“Another great piece of work! On Point Polly challenges readers to view the world from a different lens; to focus on what really matters. It is layered with messages of positivity and simultaneously takes the reader on an emotional ride with cadence and rhyme. A perfect book to lift spirits in hard times.”
~ Leah Bigham
The Tail of a Runaway Toenail is a wonderful short story that illustrates the amazing purpose of everything in life, and that size is relative in the greater scheme of the Universe. Life always conspires to remind us of our awesome place in Life if we care to listen. Although written for children, the timeless lesson is for everyone.”
~Anna-Mari Pieterse -Founder: Reclaim and Live uBuntu
THE ODD QUAD
Out of Glug's Grip
A story of four orphan quadruplets, Trust, Faith, Hope and Courage, who set off on an epic adventure to follow their hearts' call.
How Glug began
No one alive could remember a time when things were done differently. There were legends of legends, but no remnants of proof of how things all began. Great grandmothers and great grandfathers of the grandmothers and grandfathers of today, told tales and sang songs passed on by their elders.
“Born of the dust of the earth, our Mother,
Long live the Rees!
Glory to you our Sisters and Brothers
Long live the Rees!
Gnarled feet and knobby knees,
Rooted deep and long
Hold a-fixed your mighty trunk
Brawny, brown and strong
Arms forever heaven raised,
Green hands clapping songs of praise,
With the Breath of Life you sway,
Long live the Rees!
You and your diminutive kin
Offer us your medicine,
And sustenance and succulents
for everyone to share!
Also shade and shelter
From the summer swelter.
And blooms with beauty far beyond compare!
And let us not forget our breaths of air!
Who is there more kind than thee?
Who is there more fair?
Rees, Rees, long live the Rees,
Rees, Rees, forever live the Rees!”
But that was folklore. There were no such things as Rees. And as far as anyone could tell, there never were.
The True Beginnings were a mystery, known only to the Benevolent Chosen, the three who wrote the rules, advised the rulers, and ruled the rest with promises of reward and punishment. The True Beginnings had been destroyed centuries ago. Books had been burned along with buildings of knowledge and ceremony, buried, paved-over and forced to be forgotten; a stark and barren slate upon which to write a “New” history…the History of Glug.
Glug’s “New Beginning,” as it was called, was recorded in the “Annals of Antiquity.”
“Herein read the first words of the history of our realm, spoken by the Benevolent Chosen: ‘On this day ONE, the birth of Glug, we, the Benevolent Chosen of the gods to be your guides, do initiate the history of this realm, by the anointing of our first King, Gulag Glut, whose line of glory shall n’er be broken. All hail King Glut!”
And the crowds cried wildly, “All hail King Glut!” as three long and wispy figures, robed and hooded in colorless garments that matched their beards and eyes, poured their vials of melted fat on the long-haired head of the newly appointed King.
Gulag Glut was reported to be a figure of darkly striking features and fierce stature. He stood a giant’s head above all others and possessed an air of superiority that surpassed his height. He was hand-picked by the Benevolent Chosen, for his natural ability to command reverence, and for his initiative to accomplish, acquire and control.
Accomplish, acquire and control he did, but not without the guidance of the Benevolent Chosen, wise as serpents and cunning as crocodiles, as they were known to be. Had it been up to Glut, he would have caged and enslaved his subjects, but the Benevolent Chosen possessed the knowledge of the True Beginnings and knew, from experience, that to demand labor without reward would lead to an insurmountable rebellion. Rather, they enacted a system of economy whereby coins were given in exchange for “Sovereign Service.” The coins, appropriately called “sovereigns,” could then be exchanged for food, shelter, goods and services.
Then a law was written to compel all subjects over the age of 13 to enlist for Sovereign Service. Those who did not submit, would simply disappear.
A perfect plan to rule the ages, tweaked and twisted as time progressed. And it succeeded…
Today, after generations in the grip of Glut’s lineage, Glug still stands, known across the globe for its voracious appetite for wealth, power and influence. The Benevolent Chosen sit at altars in exalted halls, still advising, still revising and devising ways and means to maintain their reins of rule.
It’s Go Time!
Globulus Glutton sat fat and slothful, too massive to move much more than his mouth. “GIMMIES!” he belched, with foul smelling breath, spewing out food with his words.
Four dark figures rose large and lifeless and slithered to Glob Glutton’s side. “Yes sire,” they hissed, “what be your desire?”
Globulus bellowed, “I want more!”
Trust sat up suddenly, waking to the usual dull, dark and heavy haze. It was very early, still dark, but it wouldn’t be getting much brighter as the day progressed. That’s just how the sky was in Glug.
