Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Short Story for Children:



Bushkie is a young sparrow. He lives in the city with his folks on a large oak tree neighborhood. He loves to read books, enjoys watching basketball and is fascinated by big numbers.

Bushky and The Chameleon’s Tale

‘Mirror mirror on the wall’, she sang to herself.
‘What trouble to be a Chameleon after all’, she ended.
Sophia, a teenage chameleon, was readying herself for a date. But not quite sure what colours to decorate herself with. After all she was a chameleon, and could turn her skin to any colour she liked. At his time, her body was a light hue of blue. The skin beneath her eyes, purple and her eye lids- a very pretty green.
Her hands and legs were a bright pink.

But she was not quite satisfied. And was rapidly changing colour on various parts of her body and looking in the mirror to judge which gave the best effect. Being a chameleon did have its moments- especially in getting ready for a date.
‘Aw shucks!!’, said Justign, her younger brother. Distracted by her song, he had made a wrong move in his game of checkers.

His opponent, Bushky- the young sparrow- jumped on his chance and made a double jump on the board. ‘You’re pretty bad at this game’, gloated Bushky to his young chameleon friend.

‘Its all her fault’, hissed Justign, pointing his tail to his sister. She and her pathetic singing. ‘Why don’t you leave the room sis?’, he asked rolling his eyes. Though ion opposite directions. Bushky always felt dizzy looking into Justign’s eyes when he did this.

‘This, dear imbecile’, she said, ‘happens to be my room. I am but a gurgling brook. If I bother you, feel free to disappear’, she said mockingly.
Justign pretended not to hear. And made another move on the checkers board. Obviously he was distracted, he made yet another poor jump.

Bushky, jumped his pieces gleefully. This game he would win.
‘Justy!! Come here’, cried a voice from the kitchen. It was Mrs. Chamy, Justign’s mother. ‘You and Bushky must have a bite to eat. You have been playing all afternoon.’

‘Right away!!’, cried Justign and wiggled away, knocking over the checkers board with his tail. ‘Oops! I’m sorry’, he said most unconvincingly. Bushky knew better. Justign was happy to spoil a game he had surely lost. Bushky knew because he did it too.
‘I won that game anyway’, said Bushky and hopped away behind Justign. In the chameleon’s little house, Bushky could only hop about. He did not mind that. The chameleons were his friends and he enjoyed being there.
‘Here you are’, said Mrs. Chamy to the odd couple. She was now a light shade of red. He remembered seeing her in a pretty blue in the morning. ‘Some worms for you Justy, and seeds for Bushky.’

The chameleons knew Bushky liked seeds and would never eat a worm. Although bigger sparrows ate them with relish, Bushky still preferred seeds.
‘Thanks Mrs. Chamy’, said Bushky as he pecked hungrily on his seeds. From the corner of his eye he saw Justign gobble up the worms with relish.
‘Ugh!’, he said. ‘How can you eat those Justy? Horrible creatures. Slimy and squiggly.

‘But very tasty’, replied Justy. Here, try one he said extending a worm caught in his claw, towards Bushky.
‘No way!’, said Bushky, ‘I couldn’t come near one of those. Ugh!’
‘Hmm’, said a voice in the background and both friends looked towards the back of the room. There, on the rocking chair near the window said grandfather Chamy. Old and wise, he was believed to be over 75 chameleon years old. A great storyteller he was.
‘Hmm’, he said again thoughtfully looking out of the window into the branches of the oak tree they lived on.’ That wasn’t what I saw yesterday young Bushky. You seemed to be having a great time with them worms yesterday. I saw you sneak out of your room and chase them about.’ He was amused by his recollection.

‘Oh that!’, said Bushky between gobbling seeds, ‘That was all in fun grandpa. Those slimy creatures were nearing our home and I tried to peck them off. I would never eat them. Maybe just peck off their heads or legs. After all’, he said, quickly gobbling another mouthful of seeds,’ they are good for some target practice.’

