All day the girl counted the ticks and the tocks
That echoed inside of her grandmother’s clocks;
For this little girl, who was named Ravenlocks,
Was home, tucked in bed, with the dread chickenpox.
You know this disease, for few ever get through
Their formative years without catching it too;
It’s at least two times worse than strep throat or the flu,
With an itch from your scalp to the toes in your shoe.
Now, Ravenlocks had it like most of her chums,
But was blistered as bad as the chickenpox comes.
She was covered! Why, even her mouth and her gums —
And tongues can’t be scratched with one’s fingers or thumbs.
So, Ravenlocks lay in a state of dismay;
Aware she could not make the itch go away,
Nor leave her sickbed to go outside and play,
So chose to let her little mind go astray.
This effort alone was itself something new,
For when this took place had she been someone who
You’d known, it is sure that you would have known too,
When things weren’t her way — off the handle she flew!
Most times she’d complain or throw some sort of fit;
No coax nor demand would make Ravenlocks quit.
She’d kick, cuss and cry ‘fore she ever would quit,
And right or wrong mattered not one single bit.
Yet this time, although she was sickly and sad,
She thought not on all that she wanted ... but had.
And this change of view made her tiny heart glad,
For Ravenlocks saw that life wasn’t so bad.
Those thoughts made her feel very happy inside,
So much she forgot the pink pills at her side,
Or the fact that just minutes before she had cried,
And took her itch, fever, and headache in stride.
In cheerful repose, she laid back in her bed,
Indenting he pillow’s plush down with her head,
And closed her blue eyes, grown quite heavy and red,
Agreeing to go anywhere her dreams led.
Instead, before she could catch even one wink,
A noise outside made her eyes open and blink.
She reached for her night stand and water to drink,
In hopes that a swallow would help her to think.
Outside of the window, and up in the air,
Flew a polka dot pig with a mop of red hair;
At which Ravenlocks could only silently stare,
For the polka dot pig gave our girl quite a scare.
Her mouth wouldn’t speak, though she wanted to try,
When the pig gave a squeal and then started to cry;
With tears and such sobbing, she thought it might die,
When it suddenly stopped with a snort and a sigh.
Our girl didn’t wait but a moment or two,
She had to act but had no clue what to do,
She opened the window to get better view,
And asked, "Little pig, what is making you blue?"
"Don’t tease me! My reasons are clear as can be:
"You’d be depressed too if you looked just like me.
"I’m spotted!" the piglet exclaimed. "Can’t you see?
"And polka dots on a pink pig don’t agree!"
"You know," thought the girl, "you are rather unique;
The most interesting thing that I’ve seen in a week.
"And if you don’t mind that I candidly speak,
I think your spots make you look handsome and sleek."
"Go on," said the pig. "You are just being kind.
"I’m the ugliest pig that you ever could find."
But Ravenlocks countered, "You mustn’t be blind!
"How grateful you’d be if you’d open your mind.
"Here all you can do is to whine and complain
About pink polka dots, which seems clearly insane,
When if for once you would try using your brain,
You‘d notice you’re flying around like a plane!
"Now, how many pigs do you know that can fly?
"And how many sows fly around in the sky?
"Heck! I couldn’t, no matter how hard I’d try!
"You ought to be thankful and wipe your eyes dry."
The polka dot pig hovered outside the sill,
Its pink, pudgy face very thoughtful and still,
While it pondered and pondered and pondered until
It grunted and said, "You know something? I will.
"You’re right, girl, I’m special and ought to have pride.
"My talents are such that they can’t be denied.
"My worth isn’t measured by spots on my hide,
But how I react to the world from inside!"
As Ravenlocks watched the pink pig fly away
With his red, feathered wings flapping happy and gay,
She almost wished that she had asked him to stay,
For she realized she had no one with whom to play.
She crawled back to bed and slipped under the spread,
And pulled the wool covers up over her head.
She started right then to doze off, but instead,
Beside her a voice spoke and here’s what it said:
"You helped the pink pig with big spots on his hide
To change his view and find his lost sense of pride,
But I can find nothing, although I have tried,
Not one thing of mine worth a bit," the voice sighed.
Slowly, the girl pulled the sheets from her face,
And cautiously peered around over the place.
Then, jumped with a shout, for she’d not tried to brace
Herself for a shock which, this time, was the case.
To her right by the dresser, night stand and chest,
Right there on her mother’s best rug sat a nest,
There perched a tall stork with a bright, yellow breast
Whose long, pointed beak left our girl quite impressed.
"Well, what," asked the child, "is the matter with you?
"You’ve no polka dots and you seem the right hue."
"My problem’s a matter of taste, and if you
Must know, I’m addicted to dill pickle stew."
"That isn’t so bad," Ravenlocks tried to smile.
