Sunday, January 1, 2012

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

There was an outdoor market. Vendors sold basic wintertime foodstuffs  to careful housewives and kitchen maids.  The little boy wandered among the stalls. He held Max tight against his chest, lest someone step on him. The puppy did not like it. He squirmed an awful lot, but the little boy would not let go. He said - You do not want me to put you into the pillow case, do you?....... And he waved it so the puppy could see. After that, Max behaved. 

One man saw him looking at some oranges. It was hard to get them this time of year, but this man had them, all stacked up into a golden pyramid. He said - Would you like a sweet drink from Spain, my little man?............. The frightened little boy blushed and said - No, thank you.............. But business was good, so the friendly fruit vendor  deftly popped three juicy Valencias  into a green paper bag and gave them to him. The boy tried to give it back, however the man would  not hear of it. He went- tut tut tut and gently pushed him away.  Then the little boy saw a lady selling cheese. It looked so good and he was so hungry. He took off a mitten and reached down into his pocket, fingering some coins (not the silver crowns. he wouldn't spend them, but he did have a few pfennigs and a tummy wants what a tummy wants). First he watched the other customers. Most of them said - Three pfennigs, please........ The woman picked up a shiny, steel knife and sliced off three thick slabs. So when it was his turn, the boy looked up and said - Three pfennigs please....... The woman quickly went about her business and six heartbeats later he had a nice, waxed paper bag filled with approximately one English pound of rich, yellow cheese.  Some pieces of almond toast still remained. He hated to finish them. His mama made them, after all. But deep inside, he heard her voice. It said - Eat them, my little dumpling. Someday you'll have more......... So he found a seat on a wooden bench near the horse trough and sat down to lunch. Max got his share first, four big mouthfuls of fresh, tasty cheese and a palm full of crumbled up almond toast.  An old lady told him what a nice dog he had. But he did not like her. She wanted to steal Max. He knew it. Max did not like her either. You could tell, because he growled. But she soon waddled off to fight with a butcher-woman in a bloody apron, so then it was all right. The little boy ate his food. It was especially nice having an orange for desert. Max licked the juice off his fingers. They both wanted something to drink, but the kvass (middle european, alcohol-free beer) vendor scared him. He had a pointy little beard, just like one of the pirates in his story book. And his little tin cups looked dirty too. They could get some water from the spigot in the kitchen behind the little church, if he could find it again. He was sure he could. The sexton would let him in. He was a nice man. So the little boy got up, carefully put his 'groceries' into the pillowcase and slowly walked off, with Max keeping pace beside him. 

They turned down a dim, shady street. The houses reminded him of ones near the church. He was almost sure this was the way. It got cold. He put his mittens back on and scooped up the little puppy.  The pillowcase, he tied to his belt. And that was it, a poor little boy all alone on the streets of a great, indifferent city. Was he scared? A little. Was he lonely? Of course. He'd look up at the carefully pained doors and think - Maybe there's a 'mama' in there? Maybe she would like me? But he did not knock and ask. And soon the sun began to set. Lights warmed the windows of the snug, little houses. Yet where was the church? He could not find it. And he did so want a drink. Max wanted one too.

He stopped to look around. Almost no one else was on the street, certainly no other children. He was tired. He was thirsty. He needed to use the privy. There was a tiny lot, mostly  dirt, but with little mats of cold, dry grass. It was almost dark. Most of the lot was in shadow. So he quietly walked in to pass his water. And Max passed water too.

But then he felt it, a rough, hard, sharp punch right on the back of his neck. He fell down. He couldn't breathe. He tried to roll over. Max barked and barked and jumped. Yet what good are little puppy teeth (sharp as they are) against a thick winter coat. So the neighbor's eldest son pinned him to the dirt and rifled through his pockets. The little boy cried and screamed. The older  boy squeezed his throat and said - Keep that up and you'll die......... So what could he do? The screaming stopped...but not the hiccups and tears....


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