By ROB KEZELIS
This is the last of five chapters. It is highly recommended that you read it aloud to loved one in bed. Kids, too. If you havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t read the first four chapters, start here.
The little girl loved Uncle Ivan’s voice. It was so calm, so gentle, yet strong and deep. The story he was reading must have had some magical power, because for the first time in a year, she felt no pain in her legs. She could even move her legs.
As quiet as a mouse, so as not to disturb Uncle Ivan, she moved to the edge of the bed. She stretched down and tried to stand up. What a wonderful feeling to be standing again. She noticed that Uncle Ivan did not see she move. He continued to read that wonderful story about Persia.
She so wanted to go outside, even for a minute. It had been so long. Besides, it would only be for a few minutes. As she walked down the stairs and went outside, she noticed that all of the snow was gone. Instead, it was a beautiful fall day, with every tree exploding in color. The smell in the air was so strong, so clean, that she decided to walk for a bit.
As she walking into the forest, she saw the her friend Blinky flying overhead. It seemed as though Blinky was happy to see her. She reached a clearing and saw that she was not alone. Two lovers were kissing near the bank of a lake. They noticed her and motioned for her to come closer.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Hello, little girl. You will be the first to know. I am Ali, the son of a Prince, and I am the luckiest man alive. This wonderful woman just agreed to marry me.Ã¢â‚¬Â
He went on to explain that Des, the Djin, was Atusah’s father. It would be his task to let him marry his daughter.
Just then there was a poof, and a flying carpet appeared above them. On it sat a strange, bearded man. Even the little girl knew that this was the Djin, who some people called Des.
The Djin looked at Ali and Atusah, standing arm in arm. He jumped off the carpet and stomped towards Ali with an evil look in his eye.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Release my daughter, Ali, or I shall be angry.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Sir Djin, I will not release her for I have not captured her. Instead, it is she who has captured my heart.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The Djin thought for a bit. He turned back to the carpet and pulled off a huge golden chest.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Ali, within this chest, I have a fortune great that all the riches in Persia. If you reject my daughter, and let her go, these riches are yours.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ali shook his head. He turned to Atusah and looked closely into her eyes. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Sir Djin, you could offer me the world, the moon and the sun, and none of it would make me as happy as Atusah. If you really wish to reward me, reward me with your permission to marry her.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The Djin looked at the couple and saw that his daughter was indeed happy. The Djin looked at the little girl. Ã¢â‚¬Å“What do you think?Ã¢â‚¬Â he asked.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“If love is true, then it should be allowed to blossom,Ã¢â‚¬Â she replied.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I think you are right, little one. Very well, I give my blessing, Ali. And with Atusah’s help you will become a great and beloved ruler. Persia will rejoice when you return. Let us go.Ã¢â‚¬Â
He invited Ali and Atusah to join him on his carpet. As the carpet began to rise, all three waved good-bye to the little girl. In a blink of the eye, the carpet was gone.
The little girl walked along the lake until she reached another hill. From the top of the hill, she could see what could only be Mount Fuji. It was a grand mountain. It reminded the little girl of the word Ã¢â‚¬Å“RegalÃ¢â‚¬Â, another word that she loved. Mount Fuji had snow at the very top. It was beautiful. She saw a little stone hut near the path she was on. A Japanese girl about her age came out to feed the lame goat tied in front.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Hello!Ã¢â‚¬Â she called to her.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Hello, yourself. I am Haruko.Ã¢â‚¬Â Haruko answered with a friendly smile.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I am pleased to meet you.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I am about to have tea. Would you care to join me,Ã¢â‚¬Â Haruko asked?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Yes, please, I would like that. I have never had Japanese tea. I usually have milk with my tea.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Haruko explained that green tea was drunk without milk, and besides, the goat had already given all its milk that morning. Ã¢â‚¬Å“He is a good goat, though.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“He? How does a he give milk,Ã¢â‚¬Â the little girl asked?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We call all goats he, and all cows she, although I think the bulls don’t like that much.Ã¢â‚¬Â Haruko answered.
