Prompt Day #256: Murder an idea
The Wooden Dough Boy
Once upon a time there lived a little old woman and a little old man. They were a poor couple who lived in a shack on the edge of a wood. They had no children of their own but loved them so much that the old man had spent his life whittling toys for the children of the village and the old woman baked the most wondrous cookies and hand pies that the children loved almost as much as their wooden toys.
One day when the village children had grown and no one wanted old fashioned, hand-made toys anymore, the man said to his wife.
“I am ever so lonely. No children come to visit anymore and we are getting old, we shan’t live much longer. I have an idea; I shall whittle a little boy out of this last piece of wood to keep us company in our final days. His wife scowled.
“Speak for yourself, old man. If you use our last piece of wood, you will have to venture into the wood to chop more before the winter comes or we shall surely freeze.”
“If we have no one to give our love to, then I do not want to live through the winter anyways.” The man said and that was the end of the conversation.
Later that day, he carried his whittled boy to his wife. He smiled and resented the rough figure to her.
“Here is our son, Birch.” He announced proudly. The old woman, who was still angry at his frivolous use of the last chunk of wood reluctantly turned to see the old man’s creation. She felt a swelling in her heart as a small wooden boy smiled up at her from her husband’s arms.
“Oh my but he is a joy to behold.” She touched his cheek. “Yet so rough and hard. I shall make a dough and bake him soft skin. But our well has run dry, go to the creek on the edge of the forest and fetch me some water.” She instructed her husband, who was so happy that his wife for once in their life agreed with him, that he limped off with bucket in hand.
Now, what you and I know but what the little old couple did not, is that the wood was filled with magic. So the water in the creek was just as alive as the birds in the trees or the trees themselves for that matter. The brook burbled a Disney-like tune as the man filled the bucket.
By bedtime, that evening, their wooden dough boy was cooled enough to ice on some hair, eyes, and a licorice red mouth.
“Tomorrow, I shall make him some clothes.” The old woman announced, pleased with her work.
The old man was happy too. He carried the boy to the cot in the corner of their cottage and covered him up to keep him warm. “Good Night, Birch.” He said and kissed the boy lightly on the forehead so as not to disturb his hair.
The following morning the old couple was awakened by the boy jumping on the bed.
“Mother! Father! Wake up! I’m a real, live boy now! Wake up and see me!” Birch shouted.
They awoke to such a surprise as they ever have imagined and spent the day dancing in celebration. The old couple felt twenty years younger and happier than they had ever been. So happy, in fact they forgot about all their misfortune and poverty.
The happy little family spent their days together playing and singing and dancing. The nights grew colder and soon, it could not be ignored. The old man, however, had been correct. He was in fact growing old and all the whimsy had taken a toll on his joints.
“Someone must go and chop the wood or we shall die of exposure.” The old woman, despite her earlier denial, was also growing frail and could not lift the ax to wield it. Birch was young and spritely enough but his twiggy arms would surely break beneath the weight of the ax.
“Mother, perhaps you could bake some hot crossed buns and I will take them into the village and trade them for wood.” Birch said. It was a marvelous idea. He was as smart as a tack, their little wooden dough boy and the old woman went to work baking the buns.
While she busied herself with baking, the old man built a fine cart with a harness to fit around Birch’s middle where he was the thickest. He also drew a map from his memory of when he and his wife used to venture into town many, many years ago. Of course, an old man’s memory becomes as weak as his joints with time and magical forests often grow to reclaim what was once its own. The map, was as useless as the idea to sell buns to a village that had long since been abandoned. But this is something only you and I know and much as we would like to tell our friends they are making a mistake, we are but helpless viewers.
It wasn’t long after Birch set out that he was hopelessly lost. The birds living in the forest had eaten all the buns in the cart and Birch was growing worried. He didn’t get cold or hungry like his parents, but he did not have the ability to properly care for himself either. His mother had already warned him about the dangers of mold and weevils. He would need a new bread coating soon he supposed.
Yes! He would need a new coating soon anyways. That gave him an idea. He would begin to pick pieces off and drop them as he walked leaving a trail of breadcrumbs. This way, he would not double back and waste time finding his way home. He started with his feet and worked his way up from there.
Birch was on the last of his coating when he saw the roof of a familiar cottage in the distance beyond the clearing. And just in time too because the snow had started to fall in heavy clumps. He started to run but the snow had covered the ground hiding a tree root that tripped Birch, sending him falling face first into the ground. He reached his twiggy arms out to stop himself but they snapped off under the weight of his log body. No matter, he thought, Father will make me new arms in the spring.
As he ran along, he found it harder and harder to lift his stiff wooden legs up and over the snow and soon he was stuck. With no arms to pull himself free, it was hopeless. It wasn’t long before his cries for help were muffled by the snow as well. Only his whittled eyes peeked over the top of the snow.
Just then, a figure came slowly out of the cottage. It carried a walking stick and a small saw. The frail silhouette swept the cane it held back and forth through the snow, poking it down into it now and again. Occasionally bending over and gathering a twig or small stick and putting it into a satchel the man (or woman, Birch couldn’t tell) carried on their back. The figure was not familiar to him. It walked hunched over as if in pain and stopped every other step to rest on the long stick it carried. Birch watched as it neared him and was overjoyed when he recognized his father. He had grown very old and frail in the days Birch had been gone and in the dark, the old man’s milky eyes explained the sweeping gesture with the stick. Why, he’s gone blind, Birch thought sadly.
Just then, the stick hit against Birch’s body. Finally, he’d been discovered. Now, if only his father would dig him out of the snow, he could help lead him to wood in the forest. The blind man reached down and put a hand on Birch’s head. Feeling it, Birch could tell the man recognized him, his own handiwork. The man’s hand reached down his side into the snow and stopped where Birch’s arms should be but were no more. The old man let out a sad sigh.
Birch watched as the man stood back up and unhooked the saw from his belt. Watched helplessly and the saw same down on his head and began its work cutting Birch into pieces the old man could easily lift and carry one by one into the cottage where he would be used to keep the last fire alive for one more day.