Kit and the Three Dwarves
Long, long ago, a husband and wife lived deep in the woods in a tiny house that the man had made with his own two hands. Each day while the man was hunting woodland critters for pelts and food, the woman prepared dinner with food from the garden she had cultivated with her own two hands. Each night, the man would return with his game, and after dinner the two would sort out what to sell at the marketplace in town and what to keep. Things were good. They were far from rich, but they were comfortable and, more importantly, they were happy.
They became happier still when they discovered the woman was expecting a baby. On the day the man became father and the woman became mother, they didn't think they could get any happier.
And they didn't
They named their son Kit and, like most children, he grew. Unfortunately, he grew into a particularly lazy little boy with no desire whatsoever to help his mother with the household work. His father decided that maybe the boy took after him and preferred hunting, but Kit detested that even more. Eventually, the mother and father decided to just leave him alone and go about their own business to keep the household functioning. All was well for a while, and the mother and father became happy again. Not as happy as before, mind you. A lazy kid kind of sucks the joy out of life.
One day as the father was returning home, he heard screams coming from deep in the woods. He looked up and saw a tower of smoke billowing up from the tree tops. He dropped his pelts and went running towards the cries and smoke. When the father saw the blazing house, his heart sank. A woman ran to him and tugged on his arm, pulling him closer to the blaze.
"My baby!" she screamed. Kit’s father knew what he had to do.
He ran into the flames. His eyes and throat burned. He stumbled around until he heard the wails of an infant above the roar of the fire. He found the child wrapped in its blankets in its crib. The father wasted no time. He grabbed the baby and ran from the building just as it collapsed. He gave the infant back to its mother and fell to the ground. In between coughs, the woman heard him mutter the names of his wife and son. They were the last things he said before the darkness took him.
The house belonged to a rich merchant who was so grateful to the father for saving his baby, he offered to let the widowed mother and the boy to stay in his much larger house located in the nearby town square. However, the mother refused his generous offer and instead asked for employment. Bewildered, the merchant hired her on as a housekeeper.
Now each day, the mother left home and earned a living while Kit kept the house, tended the garden, and prepared dinner. Well, he was supposed to, anyways. Most days, he lazed around, accomplishing only a few of his many, many assigned tasks. Kit’s mother, who still loved the boy very, very much, barely tolerated it. One night as his mother looked at the raw vegetables straight from the garden that her son had "prepared" for dinner, the widow did something she had never done before. She yelled at the boy. She really let him have it. The mother laid it all out there and pulled no punches. With his mouth open wide, the boy stared at his mother. He knew things were going to be different, and he knew he was going to hate it.
And he did.
Later that week, the mother received word her own mother was very, very ill. She decided to take some herbs and whatever medicines they had to her. She left Kit with a very lengthy list of chores, some daily and some for the week, that must be completed before she returned.
To his credit, Kit did try his absolute best to finish all the chores each day. However, as he accomplished task number forty-seven of the daily chore chart his mother had prepared, the boy realized it was time for the worst one of all - task forty-eight: heading to the creek in the heart of the woods to fetch two pails of water. He looked at the two huge wooden buckets and sighed. They were heavy now, but they'd be even heavier once he filled them up. Kit loaded them onto the wooden yoke his mother would wear each day and hoisted the yoke across his back and slowly made his way to the woods.
When he finally got to the creek, Kit dropped the pails and yoke. He sighed and dragged the first bucket to the water. He lost his footing on the slippery rocks and stumbled into the rushing stream. He roared and tossed the bucket back to the shore. The sudden ruckus startled the birds in the surrounding trees. They beat their wings and scattered. The forest was still again. Then, out from a small shrubbery, popped two dwarves.
"What was that, Natty?" the first dwarf shouted. His blond hair and beard framed his face like a wiry bird’s nest. His gaze darted up and down the stream.
The second, his brother, pushed him aside. His hair was straight and a reddish hue that resembled copper, and his face was as bare as a baby's bottom. "A dragon? A troll? A dragon troll."
