming laugh. “But don't be afraid, because I am here! I'll watch you climb to the top, and then I'll run around to the bottom to catch you, and you can play with my pretty puppy.”

The little girl instantly knew he must be right. Her mother had never forbidden anything before, and her mother was always so careful to keep her safe from harm, she must only be waiting until she was there to catch her children. The kindly man was big and strong, and he could surely keep the little girl as safe as her mother could. So she climbed the high steps to the top of the slide, sat down on her little bottom, and in a thrilling ride slid all the way down, where the big man caught her.

He opened his pants a little so that the girl could see the puppy's little head. But the puppy didn't look right. It made her feel funny to see it, and so she ran off to get her brother. When she had told him the whole story, he was shocked to hear she'd gone down the slide. “But mother told us not to,” he protested. The little girl explained why, that mother had only been worried for their safety, and the kindly man had made sure she hadn't gotten hurt. Still, the business with the puppy bothered her, and she wanted her brother to see it, to find out what he thought.

So her brother went with her to the kindly man, and asked to see the magic puppy. The man smiled that big smile and said, “If you wish, but first you need to prove you are as strong and brave as your sister. I'll watch you slide, and when you are safely at the bottom, you can see the puppy, and pet it and kiss it.” The boy knew he was as strong and brave as his sister, so he climbed to the top of the slide and slid down. When he got to the bottom, the kindly man caught him and then showed him the pink puppy in his pants. The boy, when he saw it, knew it wasn't a puppy, and that they had been tricked. He grabbed his sister's hand, and they ran to hide from the kindly man.

The children's mother came back out into the yard. When she saw the man, she flew into a rage and demanded that he leave their yard. The boy and girl had never seen their mother angry before, and grew even more frightened. She began to search the yard, calling for them until at last they came out. She was still very angry, and her face and voice, which had always been so sweet and loving, were terrible to see and hear. “Did you slide on the slide?” she asked. Both children were so scared they were afraid to speak. Finally, the boy admitted that he had, but only because the girl had done it first, and asked him so he could see the magic puppy too.

The mother began to rage and shout at the children. Even though nothing had ever been allowed in their little world before that could hurt them, they should have known not to listen to the man. He was a bad man, she told them. The children had never known there were bad men before. They disobeyed, she scolded, even though nothing had ever been forbidden them before. Then she said the most terrible thing of all. Because they were such bad children, they could no longer live in her lovely house, or play in the beautiful yard. She, who had never once raised a hand to them, now snatched a switch from a tree and began beating them with it, until they ran from her crying. “We didn't know,” they sobbed, “we didn't know bad men could lie about puppies. You always told us the truth, we didn't know that lies were possible!” They wept fat, wet tears. “We thought the slide was just one more toy, and you would show us how to play with it. We didn't know it was bad.” Even as they spoke those words, they remembered the thrill of climbing so high, and sliding down so fast. How were they to know that it was wrong?

The mother could not forgive her children for listening to the bad man and for disobeying her. So she told them they must learn to suffer, to hurt, to weep bitter tears for all the years of their lives. And with her switch, she drove them from the yard. Neither they, nor any other children in the world would ever be allowed back into the lovely house and beautiful yard, because she understood now that all children were wicked, disobedient creatures. She got servants with switches to stand at the front gate of yard and the door of the house, lest the children try to sneak back in. From that day on, the children had to find their own way in the world, with no help from anyone at all.

Except, perhaps, kindly men with magical pink puppies in their pants.

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