Grandma’s Calloused Hands :

[ A Childrens’ Story]

One day, Niwatori Ashi and Niwatori Koya decided that they didn’t want to go to school anymore. The brother wanted to run away from home, but the sister was worried. All day long their parents worked. All through the night they played with their toys. Koya thought that if they ran away their parents wouldn’t come to find them.

After Ashi promised Koya that even their parents, who loved their toys so much, would come for them, she decided to go. Anything was better then school. Something out there must of had more meaning.

The sibling packed their bundles and headed out of the house. They moved so quiet and so slowly that their mother never turned away from the TV. They snuck right past her and right out the house.

Koya told Ashi they should take the bus to the mountains. No cops would make them go to school in a forest. So Ashi and her ran to the nearest bus stop and hopped on. They had just enough money to make it to the edge of town. They happily, walked the rest of the way.

When they got to the edge of the forest, Ashi opened his bundle. He split his sandwich in half and gave some to Koya. “Imouto,” called the boy. Koya ran over to her brother, gave him a hug and bit into her half of the sandwhich. “Onii-chan. Where do we go now?” She asked.

Ashi, thought about it, thought about it some more and thought about it again. Little lines appeared in his forehead. He was just about to come up with answer when he heard a crow shriek. He looked up.

Above the siblings was a murder of crows. All flying low. All heading to one place. “Koya. Let’s see what the Crows found.” The little girl agreed, took her brothers hand and followed him deep into the forest.

They walked and walked, until the sun had made it half way around the sky. Finally, they saw the crows. All of them were sitting on a log outside a tiny house. Smoke was coming out of the roof and the air smelt like fresh food.

“Imouto, Do you think someone lives there?” Ashi, asked. The little girl nodded her head.  “Onii-chan, do you think they’d like two kids? Kids who don’t go to school.” Before he could answer the two siblings heard a loud WHACK.

They turned around to see an old woman smacking her broom around, scattering chicken bones. The crows would dive and fight each other for the bones. When she was done she turned to face the kids.

“What’s this about not wanting to go to school?” said the old lady. The two siblings started to shake. They were frozen in place. The old lady smiling and walking up to them. As she moved, the mess behind her began to disappear. They saw magic. Food magic!

“Why don’t you two tell me your names.” Smiled the old lady. Koya grabbed her brothers sleeve. She didn’t wan’t to tell her name. She decided to lie, but as soon as she opened her mouth it zipped shut. The old woman smiling. “Now I know your name isn’t Akane, little girl.” The boys eyes got real big.

“Stop, Oba-chan! She didn’t mean to lie. Koya was just scared.” Explained the brother. The old lady shook her head. “Oba-chan. I’m not your oba-chan brave little boy.” The boy shaking, tried his hardest to make a fist. He had to brave for his sister. “I don’t know your name.”

The old lady smiled. “Yaga. People call me Yaga.” The girl giggled. That was a funny name. The old woman smiled and uncurled her fingers from the broom. She pointed at the girl and all of her hair fell out of its braid. “You already lied. It’s not polite to giggle.”

The girl jumped up straight. Her mouth unzipping when she apologized. Her brother hugging her in relief. “Thank you, Yaga-san.” The old woman bowed. “Now that’s proper manners. Looks like your parents taught you something.”

Koya looked sad. Ashi took her hand. “We don’t have any parents.” Yaga looked shocked. “No parents?” Ashi shook his head. “Not anymore.” The old woman sighed deeply. “Is that why you don’t want to go to school anymore?” They both shook their head no. The old woman frowned. “Did you quit school first?” They both nodded.

The woman grabbed their hands and dragged them into the tiny hut. Throwing her broom on the floor by her fire. “If you aren’t going to go to school to learn, then you will need to learn how to do other things.” The siblings smiled. What ever wasn’t school must be fun.

The old woman pointed to the kitchen. “Koya darling, can you clean up the mess and make dinner.” The little girl ran over to the kitchen, but try as she might she couldn’t reach the counter top. The old woman just shook her head. Once again she pointed her fingers and the mess cleaned itself up.

“Ashi, darling, can you throw another log into the fire.” said Yaga. The boy bravely stepped forward. He picked up the log and approached the flame. To his despair it was just too hot for him to get close too. He too couldn’t complete the old woman’s request. Yaga once again pointed her fingers and a log moved itself into the fire.

“Little kids, If you cannot do something like this, there is only one thing left for you to do.” She said. They frowned and looked up. “You must pass my magic test.” Yaga explained. She pointed her finger at her broom. It walked itself over to Koya. “You first darling. Tell the broom to clean.”

Koya talked and talked to the broom, but no matter how much she asked it wouldn’t go anywhere. Finally, she had to give up. Ashi stepped up to try. He tried to force the broom to go where he wanted. The poor little boy ended up thrown across the room.

Yaga stood there disappointed. “I’m afraid you kids aren’t good at anything. No wonder your parents only play with their toys.” The siblings eyes got real big. How did she know about their parents’ toys.

“We are good at things. Yaga-chan. Koya is very good at math and I am good at P.E.” Stammered Ashi. She just shook her head. “Then why don’t your parents look at you. If you were good, surely they would stop and pay attention to you.” The two kids frowned. “We haven’t tried hard in it. If we do, surely, they’d stop and see.”

The old woman smiled. “Well then there you go. You must go back and make them stop and look at you.” The kids looked at the floor. They had been the ones wrong, not their parents.

The old woman took their hands. They could feel her rough hands. “Look at my hands. They are rough from working so hard. I couldn’t go to school, so my parents made me learn magic. They wanted to see me good at something. When you have hands rough as mine. Then you know you have worked hard enough for your parents to look at you instead of their toys.”

The kids nodded and thanked her. For the last time she pointed and the kids and their bundles landed right on their bottoms in their living room. Their mother startled. When the kids told her their story she hugged them very tightly. She promised that if they worked hard enough at Math and P.E. she would spend more time with them.The kids pointed to their hands and told her, “Mom, I promise you, soon we will have rough hands.”

All of this Yaga watched. As she turned from a cute old lady to a rather ugly one. Her house returning to being on a chickens leg. It was time for her next customer and this one wouldn’t be so lucky.

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The Hut of Baba Yaga – Mussorgsky

 

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