Young Folks Stories

The early morning sky was so bright and clear that it seemed as though it would surely shatter like crystal if disturbed. Far in the distance an ancient black coach slowly passed through the scene. its wheels and the tread of its horses making the only sound on its way toward me. As I watched, the singing began. I could not tell from where it came nor the song but it was surely something by the likes of Verdi and the tenor voice as fine as that of Caruso or Gigli at their best.

I’d been hiking across the high plateau to Andorra and had just awakened from where I’d spent the night: a small inn, neat and pretty in its way but unremarkable in the basque countryside. I smelled the sausage and eggs that the mistress of the inn was preparing for my breakfast but a stronger pull by far called me toward the coach. Strangely, though its two black horses were pulling at a steady and stately pace it did not draw nearer to me. Instead it were as though the horses were beckoning me to come to them. I simply popped my head inside the door to tell the lady that I could not stay for breakfast. She seemed to understand. Rather, I am sure that she understood for she smiled at me as though it were a regular thing for her guests to hurry off in the morning and follow after a fairy coach from another world.

The innkeeper bid me wait while she gathered the sausages from the pan in which she had cooked them, wrapped them and some bread in newspaper, and transferred them to a paper bag. Meanwhile I grabbed my few things and threw them into my backpack. Payment and parting were as quick as pleasantries allowed for she knew that I must hurry. The coach had stopped perhaps a half kilometer away and was waiting, though how the driver knew that he should wait for a traveler at the inn I did not know and still do not know.

I threw the backpack over a shoulder and hurried toward the coach which was moving to meet me on the narrow road to Andorra. I was certainly happy to have a lift as the inn was at an elevation of only five hundred meters and the road would rise another fifteen hundred before it reached my destination. When we met, the driver of the coach did not say anything but nodded his head toward the door. I opened it and settled myself with the backpack and my lunch under the seat as with their stately stride the two horses began to pull and my conveyance started with a jolt. The silent driver turned his vehicle around and soon through the side window I watched the inn disappear behind us. Now an unease about my situation grabbed me. Here I was in a coach out of another century, being pulled by two black horses along a road which I hoped would lead me to my destination though the driver could not know where I was heading.

But were the driver and I entirely alone, I wondered as I ate the quick meal that my innkeeper of the night before had prepared. A silly thought, I tried to tell myself. Of course we were alone. But how to dispose of the paper bag without littering the beautiful landscape through which we were passing? Then a hand reached toward me and took the bag and as I watched in terror the form of a woman materialize on the bench beside me.


“Hello,” I replied, fully aware that the exchange of simple greetings was entirely inappropriate when the person next to you hadn’t been there a moment before nor could have boarded the closed and moving vehicle. The lady looked at me with the enigmatic smile of the Mona Lisa and I watched paralyzed as the bag simply disappeared from her hand,.

“Are you going my way?” she asked, as though one vehicle could have taken us in different directions.

“I’m to visit friends in Andorra,” I managed to say,

“Yes, I know. It has been a long time since you left your home there to travel the world. Have you now seen enough of it?”

How did she know that I had lived in Andorra as a small child? Her question was so strange that I did not have a ready answer. She watched my face as my mind searched for an answer.

“It’s all right. Very few people can answer that question unless they are much older than you, or dying.” then she fell silent and, it seemed, more ethereal.

I wanted to speak and ask the lady so many questions but they fled from my mind as soon as they came. So I sat dumb. I should have been even more frightened. After all, I was sitting next to a person who had not been there only minutes before. So I concentrated on smaller matters. This was the 21st century so why was I in an antique coach pulled by two of the biggest and most beautiful steeds I had ever seen? Why was the ride on an old rutted road so smooth? And why were we traveling like a wind with the trees outside the coach passing almost too quickly to see? Then, why were we amid the treetops? It didn’t matter. Mona Lisa tucked a cloud under my head and I slept like a child.

