Making the Road Shorter
The Grandmother of Jessica was small, old, gray and full of stories. Every week, the old lady went to the village selling a basket of eggs and stuff she had trickled. She's always returned with stories. Butcher's stories, baker's stories, grocer's stories. Jessica was almost five years old and also wanted to go to the village when she heard all of these stories.
"Can I come with you Grandma?" she said.
"Oh, the road is away too long for your wee legs, Jessica"
"Please, please, please, please, Grandma, please!"
"I tell you what," Grandma said. "When you can make the road shorter, you can come with me to the village."
"Make the road shorter!"
"Yes, Jessica, make the road shorter!" Grandma said.
"How can anybody make the road shorter?"
"That's for you to find out, Jessica."
And off Grandma went to the village again with her egg and apple basket and knitting and...without Jessica. Jessica saw Grandma growing smaller and smaller, disappearing along the long road to the village. Jessica was thinking and thinking. How could anyone shorten the road? The road was the road, bending and twisting and going up and down and out and around. How smaller could it be?
Grandma returned with freshly baked loaves, food and stories, funny stories, a story about a witch, a story about a Kelpie and a story about little people's magic music.
Jessica wanted more than anything else in the world to go to the village with Grandma, more than chocolates, more than dolls or prams or a new dress.
"Grandma, maybe if we ran the road would be shorter."
"Very clever," Grandma said, "but not the answer."
"Or if we cycled."
"Clever, Jessica, but not the answer." And again, Grandma left Jessica alone to watch the old woman grow smaller and smaller as she disappeared along the long, winding road.
Jessica couldn't bear that. There was no reply. She went to the barn, threw herself on the stroke, cried and sang, sang and sighed as if her heart were breaking.
Her big brother, Blair, heard this terrible crying, sobbing and sighing and came into the barn.
Jessica was sitting in the straw cross-legged, heading down, sniffing, snuffing and sobbing.
"Hey, hey, hey, little Jessica," Blair said, "What is all this fuss and all these tears?"
Jessica's face was running down with great tears. She sobbed, "It's Grandma!"
"She won't." (Sniff) She won't. (Sniff) She won't. (Sniff)"
"She won't take me to the village till, (Sniff), till, till,"
"Till I can make the road shorter. How can anyone make the road shorter? It's in and out and up and down and nobody can change that. It's not fair."
"Hey, hey, hey," said Blair. "You can make the road shorter, I'm sure."
"Yes, you can Jessica."
"How can I make the road shorter?"
"What does Grandma like best of all?"
"Tea, strong tea."
"Nope, not tea."
"I'll tell you. It's something that will never break. You will never lose it. It will never wear out. You can take it everywhere on every road. You can give it away and have it still. Every time you give it away it gets better and it will make the road shorter."
"I know. I know. I know. I know!" said Jessica.
And the very next time Grandma went to Jessica's village, she put on her shoes and coat and said, "Grandma, I'm coming too!"
"Oh," said Grandma. "Can you make the road shorter?"
"Yes," said Jessica, "so short you won't even know."
"Alright," said Grandma, "come along and we'll see." And off they set together.
"Now, Grandma," said Jessica, "Can you tell me what you get if you pour hot water down a rabbit hole?"
"No," said Grandma. "What do you get?"
"Hot cross bunnies." said Jessica.
"That's good," said Grandma. "Very good."
"Once upon a time there was a big fat mountain hare and..."Jessica continued.
"Once," Grandma said, "There was a great Scottish soldier, a brave heart, called William Wallace and..."
And they walked on.
"Once there was a fox and..." said Jessica. And they walked on. "Did you know", said Grandma, "That the Devil is a great bagpiper?"
And they walked on.
Grandma and Jessica asked each other for their riddles, sang songs, told each other stories to and from the village. Grandma even agreed that the road was never that short.
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© 2019 Oluwafemi Okeowo