"I'm ready for 'em," the first dwarf spit in his palms and straightened his beard.
"Aye," Natty agreed and rolled up his sleeves. "Let the dragon troll come. He'll regret coming to our forest this day, Toby."
"What's a dragon troll?" Kit asked as he approached them. The dwarves screamed and bolted into each other's arms.
"Where did you come from?" demanded Toby.
"Why are you sneaking around these woods?" Natty asked wiping away tears from the corners of his eyes.
The boy stood up straight, "I wasn't sneaking. I was getting water."
Toby leaned around the child who was a head taller and nodded his head. "Buckets and a yoke. Checks out."
Natty narrowed his eyes at the boy. "Why is such a tiny thing doing such a big task?"
"My mother made me do it," he explained.
The first shook his head, "Why would she make you do a chore meant for adults? Surely your mother isn't heartless."
Kit was about to tell the pair of dwarves about his father, the fire, and their new life, but he got a better idea. Quickly, he whipped up a few tears and wiggled his lip so it would appear to be trembling. "You see," he started. "My mother isn't really my mother. I never met my real mother. I was stolen away when I was a baby by a witch. She wanted to teach me to be a mean, selfish villain just like her, but when I refused, he made me her slave." The dwarves looked like their were on the verge of actual tears, so he stepped the sob story up a notch.
"For nearly my whole life, I've been doing my wicked mistress’ bidding," he continued. A single tear slid down the boy's cheek. "And to make matters worse, the witch is gone this week and has doubled my duties to keep me busy." He slumped his shoulders and sighed, "If only I could take a break."
Toby nearly shot out of his skin. "We'll help, lad!"
Natty wrapped his arm around Kit, "Yes! We'll help you complete these tasks! Fret not, dear stranger."
And with that, each dwarf filled a bucket. Toby took the yoke, and the three headed back to the boy's house. Once there, Kit showed them the chore chart, and the dwarves split them and accomplished each as the boy laid in the tall grass and watched the clouds float by. The next day, He swam in the cool creek as the dwarves dusted and swept the house and tended the garden. On the third day, as he was picking flowers to make a crown for herself, Kit wondered if it could get any better.
For on the third day, as they were plucking weeds from the vegetable garden, the two dwarves began to discuss their new friend and his predicament. "You know," Natty said, "this is merely a temporary solution. Soon the witch will return, and no doubt she will turn us into toads if she catches us helping the boy."
"Aye," said his blond brother. He dusted his hands and stroked his beard. "I wouldn't like being a toad. Bugs give me indigestion. Perhaps we should consult our big brother."
"Splendid idea," the gingery dwarf smiled, “Manny always knows what to do.”
That night the two dwarves returned to their little shack in the darkest end of the woods. They told their older, bigger, brother about the little boy's plight. He sat silently for several moments, running his fingers through his long, black beard. "Only one way to be rid of a witch," Manny finally said. His voice was always a low roar. The large dwarf brought his left fist down onto his right palm. "Smash 'em. Bring the boy here tomorrow. We'll devise a plan, and once we flatten the old crone, he can live here with us."
Toby and Natty smiled and nodded in agreement.
The next day, the dwarves did as Manny said. Natty and Toby at first asked Kit to come with them, but when the boy refused, they grabbed him by the arms and pulled him along. He pleaded with the dwarves to go back to his house. He knew his mother would be back that night and would be quite irate if the chores weren't finished. She'd be even more so if she discovered her son pawned off his chores on a couple of unsuspecting dwarves.
"Please," he begged, "can't I meet your brother tomorrow? Mother, er, I mean, the witch will be back by nightfall, and you still haven't swept the chimney or scrubbed the rutabagas! I'll even help. At least a little.”
But Toby and Natty wouldn't listen, and they didn't stop walking until they returned to their shack with Kit who was literally dragging his heels. The two dwarves scurried around the shack and out of sight. Manny was out front, splitting large sections of a tree trunk with an axe that was bigger than either of his brothers. He saw the boy and wiped the sweat from his brow and gave him a slight nod. The boy, who was just slightly shorter than this dwarf, gave a little wave.
