|Man Without Qualities|
Tuesday, April 23, 2002
Once upon a time, long ago, in a place far away, there was a very special boy named Luke. Luke was just two and eleven-twelfths years old. He had a bright face and bright little eyes. And when he smiled everyone knew he was a very special boy.
Luke still wore diapers. He lived with Mama, Papa and his big brother, Conor, in a big house with a yard and a garden.
“Boys are not expensive,” said Luke’s Papa one day, “but they ARE unusually priced!”
Papa held up one finger, “One boy: two cents!”
Conor said, “I cost two cents?”
But Papa just held up another finger and said, “Two boys: one cent! – but you have to love them both!”
Papa said that his boys were noisy boys, and silly as could be. He gave both boys a hug and Conor and Luke said they would think about what Papa said.
But Mama said Papa was the silliest of them all!
Luke really liked balls. Little balls. Big balls. Baseballs. Soccerballs. Even marbles, which are little glass balls.
Sometimes Luke would run across the room with his football in one arm and his hand held out square in front of him. He would fall on the rug and say “They tackled me!”
He had a special basketball, just big enough for his two-and-eleven-twelfths-years-old hands. And he had a special net, just high enough for two-and-eleven-twelfths-years-old legs to jump. When he made his shots he shouted “Basket!” or “Almost!” or “Way Wide!”
Luke liked the shiny silver glass gazing ball that sat in the quiet garden in his yard. On sunny days he liked to look into the gazing ball. It seemed like there was a whole little garden inside just like his, but where everything was brighter and smaller and somehow inside out. Luke could also see himself in the gazing ball, where he was like a giant in the little garden inside.
One sunny day, Luke was digging near the gazing ball while Papa planted an azalea nearby. Luke got so interested in digging and watching Papa that he forgot and bumped the gazing ball. It almost fell over. Suddenly, Luke heard a little girl’s voice that seemed to be calling to him. But when he looked around, there was only Papa and his shovel and his azalea. So Luke went back to digging.
Then he heard the little voice again. And this time he saw that it was coming from a girl standing in the bright little garden inside the gazing ball. The little girl was calling him. “Be careful!” Luke looked carefully into the ball at the little girl.
She was brightly dressed and had a sweet, concerned face. She was very small. She waved her arms back and forth and her voice sounded like a flower, singing. “Giant boy!” she called. “Be careful! Don’t break the gazing ball! Be careful!”
Luke remembered that Mama and Papa had told him that when Conor was very young he thought the gazing ball was a shiny balloon. Once Conor picked up the gazing ball and tried to toss it into the air. But it only fell and broke with a bang! Conor cried. Papa swept up the pieces and went to the garden store and bought this gazing ball they had now.
Luke didn’t want to break the gazing ball, so he said to the girl, “I’ll be careful!”
The little girl seemed relieved, and smiled at him. “Here, boy,” she said, pressing her hand against the surface of the gazing ball. As her hand came close from the inside it seemed to get bigger, the same way the reflection of Luke’s hand did when he put his hand close to the ball from the outside. The little girl held some beans, and pressed them against the inside of the ball.
In a moment little bumps formed on the outside of the ball where the beans touched it from inside. The bumps got bigger and bigger and suddenly, with a sound like pebbles falling into a pool of water, the beans popped out of the gazing ball and onto the ground where Luke had been digging. Then the bumps were gone and the gazing ball was smooth again. And the little girl was gone, too. Luke looked and looked, but she was gone.
So he picked up his beans and brought them to Papa. When Papa finished planting his azalea Luke and Papa planted the beans in a nice sunny corner of the garden. Papa put a sign up that said “Luke’s Beans” and they built a little fence out of string and willow sticks around the place where the beans were planted.
Then they went inside and had dinner with Mama and Conor. Later Papa read a story to Luke and tucked him into bed.
Overnight the beans grew and grew and grew. They grew into a giant beanstalk that reached up, up, up through the clouds to the sky! Luke was a really good climber. When he woke up in the morning he climbed the beanstalk. He climbed all morning, all the way up through the clouds, where he came to a magic castle. Standing just outside the castle door there was a giant – who staring right at him with a curious look.
“WHAT ARE YOU, … CREATURE FROM THE BEANSTALK?” boomed the giant. “ARE YOU …. A BEAN?”
“I’m a human bean,” Luke said, “a boy, to be exact!”
The giant made a note of what Luke said.
“ARE YOU … A GOOD BOY?” asked the giant in his giant voice, “OR ARE YOU … A BAD BOY?”
“I’m a good boy. I’m a very good boy.”
The giant made a note of this, too. Then he thought deeply for a minute.
“ARE YOU A QUIET BOY? … OR ARE YOU A NOISY BOY?”
Right away Luke said, “I’m a noisy boy! Papa says that I’m a noisy boy! Conor too!”
The giant made a note of all that, even the part about Conor being noisy too. Then he thought for a long, long time with his face all wrinkled up in giant thoughts. And this time he walked back and forth as he thought, rubbing his chin with his hand.
Then suddenly he pointed a giant finger at Luke. “HOW ABOUT SILLY? ARE YOU A SILLY BOY? … OR ARE YOU A SERIOUS BOY?”
“We’re both silly!” said Luke, “Conor and I are both as silly as can be! Papa says.”
So the giant carefully wrote down: Both … as… silly … as … can … be.
“AND ONE LAST THING,” the giant said slowly when he finished writing, “ARE YOU A BIG BOY …. OR ARE YOU A LITTLE BOY?”
“I’m a big boy!” Luke answered proudly. Mama had told him he was her big boy.
But the giant, who was very observant, noticed a suspicious bulge in the back of the boy’s trousers. And he didn’t write anything down.
Instead, he boomed, “DO YOU STILL WEAR …. DIAPERS?”
“Yes, I wear diapers.” Luke admitted.
“THEN YOU,” boomed the giant with a certain triumph that Luke didn’t like at all, “ARE A LITTLE BOY!”
“No! No!” Luke protested, “Mama says I’m a big boy!”
But the giant just turned and said slowly, “YOU … STILL … WEAR … DIAPERS. SO YOU … ARE A LITTLE BOY. … AND THAT’S ALL THERE IS TO IT. … AND THAT’S WHAT I’M PUTTING IN MY REPORT!”
So the giant walked away back into the castle and closed the door. And when he was good and ready the giant wrote up his report just the way that he said he would.
Luke climbed back down the beanstalk and cried to Mama that the giant had described him as a “little boy” in the giant’s report – which had been placed on permanent file.
But Mama said, “Luke, the problem is that if you still wear diapers you ARE a little boy - even if some people call you a big boy.”
“But I don’t want to be a little boy,” Luke cried, “I want to be a BIG boy!”
“If you want to be a big boy,” his mother said, “you will have to learn to go without diapers. It’s the only way.”
So Luke made up his mind, and that’s just what he did. He learned to go without diapers and became a big boy.
It turned out that the whole family was very happy that Luke hadn’t chopped down the beanstalk because later that summer the price of beans reached $12.50 a pound! Mama, Papa, Conor and Luke all picked as many beans as they could every day and sold them at the farmers market. Papa said it was better than having a goose that laid golden eggs.
And they all lived happily ever after.
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