My daughter recently asked to email her uncle Matt, who is serving an LDS mission in India. She only wrote the subject line and two sentences, but that was enough to get us past the starting--which is the hardest part of most writing. Nicole went on to tell Matt about our lives (wake up, get spit up on, do laundry, repeat) and said that I would finish by telling more interesting stories. Here is what I wrote:
Dear Elder Mattathias Singh Goldberg Westwood,
Nicole said I would tell you some stories, so here are some stories. Once there as a frog. The frog lived in the bottom of a well, unless it rained really hard, in which case the frog could go and see the big wide very wet world. One day the frog wandered so far into the big wide wet world that the well waters dropped back so far he wouldn't have been able to get back in without a very dangerous jump. But it didn't really matter, because on his way back to the well after the storm, the frog got run over by a rickshaw.
Here is another story: once there was a bird. The bird had three eyes and a magical shadow. From high in its perch in the mountains, the bird would look down on the earth and think "my, it is rainy down there." When it became sunny again, the bird would look with its third eye on the world and see all kinds of things. For examples: a village where every dog had lost one of its legs but all were happy in any case because that is the nature of most dogs, an old man who'd had two fingers frozen off at high elevation during the mostly pointless 1962 war with China who could slip playing cards in and out of his sleeve covertly in the gap between his remaining fingers and made good money doing so, a village of squatters who had erected makeshift homes and even several shrines in the thirtieth through fiftieth floors of an office building which had been abandoned during a past financial crisis, and a dead frog. The bird flew a thousand feet over the frog, which was instantly revived and could thereafter lure sufficient flies into its well to feed its family simply by croaking a hypnotically melodic croak with which it had been gifted.
A thousand year later there was a lost wanderer in a great desert. He looked this way, he looked that way, and he saw only rocks and sand as far as his nearly sand-blind eyes could see. He walked in no particular direction at all and collapsed--afraid that he would weep in despair and that the tears would waste his body's last ounces of liquid and he would die. In the night, the wanderer dreamed of good things to eat: sweet doughy balls, and cakes with the taste of honey and cumin seed, and tiny fritters shaped like the tracks lizards leave as they skattle their way across the barren wasteland. In his dream, he kept feeling as if something was missing, something he desperately needed, and that's when he heard it: a hypnotically melodic croak. The dreaming wanderer left the sweets and walked through the freezing winds of the midnight desert toward the sound. He removed five rocks from their places and then a sixth. As he lifted the sixth rock, off slid three pebbles plink, plink, plink into the waters of the well and the dreamer woke up and fell on his face and drank desperate thirsty gulps of it until he felt human again.
Those are my stories for today. If you were going to kill me, I would tell you nine-hundred and ninety-eight more, but you are not going to kill me, so there's really no need to tell you of the girl the wanderer saw through the well, who could weave her old castaway clothes back into sheep, goats, camels, alpacas, and once--inexplicably--into a wooly mammoth. Nor is there need to tell you about the man who prayed to find his fortune and chanced upon a magical goat and who became very rich selling goat cheese until he learned that the goat had the power of speech and knew the way to a secret kingdom where no one casts the evil eye. And of course I won't tell you about the boy who grew up in a land of happiness but invented another world and walked into it by trying to imagine sorrow.
I hope you are having a good time and learning not to tie your shoes too slowly or disappear into the library of your own mind for too long.
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