Friday, February 8, 2013

The Legend of Spyri and Gympi (1)

In the near future, I will be posting here parts of the story Legend of Spyri and Gympi. Critics have advised the author, Korallieam, that this story it is too straightforwardly for children - ie told rather than shown. Korallieam likes it as it is. I just think it's unique. To each his own.

The Legend of Spyri and Gympi - PART 1

Stuart Mendleton was known as the school bully. He was mean, rough and generally disliked, as school bullies usually are. He was a tall, well-built boy, with roughly cut, coarse brown hair and liked to be the centre of attention. Attention was something his parents seldom gave him as they were usually away at work until late. Stuart’s two brothers were already in high school and ignored him, unless he had done something to annoy them.

Andrew Cotton on the other hand, was the Mayor of Thistlowood’s only son – the golden boy, and the town’s folk loved to gossip about what he had been up to next. He was the kind of boy people loved and yet were exasperated by; a thoughtful child with his own unique view of things. Andrew was mature beyond his years, some said. He was the school clown; but he easily held the top marks in class and could hold the other school children spell-bound by his stories and acting or send them into fits of laughter by the songs he was forever making up. If something big was going on in town, you could be sure to find Andrew in the middle of it. You could then easily understand why Stuart’s main aim in life was to make Andrew’s life as miserable as possible.

Today was like every other school day. It was lunchtime and Stuart was out to hunt Andrew down. Of course Andrew knew that and was carefully staying on the other side of the school grounds, hoping to avoid any confrontations. He had some younger children around him, begging him to finish the story he had been telling them the day before.

Being unable to find Andrew after several circuits of the school grounds, Stuart eventually gave up, and began picking on the kids nearest to him. Meanwhile, Andrew had given in to the first graders and sat down to finish the tale of ‘the duck and the fox’. After a while, the sounds of a 2nd grade kid being tormented filtered over to where Andrew was acting out the story. In the middle of being a fox and pretending to follow the duck’s trail with his nose, Andrew suddenly lifted his head, winked at the children around him and began singing.

All the school children knew this song. It was a rousing, marching sort of song that Andrew had made up to spite Stuart. When Andrew sang this song, it meant he was ready for a fight. He couldn’t stand bullying and letting other kids get picked on.

"Mendle’s a-meddling again, once again, once again.
Mendle’s being a coward again, once again, once again.
Picking on other kids is his game,
Mean and nasty,
Fists and growling,
Mendleton will never beat us down,
Beat us down,
Ho, no he won’t!"

Stuart heard the song and grinned wolfishly, shoving the child he’d been tormenting away. He hated the song, but at least he knew that Andrew was coming.

Children around the playground who heard Andrew’s strong voice came to watch and see whether Andrew would win this time. Andrew had never actually won before, at least not against Stuart’s strong fists, but he always had something to say.

“Hello Stuart. You step on another kid by accident again?” Andrew asked, helping the boy up. “You all right, Jamie? A pity he never treads on his own feet, he’s so clumsy, you’d almost expect it of him, wouldn’t you? Such an elephant, never mind, we’d better get out of the way. He’s coming full charge.”

Jamie hurriedly pressed himself into the safety of the crowd, as Andrew just managed to dodge Stuart’s first swing. Jessica Frilby, daughter of Stanton Frilby, the town grocer, took Jamie to the sick bay as evidence of another fight.

Stuart noted Jessica, and reminded himself to do something unobtrusively mean to her next time he met her. Maybe he would trip her up while she was taking a basket of eggs to old Granny Sanders again.

“You were looking for me before weren’t you, Meddleton?” Andrew was asking.

“The name’s Mendleton, you singing sissy!” Stuart growled. “You made a fool of me in class again. Who says I can’t spell, eh? Who says I can’t read? O’ course I can, every sixth grader can!”

Andrew laughed.

“That’s why you’re always at the bottom of the class? Failed sixth grade for the fourth year running now, haven’t you? We’d be quite happy to teach you to read you know.”

All the children laughed. Fancy a sixth grader being unable to read. They knew Stuart had been stupid, but not that stupid. Anyway, who could be bothered teaching that lumbering Neanderthal to read?

Stuart growled and jumped on Andrew. He could too read! He just couldn’t read and spell as well as every other sixth grader.

The watching children all cheered Andrew on and booed Stuart’s every swing, although they had to hurriedly back off every now and then, whenever Stuart made a wild charge in their direction to shut them up.