It was the third time this month Trust had dreamed the same dream: A place… above? or maybe just beyond the world he knew…he couldn’t tell. A Place of Peace and Purity, where life was done differently. “A Place of Peace and Purity,” those were the words that kept rising to his mind’s eye each time he woke from these dreams, “A Place of Peace and Purity…”
Trust always listened to his dreams. They had proven themselves worthy messengers. But this place they spoke of seemed too good to be true. He was wary; Trust didn’t lend himself to following fairy tales. But three dreams? And each more vivid, more detailed than the last? “This Place of Peace and Purity must be something important, if not real,” Trust reasoned, “my dreams have never been so insistent.”
He had good cause to question; Trust’s world was anything but a place of peace. Glug was ravaged and ruined by centuries of ravenous rule. The Glut Dynasty—a long line of slovenly rulers with an insatiable thirst for wealth, power, and control had, over the years, bled Glug nearly dry, poisoned the waters, polluted the skies, and seduced its citizens into submission.
His Highness Globulus Glutton was the current Oligarch of Glug. His henchmen, Fear, Greed, Wrath and Despair were Glutton’s go-to guys— “GIMMIES,” they were called—Glug's Imperial Managerial Mobilization and Investigative Emissary Services. You get why they called them the “GIMMIES."
They were Glob’s most loyal servants, bending to his whims and bidding. They were the chief keepers of the status quo, maintaining and enforcing the royal order of their domain.
And their domain was vast. Vast and oppressive.
Trust never felt like he belonged in Glug. He was different. Whereas most others he knew simply surrendered to Glutton’s way, never thinking for themselves, Trust and his three siblings, Faith, Hope and Courage were always the peculiar ones.
Being quadruplets (dubbed the “odd-quad”) was strange enough, but they even thought differently than everyone else: believing when no one else believed; standing up and speaking out for those beliefs. Forever the optimistic, idealistic ones, the four were ridiculed, harassed, and seen, by most, by most, as foolish, bad-mannered children who needed to grow up.
Brought up together in an orphanage—"The Edge,”—the Educational and Domestic Governance Enclave—the two brothers and two sisters shared an extraordinary life of childhood troubles and adventures. Like the time when Faith got lost in the fog of Glug’s Bog of Blind Belief, a dismal place to be. She was missing for three weeks, but her ever-faithful sister, Hope, never lost her inner light and led Trust and Courage in a search until they found her, half-starved and half dead.
Or how about the time when Courage, driven by the taunts of Arrogance and Pride, got too close to the precipice of Crumbling Cliff? Oh, what a tumble he took! And how humble he became. Need I say more?
But there IS more, plenty more, why… with Hope’s innocence and Trust’s stubbornness, there were many challenges faced, but they always made it through, growing closer and stronger with every test of their bond and lesson learned.
The children didn’t know their origins, but none of them felt they belonged in Glug. Instead, each felt a profound tug from deep within, like a lost memory, calling them to somewhere else. They would write poems, plays, songs and stories of their imaginations, and conspire to leave Glug someday. Now, with Trust’s dreams on their minds, they believed that “someday” was soon.
The time was nearing for their Ceremony of Initiation, when all orphans, upon their 13th birthday, would have to leave The Edge, and enter Glutton’s Global Conglomerate, the GGC.
Following one’s heart was frowned upon in Glug, and those who tried were usually met by Glutton’s GIMMIES. Few there were who had the heart to face the GIMMIES.
Trust, Hope, Faith and Courage had the heart… and nothing to lose.
“A Place of Peace and Purity….” Trust repeated as he got out of bed and tiptoed to his brother. “Courage,” he whispered and shook him gently. “Courage, wake up!”
The youngest (by four minutes) stirred and turned to face Trust, “this better be good,” he yawned, “it’s Saturday.”
“It’s go time!” Trust said, his voice shaking, nervously, “wake up the girls, grab your packs and let’s go!”
As the boys made their way to the girls’ room, they heard a bed squeak and a raspy whisper, “Hey, waddah you guys doing?” It was Doubt, one of the ten dorm-mates. “You’re not going through with that cockamamie scheme of yours are you? Do you know what the GIMMIES will do to you? If you guys go, you’re good as dead!” Doubt sounded frantic. “Please don’t go, guys, it’s too dangerous!”
“Sorry,” Courage said, “It’s go time!”
“Then let me come with you!” Doubt pleaded.
“No, Doubt, you’ll just hold us back.”
“Aw, c’mon!” He whined, as the two brothers snuck out without another word.