As the stork sipped green stew through a straw all the while.
"You think so?" it asked. "Well, it isn’t ‘stork-style’!
"Not when all my friends eat sunfish by the pile!"
"If your friends like fish, let them eat it all day,
And if pickle stew’s what you crave, that’s okay.
"Why care so much what other folk’s have to say?
"Life gains its true meaning when lived your own way."
"But everyone else is out eating sunfish,
And I’d eat it too if I did what they wish!
"But every time I see a trout on a dish
I cringe at the smell and the way their eyes squish!
"Yet, all other storks, everywhere like the taste;
"At dinner sometimes I can't help feel disgraced,
‘Cause cat, cod, or salmon, to me are like paste ---
My problem’s far worse than the pink piggy faced."
"Believe me," said Ravenlocks, "I’ve felt it too;
My friends pressure me to do what they all do.
"There’s one thing I’ve learned that you can’t misconstrue :
When it comes to yourself, you must always stay true !"
But just as these words from her little lips leapt,
Which left the stork feeling no longer inept,
A cold, little creature so clumsily crept
Right up on the bed where the little girl slept.
So, there at the foot of her canopy bed;
Its throat pulsing forth where it sat on the spread...
A wart covered toad with a thick, bumpy head.
"Don't you listen to her!" it sat up and said.
"She doesn't exist! She's a phantom!" he cried.
"Oh, like having a dream?" the kingfisher replied.
"A nightmare's more like it," the toad sat and sighed.
"She's twisting our innermost thoughts from inside."
"I'm not!" the girl yelled. "I'm no figment at all.
"I'm as real as that lamp or the paint on the wall!"
But the toad shook his head with a frog-throated call,
And made our poor Ravenlocks feel very small.
"We're real," said the toad. "It is you who's the dream."
The girl shook her head and she started to scream,
"I'm not a mirage! I'm much more than I seem.
"Perhaps you're illusion," she said with a gleam.
"You're silly," the warty, old toad gave a croak,
And lit up a Cuban cigar for a smoke.
"Are you sure?" she asked, giving his belly a poke.
"Quit!" he puffed. "This isn't some sort of joke.
"The fabric of all that is real and is true ,
Is what is at stake when you say what you do.
"My beliefs are divine, and not even you
Can dispute that fact, Miss, 'cause you haven't a clue."
"We'll see," she replied, with her fist doubled tight.
"What makes you so sure your convictions are right?
"And why is it you can think only to fight,
Or meet disagreements with anger and spite?"
The old toad grew cross and he hopped and he hissed,
But Ravenlocks slowly relaxed her clenched fist,
Considering something she almost had missed:
The angry, old toad had not ever been kissed.
She bent down and gave his coarse skin a quick peck,
Behind his round eyes on the back of his neck.
Though he purposely coughed, and he shouted out, "Yech!"
Her kiss placed his zeal and his fervor in check.
"I don't think," she said, "that it matters this time.
"You can keep your beliefs, and I can keep mine.
"It matters not if they oppose or align;
If different, similar — either is fine!"
This took the fat amphibian by surprise,
Unexpectedly bringing a tear to his eyes.
"You're right," he admitted. "For truth only lies
In the heart of each person, and not otherwise.
"How foolish of me to think my views were right.
"Well — they are," he sneered, "but that's no reason to fight.
"No belief is too great — no creed is too slight.
"Though different — all equal — in everyone's sight!"
The calloused toad sucked on his stogie and blew
His smoke in a cloud that got thicker and grew
'Til Ravenlocks couldn't be seen, it is true ,
And the toad and the stork disappeared in it too.
And as she tried waving the cloud from her face,
In a bit of a panic there, standing in place,
She lost all direction of time or of space;
A feeling of dreaming she couldn't erase.
Then flitting across the mind's eye in her head,
A light shone down brightly on what had been said.
She no longer fought all the lessons. Instead,
She let them assimilate there in her bed.
Her mind began slowly to shift and to sway
As she idly dreamt on that hot, summer day,
And all of her feisty concerns and dismay,
Anxiety, anger — t'was all swept away.
She no longer cared how she looked; what she wore,
Nor if her friends liked what she liked anymore,
And every belief that she held at her core,
Was dear just to her and need mean nothing more.
She woke with a snore and a snort and a shrug.
She pulled back the sheets, placed her feet on the rug,
And leaving the bed that was comfy and snug,
She went to the window and stuck out her mug.
Gazing down, watching her friends in the yard;
So many of whom she had played with or sparred,
She finally let down her defensive guard —
And staying upstairs seemed no longer so hard.
Against all the feelings to which she'd been prone;
Because of the insight, which she had been shown,
No tear left her eyes, from her throat came no moan —
And for once, Ravenlocks was content on her own.