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For The Strength of Youth

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Little Miss Liberty
    Steven O'Dell
The Christmas Dog
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Barnaby and the Zilligong
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The Greatest Christmas Gift Ever
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Most Recent Chapters
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    Ch. 44 The Wisdom of the Wise
Submitted by Steven ODell on 16 June 2012 - 5:56pm. | | | | | |

Barnaby and the Zilligong
(C) 2012 Steven G. O'Dell

Barnaby Brundage set out one Fall,
sailing his Yim in a raging squall.
He had no fear, for he needed to know
the answer to questions that bothered him so.
He'd tried all he could and didn't succeed,
but wouldn't give up; he'd find it indeed.

When all in his town had thought and were wrong,
they said, "No one knows but the Zilligong."
For the Zilligong had brains that made him real smart,
but far more than that, the Zilligong had heart.
And if answers were needed, then everyone knew
the Zilligong had them, they knew that was true.

As no one in town could answer his query,
young Barnaby left in somewhat a hurry.
He packed only things that would get him to where
the answers must lie, to hear if he dare,
for sometimes the truth will hurt, as he knew,
but nothing but truth for Barnaby would do.

The question he had that weighed on him heavy
was why there's no peace, when all seemed so ready.
They all said they wanted to be happy with neighbors,
but it seemed now and then they resorted to sabers.
And no one had peace while such ruckus ensued,
but no one had answers on just what to do.

The Zilligong had, the story was told,
once lived among them, through heat and through cold.
And everyone sought him for answers to questions
that they could not answer, to learn all the lessons
that made life more happy when folks live together,
that made them smile in all kinds of weather.

At some point in the past, and no one knew why,
the Zilligong packed bags, then waved them goodbye.
He said not a word as he went on his way,
and no one knew how long or where he would stay.
But one thing was sure, they all worried now,
when questions were quested, who would answer and how?

So Barnaby Brundage, alone and determined,
set out on his mission, through whales or through vermin.
His Yim sometimes rose and his Yim sometimes fell
on waves of the sea that had fishy smell.
The fishes jumped and the fishes splashed
alongside the Yim they dithered and dashed.

And sometime about the third day, he guessed,
Barnaby's Yim with a bump came to rest
and Barnaby woke to the sound of waves,
both crashing and bashing, but knew he was safe.
And looking up high to the mountain ahead,
he thought on the climb with some sense of dread.

But Barnaby knew, at the top of that peak
lay the answers that he had come so far to seek.
The Zilligong lived there, sure as could be
and the Zilligong, after all, was whom he must see.
With a huff and a puff, the boy pushed forth
and climbed where he could, for all he was worth.

His climbing was long and his climbing was hard,
but Barnaby knew he must push on, though tired.
More puffing and huffing and wheezing and more.
He had no idea what ahead lay in store.
But he knew if he stopped then he never would know
the answer he'd traveled so far to take home.

When Barnaby thought he could just go no further,
he gathered his wits, renewed all his fervor,
and taking a breath, gathered courage to climb
the last several feet to get there in time.
The sun was just rising, he'd climbed all the night,
and Barnaby Brundage was near out of fight.

And as the boy fell in a heap at the top,
stopping 'cause this was where he must stop,
gasping and groaning from the strain of the climb
he'd made getting here, with no thought in mind
but asking for truth he knew must be near;
he'd conquered his worries, his shyness and fear.

And as he lay there, too weak yet to move,
he felt a soft touch on his shoulder, in truth.
He lifted his gaze to behold such a face
as never he'd seen in all his young days.
A word hit his ear that calmed his concern--
"Welcome, my boy! Some answers you've earned."

Barnaby knew that this must be
the Zilligong that he'd come to see.
The Zilligong gave him some water, some bread,
then patted the young boy on top of his head.
"Just rest here a moment, you'll need it indeed,
and later we'll talk of the answers you seek."

