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The Fairy Ring

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They sat at the beach on drift wood logs and watched the acrobatic play of birds nesting in the rocky cliffs that surrounded them.  The ocean stretched to the horizon; its dark blue water turning pale green as it entered the shallow cove.  Waves rose and fell, capped in white as they crested and broke washing across the beach and the outcroppings of rock that protruded from the sand. Beyond the beach was a dense forest of giant trees. The forest appeared cool, dark, and mysterious.  Justin, Jake, and Elan set up camp at the edge of the forest, high enough to be safe from the waxing tides. They saw no sign of people and assumed they were alone.  It was peaceful here and appeared safe, but they had no desire to stay.  They wanted to go home.  Their journey home had taken them to sea, but that ended in a disastrous shipwreck, that they narrowly survived, and placed them here.  The three boys wanted to return home to the Valley of the Black Dog.  They had enough of the ocean and decided to go by land. As pleasant as this place seemed, they couldn’t stay on the beach much longer using up supplies that they’d need on their journey home.

Justin spent hours looking for usable items as he sifted through the wreckage from the ship.  In a crate marked, tools, he found a knife in a sheath that he quickly strapped to his hip.  He found a mallet and nails.  Under a board that separated the upper potion of the box from the lower, he found string, a canvas needle, a flint and piece of iron to make fire.  He found a small frying pan.  One barrel contained dried meat that appeared edible, fortunately, not ruined by the sea, and would probably travel well.  As he planned what they would take with them, he realized he was uncertain which way to go. He figured they could follow the shoreline north and eventually get to the mouth of the river that ran through their valley.  It might be shorter going east, but they had no idea what they would encounter in that direction.  The dense forest might be difficult to navigate and there were mountains with which to contend.  There was plenty of water where they were, and plenty of food.  Fortunately, it was summer, warm and dry.  They would be well supplied for the next several months.  As cozy as this place appeared, Justin felt he should encourage his brother, Jake, and cousin, Elan, to begin their journey home.

“If we leave soon, we can take advantage of the weather and the food ripening in the forest right now.  If we wait, winter will come and who knows what will happen.  Could be cold, wet, snowy, or all of that.”

“That’s fine with me and, I’m sure, Elan.  I found leather sacks that could hold water, and we can sew bigger bags out of the canvass we salvaged to make packs to carry our supplies.  I think there is enough canvas to make blankets to keep us dry in rain and serve as tents at night.” Jake added.

It took several days to organize and gather what they needed.  They decided to stick to the plan to follow the sea. As long as the beach continued, they could move easily along it although walking in sand could be tiresome.

The three departed the beach by the bay the next morning.  They were lucky to have salvaged shoes; but, as they walked, their shoes filled with sand so quickly that they were obliged to stop and empty them frequently.  They were able to walk along the beach for several days.  As they anticipated, the sand made the going slow, and the beach began to narrow, and the cliffs began to rise more abruptly trapping them by the water.

“I think we should move to the top of the bluff.  The way will be easier off the sand, and it looks like we are quickly running out of beach.“  Justin suggested.

They entered a cove surrounded by sand dunes.  A gap in the dunes allowed them make their way up a hill.  The climb wasn’t steep but long; and once on top, they could see for miles.  Low grasses covered the ground where they walked. Trees on the bluff were low gnarled shrubs, bent away from the sea by the prevailing winds, bent so they appeared to pay homage to the tall pines in the forest behind them.  The sun was warm and it wasn’t long before Jake asked Justin and Elan to take a break.

They sat under a shrub oak, surveyed the great expanse of ocean below them, and listened to the crash of the sea against the shore.  Jake passed out some jerky.  They chewed the dried meat carefully savoring the salty flavor.

“What do you think? Beef?” Elan speculated.

“More likely mutton,” Justin answered.

“I don’t know,” said Jake.  “But, I think it tastes good.”

“You’re a man of discerning tastes, Jake,” Justin said.

“I think I’ll check out the forest for fresh fruits and vegetables,” Elan said, and got up, took his water pouch, and went into the forest.  The other two boys decided to rest, and it wasn’t long before they fell asleep.

Elan walked along a path most likely made by deer given the appearance of the scat on the trail.  He walked a mile or more before he came to small clearing surrounded by a ring of trees, a fairy ring, his Uncle Jon had taught him.  Once a large mature red wood had stood in the center.  It had died and fallen; new trees emerged on the perimeter of the fallen tree’s trunk forming a ring.  The tall trees around him cut out the sun’s light from above.  Dust and mist clouded the damp musty air below, and filtered the light so that the forest floor and surrounding trees  were bathed in a perpetual dusk.  There was silence except for the occasional bird’s call.  Within the fairy ring, Elan found edible mushrooms growing.  He carefully indentified them to be sure they weren’t poisonous and placed them in his sack.  When he started to go, a rustling of leaves on the ground behind him made him start.