Doubt sat pouting, hurt and angry to have been left behind. He peered through the blinds as the Quad made their way to the "old-front-porch," packs in hand and hearts pounding. “Are you ready?” Trust asked.
“Ready as ever,” they answered, together.
And with a whispered whoop, Courage charged, Faith leaped, Hope skipped and Trust stepped confidently forward.
“This is it,” Trust said to himself. There was no turning back.
The old front porch was not as nostalgic as it sounds. It didn’t hold memories of sitting on a loved-one’s lap, reminiscing. No, the memories that clung to that roofless, narrow slab of cold concrete were of frigid, early mornings and hot, humid afternoons, standing at attention, awaiting roll-call, reciting the pledge of allegiance to Glug, inspection, drills and call to duty. Every day for as long as they could remember, row after row of orphans stretched single-file around the gray perimeter of the Edge compound.
The compound was a single-story dormitory used to house the parentless children of Glug, affectionately dubbed, “edgelings.” It held 40 dorm-rooms, ten on each outer wall of the compound. Each room held ten beds, lined up, five and five, with a 1x1-foot mini-blinded window at its end. The windows looked out onto four different landscapes: a black-top area for drills, a parking lot, the ten-story government building behind them, and the street-front entrance—a view of sidewalk, street and barb-wired fencing.
Doubt looked toward the street-front, watching his dorm-mates nimbly jump the chain-link fence then disappear around the corner. He was afraid for them, and angry that they had gone through with their ridiculous plan, but most of all, he wished they had let him come along.
He had joined them before, numerous times. In fact, Doubt was there on Crumbling Cliff, when Courage fell to his near death. He had warned Courage not to get too close to the edge. It seemed Doubt was often their only voice of reason. Those four needed him!
…And he needed them.
Besides, who were they to say where he could or couldn’t go? Doubt straightened his slouch and puffed out his chest. He would be 13 in one-month! He could go anywhere he wanted to…right?
“Yes, I can,” Doubt whispered to himself, then thought for a while about whether he really wanted to. “I want to!” He spoke, a little too loudly. Doubt covered his mouth and looked slowly about the room. It didn’t appear he had woken anyone. A bit more stillness, just to make sure… then, as quickly and quietly as he could, Doubt dressed into his Saturday play clothes, (all gray, of course), packed his PJs and tooth-brush in his book bag, and tiptoed toward the dorm-room door.
The sound of movement behind him stopped Doubt’s steps. He turned and peered
silently for a moment but saw and heard nothing, so he proceeded out of the room, down the hall, and onto the old front porch.
As he walked down the steps toward the fence, his feet dragged reluctantly, and the closer he got, the more like lead they began to feel. “Maybe this is all just a bad dream,” he thought, as he reached the fence and gripped the metal wire with his sweating hands. Doubt had never been a good climber. He was afraid of heights. He had climbed the fence before, with the help of the odd-quad, but never alone.
It was now or never. If he waited any longer he might never catch them, or he might get caught, which could prove a more dreadful fate. He reached up, remembering where Courage had taught him to place his hands, tensely gripped the chain-link, stuck in his foot and slowly and carefully scaled the fence, alternating step by step, grip by grip, up and over, clutching anxiously, then, at the top, carefully twisting his body so as not to get stuck or stabbed by the sharp wire-wrung border. A few maneuvers downward, and then, there he was, safely on the other side, heart pounding wildly.
Now where to? Doubt had an idea where the four were going. He had overheard them talking about making their way to “The Wall.”
The Wall was a twenty-meter high edifice of concrete and iron, that surrounded three-quarters of the kingdom of Glug. Its endpoints met up with the slope of Mount Mortem, and separated the city from the Wasteland beyond.
The Wasteland was the city dump. Planned from Glug’s beginnings, it lay around about half the perimeter of the city, twenty-miles outside the original city limits. But it didn’t take long for the Glugian sprawl to reach the mountains of garbage that had piled up around it. In order to keep out the vile sight and foul stench of the Wasteland, Augustus Glut, Glob Glutton’s great-grandfather, built the Wall. It kept the refuse out, and the citizens in – a win-win for Augustus the Great.
Doubt had never been to the Wall, but he had heard things about it; mostly the kinds of things you don’t want to believe are true. Still, his determination was not deterred, which was a new sensation for Doubt, for he rarely ventured out beyond his fears.
Doubt took off in the direction he had seen the odd-quad go and turned the street corner, out of the sight of young, timid, Finky McFly, who watched from the window. After Doubt disappeared, Finky slunk back into bed, sunk his head under the covers and wondered what he should do.
To be continued