"Yes, I do need to rest here awhile."
"Then please do," the Zilligong said with a smile.
So Barnaby sat and he drank and he ate
just as much as he could from his overstuffed plate
and when he had eaten and drunk to his fill,
he lay back and slept as exhausted boys will.

When Barnaby woke he heard music so sweet
that his ears wiggled happily as he tapped his feet.
The Zilligong played on a Tweedler and Frump,
squeezing on one while the other he pumped.
It made the boy sing at the top of his lungs
and dancing and twirling, he jumped and he spun.

When at last all the music had faded away,
Barnaby found himself having to say,
"I've never heard music that sounded so nice.
It made my heart leap twice as high as the sky.
Did you play such music when living in town
or learn it up here, not when you were down?"

"I did it down there, but the folks wouldn't dance.
I did it each day and I gave them the chance,
but they didn't hear me on Tweedler and Frump.
They went on their way, looking down in the dump.
Watching their sadness just made me sad, too,
so moving up here was the wise thing to do."

Barnaby looked at the ground as a tear
escaped from his eye and it fell very near.
Hitting the ground and soaking in fast,
he knew in an instant that sadness can't last,
for where it had fallen, so teary and wet,
up sprang a Borple plant, radiant and red.

Surprise covered Barnaby, from head to toe,
"A tear hits the gound and Borple plants grow?"
"Oh, yes," said the Zilligong, dancing for glee,
"It means that you're heart's like the one that's in me.
It means you have wisdom, your answers are sure,
for deep in your heart lies just what will cure."

"But I'm just a boy, so how could I know
the answers they need and which way to go?"
The Zilligong gently touched Barnaby's cheek.
"The fact that you ask shows wisdom, you see.
The others don't ask, they just carry on,
ignoring the questions 'til wisdom is gone."

Barnaby now scratched his head for a few,
he wrinkled his brow, thinking, 'What shall I do?'
Then something inside him clicked nearly out loud
and Barnaby smile, then laughed and was proud.
"Because I just ask, it leads me to learn,
'cause I never let opportunity burn!"

"That's right!" said the Zilligong, proud as can be.
"Now you have wisdom, now you can see.
The fact that you ask will cause you to find
the answers you seek, expanding your mind.
The others don't ask, so how can they know
when they won't go looking--they won't; oh, no-no!"

And with that the Zilligong stood up so tall
on his toes so high the boy thought he might fall.
He reached for the sky and he smiled at the sun
in a way that told the boy it was just fun.
And dancing in circles, then jumping in glee,
the Zilligong said, "Now you can be me."

"What?!" cried the boy, "How can that be?
I can't be you and you can't be me."
The Zilligong lifted the boy in a hug,
he turned 'round in circles, then reached for a jug.
"Let's drink now some Gurka juice. You'll love it, I'm sure.
It's great with the Borple fruit and this juice is pure."

And Barnaby said, as he turned up his snout,
"Won't you please tell me what this is about?"
The Zilligong looked down with love in his eyes,
a look that was deep and he couldn't disguise.
"Zilligong isn't a name, don't you see?
It is a title; that's how you'll be me."

"I'll be the Zilligong? That's what you mean?"
A nod and pat, "My boy, now you've seen.
I've been here so long and no one has come
to ask me for answers. They want to stay dumb.
And even a Zilligong needs now and then
a little vacation to make some new friends."

Now Barnaby grinned as he thought of the honor.
It wasn't so much as he'd thought--it's not power.
It's loving and learning throughout your whole life,
and sharing with others, with husbands and wives,
with children who ask all the questions they can,
so they can grow up into women and men.

"I'm proud to accept your humble request.
I promise you this, that I'll do my best.
I'll even learn to play Tweedler and Frump,
to keep other folks from feeling down in the dump."
The Zilligong stood and unzipped his disguise
and revealed to the boy a surprise to his eyes.

"I'm not what I seem, young Barnaby boy.
I've been here so long that I almost lost joy.
As you see I'm a man, which is what you will be.
I was once you and now you'll be me.
I'll tell you my name, write it down and don't lose.
The Zilligong really is ol' Doctor Seuss."

