"Oh no," said Meko the Wocky sadly as he walked away
from Coltzan's Shrine, "not another stupid piece of burnt food. I can't wait
until that old king runs out."
"Then you will have to wait quite a while, my
friend." A voice, squeaky but somehow not strange, came from behind his shoulder.
An old Pteri melted from out of the shadows.
"What?" asked Meko. "Oh, Coltzan can't have
THAT much food lying around. He is dead, you know. Dead people don't need to
"Yes," laughed the Pteri. It was a strange,
rusty laugh. "I know. However, it will be a long time until Coltzan runs out
of burnt food. Well, I guess you don't know the old tale, eh? Sit right down
and I'll tell you. By the way, my name is Pleso."
Meko obeyed. And Pleso began.
It was a hot day in the Lost Desert. Not just
hot, but HOT, so hot the good people of the desert were planning to burrow underground
if the heat got any fiercer. The stores were closing fast, one by one, and everywhere
people were fanning themselves and huddling under any shade they could find.
Only an orphaned and a rather timid Aisha, Amar,
stood the heat without complaint. He rummaged in peoples' burning trash bins
full of baking rubbish, sniffing and nibbling. Finally the terrible heat wave
ended, and the citizens of the desert went back to their homes. Amar knew he
could not go snooping around anymore. He returned to the dumps.
Everybody was glad, but when they reached their
houses, everything had either melted or partially begun melting. And worst of
all, everybody's food had burnt up and smelled rotten. The food stank horribly,
but it was still slightly edible. Not wanting to waste any food, the people
consulted the queen.
"Queen, help us!" they cried. "We don't know
what to do with all this smelly food! Should we feed the poor with it?"
"No, no," said the queen. "It's not even suitable
for the poor." She frowned. "I suppose I'll have to order a decree." Then she
clapped her hands. "Scribes, listen up! Whoever can think of a way to get rid
of all this burnt food will have whatever his or her heart desires. But only
if their idea works." The queen glared at the scribes. "Well, what are you waiting
for? Spread the message!"
And so it was done. Hundreds of people came
to the palace with outrageous ideas about how to get rid of the food, but none
of them seemed to help. The crowds gradually got smaller and smaller and smaller,
until no one came at all. The queen sighed. "It seems we'll always have this
Amar had heard of the troubles of the queen.
He had heard of the reward. But he couldn't care less. However, that food certainly
was smelly. Even he couldn't eat it, and he would eat anything, if he really
had too. Suddenly he smiled. "I've got it!" he yelled, racing down the path
to the palace. "I've got the perfect idea!"
One month later, the queen left a letter beside the shrine dedicated to her
father, the old king. Curiously, the king peeked into it. It read:
There was recently a problem
with burnt food, caused by a recent heat wave, which was not so recently if
you think about it. Anyway, to get right down to the point, I have noticed you
have had a shortage of prizes. I know you are not one to pointlessly waste money,
so I have donated several tons of burnt food for you to distribute. There is
a lot of it, so you will have burnt food prizes for quite a while. Well, good
A little while later, a large crane came into
tow, and deposited a smelly heap of burnt food beside the shrine. Coltzan smiled
a wrinkled old smile. And from that day on, there has been no pet that has not
received at least one piece of burnt food from the shrine. The end."
Pleso grinned. "Well, Wocky, did you like my
Meko nodded. "It was a good story. But it isn't
true, is it?"
Pleso shrugged. "That is for you to decide,
Meko. It is your imagination, not mine, that can make a story come to life."
"How did you know my name?" Meko asked. But
Pleso had already gone.
As Meko continued the long walk back home, he
could hear a faint laughing coming from the shrine. Not the laugh of Coltzan,
but the laugh of a Pteri, the rusty old laugh of Pleso.