Monday, 21 March 2016

Happiness (A retelling of Maurice Maeterlinck's “The Blue Bird”) - Chapter 14 and 15

Chapter 14 – Breaking Company

“Where to now, Lucien?” Tristan asked.
After leaving the Land of Memories behind them, they travelled for some time taking a dirt road that widened enough for all five of them to walk abreast. The road steadily went up a slope and wrapped itself around a tall steep wall of grey rock.
“We will be paying a visit to the Blessings and Happinesses at the top of mountain,” their guide explained. “They will tell us where to find the blue bird of happiness.”
“About that, Lucien,” Tristan said, “how many more places do we need to visit to find this bird? I mean, we’ve travelled all over the place all of which you have said (or suggested) that we will find the blue bird, but we still haven’t found any.”
“Tristan!” Michelle said.
Her brother continued, “Don’t get me wrong. We did find the blue birds, but the ones we did find were either dead or disappeared – in short, all of them were fake! So how will we know that where we are going this time we will find the real bird!”
“One stinkin’ bird, Lucien! We were supposed to find a single bloomin’ bird and we can’t find one that is even real. Why is that?”
Michelle groaned and put a hand to her face.
“You’re supposed to be our guide, Lucien! How come we’re going around to these strange places where there is supposed to be a bird –”
“That’s enough, Tristan!” Michelle snapped and stood between her brother and their guide. “Apologize to Lucien!”
Her brother scoffed. “Me? You’re telling me to apologize to that pretty faced man?”
“Lucien is our guide.”
“And a lousy one!”
Michelle pointed out, “He knows this realm better than we do. What is wrong with you? Why are you like this?”
“I am tired, Michelle!” her brother pointed out, “I want to go home, and sleep in my own bed.”
“We all are tired!” his sister reminded him, “If you would be patient, he will give us a place to rest.”
“And I am tired of chasing shadows! There is no blue bird! Why did you even agree to take up this quest?”
“Oh, now you are blaming me for this?”
Tylo and Tylette’s eyes nervously darted between their two owners as Tristan and Michelle argued.
“It was your idea from the start! ‘Oh, we should help her, Tristan! Grandfather and Grandmother told us to help strangers, Tristan!’” Her brother mimicked his sister’s voice.
“Keep our grandparents out of this! And I do not sound like that!”
“Pfft! Yeah, you do! You always find ways of having your way!”
“That’s it!” Michelle stomped towards her brother and raised a fist, but another hand grabbed her wrist.
“We should stop here,” Lucien said, gently. Lowering Michelle’s hand he turned to Tristan. “I understand that this journey seems unfruitful and pointless because we cannot find what we seek. I promise you that we will find the blue bird in the end. However,” he added, “Because Discontent is demanding you to share your heart with it you are voicing your anger and frustration. If you allow Discontent to have its way, it will eventually take more from you than you realize and you will even have more difficulty in finding the blue bird.”
The two young people stood still processing what their guide had just told them.
Tristan scoffed. “What? Now we have a riddle to solve? Oh this is rich!” He turned and made his way down the path.
“Where are you going?” Michelle asked.
“Home! Don’t worry about me! I could find my way back. You could go on with your ‘darling Lucien’!” Her brother waved as he left.

After leaving his sister and the rest of his travel companions behind, Tristan muttered and stewed as he followed the declining road.
“Stupid Light! Some guide! If Michelle didn’t talk me into this we would have been safe in our cozy beds.” He continued his monologue for some time, gradually his steam faded and his pace slowed.
“Maybe I was hard on Michelle? Since she is such a sweet girl she always wants to help.” He thought to himself, until he remembered how Michelle clung on to Lucien. Jealousy clawed at his heart, he kicked a rock over the edge of the cliff and went back to stomping down the slope again.
He came to a fork in the road. A sign was nailed to a post that said: “Happiness this way!” The sign pointed to the path on Tristan’s right that lead away from the cliff.
“Odd. I don’t remember seeing that,” Tristan reflected he turned towards his left, but stopped.
Wait a minute! What if I took that road and found the real blue bird! Won’t that be something! I could show those idiots that I was able to find the bird without help – even help from Lucien! Maybe that would make Michelle change her mind about Lucien. As Tristan thought over the possibilities of finding the blue bird, his feet pointed towards the path on the right and headed towards where happiness was promised.

