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On Koalas, bedbugs…and true love

One time I was walking along the Camino de Santiago through a eucalyptus forest with Julia and Christine and Matt and Marcus. Marcus is a trained mountain man/ lumberjack and we said, “Tell us about these trees, Marcus.”

But he just gave us a vague description and I said, “That’s not what I meant.”

So then I told this story (more or less).

Art from here.
Art from here.

There was a time when koala bears ran on the ground like groundhogs.

That is how this story begins.

The koalas waddled in the grass like groundhogs, too, nosing around for food.

In that time there was a jealous Sorceress who ruled a kingdom. The kingdom had not always been hers. Rather, it used to belong to an old king whom she put under a spell. The spell caused him to fall asleep while he was eating porridge one day. It doesn’t matter for the story, but he was also wearing a red vest while he was eating the porridge. (Just in case you were wondering. )

The old king eventually died in his sleep, a sleep which was caused by the spell of the Sorceress. So the kingdom was in need of a new ruler since the old king had no heir. The Sorceress, by use of charm and witty words to the old king’s advisors and an impeccable sense of style which won over some admirers and tricks by her trained crow and (most importantly) her jealous cunning became ruler of the new kingdom.

At first the members of the kingdom were apprehensive because they weren’t sure what to expect. But, the Sorceress didn’t really care what they thought, as long as she could stay in power. So she provided them with trivial merriments to capture their trust like the Summertime Corn Roast, the Wintertime Festival and every November she would award a single child with a new, warm coat.

What I’m saying was: her PR was good. And people realized that their lives didn’t change all that much and they all liked the winter coat thing so they generally just accepted her as their new ruler and went about with their daily work.

The Sorceress made a few changes to the kingdom. First of all, she had knives placed throughout the forest so that the Koala would cut their paws and bleed to death. Then she would use their furry coats to line her clothes.

I didn’t say she was a kind woman.

She also forbade religious ceremonies of any kind…and said that anyone who participated would be met with death.

Again, not a kind woman.

This was done gradually, though, and the people were too afraid to challenge her and so eventually they were used to living without religious expression. There was a holy priest in the kingdom named Father Pater, and he would urge people to pray with him. But, mostly people decided they didn’t want to die so they just ignored him. And the Sorceress decided that if she killed Father Pater the people might react negatively; and since she didn’t see him being very successful anyway, she let him live.

So, life progressed in the kingdom.

Now, there was a young woman in the kingdom named Estrella. She lived in a farm house on the edge of the forest. Estrella wasn’t exactly beautiful, she was just good and kind and thoughtful. She would bind the paws of the wounded Koalas when she found them, and eventually the Koalas remembered this and would sit by her bench when they were wounded. So she would bind their little paws and offer each koala a single kiss before they waddled away.

Because of this, the boy-next-door, Fedel, thought she was the most beautiful girl in the world.

But he never told her. He never told anyone. Sometimes he would smile at her, though, and she would smile back.

They were kind of shy. In a cute way.

Once, after the Corn Roast, Estrella was accidentally left behind in the town square by her girlfriends who thought she had already hitched a ride earlier in the evening. She wasn’t scared or worried; she just figured she’d walk home in the moonlit night. But, Fedel saw her walking and rode his horse over and offered her a ride home—even though he had ridden there without a saddle (a fact he would perpetually lament).

But, Estrella didn’t say anything about the lack of saddle. She was kind like that. And she took him up on his offer so they rode back to the outskirts of town together, with her arms around his ribcage so she wouldn’t fall off.

As she rode, she pressed her cheek to his back to prevent her from nodding off, and she stared at the moon and thought that it was truly a beautiful night.

When she alighted from the horse and walked to her farm house, Fedel took note of the now-limp pink ribbon in her hair and the way her hair curled and the way she walked with confidence and grace…and he told himself that: he was right, she was the most beautiful girl in the world.

That very evening the Sorceress returned to her room in the palace, but with different emotions. She was angst-y and dissatisfied. You see, she was becoming bored with her power. She decided that power was not enough to attain and that she wanted to be the most beautiful in the kingdom as well.

Now, she had a bit to work with anyway since she was thin and tall and rather striking. The problem, though, was that there were quite a few beautiful women in the kingdom. And when they all stood together (like at the Corn Roast) the Sorceress didn’t stand out.

So, she plotted. She plotted and read tales and scratched her crow with a piece of straw until she came up with a solution.

Want more? Come back tomorrow!

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