When I was little, and given to tiny secrets and imaginations, I had a suitcase. It was small, red with two latches. I kept it in my closet and I recall staring into its minute depths, into the faded quilted lining and pockets, marveling at its compelling privacy.
I kept all manner of things in this suitcase – magazines, drawings, newspaper clippings. All vitally important when I was 10 – but forgotten for decades. However, recently, mother unearthed this ancient valise.
I remember many of the things that we found there…but one item was a complete – and wonderful surprise.
It was a story – epic in scope, galloping towards silliness before leaping over it into open space, unhindered by gravity. The words were typewritten – I had told mother what to write – and like the story, my accompanying drawings were colorful, bold and in no way rooted in reality.
I really must share it with you:
“The Land of Many Peacocks”
“Once upon a time in the land of many Peacocks a terrible problem faced the inhabitants. Water, which is necessary to all the creatures of the world, was very scarce. And what water there was floated over a great mass of tar. If a peacock was not careful when he went for water he became stuck in the tar and could not get free. The peacocks in the Land of Many Peacocks were very sad.
The peacocks pleaded with their King to remove the tar or to do something to protect them whenever they went to get water. But the King only laughed and told them to be careful and they wouldn’t get stuck in the tar. You see, the King was too busy taking care of the things that he needed to take care of what the peacocks of his Kingdom needed.
The King had a son who was the most handsome peacock in all the Kingdom. And he was proud of his son. And the son, though he was handsome to see, was vain. He was so conceited that he refused to help get rid of the tar for fear that he might get some tar on his beautiful tail feathers.
In another part of the kingdom, far, far away from the King’s castle, at the edge of a great forest lived a young Peacock. He was the same age as the King’s son, but his feathers were not as bright and pretty. His tail feathers were all ragged and his crown feathers drooped. He worked so hard trying to find a safe way to get water that he had no time to take care of himself and his feathers.
This young peacock’s name was Philip. Philip became very angry when he saw the peacocks plead with the king and his son for help only to be turned away with an angry word. The King’s son was called The “Prince”, laughed at the Peacock’s troubles. They weren’t his. He had his own pool of water that had no tar, but no one could use the water from this pool but the King and the Prince.
Philip said he would find a way to help his friends. And so he called a meeting of all the peacocks in the land, except for the King and the Prince.
“Is there anyone here who knows how we can remove the tar from under the lake?” asked Phillip.
Johnny Peacock spread his tail feathers and shouted, “Let’s take the water away from the King and make him go to the lake whenever he wants a drink. Let him get stuck in the tar for once.”
“Yes! Yes!” shouted the peacocks. “Down with the King” they shouted.
“Wait! Wait!” screamed Phillip holding up a wing. “That’s not the way to do it. It’s not right to fight against the King. We must find another way.”
“Yes, there must be a way to remove the tar.”
“I have an idea,” said one of the peacocks.
What is It everyone wanted to know.
“Let’s gather up all the containers in the kingdom. All the pails and buckets. Everything that doesn’t leak. When we’ve done that I think I know how to remove the tar.”
The peacocks quickly gathered all the containers and brought them to the lake.
“Now,” said the peacock who thought he could get rid of the tar. “All the peacocks who can swim must dive to the bottom of the lake, fill a container with tar, bring it to land where we can pour the tar in a hole far away from the water. Soon all the tar will be gone and it will be safe for all of us to get water from the lake.”
So quickly all the peacocks who could swim dived into the water and filled the containers with tar. But no matter how much tar they took out there was still some left. The tar kept bubbling up from the earth. There seemed to be no end to the tar at the bottom of the lake.”
And there it ends. Perhaps I saw something shiny that day in 1967 to interrupt my peacock narrative. Perhaps it was lunchtime. Regardless, I have no idea how this story should end.
So I must turn to my adorable readers. You are all so deeply clever.
How should this peacock drama end?