When I awoke my head was on her lap and she was stroking my hair as though I were her cat. I should have been upset and confused but I was a cat with a cat brain being petted by a beautiful lady. The morning chill was gone from the air even though the road was steadily climbing. Ahead of us I could see the peaks of the Pyrenees. Then the coach stopped and the lady – let me call her Mona Lisa, or ML – started to step out, not waiting for our driver to open her door. I was in her arms. She held me tightly lest her cat run off and be lost. Quickly our driver descended from his box and released a little step from under the door

“Thank you, Juan,” Lisa said. Now at last I knew his name even if it would always sound like meow when I spoke. His livery was black like the coach with some coat of arms emblazoned in gold thread on his breast and with some more gold embroidery on his sleeves.

Where were we? Half way up a mountainside beside some brook where I assumed Juan had stopped to water the horses. Not so. “This is Meow?” someone behind me asked.

“Of course,” Lisa replied while scratching behind one of my triangle ears.

“Good,” he said, and scratched me behind the other. For a moment I thought that I saw something protruding from behind his coat but concluded that it was just the sunshine on some current that was a bit warmer than the rest of the air.

When Juan regained his seat on the coach without a word, the horses started in their traces then just disappeared leaving Lisa and me alone facing our host. Now my attention was drawn to something so obvious that I still don’t know how I’d not noticed it immediately: a small chateau or large lodge made of field stone and cut timber was materializing. All about it were workers. Surely their wings were not a mirage formed by warm air currents. We were in Fairyland.

Until now I have not described Lisa as I’ve called her – for I never learned her name. To say that she was (or is) beautiful would be an injustice. No words in any language can describe the face of an angel. An angel? Perhaps that is what she was or perhaps a divinity like the muses of Hellenic lore. Her face was as happy as a child’s and her skin as smooth as an Aphrodite by Praxiteles. I am of this century and she was of another. But it did not matter. In the coach she was dressed modestly as befit its century but In the chateau that we were approaching she was clearly a fairy with raiment that changed with the light or the breeze. Did her feet even touch the ground? I cannot be sure but if they did it was only because she wished it.

Lisa was greeted at the main entrance by another servant dressed in the same livery as our driver but with a bit of lace at his wrists and neck to indicate his higher rank as head butler. In the gracious manner of that part of the world our host took me from Lisa’s arms. In a purposeful but not unkindly way he gave my face and body a thorough look over. He must have been satisfied for he handed me to the servant who shouldered me and petted my back as he led ML to her second floor chambers. These consisted of a pleasant sunlit sitting room and another room containing only a chest of drawers and a large bed covered with a quilted coverlet. A down filled pillow seemed to call the cat in me to rest upon it in the sun.

“I’m sure he will do just fine, milady. He will be our Meow. It has been such trouble since the demon rats came here but I’m sure that he’ll deal with them in an appropriate manner.” Now that should have disturbed me. My self image did not include chasing rats, demon or otherwise. I enjoy a steak dinner with a nice wine so the thought of wrestling a rat with my mouth was disquieting in the extreme. On the other hand, I hate rats.

As the head butler withdrew another servant appeared at the door. He bore a silver service for Lisa: tea, a single cup, and a small plate with a piece of cake. There was also cream and sugar for, as I would discover, Lisa preferred her tea in the English style. The pot of cream sat in a saucer and the servant took the one and poured a large part of the contents into the other. “For your friend,” he said. “He must be as tired as you from the journey, and a bit confused, I suppose.”

That made me realize that I was indeed confused as I had every right to be except that sitting on the floor beside “my mistress” seemed entirely right – especially after finishing off a saucer of warm cream. It also seemed entirely proper to lick my fur.

“You are wondering where we are and why?” ML asked when she was sure that we would be alone for awhile. To answer her I wandered back and forth between her legs as I had seen other cats do. It felt uncomfortably natural but no more so than answering with the purr that I had no desire to restrain.

“We are in Andorra, but not the Andorra where you lived as a child. I suppose that scientists would say we are in another dimension. In Andorra, yes, but without any time. What happens today has happened already and will happen again. Does that trouble you?”

