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The Bedtime Story
“Please Uncle Johnny,” cried five year old Jenny DeSoto. “Please tell me just one more bedtime story?”
John Gage looked down at his niece and sighed.
“Jen, your brother has been asleep for almost an hour… now I think you should just turn out the light and lie down and close your eyes and at least try and go to sleep,” he said in desperation.
Johnny had agreed to watch his partner’s two children while they had their date night, after their usual babysitter canceled out on them at the last minute; and everything had gone smoothly until now.
Eight year old Chris had nodded off halfway through the second story, but his younger sister was still wide awake. Johnny had gone through the entire stack of books in the pile that sat on the bed beside him and he had no more books to read to the child.
“Look Jen, I’ve read through this entire stack of books tonight, … now how about you just scootch on down in the bed and close your eyes.”
“But I’m not sleepy yet…can’t you just make up a story for me?”
Johnny walked over to the door and hit the light switch to the off position.
“I’m going to turn out the lights and I’ll then tell you one of the stories my grandmother used to tell me when I was a child… but that’s it. It the absolute last story I am going to tell you,” he declared.
“Goody,” Jenny squealed. She loved it when her Uncle told him one of the legends from his Native American history.
“Okay, good deal,” the young man said, as he tucked the child in securely and turned to sit down on the bed beside her.
“Are you ready?”
The small girl nodded and smiled.
“Okay here we go… this story is called, The Guinea Pig’s Greed.
“Many moons ago on the Island of Belletrism there was harmony and equality among all the residents who lived among the Bard Tribe.
Their greatest joy was in gifting and sharing with each other their talents which included beautiful paintings and other wonderful works of art that each member would lovingly create to be enjoyed by all the tribe members.
The Bard tribe’s members had many things in common with each other and often delighted in discussing their shared interests.
Primarily those interests included their love for the colour blue, painting, and their gastronomic inclinations towards clover.
For many seasons the Bard tribe co-existed in peace and harmony by living by the unspoken code of hard work, a sense of community and a mutual respect for each other’s work.
Sadly this was soon to change when one day; the Bard Chief looked up and noticed a small fishing boat had beached itself on the shores of their island. Sitting in this boat was a large Guinea Pig who sat in its prow, straight tall and regal. He was all puffed up and proud.
Beside him in the boat were many other smaller rodents all sitting at his feet, who were staring up adoringly at him. Their eyes were vacant and cloudy as they could not see past the shiny glow that came off of the shiny brass buttons that ran down the front of his ostentatious waist coat.
“Greetings, and welcome to the Island of Belletrism,” said the Chief.
“What name are you known by?” he asked.
The Guinea Pig smiled with a self-important smile.
“I am called, Guinea Pig, and I just moved here from the Isle of Machinations…and these are my children. They are all named Minion.”
After introductions were made and the welcome was complete the villagers took the new group to the area that held the plots of land where the fields of clover grew.
“These plots of land to the left are unused,” the Chief explained.
“You are more than welcome to each pick a plot of land for your own so you will have your own fresh supply of clover to eat.”
Then the tribal elders explained the habits and customs of their people to the newcomers and then settled back into to the day to day living on the island.
Guinea Pig chose what he thought looked to be a large and healthy plot of land that contained many fields of rich succulent clover for his own. His children, the minions did likewise and soon they all had carved out their own little niche on the happy Island.
As the days progressed, the tribe continued to create their works art and display it at the local art gallery and community center, as was their usual custom.
Each member loved the days spent, enjoying and praising the others talents and artistry; marveling at each members own unique and individual use of their favourite blue colour.
Each artist used the blue colour, but with their own unique blends and hues and variations to their brush strokes and special personally crafted shades of blue. The tribe enjoyed being able to take inspiration and joy from their fellow tribe mates as well as give their own personal flavour to the gallery to the mutual edification of all.