Miss Williams and Mr Smith came hurrying into the playground, followed by a tagging Jessica Frilby. All the children scattered as Mr Smith roared, “Ok boys! Break it up or I’ll break up you both up!”

Andrew somersaulted backwards and stood on his hands, wagging his toes in mock horror. His shoes had somehow gotten to the other side of the school yard.

“You can’t break me up or Father won’t get to do it himself!”

“That’s enough, Andrew,” Miss Williams said firmly, but with a sigh. “We’ll have to let your parents know. Again. You too, Stuart. Come inside now, both of you.”

“Try and make me,” Stuart challenged, pointing a finger at Andrew who was fetching his far flung shoes. “That – that stuck up, know-it-all, that sissy, can’t even fight me proper like a man and all of you always come and save his soft little butt. He’s always making fun of me and you always pick on me, like it’s my fault!”

“Calm down, Stuart,” Mr Smith said, stepping toward Stuart. “You’re both getting into equal trouble. You realise this is about the twentieth fight the two of you have had this week?”

“The tenth,” Andrew corrected. “This is our tenth fight this week.”

“Tenth then,” Mr Smith glowered at Andrew. “I am thinking that Mr Proctor might suspend the two of you from school soon. I would personally prefer to expel both of you, for this continuous atrocious behaviour. You know you are the role models for the school! Now come!”

Both boys followed Miss Williams and Mr Smith inside. One glowering and angry. The other quiet and rather thoughtful.

Once they were inside the sick bay having their cuts treated before being sent to the principle, Mr Proctor, Miss Williams sighed.

“What will your father say, Andrew?”

“Father?” Andrew blinked and drew himself up ram-rod straight, tilting his head a little to one side, lowering his voice and shaking his head sadly. “Andrew, Andrew, what am I going to do with you son? I’ve told you over and over not to get into fights. Why do you have to grieve your mother like this? One day you are going to grow up and become mayor in my place. We can’t have you getting up and into fights all the time.”

Miss Williams laughed in spite of herself at Andrew’s perfect imitation of his father.

Andrew shrugged and gave an impish grin, “I’m not going to be Mayor of Thistlowood, when I grow up. Stuart is.”

“What did you say, Andrew?” Miss Williams asked in shock. “How can Stuart become mayor, he-he… well, he can’t even…”

Miss Williams trailed off as she remembered that Stuart was in the same room, watching them.

Andrew shrugged. “Stuart will make an excellent mayor when he grows up, that’s all. I won’t be around often enough to be elected to the job.”

“What are you going to become then, Andrew? What will you be when you grow up?”

“Travelling,” Andrew replied shortly, with such an odd look on his face that Miss Williams asked him no further. “I’ll be travelling.”

“You’re a strange child, Andrew,” she said quietly.

“I know,” Andrew laughed, jumping up off his chair. “Let’s go see Mr Proctor now, shall we?”

He started singing his happy song, a song that everyone in town knew well, having heard it from him over and over. This song, compared to the song he used to stir up Stuart, was more quiet and lilting in melody.

“Sun a-shining in the sky,
Looking down on happy flowers,
Watching laughter,
Bathed in warmth,
Singing, dancing,
Wind a-breezing through the trees,
Tickling leafy boughs,
Oh, that life would ever be,
Full of joy and song.”

Miss Williams shook her head and exchanged glances with Mr Smith, as they followed Andrew to the principle’s office. Stuart trailed behind, wondering whether he should be insulted at Andrew saying that he would be mayor when he grew up or whether it was supposed to be a compliment. That boy had to be raving mad. Absolute nuts.

“Andrew Cotton. Stuart Mendleton,” said Mr Proctor’s slow voice. “You have both been very disruptive this past week, and it seems you still have not been able to sort out your differences in a gentlemanly manner. Neither of you are actually very bad boys, so I have been extremely lenient with you both, but enough is enough. Starting this Monday, you will be suspended for a week. I do not expect to see either of you in school until Monday the 14th of May. Is that understood?”

“Yes sir,” both boys answered.

“It is a shame, Andrew, that you have not been able to uphold your father’s good name. Your actions allow others to talk about him behind his back. You know this and so do I. Now go back to class, both of you. I must write a letter to both of your parents.”

“Yes sir.”

Stuart shuffled out of the room with his hand in his pockets, indifferent to the punishment. He would have a whole week to do what he wanted and not have to go to school. He didn’t care what his parents would say. His father would cane him again, but that would be it.

