Once upon a time there lived a man who spent most of his days and nights in a cozy den, surrounded by fine furniture, and a full library. His desk was covered in papers, drawings, facts and figures hastily scribbled on scraps of parchment. His room, during the morning hours, had windows that let in an abundance of natural light. And through those windows, albeit a bit dustily, you could see an ancient forest of oak and a deep gray lake. What was less discernible, however, was just beyond the trees, and that was an incredibly high wall the man had built around his estate, to keep everyone else at a distance. The man desired a quiet and peaceful life, and he found that, in general, other people kept him from his work…the honorable pursuit of thinking GREAT thoughts.
Thinking GREAT thoughts had been the man’s job for years now. He had notebooks full of them, pages upon pages of deep, wonderful thoughts about all sorts of things. But no one else had ever seen them. He kept them, like so many other things, in boxes, scattered about his home.
At this particular moment in time, the woman was yet again wandering through the forest. And she was so very tired. The world had promised her so very much and her heart had been so very full of joy and anticipation at the adventures she would one day have. Her heart had been so very full of love for every being in the world. Now… she felt empty, and more alone than she ever had. And perhaps a bit pathetic. It was really a very good thing that the woman had the ability to laugh at herself.
But onward she walked. There was nothing else to do but walk. Well, that is, until she encountered the wall.
“That’s a mighty big wall.” She thought.
Well, what would you think? I mean, really. Did you expect something more poetic? It was a big wall. It wasn’t an interesting wall. It wasn’t brightly colored or built of marble or crystal. It was fairly ordinary to look at, it was just really big.
The woman paced back and forth at the bottom of the wall, looking for a door… or a window… or even a crack big enough to wedge herself through. It seemed to go on for miles and she just wasn’t in the mood to keep walking until she found a corner. You never know what’s behind a corner. Your life could change in an instant the moment you round a corner. Corners are not things that you can trust.
But solid walls, those were trustworthy. They always stayed the same. No changes. Solid. The woman needed a bit of solid. She decided that she was fond of the wall.
But still, she felt compelled to see what was behind it. Curiosity has never actually killed at cat.
There was only one thing to do, and that was to scale the wall. First, she attempted to grab hold of the edges of the stone blocks. But, they were too small, and her fingers felt too big to grab hold.
Then, she tried running and jumping up the side of the wall… to no avail. Admittedly, it wasn’t actually the brightest thing she’d ever done. And she laughed at her own foolishness.
After many such attempts, the woman leaned up against the wall, and slowly slid to the ground, feeling rather defeated. A few tears were shed. She may have bemoaned her existence a little. Then she told herself to knock it off, get up, and try again.
This time, she looked around her and suddenly noticed that not all hope was lost.
There was a tree; a tall, beautiful old oak tree with long graceful branches, and the uppermost branch hung close to the top of the wall. After spending so much time learning to be an acrobat (to impress a rather ungrateful and alcoholic bard in a tale already told) she knew that she was more than capable of scaling the tree. The leap from the uppermost branch to the top of that wall, however… now that was intimidating.
Once the woman got an idea into her head, she could never let it go. Once she had found a new happy thought, a bit of hope, she wasn’t about to toss it away.
So she climbed. She climbed. She climbed, scraping a knee in the process and tearing a hole in her skirt, but still she climbed and soon she was on the uppermost branch of that old oak tree. Trembling, she edged her way across the limb. One false move and she would fall to a rather messy and certainly uncomfortable death. She paused at the end of the branch, wondering if this was her final moment.
Faith. That is what she needed. Faith. Only faith and a bit of optimism would do, and well, actually, a really big leap, in the literal sense. She took a deep breath and jumped.
That was a close one. She barely grabbed a hold of the top of the wall with her hands and scrabbled her way up over the parapet. For a second, she was convinced that all was for naught and that she would definitely buy the farm right then and there. But by some miracle, she made it.
Happy Thought 1: She climbed the tree.
Happy Thought 2: She made it to the end of the uppermost branch.
Happy Thought 3: She leaped to the top of the wall, perhaps not as gracefully as she hoped, but she did it.
Filled with three new happy thoughts, she raised her arms to the sky and yelled a nice, strong, full, joyous yell. She knew at that moment, that she could accomplish anything, absolutely anything! The world was her playground! She surveyed the beautiful land on the other side of the wall, the lush grass, the trees bearing fruit, the flowers and sparkling fountains, the remainder of the old oak forest and a deep, peaceful, gray lake. “I could get to like it here,” she thought.
Handily enough, on this side of THE WALL, there was a staircase, which was more convenient, if less pretty, than the old oak tree. She descended from the top of the wall into the beautiful landscape below. She finally felt like a princess, no, I dare say, a queen of an enchanted land.
This did not last long, sadly, as suddenly there was a terrifying rumble, and god-like voice echoed throughout the sky.
“ATTENTION! THIS IS PRIVATE PROPERTY! LEAVE IMMEDIATELY.”
Where did the sound come from? There was no giant trapesing through the countryside these days. She looked up to the sky and saw nothing, not even a beanstalk!
“Um, hello?” She replied.
“ATTENTION! ONCE AGAIN, THIS IS PRIVATE PROPERTY. AWAY WITH YOU! BEGONE!”
The woman was able to trace the source of the sound to a very long pipe which traveled up the side of the wall and ended in the curve of a trumpet. The other end of the pipe seemed to go on for quite a while, through the grass, around trees and fountains, and finally crawling up the side of a stately manor house that she had not noticed until that very moment.
