Peter the Hermit and The People’s Crusade

This is a story that has been posted on my other blog, Crusades and Crusaders.

The first army that left for the Holy Land was that of Peter the Hermit’s. It wasn’t an actual army because the vast majority of his followers were peasants and laymen; many men had taken their entire families with them. Only a small minority of Peter’s following were knights, commanded by the pious knight, Walter Sans Avoir (The Penniless).

Nevertheless, Peter had amassed a great following–historians estimate that his following was anywhere between 20,000 and 30,000 people–large enough to be considered, at that time, an army. Today, Peter the Hermit’s expedition is widely known as the People’s Crusade.

****

13 April 1096

Adele was glad that Peter had decided to let his army of pilgrims rest in the district of Cologne. She had walked–surrounded by many people she did not know–for several days and some nights. Adele was starving and so exhausted, she feared if she took one more step forward, she would faint. So, she plopped herself down on the soft grass. It must have rained the night before, Adele thought, because the grass was quite damp. It seeped through her clothes, but it was warm and the sun shone brightly, so she didn’t feel cold.

Adele was with many of the pilgrims outside the city walls, yet she felt all alone. Her sisters traveled at the head of the crowd with Peter and Father Marc, while she walked far behind, near the rearguard. She scanned the crowded field but couldn’t find them anywhere. The bishop of Cologne had already let them into the city and invited them to spend Easter with him at his palace. They were probably, at this very moment, seated at the bishop’s large table, filling their empty bellies with delicious food of all kinds.

The bishop and townspeople here had received Peter well. Everyone loved and admired Peter. He was the embodiment of genuine Christianity: He gave everything he owned to his followers. Everywhere they travelled, people followed Peter; they dedicated their lives to him and to his call for Holy War against these so-called evil Muslims in the Holy Land. Men knelt before Peter, women kissed his hands; few of the villagers even plucked pieces of course fur from Peter’s tunic. Yet, Adele didn’t understand why he couldn’t persuade Father Marc to be more kind to her.

Adele fell back, arms outstretched, her long blond hair splayed in every possible direction, forming a halo around her head. Tears flowed freely down her face. Peter, Father Marc, Elle and Josie were so satisfied, they didn’t think about her or talk about her, other than to say how horrible of a person she is. That was why no one looked for her.

She traced her fingers over the wooden beads of her mother’s rosary. “I wish you had never left us, Mother. Nothing is going well. Neither Father Marc or Peter had fulfilled their promise to you. I have no one to talk to and no money to buy food and clothes. And it’s all because of them.”

“What are you talking about, and why are you crying?”

Adele sat up straight and twisted her torso until she was staring at the person who interrupted her thoughts. He looked to be no older than she; he was scrawny and his thick, brown curls were matted. He wasn’t handsome, but there was something about his demeanor that calmed Adele. She couldn’t find a word to describe it, yet she was glad that she had someone to talk to. At last.

She wiped her eyes dry with the sleeve of her cloak. “I am terribly hungry and tired and….I don’t know if I want to continue on this pilgrimage.”

The boy reached into his sack and pulled out a loaf of bread.

Adele’s eyes bulged open. “Where did you get that?”

A mischievous grin spread across his face. “I stole it from the monastery’s bakery, when the baker wasn’t there of course.”

Adele gasped. They had stopped at two monasteries on their journey and had relied on the monks’ good will. Unfortunately the monks had not enough food to feed all of the pilgrims, so many pilgrims went more than one day’s travel hungry, including Adele. As much as she wanted to at time, she didn’t bring herself to stealing food from the monks, or from the villagers whose towns they passed through. She was still hurting from the quarrel she had with Father Marc, so the last thing Adele wanted was to bear the additional burden of guilt.

The boy laughed. “A pious girl, you are. You’d rather starve to death than commit one little act of sin, wouldn’t you?”

Adele shook her head. “A starving girl who chooses not to steal is not a pious girl. She is simply abiding by the law of the land.”

“I meant not to insult you. In fact, I wish I was as good as you.” He broke off a large piece and handed it to Adele. “Here. Don’t let yourself die of starvation.”

“Many thanks,” Adele said, taking the chunk of bread from him. She broke off a small piece and placed in on her tongue. It was still soft and tasted delicious. She suddenly didn’t care how this boy obtained this loaf of bread; she was glad she had something decent to eat.

“My name is Simon,” he offered, sitting on the grass close beside her.

Adele began to tingle all over. She had never been this close to a boy before, so she didn’t know whether to feel excited or afraid. “I’m Adele.”

“Adele. You are really pretty, you know that?”

She blushed deeply. No one had ever told her that, not even her mother when she was alive. And Father Marc thought she was a wretched girl; he told her that the day before they left Josselin.

“Yes you are,” Simon insisted. “You are the prettiest girl I’ve ever met…seen.”

Adele chuckled lightly. “Thank you, Simon. You sure know how to flatter a lady.”

He shot her a wide grin. “That’s what I’m here for. So tell me; why are you alone? Have you taken up the cross without your family’s permission?”

Adele bit down hard on her lower lip. She thought about Elle and Jose spending their visit here in comfort and with plenty of food to eat. Tears pricked her eyes. “I have no family.”

“Well, I came with my father, mother and two older brothers.”

“Then, why are you not with them?”