Andrew was still very thoughtful, but before he closed the door, he turned around with a look that seemed not unlike relief and said quietly, “Thank you, Mr Proctor.”

Mr Proctor looked at the closed door, slightly confused, as he listened to the whistled ‘I hear the band far away’ fade down the corridor. In all of his school life, Andrew had never thanked him for punishment of any sort. He had always taken any punishment quietly, that much was true, but he had always been afraid to hear what his father would say when he got home. He had always had a look of suspense on his face. Today, he had been as calm as – as calm as… strangely enough to Mr Proctor, it seemed like the same calmness or stillness that could be seen before a large storm. Which was indeed, a strange way of putting it, yet it seemed to mirror Andrew’s mood. He had been as calm as nature before a storm.

Andrew and Stuart entered the classroom, where Miss Williams had everyone doing maths exercises.

“Come in and take your seats, Andrew, Stuart,” she said. “We’re just doing some fractions and decimals.”

Andrew and Stuart sat down and looked at the sheets of maths before them.

“What did you get this time, Andrew?” Tony, Andrew’s desk mate whispered.

“A week’s suspension.”

“Whoa! Your dad’s not gonna be too happy when you get home tonight, is he?”


“How can you be so… you know, calm, about it?”

Andrew shrugged.

“Tony!” called Miss Williams. “Stop bothering Andrew, and get on with your work”

“Yes, Miss Williams.”

But too late, others had overheard the whispers, and before long, the whole class, then the whole school knew about it. They felt sorry for Andrew and agreed that it was all Stuart’s fault.

As the home bell rang, Miss Williams gave Andrew and Stuart a pile of papers to do as homework over their suspension period.

“We’re not going to get these done, you know Miss,” Andrew had said, still with that strange preoccupied look on his face.

Then they had gone home, with Andrew singing his usual walking song and some of the younger children marching in a line behind him, playing follow the leader.

“Step out, step out!
Left and right,
And left and right!
Marching, walking,
Swinging arms.
High and low,
Merrily ho!
Stepping out in day so bright
Or rain with slight,
Clouded sky,
Or shimmered sigh,
Left and right,
And left and right!
Swinging high and low,
Merrily ho!”

Andrew and Stuart received what punishment they had expected from their parents. Andrew lost all pocket money for a month and Stuart, a few quick swipes of the cane. As expected, both received a large amount of disappointment from their parents.

“Why can’t you uphold our family’s good name?” Andrew’s father sighed.
“Why can’t you just pull up your socks and be useful for once?” Stuart’s father growled.

It was over the week end that things changed. It was announced there would be war and by Monday, the whole town’s talk was about the war. Everyone had forgotten about Andrew and Stuart. The border was only a few townships away. The children were forbidden outside the town’s borders.
By Tuesday, most of the men had received their summons to join the army.
On Wednesday, many women waved a tearful farewell to their men. A handful of men, such as Andrew and Stuart’s fathers had not yet received their summons. Jessica’s father was considered unfit for service, being lame in one foot and so could not be go.
Thursday was a quiet day. Everyone was sad and silent. The last few men finally received their summons to join the army.
But it was on Friday, before they had left home, that the war came to Thistlowood. It was sudden and quite unexpected. That the enemy would have pushed through this far, without their hearing of it!

It was about 10 o’clock in the morning, and all the town’s folk were going about their usual work, when a man suddenly ran into the town shouting. He was followed by several enemy soldiers.

The enemy army had surrounded Thistlowood and everyone, even the bewildered children in school were called to the town hall for a roll call. Andrew and Stuart were there too.

The captain that had taken now taken control of the town took good note of all the different people and their jobs. This town was expected to be some distance from the front lines and his orders were to quell any resistance but keep the town intact.

“I am Captain Isenskowl and from now on, this town will listen to me,” was what he said.

And that was that. Andrew’s father could no longer leave town to join the war effort, he was already in it. The entire town was told that food, water and electricity would be rationed from now on. Resistance was futile and would be put down immediately.

Mayor Timothy Cotton and a few others including Mr Mendleton openly opposed Captain Isenskowl’s rule and meagre rations. They agreed that they would fight to the death and the town’s folk supported them. The enemy would never take their town!

That night, was the Night of Burning. Someone had informed the enemy of which houses belonged to the main rebels. One boy had seen the informer, but things happened too quickly, and before he could tell anyone, it was too late.

Many people died or were lost and nobody knew what had become of them. Men, women, young and old. The town was in chaos… and Captain Isenskowl established the town as an enemy base.

(stay tuned for part 2)