“Hey, I need that,” said Joseph, grabbing the wig and putting it behind him.
“OK., here goes,” he said.
“First of all, I know you guys think I’m dumb. It’s true that I don’t like reading books too much, but I like making stuff and I’m good at it. You don’t know what it’s like being The Prince. Even my own sister didn’t know my name. For as long as I remember, no one cared about who I really was inside, they only cared that I would one day be king. I couldn’t stand it.”
He told them about the real Saul, who had helped him and taught him how to care for the sheep and let him make things for his house. The real Saul was a wizard. He hadn’t been around for a while, but he left some useful items, like the cooking pot, since Joseph didn’t know how to cook, and a wardrobe that made clothes. No one cared if The Prince disappeared for days at a time, as long as he was around when there was an important meeting or a ball. At all of these events, they wanted him to be an ornament—look pretty and not say too much.
He had been horrified when his parents told him he had to marry someone from the ball, because he was in love with Alice.
“I really like you, Laurie,” he said. “I thought if I had to marry someone besides Alice, I’d like it to be you. I thought we could at least be friends and enjoy our time together.”
“I think we have become friends.” Laurie put her hand over his. “But I’m glad we didn’t get married. You still haven’t explained how you ended up turning into a toad.”
Alice said, “That would be me. I’m not just a woodcutter. I have some magic, too. The problem is that I can’t always control it. One day Joe was acting like, well, he was acting like a toad. Unfortunately, I said ‘You’re a toad!” and then he was one. “I’m so sorry.” Then she laughed until tears ran down her cheeks and she was gasping for air. “I’m glad you’re back,” she said. “Can you forgive me?”
“I was acting like a toad. But maybe you should get some magic lessons before we get married. Yes, I forgive you.”
“If you’re not going to be king, then who will rule our country when your father retires?” Laurie asked.
“I don’t know. But I don’t want to do it . I’m really not the right person for the job. I like to make stuff, not think about lots of things like Dad does all the time.”
Jazz shifted nervously in her seat. She cleared her throat and pushed the cake crumbs around her plate.
“I’d like to be King,” she said. “I have lots of good ideas of how to make the people happier and our country more prosperous. If I was King, I’d have a council of people work with me to decide what’s best.”
Jazz told them that since he was little, he felt like he was a boy. But before now, he had been too scared to tell anyone. He still worried about what their parents would think, but everyone encouraged him to talk to them. Laurie and Joseph offered to go with him for support, if he wanted. Alice thought she’d better stay in the forest until she learned to control her magic.
“And what do you want to do, Laurie?” Jazz asked.
“Well, I’d like to go back and visit my stepmom. I really miss her. But I love living out here in the country. I love gathering wool and spinning and tending the garden.”
But she knew she would really miss her friend, Jazz.
Jazz assured her that even if their parents said he could be the next king, that would be a long time in the future. He would have to be at the palace for meetings, and parties, but could spend a lot of time in the country with his best friend.
And so this story ends, and so it begins….
In case you came in at the end, here are links to the rest of The Wool Gatherer:
When I’m writing, it’s funny how the characters take on their own life. I was pretty sure from the beginning that Jazz was transgender, but I wasn’t sure if he knew. I also didn’t realize until about halfway through that he wanted to be King. I have enjoyed writing this story. It’s one that I hope to develop–I’ll keep you posted about that.
In the meantime, I woke up yesterday with an almost fully formed wordless picture book story in my mind, so this week’s illustration is from that. I’m not sure if I’ll post the story (since it doesn’t have any words), but I’m pleased to introduce Neddy. The title of his first story is, at least for the moment, Naughty Ned’s Nice Christmas.
Needless to say, although it arrived pretty well formed, it will change a lot before it’s finished–but that’s part of the fun.
As always, thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoyed this story.