Simon shrugged one shoulder. “I wanted to see more of this great city.”

“But you have not yet entered the city’s gates. And, have we not seen enough land already?”

“I never grow tired of new sites, me lady. This land may be poor, but it’s still beautiful, and I enjoy every moment of it.”

A faint smile crept across Adele’s face. “I bet the Holy Land is far more beautiful than here.”

Simon nodded his head. “You are probably right.

If interested, you can read more articles on Crusades and Crusaders.

 

 

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All Will be Well

All Will be Well is a YA vignette that is set during the time of the People’s Crusade. It is a story/series that I’m weaving into the fabric of my Crusades and Crusaders blog.

15 February 1096

The moment Adele saw Peter approaching, sitting on top of his mule, her eyes filled with tears. Adele had heard all about Peter’s teachings; of all the kindness and generosity he bestowed upon the people of this land. Many of the villagers likened him to Saint Peter–even though they had not yet met him. Father Marc even said that Christ had sent Peter to preach unity, good will, humanity and…Holy War. That was why Father Marc had wrote to Peter; He wanted him to preach here in the town of Rochefort. Adele suspected he wanted to hear more about this Holy War; she wanted to learn more about it herself. But she had other pressing concerns, and she needed to Peter. Desperately.

She could already tell that Peter was not alone. He was accompanied by several travelers. Few of them were knights, clad in a full suite of armor. They all chanted, “God wills it,” over and over again.

Adele hiked up her skirts and ran towards the procession, her vision nearly blinded by tears.

When Peter saw her, he brought his mule and the entire procession to an immediate halt. “My dear child. What is the matter?”

Adele fell to her knees. The rain soaked ground seeped quickly through her skirts, sending deep chills throughout her body. “Father…I am so glad you have come to Rochefort. I have…I have…”

“Come, child, take my hand and tell me of your troubles. The good Lord knows everything, and he has a grand plan for you; for us all,” Peter said, looking up towards Heaven.

Adele slipped her hand in his. It was cold, rough and caked in dirt, but she did not care. She was holding the hand of the great Peter the Hermit. That was all that mattered. She dabbed at her eyes and nose with her space hand. “Oh, dear Father. My mother is all I have left, but she is very ill. She wishes to see you.”

Peter gave her hand a squeeze. “Of course. I shall see her right away.”

Hand in hand, Adele and Peter led the procession of travelers into the village. A feeling of calm washed over Adele as she guided Peter to the tiny cottage where she lived with her mother and sisters. Children, who had been playing in the street, stopped what they were doing and ran towards Peter, their arms outstretched and smiles plastered on their pale little faces. Everywhere, curious villagers left their homes and coalesced upon her cottage. Caring not for the audience they have gathered, Adele pushed open the wooden door and guided Peter inside.

Father Marc was kneeling beside the cot where Mother lay. Elle was stoking the fire while little Josie played with her rag doll, Celeste nearby.

The moment Father Marc saw Peter, he bowed reverently and said; “Father Peter, you have come at last.”

Adele watched as Peter embraced Father Marc. “Yes, dear brother. My heart is rejoicing, for I have wanted to meet you ever since I received your letter. And now I finally have.”

Adele rushed to her mother’s side, took her hand and kissed it. Despite the fact that Mother’s cot was beside the fire pit, her hand was ice cold. Fresh tears stung Adele’s eyes. “He is here, Mother. All will be well.”

A weak smile spread across Mother’s face. “Adele…My girls…”

At the mention of ‘girls’, Elle and Josie rushed to Mother’s bedside.

“I don’t…have much time. Christ is calling me home,” Mother whispered.

Tears poured down Adele’s face. “What are we going to do? Where will we go? We have very little money.”

“Adele. Take my rosary and…listen to what Father Peter and Father Marc tell you. Do as they say. They will take good care of you girls.” Mother tried to lift the rosary over her head, but she couldn’t move her arms, so Adele took it from her.

“I will, Mother,” was all she could say.

“Mama! Please don’t go. Don’t go. Please,” Josie wailed.

“Come on, children. Let Father Peter pray over your mother,” Father Marc intervened.

Without another word, the three girls shuffled over to the door where Father Marc stood.

Adele watched her dear mother slip away right after she confessed her sins to Father Peter. Her face was white and marked with years of suffering, yet her expression was of content. She was glad to be in heaven, far away from here. Adele felt strangely happy for Mother and relieved to know that she would suffer no more.

“Your mother has repented. She is with God now,” Father Peter said after he finished praying over her.

Adele made the sign of the Cross. So too did Father Marc and her sisters.

“My dear children; your home is no longer here. It is in Jerusalem. It is God’s will, as your mother’s, that you take up the Cross and fight the enemy,” Peter said.

Adele was not surprised to hear this, yet she could not stop her heart from racing. “But Father, I am only sixteen and I do not know how to fight.” She felt a strong hand on her shoulder; Father Marc’s hand.

“God will protect us. He is on our side. He will smite the very enemy who desecrated the Holy Sepulcher.” Father Marc’s voice was so loud, it rang in Adele’s ear.

Adele turned and cast him a blank look. “Pardon my ignorance, Father Marc, but I do not know who this enemy is.”

Peter’s face flushed a deep red. He looked at her as if she has just uttered a blasphemous word. So did Father Marc.

