So….this has to be short! I don’t have much time (don’t seem to have much these days…) I will do another post with more updates later. I just wanted to leave you this little nugget. We are homeschooling our oldest this year and this is one of the short stories we read today. Most of my followers (all 4 of them) know that I am not a crier and this got me a little teared up! The book is from “Kingdom Tales” and is full of short stories that are part of one big one. Here you go:
“A Girl Named Dirty”
“Forever and always, the Caretaker of Great Park brought those who were hurt or frightened, sick or broken to his wife, Mercie, because she was wise, and whatever she touched was made better…..
Except Dirty. Dirty refused to become better. Caretaker had found her outside Stonegate Entrance, rooting around for food after a Burner had beaten her. The child was covered with welts and bruises.
When Caretaker approached the girl, she immediately stood to her feet and shouted, “I’m Dirty! I never wash! I never cry! I’ll fight anything that raises a fist to me!” Then she fainted from her wounds and hunger.
Caretaker brought her to Mercie. But all of the old woman’s efforts could not help the girl to enjoy life in Great Park. Dirty hated the cottage. She despised the people who lived there. She thought Caretaker with his tree hat and jingling pocket was stupid. She hated Hero’s ugly scar.
“I’m not going to live with those creeps,” she declared one day as she stomped off to the barnyard to make her home with the pigs.
From that day on, she tromped in the mud and slept in the sheds. She practiced pig grunts. She learned pig calls, “Hoi-soi-soi-soi-soi!” She watched the sows give birth to litters, and made pets of the piglets. And because the pigs were gentle, she loved them.
But she refused to love people.
Another outcast was living in the cottage, a girl Dirty’s age who had a disease that made her crippled. Dirty hated the Crippled Girl because she was ugly.
“Sui! Sui!” she would say to her pigs. “How can they live with that ugly thing? Why don’t they just get rid of her?”
Dirty sat on a big sow and watched when Caretaker carried Crippled Girl on a pallet into the warm sunshine. She heard Mercie, that crone of a housewife, sing songs. Dirty made pig grunts to drown out the sound.
At first Mercie tried to persuade her to come into the cottage for meals, but she would not. then Mercie carried nourishing lunches to the dung heap where Dirty like to sit, and she ate there with the girl. Finally, Dirty refused any food from Mercie’s hand.
“I’ll eat the pig slop,” she said. “If it’s good enough for pigs, it’s good enough for me.”
finally, the wise woman and her husband decided to leave Dirty alone, The girl would have to learn that what was fine for pigs was not always right for children.
So Dirty lived in the pigpen in back of Caretaker’s Cottage and never left it – except to creep into Deepest Forest on evenings of the Great Celebration. Dirty loved to watch the dancing and singing and the feasting and the joyful fellowship. She hid herself so well, none of the subjects of the King knew that Dirty watched them on the nights when the Sacred Circle of Flames was lit.
At first, entrance, when all of the subjects became real – seemed stupid to Dirty. She had been irritated to discover that the simpering Amanda was a real princess. She had thought Amanda’s airs were all bragging. She was furious when Mercie walked through the Sacred Flames and became the most beautiful of women. She had snorted when silly Caretaker had become Ranger Commander.
What kind of tricks were they trying to pull on her?
No wonder they were happy and kind. It was easy to laugh if you were really a princess. It was easy to be king if you were really beautiful. It was a snap to be good if you had all that power.
But what if you were just ordinary and never became anything else? Life was not so easy then. Dirty hated the subjects of the Kind all the more, but for some reason she could not stay away from their Great Celebrations.
One night, Dirty hid in the hollow stump of a felled tree and watched celebrants making entrance through the Sacred Flames. Looking through the dancing fire, she could see that banquet tables were being spread with glorious foods. She had brought a dried ear of corn from the pig trough and was munching on its hard kernels.
Suddenly, she heard someone crying, “alms! Alms for the poor!” She peeked her head out of her hole and saw a beggar, all ragged and threadbare.
