Something for Nothing

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A talking tree makes some bargains, grants some wishes, and meets all sorts of people in doing so. Yes, it is a story with a moral...

Submitted: July 22, 2016

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Submitted: July 22, 2016

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This story begins on a dirt and cobblestone road that wandered through the countryside, along the rolling hills, and grassy meadows. This road is called the Tinker's Highway and serves the tradesmen, the merchants, and farmer alike.

The scene begins on the Tinker's Highway as it passes through a meadow and over a narrow and rickety wooden bridge. Near the bridge is a majestic Oak Tree with its branches spreading in all directions.

Along this road came a donkey with a rather portly man a-top it's back; on each side of the donkey is leather satchels stuffed, no doubt, with traded goods.

 

***

 

"Get along donkey!" barked the portly man.

What a sight, this short and round man sitting a-top such a small animal; and as the donkey moved, so swayed the load he carried. Part of that load was two rather large satchels bulging with traded goods.

As the donkey reached the rickety wooden bridge, he stopped and refused to move any farther.

"Get along donkey!" barked the man, but to no avail.

The donkey seemed to sense something dangerous about the bridge and was not about to move.

"Get along donkey, "Get along!" barked the man again.

"That Donkey is not going to go anywhere, he is afraid of the bridge and it's poor condition," said a voice from seemingly nowhere.

The portly man pulled his sword from its sheath and demanded to know who was talking.

"Come out from behind that tree or I shall ride over there and cut you to pieces," the man demanded!

"Like I said, that Donkey is not going to move, not over that bridge, nor is he going to come over here." Then laughter was heard throughout the area.

"Who am I talking to?" demanded the portly fellow.

"Why, I am the Oak that stands before you. And who might you be?"

"I am Augustus Strohl, a merchant from Nice, and I am in route to my home for the winter months. What is the name by which you are called? Augustus inquired in a cautioned voice.

"I am The Wishing Oak, but you may call me Tree, if you wish," the Oak said.

Augustus did like almost anything that he could get for free, even if he had to beg, borrow, or rob to obtain them, so when he heard the word Wish; he presumed the wishes would be obtained for free. Well, sensing an opportunity to get something free, Augustus inquired, "What kind of wishes do you grant?"

"GRANT wishes!" Tree said as he laughed an even greater laugh. "No, no, you misunderstand, I do not GRANT wishes, I sell or barter as the situation demands. Even Wishing Wells demand payment of some kind, and so do I. But I assure you, I will not grant a wish for a penny, as do some wells."

Augustus looked puzzled and asked, "What kind of payment would a Oak Tree need?"

"Well, at the moment the ground around me could use some nourishment, animal waste usually helps. With the right amount of nourishment on the ground, I will grow stronger and even taller.

As you can see, I am a tree, so I cannot go get nourishment for myself, but you could. I will trade you a wish for one load of nutrients for the ground around me. You could purchase it from the farmer that lives just down the road; he has several cows, sheep, and some goats. I am sure that he would love to rid his property of some excess waste. He lives in the direction you are traveling, it is not very far," said Wish happily.

"What wish do I get in return?" Augustus asked.

"You could wish that your donkey was safely on the other side of that rickety bridge. You could wish that he would be whisk across without the bridge collapsing under all that weight.

Just think about it, if the bridge did collapse the fall would surly kill the poor little animal, or he might drown in the river. If that happened, then you might loose the donkey and whatever is in those satchels.

So, I would say that that is the smartest wish you could make, under the circumstances," Tree said, while its branches swayed ever so gently in the afternoon breeze.

Augustus replied, with a scowl on his little round face, "I do not have time to go get manure and bring it back here, besides, I would need a cart and a shovel to do that, and I have neither." 

Tree laughed ever so slightly and said, "That is not a problem, for a slight additional fee I am sure that the farmer will do all that for you. All you need do is to strike a deal for the cost of the nourishment, the delivery, pay him, and then he will handle all the particulars. At that point, the end of our bargain will be fulfilled and you could continue on your way."

Once again Augustus tried to get the donkey to move, but instead of walking, the donkey sat down. That, in turn, caused Augustus to fall off, cursing and screaming all the while.

Augustus pulled on the donkeys ears, trying to get him to move, but he would not budge; he just sat there making donkey sounds rather loudly.

"Very well, I want the wish!" Augustus yelled.

"Good, first you must sit on the wishing stone, it is a large flat rock and it is right over there."

Augustus hollered, "Hay wait a minute, I thought you gave out the wishes! Why do I have to sit on that stone?"

"It is just a formality; the stone makes it official, so to speak. It is no big deal, all you have to do is to sit on the stone, recite the agreement and make the wish. Then boom, it's done; oh, and you have to face west while doing so."

"Why west?"

"I don't know, I didn't make up the rules. It is like the Genie in the bottle, you want the Genie to come out, then you have to rub the lamp THREE TIMES, not two, not six, three. Those are the rules!" Tree replied very loudly.

Augustus stuck his head down and walked over to the rock, grumbling to himself. Once there, he hoisted himself up, recited all the agreement words Tree told him to say, and made the wish.

When Augustus got down from the stone he turned to see the donkey happily munching on the clearing of tall grass. The donkey was just a short distance from the bridge, the other side of the bridge.

"There you are, your wish has been granted and my part of the bargain is fulfilled, now it is your turn," Tree happily stated.

"Hay, I'm not across the bridge," Augustus complained.

Tree replied, "True, but that was not part of the wish. The wish mentioned only the donkey and the satchels, not once were you mentioned. A deal is a deal, unless you want to make another wish and strike another deal."

"No, no more wishes, this one will cost me enough as it is," replied Augustus. Then he walked slowly and cautiously across the bridge.

After reaching the other side, Augustus took the donkey by the reins, grumbling all the while, and led him down the road.

A few moments later a young man came out from behind some bushes carrying a canvas bag and stood before the tree, saying, "Thank you Tree, your end of the bargain is now complete. I will be back tomorrow to bring the nutrients for your soil. And as a bonus for your prompt service, I will remove unsightly debris from around your base before I distribute the nutrients."

"That would be wonderful," replied The Wishing Tree, "I do like to be looking my very best at all times."

The man from the bushes bid Tree adieu and headed down the road in the direction that Augustus went.

When the man from the bushes reached within sight of the farm he saw Augustus riding the donkey past the farm, with nary a glance in that direction.

The young man repositioned the heavy canvas bag he was carrying, slinging it over his shoulder, and then cut across a field and soon arrived at the farmhouse.

"Well, there is another one that didn't stop to fulfill their part of the bargain Papa," the young man said to an older man who was seated on the porch.

"I'm sure he thinks he is getting away with something Son, had he stopped and paid his debt then we would have given him his property back. But some people think that they should get something for nothing, at other people's expense.

Then the Son replied, "I don't think that he will think that when he opens those satchels and finds them stuffed with cow patties and wheat stalks, I was going to fill them with river rocks but I felt sorry for that poor little donkey.

 

07-20-2016

 

Footnote: This story and its ending have been revised and rewritten from another of my stories named "The Wishing Tree"; the ending is the largest change.


© Copyright 2017 JE Falcon. All rights reserved.

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