“They are Muslims; a race of barbarians,” Peter yelled. “These filthy heathens, who proclaim a lowly man, Muhammad, as God, base their religion on rape, murder and incest.” His lips began to tremble. “These infidels continue to desecrate the place where our Lord suffered; they persecute and torture the Christians living under their rule, and now they threaten to destroy Romania.* These Muslims are the Antichrist, I tell you.” He paused and took a deep breath. “But the good Lord has heard the cry of his people for deliverance. That is why he has called us to save his Holy City and defend our Eastern Brethren from the infidel.”

Adele exchanged looks with her younger sisters. She could easily tell, by the looks on their faces, they were just as horrified by this news as was she. So, this is what the Holy War is all about.

Adele suddenly felt Peter’s hand on her shoulder and she smelt his putrid breath. She fought the urge to grimace and back away. The last thing she wanted was to offend him and Father Marc, especially since she had promised her mother that she would do as they told her.

“Jesus does not care that you are a young peasant girl, and he does not care that you are poor. He is calling you to take up the Cross and defend His people. The Holy Land belongs to Him. I promise, you and your sisters will be safe. We will all travel together, and there will be many Christian warriors who will accompany us.”

Peter’s eyes filled with tears. “All your sins will be absolved. Every one of you.” His gaze danced from Adele to her sisters, to Father Marc, then back to Adele. “The road to Jerusalem is long and treacherous, but that does not compare to the Heavenly award Christ has for you; for us. If God spares your life, He will bless you, for the Holy Land is full of treasure. Even the lowliest of peasants shall live a comfortable life.”

Josie squealed. “Oooh, treasure! I cannot wait to find out what it is.”

Father Marc cupped a hand over her mouth. “That is not God’s intention, child.”

Adele’s gaze shifted from Peter to her mother. “You are right. This is no longer our home. We no longer belong here. God has a plan for us elsewhere and He has sent you to us. I…we…will take up the Cross and, with God’s help, we will fight the infidel.”

“Bless you, child,” Peter said, bowing reverently. “You will have eternal salvation, I promise.”

Tears gathered in the corners of Adele’s eyes. “I wish only to be with my mother in Heaven, and it makes my heart glad to know I will see her again one day.”

Father Marc pulled a knife out of his cloak, then carefully cut out four crosses from Mother’s blanket. He handed one to Adele, one to Elle, one to Josie and kept the last for himself.

“Take this cross,” he said, holding up the piece of cloth, “and sew it onto your clothes, over your right breast.” He then made the sign of the Cross with his spare hand. “God wills it!”

“God Wills it,” they all yelled in unison.

Adele felt a strange tingling sensation all over. She did not know what lie ahead, but she was more than happy and prepared to leave her dismal life behind forever.

*The Byzantine Empire was commonly referred to as Romania (Eastern Roman Empire) in the Middle Ages.

Crusades and Crusades is mostly a non-fiction blog that follows the crusades (1095-1291), hence the title. The fiction vignettes that I’m including on this blog are intended to take the E.E.I.I. module (Educate, Engage, Inform, Inspire) to a whole new level.

To be a Star

This is a short story I wrote earlier this year. It’s actually a vignette from a (potential) idea for a novel I had brewing in my mind.

*****

Jessica considers herself a sensible person in that she’s cautious around other people. She wants friends, but she doesn’t want to be friends with everyone. That’s why Jessica can’t understand why she wants to be accepted by Minnie. No, it’s not because Minnie is popular; it’s not because Minnie is drop-dead-gorgeous, and it’s not because she happens to come from a very well-to-do family; it is because Minnie is an amazing actress. Minnie has starred as the lead character in every school play since the eighth grade. She even played the role of Clara in The Nutcracker last Christmas, a play produced by the Okanagan Arts Club, the most reputable and prestigious theatre company in the Okanagan Valley.

Jessica emerges from the bathroom stall, then walks over to the sinks. When she peers at her reflection in the mirror, she frowns. I wish I was as pretty as Minnie. I wish my hair was as thick and as long as hers, and I wish I had her hour-glass figure. Jessica’s stomach is not protruding, but it’s not flat either: it is round enough to make Jessica feel self-conscious of her appearance. Her hips and thighs aren’t so bad, but still, she avoids wearing yoga pants, tights; anything that reveals her husky figure.

Jessica could work out at the gym two days a week. Three days a week. No, she’s going to work out every day, for one solid hour. Hopefully, once I’m all toned, I’ll have a better chance at landing a part in an Okanagan Arts Club play. Maybe then, Annie, the director, will admit me into her theatre school.

Jessica rakes her fingers through her straight, fine, blond hair. Forget it, Jessica. Beauty alone isn’t going to get you a star role in a big production. And it’s not going to ensure you a place in the Okanagan Arts Club theatre school for teens.

            Jessica gives her reflection a determined look. “I need Minnie to help me improve on my acting skills,” she whispers.

The door flings open suddenly and voices fill the air around her.

“Where did Adam, of all people, come up with the idea for story theatre?”

That voice belongs to Sarah, Minnie’s best friend.

Jessica’s eyes widen. Story theatre?

“His imagination of course. I don’t know where else he would have found an idea like that,” Minnie says.

Jessica spins on her heels. “What’s story theatre all about?”

Sarah’s face darkens into a scowl. “Of course, of all people, you have to be here.”

