The Whole Story of the Bottled Kisses
and the Sleepless Dragon
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Such a Busy Lad
Not more than three thousand years ago in a distant land, when creatures called dragons still roamed, there lived a little boy.
Jody was thin and knobby-kneed, with hair that stuck up in a most amusing way. But he was not one to give too much thought on appearance. He was employed in things of greater importance - so he said. Nevertheless, his mother made him comb his hair just the same.
Jody’s mother’s name was Ruth, and she was a widow (which is quite often the case in stories that take place long ago) and a cunning weaver of fabric, very talented indeed. She made beautiful coats and blankets of the highest quality and brightest colors that she would sell or trade in the marketplace.
Ruth's merchandise was very much in demand and did quite well at the market, yet she had to work especially hard, putting in long hours, just to stay ahead. You see, a large portion of their living went to the taxes they owed for their tiny farm.
Jody and his mother had a lovely farm with just the right amount of chickens, a proper number of pigs, an adequate herd of sheep, two strong goats, and one good cow. It was situated on just enough ground to give a strong man a good back ache. (This, for your information, is where we got our idea for land measurement.
If a man, when through with his plowing, had a pretty decent back ache, it was called an ache-r of land. So, should you hear someone say, "two acres" or "three acres" you can imagine a man and his ox plowing the ground and the terrific back ache he must have – the man, that is, not the ox.)
The house was small, more like a cottage, made of stones dug from the earth. The colors of the stones were pleasing to the eye, rich golds, deep amber mingled with browns, and various shadings of blues. They had a calming effect on Jody, and he would often become absorbed by the colors and shapes of the stones.
Should his mother see him idle and call out to him, he would return with, "Just taking a breather." But what Jody called a "breather" his mother called "dilly – dallying".
Jody’s mother saw the stones in a different light. She saw them with eyes of pride, the efforts of her youth, when she and her tall, bushy haired husband worked from sun to sun to build a home and a family.
Some of the stones held particular stories and delightful memories. The big golden stone with glistening specks was the one her husband dropped on his foot. He could not wear his shoe for two days and he limped for a week and a half. She could not help herself, she had to chuckle even though she knew she ought not to. (It’s similar to the affect of someone slipping on a banana peel, I suppose.)
Then there was the little bluish-gray stone, too small to be of any consequence and really should not have been used for the house. But she thought it so pretty, and batted her eyelashes and pouted her lips until her husband not only agreed to that little blue stone, but several others like it. (If you have not already learned the power of lashes and lips, you should practice diligently, as they are quite effective on parents as well.)
At times, Jody’s mother would relive a memory while running her finger along a stone.
"Dilly – dallying, Mother?" Jody would say playfully.
With scrunched eyebrows and a grin she would reply, "No, just taking a breather."
Along with his engagement of being a little boy, Jody’s other duties were equally time consuming. In the morning, the animals seemed to call his name in chorus while he hurried to serve them breakfast. He would eye the sheep, for when their wool was white and fluffy it would be time to shear them. Then he would milk the obliging, brown eyed cow, and gather eggs from the objecting, clucking chickens that would serve as breakfast for him and his mother.
Jody enjoyed watching the animals eat. They relished every bite. When their buckets were empty, they would search for stray kernels of corn. Should they find even one, it would be delicately and precisely chewed. It never ceased to amaze Jody that they would gobble down one full scoop of corn in less time than it took to chew that little stray morsel that they found on the ground.
After putting the milk and eggs in the house, Jody would set off in search of twigs and dried branches to be used for kindling. Just in case you’re wondering, people who have fireplaces or hearths, like Jody and his mother, use twigs and branches (kindling) to start their fires. In my own fireplace I prefer to use pine cones.
Jody would peer around the forest edge, choosing the best sticks the ground had to offer. This was a fun time for him, for it was where he did his best dilly-dallying. But, what he really wanted to do was to use that axe in the yard. He wanted to chop and split logs. He wanted to get real firewood.
Nevertheless, Jody had to be content with gathering kindling for the time being, for his mother said he was too small to handle the axe.
Jody took pleasure in his outdoor chores. It did not have to be a bright sunny day, although that was nice. It could be cold or drizzly rain, windy, cloudy, or snowy. He looked at every day for what it was, a beautiful day.
When all the morning chores were done and breakfast finished, Jody would apply himself to his studies. His mother used the Book of the Law (also known as the Law of Moses), the Psalms of King David and the Proverbs of King Solomon to instruct him.
Mathematics were reinforced everyday (unbeknownst to him) when he helped in the business, buying and selling, measuring and cutting fabric, and even in calculating the amount of grain needed to keep the animals fed.
Because Jody was fatherless, the Rabbi, who was a very wise teacher of the Law, would make frequent appearances at his home to make sure Jody was keeping up with his studies.
