Sunday, November 10, 2013

Bedtime Stories: The Old Man and the Turnip

I'm writing bedtime stories to read to my kids every night. Here is the first installment:


The old man stared out at his garden. There it was again. A turnip was missing. A TURNIP was missing!

Every morning, it was the same thing. He would rouse himself from his night of fitful slumber, slowly get himself up into a sitting position, and stare out the window at his small dirt patch in the backyard. And every morning, a turnip was missing. Nothing else. Just a turnip. No footprints, no digging, just a hole where a fresh turnip was ready to be harvested.

The old man loved his garden. It was the only thing he found pleasure in since retiring so many years before. He was too frail to volunteer anywhere in town – not that he would want to anyway. But here, on his own property, he could plan his small bit of heaven to keep his mind busy throughout the entire year.

He would grow carrots, corn, beans on a bush, tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers for pickling, pumpkins for Halloween, and even a vine of decorative gourds for his wife. Oh…and turnips. But, this year, it didn’t look like he was going to get any. 

Laying back down beside his wife, he determined to wake up an hour earlier the next morning, hide out in the backyard, and catch this thief.

The next morning came faster than he expected. He had just closed his eyes when his alarm went off. Shutting it off as quickly as he could, so as not to wake his wife... Too late.

“Honey. Why so early?”

“Well…I told you the turnips were disappearing every morning, didn’t I? I’m going to catch this thief once and for all – today!”

“You be careful, dear.”

And she turned over and went back to sleep.

The old man leaned over, letting his long white beard brush against her cheek, and gave her a soft kiss on the same cheek, whispering in her ear an ‘I love you,’ and then slowly climbing into warmer clothes to fend off the chill in the air.

Stepping out his door, he was met by an icy wind. He smelled snow on the breeze and decided that today would have to be the day to harvest the last of his vegetables. But, first things first, he needed to catch the thief.

Slowly, as not to be heard, expecting the burglar to be anywhere, he crept into the bushes beside his fence, giving him a good view of the entire garden, as well as the back gate. 

And there he sat. He sat. He waited. And waited. And waited some more. Somewhere around a half-hour later, he began to get restless, shifting in his seated position. At the same moment, the gate creaked open. The old man held his breath, his white beard twitching in anticipation and deep concentration, hoping that the thief would quickly show himself.

Into the yard walked a young boy, not more than six years old. The old man had never seen him before in his life. He was dressed in a coat, shoes that were coming apart at the soles, socks that used to be white, pants that were obviously too big for him, a tattered hat with a pom pom on the top,  and nothing on his fingers.

Slowly and steadily, the boy walked into the garden, found the row of turnips, and expertly plucked one and turned to go. At the same moment, springing from the bushes, the old man knocked his shoulder heavily against the side of the boy’s head, sending him sprawling across the carrots and hills of potatoes. In another swift motion, the man ripped the boys coat off, revealing no shirt underneath, and began slapping him on the back with his open hand.

“Why are you in my garden! Why are you stealing my turnips!”

“Sir, I need turnips for my cat. And my Ma can’t afferd dem.”

Expecting the boy to scream for his life and shocked at his calm response, the old man grew angrier and continued to slap him on the back and shoulders, doling out the punishment that only his seething anger could determine the mete of.

The boy took it. About the fifteenth blow, the air was split with a “whoosh!” and the ringing sound of metal on bone. The old man abruptly stopped his slapping, stumbled forward, and fell face-first to the ground. Above him stood the old woman, holding a shovel in her strong hands, her broad shoulders squared menacingly in the direction of her husband, and yet her face was soft, looking at the boy.

“Boy, take all the turnips and you can go. You can have as many turnips as you like.”

The boy looked at the old woman, then at the old man on the ground, moaning. He then looked at the single turnip he had pulled from the dirt, deliberately pulled his ripped coat over his shoulders, turned to leave, and walked out of the gate, never to be seen again.

The old woman reached down and picked up the turnip and lifted it to her lips. She took a large bite out of the end and sat down beside her husband, patting him on the head. He rolled over and looked up at her. She handed him the turnip and he took a bite.

There they stayed as the sun finished its rising, beginning a new day, melting away the frost.

Read more Bedtime Stories

1 comment:

  1. Wow, talk about wish-fulfillment! I wonder if there might be something that could be said between the man and his wife at the end, something to carry on past the action? Enjoyable reading.... thanks