Category Archives: Short Stories

Why he’s so slow



Picture a small girl, black bangs thick across her forehead, bending over her little brother.  He is trying to learn a simple task, and she patiently models it for him again and again, slowly and carefully.

Here is the church, and here is the steeple.  Come on, put your fingers together.  Like this.”

He tries each time to imitate her motion, and each time he stops short.  Here is the church.  With determination, he laces his fingers together, moving at the pace of molasses on a winter’s day.   Here is the steeple.  She tugs gently on his index fingers, and his hands release so the shape is lost. She encourages him cheerfully: “Try it again, Ben.  One more time.  You can do it!”

Finally it seems that he cannot do it.  After repeated tries, he has not been able to make the steeple appear at the same time as the church.  His hands are like wet clay; she molds them into the correct shape, but as soon as she lets go, his fingers collapse into an indistinct heap.  His tongue lolls out in concentration and she hates the way he looks.  She uses her finger to push his tongue gently back into his mouth, but it always lolls out again within seconds.  She tries holding his lips together so the tongue won’t escape, but she knows it will re-emerge as soon as she turns her back.  He sits there, limp, good-natured, trying so hard to please her, but he cannot do the task she is trying to teach him.  He’s like a baby made of dough.

She runs to her parents in tears.  “Why’s he so slow?  What’s the matter with him?  He just won’t learn!”  They exchange glances.  Father takes her in his lap, gently.  Mother sits nearby.  She says nothing, but her eyes are worried.  For once they seem to have forgotten about her brother; they leave him alone in the other room.  Father starts to speak, slowly and carefully, measuring his words, weighing them before placing them in the air.  “When your mother and I found out we were expecting a baby, we were so happy.  That baby was you!  Mother gave you the best of her talents.  She gave you her musical talent so you would be a good musician.  Father gave you the best of his talents.  We wanted you to be a smart baby.  So we gave you the best of what we had.  So you were born and we were so happy to see you.”

The small girl nods.  She imagines her parents with a big bag of goodies, like the bright red stocking that holds candies and toys on Christmas morning.  They are sorting through the toys picking the very best ones for her.

Father looks at her, and continues.  “Well, then we had a little surprise.  We found out another baby was coming.  We did not know he was coming.  So, we looked at what we had left.  We gave him a good sense of humor, a beautiful smile.  But we did not have as many talents left for him, because we had already given them to you.  This is why you must be a good sister.  Your brother is slow, and he cannot learn things as easily as you.  You have to help him and be patient with him.  Okay?”

She is outraged.  She imagines a brain, a big brain, being cut into unequal parts by her parents.  She sees the large piece of brain being lowered into her head, while the small peanut size brain goes into her brother’s head.  “But that’s not fair!”

They are contrite.  “We didn’t know this would happen.  We’re sorry.  It’s not your fault; we made a mistake.  Sorry.  Be a good sister now.”

She is stunned.  At that moment she resolves to never fight with her brother again.  She will give him the biggest piece of cake, the best and juiciest bits of meat. She will let him choose his favorite toys from her Christmas stocking and let him play with whatever he wants.  She will be a good sister and she will help him learn and catch up with her.  She owes it to him.  She understands suddenly why the same things that come so easily to her are so difficult for him to grasp.  She has been given goods that don’t belong to her.  Her brain is not her own; it is on loan.  Whatever she has achieved, whatever she will achieve, is at his expense.



Writter: Nina C.


The Monster In The Wardrobe

The Monster In The Wardrobe

There was once a boy who was afraid of the dark. He thought that when it was dark his bedroom filled up with monsters. But there came a time when he was too old to be allowed to keep sleeping with the light on.

That first night he was paralysed with fear, his mind full of monsters. So much so, that he went over to his wardrobe to get a torch. But when he opened the wardrobe door he came face to face with a monster, and he let out the loudest scream in the world.