“Well that’s not a very kind welcome.” She replied, rather cheekily. “I would hope that your mother had raised you to have better manners than to treat a guest so poorly. Why don’t you show yourself? I won’t leave until you do.” She sat down on the edge of the wall, pulled an apple from her bag, and took a noisy bite.
A jumble of rather inappropriate words blasted through the trumpet. And she could hear a long, whining squeak as a closed, rusty shutter was wrenched open.
“I told you to go away! This is private property!” Bellowed a shadowy form from inside the manor house.
The woman peered more closely…she could see that it was a man, that he was tall and broad, and had an abundance of curling dark hair. In fact, as she strained her eyes a bit more, he even appeared to be kind of handsome.
“I will happily go away if you would at least be a gentleman and invite me in for a cup of tea!” the woman shouted. “It’s been ages since I had a cup of tea.” That was quite true, in fact she’d had been rather phobic of tea pots ever since that encounter with the boy wizard. She wasn’t sure why she was ready for a cup of tea now, but it seemed to do the trick. A big sigh echoed from the window in the manor house and as she walked closer to the building, she could hear rather loud footsteps stomping down stairs.
The front door opened noisily. And he appeared.
And although she had promised herself never, ever, ever to fall in love at first sight again, she fell. And it was messy. And it was uncomfortable. And for a second she wondered if falling out of the tree would have hurt less.
“Hello.” She said. It wasn’t the most interesting opening line she’d ever delivered, but it was a start.
His brow was furrowed. His eyes almost crossed as he squinted at her.
Then suddenly his eyebrows raised. His mouth dropped open. Overall, it was a look of confusion, more than anything else.
She must have been quite a sight. Her curling auburn hair had long since given up on ever looking respectable. She’d always have burrs and leaves sticking out of wayward tangles. Her clothes had been patched so many times that no one would know what color they’d been to start with. And her teeth were a little crooked, a fact she hid by never smiling with her mouth open.
“Hell…o?” He stammered.
“Aren’t you going to invite me in?” she asked.
“Oh goodness! Certainly, certainly! He replied, bobbing his head up and down politely. My apologies for earlier, I never have visitors.”
“I’m not at all surprised you don’t have visitors! What do you mean by building such a BIG WALL around your house? What if your neighbors needed to borrow a cup of sugar…or some tea… or a bit of milk?”
“I have neighbors?” He asked, still rather confusedly.
“Nevermind.” She said, and she brushed past him, and into the manor house.
The first thing she noticed were the books. She liked a man with books. She always imagined that she’d live in a castle made entirely of books someday.
Then she noticed the boxes. There were boxes on almost every open surface, tables, chairs, mantles, shelves, the floor, stairs… boxes of almost every imaginable style and color.
“What’s with all the boxes?” She asked. She wasn’t very good at beating around the bush.
“Oh! The boxes! Well, that is how I organize all of my very GREAT thoughts! Each idea that I have, each experience I encounter, every person I meet gets put into a box, filed numerically, of course.”
“In…a box?” the woman asked.
“Yes, of course, in a box! That is how I make sense of the world. Everything in order. It’s very simple really. Take you for example, you’re a visitor, so you can go straight into the visitor box. But then again, you’re a ginger, so perhaps you belong in the ginger box? And you’re female…I assume…so maybe in that box? Do you like potatoes? I could put you in the potato-liking box. Oh wait! How old are you? I’m not sure which age box to assign you to.”
“WHOAH! Hold the … (She paused, not entirely sure what one would hold)…trumpet? You can’t assign people to boxes. Boxes are for things and not people! I am an awful lot of things and frankly, I don’t think I will fit into any of your boxes.”
“Nonsense! I’m sure that I can find a box that will fit you. You’re curvy…and fairly attractive, maybe the curvy attractive person box?”
“No! Though thanks for the compliment? (She snapped her fingers and pointed at him.) You’re not half bad yourself except for the whole box thing. Is that really what you want to do with me? Put me into a box? Forget all of the other bits of me and just concentrate on ONE ASPECT? My hair? My body? My age? One box can’t hold all of me and you’ll be missing out on an awful lot of really amazing things if you just look at one thing and ignore everything else! You might find that you enjoy not having me in one box. You might find one day that putting me into one box was the worst mistake you’d ever made! You may regret it until the end of your strangely attractive life!” As she spoke, she backed up slowly, until she found her back to the wall.
The man blinked and stared at the woman.
“You know, you might be right. I think you may absolutely be right. I don’t have just one box for you. You’ll just have to go into them all!”
“In… all the boxes?”
“Yes. In all. Now how to get you parceled up into little bits and pieces? Hmmm…” He turned from her, looking around at the surfaces not covered by boxes and books and GREAT ideas.
The woman then had a pretty GREAT idea of her own… it was time to skedaddle.
“You know, I don’t think I’m in the mood for that tea now. But it was simply lovely to meet you. Maybe we’ll run into one another again some time!”
And the woman edged herself around the wall to the door, sprinted down the stairs, and ran away, never looking back.
Or maybe… that’s not how it ended. Maybe when she pointed out the foolishness of trying to stuff people into boxes based on how they look, or what they like, or their age… maybe he saw that the world was more complicated, and dare I say, more beautiful than that? Maybe he let all of the people out of the boxes, fell head over heels for the woman, and asked her to share his manor?
Or maybe he’s still stacking boxes. That’s my bet, anyway.
The End. (For now)