And Barnaby said, "Well, I've heard of you!
You're kind and you're funny, you're wonderful, too.
Your stories were read to me while I was small
and now that I'm older, I love them all."
The Zilligong smiled for at last he was sure
that his legacy was safe and his tales would endure.

And there is the story, although it's quite long,
how Barnaby Brundage learned a new song,
and got a new name and made a new friend
and started a mission he knew wouldn't end,
for if there were even one girl or one boy
who wanted to learn, then there'd always be joy.

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Submitted by Steven ODell on 24 July 2007 - 12:11am. | | | |

The following was written in response to a challenge to write a story based on either the theme 'Missing' or 'Joker'. The stipulation was that it be limited to 100 words maximum. When a challenge like this is leveled, I always add to it by challenging myself to use the entire 100 word allotment while still making the story as polished and complete as I can, without unnecessary words and phrases. Whether you agree with the results or not, I enjoyed the challenge and here is the result:

MISSING—© Steven G. O’Dell 2007

This morning I looked deep into my life and knew there was something important missing. So conspicuous was it by its absence that it left a gaping hole that ached to be filled. Why hadn’t I noticed it before? How could I have overlooked it?

I can’t possibly focus on anything else now. This has become more important to me than anything else in my life at the moment. I am doomed to be forever empty if this need is not met. So, it is with total sincerity and a hopeful heart that I ask you—will you marry me?

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Submitted by Steven ODell on 5 July 2007 - 4:26am. | | | | | | | |

Relative Size--(C) Steven G. O'Dell Nov. 2005

The warm sunshine felt wonderful on her arms and legs as she ran across the large open yard. The breeze was gentle, but more pronounced as she ran inhaling the fragrant air that wafted from the nearby lilac bushes and rose garden. The grass brushed her toes lightly with each bounding step and all was right with the world in this little girl's life. She felt so alive in this great big world that surrounded her.

With a sudden leap, she rolled to the ground and lay still for a moment, basking in the sunshine that bathed her naked skin and warmed her from head to foot. Catching her breath, she could hear the birds in the trees and in the sky overhead. 'Such a great big world,' she thought. Rubbing her arms back and forth across the blades of grass, as though making a summertime snow angel, the softness of the experience caused her to roll over onto her stomach, where she began to inspect the wonders before her.

Each blade, though seemingly at first glance the same as all its neighbors, was in its own way unique, even if only because the mower had shaved each in a different manner--some smoothly, some more torn, some angled and others straight as could be. She marveled that she had never noticed this before and as she stared closely at one particular blade she noticed the movement of some small creature that caught her eye. It was an ordinary ant, but she was in a state of heightened awareness today that led her to study this insect as she never had before. What a wondrous little creation this was and she marveled over it for several minutes as it went about its business in the grass before her. Until another movement caught her now sensitive eye.

It was incredibly tiny and she actually strained to come closer and focus upon it. What appeared to her fascinated gaze was an almost unbelievably minute creature, red and having all the appearance of a spider in its nature. She was now struck with a sense of wonder that she had indeed never felt. Here was something that she was discovering for the very first time in her young life--as if it were a new world, only now revealed to the eyes of mankind.

The detail she observed in this nearly microscopic creature was stunning. Every needful part was there to allow it to function in its own huge world and each worked to perfection. The young girl suddenly knew two things very clearly. First, large as her own world had seemed but a few short moments ago, there were things that must feel so much tinier than she. And secondly, she knew that she would never see her world in quite the same way ever again.

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Submitted by Steven ODell on 5 July 2007 - 4:23am. | | | |

All In How You See It--(C) Steven G. O'Dell Nov. 2005

The old woman sat on the park bench pretending not to notice that her husband was doing it again. It happened every time they went to the park. It happened when they walked the street as they did each day at this time. It was happening again--now--and the old woman had finally lost her tolerance for it. She had never said anything as she saw him looking at these young women in the park or on the street, but had held her tongue as long as she could. She would say nothing again today, but her silence was no indication of concession on her part. No, far from it. Today she would hold her peace and do what she had imagined for so long. She would finally put an end to his wandering eye forever. She only had to wait for the right opportunity, but she was confident it would soon come. Perhaps something in his evening cocoa or a mix-up in his medications. No matter how, she thought, the time had come and she would act upon it. There were limits to what a woman ought to tolerate and she had indeed reached her limit.