The monster took a step backwards, grabbed its multicoloured hair with its tentacles and… started crying! The monster cried for so long that the boy’s shock and fear subsided. He calmed the monster as much as he could, and started talking to him, asking him why he was crying, and what he was doing there.

The monster told him he lived in the wardrobe, but almost never went out, because he was afraid of the boy. When the boy asked him why, the monster told him the boy’s face seemed to him the most horrible thing he’d ever seen with eyes, ears and a nose. The boy felt exactly the same way about the monster, who had an enormous head full of mouths and hair.

The two of them talked so much that they became quite friendly, and they realised that both of them had been afraid of the same thing: the unknown. To lose their fear all they had to do was get to know each other. Together they travelled the world, seeing lions, tigers, crocodiles, dragons… It was the first time either of them had seen such creatures, but they made the effort to get to know them, and ended up dispelling their fear, and becoming friends.

And, although his parents weren’t too happy, because they thought he was too old to still believe in monsters, the truth of it was that all kinds of creatures visited the boy’s bedroom each night. And, instead of fearing them he had learned to get to know them and befriend them.

Joan d’Arc

At the age of 13, a French peasant girl named Joan D’Arc began hearing voices and having visions. The voices told her to go on an important mission to save France. It was the 1400s, and England was occupying much of France, forcing many French people to leave their homes.

The voices in Joan’s head felt like they were divine. Joan was convinced that God was telling her to save her beloved country. The voices gave her a specific mission: save France by ridding it of invaders and make Charles, the eldest son of the former king, the new king.

As part of Joan’s mission, she also took a vow of chastity. When her father tried to arrange a marriage for her at age 16, she convinced local courts that the match was not suitable.

At the time, a popular prophecy foretold a virgin saving France. Joan claimed to be that virgin, but only a few believed her. Even so, she was determined to speak with Charles herself and convince him of her mission.

Joan who couldn’t even read or write, promised Charles that if he gave her an army, he would become King of France. Against the advice of his counselors and advisors, Charles gave a teenage girl an army of men.

In March of 1429, Joan rode into battle wearing white armor and riding a white horse. Miraculously, under Joan’s leadership the enemy retreated. Soon all of France knew about Joan and her divine mission to save France. As she promised, Charles VII was later crowned King of France.

Unfortunately, in the eyes of some, Joan had become too powerful. King Charles thought that because the French people saw her as holy, she was a threat to his power. In the spring of 1430, the king ordered Joan to lead an army once again, but this time she wasn’t embarking on her own divine mission, she was simply following the king’s orders. In a terrible twist of fate, she was captured by the enemy and held hostage, facing more than 70 criminal accusations including witchcraft.

During her trial, 19-year-old Joan refused to speak and things took a turn for the worst. The jurors were infuriated and sentenced her to death claiming that instead of communicating with God, Joan was actually a dark witch.

A few days later she was taken to the middle of the town square and burned at the stake.

However, in death Joan was still powerful. Many French believed that her mission truly had been divine and were enraged that the English had burned her alive. This fueled France’s rebellion against England.

In 1920, the pope granted Joan D’Arc sainthood.

Message To The Future

In 1914, Richard Platz, a 20-year-old son of a baker was hiking when he threw a message in a bottle into the Baltic Sea. Little did he know that it would take over a century before anyone would read his message. Earlier this year, a fisherman named Konrad Fischer pulled the beer bottle out of the ocean.

The message in the bottle was mostly unreadable, but there was an address, which led researchers to Richard Platz. Handwriting samples were compared, and they confirmed that Platz was the author. These researchers tracked down Platz’s granddaughter, 62-year-old Angela Erdmann. Richard Platz died in 1946 before Angela was born, so this message in a bottle was an amazing chance for her to learn about the grandfather she never met. “That was a pretty moving moment. Tears rolled down my cheek,” she said.

If Richard Platz’s message had almost completely degraded over the past 101 years, how can we possibly send messages further into the future? Scientists at a nuclear waste storage facility in New Mexico are struggling with this question. When it is full and can no longer hold any more poisonous waste, it will be closed. The problem is how to warn future generations not to open it.