"I think theres been a big mistake, master dwarf,” Kit began.
The black haired dwarf raised his calloused hand, "Nay, lad. I think not. Did you tell my brothers a witch has made you her slave?"
"Well, yes, but you see..."
He shook his head, "It's alright, boy. You don't need to be afraid anymore."
"We'll take care of that witch, don't you worry."
The eldest dwarf smiled. "The only way how." Manny looked off to his left. Kit followed his gaze to find the two smaller dwarves had returned, dragging an enormous mallet. A knot formed in the boy’s stomach.
That evening as the sun set, Kit followed the dwarves. The eldest was silent and a few feet ahead of the rest. In the middle were the two younger dwarves, whose smiles stretched ear to ear. They couldn't help but giggle occasionally. With each step, Kit felt the knot grow and grow. He knew he had to say something, but he couldn't. Kit didn't want to get in trouble, but he didn't want his mother to get smashed, either. She didn't deserve to be pancaked. Even though he flatly refused to take on his responsibilities, his mother had always been loving, patient, and fair. Kit sighed and hung his head, wishing he had realized all of this sooner.
Before he knew it, they were there. Kit opened his mouth to confess, but nothing came out.
Natty and Toby fell into position behind a nearby tree, and Manny followed the boy in the house. "Just stay out of the way, lad," he said in his gruff but kind manner. "Wouldn't want you to get smooshed, too, and, when the boys give a whistle, close your eyes. Wouldn’t want to get witch jelly in them.“
Minutes passed, but to Kit, they felt like hours. His mouth was dry. His throat felt like it was made of wood. He tried to say something, but then the worst possible thing happened - he heard Natty and Toby’s bird calls.
The latch on the door turned.
Manny lifted his hammer and grit his teeth. Kit thought his heart would pound right out of his chest. He couldn't breath. His mother opened up the door and took a step in. The dark-haired dwarf pulled the mallet back slightly and licked his upper lip.
The mother opened the door all the way and entered the house completely. Manny brought the hammer down with all his might, and faster than he had ever moved before, Kit jumped in the path of the falling mallet, stretched out his arms, and yelled, "Stop!"
In mere fractions of a moment, as he brought his axe down, Manny's eyes moved from the boy to his mother in the doorway. To the dwarf, the tired widow was the most beautiful, albeit confused, creature his eyes had ever fallen upon. In an instant, he shifted his weight to the left and tossed his mallet through the tiny house's wall. The three stared at the giant hole in dumbfounded silence
"She's my mom," Kit whispered after a few moments. The boy came clean and explained everything. He apologized to the oldest dwarf and his two younger brothers (who had ran to the doorway to see a flattened witch and were quite disappointed) for deceiving them. He apologized to his mother for nearly getting her smashed and generally being a butt about the whole "chores and duties" thing.
Kit stood still and waited for everyone to start yelling, but no one did. The raven-haired dwarf was still in awe of the mother. The red- and yellow-haired dwarves had tuned out long ago and were picking their ears and noses, respectively. The mother bent down and placed her hand on her sons shoulder, "Darling, I’m sorry, too."
Of all the things the boy had prepared herself to hear from his mother, this wasn't one.
“Wow,” Kit whispered. ”Really?”
"Yes, darling boy. In a way this is sort of my fault. Don’t get me wrong, Kit, it’s mostly yours, but I should've made you do more work around the house when you were younger.” His mother stood up, “You see, I need you to help. I can't do it alone. Understand?"
The boy nodded. Finding his voice, Manny finally spoke up, "I'd be happy to help, ma'am. Aside from fixing the wall, that is."
"We'll see," the mother smiled, looking the dwarf over. She turned to her son and pointed, "But you'll help, too."
And he did. After a while, Kit began to enjoy doing his chores. It felt good to help. He wondered if things could keep getting better and better.
And they did.