The old man sat quietly on the park bench beside his wife. Occasionally he would watch the young women there with their boyfriends or their husbands. He hurt each time he thought of how badly he and his wife had wanted children of their own, but had not been able to do so. Reflecting now that his wife had especially wanted a daughter, the old man gazed silently at the young lady passing before him and wondered to himself--if they had been blessed with a daughter of their own, how old would she be by now? What would she look like? Would she already have children of her own, making him a grandfather? Dismissing these thoughts from his mind, he sighed in a barely audible manner and turned to his wife and smiled. He had at least been blessed with the most beautiful and wonderful woman in the world. He had enjoyed many years together with her, despite having no children, and he hoped to have many more in loving her. He was indeed a happy man and could complain very little about the hand that God had dealt him.

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Submitted by Steven ODell on 5 July 2007 - 4:10am. | | | | |

The Guitar—© Steven G. O'Dell July 2005

The music was unlike any she had ever heard. It grabbed her by the heartstrings and pulled her physically to itself. The otherworldly strains came softly from the inner recesses of the undistinguished and quaint little shop that she had nearly missed in her private rush down the narrow cobblestone street, but she now stood transfixed as the sultry tones of the simple acoustic guitar beckoned to her from the darkness beyond the door.

One step at a time, slowly she marched forward, led by the intoxicating siren sound of an unseen master. Gradually, as her eyes became accustomed to the dim lighting of the room, the form took shape of a seated man bent over a guitar. His eyes were tightly closed, as though in deep meditation and his head subtly bobbed and weaved to the emotional melodies that so fluidly poured forth. His behavior suggested that he did not just play the music, but that he also experienced it, lived in it fully and passionately.

His fingers were now gentle and quivering, then again swift and light and she knew that the music that so deeply stirred her did not come alone from the fingers and mind of the musician, but from the depths of his very soul. His roughly handsome face changed with each phrase; soaring, now weeping and then flights of ecstasy and beyond. Tears flowed easily from her as the melodies played about her heart and feelings. She felt nearly captive and helpless in the grip of this master musician.

As she watched his two hands orchestrate their dance around the instrument he held, it occurred to her that the device he so masterfully expressed himself upon bore strong resemblance to her own feminine shape. She blushed as a warmth surprisingly surged through her and she instinctively knew that such hands as could express themselves in this spirit-touching manner must also know their way around the body of such a woman as she--nay, even her very soul.

Now nearly breathless, she lifted her gaze from the interplay of man and instrument, the dance between fret and soundboard, mesmerized by the now open, dark and penetrating eyes that seemed to search her inner depths. The soft smile on his lips assured her that any fears were in vain and she began to willingly open her heart and mind to this heavenly symphony that she had nearly lost in her desire to hurry to nowhere important.

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Submitted by Steven ODell on 5 July 2007 - 3:12am. | | | | | | | |

Yours For A Wish - (c) Steven G. O'Dell Nov. 2005

The small boy stood eagerly on his porch, watching the deliveryman bring the large crate that he had wished for. Inside, he knew, would be all the wonderful things he had been told of and had come to desire so deeply. He opened the crate excitedly. It was so large. Out spilled all the wonderfully ornate, shiny baubles he expected. His eyes grew wide and he ooh-ed and ah-ed in complete amazement. These were all his and his alone, to do with as he pleased. Now they were all within his reach and his life could begin in earnest.

As he grew, the young man fondled and polished all the shiny accoutrements that he had wanted so early in his life. He noticed how some seemed to have lost their sheen with age. Others appeared to be cracked and nearly broken, but he was a prideful young man and nothing would take these things from him or demean them in any way while he still lived and breathed. They were still his and his alone.