This storage facility is 600 meters underground, but what if the people of the future one day decide to dig there? Imagine ten thousand years into the future after some apocalypse, when the history of our civilization is lost. Today the international language is English, but language is always changing. We can barely understand the English of just 1,000 years ago. How could we possibly communicate with a culture that far in the future?

Communicating through architecture has been one suggestion. Fields of giant spikes have been considered to scare people away, but that might backfire and encourage people to explore it. Symbols have also been considered, but everything has the potential for misinterpretation. Even a skull and crossbones, the modern symbol for death and poison, was once used as a symbol of rebirth. The current plan includes a message warning people to stay away in 6 languages, and a simple drawing of a screaming man similar to Munch’s famous painting, The Scream. Let’s hope that people of the future won’t think the messages are a trick to hide buried treasure.

The lump of gold

Paul was a very rich man, but he never spent any of his money.

He was scared that someone would steal it.

He pretended to be poor and wore dirty old clothes.

People laughed at him, but he didn’t care.

He only cared about his money.

One day, he bought a big lump of gold.

He hid it in a hole by a tree.

Every night, he went to the hole to look at his treasure.

He sat and he looked.

‘No one will ever find my gold!’ he said.

But one night, a thief saw Paul looking at his gold.

And when Paul went home, the thief picked up the lump of gold, slipped it into his bag and ran away!

The next day, Paul went to look at his gold, but it wasn’t there.

It had disappeared!

Paul cried and cried!

He cried so loud that a wise old man heard him.

He came to help.

Paul told him the sad tale of the stolen lump of gold.

‘Don’t worry,’ he said.

‘Get a big stone and put it in the hole by the tree.’

‘What?’ said Paul.


‘What did you do with your lump of gold?’

‘I sat and looked at it every day,’ said Paul.

‘Exactly,’ said the wise old man.

‘You can do exactly the same with a stone.’

Paul listened, thought for a moment and then said, ‘Yes, you’re right. I’ve been very silly. I don’t need a lump of gold to be happy!’

Cut In Half

For Jews and Christians, the parable of King Solomon and the baby is a famous one. Two women came to the king fighting over the same baby. They both claimed to be the baby’s mother and asked the king to be the judge. Solomon said the only fair thing to do would be to cut the baby in half. One woman agreed to the plan, but the other refused. She was horrified at the idea and said she would give the baby to the other woman in order to save the infant’s life. The wise king Solomon heard this response and knew that he had found the baby’s true mother.

The parable of Solomon and the baby is a cross-cultural story. In fact, there is an almost identical Buddhist parable. Before the Buddha became the Buddha, he lived many past lives. In one of these past lives, he was a wise sage. Two women came to the sage arguing over who was the baby’s true mother. The sage said the only fair thing to do was to play tug of war. He drew a line on the ground and told one woman to grab the baby’s head and the other to grab the baby’s feet. The women were told to pull the baby to their side of the line. The winner would get the baby. Of course, the baby screamed out, and, of course, the true mother showed her true colors when she gave up her claim on the baby in order to keep the baby from getting hurt.

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The Strange Tale Of Doctor Dog

A strange tale about a sick girl, her loving father and a doctor dog.

Far up in the mountains of the Province of Hunan in the central part of China, there once lived in a small village a rich gentleman who had only one child. This girl, like the daughter of Kwan-yu in the story of the Great Bell, was the very joy of her father’s life.

Now Mr. Min, for that was this gentleman’s name, was famous throughout the whole district for his learning, and, as he was also the owner of much property, he spared no effort to teach Honeysuckle the wisdom of the sages, and to give her everything she craved. Of course this was enough to spoil most children, but Honeysuckle was not at all like other children. As sweet as the flower from which she took her name, she listened to her father’s slightest command, and obeyed without ever waiting to be told a second time.