“Meow.” There I’d said it. If I am to be a cat than I shall act the part, but did I yesterday and will I tomorrow? Surely yesterday I was hiking along a road in the Basque countryside not rubbing against a fairy’s legs. Then I realized that this too was a fun thing to do for her legs were smooth and smelled of thyme from a garden.

Besides, the pillow was still calling me.

What about those demon rats, I thought and she knew. Lisa bent to take me up and lay me on the pillow. “There are no demon rats, just you and me and this world of ours. There is no one else. But if my fantasies want to believe in demon rats it makes the whole adventure more exciting.”

Fantasies I thought, but was immediately distracted. My mistress – for such she had surely become – had picked me up, pillow and all, and deposited her bundle on a broad window ledge. “Now” she whispered in my twitching ear, “look up the road and soon you will see a parade of pussycats coming.” And so I did but such an outlandish display of felinity has never been seen outside of Fairyland. The parade was led by an aged tom with a ruffled collar and a small sword belted to his waist. He was followed by a drummer applying his tail to a drum hung around the neck of a follower. Then came the rest: ladies in gowns which should have looked ridiculous on a four footed animal but somehow didn’t, just as they don’t in cartoons. For a moment I was put in mind of Beatrix Potter whose cats are mostly drawn standing, just as these were.

“Meow.” I said, confused.”

“Meow yourself. Now watch.” After the ladies came a large continent of nobles all dressed in the style of sixteenth century Spanish noblemen with capes and swords. Then came some soldiers with morion helmets, embossed breastplates, and halberds. I assumed that these were guards for in the middle of their ranks was the king of the cats, resplendent with the largest of the ruffled collars which were worn by almost all the men and women save for the soldiers. Were that not enough a jeweled sword belt and a large gold medallion clearly marked him as the most important cat there.

Lisa spoke again when the procession had passed. “There is still sunlight. I know you want to sleep. You’re a cat. But let us see the garden that I have imagined. There won’t be any rats there. A squirrel perhaps, but no rats.”

The garden was situated just outside our sitting room window. As I already knew, there was thyme and also a laurel bush, rosemary and cayenne. Of less practical use there were flowers great and small and a fountain from which came cool mountain water. I decided that I could happily live in this place on my soft pillow with Lisa. Especially if there were no demon rats.

But what are your fantasies? I wondered realizing that I was wandering through a fairy’s mind. I could hear music. It was the same as I had heard outside the inn that morning. But now the opera – for such it seemed to be – had reached a choral part and I could imagine a ballet being performed to the music,

We walked through the garden together. It had seemed no larger than any other until I realized that we’d been walking for a half hour or more and not yet reached the end. I looked back and the house was no longer in sight, just tall sunflowers and tiger lilies and many herbs and flowers that I did not know by name.

“You seem disturbed, pussycat. Are you not enjoying my garden? I thought you would.” Lisa bent down to touch my ear with her lips. “There is even a small patch of catnip over there.” She pointed to a space so far away it would have taken hours to reach. I found the thought of catnip attractive but not near so much so as being with my mistress in her wonderful garden. “It is not that,” I said. It is wonderful here but you said that today was the same as yesterday and tomorrow will be the same as today. It is a wonderful place but I feel it would be a waste to remain here forever and never see anything else.”

“Oh silly, pussycat. That is not what I meant at all. There have been and will be as many days and adventures as you want. But we can always return to our favorites. I know this is a favorite of yours as it is of mine. Do you think that it was more real than this to be walking a road in Spain?

Of course this was all in our minds as I rested my tired self on a sun-warmed spot beside the fountain.

“There was a boy,” Lisa said. “He is a man now. We lived together when he and I were young. But he was taken away from me. Now sleep, pussycat. I will see you again – tomorrow.”

When I awoke it was well past daybreak. I was in the black coach again, alone as it descended the road from Andorra. As on that first day the chill sky was like fine crystal and every branch of every tree as clear against it as though just placed in the scene by some god. I sat lost in thought until toward noon Juan pulled his horses to a halt outside the very inn where I had stayed the night before my adventure. He got down from his bench to drop the little step and open my door. When I stepped out the earth felt so very sturdy as though my time in Andorra had been nothing but a dream fantasy. That could not be of course. Here I was returning to where I’d been in a fine coach pulled by two fine steeds. Then it all disappeared but Lisa’s last words hung in my mind like a blessing. “I will see you again – tomorrow.”

