Summary: A fairy tale. Told to Hoss and his family. Goodnight, sleep tight.
Rated: K+ (2,305 words)
Any feedback is welcome, private or public. This story builds on Bonanza characters, but it is a fiction of my own and the characters beyond Bonanza legend are fictional characters crafted by me.
“Snälla Pappa, tell me a good night story.” Carl was clinging to Hoss’ foot, capturing his knee and focusing the big, round eyes upon his face so heart-breaking wide that Hoss was armless. He put his hand on top of the light brown curls and stroked them away from the boy’s face, and finally, when he held down his own strong arms to gather the boy in them, Carl hesitantly let go.
“Pa ain’t that good in remembering any of those stories, Carl. Why don’t you ask your Mama to tell you one?” Hoss tried to sound casual, but it was hard, when the boy dug his head in his shoulder and clung to his neck with all of his might.
“Mamma knows too many. I won’t fall asleep.” The words vibrated on Hoss’ skin, found way into the stubble, caressed softly the Adam’s apple and snuck sneakily into the chest. What had he asked the boy do, now, after all? He knew Elin was a good story-teller, but sometimes, her words were too true, too blunt.
Last time, she had taken her knitting needles and started to knit baby boots for the new one, and told a story of a young man who wanted to be a prince. Hoss rubbed Carl’s back while he carried him towards his own room, and kissed the crown of the little boy’s head when he thought nobody was looking. How did the story go, when Elin told it?
Once upon a time, there was a boy who wanted to be a prince. Melody of Elin’s high voice filled the room in the dim light; her knitting seemed to bring a soft light from itself so that the shadows were mellowed a bit in the corners of the room. He was born into a family of weavers, who made fine cloths to hang in the castles or to sew fine clothes for the King, and when the little boy grew up and saw all the gold and the scarlet, he wanted to be a prince.
“But you could be a fine weaver,” said his mother.
“I see so many weavers who weave all gold and silver and jewels of all kind, yet they wear only brown and gray and belt their gowns with coarse, plain rope. No, I wish to be a prince.”
And his mother turned away, sadly, and prayed for her son.
The boy grew older, and his father taught him all the arts of weaving fine materials, in casting the thread and patterning it with pictures and ornaments, and the boy became his apprentice. “You’ll be a fine weaver, my son,” said the father, and smiled proudly.
“But father,” cried the son, “I have no wish to be a weaver. I see the King and the Queen and their court wearing all the gold and silver and pearls that run through our fingers, yet we dress ourselves in mossy green and smile only at a memory of the fine things we’ve produced. No, father, one day I will be a prince.”
And his father prayed for his son, when he saw his son turn away from him.
When the boy grew into early manhood, he exercised his skill with weaving and patterned so many cloths that could be shown to foreign kings, foreign courts, to foreign nobility who wanted to see on canvas and pictures how impressive the King and the Queen of this land were. All the fine embroideries the boy could make with pearls and diamonds came to represent the courageous nature and beauty of the royalty, but he sat lonely in his dark, stony room, and when his only candle burned out, he stood up and cursed.
“Alas , I am weary of being a weaver but never a prince!”
And with his cry, he woke up a spirit. The spirit took a form of a cockroach and crawled into his room from a split in the floor, and the boy nearly killed the cockroach with his boot. “No, do not do me any harm,” said the spirit. “I have a secret to tell you.”
“What can you have to tell me, you who are so small and so repulsive by your shape,” the boy said to the cockroach.
“My boy, don’t you know I know your deepest wish and your urge, what you have wanted since you were but a little tiny boy at the breast of your mother?”
The boy sat in awe. “But you cannot say you’ll help me to become a…” He dared not speak any further.
“A prince?” asked the cockroach, and from these words, a glow of light came into the room. A small set of threads, weaving frames and valuable stones and treasures had been made into the room by magic, and the cockroach waved his leg to the boy. “Come, come sit down and weave me a cloak, and tapestries, and make me the King of Cockroaches. Then I shall reward you by making you a prince.”
“But you are but a mere cockroach,” said the boy, and sat there in wonder, looking at the miniature set of his tools.
“Sometimes, my boy, you have to have faith in the worth of a promise.” And by saying that, the spirit that had been in the form of the cockroach vanished through the same split in the floor where he came from.
“Oh, dear, shall I trust a bug and start weaving?” wondered the boy, and went to sleep for the night. In the morning his mind was made up, and he started to weave what the cockroach had asked. It was slow, as he had to work with small needles and tweezers to make the tools work accordingly, but he worked night and day and his eyes grew small and wrinkled from staring the littlest of the tools he had ever worked with his hands. But after a fortnight his work was rewarded.
In a fortnight, he had prepared tapestries and carpets that told of the magnificent adventures of the noble cockroach, and he had a cape lined and decorated with the finest of jewels, and he had even made a crown to the cockroach to show the world how remarkable for a thing he was. In the nightfall he set the masterpiece by the split on the floor, and behold, when moon crept up, the cockroach came.
“Boy, indeed, you have shown might and craftsmanship with your work,” the cockroach cried. “Indeed, tonight I shall make you a prince.”