Her father often bought kites for her, of every kind and shape. There were fish, birds, butterflies, lizards and huge dragons, one of which had a tail more than thirty feet long. Mr. Min was very skilful in flying these kites for little Honeysuckle, and so naturally did his birds and butterflies circle round and hover about in the air that almost any little western boy would have been deceived and said, “Why, there is a real bird, and not a kite at all!” Then again, he would fasten a queer little instrument to the string, which made a kind of humming noise, as he waved his hand from side to side.

“It is the wind singing, Daddy,” cried Honeysuckle, clapping her hands with joy; “singing a kite-song to both of us.” Sometimes, to teach his little darling a lesson if she had been the least naughty, Mr. Min would fasten queerly twisted scraps of paper, on which were written many Chinese words, to the string of her favourite kite.

“What are you doing, Daddy?” Honeysuckle would ask. “What can those queer-looking papers be?”

“On every piece is written a sin that we have done.”

“What is a sin, Daddy?”

“Oh, when Honeysuckle has been naughty; that is a sin!” he answered gently. “Your old nurse is afraid to scold you, and if you are to grow up to be a good woman, Daddy must teach you what is right.”

Then Mr. Min would send the kite up high—high over the house-tops, even higher than the tall Pagoda on the hillside. When all his cord was let out, he would pick up two sharp stones, and, handing them to Honeysuckle, would say, “Now, daughter, cut the string, and the wind will carry away the sins that are written down on the scraps of paper.”

“But, Daddy, the kite is so pretty. Mayn’t we keep our sins a little longer?” she would innocently ask.

“No, child; it is dangerous to hold on to one’s sins. Virtue is the foundation of happiness,” he would reply sternly, choking back his laughter at her question. “Make haste and cut the cord.”

So Honeysuckle, always obedient—at least with her father—would saw the string in two between the sharp stones, and with a childish cry of despair would watch her favourite kite, blown by the wind, sail farther and farther away, until at last, straining her eyes, she could see it sink slowly to the earth in some far-distant meadow.

“Now laugh and be happy,” Mr. Min would say, “for your sins are all gone. See that you don’t get a new supply of them.”

Honeysuckle was also fond of seeing the Punch and Judy show, for, you must know, this old-fashioned amusement for children was enjoyed by little folks in China, perhaps three thousand years before your great-grandfather was born. It is even said that the great Emperor, Mu, when he saw these little dancing images for the first time, was greatly enraged at seeing one of them making eyes at his favourite wife. He ordered the showman to be put to death, and it was with difficulty the poor fellow persuaded his Majesty that the dancing puppets were not really alive at all, but only images of cloth and clay.

No wonder then Honeysuckle liked to see Punch and Judy if the Son of Heaven himself had been deceived by their queer antics into thinking them real people of flesh and blood.

But we must hurry on with our story, or some of our readers will be asking, “But where is Dr. Dog? Are you never coming to the hero of this tale?”

One day when Honeysuckle was sitting inside a shady pavilion that overlooked a tiny fish-pond, she was suddenly seized with a violent attack of colic. Frantic with pain, she told a servant to summon her father, and then without further ado, she fell over in a faint upon the ground.

When Mr. Min reached his daughter’s side, she was still unconscious. After sending for the family physician to come post haste, he got his daughter to bed, but although she recovered from her fainting fit, the extreme pain continued until the poor girl was almost dead from exhaustion.

Now, when the learned doctor arrived and peered at her from under his gigantic spectacles, he could not discover the cause of her trouble. However, like some of our western medical men, he did not confess his ignorance, but proceeded to prescribe a huge dose of boiling water, to be followed a little later by a compound of pulverized deer’s horn and dried toadskin.

Poor Honeysuckle lay in agony for three days, all the time growing weaker and weaker from loss of sleep. Every great doctor in the district had been summoned for consultation; two had come from Changsha, the chief city of the province, but all to no avail. It was one of those cases that seem to be beyond the power of even the most learned physicians.