The old chameleon winced slightly, though neither friend could see that. Then he smiled as he remembered that Bushky was but a young sparrow, only now learning to fly, spread his wings and see the world for what it was. So young, so full of energy and himself he was, thought the old man.

‘Hmm’, said the old chameleon again. ‘Just as you would be target practice for the hawks that fly above our tree Bushky? Is that how I understand you?’.
Bushky stopped chewing and looked at Justign. They both smiled to each other. The old chameleon would begin another story. How nice. He usually told very nice stories, but it was a long time since he had told them one. ‘Memory fails me’, he used to say. But his tone and his questioning suggested, he would be starting one soon.
Quickly they moved near him.

With no further prompting, the old man continued.

‘Bushky, Justy, you are both young. It is a good time of life. But use this time well. Perhaps what I will tell you now, will help you both. I am not sure whether it is true. But it is a tale told to every chameleon. So it must be useful.’
Do you know why we chameleons crawl on trees and have these thorns on our backs? Why, in-spite of all the colours that we adorn ourselves with, we still look ugly as we do today. ‘
The two young friends shook their heads. But the old chameleon was not looking for an answer. He continued.

The Tale of The Chameleon King:
‘We were not always like this. Many years ago, many years before this tree took root here….many years before that….our kind too had wings. Like the birds, we used to roam the skies as easily as we crawl in the branches today. What a site we must have been? Colourful, cheerful, like flying rainbows in the sky.’

‘Like butterflies!!’, said Bushky.

‘Yes’, said the old man, surprised at the comparison Bushky had made. ‘Like butterflies, but changing colour in our flight. Can you imagine that?’

‘It was a sad time when we lost our beauty. In our youth one of us became reckless, and we paid the price.’ He tapped his stick to the ground for no reason but perhaps to wake himself from the stupor he felt he was falling into. And renewed his tail.
‘We were ruled by the great king Quros VII. A wise and strong king, he had the respect of all the chameleons that flew. He inherited the throne from his father. They were a line of great kings. A dynasty which begun when Quros I brought all the chameleon families together. United, peaceful times they were.

Quros had 2 sons. Dumas and Petros. Both were strong lads, full of life and energy. The king was proud of them and hoped they would lead the chameleons to another reign of peace and prosperity.

It was not to be. For Dumas, strong and wise as he was, lacked humility. Bestowed with riches and talents, he was proud and thought himself better that his brother. And even his own family for that matter. He thought himself above all creatures. Day and night, Dumas would fly around, changing colour, singing to himself, calling on all creatures to look up to him and bow before his grandeur.
No matter how hard the king tried, he was unable to instil on Dumas, qualities of humility and compassion. “Perhaps, when he grows older, he will realise his mistake and change”. So would lament the king to Petros.

That too would not happen. For as Dumas grew older, he realised he could achieve more with his unique gift of changing colour. It began as play. Sitting in the bushes, he would change colour to those of the flowers. As the butterflies and bees would fly near, he would strike out his tongue and slay them. To him, it was, just a game. A game he could play because of his superiority over other creatures.
In the sky, he would fly in the colours of the blue sky. Invisible, he would attack the birds that flew.

On land, he became a shade of green and hid in the grasses to strike at crawling creatures. He was a menace, everywhere. And would cause great sadness to us all.
Dumas’s friends warned him again and again to change his ways. His mother pleaded with him. She knew that when the king found out, he would be very angry. This game Dumas played was not like the mischief he committed in his childhood. The king had forgiven those. But now, Dumas’s pranks were causing pain to other creatures. That was a punishable crime in the kingdom. But Dumas could not see the difference. He did not believe he could ever be punished- especially by his father, the king.