“Excuse me, kind sir.  Excuse me,” someone behind him demanded.

Elan spun around and stepped back.  In his haste he fell spilling his bag of mushrooms.  When he looked up, he was face to face with a little man, somewhat rotund,  wearing tight pants, and a vest over his flannel shirt that hung nearly to his knees.  He was wearing a brimless peaked hat, the top of which was bent to the side.  His face was old and wrinkled and he had an unhappy scowl on his face.

“Excuse me, my friend, but those mushrooms are my mushrooms.”

“I didn’t know, “ Elan said.  “May I have them?”

“Have my mushrooms?  I think not.  Did you grow them and nurture them?”

“No.  I just found them and picked them.  Did you grow and nurture them?”  Elan asked.

“No.  They just appear out of the ground.  But, they appear here, in the fairy ring over which I preside. “

“Really,” Elan said, as he carefully retrieved the mushrooms and put them back into his bag.  “How do I know that is true?”

 

“Truth?” the little man said.  “Truth is what is.  Truth is reality.  Truth is the foundation by which all things interact in our world.  Truth has a scientific foundation.  Honestly, though, I must admit that what is true today, may be disproved tomorrow.”

“Ah, “ said Elan.  “Then I should come back tomorrow and pick the mushrooms?”

“Umm, kind sir, that perhaps truth is related to time or more likely situational, and, therefore, changeable by alternative proof, that may be, but do not tell lies.”

“I haven’t told a lie,” Elan said defensively.  “I just picked some mushrooms.”

“My mushrooms.”

“So you say, little man.  My question is. How do I know they are really yours.”

“Ah, to know is to believe, and I know that the mushrooms are mine. I have faith that you will agree. My faith comes from my heart and is linked to trust.  I trust the mushrooms are mine, as so should you,” answered the little man.

“I do not know you.  As you say, without that knowledge, how can I believe?  Faith comes from experience, and trust is earned.  I’m not sure you’ve earned mine,” Elan said.

“I know that you have my mushrooms now.  That became our truth when you picked them and placed them in your bag.”  The little man said with a sad kind of look.

“May I have your mushrooms?”  Elan asked again, respectfully.

“How can I refuse? They are no longer mine, but yours, since they are now in your possession, but I do so very much appreciate your asking.”

Elan looked puzzled, for now he’d come full circle.  ‘Perhaps that’s why they call it a fairy ring,’ Elan thought. Then, he bid the little old man goodbye and parted.

Elan walked back to where he left his cousins.  As he walked, he thought about his conversation with the little man.  Is truth really changeable?  If so, then, how could truth be true?  Perhaps the truth is true only for the moment.  Faith is experiential. Faith is not tangible, nor does it require proof, and yet requires trust.  He shook his head. “I guess, I gotta have faith,” Elan said to himself out loud.

 

When he stepped out of the forest, Justin and Jake were asleep under the tree where he had left them.  He made a fire and cooked the mushrooms with some nuts and wild cabbage that he’d found.  Justin and Jake awoke to the pleasant smell of cooking.  Elan couldn’t wait to tell them about the fairy ring, the strange little man, and what he had learned about truth and faith.

“Did you ask him if he knew the way to the Valley of the Black Dog?”  Jake asked excitedly, hoping to have clearer directions to follow.

“I would be afraid he’d send us in circles based on the path our conversation took.  Besides the truth he’d tell us today, might not be true tomorrow.  That’s a problem.”   Elan said. “Although in the end, he did let me keep the mushrooms.”

“I think we should go back into the forest to find the little man to see if he can direct us.  But, first let’s eat,” said Justin.

And, that’s what they did.

 

 

Bio:

Peter Barbour is a retired neurologist, who loves to tell stories.  He lives in Allentown, PA. He is active and likes to fish, bike, canoe, and play golf.  He carves wood and likes to draw.  He is married. He has had six stories appear in Short-story.me, “How the Night Became Bright”, “Messyman”,  “Simplicity”,  “Enthusiasm”, “Silence”, and “Shipwrecked”.  He recently published an illustrated children’s book, “Gus at Work” available through Amazon.com.  His latest submission to Short-story.me, “The Fairy Ring”, is based on the mindfulness principles, truth and faith.

Pete

 

 

 

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