Minnie flashes Jessica a tight smile. “Hi, Jessica, aren’t you supposed to be in whatever class you have now?”

Jessica can feel the red creep up her neck and over her face. “Um–yeah. English.”

“Then, you shouldn’t be fooling around in here, Jessica,” Sarah says.

“Minnie, what is story theatre about?” Jessica says, ignoring Sarah’s snide remark.

“Uh–it’s kinda like–street theatre.”

“Really? It totally sounds like a lot of fun,” Jessica says.

Sarah gives Jessica a chilled look. “Yeah, but it’s for experienced actors only. Isn’t it, Minnie?”

“I wasn’t talking to you, Sarah,” Jessica says, glaring at her.

“Whatever, Jessican’t.”

“Leave her alone, Sarah,” Minnie says with a sigh.

Jessica keeps her eyes fixed on Minnie. Today, Minnie’s hair is down; it tumbles over one shoulder and down almost to her waist in one mass of perfectly shaped waves. She is clad in a long, pale green tunic, black tights and ballet flats. A pang of envy beats against Jessica’s chest. I wish I could dress like that and look stunning. She shakes her head. Oh, snap out of it, Jessica. You want to know more about story theatre. That’s all that matters to you. Nothing else.

“I want to be a part of this troupe.”

Sarah snickers.

Minnie’s eyebrows snap up. “Really?”

“She’s joking. Isn’t that right, Jessica?” Sarah says. “Don’t you remember the time back in seventh grade when Mrs. Simmons told you to never audition for another play?”

Jessica bites down hard on her lower lip. That had been the worst day of her life, and Mrs. Simmons–the drama teacher–didn’t have the decency to tell Jessica that in privacy: she had to let Jessica know in front of the entire class, in front of Minnie and Sarah. Jessica doesn’t cry much, she never has. But after she got home from school that afternoon, she sobbed for hours.

She didn’t give up, though. With a lot of support and encouragement from her family, Jessica managed to rebuild her confidence, enough to try again.

She had been in eighth grade and in her first year at Rock Hill Secondary School when she auditioned for a minor role in Greece, a production put on by the school drama club. Jessica thought her audition went well–despite the fact that she had been nervous–and believed that she got the part. But she never received a call back. Only that time, the drama teacher told her that she needed to improve on her acting skills. Quite dramatically. What the teacher really meant to tell Jessica was that she had raw, natural talent. It just needed to be refined. That’s how Jessica interpreted that critique anyway.

Jessica has spent the last three years working on improving her acting skills. She even wrote her own monologues, then had Jenny, her best friend, film her acting them. Jessica posted some of those videos on YouTube, but very few people have viewed them. And no one left any good comments. Jessica, though, never took that as a negative; Jenny even told her that she’s a good actress. Jessica just needs one professional actor to take a chance on her. She has hoped that Annie would be that one special person, but Annie has made every lame excuse under the sun to not give Jessica a chance. Regardless, Jessica is not going to give up.

Jessica shoots Sarah a scathing look. “That’s in the past now, Sarahdumbbitch, so why don’t you leave it there?”

Sarah gives her an even more menacing look, but Minnie holds up her hand in a gesture that stops Sarah from unleashing a hail of razor-sharp words.

“Forget it, Sarah. This is so not worth our time. We’re not joining Adam’s story theatre troupe because the only people who are going to sign up for it are the geeks, losers and the people who’d like to think they are star actors, but in reality, they can’t act worth crap,” Minnie says.

“Like Jessica,” Sarah says. “You’re never going to get a part in any play, so give it up, wannabe.”

Minnie nods her head up and down, then tosses her hair over one shoulder.

Jessica’s lips tremble and her eyes fill up with tears. It feels as if Minnie has just thrust a sword through her abdomen, then twisted it. Jessica has hoped that Minnie would have warmed up to her by now, but obviously, that hasn’t happened.

Jessica walks past the two girls, keeping her eyes peeled on the door. Once she steps out into the hallway, she crumbles. The tears flow down her face, obscuring her vision. Ahead, at the end of the hallway, near the foyer, the words, STORY THEATRE WORKSHOPS appear as a blur before her eyes.

Jessica stops in her tracks, wipes her eyes dry, gets her emotions under control, then looks again at the words. They inhabit almost the entire billboard and they are written in bright red ink. Jessica walks up to the billboard, studying the words as if she has never seen them before. So, that’s what Sarah and Minnie were talking about. How could I have missed this? Her eyes fall to the information below. It reads:

Workshops will be held in the cafeteria, Tuesday and Wednesday, February 21st and 22nd.

          Times: 3-6pm. Anyone who would like to be involved in acting, music and back stage management (outside of school) can come to the workshops.

          For more information, call Adam McAllister at 250-490-0896.

Jessica chews on her lower lip. Last August, the drama club had been cut from the school program because of a lack of funding, and because of a lack of interest on behalf of the teachers.  They had been more interested in starting up and funding an astronomy club and geology club. The people who had anticipated joining the drama club this year either auditioned to get into the theatre school, took acting classes elsewhere, or put theatre on hold for another year.

