Friday, January 13, 2012

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

Sometimes the course of a stream can be changed by little things. A large rock might roll down from above and split the flow in two. All the little life forms, the crayfish and the minnows that swim down one side will live. But the other side is different. A farmer throws cans in there. They're practically empty now, but once were filled with poison. He used it to kill potato bugs. Now it will kill everything else.

Human life is like that too. When the sick little boy fled the snow sweepers, he could have turned down an alley behind pretty, little shops. Maybe he'd have burrowed in behind trash bins. A shopkeepers wife bringing out old stained wrapping paper, or broken buttons might have found him there. The good woman, if in fact she was a good woman, could have given him soup and hot tea with lemon...perhaps some bread and jam. Then she'd wrap him in a blanket (a new one, taken from their inventory) tuck him in an old, over-stuffed chair back in a little office and let him sleep. At closing time, or even before (her husband, being a kindly man would let her go) she'd summon a horse-drawn cab and with some help, carry the little fellow back to her house. Maybe a maid, some nice, young girl just in from the country, would hurry out to assist her, as they bundled him up the neat granite steps and through the front door.

He'd stay in the second bedroom, the son's room. That would be all right, since the young man was away at university and would not be home til Easter time. Perhaps by then, they'd fix him up with a room of his own. And maybe, in the best of all worlds, Napoleon would be there too, with a warm, clean stack of blankets in the storeroom by the kitchen and a nice, old piece of crockery heaped with scraps.

But this was not the best of all worlds. The little boy stumbled down another path, behind a noisy cooperage, a place where men made barrels. And he collapsed upon a small, pile of sawdust swept into a shadowy, dark, cold corner. A half dead drunk slept not far off. Heavy metal doors covered with chipped, green paint opened sporadically, so the workmen could roll out the fresh, oak barrels and stack them onto big, flat wagons, each one pulled by huge shaggy horses that snorted like dragons. Napoleon stood guard, barking at the gigantic beasts when they stepped too close. You should have seen them. They had hooves like dinner plates. But the dog was a good guardian and the match boy laid there unmolested. No one came near, or checked on him at all. He just slept and slept and slept. Napoleon carefully arranged herself across his thin, little body, a living blanket to fend off the cold. A few workmen came out to smoke cigars. They could not smoke inside the cooperage. But it was cold, so they quickly sucked up all the tobacco and stomped back in. One or two may have glanced his way, but they didn't do anything. It could be they did not want to appear 'sentimental' in front of their mates.......maybe.

Now the sun hates to stay in one place very long, so he rolled across the frigid, blue sky to another roost high atop the Saint Vitus steeple. Damp, gray shadows crept in to take his place. 

And soon the little boy began to wheeze...

Yet in his dreams he did not wheeze. In his dreams he was on that other street... in the other house... with the neat, granite steps.

But that was only an illusion.........


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