The Tortoise on the Swing

Night had fallen and the park was empty, or so Cecily thought as she sat on the swing. Tortoises weren’t supposed to like swings, but Cecily always had, from a very young age. She’d learned to be careful though and not let others see her on the swings. It was a cool spring night and the wind was blowing gently through the nearby trees. All of a sudden Cecily heard someone sobbing over by the sandboxes. Cecily got off the swing and went to investigate. Sure enough, as she approached she could see a very young girl sitting in the largest sandbox crying her eyes out.
Cecily went up to the young girl and said, “Why are you crying?”
The young girl stopped and looked up trying to figure out who was talking. “Who said that,” the girl asked, “and where are you?”
“I’m right here next to you,” answered Cecily.
The little girl looked down. Cecily thought she was about eight years old. “But you’re a tortoise. Everyone knows tortoises don’t talk,” said the girl.
“Oh, everyone knows, do they,” huffed Cecily. “Well, did you ever think that everyone might just be wrong?”
“No,” whimpered the girl. “Everyone is always right except me and they keep telling me so every day. I can’t do anything right and now I’ve even gotten lost.”
Cecily felt sad for this young girl. Cecily knew what it was like to be different. After all, she was the only tortoise she had ever known or heard of who liked to swing. Cecily asked gently, “What is your name?”
“I’m Samantha,” the girl answered, “and I was supposed to go to the store and come straight home with a loaf of bread but I followed a bunch of kids who said there was a great park near by and I did so want to play but then they left and I got lost and then I dropped the bread and I am going to be in so much trouble when I get home. Oh why does this always happen to me?”
“Samantha. That’s a really lovely name and I bet you are a very lovely young lady,” answered Cecily.
Samantha snapped back, “That’s all you know. I’m ugly and clumsy and I get everything wrong. Everyone says so!”
“The same everyone who say tortoises can’t talk,” asked Cecily slyly.
Samantha looked at Cecily and thought for a long time. “Yeah, I guess,” she finally answered, “but what am I going to do?”
“If I helped you get to the store so you could get another loaf of bread, then could you get home from there,” asked Cecily.
“Yes,” said Samantha, “I know how to get home from the store but I don’t have any more money for more bread.”
“You let me worry about that,” answered Cecily. “I am friends with the store owners. Let’s go get you that bread and send you on your way and maybe no one will notice you’ve been gone a bit longer than usual.”
Samantha seemed to perk up at that. “Will you really help me,” she asked, not really believing anyone would.
“Of course,” said Cecily, “and what’s more, I’ll see you home and on the way I will show you a spot where we can meet whenever you like. I’ll show you how to leave me a message.”
Samantha was amazed! “You mean tortoises can read as well as speak?”
“Naturally,” said Cecily, smiling, “and I am going to make sure to keep an eye on you so that you know you have a friend. Now come on and don’t dawdle!”
With that, Cecily and Samantha left the park and Samantha felt sure that at last she had a friend.

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The Loggers in Swallow Part 4

The Mayor woke suddenly in the dead of night and he wondered where he was until all of a sudden he remembered the horrors of the day before. He was cold and hungry and very much alone. As he was rolling over in a vain attempt to find a more comfortable position, he looked up and he saw a dim light ahead. Is this the light that everyone keeps talking about, he wondered. Well, he figured he didn’t have a lot to lose so he got up and staggered forward toward the light. He tripped on a few branches, but overall, he was surprised that he could move as easily as he did. The light seemed to be beckoning him onwards. After a few minutes he found himself in the clearing where the light hung. There were many other smaller lights flickering around the clearing and he realized it was one of these he had been following.

The Mayor was absolutely thunderstruck. He couldn’t believe his eyes, but here were hundreds, if not thousands, of small flying creatures which sure looked like the faeries he remembered from his childhood picture books. Was that possible? Were the townsfolk right that this was a special woods and deserved protection? Were the faeries, if that is what they were, the ones who’d made the machinery stop and which had kept him wandering so hopelessly in the woods all day yesterday? His first thought was “How can I make money off this?”, but then he realized that faeries as powerful as these would never allow that.