And in front of the eyes of the boy, the cockroach put on the cape and the crown and transformed into a beautiful spirit who could do magic. All the fine cloths the boy had made grew into normal size, as well, and the fine work of his embroideries and patterns almost came to life, such big was his skill. But he didn’t care about it, for all that he wanted to become was a prince.
“Hear me, boy, for I have yet one condition to ask from you. I can make you a prince; I will give you a rich land and a worshiping nation who will honor your name and give you might.”
“Please, make me into a prince at once,” said the boy.
“But hear me,” continued the spirit, “for there is one price I must ask you before making you into a prince. You are a fine weaver, maybe the most skillful yet born and lived on this Earth, and if you are a prince you shall not do any handicraft.”
The boy grew impatient. “It is a small price, for then I will have weavers to bring me tapestries and cloth summoned by me. I will give this honor away easily. What use does a prince have for a skill of poor craftsmanship?”
“Hear the rest of my words, too, do not interrupt,” said the spirit. “To secure your vow that you shall not do any craft any more, I will have to cut your hands away.”
The boy stood there, and gaped, but so much did he want to become a prince, that he swallowed hard and then dried any tears he might have had inside his head. “If that is what you must, then I will give my hands to you to secure the promise. Indeed, if it must, I will give my pair of hands to you so that you can weave and decorate.”
And then the boy held his hands out to the spirit, for so much was his desire to become a prince, and the spirit cut his hands and took them to himself, so that he became the best known weaver of all times on that earth. The spirit’s name is long forgotten, but the beauty of all that he did never fainted, and the goodness of all that is crafted by a pair of hands will never lose its shine.
But the boy became a prince and was worshiped by his nation, he had all the might of say that any king or queen might envy, and his servants fed him with spoons and forks and combed his hair in the morning. He shed no tears, but he never held the girl he loved in his arms neither patted the cheeks of his own children. His promise was secured, but he could do no good things anymore, neither did he create anything beautiful during his life, since his arms had been cut off and his hands did no deeds anymore.
Thus, when he died, nobody had anything to remember from him and his name is now long forgotten. But he would not even cry, for he would have no hands to wipe off the tears.
Hoss still remembered how moist Carl’s eyes were. ‘Was that the story, Mamma?’ he had asked, voicing the burning question that bothered the whole family. Tor and Rebecka had been equally troubled, their faces revealed the fear even if their postures tried to remain calm. But they were not so small, anymore.
‘My, my, dear son. Yes, yes, it was. I thought you had fallen asleep already.’
Carl had stared at his mother and then started to cry, and refused to hide in Elin’s arms and crept to the secure cavity under Hoss’ chin. ‘Pa, I don’t want anybody to cut my hands off,’ he had said with a trembling voice, before he had collapsed into tired tears and his shaking body had resembled the sudden urge to cry that had been born inside Hoss, too.
For a few nights, Carl had wandered away from his bed and climbed between Hoss and Elin, sometimes declaring a nightmare and sometimes just looking plenty, mighty scared.
Tonight, Hoss would not tell stories of sad endings and dead princes, but perhaps a happy story of some piglets or bear cubs with a goldy-lock girl to play with, or he could make the boy laugh at some stories of Hoss’ own childhood, ending with some good, fatherly advice from Grandpa Ben. He should fall asleep with a smile on his lips and dream nice dreams with happy endings.
‘How come your stories ain’t got happy ends?’ Hoss had asked Elin, when Carl had come to find peaceful dreams from their bed for the seventh time. The boy was finally asleep, breathing soundly and kicking restlessly between Hoss and Elin, before he relaxed for a while and then started tossing around again. He was starting to grow jealous at Elin’s expanding body, and in times of being tired or unable to concentrate, the mean streak outran reason. In his sleep, though, he reached out for her and was calmed every time his hand touched her skin.
Elin had looked at Hoss, and cocked an eyebrow. ‘What is wrong with my stories’ ends? They end happy enough for me.’ She looked at the stubborn chin that protruded above her husband’s neck. ‘Should I bring up my children believing that for ridiculous dreams you would just gain a happy end with no real price to pay?’
She had turned her back at him, at them, and mumbled something about being more satisfied in real life. Hoss had pulled her back and climbed over Carl’s sleeping body to nail her down. ‘My fairy-tale has a happy end.’
The purr of her silent laughter had washed away all his possible anxiety, and her eyes had looked at him in the dim light of the starry night as gray as dreams and mists of the distant forests and swamps were far, far away. ‘Am I part of your fairy-tale?’ she had asked, and kept him so close he didn’t have to voice his answer.
Nah, today Hoss would tell Carl about golden treasures hidden in the fox’s nest and about the jewels one could find in the house of an old crane. No sad endings and no promises, no bargains that would make his little son cry.
But as it turned out, Carl had fallen asleep against his shoulder before they reached the bed, and Hoss tucked him in gently, without a word.
* * *
For doubting fathers who do so well in spite.
Other Stories by this Author
- Glimmer (by idmarryhoss)
- Tea Party (by idmarryhoss)
- The Language That Stuck (by idmarryhoss)
- Farewell (by idmarryhoss)
- Fruity Thoughts (by idmarryhoss)