Jessica knows at least fifteen people in Rock Hill High who attend the theatre school, Minnie and Sarah included. She wonders how Adam is going to compete with an organization that has been around for five years; one that’s quite successful. Are people going to join his story theatre troupe, and is he going to capture the interest of everyone in this school? In this town? Oh, whatever! I don’t care how many people show up to his workshops. This is my opportunity to get my foot in the theatre door, and I’m not going to let anyone stop me or tell me that I can’t do it. I am going to be a star.

The Labourer’s Plea

This is a short play I wrote for Story Theatre this past summer.

LABOURER: Long time ago, there lived a man. He was a strapping young fellow, but he was in want of work; for you see, his master had died, leaving him with no means.

Sits wearily on a box, near stage left.

He traveled from village to village, but no one would hire him. The days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months. But he found no work.

‘I shan’t live long if I do not find work and shelter. Oh, what shall I do?’

Pauses, hears the galloping of a horse. He stands up when he sees a Baron.

‘Hark! I hear a horse!’

Baron enters from stage right, pretending to ride a horse.

BARON: Boy, what are you doing there, standing in my way!

LABOURER: Oh, please, my lord, I beg you to hear my request: I am starving and I need work.

BARON: I am a man of status; I command a thousand knights! What use would you–a scrawny peasant boy–be to me?

LABOURER: (pulls a small dagger from his belt) Well, I made this.

BARON: (examines the dagger) That is a fine weapon indeed. You do have some skill, my boy.

LABOURER: But that’s not all. I can make swords, belts and helmets. I can also make–

BARON: There are already several men who make armor and weapons.

LABOURER: My lord, I am a labourer, but I have many skills. Let me work for you. I beg you. I am a desperate man.

BARON: I have no need for you! But I could use a new dagger.

LABOURER: Well, actually… I guess it’s alright. Here you go. Now…will you give me work?

BARON: I told you, I have no need for you. I serve the king, and he needs men who fight. You’re too weak to fight in battle.

LABOURER: ‘Please. You must give me a chance!’ But the Baron rode off, so the Laborer kept walking until, alas, he saw a Merchant.

MERCHANT: What do you want, boy? Come on. Out with it.

LABOURER: I am in need of work, food and shelter.

MERCHANT: I’m sorry, lad, but I have neither to give you.

LABOURER: But you must have some work that needs to be done! You cannot make repairs on your own. Please, I beg you to help a man in desperation.

MERCHANT: I have no work for you, boy! But… wait a moment… is that water in your flask?  I am feeling rather thirsty.

LABOURER: Then you shall have some. I could never withhold water from a thirsty man. But I need water and food myself, you see, and the only way I can acquire these things is if you hire me.

MERCHANT:  (after drinking all of the laborer’s water) I have already employed several servants and labourers. I don’t need another one. Now be off with you.

LABOURER: And so the heartless Merchant stomped off.

PEASANT GIRL: At that moment, a young Peasant Girl walked down the dirt road, carrying an empty basket. She sang a delightful tune to herself as she walked. It had been a wonderful day because she had sold all of her eggs at the market. Father and Mother would be glad because now they’d have enough money to buy a cow.

LABOURER: Why, hello there, young girl. You look like you have done yourself well.

PEASANT GIRL: Oh–how did you guess?

LABOURER: (gestures to her, then talks in a sing-song voice) Because you are well dressed. Surely your father must own several acres of land. I’d imagine he’d need an extra hand.

PEASANT GIRL: You speak well for a landless labourer, and you know how to serenade a girl. But I can’t take you home. Father would be very angry with me.

LABOURER: And why would that be?

PEASANT GIRL: My father doesn’t trust strangers, especially ones who have no land.

LABOURER: But your father wouldn’t feel that way if he met me.

(Reaches into his sack.)

I can pay him two pennies. It’s all I have left, but it should be enough to compensate for my stay.

PEASANT GIRL: Uh, no thank you.

LABOURER: Please take them and let me come with. I promise that your father will not be angry. And he will not turn me away.

PEASANT GIRL: Uh-Er-Um. Is that bread you have in your pocket?

LABOURER: Yes.

PEASANT GIRL: Mind if I have some?

LABOURER: Yes, of course. Help yourself.

PEASANT GIRL:  Many thanks. You are very kind.

LABOURER: My pleasure, Madame. Now, have you changed your mind?

PEASANT GIRL: About what?

LABOURER: About me. Will you let me come with you?

PEASANT GIRL: I am so sorry, Labourer, but I cannot take you with me. I wish I could but…I just can’t.

LABOURER:  Please…

PEASANT GIRL: (looks around anxiously) It’s getting late. I must be on my way. Goodbye, Laborer. I hope you find work and shelter soon.

LABOURER: ‘Wait!’ But the Peasant Girl ran fast. She disappeared over the hill and out of his sight.

‘Oh, what shall I do now? She was my last hope!’

MONK: A monk, who had been traveling all day long, spotted the Laborer sitting on the side of the road. When he saw the poor man, his heart filled with compassion.

‘My dear fellow, why do you sit there?’

LABOURER: I have no work, no shelter and I don’t have enough food to last me until tomorrow evening.

MONK: Well, our Church needs repair and we do have plenty of food. But first, I would like to know your skills.

LABOURER: I can make daggers, swords, belts and helmets. I can also build.

MONK: We have no need for weapons, but we do need a builder. I do not know you, son, but I am willing to give you a chance. Come. Take my hand and we will walk together.

