THE HIPPOPOTAMUS AND THE LARK

January 15, 2017

A clever lark landed on a low branch in a tree by the river. Below her a hippopotamus stood doing nothing at all.

‘I am a hippopotamus,’ said the lark.

The hippopotamus looked up and said, ‘No, you’re not. You’re a little bird. I am a hippopotamus. See my two lower great dagger tusks?’

The hippopotamus opened wide her mouth and proudly displayed her impressive teeth.

‘I am a special sort of hippopotamus, the flying sort that doesn’t need big fat clumsy teeth like that,’ said the clever lark.

‘But look,’ said the hippopotamus, ‘I’m big and I can do this.’

The hippopotamus lumbered into the river and thrashed and bellowed. Then it paused to look at the lark as if to say ‘See?’

The lark yawned, performed a small shudder fluff of feathers, and said, ‘Oh, impressive. I don’t deny that you are the common sort of hippopotamus, but I am special. In fact, I am your Queen. You must obey me. Do you understand?’

Confused, the hippopotamus blinked her eyes, began to say something, paused, began again, paused.

‘Well, I’m waiting. Will you obey?’ said the lark.

The hippopotamus bowed her head and said, ‘Yes, Your Majesty.’

Moral: A hippopotamus is no match for a clever lark.

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IMPROVED COVER

January 10, 2017

Improved cover for new edition of Bekka of Thorns, available at amazon’s kindle shop.

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A NEW LOOK

January 2, 2017

The new edition of Bekka of Thorns is available here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MT51UPT/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1483373916&sr=1-1&keywords=bekka+of+thorns+steve+shilstone

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PRINDELILAH HASTINGS

December 28, 2016

Prindelilah Hastings

never was in sight.

She hid all day under hay

and crept out in the night.

She always carried a jar of tar

and a stick with which to write,

‘Prindelilah Hastings

was here! Oh yes! That’s right!’

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THE GREAT RED ROSE

December 23, 2016

Once a long time ago this happened. A family of owls gathered in the hollow of a tree to wait out a winter storm. This particular winter storm had been raging for seven years without pause, after having imprisoned spring, summer, and autumn in a copper globe at the bottom of the sea. Although icy winds howled and blustered in fury, the owls remained safely warm in the deep bowl of the hollow. Feathers ruffled. Eyes blinked. Heads twisted all around. A few yawns were observed. Here and there occasionally a wing stretched. When all owls at last settled into a calm sort of stupor, Old Noddy spoke.

“Now, for once and for all and finally, a volunteer is required to fetch the Great Red Rose in order to end the tyranny of winter, to in fact release imprisoned spring, summer, and autumn from the copper globe beneath the sea,” said Old Noddy.

The owls looked one at the other and the other, heads twisting impressively. In time, the gaze of every yellow round unblinking eye locked on Pinch, the smallest of the owls.

“Oh, me? I?” said Pinch. “Well, where is it?”

Each of the other owls pointed a wing up toward the opening to the hollow high above. Pinch shrugged, beaked and clawed her way up, and threw herself into the storm. Battered and blown here to there and around and over, she fluttered fiercely, eyes pinched tight shut as was her custom. Her name WAS Pinch. How long she tipped and flipped and sank and sailed she could not tell, but exhaustion finally stepped forward to take charge, and the young owl was soon senseless and motionless beneath an ever growing mound of snow.

She dreamed of a garden with oceans of yellow roses sparkling with dew. A single red rose trumpeted from its spot near the iron fence surrounding the garden. Pinch, safe in her dream, approached and asked it formally to release spring, summer, and autumn from the copper globe at the bottom of the sea. The rose opened, revealing its resident sprite.

“It is done, brave Pinch,” said the sprite.

When the mound of snow above Pinch melted away in spring, on that very spot sprouted and grew a small rose bush. When its flowers bloomed, they were all yellow save one. That one was red.

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THE WINTER SOLSTICE LIMERICK

December 21, 2016

When tilted away from the sun

Up north we have lots of fun

We dance in the dark

And lark in the park

Until, exhausted, we’re done

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THE RED RED BERRY

November 28, 2016

2016-11-27-08-38-23

Once in a far off land there lived a foolish simpleton. This was most unfortunate, for the foolish simpleton was also the King. On a day not unlike others, he called his advisors into the kitchen and forgot why.

‘Well, we are gathered,’ he said, casting about in the vast empty cavern of his mind for something to say. Surprisingly, he caught a thought. ‘I know that I am the smartest person in the world and the most handsome, but am I the richest? Advisors, advise me. What can I do to become the richest?’

‘You’re so handsome. You’re so smart,’ mumbled the advisors all in a mash, not knowing what to add, each of them being nearly as simple and foolish as their King.

‘Here’s what you must do, oh smart and handsome,’ cried a voice from behind the throne, and Lemon Bright, the lowest servant, stepped from out of sight into sight. ‘Where the red red berry grows, and on the green green holly it snows, there if you choose correctly, you will be the richest directly.’

Lemon Bright, the lowest servant, smiled and nodded at the King. The King leaped from the throne and shouted, ‘I’ll go at once. Bring my best horse and a spare.’ And in no time at all, the King thundered across the drawbridge riding his best horse followed by a spare. Lemon Bright in the Great Hall disappeared into thin air. She had work to do, being not at all in fact the lowest servant, but instead a most playful and clever sorceress.

