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Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Telling Tree

It was her first week in the Ninth Grade and she was taking the city bus home the way a lot of kids did. Somehow she had gotten on an earlier bus than she usually did, so she hadn't found any of her friends to sit with. She had gotten a window seat. They were coming to the stop where the Marshall kids got on. Marshall was the Junior High she had graduated from last year.

She didn't notice him until he was standing right next to here seat. At least he didn't just plunk himself down without even looking at you the way a lot of kids did. He didn't say anything, but he did look right at her, smile, and kind of move an eyebrow just a little. She recognized him. He had been in the Seventh Grade when she graduated. He was only and Eighth Grader, "but," she thought, "He is cute." In her mind, she had emphasized the word "is' and had kind of drawled it out. He wasn't a big boy, but he had a friendly, calm, competent look about him that was attractive. He sat next to her.

"I'm not really the timid type." she thought to herself; and said "You're from Marshall, aren't you?" And he seemed just a little impressed that she was in High School. They began to talk.

She discovered that he had come from the Philippines just over four years ago. No, accent, almost. She asked if hes parents could speak Tagalo. He was surprised and pleased that she had heard of Tagalo. He told her that they also spoke English and Spanish. He too spoke the three languages. He said that he would be speaking Tagalo with his grandmother in just a few minutes. His parents were still in the Philippines and he lived with his grandmother.

She surprised herself by asking him if his grandmother ever told him stories. She felt her question had been a little strange, but he did not seem to think so. He said, "Sure, she tells me stories all the time."

She felt a twinge of something; no one had told her a story in a long time; no one at home. She had fought so much with her mother last year that she was now trying to live with her father. Her father was great, but he didn't tell her stories, he even seemed embarrassed to talk to her very long.

"What kind of stories does she tell you?" she asked him.

"All kinds." he replied. "They have morals. She tells me two or three a week. Sometimes more."

Just last period her English teacher had said that stories were everywhere. Maybe there was one right here.

"Tell me a story."  she firmly suggested. His eyes widened, "Here on the bus?" 
"Well, I can't; my grandmother's stories are too long." And they were in Tagalo.

"How long? she asked.

"A half hour; two hours.

She said that she would be on the the bus for nearly fifteen minutes more and suggested that he could think of a short one. Her voice might have carried a hint of pleading in it. He said that he thought that he had to get off the bus before she did. Nevertheless, he thought of one he could tell quickly and that he knew very well because his grandmother had told it to him several times beginning when he was quite young. Maybe he could tell it before the bus came to his stop.

He began.
"Once a bad king had a dark secret. The secrete was that he had horns on his head. His hair hid them.

"Horns?" she interrupted.

"You asked." he said and continued, "Nobody was supposed to know, but it was a fact. The king had horns."

She stopped herself from making a smart aleky remark. She really wanted to hear the story.

"Nobody was supposed to know, but his barbers did. How could they keep from knowing? So, to keep his secret, the king had each barber who cut his hair, killed. Finally, there was only one barber left."

"Sure,' she couldn't help interrupting, "only one barber in the whole kingdom."

He gave her a look that said that if she wanted him to tell the whole story, she had better be quiet. She didn't interrupt again.

He continued, "As the last barber was cutting, the king asked him if he noticed anything strange. The barber had noted that barbers had been disappearing, but he said, "No, what can be strange  about hair? It's about all I see every day."

The king persisted and said, "Look more closely and tell me what you see.." The barber saw horns! but said, "Hair, just hair. Less hair than I saw at first because my shears have left a quantity of it on the floor.

The king felt very satisfied that somehow this barber had not discovered his secret. Others had always shown surprise and fear when the discovered the horns. The king was pleased that he would not have to have the last barber in the kingdom killed.

The barber returned home very pleased that his wits had kept him alive. Still, he thought to himself that the king had horns; horns on his head! The secret was large in his mind, but he could tell no one.

He couldn't burden his good wife with this deadly secret. Nor could he tell his young and innocent children. The barber want very much to share his secret with someone, but he knew that his wife loved to have things to tell her friends. Her did not want to endanger his wife or her friends. If he told his friends, could they keep the secret any better than he?

In her seat on the bus the girl wanted to make comments about secrets, but she kept he mouth firmly closed. He must have guessed the nature of her thoughts, because he said that he usually had time to ask his grand mother plenty of questions. Not that she always had plenty of answers.

The boy continued the story: The barber's wife asked him what the matter was. She could tell that he had something uncomfortable on his mind. He couldn't tell her.

At dinner that evening the barber scarcely touched his food and did not talk with his wife a children as he usually did. They looked at one another and wondered what was wrong with him.

In bred that night the barber's wife told him that she knew that something serious was troubling him and that he must feel free to tell her. He told her that he loved her very much, but that he had nothing to tell. Twice during the night his restlessness woke her. He nearly told her, but instead waited until she was asleep. Then he ran out to yell his secret into the dark night and thus unburden himself. But, he stifled his yell. His neighbors might hear and hearing be burdened as he was. Or, if they unburdened themselves, endanger their lives and the lives of others.

He went back to bed, but not to sleep. Toward morning he got an idea.

After a nearly normal breakfast, he picked up his shovel and walked to a far part of the forest where almost no one went. He began to dig. He knew that for his purpose he needed a deep hole. Once he stopped digging, thinking that he had perhaps dug deep enough; but, looking at his work, he knew he had to dig deeper yet.

Finally the hole was deep enough. He looked at it with satisfaction and relief. He looked to see if anyone was around and, seeing no one, filled his lungs deeply with air, leaned over the hole and shouted his secrete into it ... "THE KING HAS HORNS."  He quickly filled the hole and covered the secret so that it would stay buried.

(The woman in the next seat looked over at them. Guess she heard  "HORNS.")

After that the barber found it easier to keep the secret. H was a good husband to his wife and a good father to his children, And, he cut the kings hair.

Months passe and a plant began to grow from the barber's secret hole in the forest. At first no one saw it and seemed like any other plant. Then came a time when an occasional passer-by thought the leaves of the plant  looked a bit strange. The plant was becoming a tree, but that wasn't the strange thing. The strange thing was that people thought that they could see writing on the tree's large leaves.

In a few short years the plant grew to a strong tree. People began to talk of the strange tree in the forest. Some said that they were sure that they could see some definite words written in the veins of its leaves. "There" one would say, "doesn't that say king?" Some noted too that when the breeze was strong a noise from the tree sounded like voices.

Then, one day, a strong wind blew and a loud sound came from the leaves of that tree. More than a sound; it was aloud voice. The voice from the leaves sail loudly, clearly, and repeatedly, "THE KING HAS HORNS.'

Everyone in the forest heard. Every one in the village hear.

The people made the evil king leave their land. They lived happily for many years.

The boy was getting up so that he could get off at his stop.

"Well, what's the moral?" she had to ask.

"My grandmother says it's 'the truth comes out in the end,' or 'it's hard to keep a secret even if you bury it,' How did you like it?"

"It wasn't too juvenile," she started and added "I really liked it." She did too.

He was outside on the sidewalk now, but before the bus pulled away, he asked through the open window if she were going to tell him a story someday.

"Sure," she yell as the bus pulled away. Maybe she would tell him the one about the babysitter and the 'viper.'

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