If you’re just joining us, here’s the story so far.
Tickling Butterflies is an epic fantasy, containing 128 fairy tales that together create one huge story. We are in the middle:
The Boy Who Couldn’t Cry
(Containing the preposterous tale of the boy who couldn’t cry.)
The three of us, said Benjamin Miller, were headed into the town on the island of the Land of No Respect, when we came upon a very sad little boy.
The boy was no older than eight. He appeared healthy and well fed, but his face was sad, and he was busy throwing rocks at the whipped-creamed sands.
I stopped, and said, “Young boy, why are you so sad?”
The young boy looked up at me, and with a sour face, said, “It’s a long story. You don’t want to hear it.”
“I have a little time,” I said. “What happened? What’s your story?”
“It’s like this,” said the boy. “My name is Emil, and I’m a rule breaker! If there is a rule, I break it. My parents always tell me what to do and I always try to do the opposite. I always get into trouble, and that is why they always catch me. And when they catch me, they always tell me to go to the shed and think about what I did.
“Well, I did. I thought about it, and I decided that it was time I broke the rules and regulations of the Land of No Respect!”
“The rules and regulations?” I said. Fred the Farting Ferret, who had allowed us entry to the island, had also spoken of rules and regulations.
“Yes,” Emil continued. “There are only a few rules and regulations to the Land of No Respect, and my Dad had taught me all of them since the day I was born. Rule one: You have to fall down at least five times a day.”
The three of us looked at each other. We had the same puzzled look you have now, King John the Cute.
The boy continued, “Rule two: You have to get pie in your face at least three times a day.”
Once more, the three of us exchanged look.
“It makes sense,” Ochi said. “Perhaps it explains the whipped cream all over.”
“Do you mind?” interrupted the boy. “I’m telling a story!”
We apologized and Emil continued. “Rule three: You have to go to the bathroom twice a day, just because it’s funny.”
I kept a serious face and did not dare to look at Sylvia or at Ochi.
“Rule four: You can only cry if it’s funny.”
“I’m sorry,” Sylvia interrupted. “What was that rule again?”
“Are you deaf?” shouted the boy. “Rule four is ‘You can only cry if it’s funny’. There are a few more rules, but this one is the stupidest rule ever! So last week I decided to break that rule. I pulled my sister’s hair, just so she could insult me. She did, and I was insulted, and I wanted to cry. But I couldn’t, because it wasn’t funny!”
“Ah,” Sylvia nodded, although she did not understand at all. The two of us nodded, as well. But we did not understand it, either.
“Every morning since then, when I woke up,” the boy continued, “I did something that was supposed to make me cry. I went out and kicked a big rock. It hurt me, and I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t, because it wasn’t funny!”
“Ah,” the three of us said together.
“The next day I pulled out my own hairs, and it really hurt. But I still couldn’t cry, because it wasn’t funny!”
“Ah,” we said together again.
“I got my sister to hit me. And she did. But I still couldn’t cry, because it wasn’t funny!”
“I’ve been doing sad and hurtful things all week, just to make me sad and hurt, so that I could cry. But every time, I couldn’t cry because it wasn’t funny.”
“Benjamin,” Ochi whispered in my right ear. “This land is stranger and more outlandish than I had thought.”
I shushed Ochi, and the boy continued. “I want to cry. I need to cry. I’m sad, don’t you understand? I’m sad!”
“I see your prob—”
“I want to cry and I ca-ha-ha-ha-han’t!” On that last word, the boy began to cry. He could hardly say the last word for crying.
The boy looked at me harshly, “What are you doing?”
“Nothing,” I answered, clamping my mouth shut.
“Why can’t I cry-eye-eye-eye-eye!” The boy cried.
I put a hand over his face to hide his mouth. The boy was unaware that he was crying.
“When do I get to cry-eye-eye-eye-eye! No one lets me cry-eye-eye-eye-eye!”
“Excuse me, little boy,” Ochi said.
“Help me! I need to cry-eye-eye-eye-eye! Why can’t I cry-eye-eye-eye-eye! It’s so sa-a-a-a-a-a-d!”
“Little boy,” Ochi said with insistence. “Have you noticed that you’re crying now?”
The boy looked aside and saw Sylvia and I were giggling. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” she said. “I don’t mean to laugh when you’re crying.”
The boy stopped crying immediately. “Well, if you laugh at it, that takes all the fun out of crying!” The boy, no longer appearing sad, began to walk off back into town, “You ruined it for me! Thanks a lot!”
The three of us looked after the boy, as he ran down the path they had come. Suddenly, he slipped on the creamy sand, and fell on his behind.
I was worried for a second. Then I heard the boy shout happily, “That’s two today!”
I laughed again, then Sylvia laughed again, then we looked at Ochi.
“This is a strange and outlandish land, I tell you,” said Ochi. “And my arm hurts.”
Sylvia shrugged. “Strange and outlandish is what we came looking for. Surely, this boy’s story is different from the stories of all other creatures we have met in the Land of All Legends. Come, the town is near. We’ll get you a doctor.”
And so the three of us headed into town.
King John the Cute, this has been the story of our first encounter with the true strangeness of the Land of All Legends. Are you sure you want to hear more?
“Certainly,” said King John the Cute. “Please.”
“All right, then,” said Benjamin Miller. “Continue listening.”
(To be continued on Sunday…)