I had a conversation about kindness at work the other day. My coworker was telling me that the thing that makes her most proud of her sons is that they are kind. She then told me a story about the week before in the city. The three of them saw a homeless woman shivering, and without even a thought, her sons went to the food truck down the street to buy her something (instead of giving her money, as homeless with money often makes you a target for other homeless. First it was water, but one argued that it was too cold, so they decided on tea. Then in expanded into tea with sugar and milk on the side and two hot dogs.
They were bickering over the best way to help the woman. That’s kindness. Just a random act, in a city where homelessness has once again become ubiquitous as rent, food, and medicine skyrockets. NYC can be merciless, but the people (believe it or not) are kind. We’re kind because unless you’re rich, we’re all a sprained ankle or staph infection away from living on the street.
I was moved by her story. So I said something cheesy, but true: Kindness is what really matters. We tend to measure success by being wealthy or having a good job, but so much of that depends on external factors and luck. Kindness comes entirely from inside of you. That’s the true way to measure success. To be a good person.
I think it’s true. I have to think so, because wealth, fame, and success have missed me. But if I can’t be those other things, I will be kind.
2020 is the year of the plague. My coworker’s family all have the flu. My dear friend has double pneumonia. My brother just went to the ER. A second strain of the flu virus is tearing through the area. Everyone on my FB feed has something or is taking care of someone with something. Not to mention that virus going around China that the staff at the hospital is talking about. It will surely get here eventually. It always does.
Though not flu-related, I just found out that a friend had major surgery earlier this week, and may have cancer.
I’ve been thinking today about tethers, how we’re linked with people for so long, and then they just disappear from our lives. We just moved in different directions, and we hold on to that tether for a little bit, knowing that we will likely let go someday. And that’s fine. Friends pass in and out of our lives. Family too. Life is long, and tethers are short.
And I miss a lot of my friends. And I still talk to them now and then. But there were times when we were so close, tied tight together. But the knots loosen under the strain of life and we drift away. One day the mockingbird doesn’t return to the beach. Out of the cradle, endlessly rocking.
Okay everyone. Here’s another fractured fable for you. I bet that you know the original…This one’s a little different 😉 Like the others, they’re slated for a companion book to the Watchmage Chronicles (Book 1: The Watchmage of Old New York, is only 99 cents. Get hooked on the series now, so you can snark about how you discovered it first)
Once, but not so long ago, there was a great vineyard surrounded by great hills and cliffs. All animals loved the grapes for they were sweet and tasty, each flavor slightly different, a paradise for those that partook.
All the animals were happy, except for the foxes. The foxes had heard that somewhere in the vineyard were the legendary Alabaster Grapes, a plant that produced the perfect flavor. For the foxes, only this perfection would do.
Two fox brothers searched the vineyard for the Alabaster Grapes. They sampled from every plant they could find–some plump and purple, other a green approaching the alabaster they were searching for. Though they were all delicious, they were not the grapes that the foxes were looking for.
While the second fox became despondent, but decided to settle on the bunch of grapes that he liked best, the first fox became filled with anger.
“How can you settle!?” Demanded the first fox. “Nothing else will do. Only the Alabaster Grapes are worthy.”
“The Alabaster Grapes are just a legend, my brother,” said the second fox. “We must make do with what we have, for there is no perfection, but things that approach it.”
“No! I hate all these grapes. I will never back down, and these grapes are standing in my way. They are now my enemy.”
“But they’re delicious.”
The first fox was so enraged by his brother’s wisdom and pragmatism that he decided to teach him a lesson. The fox grabbed a branch from Mankind’s famed Red Flower, the one that brought light and heat.
The fox set his brother’s grapes aflame with the Red Flower. “This will teach you for settling. You deserve this!” And his brother’s weeping enraged the first fox even more. He set every plant in the vineyard on fire, watching with glee as they burned.
But the Red Flower is insidious and burns all its path. The flames spread red across the land. All the animals except those living high in the hills were burned to death or fled far from the vineyard. Even the second fox died in the flames, and the first fox felt no guilt for his brother’s gruesome death.
From high on a hill facing outside of his burrow, the first fox watched the carnage. “Those grapes were sour anyway,” he said. He curled up in his burrow, satisfied with all that he had done.
Now, years later, the vineyard began to recover, and delicious, plump grapes reached harvesting time. And the fox began his quest for the Alabaster Grapes again. And the Red Flower was already between his jaws…
The moral: Just because something isn’t perfect, doesn’t mean you should destroy it. You never know the consequences.
Like this story? Than you’ll love my historical fantasy series, The Watchmage Chronicles. The first book is only 99 cents and free with Kindle Unlimited.
Once again, I am adding another fable to my collection. I will probably add this one to an anthology I’m working on about stories, fables, and fairytales from the Watchmage Chronicles’ world. Now that The Watchmage of Old New York and Cold Iron are both out, I can work on both these and the third book, The Fiddler’s Bow.
Oh, and if you’d like to jump in on The Watchmage Chronicles, the first book, The Watchmage of Old New York, is only 99 cents. Both books are free if you have Kindle Unlimited.