One day, inevitably, the king heard of Dumas’s mischief. He was shocked and sad. And very very angry. “The line of Qudros has committed sacrilege!”, he thundered. “The noblest line of kings that reigned over the kindest creatures, now our name stands blackened forever by this one’s mischief.” His rage was immense. For him, a chameleon prince had betrayed the trust of his own kind as well as that of all creatures.
“There must be punishment”, he said. “There must be retribution”, he screamed to the heavens. And then he confined himself to his chamber.
For three days and three nights he stayed there. Without food or water. And he spoke with no one.

Outside, his family worried for him and pleaded for him to come out. Dumas, who like the other, had never seen his fathers wrath, was unmoved. ‘He will let me off with a scolding’, he thought to himself and planned his next scheme.

And then the king came out of his chamber. In his hand, he held the sword of Justice- The weapon of the king himself. One that was only used in battle. One that had not been used for over 250 years since the Qudros line was established. Today, he held the same sword.

His wife feared the worst for Dumas. She knew the sword had only one purpose. Death.
The king came to the breakfast table. He spoke to everyone in a very pleasant manner. Like one who had no troubles of his own. Or one who had found all the answers to his troubles. While each family member ate, the king went around the table. He spoke to each, enquiring about them, their day and their work.

He approached Dumas, spoke with him casually. And as he was leaving, calmly took out his sword and placed the tip at Dumas’s neck. Everyone was shocked.
“Hear this Dumas”, he said, “and everyone present here.”
“The colours we carry and change- they are for our protection. Our ability to change colour is a gift. When used with humility, it shows our willingness to be one with the other creatures on this planet. That is how peace has prevailed. Because we have chosen to be ONE with every other creature. We have chosen to change ourselves rather than impose change. But when we change our colours to exploit another, we become treacherous and deceitful. Today, the Qudros have violated the trust that creatures placed in us. In a world of happiness and tranquillity, one chameleon destroyed that trust which is necessary for al creatures to live together. It is sad. Dumas must be punished.

And to atone for the sorrow this Dumas has caused to all creatures, we chameleons must pay a price. With that, he cut off his wings. That we may never hide completely, let us be adorned with thorns. With that, he stuck 6 knives into his body.
And that no chameleon may every harbour contempt, let this Dumas serve as a lesson.”
With that he cut of Dumas’s head. The family was aghast. The king wept. But the deed was done.

As word spread, in honour of the king’s actions, every chameleon cut-off its wings and thrust into itself 6 long knives.
It was a sad time. It is said that for 5 years, in sadness on the king’s decision, the flowers did not bloom. The trees did not bear fruit. The birds did not sing and the rivers did not flow. The rains did not fall. Life ceased to exist.
When the circle of life resumed, all chameleons were born without wings and with rough, sometimes thorny backs.’

Thus, the old chameleon ended his tale. From over his glasses, he looked at the two young friends sitting before him.

‘And so young Bushky’, he said, ‘to this day, we carry the marks of that proclamation. As a reminder that strong and powerful as we get, mighty as our skills may make us, we must remember the lesson that Dumas taught us. That our weapons are only instruments of defence. Retribution will follow those who use it for deceit or to attack. I would not object to your killing worms if to eat them. But to mutilate them for joy is unwise and unfair.’

The two young friends were moved deeply by the story. Justign had often wondered why he was full of spikes. Why he could be colourful, yet always stand apart from a crowd on account of his spikes. Why, he could never merge with the other creatures. Today he knew.

Bushky remembered al the worms he had mutilated. He looked at his wings and thought of the retribution of Dumas. How would he live without his wings? He felt ashamed.
‘Return to your games’, said the old man. ‘I did not wish to spoil your afternoon of fun. But last evening, I realised how quickly you were both growing strong. And I hoped I would have an opportunity to talk to you. Thank you for giving me that chance.’ With that he got up and crawled to his room.
Sophia breezed past them.

In a bright pink hue. Humming to herself as she picked settled herself on the grandfather chair. She was already late. Her friend had been waiting at the base of the tree for over half an hour. But she was in no hurry. Gaily, she popped a worm into her mouth.

Bushky and Justign resumed their games of checkers.
And another gentle evening begun on the big oak tree.

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