The Friendly Ogre

     A boy passed a flat smooth stone to another, his compatriot in the crime of disturbing a pristinely calm surface of lake water that lay on the edge of a thick wood. 

     'It's perfect!' exclaimed the other, taking the stone.  Feeling the smoothness between his fingers, he worked the stone into his hand until it sat just right, and then whipped it out away from him.

           As it danced across the water, they counted.  

            Five… no, six small dents bent the water, sending rings of ripples.
            ‘Well done, Pen!’ said the first boy, marveling at his friend’s great feat.
            ‘Jolly good stone,’ brushed off Pen, but his face held a delighted grin as both boys bent to search for another perfect stone.  
            It was only a matter of seconds, however, before they both stood up ramrod straight.  For, all at once, a sound came echoing out of the wood, loud enough to send echoes beaming across the lake.
            ‘John…’ said Pen hesitantly to the other boy.
            ‘Yes?’ asked John with an uncharacteristically soft voice as he peered into the trees.
            ‘No one lives in the forest, right?’
            ‘Not that I’ve ever heard,’ John said.  As far as he knew, the forest had been empty for years and had no intention of changing.  But his momentary apprehension proved short-lived, for unknown noises in the forest meant only one thing; and that thing was adventure.  His feet practically danced at the thought of it, as he moved, out of pure instinct, toward the wood.  ‘Well, come on, then,’ he said to Pen, as he headed for the trees.
            It was only natural that Pen followed him.
The boys pressed into the forest, walking atop the mossy forest floor and winding their way through thickly growing trees and shrubs.  They hadn’t been in the wood long before they heard the noise again, and this time it was much closer.
            ‘John, I think I see something,’ Pen whispered very quietly, looking carefully to his right.
            John stepped lightly to Pen’s side and looked hard.  ‘I see it too,’ he whispered back just as quietly.
            And as they realized what it was they saw, they stood stunned.  For what they saw was an enormous ogre, wielding an enormous ax, striking an enormous tree.
            It was the final stroke, for the tree fell with a loud thump, as it bounced slightly against the mossy earth, and bounced off several smaller trees that it managed not to take down with it, until it finally settled at the ogre’s feet.  As one, the boys began to step away slowly, step by trembling step.
            But then the ogre did something odd and unexpected.  He, for it had to be a ‘he’ given the voluminous and bushy quality of hair on his face, took out a handkerchief.  Pen and John stood in silence, as the ogre wiped the sweat off his green-tinged brow and then sat down on the fallen tree’s enormous stump.  Reaching into his vest, which revealed more bushy hair and did nothing to hide bulging green-tinged muscles that lay beneath it, the ogre must have found an inside pocket, for he pulled out a pipe.
            In no time at all, smoke curled out of the pipe’s bowl and blew out the ogre’s mouth, while the pungent aroma began to fill the boys’ noses.
            So relaxed did the ogre look, that Pen and John where taken by surprise when the ogre suddenly said, ‘I see you.’
            It was said politely enough, but it rumbled through the sparse brush that was supposed to be hiding the boys and caused them to jump.
            And then they froze, both thinking that perhaps the ogre meant that he saw someone else.
            ‘You two, through the trees there,’ the ogre gestured right at them, ‘come and have a chat.’
            That sealed it; the ogre did not see someone else.  As though they could speak mind to mind Pen and John knew they were having similar thoughts.  On the one hand there was the: oh my goodness! and he’s seen us! and he’s going to eat us! and we’re doomed!  But on the other hand: well, a chat; that doesn’t sound so bad, and it would be rather thrilling to talk with a real ogre, and he really seems like a decent chap, what with the pipe and all…  Naturally, the second hand outweighed the first.  The two boys pushed aside the brush as they did their fear and doubts—that is to say, tentatively—and stood before the ogre.

            Looking up into his gnarled face that had a nose like a pig’s snout, ears that stuck out a foot on either side, and eyebrows that looked just plain deadly, John said, ‘What do you want with us?’ 
It was better to get it all out in the open, John thought.
            Pen grimaced, but only very slightly—Pen was rather sensitive to rude questions.  But then again, under the circumstances, it was a very legitimate question.
            Their apprehension lessened slightly when the ogre gave a small chuckle, for despite his ugly exterior, his laugh was warm and kindly. 
‘Why, just what I said, little lad,’ said the ogre, his voice so deep, the ground shook ever so slightly beneath their feet.
            It was good enough for John.  He opened his mouth to start talking, but found he didn’t know what to say.  Pen could see his friend had hit a wall. 
            ‘What do you want to chat about?’ said Pen, digging John out of the hole.
            The ogre appeared to give it a moment’s serious thought, before putting an elbow on his knee and bending closer.
            ‘Why, anything you want,’ said the ogre.
            Pen and John couldn’t help but think that the ogre really was a most amiable fellow, asking them to talk about whatever they wanted.  And the ogre’s generosity could not be passed by.
            ‘I can sling a rock twenty meters,’ John said, paving the way.
            ‘And I can skip a rock ten times,’ said Pen.  ‘Sometimes,’ he added, just in case the ogre tested him.
            ‘Impressive,’ said the ogre.  ‘I can pick up this whole tree and chuck it into the lake,’ he said, joining in the list of feats.
            ‘No way!’ said John.
            ‘Wow!’ said Pen at the exact same moment.
            ‘Want to see?’ asked the ogre, with a twinkle in his yellow eye.
            ‘Rather!’ exclaimed Pen his eyes as round as saucers, as John’s mouth hung open before he said, ‘Yes, please!’
            With great enthusiasm, John and Pen followed their new friend down to the lake, for the ogre indeed could pick up the whole tree, and the splash it made when he tossed it in was unlike any other splash the boys had ever seen.  The adventure marked the beginning of a great friendship that brought Pen and John back to the wood day after day until one day, they looked all around, and the ogre had disappeared.  But that was alright, for the boys weren’t boys any longer, and with the memory of the best adventures, the boys left it at that, each with a handful of stories in his pocket.


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