The Frog and the Hen
by C.A. Sanders
Once upon a time, though it happens every day, there lived a frog named Bud. He lived in a swampy pond, not far from a chicken coop. He slept all day and spent all night drinking fly-flavored beer (Coors Flight: “the Buzzy Bullet”) and croaking as loud as he could with his frog buddies, Err and Weis. The croaking was so loud that it kept the chickens awake, and sometimes Weis would play his banjo, making the party even louder.
One day, Henrietta the Hen made a racket, clucking away as loud as she could. Annoyed, (because how dare someone keep him awake) Bud hopped over to the chicken coop.
“You’ve got a lot of nerve,” Henrietta clucked. “I just layed an egg and it’s hard work, harder than you’ve ever done. What have you accomplished in your life? You sleep all day and croak all night while drinking fly-flavored beer. Next time you want to complain, bring some proof that you’ve accomplished something in your pathetic, ambivalent, amphibious life.”
Bud hopped away, embarrassed by Henrietta’s tongue-lashing, especially since Bud’s tongue was so much longer. She’s right, he thought. I’ve done nothing in my life except croak and drink Coors Flight. I’m gonna prove her wrong. There’s nothing a chicken can do that I can’t do better.
Bud first mentioned his plan to Err, who laughed so hard that he fell off of his log. “Bud,” Err said. “You’re an idiot.”
“Why? My mom said can do anything I want if my put my mind to it.”
“First of all, frog-bro, you’re a frog, bro. You can’t scratch, you can’t peck, you can’t fly. How the hell do you not know this? Has the Coors Flight softened your head?”
“Screw you, Err,” croaked Bud. “I don’t need your help. I’m gonna chicken so hard that Henrietta will molt in shame.”
“You’re a dumbass, but do what you want.” Err opened a can of Coors Flight, popping the top with his tongue. “It’s your right as a Swamperican.” Err downed his beer and leaped away.
Bud decided that he needed to observe first He went to the chicken coop. First he talked to the hens, but they all clucked in his face and said “bless your heart.” Then he found Earl the Rooster, all decked out in red and white, with long, sharp spurs in case a chicken with other-colored feathers showed up.
“Hey, Earl,” Bud croaked.
“Hey, Bud,” Earl clucked as he strutted around the coop, full of Big Cock Energy, as most roosters are.
Bud hopped after Earl. “I need some advice.”
“Well, maybe I can give it to ya. I’m the smartest rooster in these here parts.”
Bud held in his comment that he was the only rooster. “I want to do what chickens do, and I want to be the best.”
“Ba-gawk! What!?” Clucked Earl. It took a while for Earl to stop laughing, but when he finally did, he showed Bud how to scratch, how to peck, and how to fly.
But Bud’s froggy body had no claws, beak, or wings, and Earl laughed him right back into the swamp.
Bud had one last friend to go to for advice: Weis, the wisest frog in the swamp. Weis liked to hang out during the day on a lily pad in the center of the pond, picking his banjo and singing about rainbows and connections. Bud sat down next to him.
“I want to be like a chicken,” Bud said.
Weis plucked a string, then turned a tuning peg. “Why do you want that?”
Bud stumbled over his response. Why do I want to do that? Bud thought. While Bud mused on the simple question, Weis played his banjo.
“I think I know,” Bud said. “I want to show Henrietta up, and do what she does better than her.”
Weis said, “Instead, why don’t you do what you already do better than her. Don’t try to be the best her. Be the best you.” With that, Weis broke into a song about being green and how it wasn’t easy. Bud had heard it a thousand times, so he hopped away.
Bud thought all day about what he was best at. It wasn’t hopping. It wasn’t catching flies. It wasn’t drinking Coors Flight. He thought and thought and thought until he had a frog-piphany, which is like an epiphany, but for frogs.
“I’m the best croaker in the swamp! And that’s what I’m going to do.”
That night instead of croaking and drinking fly-flavored beer with his friends, Bud went by the chicken coop “Hey Henrietta! This is what I can do! Listen to this!” And Bud croaked as loud as he could. He croaked and croaked and croaked and croaked and croaked and croaked and croaked the whole night through.
Weis and Err found Bud in the morning, covered with chicken scratches. He had croaked.
The morals of the story: Don’t complain about other people doing stuff if you do nothing all day long.
Or: Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you should be an asshole about it.
Here’s another fractured fable for you:
In a time long past that happens every day, there lived a hawk. This hawk perched on the highest tree branches, surveying all that he saw around him, all that was his prey. For the hawk had none above him, and all feared his shadow circling overhead.
Over the weekend I visited my friend. He has about two dozen chickens and recently got a domesticated pig (i forget the breed but it won’t be more than 300 pounds tops). Right now it’s a piglet and no more than 30 pounds. No…no pet is eaten at this house, although the chickens lay some mighty fine eggs.
The new piglet wanders around the yard, rooting for…well…roots. That’s pretty much what he does all day. And the chickens ignore him. Except for one.