During the week however, the tribe spent their daylight hours tending to their fields, carefully pulling out the weeds and planting new seeds of clover to ensure that their fields stayed healthy and fresh so their food would always be fresh and healthy so as to be able to sustain and nourish their spirits and their souls.
Guinea Pig however was corpulent and lazy, and was not interested in such menial tasks…so instead he sent his minions out into the fields to cultivate for him. But as life usually works out, his minions had their own fields to worry about, and like their father they spent their days trying to find the easiest and quickest way to at least create an illusion that they were tending to their fields which in turn supplied them with food for nourishment.
Soon the Guinea Pig and his children (the minions) fields began to look sparse and poor in quality, so that even the food they did eat was poor, feeble, and did not satisfy their appetites or fuel their imaginations as it could have if they have only worked to tend the fields properly.
Several months went by since Guinea Pig and his minions had moved to the Island and of course no one was surprised when one day they showed up to the community centre with their own works of art.
As was the custom, the entire village came out to view his work. As the tribe looked upon his work; they noticed that Guinea Pig did indeed have some measure of talent as an artist and they were quick to tell him what it was about his paintings they enjoyed.
The villagers smiled politely when they saw the minions look upon the Guinea Pigs painting and genuflect and perform Proskynesis at the feet of the Guinea Pig.
The tribe was however, taken aback when they realized that it seemed that Guinea Pig expected them to follow suit in their unctuous adoration of the Guinea Pig and his art.
The villagers shook their heads but remained silent and said nothing, and quickly moved on to the next villagers work. This villager was known as “Artisan” and was known to be a great master of his craft. The other villagers were impressed and made no attempts to hide how much the elder’s work inspired them all.
Guinea Pig was green with envy that the attention was no longer on him or his art and he skulked off to sulk and rage in the corner.
On his old Island of Machinations, he was used to having the praise all to himself and the idea of mutual respect and sharing the limelight was something that he was not accustomed to… nor did he find the idea to his liking. His ego was large and voracious and needed to be fed constantly…and daily.
As the afternoon wore on, Guinea Pig subtly began to take notice where the booths of all the elders that received the greatest praise for their work was located.
That night he stealthily crept into the tee pees of the elders whose works were of such skill and beauty and he began to copy down what kind of brush strokes they used, and he even copied down the secret ingredients to their own personal recipes for mixing their unique and personal shades of blue.
Quickly he went back to his plot of land where he had built his tee pee and took out a blank canvas and began to paint. He first drew his own image, but then he began to copy the elements and colours of the other master’s paintings and insert them into his own works of art.
The next day the villagers in the tribe of Bard spent their day fertilizing and cultivating their fields of clover once again. They carefully took the time to weed and water them, and to carefully tend to them so that their crop of clover would be of the best quality.
Smiling a self-satisfied smile Guinea Pig scoffed at the others as they toiled in the hot sun.
What fools they are to toil away, he thought as he looked down and began to paint with his ill-gotten blue paint and stolen brush stroke techniques.
He began to mindlessly create works of art with no real theme other than to make sure he used a healthy amount of the blues and imitated brush strokes that the other masters were using.
Once he was finished, he piled up his works in a corner, ate his fill from the pile of clover he had gathered from his now sickly fields and went to sleep to wait for the next exhibition day.
Unbeknownst to him, his children had been observing his actions closely, and as the saying goes, the branches did not fall far from the tree.
Like their father, they stealthily took note of the unique brush strokes of the tribal elders, and they too began to copy ingredient for ingredient the recipe for each elder’s special colour of blue, that their father had stolen. Soon they were all in their own tee pees making their own pale imitations of the wonderful original works of art that had been left on display in the village square.
In the village, the rest of the tribe watched on each day, and they noticed the fields of the newcomers clover begin to wither and die from lack of cultivation and care. The village elders shook their heads in disgust, and went back to work as they poured their hearts and souls into their newest pieces of art.
One day while on his way to the village trading post to buy some paint brushes, a young brave looked over to see Guinea Pig and his minions in the Chiefs field of clover greedily eating his crop.