Haruko showed her where to sit, and brought out two small tea cups. She poured steaming water into a teapot and let it steep for a bit.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“With green tea, you have to let it rest for while, but not too long. You don’t want to bruise the tea leaves,Ã¢â‚¬Â Haruko explained. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Do you know what Origami is? That goes well with tea.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The little girl shook her head. Haruko brought out the most beautiful black wooden box. She opened it and pulled out some square pieces of paper. Haruko handed several sheets to her.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Origami is the art of folding paper. You can make incredible animals and birds and more just by folding it. Here, let me show you a few.Ã¢â‚¬Â Haruko pulled out some examples of dragons, fish, and a lovely pink peacock.
The little girl loved touching them. Ã¢â‚¬Å“These are lovely. I can’t believe that paper can turn into this.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Haruko poured the tea into their cups.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“May I show you how to make a crane? Have you ever seen a real flying crane? Cranes are the best birds. They have loads of magic, you know. If you make 1,000 cranes, you will have luck forever. Come, I will show you how.Ã¢â‚¬Â
With that, Haruko taught her how to make a crane. Soon, they were making bird after bird, until the pile was falling off the table. The two girls giggled and laughed, and told stories to each other as they made even more cranes.
There must have been some magic in Haruko’s home, for every time they picked up a piece of paper, a new piece of rice paper appeared in its place. After making many birds, they decided to count.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“. . . 998, 999, 1000! Haruko, we did it! We made a thousand cranes!Ã¢â‚¬Â the little girl shouted, clapping her hands. Ã¢â‚¬Å“That was so much fun.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Aren’t they all beautiful?Ã¢â‚¬Â said Haruko. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Say, why don’t we go visit my Grandmother Obaba? She loves Origami and I am sure she would love to meet you.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The little girl nodded.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Why don’t you take this path, and I will follow you shortly. I need to leave a note for my father.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Haruko bowed to the little girl, who bowed back. She went out and began to climb the hill. The path was easy and straight, so easy she almost forgot that she had not walked for a whole year. Walking again, even up a hill, made her feel wonderful. What a perfect day! She started to skip and sing to herself quietly.
As she got to the top, she spotted a small girl walking hand in hand with an older bearded man. From far away, he looked like her Uncle Ivan. As she got closer, she realized that she had been mistaken. He still looked like an uncle, though.
The three of them met on the bridge and greeted each other.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Hello!Ã¢â‚¬Â the little girl said.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Hello. I am Kasha and this is my Uncle Vanya.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Hello, little one. I am very pleased to meet you,Ã¢â‚¬Â said the bear-like man. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We are heading to the river. Would you like to walk with us?Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I would love to. Thank you.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Kasha and her Uncle Vanya talked to her about their forest, giving each plant and tree its own name. They pointed out different birds and flowers, the frogs, and even a baby deer that watched them as they went past.
Uncle Vanya suddenly stopped. He knelt down and looked very closely at the ground. He shook his head and looked again.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Amazing. This is simply amazing. Here is a magical mushroom that has the most incredible powers. I can’t believe I found one. People have searched all their lives for a mushroom like this, and never found it.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“How is it magical,Ã¢â‚¬Â the little girl asked?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“This is the mushroom of dreams and fairies, of magic and clouds,Ã¢â‚¬Â Uncle Vanya explained. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The person who carries this mushroom with her has the most amazing powers and can see the most amazing things. I cannot believe it, because these mushrooms only appear in a full moon. Amazing! We are so lucky.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Kasha pulled on her uncle’s sleeve and whispered in his ear. Uncle Vanya thought for a bit and whispered back to her. Kasha and he looked at the little girl, then back at each other. Kasha nodded and whispered one last time.