Chapter 15 – The House of Luxuries

Tristan stood and stared at what he found. He took the path that directed him towards Happiness and he found a grand estate complete with a large and luxurious mansion.
The estate was impressive: surrounded by fruit trees of every kinds behind the mansion, to one side of the estate was a large piece sectioned for a bountiful vegetable garden, another section for golden wheat and grains, another section for vines and berries, and finally the largest section edged with flowers (mainly roses of every kind) surrounding a vast garden feast filled with beautiful people.
The guests at the feast were dressed in extravagant clothing. Both men and women wore tailored suits and dresses, some wore robes of silk, satin, velvet, muslin, fine linen, and laces of every design and colour. There were leather boots, breeches, gloves, and shoes all polished and shiny in the sunlight. Some wore powdered wigs while others had their hair styled to fashion. Jewels and precious metals glittered and gleamed on their hands, necks, hair, ears, and wherever they could be placed to be seen and admired.
Not only were the guests beautiful in dress and appearance, they were overweight – and for a good reason as well. On the table spread an amazing feast full of rich delicacies and drink – enough to feed an army. There were meats of every kind: bird, beast and fish all cured, stewed, steamed, and fried. There were also breads of every kind with every type of grain and seed; pastries of every colour shape and size glistening with sugar, jellies and candied fruits and nuts; fruits and vegetables perfectly shaped graced the tables with freshly cut flowers still glistening with dew; and then there were drinks: wine, cordials, liquors of every colour, strength and flavour. There were even three fountains on the table spewing fondues of cheese, chocolate and broth. Not far from the table was a tall many tiered tower of champagne glasses with a spout pouring frothy sparkly champagne down to the grassy floor.
As Tristan watched he noticed that the guests not only sat at the table but lounged almost anywhere they wished. There were even a few who reclined on the food table and ate straight from it!
“Welcome to the House of Luxuries!” Tristan turned to a cheerful voice.
A lovely young woman with thick powdery make-up and tall white wig approached him. She wore strings of silver bells and tiny diamonds draped around her already jewel covered tall hair, she had tiny jewels lined rows upon rows over her nearly revealing cleavage, her dress was low-cut with bright yellow silk, on her shoulders was a furry boa made up of every animal one could imagine, not to mention the feathers hemmed at the edge of her rather short dress.
The girl wrapped her arm around Tristan’s. “You look like you are lost. What’s your name?”
“I’m Tristan.”
“A handsome name and a handsome man to go with it! My kind of guy!” The girl grinned as she scrunched up her nose.
“May I have your name, please?” he asked.
“And so polite!” she squealed, “I think I like you even more!” She playfully tapped his nose. “I’m Vanity!”
“Um, hello,” he greeted. Nervously scanned his surroundings he then asked, “Do you live here?”
The girl giggled. “We all do!” she said, waving at the scattered crowd.
“Come join us! The food is exquisite! The drink is amazing! Once you taste it you’ll learn what you have missed!” With that Vanity led him to the banqueting table.
“Sloth! Move your stinky feet! Ugh!” She slapped at the obese man who snored on the table using a wedding cake for a pillow and his two feet each implanted into a pie.
Now I know I won’t be able to look at fruit pies and wedding cakes the same again! Tristan thought to himself.
“Vanity!” A tall handsome gentle man with a beehive hair of red, yellow and blue grabbed Vanity by the waist and planted a slobbery kiss.
“Eew! Cad! You were in the bushes again!”
Tristan glanced around wondering if this was a good time to get back to the path.
“We are free to do here as we wish!” the young man exclaimed, “Well, well. What have we here?” he gave Tristan an interested look.
“He’s with me, now you run along with Greed, Wasteful and Envy.” She said waving him away.
