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Sunday, December 25, 2011

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

The stern old man, a true miser, if ever there was one, hobbled up the fourteen steps. Max wanted to chase him. The little puppy wanted to bite those stale, sour ankles, but the stout, shiny, walking stick scared him,  so he stayed right where he was, safe within the orphan boy's arms. And they hurried up the steps, only to find the man  poking his waxy fingers everywhere.......Where is it!? Where is my money!? You do have it, don't you? Don't lie to me, or you'll chew grass in the fields! -spat the old man. The little boy hated to see him touching his parents' things. He poked in drawers. He pulled open the wardrobe and crumpled all the clothes. There was not much, but he dug through it all.

At first, the sad, young orphan hoped he'd go away. Then they could run down the fourteen steps and burrow under the quilts. That's where he slept, right on the sofa. It felt safe there. He had the hearth. He could see the heavy bolt. He knew the door was locked. Nice, plain curtains (handmade by his mother) covered the windows. And best of all, he had Max.. But the landlord did not go away. He stayed and he yelled and he yelled. The little boy was scared the gendarme would come. Orphans fear the police. They'd scoop him up and lock him in. People said there was a special cubicle for orphans, far, far in the back of the damp, dark cellar, where only the crunchy bugs lived. And he was sure that was true. So he quietly crept under the bed and came out with a little box. The old man watched, as he opened it. His greedy eyes could not help but smile when he saw the coins inside......... Is t-t-this enough, sir? - piped the frightened boy..........Look, don't waste  my time! Let me see! Give it here! - barked the old man, who snatched up the box, as he plopped his boney self down on the carefully smoothed duvet to count it. The boy just stared at the floor and waited. Max laid down behind him and waited too.Finally, maybe twenty three heartbeats later, or perhaps forty seven (misers always count things twice) the knobby old goat shoved the box into the boy's chest and said - Here! Take it! Don't worry. There's still a bit left for you! More than you deserve, you little dust rat.............. The worried boy peeked inside. All the silver ones were gone. Only six copper pfennigs were left. And he just stood there, still as a gravestone, waiting for the old man to leave. He heard the bed squeak. Then the steps squeaked too, all fourteen of them.He heard the front door open and he prayed - Please let him go. Please let him go........ But the old man stopped and yelled - Thirty days and I'll be back!!..... Then he stomped out into the rain, banged the door shut and was gone.

The little boy straightened up his parents' things. He made the room right again. But the rancid smell of strong tobacco and bitter ale, left by the old miser, poisoned everything......... Then he picked up Max, held him close,stepped out into the tiny hallway and softly closed the door. They  quietly crept down to the carefully swept kitchen. He buttered a roll (the small, stone ware pot was almost empty) broke it into tiny, puppy sized pieces and fed it to his hungry friend. A dry crust of bread would be enough for him.

A little bit later, they went back into the chill, shadowy sitting room. He peeked through the curtains. The sky was still gray. Fat, cold raindrops continued to fall. A few people waddled about, mostly well fed matrons out haggling  for tonight's supper. But no one looked his way. So he closed the curtains and went back to the sofa. At least, under the quilts, it was warm......And Max thought so too.....

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