As he stood there pondering what he saw, he noticed that one faery was in front of him obviously trying to get his attention. She seemed to be asking him to follow her, so he did. It only took about 20 minutes before the faery had led the Mayor to the edge of the woods. He couldn’t believe he had been that close to finding a way out! But he was beginning to realize that if the faeries had wanted to, they could have kept him in the woods until he starved to death. Now that was real power, not the stupid manipulating he tried to do.

He turned to thank the faery, but she was already gone. He then trudged homeward just as the dawn approached. As he reached his house he heard the phone ringing. He hurried to answer it and it was a very angry Scott on the other end of the line.

“Where have you been? What have you been doing? We still can’t cut the trees down?,” yelled Scott.

“I know,” answered the Mayor, “and I don’t think you ever will be able to. I can’t explain it, but the woods are protected. I didn’t believe it until I got lost in them yesterday.”

“What do you mean lost?” shouted Scott. “It is too small an area to get lost in for a whole day! No one is that stupid.”

“I know,” replied the Mayor, “and you wouldn’t believe me even if I told you, but our deal is off. The woods will never allow themselves to be cut down. I’m sorry. I really had no idea.”

“Well, I’ve already talked to the Boss and we’re heading out to a new location he has found,” concluded Scott. “He said to remind you he would be around later today for his money. You’d better have it!”

The Mayor hung up the phone and went to shower and dress. This was going to be a long day. When he had eaten breakfast he headed into town where he was met by Richard, one of the councilmen he had bribed, and Richard’s wife, Ellen. Ellen was very angry.

“I just found $5000 stashed away in the back of Richard’s desk drawer and he said you gave it to him to get him to vote for this silly lumber/housing project. Then he let slip that Steve and Fred had been similarly bribed, so I talked to their wives as well. Is that true?” demanded Ellen.

“Yes,” said the Mayor, “unfortunately it is. I am sorry.”

“Hah,” shouted Ellen. “Thought so! Well, here is your money, all of it from all three men, and Richard and his two buddies are now off the council. They have agreed to resign voluntarily in exchange for no prosecution, and you are no longer mayor either. We don’t want your kind in Swallow.” With that she and a very shamed Richard walked off.

The ex-Mayor (he realized he’d better get used to being called Don instead of Mayor) headed over to the realtor’s office. Frank, the only realtor in Swallow, was just unlocking the door. He looked up at Don and it was obvious from the look that the news had spread.

“Look, Frank, I need to raise a lot of money fast. I need you to sell my home and I have to have an advance of $500,000 by this afternoon,” Don pleaded.

Frank looked at him with great disgust. “What’s the matter? Your new friends going to come gunning for you?”

Don answered, “Something like that. Look you know my home is worth more that that. If I sign a deed giving you the house and all its contents, can you get me the cash. My wife is already at her mother’s and she will kill me when she finds out, but she hated it here anyway. And the way folks feel around here, and I’m not saying they don’t have cause mind you, I need to get out of here now. One night in those woods has taught me a lot, but I wouldn’t expect folks around here to believe that or to trust me.”

Frank looked thoughtful. “Your home is too fancy for most of the folks around here. I would have a hard time selling it and I sure don’t want it. Why did you build such a showy place?”

“It was the only way I could get my wife to agree to move here,” said Don morosely.

“Look, I don’t want you killed or anything. You did a horrible thing, but no actual harm was done to Swallow. You seem to be the one who has been caught. Why don’t we go over to the bank and see if you can get a loan with your house as collateral. And then, why not turn yourself into the sheriff. I’m thinking a spell in our town jail might be just what you need to give yourself the time to sort things out,” suggested Frank.

“Ok,” answered Don soberly, and that is what happened. The bank manager agreed to loan Don the money so he could pay off his bribe that afternoon. The sheriff had him locked up until the circuit judge arrived, and the circuit judge sentenced him to 500,000 hours of community service, an hour for each dollar he’d been bribed with. Don’s wife filed for divorce, and Don realized he wasn’t that upset about losing her. She kept everything except the house which she wanted no part of. The townsfolk gradually forgave Don and helped him turn his home into a B&B for vacationers, and over a lot of years, Don was able to repay the loan. ┬áHe put in his hours of community service at the Swallow Community Center, helping seniors and youth, and he was surprised to discover how rewarding he found that.

Every weekend, Don would go hiking in the woods and while he never again saw the faeries, he also never again got lost.