-by Janin Wise
Thursday morning, the weather was cold and rainy, and I have to admit, I greeted the alarm clock with less than friendliness. My children were just as disinclined to remove themselves from their covers, so I climbed into bed and we hunkered under the covers as though we were in a big cave.
“Did you know that there used to be a giant cave that people were afraid to enter? It was believed to be the home of a monster!” (At this opening, two pair of little eyes peek at me, and the boys begin to wake up.)
Oh it wasn’t just any ordinary kind of monster. No. We’re not talking about the kind that hide under beds and like to grab ankles to make you scream. And we’re not talking about the kind that leap out of closets shouting, “Boo!” to laugh as you run away.
We’re talking about the kind that eats fair young maidens for breakfast and knights are sent after to kill it…not that any have had much success… and besides, knights make excellent dinner.
Oh I know what you’re thinking. You’ve got ‘dragon’ on the brain. But if the monster was a dragon, well, I figure they’d have called it a ‘dragon’ and not a monster, don’t you?
(as both of my boys nodded.)
Not that I’m saying it –couldn’t- have been a dragon. After all, no one who had ever laid eyes on the beast was alive to describe it!
Well one day, a young girl had had enough of all the fear and worrying. It was hard to go out and do your chores if you thought you were going to end up some beast’s breakfast! And she was tired of being fussed at about getting behind in those self same chores.
So she packed herself a small kerchief of bread and cheese and took a couple tart apples she was sure wouldn’t be missed, and began the journey to the fear encrusted cave.
It took her a good part of the day to make the journey and she had just reached the mouth of the cave when a powerful hunger overcame her, so she sat on a rock just outside and opened her pack to enjoy her simple feast.
As she took her first bite of the crisp crust of the bread, she heard a voice from deep in the cave ask, “Whatttt are you eattttt-ing?”
She thought the voice a little odd, but answered without fear, “A loaf of bread my mother made this morning. I also have cheese and some tart apples if you would like some.”
“I havvve nevv-er tassssted such thingsssss…..” answered the voice that was coming closer. “You would really sssshare them witthh meeee?”
“Sure!” answered the innocent girl.
And from the cave came a giant serpent! A snake so large it could encircle the world –twice- if it so chose!!
For a brief second, the girl was frozen in fear, but her manners overcame her paralysis, and so she broke the bread in half, as well as the cheese, and set them before the giant creature. She also placed half the apples before the beast, then sat back down and ate of her meal, keeping a watchful eye on the serpent.
It bent it’s giant head, flipped out it’s giant tongue and took the bread in a single movement. But it did not swallow it whole, as the girl half thought that it would. Instead, the snake chewed slowly, slowly savoring the new taste it had found.
And as the snake ate, the girl looked at it. At first glance, her fear had told her it was a hideous monster, but the longer she looked at it, the more she realized the scales of it’s body were a beautiful metallic mirror that reflected all the dazzling colors of the rainbow.
The two of them ate their meal in silence, and when the snake had finished the last succulent bite of sweet and tart apple, it turned to the girl and said, “Never before has a day such as this come to pass! You came to my cave and I thought that surely you were another knight come to try to slay me. But you did not enter my home like a rude invader nor uninvited guest. Then you sat outside and opened up your meal pack and I smelled things that I did not know existed—and you were kind and shared your food with me. Oh the wonder that is bread and cheese and tart apples!! I did not know that such marvels were real in this world! A steady diet of maiden and knight may be high in protein, but it gets kind of monotonous.”
At this moment, the girl had a brilliant idea. “Oh great and might snake! I was thinking, perhaps, if you’d give up your diet of people, I could come each day and share with you the variety of delicious foods that there are to be enjoyed.”
And the snake agreed without a moment’s hesitation! So the young girl came every day and shared her meal with the snake—and the people stopped fearing the monster when it was safe to head out and do their chores—and over the course of the days and the months and the years, the girl and the snake became friends.
One day, as the now young maiden came to the mouth of the cave, carrying her basket of goodies, the snake was already waiting.
“Oh good!” hissed the snake slowly. “I wassss worried thattt I would nottt live to ssseee you. For I am getting very old and I know that my time issss upon me. When I passs, you must take my heart. And all that is within my cave, I bestow to you, my one true friend.” And with these words, the snake gave up it’s last breath and it’s body vanished, leaving nothing save a brilliant palm sized rock of rainbow colors that could only be it’s heart.
The girl cried out in great sadness! It had happened so fast! She hadn’t had a chance to say good-bye! She fell to her knees by the rock, and reached out slowly towards it. As she picked it up, she felt the warmth and the pulse within it and she carefully placed it in her apron pocket.
As the tears rolled down her face, she entered the home of the late serpent to find that it was filled with many a treasure, and quite a lot of armor (but what would you expect with so many knight kabobs?) There was enough that she would never be poor or live in want again. And so she took the heart of the serpent from her pocket, raised her face to the sky, and thanked the generous snake for it’s kindness and it’s friendship. Then she ate her meal and lived her life happily ever after.”
“And if you’ll get up and get dressed, we can all go eat our first meal of the day before the bus gets here, alright?”