“Um, does everyone here live like this?” Tristan asked.
Cad and Vanity both laughed. “This is our way of life!” said the girl.
“That’s a good one, old chap! I don’t know which rock you crawled out of.” Cad doubled over as if Tristan had just told a very funny joke.
“Come, Tristan! You have to try some of the food!” Vanity began tugging at his arm, but Tristan pulled the opposite direction.
“Thank you, but no. I need to get back,” he said.
“Why? What’s the rush?” She grabbed a golden goblet of hot chocolate and held it up to him.
The sweet intoxicating scent lured him. His stomach growled.
“See! You are hungry! You should have something,” she said as she pressed the goblet into his hand.
“Indeed, old boy, we need to put some more pounds on you!” Another man appeared and gave Tristan a friendly slap across his back.
Tristan nearly fell over dropping his goblet, upon impact his green hat fell over his eye.
“What a funny looking hat,” said another voice. Tristan suddenly felt a draft on his head.
“Hey, that’s mine!” He tried reaching for his hat.
“It’s mine now!” Another young girl, smaller in size wearing a thin satin dress the colour of roses with skinny straps, she wore tiny high heeled sandals with pin heels that were two inches long. She pranced around the garden wearing Tristan’s green hat.
“Oops!” The pixie girl tossed the hat far away to the edge of the estate.
Tristan stared wondering how she was able to prance around in such tiny high heels and how she was able to toss that hat to such a distance.
He tried to go after the hat, but more hands grabbing him pulling him towards the centre of the party.
“Join our party, Tristan!” cried Vanity.
“Let go of me!” Tristan shouted.
“Why are you so eager to leave?” Cad asked, shoving a leg of mutton into Tristan’s face.
“Eat with us!” said another as a wedge of pie pressed into his cheek.
“Drink with us!” said still another as a goblet and a bottle of wine was pressed into his hands.
“Stop it!” Tristan tried to fight them off as the partiers acted wilder and demanding.
“ENOUGH!” roared a voice. Immediately the revellers stopped and turned towards the roar. All froze in horror.
“Tristan!” Michelle called; in her hand was the green hat. Right behind her stood Lucien his face fiercely angry like a lion about to be released.
“Michelle! Turn the diamond quickly!” Lucien commanded.
Michelle pulled on the magic hat and touched the diamond. Seeing this, the revellers screamed and scrambled away from Tristan. Michelle let the diamond spin. A bright light outshone the sun disintegrating the luxurious party.
Instantly food broke down spoiling and rotting into soot, dirt and ashes. Drinks and beverages evaporated, crystals shattered into sand fragments. Gold and precious metals corroded and fell apart. Clothing shrank as colours faded and seams split, turning into rags. The obese partiers shrank and shrivelled into thin brown sticks of people – filthy, half-naked, starving, and sick. All the beautiful riches and luxuries that were part of the estate, that mansion including the bountiful gardens and orchards disappeared leaving only a barren wasteland of sand and rocks. The former party guests saw their true forms ran away screaming and weeping in shame.
“Tristan!” Michelle threw her arms around her bedraggled brother, who was a moment ago covered in food, but was now covered in dirt and soot.
“Michelle,” he put his arms around her, tears of relief filled his eyes, “I am so glad to see you again!”
“Tristan,” Lucien approached them.
Tristan looked up and looked away in shame. “I’m sorry, Lucien.” He tried to look at their guide, “I was an idiot. I – ” He swallowed, “I was also selfish and angry at the fact we couldn’t find the blue bird. Will you please forgive me?”
He felt a gentle pat on his head, one that reminded him of the time when he asked his father for forgiveness when he did something wrong.
“All is forgiven, Tristan,” Lucien told him.

Tristan finally looked up and saw that Lucien had indeed forgiven him. As Tristan bowed his head and let tears of relief flow, Michelle held him tightly and rubbed his back in comfort.

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