Uncle Vanya gently grabbed the mushroom and removed it from the ground. He took out a fine silk handkerchief from his vest and gently wrapped the mushroom inside. He looked at Kasha one more time, who nodded at him again. They both turned to the little girl and offered her the mushroom.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Keep this in your hand and it will bring the most incredible luck. Be careful not to crush it.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The little girl bowed and thanked them both. Kasha and Uncle Vanya waved good-bye, then crossed back over the bridge.
The little girl sat down, so happy at everything that had happened. As she held the silk kerchief, something strange began to happen. She felt wings grow on her back. As they grew longer and stronger, another amazing thing happened. The knight of her dreams came out of the forest, still cleaning off the black blood off of his gleaming sword. He, too, was growing wings.
He came up to her, bowed deeply, and offered her his arm. She took it gladly and stood up. With the barest effort, they flew into the sky and headed towards the pure white clouds, very high in the sky. On her left, she saw fir green fairies flying with them. In front of her there were gold fairies and even red fairies, dropping rose petals like rain drops. On her right was her prince, with his silver armor shining in the sun, and his powerful wings beating in the air silently.
The little girl was never happier, except, perhaps when Uncle Ivan gave her that wonderful rag doll. They headed into the first cloud, and before her eyes, she saw the most beautiful air castle, with gardens, and fountains, and glitter everywhere.
- – -
Uncle Ivan stopped reading and stared at the little girl closely. He put his story book away and again looked sadly at the cute round face, almost covered in a bed sheet. Then he noticed something strange.
He reached over to her and picked up a pure white silken handkerchief. He could have sworn that it wasn’t there before. In fact, never had he seen such a beautiful handkerchief.
He unfolded it, and inside, he found a strange, yet beautiful mushroom, a kind he had never seen before.
As he looked at the little girl again, a tear started forming in the corner of his eye. He stood up and called down to the little girl’s mother and father. Very quietly, they joined him in her room. All three of them had tears in their eyes.
Uncle Ivan remembered the silk kerchief. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Is this yours? I never saw it before.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Neither the mother or the father remembered having such a beautiful handkerchief.
Uncle Ivan leaned over and gently put it back in the little girl’s cold hand.
- – -
The little girl loved that castle. Everyone was so nice, and everything was so beautiful. But she missed one thing Ã¢â‚¬â€œ her rag doll that her uncle gave her that day. After saying thank you to every single person there, including the wonderful knight, she stepped out of the cloud, and flew back to her house. She landed right by the front door.
There was no one in the kitchen. She snuck up the stairs and was surprised to see Uncle and her mother and father in her room. They were all crying. She noticed that her wings had disappeared the instant that she landed.
No one seemed to notice her as she came into the room. She crawled back into her bed, then noticed the silk handkerchief. She grabbed it gently.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Hello Uncle, Mother, Father.Ã¢â‚¬Â
All three of them jumped. Her mother grabbed her and hugged her very hard.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“My little one, we were so worried,Ã¢â‚¬Â her Uncle said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We thought that you had left us.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I am sorry, Uncle. I should have said something when I left.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The three adults looked at each other strangely.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“You left this room?Ã¢â‚¬Â asked her mother.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Yes, and I met Ali and Kasha and Haruko, and I even got this magic mushroom.Ã¢â‚¬Â She opened her hand and showed them the handkerchief. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I can even walk again.Ã¢â‚¬Â
She got out of bed and showed them that she could walk.
She could not understand why her mother and father were crying so hard. She was never happier. They agreed to go downstairs, and make dinner while the little girl got dressed.
Her uncle stopped at the door, and turned around.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“My little one. You said you met Kasha, and Haruko, and Ali?Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Yes, Uncle. That is how I got this mushroom.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I think, my little one, that I will want you to tell me the whole story. Ã¢â‚¬Â
(Robert Kezelis is a lawyer, sculptor and writing curmudgeon based south of Chicago.)