once upon a time, there lived a lonely sand spirit.

a cheeky fable

he watched over a giant black sand dune, surrounded by trees on three sides and a small stream that slowly filled a nearby valley, creating a lake.  the sand dune was too far inland for the sand spirit to visit the ocean, or for other sand spirits to visit, so he entertained himself by swimming in his lake and scaring the eels who lived there, and by rolling down the steep sides of the sand dune, and by making strange footprints and beautiful wave patterns in the sand.

a cheeky fable
a cheeky fable
a cheeky fable
a cheeky fable

a cheeky fablemost of the time, the spirit looked like a small, stout man made of living, shifting sand, but he could also change his shape.  sometimes he would sneak snake-like through the toetoe and rattle the stems, or send clouds of sand hissing through the tassels.  sometimes he would spin himself into a whirlwind and dance over the top of the dune as a giant column, his million grains of sand sparkling in the sunlight.a cheeky fableone day, he made a giant broom of toetoe tassels and began to sweep the whole dune completely smooth.  he hummed happily to himself as he worked, erasing the footprints that crossed the sand.  just as he was nearing the water’s edge, he noticed an unusual set of footprints. someone large, with only two toes on each foot, and very long legs, had walked along the water just recently. the sand spirit followed the tracks up to and into a dense thicket of toetoe, where he bumped into a large, knobbly knee.  squinting upward, he saw feathery grey plumage blending with the toetoe tassels, then a long, slender, elegant neck… and a large eye, staring right at him.  the eye was a deep chestnut brown, framed with long dark lashes, and the sand spirit thought it was the most beautiful eye he had ever seen.  he bowed.

the ostrich had never seen a sand demon before.  she had lived on a farm nearby for many years, but had grown tired of the green fields and set out to follow the stream that ran through them, wherever it would take her.  she was fascinated with the small, sparkling spirit that now stood near her knees, and she bent her head down to see him better.

hardly daring to breathe, the sand spirit picked up a soft toetoe tassel and tickled the great bird under the chin.  she half-closed her long lashes and crooned, deep in her throat.

from that moment, the sand spirit and the ostrich were inseparable. he showed her how to catch small fish in the lake, and how to slide down the great sand dune.  when he whirled as a column of sand, she pirouetted gleefully beside him.  sometimes she would let him ride on her back, racing along the peak of the dune.

he built her a vast, soft nest of toetoe tassels, and in it, she laid a large, sand-colored egg.  after months of sleeping under warm ostrich feathers and carefully arranged blankets of sun-soaked sand, the egg hatched, under the wondering eyes of its unlikely parents.  the child that emerged was even more unlikely – the squat, round body of the sand-spirit, reproduced in miniature, atop long spindly legs, with great brown eyes and long lashes.  in place of the sand spirit’s stubby arms, there were short, fluffy wings.  it cheeped shyly, and sneezed out a small cloud of sand.  its parents gazed in wonder.  the sand spirit spun for joy, while the ostrich nudged the baby gently.  it whistled softly and fell asleep.

as the fledgling grew, its parents tried to teach it to play and fish, but its odd little body couldn’t run without falling over, couldn’t roll without tangling its legs, couldn’t fish without a beak or hands.  the sand spirit and the ostrich watched with great concern as the child tried and tried to be like them, never quite succeeding.  when it grew tired and cried, they carried it back to the nest, where the ostrich crooned and the sand spirit made sand-patterns.   exhausted, the child fell into a deep sleep and dreamed its first dream.  a giant eel rose from the lake and told the child sternly it must choose to be like either its mother or its father, and when the moon rose, it must wish for one form or the other, with all its heart.

in the morning, the ostrich and the sand demon went to the lake as usual.  the fledgling peeped over the edge of the nest, watching its mother’s graceful neck and quick beak catching the silver fish, and its father’s clever fingers sieving along the lake bottom for crayfish.  as the sun climbed in the sky, he saw the ostrich leap and dance over the sand on long legs, while the sand demon gathered a small whirlwind and carved spirals in the sand dune.  as evening fell, the child’s heart grew heavy with choosing.  the night breeze sighed through the toetoe tassels, soft like his mother’s feathers; the stars came out in the sky, twinkling like his father’s sand grains.  he dreamed again.  the eel asked if he had chosen.  the child replied sadly that both his parents were kind and good.  could he  keep a part of each?  the eel smiled mysteriously and slid back into the water, whispering that the moon awaited his wish.

the child awoke as the first silver sliver crept above the horizon. gazing at his mother’s closed eyelashes and the sand wraiths dancing across his sleeping father, the child thought of the beautiful sand-waves the sand spirit made, and looked to the moon with brimming eyes.  the moon seemed to wink, slowly, and the child fell into a dreamless sleep.

a cheeky fable

when he awoke and stretched, he saw arms and fingers in place of his fuzzy wings, and short sandy legs with small, five-toed feet.  resigned to the smaller form of the sand spirit, he climbed from the nest and tried a small whirlwind.  he walked a few paces with his new feet, then smoothed out his tracks with his new fingers.  as he did so, he also felt the ghosts of his fuzzy wings pass over the sand.  walking, then running, he felt his short legs lengthen and carry him
faster and faster.  a rainbow appeared above the lake, and he danced down to the water’s edge, eager to try fishing.  as he splashed in the shallows, stretching his magical legs longer and shorter, a large shadow swam toward shore, unnoticed until at last a pair of somber eel-eyes appeared at the surface.  the child shrieked in fright and jumped straight out of the water, at once returning to his small sand-spirit body…

a cheeky fable
with the instincts of an ostrich.

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