"In this book are the words of life," Rabbi told Jody. "From it you will learn all you need to know, if you apply these words to your heart and seek wisdom and learn to fear God."
Jody liked the Rabbi. He was kind and gentle. He was also very entertaining. Should Jody’s mother invite the Rabbi to supper, the whiskers from his long, white beard would inevitably end up in his soup.
One time, a few years back, the Rabbi was dining with Jody’s family. He was speaking on a very serious matter, not paying attention to his soup nor his beard, waving his spoon in the air all the while.
When he finally attempted to indulge himself in his soup, well, you can imagine. He scooped up a spoonful of beard! Seeing that Jody thought it so funny, and the Rabbi was very fond of Jody, his beard would accidentally end up in every bowl of soup thereafter.
When Jody was finished doing this or that, he would read from a book full of adventures. Some were true, some almost true, and some, well, basically utter nonsense. Any child would have loved these stories.
I have never actually read the tales contained in that book, but I have heard a great deal about them. Exciting tales of sailing great ships across the ocean, of valiant men serving the king, and some, accounts of dragons and dragon slayers, which were among Jody’s favorites.
There were also some very simple and touching tales of boyhood, of becoming a man, and even one tender story of love’s first kiss — which Jody avoided at all costs. But I imagine he’ll come to appreciate that story as well, someday.
Then there were the nonsensical and ridiculous stories. A tall tale of a fisherman who hooked a fish so large and strong that it took him and his boat on an escapade of the Indian Ocean that continued for two days. The fish finally grew weary, and the journey ended. Upon hearing the fish’s loud and robust snoring (usually a sign of complete exhaustion or a sinus condition) the fisherman netted the fish and brought it aboard.
When the fisherman returned home, he told his wife of his plight, and the sheer determination it took to provide this fish for his family. However, his wife had her doubts about her husband’s story (even back then, fishermen were apt to exaggerate their exploits).
I must also take this time to tell you of another especially silly story found in the pages of Jody’s book. It told about a man with an extremely pointy nose. Not only pointy, mind you, but very sharp as well.
This pointed nose gent was actually the originator of fencing (which is the art of defense and attack using a sword) only, as though I needed to tell you, he did not come bearing a shiny blade bound in its sheath.
No, he used his nose. Neither foe nor beast could stand against its speed and precision. (I’m just telling you as it was told to me, I didn’t write this stuff)
Well, it happened one day, while he was strolling through the forest and whistling a tune he composed himself, his mind being quite occupied as to whether or not to add prose, that he tripped over the protruding root of a tree.
He fell swiftly, nose first, and with such great force that his nose penetrated deep into the trunk of the tree, sticking fast. He was obliged to stay put until a fair young maiden, who just so happened to be on her way to the royal ball, came by riding a white stallion and released him. Needless to say, they were married shortly thereafter.
This book was very special to Jody, and I shall tell you why. On the day that Jody was born, his father took pen and paper and wrote lullabies and little prayers for his newborn son.
As time went on, more and more was added, including sketches depicting the written stories. By the time Jody was able to walk about the house without aide from his father or his mother, the papers had formed a volume and were bound together.
Jody’s father was the captain of a merchant ship that made frequent travels across the Mediterranean. Five days after Jody’s fourth birthday, his father set out to sea, never to return. Sudden and tempestuous winds had come upon the tiny ship rending it to pieces. Jody’s only consolation was the book his father left behind.
Jody's evening labors were similar to those of the morning. The animals needed to be fed, the cow needed milking, and just before going into the house for his own supper, Jody would check the fencing to make sure all the rails were in place.
You see, although animals are usually good-natured and try to stay in their paddock, they simply cannot resist a midnight stroll should a rail be missing and so entice them.
After supper, Jody and his mother would spend some time in pleasantries and conversation. Then, it was time for bed.
Jody would get under his covers and adjust his pillow. When both were acceptable (pillow and covers, that is) his mother and he would thank the Lord for the blessings of the day.
Being a child yourself, I’m sure you can appreciate how reassuring and comforting these quiet times were for Jody. He procrastinated and postponed every second of bedtime.
No sooner would his mother kiss him goodnight, he would realize he needed the outhouse — again. Then he would climb back in bed, get all comfy, be kissed goodnight, then claim to be "dying of thirst."
Depending on his mother’s patience, sometimes he could receive four or five bedtime kisses before the night was through.
Many nights, Jody’s mother would sit by candlelight and put the finishing touches on a garment intended for the market. Jody would lie in bed and watch the flickering flame. It was peaceful and soothing during the evenings, and he never wanted to fall directly to sleep. He wanted to spend some time awake to enjoy it. But, his days were busy and his body weary. So without deviation, sleep came and before he knew it, so had the morning.
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