LABOURER: Oh, I cannot find the right words to express my gratitude, Father. You are so very kind. But…why did you hire me?

MONK: I heard about your good deeds. You have been very generous to the people of this countryside and I want to repay your generosity.

LABOURER: I will work hard, Father. I will not disappoint you. I promise.

MONK: I trust that you will keep your word.

LABOURER:  The labourer kept his word. Eventually, he became the wealthiest man in the village–the village nearest to the monastery. He built a large house for himself, married the peasant girl and they lived happily together for the rest of their lives.

THE END

 

 

 

The Ant and The Grasshopper

This is a short play that I wrote for Story Theatre this past spring. It’s my adaptation from Aesop.

ANT: Many years ago, there lived an ant…

GRASSHOPPER: And a Grasshopper…They dwelled in a grassy meadow…

ANT: This meadow, you see, was in a valley and next to a farmer’s field.

GRASSHOPPER: Summer had come early this year. And summertime in the valley meant two things for the grasshopper: play and sleep.

ANT: But for the Ant, summer changed nothing. Every day, six days a week, she got out of bed before sunrise and walked several miles to the Farmer’s field, carrying a heavy sack on her back. At the field, she would pick up a grain of wheat and then walk the several miles back home.

GRASSHOPPER: The Grasshopper would watch her toil in the heat of the day. Every time he saw her pass by, he laughed loudly.

‘Why do you work so hard? Come here, dear Ant. Sit with me underneath this great tree and rest a while. I’ll sing you a melodious tune.

ANT: Oh, not him again.

GRASSHOPPER: (Singing while music plays softly in the background)

Summer is here. Summer is here.

and it shan’t stay long, no it won’t stay long.

So why waste it’s visit in labor and toil?

Oh, please come here and sing with me.

ANT: Leave me alone!

GRASSHOPPER: (laughs out loud) You are such a silly little Ant. Why must you waste such beautiful days working as hard as a slave? (in a sing-song voice) Come, come. Please leave your work and dance with me.

The Grasshopper hops across the stage, singing and dancing while the Ant runs off in another direction.

Music sounds and then fades out when Ant starts to speak.

ANT: But Summer turned into Autumn and Autumn faded into winter. The days grew colder, shorter and wetter. Soon, it began to snow.

GRASSHOPPER: The Grasshopper didn’t feel like singing and dancing anymore. He was cold, hungry and he had no shelter to provide him with warmth. There was no food to be found because the entire valley had been covered by snow.

ANT: But the Ant didn’t have to worry about the cold, she was warm. She lived inside the trunk of a small tree, and she was never hungry because she had plenty of food to last throughout the winter months.

GRASSHOPPER: The Grasshopper searched the farmer’s field for food and shelter. He even dug into the snow, hoping that he might find something to satisfy his aching belly. But he found nothing.

‘Oh, what shall I do? Where shall I go?’

‘The Ant! I shall go to her and ask for food and shelter.’ So off he went to the tree trunk where the Ant lived.

Sound of knocking

ANT: Who’s there?

GRASSHOPPER: It’s me. Grasshopper.

ANT: (opens the door reluctantly) What are you doing here, and what do you want from me?

GRASSHOPPER: Hello, Ant. I’ve come to sing for you; and to seek food and shelter from the cold.

ANT: All summer long, I worked hard while you mocked me. You should have thought about winter then. Find somewhere else to sing, Grasshopper, because there is no room for you here.

GRASSHOPPER: Please, Ant! I promise I will change. I will do anything you ask me to do. Just don’t keep me out in the cold. I’m so hungry and there is nowhere else to go. I beg you! Please let me stay.

ANT: (with a heavy sigh) Alright, you can stay. But you must promise that, in the summer, you will work with me, so you will have food and shelter when next winter comes.

GRASSHOPPER: I will, oh I will, dear Ant. You can show me the tricks of the trade and I promise, that I will make you happy.

ANT: That night, they ate a delicious meal.

GRASSHOPPER: And after the meal, she gave the grasshopper a place to sleep by the fire.

ANT: They soon became very good friends.

GRASSHOPPER: The Grasshopper was happy to have her as his friend, but he also learnt a very important lesson that winter: it is wise to worry about tomorrow today.

 

THE END

I’m Nothing What They Say

This is a continuation from Welcome to Peach Valley, Maria.

Anya does what she has never before dared to do: she slides a study card out of her binder, then writes; Thank you, Maria. I’m poor and I get picked on a lot, but I’m nothing what they say. Anya.

Anya passes the note to Maria, trying to be as discrete as possible. Within seconds, she receives a note back from Maria.

I don’t know you, but I get the feeling you’re a decent person. Those girls aren’t worth anymore than their “pathetic” makeup, so everything they say is pure, unadulterated bullshit. Maria, the note reads in grammatically correct English.

Anya smiles, feeling much better. So Maria did hear every comment Melody and Cassidy made about her. Anya wasn’t just assuming it.

She flashes Maria a grin, but Maria doesn’t see her, so Anya tries to focus her attention on Mr. Wimple’s lesson. She just can’t stop thinking about Maria, though. Hopefully between first and second period, Anya will get a chance to speak to Maria; maybe strike up a friendship with her.

****

The bell rings, marking the end of first period. At last! Anya slams her textbook and binder shut. Great. Now I can talk to her. Finally.