In the hope of receiving the great reward offered by the desperate father, these wise men searched from cover to cover in the great Chinese Cyclopedia of Medicine, trying in vain to find a method of treating the unhappy maiden. There was even thought of calling in a certain foreign physician from England, who was in a distant city, and was supposed, on account of some marvellous cures he had brought to pass, to be in direct league with the devil. However, the city magistrate would not allow Mr. Min to call in this outsider, for fear trouble might be stirred up among the people.

Mr. Min sent out a proclamation in every direction, describing his daughter’s illness, and offering to bestow on her a handsome dowry and give her in marriage to whoever should be the means of bringing her back to health and happiness. He then sat at her bedside and waited, feeling that he had done all that was in his power. There were many answers to his invitation. Physicians, old and young, came from every part of the Empire to try their skill, and when they had seen poor Honeysuckle and also the huge pile of silver shoes her father offered as a wedding gift, they all fought with might and main for her life; some having been attracted by her great beauty and excellent reputation, others by the tremendous reward.

But, alas for poor Honeysuckle! Not one of all those wise men could cure her! One day, when she was feeling a slight change for the better, she called her father, and, clasping his hand with her tiny one said, “Were it not for your love I would give up this hard fight and pass over into the dark wood; or, as my old grandmother says, fly up into the Western Heavens. For your sake, because I am your only child, and especially because you have no son, I have struggled hard to live, but now I feel that the next attack of that dreadful pain will carry me away. And oh, I do not want to die!”

Here Honeysuckle wept as if her heart would break, and her old father wept too, for the more she suffered the more he loved her.

Just then her face began to turn pale. “It is coming! The pain is coming, father! Very soon I shall be no more. Good-bye, father! Good-bye; good——.” Here her voice broke and a great sob almost broke her father’s heart. He turned away from her bedside; he could not bear to see her suffer. He walked outside and sat down on a rustic bench; his head fell upon his bosom, and the great salt tears trickled down his long grey beard.

As Mr. Min sat thus overcome with grief, he was startled at hearing a low whine. Looking up he saw, to his astonishment, a shaggy mountain dog about the size of a Newfoundland. The huge beast looked into the old man’s eyes with so intelligent and human an expression, with such a sad and wistful gaze, that the greybeard addressed him, saying, “Why have you come? To cure my daughter?”

The dog replied with three short barks, wagging his tail vigorously and turning toward the half-opened door that led into the room where the girl lay.

By this time, willing to try any chance whatever of reviving his daughter, Mr. Min bade the animal follow him into Honeysuckle’s apartment. Placing his forepaws upon the side of her bed, the dog looked long and steadily at the wasted form before him and held his ear intently for a moment over the maiden’s heart. Then, with a slight cough he deposited from his mouth into her outstretched hand, a tiny stone. Touching her wrist with his right paw, he motioned to her to swallow the stone.

“Yes, my dear, obey him,” counselled her father, as she turned to him inquiringly, “for good Dr. Dog has been sent to your bedside by the mountain fairies, who have heard of your illness and who wish to invite you back to life again.”

Without further delay the sick girl, who was by this time almost burned away by the fever, raised her hand to her lips and swallowed the tiny charm. Wonder of wonders! No sooner had it passed her lips than a miracle occurred. The red flush passed away from her face, the pulse resumed its normal beat, the pains departed from her body, and she arose from the bed well and smiling.

Flinging her arms about her father’s neck, she cried out in joy, “Oh, I am well again; well and happy; thanks to the medicine of the good physician.”

The noble dog barked three times, wild with delight at hearing these tearful words of gratitude, bowed low, and put his nose in Honeysuckle’s outstretched hand.

Mr. Min, greatly moved by his daughter’s magical recovery, turned to the strange physician, saying, “Noble Sir, were it not for the form you have taken, for some unknown reason, I would willingly give four times the sum in silver that I promised for the cure of the girl, into your possession. As it is, I suppose you have no use for silver, but remember that so long as we live, whatever we have is yours for the asking, and I beg of you to prolong your visit, to make this the home of your old age—in short, remain here for ever as my guest—nay, as a member of my family.”