Use these links for easy access to individual Stories.

Jenny’s Ride (Illustrated)

The Stained Glass Blackbird

The Boy Who Said Mine

The Road to Andorra

It was in Colorado not many years ago that this story begins and ends. A young artist in stained glass opened a shop in a little town where many people came to ski the mountains that rise all about the town. He made beautiful pictures out of bits and pieces of colored glass which he cut and fitted together with pieces of lead and copper. Some of the pictures were of the nearby mountains and others were of beasts which no-one had ever seen: unicorns, griffins, and dragons. But most of his best stained glass were pictures of animals. There were lambs and lions, and cats and dogs too. There were also many pictures of birds.
Outside his shop the young man hung up a simple sign which said

John Bochinheimer’s
Stained Glass Emporium

Many people came to the shop and many of them bought his glass pictures. He sold a picture of a tiger in the jungle of Burma and another of a little goat eating grass. He sold many pictures of great eagles flying above the mountains, swooping down to catch fish from the river, or sitting proudly on a tree branch. But there was one picture he could not sell: the picture of a little blackbird standing on a rock and looking up into the sky. He did not know why no-one bought this pretty stained glass picture. It was a proud little bird with a yellow eye and glossy black feathers that made him stand out against the clear sky.
Day after day and year after year people would come to John’s studio and many would buy his glass pictures. Sometimes a child would look at the blackbird and ask for it, but then his mother would show him some other bird picture: a big ostrich, or a lovely flamingo standing proudly in the water, or a fine peacock spreading his plumage of many colors. Sometime a father would explain that blackbirds were pests and not nearly so pretty as the other glass pictures. Then the child would walk away from the little blackbird to look at the others.
After many years the artist thought that if the blackbird would not sell at the usual price he should get rid of it and use the space for another picture. He wrote a little sign that said:

This item only
50% off

John was about to paste the sign on the blackbird when he looked very carefully at the bird wondering why it never sold? He thought it a very fine blackbird with its long beautiful feathers and bright yellow eye. But the once proud bird did seem a little sad now. He realized he liked the poor bird more than any of the others. Perhaps that was because the blackbird had been in his shop so long and was a familiar old friend. It was something about the picture display that never changed no matter how many other pictures he made and sold. He decided to go home and think what else he might do instead of pasting the sign on his old friend. Perhaps he could hang it in his house or give it to a neighbor. Taking it up, he prepared to leave his shop for the day but as he was locking the door the artist happened to look up into the sky. A whole flock of blackbirds were flying over the town and the little glass bird seemed to see them as well. Then a thought came to the artist. John unlocked the door again and hurried to the basement of his shop where the studio where he made his glass pictures was. He soldered a brass frame behind the blackbird picture and on this he wrote:

Stained glass

John went outside again and hung up his new sign. The glass bird no longer seemed sad. He looked happy and proud as he watched people passing by and the blue sky above. Now every morning since that day, when the artist arrives at his shop he greets his old friend and the bird seems to greet him in return.

Jennifer awakes on a beach at night, and meets Hrim-Faxi,
the horse who draws the chariot of night in Norse mythology.
Hrim-Faxi is wise and
good, and he shows her the wonders of the night. Is he also
an angel or is it all a dream? Jenny’s Ride is spiritual
without denominational
references. A child on the verge of adolescence will be
comforted by Hrim-Faxi’s final words: “Some day you will
be too old to believe in me. But
do not be sad about it, Jenny. Even then I will come to you
in dreams so that you can be a child again.”

Once upon a time there was a little boy who said “mine.”

When his mother took him to the bakery he would say mine and his mother would buy him a bun.

When she took him to the market he would say mine and she would ask the grocer to give him an orange.

When they went to the toy store he would say mine, then mine again, until his mother’s arms were full of toys.

So she took him to the zoo to see the crocodile.