The foolish simpleton King plunged heedlessly through drifts of snow, falling and flailing time and time again. The spare, discouraged, wandered back to the castle. Lemon Bright quickly conjured a hedge of green green holly dappled with red red clusters of berries to spring up directly in front of the King before he had time to be thrown by his best horse into a stream and drowned.

‘Ha ha, see how smart I am,’ said the King. ‘Now I will choose correctly because that’s how smart I am.’

He hesitated not at all and reached to pluck what he considered to be the red red reddest of the red red berries. Foolish simpleton, he was wrong, and the penalty for being wrong was clever and playful. The foolish simpleton King was now a jingle bell on a jester’s cap, and he remained thus and so forever.

Of course, it must be noted that none of the red red berries plucked would have made the King the richest fool in the world. Such was the playfulness of Lemon Bright.

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THE OLD MILLER

November 16, 2016

golden-harp

Once upon a time an old miller crafted new paddle staves to replace the many worn out staves of his waterwheel. Sacks of oats ready to be milled lined the walls of the long shed where he worked. After many hours of labor he decided to take a nap. He arranged three oat sacks to that purpose and stretched out in comfort. Soon he was asleep and dreaming.

In the dream he stood by the mill stream. He felt afraid and soon knew why. For from the stream there arose inch by inch slowly until completely emerged a river hag wrapped in a long red cloak. As rivulets of water ran down the sodden cloak, the hag engaged the old miller eyes to eyes with a dark frozen stare.

‘When you awake, be quick, be sharp, and bring to the mill my lost golden harp,’ croaked the hag, and poof she was gone, and the miller awoke.

He ran home and told his good wife all about the dream. She sat in the rocking chair, rocking and thinking, rocking and thinking. The old miller, who always relied on his good wife for counsel, waited patiently for her to speak.

She stopped rocking and said, ‘It’s this. A sorceress has enchanted you. You must find her golden harp and bring it here. I will send for our nephew to run the mill until you return.’

And so the miller set off. He went from village to village, castle to castle, explaining his quest, and not once did he hear tales of a river hag’s golden harp until a day many years later when he rested sitting in a deep wood with his back against the thick trunk of great twisted oak. Soon he nodded off to sleep. He dreamed.

Again, in the dream, he stood by the mill stream. He trembled with fear and soon knew why. The river hag rose from the stream and engaged him again eyes to eyes with a dark frozen stare.

‘When you awake, be quick, go home, never more so far to roam. I found my harp, no thanks to you. Forget all about it, and I’ll forget, too,’ croaked the hag, and poof she was gone, and the miller awoke.

He arose from the oat sacks in his long shed and returned to crafting new staves.

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THE BALING HOOK

October 13, 2016

baling-hook

‘I am very good at puzzles. I am the best,’ said Little Daphnis.

The gatekeeper looked doubtful and smiled crookedly. ‘A scrap of a thing like you? Tell me another. Go off and leave the labyrinth to fools a good deal older than you.’

‘I have a baling hook. It’s iron. The smith made it for me. I gave him one of my gold nuggets. Here’s the other for you if you’ll allow me to enter the labyrinth,’ said Daphnis, taking the baling hook and the nugget from the sack she carried.

‘Ah, that’s altogether different then, isn’t it?’ said the gatekeeper, and his eyes widened, sparkling with greed. ‘Give me that nugget, and I’ll let you through. Keep the hook for all the help it won’t be. You will be number 1,852 to enter. If you succeed, you will be number 1 to return with the key.’

The gatekeeper swung wide the gate, and Little Daphnis entered the labyrinth. The gateway disappeared, and she found herself on a narrow path between high smooth walls running off to the left and to the right out of sight. Daphnis considered for a moment, and then tentatively touched the wall. The walls rotated. The path now went forward or back out of sight. Oh. She touched the wall again. The path spun madly. She took her hand away. The spinning stopped. The path stays ever straight, but where it goes depends on the spin of the walls, thought Little Daphnis. I’ll walk a while before I touch the wall again. She walked along the ever straight unchanging path. High overhead she could see the sky. Why don’t I dig footholds in the wall with my hook and climb up to have a look around? she asked herself. She scratched and scraped at the wall with the baling hook, but when she freed the hook to make a second step, the first gash healed. So much for that idea, she thought. She sat down. She made the path spin and stop, spin and stop by tapping at one wall, then the other. This is getting me nowhere, thought Daphnis, and she idly scratched her baling hook beside her along the path. The path fell away beneath her. Glowing green stairs appeared. This is better,she thought.

Down the stairs she hurried, and when she had descended the last step, she faced a great metal door. She pushed at it. It didn’t budge. She stepped back to think. She stepped forward and swung her baling hook with every ounce of her strength at the door. CLANG. The door swung open.

‘Huh?’ said the gatekeeper, jumping up and grabbing at his chest.

‘I am very good at puzzles. I am the best,’ said Little Daphnis.

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JOHNNY OATCAKE

October 10, 2016

My name is not something you buy in a store, Oh, Johnny Oatcake,

My name is not something you find on the floor, Oh, Johnny Oatcake,

Instead my name’s something found high in the sky, Oh, Johnny Oatcake,

Weather Satellite Remington Bligh, Oh,Johnny Oatcake.

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