“Hey, Maria. What class do you have next?” Anya rakes her spare fingers through her long, thick hair.

“English.”

Anya’s face lights up. “Really? I do too. We can walk there…”

“Hey, Maria,” Jose says. He, Shondra and two other people crowd Maria, forcing Anya to take two steps backward.

“Oh. Hey,” Maria says.

“Do you want to hang with us in the courtyard?” Jose asks.

“All the cool kids chill in the courtyard,” Shondra says. She flips her long hair over one shoulder and shoots Anya a dirty look at the same time.

“Okay,” Maria says with a small shrug of one shoulder.

“What about me?” Anya wants to ask, but she keeps her mouth shut for fear of what they might say to her.

Much to Anya’s surprise, Maria looks directly at her.

“Guess I’ll see you around,” Maria says.

Anya can feel her heart sink. “Okay. I’ll see you in English.”

With no other choice, Anya follows them out of the classroom. Once she steps into the hallway, she turns in the direction of her locker–the opposite of where the others are going. She keeps her head held high. Really, though, it’s in effort to keep herself from crumbling in front of everyone.

Bingo! The popular kids score again. And me? I’m left at the bottom of the social rung to be spat on repeatedly. Not good for a serious aspiring actress.

These stories are vignettes that lead up to the main story of To be Maria. If you want to learn more about To be Maria and where you can purchase a copy, visit the “To be Maria” page, the one listed under “About”.

Welcome to Peach Valley, Maria

This is a continuation from Who is That Girl?

“Welcome, Historians,” Mr. Wimple says, completely oblivious to all the comments, snickers and sneers that are being made by his new group of students. “I’d like to introduce you to our new student, Maria Hernandez.”

“Maria. That name is music to my ears,” Anya hears Jose–Matt’s best friend–say.

“Get a freakin life,” she hears Melody say through gritted teeth.

Ignoring Melody and the others, Anya continues to study this Maria girl; she continues to stand there, calm and collected as if she hasn’t heard a single comment. Surely she hears all the nasty comments Melody and Cassidy are saying about her.

I really want to be just like her.

            “Tell us a little bit about yourself, Maria,” Mr. Wimple says.

“Oh my God. This is so elementary school,” Cassidy whispers loudly.

“Yeah, and he can’t keep his eyes off her chest,” Melody whispers back.

A strong feeling of relief washes over Anya. Man, it feels good to know I’m not the only one who gets picked on in this school.

“I’m from Madrid,” Maria says. Her voice carries a prominent Spanish accent, yet her diction of the English language is clear and easy to understand. At least Anya thinks it is.

“That’s wonderful,” Mr. Wimple says with a clap of his hands. “I might just get you to do a presentation on the Spanish Civil War.”

Anya can detect the tiniest form of a smirk on Maria’s face.

“Well, welcome to Peach Valley, Maria,” he says, gesturing to the rows of seats. That’s when Anya becomes aware of the empty seat on her right side, and of the other one against the wall, at the far end of the classroom. Her heart begins to race when she sees Maria walking towards her.

“Oh. My. God. Don’t tell me she’s going to sit beside Anya,” Shondra says.

Anya’s face prickles with heat.

“Seriously. There is another empty seat in this room,” Jose says.

“She’s way too cool for Anya, and way prettier,” says one of Jose’s friends.

Anya bites down hard on her lower lip and inhales deeply at the same time. One…two…three. I’m not going to cry.

            “Miss Poverty meets Miss Townslut. An interesting match indeed,” Melody says just as Maria settles into the seat beside Anya.

Anya meets Maria’s eyes, but only for a second. Maria swivels her body and shoots Melody dagger eyes.

“It takes one to know one, bitch,” Maria says loud enough for the teacher– everyone– in the classroom to hear.

Anya’s jaw drops and her eyes bulge open. That was an incredibly gutsy thing to say, especially within Mr. Wimple’s hearing. Whether luck is on Maria’s side or Mr. Wimple is lost in the realm of History, he doesn’t reprimand Maria for that comment.

Who is That Girl?

Anya sits in the third seat of the third row in Mr. Wimple’s History class. She doodles outside the margins on a piece of loose-leaf paper. It is the first day of a brand new semester–her last semester at Peach Valley Senior High before she enters the real world–and her best friend, Patrick is in only two of the classes she’s signed up for: Creative Writing and Advanced Acting 12, the very class Anya, Patrick and over one hundred other students auditioned for.

This class is a big deal because it guarantees serious aspiring actors a stepping stone to success in the entertainment industry, especially for the lucky individual who wins Mr. Hawthorne’s sponsorship to Vancouver Film School. That’s why, when Mr. Hawthorne told Anya over the phone that there was a place for her in his class, she was elated. She had been even more excited when she found out that Patrick had also been accepted as well.

Still, Anya wishes that Patrick was in all of the same classes as her. It would make this semester so much better.

Anya places the pen beside her notebook and allows her gaze to drift in the direction of the door the same time Mr. Wimple enters the classroom slightly ahead of…

Anya’s jaw drops. Who is that girl?

Every conversation in the room stops abruptly.

