Saturday, December 24, 2011

THE LITTLE MATCH BOY ~~~~ a re-telling of H.C. Andersen's poignant tale

Far, far away, across the wide Atlantic Sea and north of the Alps, lies the great, imperial city of Prague, an illustrious assemblage of fine stone mansions, wide granite thoroughfares and cuckoo clocks fit for a king. Yet the streets and lanes still trace graceful meandering lines through history. Princes live here, princesses too along with an endless supply of grafs, barons and boyars.

But not everyone in town is so well born. Most people live in neat, small, narrow houses lining skinny, little cobbled streets. And while some streets are more corpulent than others, the vast majority seem quite the same. Now a young baker and a young bakeress inhabited one such dwelling place. It had a comfy, cozy sitting room., a nice warm kitchen and two snug bedrooms up fourteen squeaky stairs. A fresh, clean bakery faced the street. There were smooth, cool marble counters and old fashioned ovens just right for making wedding cakes and pastries.

Each afternoon when school was over, children came in to buy huge, sweet sticky buns and cold, frosty glasses of buttermilk. They'd perch upon high, wooden stools lined under a long, polished shelf and there they happily ate their treats. Now the baker and bakeress had a nice, little boy with soft, honey-colored  curls and an ever-so-slightly chubby face. Neighbor ladies called him 'adorable.'  The little fellow always did his best. The Fraulein at his school was pleased with his work and so was everyone else.And the bakery did not make a lot of money, but they had enough for good hot dinners, nice warm clothes and plump-cushioned sofas that were just right for snuggling and dreaming by the fireplace. The beds at the top of the fourteen squeaky stairs were nice too. Max liked to hide under the beds. Max was the little boy's tiny, scruffy puppy.

One autumn day things began to change. A chill wind snaked through the town. Some people started to sneeze. A few of them got very sick. A few got even sicker. No one knew what to do. Did the people just have colds? No, this was worse than that. Doctors raced to the great houses of the rich. They gave them wondrous elixirs and said 'tut, tut, tut,' as they dramatically counted heartbeats and looked concerned. And those with plenty of silver coins to pay them occasionally got well, while those without silver coins often died.

People stayed inside their houses. Schools closed down. Shops never opened. Everyone was afraid. The little boy was very good and very quiet. His mommy and daddy were scared. They did have some flour, some dried fruit, some nuts and other ingredients used for baking, back in the pantry. But the large glass jars with their tight brass lids were getting empty. Soon they'd have no more. His father did have a box with some copper coins in it, a few were even silver. But those coins were for very bad times..

The little boy sat up in his room and looked out the window. He saw the great shiny, silver trimmed ,black coach of the prince, as it raced down their street, carrying the royal family to safety, high  in the mountains, to a place without sickness and death. Then he heard the coughing. Max heard it too. He started to whine. The puppy wanted to go into the other bedroom. He wanted to scramble up onto the bed. He wanted to make the baker feel better. But the old woman from next door, who knew how to care for sick people, kept him out. So he stayed with the plump cheeked little boy (whose cheeks were really not that plump anymore)  and listened.Sometimes, before bedtime, his mommy and the old woman permitted him to stand in the open doorway and talk to his father. His voice would shake. He wanted to know if daddy felt better. And every night his father said - A little bit.......but the boy knew it was not true. Five nights later, his daddy passed away.. And he cried as people came into the house and clomped up the fourteen steps to carry his daddy away. But his mommy squeezed him and said - Don't be afraid. Daddy still loves us.... Only she was crying too. And when she hugged him to her chest, the little boy could hear the wheezing in her lungs. Three weeks later, the same people who clomped up the fourteen steps to carry out his father took his mother away somewhere too. And then the sickness stopped. No one coughed. No one wheezed. And no one, or practically no one, died.

The little boy got up every morning.  He swept the floors, cleaned the rooms and fed the puppy. Then he washed himself up and put on clean clothes. No one came around to help him. His grandparents were all gone too. And the small cache of copper and silver coins in the box upstairs got even smaller. The old woman from next door did give him a plate of food every now and then, but after a while she stopped doing that. Now, whenever she saw him in the street, she'd go 'humph' and turn away. He could not go to school anymore, because lessons were not free in those days. Fraulein felt sad about that. Sometimes she'd come by and drop off little storybooks. He likes the colorful pictures. At night, he and Max would sit snug in the sofa and look at them, as they burrowed under piles of quilts. Wood was expensive, so he only burned it a few sticks at a time.

One morning he heard someone pounding on the door. He dug out from the covers and ran down the fourteen steps. It was raining. The windows were foggy, but he recognized the stern faced old man outside. His bare feet were freezing as he reached up  to unlatch the door. Soon there would be snow. But before he could even say 'good day, sir,' the angry, old man shoved him aside and barged into the house........"RENT, boy! - he said. Where's the money? You're late as it is. Pay me my money, or GET OUT!.......The little boy was scared. His father always paid the rent before and he didn't know what to do. Max growled at the old man, but he was such a little dog and too small to do anything else. Finally, after a few pounding heartbeats, the little boy quietly said - How much money must I pay you, sir?........... The old man stood there, rubbing his hands together as he thought, like a great, skinny spider in a worn, black suit. Then he said - have money boy?........... The frightened littler fellow nodded.......... How much? Where is it? - said the old man.......It's upstairs - said the boy. But before he could finish, the old man pushed him down and rapidly crept up the fourteen steps........ The nice, little boy picked up his puppy and went up after.............


Please come back tomorrow night for the continuation of the tale. Kindly click on the SHARE button and comment, if you will. We'd appreciate that very much.......THE MOST JOYOUS OF HOLY DAYS TO ALL! GOD BLESS US EVERY ONE.

No comments: