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by Sherry Daniel

Although there was nothing as far as the eye could see but hard, dry ground, the white-haired old man often sat and surveyed everything through misty eyes. He sat alone, all others having deserted the barren terrain. Those that did wander through snickered and pointed at the crazy fool who perpetually kept a glimmer of a smile on his lips. He was so ancient that no one was alive to even remember who he was.

Quat, although only 4 years old, had an inquisitive mind that was never satisfied until he thought he had the answers to the universe. His parents were forced to cross the dry land on their way from Yak to Yook, but they never were able to answer Quat’s questions about the old man. Quat lay awake nights wondering who this person was, and why he always seemed to be so at peace with such a desolate place. He would -yes, he must! -set off in the dark of night while his parents slept. Quat would not be satisfied until he talked to this strange old man.

It was not a hard journey, nor particularly long, for Quat had the stamina of 10 adults. He approached the stranger and gently poked him with his finger. "Excuse me, Sir. But I've been wondering- just who are you, and why do you sit here day and night? The people from Yak and the villagers from Yook all say you're crazy, you know”

Slowly he turned his head to admire the inquisitive lad and spoke, "Everyone always thought I was crazy!" He laughed as though remembering some magnificent joke he had once played on the world. "Yep' - everyone except the Woggles, that is."

"Well, what is a Woggle?" the boy demanded. "You don’t make any sense. Are you really crazy?"

Slowly reaching out his weathered hand to stroke the young man's curls, he thought it was mighty nice to have someone to talk to again. "In the halcyon days before the Momus people arrived upon the earth, the Woggles inhabited their land of innocence. They were not mighty warriors like the people from Yak, or crafty businessmen like the people of Yook. Nor did they have any desire to be like anyone else. All day long they worked in their lush gardens, and all night long they sang. The Woggles were my people, you know. I was one of them."

Quat put his hands to his hips and pooched his lips. "I think you're trying to trick me, Sir. No one ever mentions a Woggle. And what the heck are the Momus?"

The old man’s smile turned to sadness. "You're lucky you never heard of the Momus." He looked into the boy's eyes and knew no small answer would brush him aside. "Son, the Momus were bad people. They migrated from other parts of the earth to live among the good land of the Woggles. The Woggles, being loving and innocent as they were, allowed the Momus to settle on their land. "You see, we got along fine as long as Medallion lived. He always managed to find some good in even the worst people."

Quat kicked at the crusted earth with his foot. "And were these the worst people? Mommy says you must always look for the good in people. Mommy says that her father and his father before him and his father before him said that there is always some good in people, if you look hard enough. I mean, who was this Medallion anyway?"

His sadness reverted back to that knowing little smile, for the old man saw himself when he looked into the little boy's face. "Your mother must be a wonderful person." And when the child’s crooked smile gave way to a short breath of a laugh, he felt he was looking at a reflection in the waters of thousands of years. "When Medallion was a young man like yourself, his mother taught him to put others first. He knew how much he loved his mother for always thinking of others before herself, and he lived his life as a mirror image others. Whatever he grew on his land, he gave away until everyone else was fed-only then, would he take for himself from the leftovers. And because he was such a giving person, the other Woggles tried to give him as much as he had given them. It became a giving contest to see who could spread the most love. "Unfortunately, the Momus never understood that way of thinking. They were the first in line to do the taking when Medallion was doing the giving. They never gave anything back. Much to his sadness, Medallion found himself no longer giving from his heart. He began giving because the Momus began demanding, and his mother had always taught him he should refuse no one.

"Day and night they hounded Medallion, They ate his food, slept in his bed and used his friends for their own selfish purposes, Medallion's heart began to break.

"No one is exactly sure what happened to Medallion, Some say he simply ran away and hid in the hills, Most say he died - killed by the Momus,

"After Medallion's disappearance, the Momus mounted white steeds and treated the Woggles like serfs, They looted our homes, raided our fields, and continually told us that we were an inferior race of people, "We cried a thousand years for Medallion, for he was greatly loved, In our grief, the Woggles tried to call Medallion back, They sang songs for him, and lit candles at night for Medallion to find his way home. Many people claimed they had seen him hiding in the caves beyond-but none of the sightings were ever proven, The more we cried, the worst the Momus became. They were afraid, you see-afraid that innocence would fall from the eyes of the Woggles."

Little Quat tugged at the man's arm, "Excuse me, Sir. But exactly how many Momus were there?"

"Less than a dozen." And he waited for the lad's reaction.

"Less then a dozen?" The boy thought for a moment, "Well, then, I suppose there were only two or three Woggles." For the first time in centuries, the ancient blue eyes twinkled.

"There were multitudes of Woggles. More than anyone was ever able to count."

Now Quat was really confused. "Sir, I believe you're telling me silly tales. More Woggles than anyone could even count, and they allowed themselves to be pushed around by less than a dozen Momus? That's the dumbest thing I ever heard"' The aged man sat there thinking "from the mouths of babes, .." Even a child could see what the Woggles would not, "Yes, m’boy, it was dumb. Dumb blindness." He gave a sigh of despair.

"With each year, the Momus made new laws, Laws against singing, Laws against laughing, Laws against gathering in each other's homes. The land was still beautiful then, But inside the hearts of everyone was sadness and ugliness. "A jester rose up among the Woggles and began to tell the people that laughter would be so offensive to the ears of the Momus that they would flee the land. There's nothing a Momus hates more than happiness."

The boy interrupted, "But, Sir. ..laughing is fine. It just seems to me that it would have been easier to take brooms and whack the Momus off the land." "1 know, m'boy. I know. But the Woggles never seemed to see that, "The Momus became afraid. The crueller they were, the more the Woggles laughed.

A meeting was held inside Medallion's old home, and the Momus decided they had the answer to this rebellion of laughter, If they burned the land to the ground, there would be nothing to laugh about. They torched and burned and destroyed until there was nothing left but what you see today, "With no land to sustain them, the Woggles soon disappeared, With no Woggles to exploit, the Momus soon died off."

Cocking his head, Quat remarked, "But you 're still here." "My spirit is shackled to this land until find my rightful heir- the one who can understand how beautiful it all was, and how beautiful it could be again with a little love and a little wisdom, M'boy, look out over the land and tell me what you see."

Quat pivoted and, at first, saw nothing but dry land. Rain started to fall and soak the soil, Then he began to see the flowers coming up out of the ground. Laughter -at first faint, and then louder and more joyful. From the midst of a rainbow a magnificent eagle soared and made a swooping pass at Quat. Dropping some- thing from its talons, it then darted towards the heavens and out of sight.

"Sir! Sir' ..." Quat was so excited, and turned to speak. But his new friend was no longer there, At his feet lay the object dropped by the eagle. Quat plucked it up and turned it in his small hand. It appeared to be a very ancient, medallion, and there were three letters on it: "TCB".

Quat gleefully shouted towards the heavens, "Yes, I do understand, Medallion! I do, I do!" He slipped the medallion into his pocket and ran off in search of Woggles.

By Sherry Daniel, Los Angeles, California.

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