The Wool Gatherer
by Susan Bruck
Saul didn’t return, but the toad stayed. They named him Prince, which he seemed to like. He slept in the underwear drawer among the undergarments and wool tights. The girls closed the drawer at night because he snored so loudly, but during the day, he hopped around after them. He liked go with Laurie to collect wool during the day. At first she put him in her bag, but discovered that he liked to ride in her white wool wig. This made the shepherds laugh at her even more. Now they called her Princess Toad because she wore the toad like a crown, at least according to them. When Laurie thought about the crown she would have worn if she had married, she laughed, too.
After a week, they began to worry about Saul. He’d never been gone for more than two nights. They hoped he was alright. But since they didn’t know where he went, they didn’t know where to begin looking or who to ask.
One morning, they found a note slipped under the door. It said, “Please take care of the Prince. He is not who he appears to be. Can you figure out who he is? I’m closer than you think. Love, Saul.”
“How does he know about Prince,” Jazz wondered.
“I bet he is Prince,” said Laurie. “Saul must be magical. Do you think he’s trapped in that toad body?”
They agreed that Prince must be Saul who was somehow turned into a toad. They had taken good care of Prince before, but now they tried even harder. Jazz caught some fat, juicy flies for him, but he turned up his nose at them. Instead, he ate off of her plate. He was trying to eat corn off of the cob, but only managed to lick it with his long tongue. Jazz cut the kernels off and he devoured them. Then he ate some salad from Laurie’s plate before hopping out to the garden to nibble on some low-hanging green beans. In the evening, he liked to sit outside with Jazz and Laurie and watch them spin and weave. The cloak was almost finished. All that remained was the border at the bottom, which was to be a stripe of red and gold with white stars woven in. While they worked, the two humans told each other stories, sometimes fairy tales, sometimes stories about their lives before.
Prince listened attentively to the stories, but when they got to the ones about Jazz’ life as Jasmine and her stories about her brother, he felt fast asleep and snored loudly.
“What’s your brother’s name?”
Jazz had just taken the cape off of the loom and the girls were attaching the ties, which matched the bottom edging. They were quite pleased with there work.
“What?” asked Jazz.
“What’s your brother’s name? I never heard him called anything but Prince, or the Prince.”
Prince the toad stopped snoring and opened one eye to listen.
“You know,” Jazz answered, “He must have a name, but I don’t know it. Ever since I was little, I only ever remember him being called Prince.”
“It’s kind of sad, don’t you think? Do you think he liked that?”
They held up the cape to admire their handiwork. It matched the night sky, except for the bands at the top and bottom. Laurie wanted Jazz to try it on so she could see how it looked, but Jazz didn’t want to.
Prince hopped from Laurie’s lap onto the table and stopped right by the cape.
“He wants to try it on,” said Jazz. “Maybe he really is Saul and know that this is for him.”
“Maybe our cape is magic and will turn him back into himself,” said Laurie.
Prince was hopping up and down so quickly that he slipped off the edge of the table and landed on his back. Then he didn’t move at all. Jazz picked him up. His heart was still beating, but he wasn’t moving. They hoped he wasn’t hurt. They looked at each other and knew what they needed to do. Laurie spread out the cape and Jazz put Prince on it. They wrapped it all around him, so just his little toady head was sticking out. He lay completely still for what seemed like a very long time. His only movement was his throat expanding and contracting.
Laurie ran and got a little scrap of cloth, wet it, put a few drops of lavender oil on it and laid it over Prince’s forehead.
They smiled to see that ugly toad all wrapped up like that. Soon he began to stir. But something strange was happening.
Laurie and Jazz jumped back so they wouldn’t get hit by the rapidly growing toad. The scrap of cloth fell to the ground, but Prince was all tangled up in the cloak. He was surely a person now, but they couldn’t see his face.
“Saul!” they both shouted.
But a muffled voice said, “It’s Joseph.”
The voice sounded familiar. “Who?”
“Joseph.” The shape struggled to get out of the cape. Jazz and Laurie were too astonished to help.
But soon a head emerged. “But you know me as Prince,” he said.
Sure enough, it was the Prince.
Jazz tried to help him get out of the cape.
“You might not want to do that. I don’t seem to be wearing any clothes.”
Jazz ran upstairs and brought down a pair of her pants and a shirt. Then she and Laurie turned their backs while Joseph got dressed.
The End–at least for this week
Here’s the rest of the Wool Gatherer
Last week I went to NYC for the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference. It was wonderful, inspiring and exhausting. I got some great new ideas for my MG novel, met some new friends, saw the work of a lot of amazing illustrators. But when I got home, I was too tired to write. Until last night, anyhow. I was a little disappointed not to keep up my schedule of a story/illustration a week, but so it goes.
I did spin some yarn for my Fibery Goodness Sketch-Spin-Scribe course.
I almost finished my assignment for my writing course, which is due in a week. And I did a bunch of other stuff, too. But it feels good to get back to writing. I thought that with this year off, I’d have time to work on all of my writing projects, but somehow there doesn’t seem to be as much time as I thought there would be. I also still spend time avoiding writing, although I really like to write and I know I’ll enjoy once I get started. Ugh!
Anyhow, I’m back on track! I hope you are enjoying this story. There will be at least one, maybe two more installments coming.
Thanks for stopping by!
Have a great week!!!