The man grew older still. He was bitter now. None of what he had wished for in his life seemed of any consequence. Old habits die hard, however, and the tarnished baubles were still his and he still clung to them jealously, all the while hating them deeply.

The time came when the old man died and all of his worldly belongings were left behind to be sold cheaply to the next covetous young man who desired to accumulate all the world had to offer him. What the dead man took with him was a simple gravestone that marked his final resting place, soon to be forgotten by all but the groundskeeper.

Another small boy stood wide-eyed on his front porch. His box, too, had arrived. His mother and father handed it gently, almost reverently, to him. They took the time to explain the proper use of all the contents within his wonderful gift box and then bade him open it. With a sense of wonder and awe he carefully began to peel the ribbon from the small container that sat easily within one small hand. He could scarcely conceal his smile, so excited was he to be finally getting what he had been taught to so deeply desire above all else. The lid lifted away, the young man stepped into the full sunlight where he could more easily investigate the contents and to his great surprise, the light that was caught and reflected from the object within was nearly as bright as the sun itself. He shielded his eyes and squinted against the gleam of what appeared to be a beautiful cut diamond. His parents corrected him and explained that it was indeed a rare jewel, but no earthly diamond at all. It was far more valuable than anything so common as a diamond. The boy smiled, hugged his parents and promised to always cherish the gift throughout his life.

The young man had kept his promise and found that as he shared the beauty of his wonderful gift, an amazing thing happened-the shine seemed to get even more brilliant than before and would cast its light to greater and greater distances around him. All who came within the influence of his precious gift were touched and improved in some strange way. What tremendous delight this brought to the young man and all who knew him.

An old man had lived a long and fruitful life. He smiled as he thought back on all that had meant so much to him in this world. It seemed that everything he cherished most could not be bought with money or traded for insignificant worldly goods. What he most treasured were the moments of love and friendship with family and acquaintances. The memories of a lifetime graced the pages of his mind in the last few hours of his mortality, but before he went, he called to his side all of his children and grandchildren and with a shaking hand held aloft the same small box that his mother and father had delivered to him so many years ago. With wide eyes and awe-opened mouths, the family received from his lips the story that his parents had told him in his childhood. When he passed, they were sad to see him go, but knew that to a wonderful and very real extent he remained with them as much as ever. When he passed he took with him no more than the first man had taken. However, far more than the groundskeeper took notice of his passing. His name continued to be spoken within his town and in an ever-broadening circle, for generations thereafter.

The two men came into this life with the same opportunities. Neither had the advantage over the other, except in one thing. What made the difference? The teacher. The first young boy was turned loose without guidance to desire what the world would teach him were things to be prized above all else. He found later in his life that these were but empty and meaningless things that brought no comfort to him or to anyone else that he came in contact with. The second boy, so similar to the first, was taught that what he held was the power to make the world around him a better place, if he would but do so. He was taught that the power he wielded could be used for good or for evil and that it must be used wisely or it would destroy him and all who came into contact with it. He was shown that as he used wisdom, the gift would reach out to enlighten and guide the lives of others, who in turn would enlighten then more lives beyond theirs. So great was the love of this young boy for his first teachers that he carried that gift with reverence all his life, simply to honor their names with each use. And so great was the joy that it brought, he could not help but pass it on to those who had come to love him for his shining example of beauty and benevolence.

You see, we are all placed in this world with the self-same promise-that "nothing shall be withheld from them which they shall imagine to do". We hold within our hands the same gift, though to some it may appear large and to others small. Some trade it for baubles and beads that become mere trash and bring no lasting value to anyone, even their owners. Others learn the priorities of life and become a shining city on a hill, where none can hide the light from all who would draw near and truly see for the first time. You have that power to choose what you value most in life. You also have the power to become a revered teacher in your own right-to anyone you may touch in this life. The choice is yours. What do you wish?

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