“What are you doing?” he cried out in indignation. “That is not your crop….you have your own fields. It is against tribal law to steal food from another’s field.”
Guinea pig scoffed and yelled back.
“We all live on the same Island, and that makes me more than entitled to eat from any field I choose… The clover in this field is so much superior, and tastier than my own. This clover nourishes and sustains, but mine does not fill my soul, it tastes weak and it leaves me hungry and wanting.”
“I see no reason why the Chief shouldn’t share his, when mine is so poor. It is his fault for giving me such a poor piece of land in the first place.”
Soon other braves heard the yelling and soon joined in the discussion.
“That is not so,” they young brave countered.
“All the plots of land were of equal value, but you did not tend to your own field; you were too busy sleeping and painting all day to do the work that would grow the food that in turn will sustain your own spirit and your soul.”
“You relied on your children to do your work. But the child often imitates the example the parent sets, and so they did not tend to your fields either, but like you, they spent their time sleeping and painting instead of doing the work it takes to sustain your clover fields.”
“So your crop became sickly and the clover no longer nourishes. The fault is yours for not putting forth the necessary effort to fertilize and cultivate your own field…and now you want to steal from another’s hard work and effort. And that is against the tribal law.”
But the Guinea Pig and his minions banded together and silenced and bullied the small Bard tribe until the entire Bard tribe at last threw their hands up in despair and left the Guinea Pig and his minions to their own devices.
Each exhibition day after that, the tribe would come to display their talents, only to find that at the entrance to every booth, the Guinea Pig had placed one of his inferior and pale imitations of art. He would move the others paintings further down the pathway so that the direction of the sun would always shine on his paintings first.
The Chief complained to the Guinea Pig… “Why do you move your work and shift ours aside, so that your remains always at the top of the path so that the sun only shines on your art?” he inquired.
“Because,” the Guinea Pig stated smugly… “I am quite sure the Great Spirit created the sun for me and my minions…and therefore it is only fitting that is should shine on MY work first.”
Then he and his minions turned their backs on the tribal elders and proudly displayed their art for all too see.
Of course the moment the tribe seen their feeble attempts at art, they could tell that Guinea Pig and his minions had all taken pieces of their elders own original works of art, and copied them in an attempt to pass them off as their own…and even though Guinea Pig and his minions had used the stolen hues and brush strokes of the original works, they had not the natural acuity and gifts of the masters, and so their works seemed simple and weak…They did not inspire nor did they fill the spirit with awe and satisfaction.
But still the minions lauded Guinea Pig with hollow praise and meaningless flattery. They would in turn give each other praise and adulations for their own paltry attempts at forgery.
Sadly the tribal elders had no choice to give in to Guinea Pig and his minions and soon Guinea Pig and his minions took over the community center and gallery; all because the Guinea Pig and his minions shouted louder and were able to bully the entire Bard tribe into silence and acceptance.
The Bard masters soon wandered away into housing themselves in the shadows and backgrounds and into small reservations scattered here and there. They eventually abandoned the Isle of Belletrism and quietly went off to find another island of their own.
But unbeknownst to the Bard tribe, the badger who was only known to some by the name of Karma, was watching the happenings on the small group of Islands.
The Karma Badger seen the dejected Bard tribe enter into their birch bark canoes and sadly begin to row away from their beloved Island of Belletrism.
Badger frowned and quietly told the winds to blow the boats of the now displaced Bard tribe towards a beautiful serene Island that was lush and full of many clover fields and full of trees that were heavy with fruit; where the streams were clear and cold, and the sun always shone.
When the Bard tribe landed on this new Island they smiled and turned to Karma Badger.
“What place is this?” their Chief asked.
“This is your new home,” said the Badger.
“It is called the Island of Integrity, and I give it to you and your tribe so that you can go on creating your wonderful paintings in peace and harmony.”