Too late! The beggar had seen her and was coming her way. She grunted and grunted, hoping to scare him off. He peeked into the black hollow of the stump. “Aren’t you coming to the Great Celebration?” the man asked.
Dirty climbed out. She got down on all fours and pushed her nose into the dirt. She snorted. She made a pig call, “Hoi-soi-soi-soi-hoi!”
The beggar was not fooled into thinking that she was a pig. “Come,” he said. “Come! Go through the glames with me. B my guest at the banquet table.”
Dirty looked at him. She showed her teeth. She grunted again. She said “Sui! Sui! Go with you? You’re nothing but an ugly beggar! I’d rather be with the pigs!”
The beggar touched her gently on the shoulder. Dirty drew back, but her arm felt warm where his hand had been.
“Oh, Dirty,” he said. “Don’t you know? All the subjects of the King are nothing more than ugly beggars.”
With that, he moved off. She was astonished that he hadn’t hit her with his staff or shouted, “You filth! Who are YOU to call me ugly?”
Dirty watched the beggar make entrance. She heard the Rangers salute. She saw the glad clamor of hello in Inmost Circle. She watched the beggar become real. Through the burning flames, she saw that he was the most beautiful man she had ever seen. He was the King himself.
And he had said to her, come with me…..
At that moment, Dirty, unwashed and smelling of the pigpen, began to love the King. Longing filled her heart. She wanted to be as beautiful as he.
The music for celebration struck up. The King disappeared into the happy crowd. Dirty hid back in her hole. From her hiding place, she could see latecomers hurrying to make entrance. Far off, hastening through the forest, she spotted Mercia and Caretaker making their way toward the Sacred Flames.
As they approached, Dirty could see they were holding the Crippled Girl between their arms. They were taking her to the celebration.
Dirty wanted a better view. She scooted out of her hole to see if that ugly creature would become real. She watched as the three made the Kingdom vow. “To the King! To the Restoration!” She watched them pass through the flames.
HAH! thought Dirty. Mercia became beautiful. Caretaker became the Ranger Commander. But the Crippled Girl was still deformed.
Wait! Wait! What were Ranger commander and Mercie doing now? The people parted as they carried Crippled Girl through the crowd….toward the King!
Dirty watched as the King smiled at the Crippled Girl.She saw him bend over and lift her into his arms. She saw him cradle that stupid girl’s head against his chest. The beautiful man was holding that ugly thing! He was speaking to her.
No! No! Thought Dirty. He asked me!!!
Then, Dirty gasped. The King leaned over and kissed the girl in his arms. At his kiss, she suddenly became real. Her body straightened. She was lovely and shining.
It could have been me, thought Dirty. If only I had not been so piggish. If only….
Dirty was filled with rage. “Sui! Sui! You stupids! You stupids!” but she was really angry with herself. The girl crawled off into the night squealing. Back to her pigs she went, b ack to the only things she had let herself love.
the next morning, Dirty sat on the dung heap and watched Caretaker carry the Crippled Girl into the warm sunlight.
Hah! she thought. Sui! Sui! She’s still an ugly cripple.
But wait! – the Crippled Girl was singing. The pig girl crept out through the gate so she could examine the Crippled Girl more closely.
Hearing a sound, the Crippled Girl turned her face to look at the crawling girl. Her face was as beautiful as it had been when the King kissed her! Even Dirty knew that no on could possibly think the girl ugly once you had looked into her face. It shone.
So that’s what happens when you are kissed by the King, thought Dirty. She remembered the warm, gentle touch of his hand.
The though of going back to the pigs was awful now. The thought of mud was terrible. The thought of living in the shed, of eating slop, was horrible. Dirty would have given them all up for one more chance to say, “Yes, I’d love to be your guest….”
But it was too late. She had become more of a pig than ever. He would never love her, never kiss her.
When Dirty discovered she was crying in front of the girl with the shining face, she an into the forest. It took days for Caretaker to find her. When he did, she had clean hands and a clean face. Her hair and nails had been washed in Lake Marmo. Her clothes had been scrubbed in a nearby stream. But she was still crying.
