The Big Circle
By Max G. Bernard
"It's story time!"
"Come on kids, get in a circle, and Father Donahue will tell you a story."
Father Donahue was a kindly old man, who took time off from his regular duties at the church to help out at the orphanage.
The kids,45 of them, pulled up as many chairs as they had, and the rest sat on the floor with their knees pulled up to their chests. As usual, Father Donahue had brought them all candy.
He sat in the center of the circle.
"Once upon a time," He began. "Once upon a time, there was a dwarf who lived in the forest. He was a very lonely dwarf, for he lived all alone. He didn't like being so small, especially since the trees were so big. He was often afraid at night because he would hear noises from the big animals who lived in the forest. Some of them only came out at night, and he had never seen them, but he imagined what they might look like."
"A rich prince drove through the forest one day, and the dwarf, having very few visitors, ran after the prince's coach to catch it. The prince was happy to see the dwarf, and asked him to ride along for a while with him to talk. The dwarf was happy too. 'What do you do little man,' the prince asked. 'I live in the forest,' the dwarf replied. 'I get so scared at night by the animals because I'm all alone, and there is no one to protect me. And I hate living in the forest because the trees are so big and I am so small.'"
"'But what I meant,' said the prince, a little irritated with such simple things, 'was what do you work at?'"
"'I live in the forest,' said the dwarf, 'and I don't work at anything.'"
"'But how do you get your food?' asked the prince."
"'It's on the table in my hut,' the dwarf explained."
"'Yes I know, but how does it get there, where do you get it from?' the prince insisted."
"'I don't know, it's just there,' the dwarf said, shrugging his shoulders."
"'You must be robbing someone.'"
"'There's no one here to rob,' the dwarf pointed out, 'I'm alone in the forest.'"
"'You must be. I'm going to put you in prison.'"
"'Prison? Are there animals there? And big trees? And loneliness and sounds in the night?'"
"'No, you'll find no animals there nor trees, but there are plenty of people. I don't really know what it's like at night for I've never really been there.'"
"'OK,'" said the dwarf, 'I'll go, thank you. How long a trip is it?'"
"'A long, long, long way,' said the prince, 'and once you get in, I won't let you out. If you escape, you'll never be able to run all the way back to the forest.'"
"'I don't like to live in the forest,' the dwarf said. 'The trees are so big, and I am so small.'"
"'You told me that already!' the prince said.
"The dwarf was getting a little bit angry at the prince. He had liked to talk to him at first, and had wanted to go to the place the prince called a prison, where there are no big trees, and which is so far away from the forest that he could never run back. That meant that the animals would never be able to run that far either. But when the prince started to get unfriendly and said that he shouldn't keep talking about the forest, the dwarf started to get second thoughts about going with the prince."
"He wished he was back in the forest, and poof! He was! For he was a magic dwarf."
"The prince was scared of magic, and he drove on as fast as he could."
"The dwarf lived in the forest for a thousand more years, but nobody else ever drove by. He was still afraid of the animals, and hated being smaller than the gigantic trees. He was lonely all the time, and often thought of the prince, and wished that he had gone with him, but it was too late."
"He would die unhappy. If only he could go to prison! One night, a animal that he had seen before in the daytime, and which had always been friendly to him, crept into his hut and ate him up."
"Is that the end?" the smallest child asked. "Is that the end?"
"Yes," sighed Father Donahue, "that is the end."
The room stayed silent for several minutes more. The smaller children started to fidget, but Father Donahue just sat there and looked at the smallest child. "Here," he said to him, "have some more candy."
The child took the candy and held it. Father Donahue just sat there. The room was silent.
The nurse came into the room. "Are you finished, Father Donahue?"
"Yes," he said, "I'm finished."
"Thank Father Donahue for telling you the nice story, children."
"THANK YOU FATHER DONAHUE," they chanted. "THANK YOU!"
The smallest child looked away from Father Donahue and his hand tightened around the piece of candy.
Father Donahue walked out.
"I didn't like the story," the smallest child told the nurse. "He used to tell good stories, but they're all bad stories now. I don't like it. Do you want this candy?"
"Goodness no. What it would do to my diet! And besides, you get little enough as it is. If you don't want it now, save it for later."
"No!" he said, and smashed it on the floor.
Father Donahue went back to the church. On his way, he stopped to buy a bag of popcorn. He pulled a little bag of some powder out of his pocket and sprinkled it on the popcorn. There was a park across the street from the church. He went into the church and a few minutes later went across the street. He walked across the park to a clump of trees that completely surrounded an area in the back. It looked impossible to get into, but Father Donahue knew how to get in. Dozens of birds had their nest in the trees. Father Donahue spilled the bag of popcorn on the ground and stepped back. Dozens of birds jumped down and started to eat.
When the birds died from the poison popcorn, Father Donahue arranged their bodies in a big circle. He sat down, knees drawn to his chest, in the center.
"Once upon a time," he began...
Copyright (c) 2011 Max G. Bernard, All rights reserved.
Max G. Bernard is a science fiction, mystery, horror, cross-genre, and children's story writer whose work is available in ebook form and print on many major ebook and book websites. His blog The Future Will Be Written, is at http://maxgbernard.wordpress.com/ He resides in Chicago, in the central region of Woodstock Nation. He agrees with the statement that it is never too late to have a happy childhood, and that, to be realistic, we must demand the impossible.