The dog barked thrice, as if in assent. From that day he was treated as an equal by father and daughter. The many servants were commanded to obey his slightest whim, to serve him with the most expensive food on the market, to spare no expense in making him the happiest and best-fed dog in all the world. Day after day he ran at Honeysuckle’s side as she gathered flowers in her garden, lay down before her door when she was resting, guarded her Sedan chair when she was carried by servants into the city. In short, they were constant companions; a stranger would have thought they had been friends from childhood.

One day, however, just as they were returning from a journey outside her father’s compound, at the very instant when Honeysuckle was alighting from her chair, without a moment’s warning, the huge animal dashed past the attendants, seized his beautiful mistress in his mouth, and before anyone could stop him, bore her off to the mountains. By the time the alarm was sounded, darkness had fallen over the valley and as the night was cloudy no trace could be found of the dog and his fair burden.

Once more the frantic father left no stone unturned to save his daughter. Huge rewards were offered, bands of woodmen scoured the mountains high and low, but, alas, no sign of the girl could be found! The unfortunate father gave up the search and began to prepare himself for the grave. There was nothing now left in life that he cared for—nothing but thoughts of his departed daughter. Honeysuckle was gone for ever.

“Alas!” said he, quoting the lines of a famous poet who had fallen into despair:

“My whiting hair would make an endless rope,
Yet would not measure all my depth of woe.”

Several long years passed by; years of sorrow for the ageing man, pining for his departed daughter. One beautiful October day he was sitting in the very same pavilion where he had so often sat with his darling. His head was bowed forward on his breast, his forehead was lined with grief. A rustling of leaves attracted his attention. He looked up. Standing directly in front of him was Dr. Dog, and lo, riding on his back, clinging to the animal’s shaggy hair, was Honeysuckle, his long-lost daughter; while standing near by were three of the handsomest boys he had ever set eyes upon!

“Ah, my daughter! My darling daughter, where have you been all these years?” cried the delighted father, pressing the girl to his aching breast. “Have you suffered many a cruel pain since you were snatched away so suddenly? Has your life been filled with sorrow?”

“Only at the thought of your grief,” she replied, tenderly, stroking his forehead with her slender fingers; “Only at the thought of your suffering; only at the thought of how I should like to see you every day and tell you that my husband was kind and good to me. For you must know, dear father, this is no mere animal that stands beside you. This Dr. Dog, who cured me and claimed me as his bride because of your promise, is a great magician. He can change himself at will into a thousand shapes. He chooses to come here in the form of a mountain beast so that no one may penetrate the secret of his distant palace.”

“Then he is your husband?” faltered the old man, gazing at the animal with a new expression on his wrinkled face.

“Yes; my kind and noble husband, the father of my three sons, your grandchildren, whom we have brought to pay you a visit.”

“And where do you live?”

“In a wonderful cave in the heart of the great mountains; a beautiful cave whose walls and floors are covered with crystals, and encrusted with sparkling gems. The chairs and tables are set with jewels; the rooms are lighted by a thousand glittering diamonds. Oh, it is lovelier than the palace of the Son of Heaven himself! We feed of the flesh of wild deer and mountain goats, and fish from the clearest mountain stream. We drink cold water out of golden goblets, without first boiling it, for it is purity itself. We breathe fragrant air that blows through forests of pine and hemlock. We live only to love each other and our children, and oh, we are so happy! And you, father, you must come back with us to the great mountains and live there with us the rest of your days, which, the gods grant, may be very many.”

The old man pressed his daughter once more to his breast and fondled the children, who clambered over him rejoicing at the discovery of a grandfather they had never seen before.

From Dr. Dog and his fair Honeysuckle are sprung, it is said, the well-known race of people called the Yus, who even now inhabit the mountainous regions of the Canton and Hunan provinces. It is not for this reason, however, that we have told the story here, but because we felt sure every reader would like to learn the secret of the dog that cured a sick girl and won her for his bride.