Caretaker lifted her into his arms with a sound of jingling, and carried her, as he did all wounded things, to Mercie.
Mercie was delighted. “Why, who is this?” she asked.
“I-I’m D-Dirty,” the girl answered between sobs.
“But you’re all clean,” said Mercie, meaning to be kind.
“No, no!” the child sobbed all the more. “I’ve washed and washed, but I’m still dirty. I’m all pig inside. The King will never love me. It’s too late!”
Mercie shook her head knowingly. “We shall see what the King has to say about that.”
So Merice took the pig girl to the Great Celebration. Rangers stood watch all around the outer rim of the Circle of Flames. Dirty pulled on the cloak of one and asked, “Is the beggar coming tonight?”
When the tall man shook his head no, her heart sank.
Dirty followed Mercie, who had stepped into the fire. The heat seared the pig girl’s heart.
She felt as though everything inside of her was being burned. The girl screamed, and Mercie put her arms around her. She whispered, “Don’t be afraid. The pain is only for a moment.”
“It’s no use! It’s no use!” Dirty Cried. “The King is not coming! He is the one I must see. No one else can make me….clean.” With that the two passed through, and the girl looked up into the unspeakable beauty of the young Mercie, whose long, black hair now brushed her waist.
Mercie took the girl’s hand. “Let me tell you a wonderful secret,” she said. “All the people of the Kingdom know it. It is one of the first lessons they must learn. The King does not have to come in order for us to see him. He is always present.”
Dirty stopped crying. She looked at Mercie. “I don’t understand what you mean”.
“Listen.” said Mercie. Sh held her finger to her mouth for silence. “Listen and you will hear him speak. Be Still. He has something to say to you.”
Dirty wiped her tears. She closed her eyes and listened as hard as she could.
Yes, there was something. She could hear someone speaking. It was the voice of the Beggar King. He was saying, Come, come with me. Be my special guest at the banquet table.
Dirty kept her eyes closed. His special guest….She could feel something pouring over her It flowed down through her, starting with her head, then behind her eyes, all through the knots and gnarls of her insides. It was warm. It was gentle. It was fluid.
Mercie whispered, “It’s kingslove, Dirty. Kingslove.”
Dirty could hear the voice again. Th King was laughing. Then he stopped. He said, “I’m so glad you’d rather have me than your pigs.”
The warm flood had reached her toes. Dirty felt as if she were being held by the King, just like the Crippled Girl. She felt his kiss. Mercie was right: you did not have to see the King to be surrounded by the power of his love.
Dirty heard music. The violinists and the harpists had began to play. It was time for the dance, which began the celebrations. She had watched it many times from the outside. Now she was in the middle. All the subjects joined hands in one huge circle.
Dirty wanted to dance. She wanted to sing and shout. She turned to Mercie. “The King does love me! I’m clean! I’m clean! The King has made me clean!”
Mercie took her hand and drew her into the circle of dancers within the Sacred Flames. Someone took her other hand. The musicians began the beat. The girl knew the dance would begin slowly, then build, that the circle would turn in perfect order, then move faster and faster and faster.
She knew the dance steps. She had watched them many times. But she didn’t know the subjects would all sing her song. From all around the dancing circle it rose:
I’m clean! I’m clean!
The King has made me clean!
She’s clean! She’s clean!
The King has made her clean!
And the circle moved faster and faster and faster. The subjects of the King sang and danced, rejoicing. But no one sang any louder or danced any harder than Dirty, who had become Cleone, the clean one.
So the pig girl left her pigs for the sake of One she loved. And she became the clean one, who had a tender place in her heart for all things ugly because she knew a King who could find something beautiful in every garbage heap.
I know this seemed quite obvious with the girl being dirty and the pigs. It fits in right along with all of the other short stories (about a juggler, a hero, and the list goes on.) I hope it touched you like it touched me. I’m so glad the King has made me clean!