Everyone–including Anya–stares at this girl as if she’s Jennifer Lopez. She doesn’t quite look like Jennifer Lopez, but she certainly has the beauty and the appeal. This girl is clad in a short, black, leather jacket, torso-hugging, cleavage-showing v-neck shirt, tight black jeans and matching, black boots; ones with kitten heels too; an outfit far too suggestive for school.

Her hair is jet black, curly and long, and her skin is olive-toned. Heck, this girl is incredibly confident, Anya can tell by the way she holds her head high.

“S-lut,” Anya hears Meloday–her former best friend–say to Cassidy in a not-so-hushed voice.

“No kidding. What is she trying to prove?” Cassidy whispers back.

“Like, look at her outfit and her pathetic makeup. It’s totally obvious she’s a whore,” Meloday whispers back.

“Yeah. I’m so not giving her the time of day.”

“Neither am I. She’s so not worth our time.”

The boys, on the other hand, are receiving this beauty of the new kid a little too eagerly.

“Dude, she’s so hot.”

“Yeah. Smoking.”

“I’m going to ask her out.”

“Most beautiful creature I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Anya bites down hard on her lower lip. I wish more guys would say those things about me. It’s not fair.

“No kidding. I mean, look at that body, and those boobs,” another guy says.

That comment generates a few snickers and sneers from Melody and her friends.

Stay tuned for more…

Notes on The Billboard

Here’s a continuation from Paper + Felt Pen = Shame.

Each girl writes a short message on a piece of paper. Once they are done, Alejandra and Maya flush what is left of their cigarettes down a toilet, then walk out of the washroom with Maria. They walk past the staircase–the one that leads up to the Latin class that they are supposed to be attending–and over to the billboard. That is where they are going to post the three notes.

The billboard is located in the juncture of two crucial places in this school: beside the cafeteria and in the foyer, across from the entrance doors. Most important, though, is that this billboard contains notices that everyone wants to read: auditions for the school play, start dates and meet-up times for social clubs, intellectual clubs, sports clubs and hobby clubs, and notifications of upcoming parties and school events.

Maria flashes her friends a tight grin, but she cannot calm her racing heart. Sure, most people in this school are going to read these three notes. But will they believe Maria? Will they finally see Alice for what she really is, or will this back fire on Maria?

Maria breathes in and out deeply as she posts the notes high on the billboard. Thank God we’re the only ones in this hallway.

Once the deed is done, Maria turns, then strides out of the building with Alejandra and Maya by her side. Maria really hopes that the latter does not occur: that this does not blow up in her face.

****

This is what they wrote:

Sheet 1:

Alice Balatize-Castillo is a SLUT!!

Sheet 2:

She went out with my boyfriend, Ricardo and then slept with him. Behind my back!

Sheet 3:

Girls. Better watch your back and your boyfriends. Or else, you will become Alice’s next victim.

 

Paper + Felt Pen = Shame

Here’s a continuation from Enter Alice: Star Gymnast and Avid Boyfriend Stealer.

Alice tries to back away, but Alejandra and Maya corner her.

“I could plant this in your pretty little face right now and I will if you don’t promise us that you won’t rat on us to the principle, and to your stupid friends.”

Maria can see the beads of sweat form on Alice’s forehead.

“Okay, I won’t, I won’t. I promise,” Alice says.

Maria shoots her an icy look. “You promise?”

“Yes, I promise. I won’t tell the principle, and I’ll tell my friends to keep it a secret. Okay?” Alice says, her voice small and shaky.

Maria walks over to the nearest toilet, drops the cigarette remains into the bowl, then flushes it. The loud, swishing, gurgling noise penetrates the tension, but only for a brief moment. Maria and her friends are not going to let Alice go now. No way.

She walks up to Alice until only a space of three inches separates their faces. “You can jump into any guy’s pants and think it’s okay because you’re the star gymnast of Spain. No one is going to judge you because you are Alice the invencible,” Maria says. “Well, guess again. You’re nothing but a two-bit whore, a worthless slut.”

Maria can see the tears glistening in Alice’s blue eyes. That very sight makes her feel triumphant. “I’m done with you, so you can mosey on out of here and do your thing in the other washroom. But if we find out you rattled on us, you’ll regret it for the rest of your high school days. Big time!”

“We’ll find you and then we will beat the crap out of you,” Maya says.

Maria and Alejandra both nod their heads in agreement.

“Do you understand what we are telling you?” Maria says.

Alice nods her head rapidly. A couple of tears trickle down her face.

“Good. Now get lost,” Maria says with an angry wave of her hand.

“Hah! It sure didn’t take much for her to crumble,” Alejandra says once she assumes Alice is out of earshot.

“Yeah, I thought she was going to fight you,” Maya says.

Maria clenches her teeth. “She would have if I was alone. Regardless, I’m not done with her.”

Maya flashes Maria a devious grin. “I’ve got an idea,” she says, pulling the felt marker out of her purse for the second time. “Do you have paper?”

Maria gives her a blank look. “No. Why?”

“Because we’re going to shame Alice.”

“Maya, you clever little woman. That is such a good idea,” Alejandra says.

Maria, though, does not quite understand what Maya is getting at. “Why would we need paper for that?”

“To write the notes on. Duh,” Maya says.

“I’ve got some paper,” Alejandra says, pulling three blank pieces of lined paper out of her purse.

A malevolent smile spreads across Maria’s face. “Okay, I get it now. This is a good idea, and I know just the thing to write too.”