And that is indeed what happened. The Bard tribe grew and flourished and were able to live in peace, and happily sustained and edified each other, taking pride in the knowledge that their works were their own, and that the skill was genuine and honestly come by.
Back on the Island of Belletrism, which Guinea Pig had now renamed, the Island of Entitlement, things were not going so well.
The minions began to realize that although they had managed to produce many pieces of art; they did not satisfy and they simply did not speak to the soul. Soon they began to grow weary of Guinea Pigs manipulative and glory hogging ways.
But by the time they had realized their folly in following their father blindly, it was too late. No other Island trusted them and so they would not allow them on to their shores.
Without the Bard tribe to care for the fields, the rest of the clover soon withered and died, and Guinea Pig’s insatiable appetite was no longer being filled.
Soon he decided it was time to pack up his boat and head for greener shores…perhaps he would try and make it over to the Island of Integrity and seek fresh food for his spirit once again from the Bard tribe as he had done before.
But as he was bending over to pack his boat, he felt a set of sharp and fierce fangs sink into his haunches.
Standing up, he turned around quickly and seen the Badger called Karma standing there with a smile on his face, as he one by one, bit each of the Guinea Pigs minions in their behinds as well.
“Why did you just bite me on the ass? Just who do you think you are” demanded Guinea Pig.
“I am the badger who is in charge of all the Islands…I am known by the name of Karma” said the badger.
“For too long you have gotten away with taking from others and claiming all the glory as your own. And now you must pay… the sentence that had been handed down to you and your minions was that you were each to receive that bite on your asses.”
“In addition, the oars to your boats have been rent in twain and you shall not be allowed to leave this Island.”
Guinea Pig being proud turned and laughed at the Badger.
“My children and I are not afraid of you… nor do we need you. We will stay here and run this Island as we see fit and there is nothing you can do to stop us,” he boasted.
Badger said nothing and turned and stepped into his own birch bark canoe and quietly rowed away with a small knowing smile playing on his lips.
It wasn’t until a few days later that Guinea Pig and his minions began to notice the bite that Karma had left on their asses had begun to fester and putrefy, and they soon sickened for their beds. Quickly the town doctor was sent for to attend to their wounds.
As the doctor examined the group, he shook his head sadly.
“Alas,” he said. “I am afraid the poison has taken hold and the only one who holds the cure for this sickness is the Chief of the Bard tribe that you and your children drove away all those months ago…I am afraid there is nothing to be done, as none of the boats have oars, and so there is no way to summon the Bard Chief back here to help you… and it is for certain before the next full moon, you and your children will succumb to your injuries.”
By the end of the week, just as the doctor had predicted, Guinea Pig and his children were no more.
As time passed on, eventually the Island began to heal and rejuvenate itself, and eventually the Badger brought the Bard tribe back to the land of their nativity once more where they were once again able to resume their lives in peace and tranquility.
Johnny ended his story and sat in quietly in the darkness of Jenny’s room, not quite sure if the little girl was yet awake.
The bedroom was filled with silence for a few moments, until finally Jenny sleepily sat up and gave her Uncle a kiss on the cheek.
“That was a good story Uncle Johnny; I‘m glad that Guinea Pig didn’t get away with stealing from the Bard tribe; stealing isn’t right. That’s why the Badger named Karma bit him isn’t it?”
Johnny smiled as he bent over, kissed Jenny on the forehead, and tucked her in.
“That’s right Jenny. No matter how much you think you may have gotten away with doing the wrong thing, Karma will always show up, all ready to bite you. Now how about you go to sleep now okay?”
“Okay,” yawned the sleepy child. “I love you Uncle Johnny.”
Johnny stood in the door and glanced back at the little girl in the bed.
“I love you too sweetie… sweet dreams.”
And with that he quietly closed the doors and made his way back downstairs to wait for Roy and Joanne to come home.
Thanks Wilson for such a wonderful story with a powerful message.
Posted to site 02/25/12
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