Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Joy of Happily Ever After

Another glimpse into my forthcoming book, We Found the Vacuum Cleaner.

Grandpa’s Story
By Paul Nichols

“Tell us a story, Grandpa!”

“Yeah, tell us a story!” The five girls scampered onto the couch to find a place close to Grandpa. His lap was the best place and three girls could fit there. The other two snuggled hard under each arm, waiting.

“Well,” he said, “would you like to hear the story of the tarantula that ate five little girls?”

“No-o-o-o!” they gleefully squealed in unison.

“Hmmm, well then, how about the story of the mosquitoes that flew away with my favorite horse?”

“No! We don’t like that one, either.”

Grandpa squinted really hard and rolled his head to conjure up an interesting tale for his granddaughters. “Here’s one!” he said for the umpteenth time. “How about a story about a girl with chocolate skin?”

“Yeah!” They clapped and snuggled closer. “Yeah! That’s my favorite.”

“I love that one.” “Me, too.”

“Once upon a time,” Grandpa began slowly, “there was a little girl with chocolate skin.”

The five girls settled in to listen. Their open eyes saw nothing now, but their ears focused on every word. They had heard this story many times, each time just a little differently than the time before. But the girl with the chocolate skin never changed…

…she was a beautiful girl. She was beautifuller than Cinderella. Beautifuller than Snow White—beautiful just like you. And you. And you and you and you. And she had the prettiest smile anybody ever saw. Her eyes were big and bright and she sang when she walked. The girl with the chocolate skin lived in a little town where no one else had chocolate skin. Everyone else had vanilla skin. Everyone. Except the girl and her family.

“Her name is Elsa. You forgot to say her name, Grandpa.”

And across the street lived a boy with vanilla skin…

“His name is Matthew…”


The boy with vanilla skin was named Matthew and he could already ride a bicycle all by himself. Matthew loved Elsa. Even when he was a little boy, he loved Elsa because she was so pretty and always smiled at him and because she had chocolate skin. “Someday,” he told his mom one day, “I’m going to lick her arm and see if it tastes like chocolate.”

“It won’t,” his mama said.

“It might,” he told her. “It looks like chocolate syrup. Yum!”

Suddenly Grandpa said, “Uh-oh. I forgot the rest of the story.”

“They went to kindergarten, Grandpa!”

“Oh, that’s right…”

Matthew and Elsa walked to school together every day. When they got to the corner, they had to hold each other’s hand, look both ways and hurry across the street. Then when they got into their classroom, Matthew looked and looked at his hands, hoping to find a little chocolate on them. A little chocolate that came off Elsa’s hands. Matthew wished he could have chocolate skin like Elsa. “Maybe,” he thought, “if I hold her hand a little longer.”

Well, holding hands all the way home didn’t work. He still had vanilla skin. Matthew tried and tried to figure out a way to have chocolate skin like Elsa. But he couldn’t. His mama wouldn’t help him. His daddy was too busy. His little brother was too dumb.

“Grandpa! You told us not to say ‘dumb.’ You said nobody’s dumb.”

And then one day an ambulance came to Elsa’s house. In just a little while, Matthew saw it take away Elsa’s mama. Matthew saw Elsa’s daddy crying. Elsa, too. It made Matthew sad to see them crying. He had to walk to school all by himself for a few days and that made him sad, too. He felt all mixed up. One day when Matthew came home from school he discovered that Elsa and her daddy had gone away. It all made Matthew get a sad, mixed up stomach ache.

“They went back where they came from,” Matthew’s mother told him. “They went to live with their own kind. They’re better off there.”

“But I like Elsa,” Matthew said sadly. “She’s my friend.”

“Oh, stop your whining. There’s plenty of friends in school. Now go on outside and play. Stay out of the street.”

But Matthew could only go outside and stare at Elsa’s empty house and cry. And when he cried, he could feel it way down here in his tummy. Way, way down here where he never felt it before.

“It was because he was sad and missed Elsa, huh?”

“Uh-hmmm,” Grandpa said. “Well, I guess that’s the end of the story,” Grandpa said suddenly.

“Nah-uh!” The five girls cried out together. “No, it isn’t, Grandpa! You’re just teasing. They have to get married!”

“Grandpa, she always interrupts and tells the end. That’s not fair.”

“Get married?” Grandpa asked. “Oh, that’s right. Now how did that happen?” he wondered out loud.

…the next year Matthew went to first grade. Matthew looked for Elsa. There was nobody there with smooth chocolate skin. Elsa wasn’t in the second grade, either. Not in the third grade. Fourth, fifth or sixth. Every year, Matthew looked for the girl with the chocolate skin, but she never came back to school. Matthew was always sad because his friend went away and never came back. Sometimes it was hard for Matthew to remember what she looked like. There were people like Elsa in magazines, in the movies and on TV, but not in the town where Matthew lived. But he always looked for her and never forgot that he loved her.

Well, Matthew got big and then it was time for him to go to college. He went to college far, far away in a town where there were lots of people with chocolate skin. He played on the football team and they let him stand on the sidelines game after game after game. He wasn’t quite good enough to play very much, but he was good enough to play if somebody got hurt.

Matthew never missed a practice and he never missed a game, so on the last game of every season, he got to play a little bit.

“The last time you told this story you said he played soccer.”

“Grandpa, make her be quiet. She’s always interrupting.”

“I am not…”

And then in the last quarter of the last game of the last season, Matthew got to play one last time. Down the field he ran. The quarterback threw him a long pass and it landed right in Matthew’s arms. Away he ran, headed for the goal line. And he scored! Yay!!

Matthew was so excited he couldn’t quit running. And then guess what happened?

Matthew ran into the other team’s cheerleaders at the end of the field. Ka-whonk! He knocked one down and tumbled on top of her. It was an accident. He was a polite young man, so he got up fast to help her. She had chocolate skin. She had a bright, beautiful smile…

Matthew! Is that you?” the cheerleader with the chocolate skin yelled. “Matthew, it’s me! Elsa! Do you remember me?”

“Elsa! Elsa! Yes. I. Do!” Matthew screamed back. He yanked her up off the ground and hugged her. She hugged him. Whoo-ee! Boy! Did they ever hug!

The TV cameras zoomed in on the vanilla football player in the white and red uniform and the cheerleader with the chocolate skin in the blue and gold uniform.

“It’s supposed to be the girl with the chocolate skin, not cheerleader.”

They were hugging, I tell you! And laughing and crying together and hugging like crazy.

Some football players tried to pull them apart. “What are you doing, man?” But Matthew held on and kept on hugging. The cameras kept recording them and the players kept yelling at them. They both cried happy tears and they danced up and down while they hugged.

Elsa’s cheerleader friends were speechless. They just stood around in a group staring. “Who’s that weird guy jumping up and down with Elsa?” they asked each other. The people in the bleachers didn’t know if they were cheering for the touchdown or cheering for Matthew and Elsa. But they cheered anyway.

And in the noise, Matthew yelled, “I’m never going to let you go away again!” And Elsa yelled back, “I always wanted you to come and find me! And you did!

And so Matthew—vanilla Matthew—married the girl with the chocolate skin. They had two baby girls and then they had five grandbabies and then they lived happily ever after. Thee. End.

"I love that story, Grandpa. It's my favorite." "Me, too."

“Grandpa? Did it hurt Grandma when you knocked her down?”

©2007 Paul Nichols

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