Mar '03 [Home]

Fiction

The Thirsty Rocks
Anthony Finn


Once, long ago, there was a village. It was full of poor people who worked on the surrounding farms or fished in the river. All around the village were woods and mountains. Next to the smallest house in the village was a ring of huge stones. They were so old and craggy that no one knew why they had been placed there. A little girl lived in the smallest house with her parents. She was thin and strong with long brown hair. She loved playing in the fields and around the old stones. On hot summer days, she would lean against the cool stones and dream. She was a wonderful dreamer.
          Now, one day in the middle of summer, an old lady was passing and saw the little girl sitting quietly by the stones. She smiled and said, "Be careful. Tonight is Midsummer's Eve and the thirsty stones will want to drink!" With that, the old lady walked off. The little girl grinned and thought that this would be wonderful to see.
          When it was her bedtime, she crept out of the window and hid by the stones. It grew dark, but the far sky was still silver. She was drowsy, but managed to keep awake until midnight by singing songs very quietly.
          At midnight, with a silent whispering noise, the thirsty stones leapt out of the ground and raced to the river. There, they stood in the water and drank like cattle.
          The little girl clapped her hands with joy and wrapped her green shawl around her shoulders. Then she looked into one of the holes. Something glistened in the bottom like a star. She hopped down and found gold coins and treasure in the hole where one of the stones had been.
          She was not a greedy girl and took only one gold coin and a beautiful brooch. Then she skipped out and away from the holes, just as the stones returned to settle back into them with a sigh.
          The girl could not keep the gold coin a secret in such a poor village, but she kept the brooch well hidden. Everyone wanted to know where she had found the gold coin. They were all so jealous of the things she bought. She spent most of the money on candy, to be honest.
          In the cottage next to the little girl, lived the Bitter Man. He was full of dreams, but none of them ever came true. He was always blaming everyone else for his poor house and his horrible farm. He scowled all the time.
          The Bitter Man kept asking the little girl about the gold, day in and day out. She remained silent for months, but as the summer came around again, she decided to tell the Bitter Man about the thirsty stones; he had just worn her out.
          He did not believe her tale, so she went and fetched the brooch. His eyes grew wide.
          "This was under the stone?" he asked.
          "Yes, there was lots of treasure," she replied.
          Midsummer's Eve came and the little girl lay hidden by the stones. Soon, the Bitter Man came to join her and they waited together, trembling with excitement.
          At midnight, the stones jumped out of their holes and raced to the river. In a twinkling, the Bitter Man was in the nearest hole. He looked around and saw gold and treasure everywhere!
          He grabbed the gold coins and filled his pockets with them. He took handfuls of treasure and stuffed it into his shirt.
          The little girl stood on top of the hole looking down. She heard the stones start to come out of the river.
          "Hurry up, they're coming back!" she whispered. The Bitter Man leapt up to get out of the hole, but the gold in his trousers was so heavy he could not get out.
          "Help me!" he called to the little girl.
          The little girl smiled. She hated sad endings to adventures. With the last of her money, she had bought a rope just in case something like this happened. She lowered the rope into the hole and the Bitter Man scrambled up.
          Whoosh! The stones settled back into their holes, missing the Bitter Man by inches.
          The Bitter Man was an honest man and he was very grateful to the little girl for saving his life. They shared the treasure and the gold. The little girl enjoyed spending the gold on whatever she wanted. She also spent the gold on making her friends and family happy. From then on, she always wore the beautiful brooch on her green shawl.
          And the Bitter Man? Well, he had enough gold to make his dreams come true. He was no longer a bitter, unhappy man. But he would never go near the stones again and spent every Midsummer's Eve tucked up in bed.

(Anthony Finn lives in the U.K. This is his first appearance on the magazine.)