In the morning, after putting down a saucer of milk for his kitties, the farmer closed his front door and walked into the lane. There he saw a little girl, playing in the dirt.
“Little girl,” he said. “What are you doing here?” But she didn’t say. She looked so sad and bored that the farmer gave her a pebble from his pocket and said, “Here — plant this magic seed and see what grows.”
That night, when he got home, he was treated to a remarkable sight. Where the little girl had planted the pebble a tree had grown, but not a normal tree — it was short and gnarled, and its branches were bare. Still, the farmer was amazed.
“Little girl,” he said. “How is this possible?” But she didn’t say. So the farmer went inside, shaking his head.
In the morning, after putting down a saucer of milk, he opened the front door and saw the same little girl as before, playing in the dirt.
“Here,” he said, handing her another pebble. “Plant this magic seed and see what grows.” He chuckled nervously to himself when he said it, but the girl just stared.
That night, when he got home, he was treated to another remarkable sight. Where the little girl had planted the second pebble a rose bush had grown, but the roses were all black as tar, with thorns that made the farmer’s eyes water.
“Little girl,” he said. “What sorcery is this?” But she didn’t say. So the farmer went inside and bolted the door. The kitties walked in circles around his ankles as he parted the curtains and peeked outside.
In the morning, the farmer ignored the little girl. When she reached out for him, he slapped her hand away. “No more pebbles!” he said. “Leave me alone!”
That night, when he got home, the little girl was sitting where he’d left her, surrounded by fresh mounds of dirt. The farmer walked inside, but immediately he noticed that things were missing — his cups, his books, even his pictures in their frames. He became frantic when he couldn’t find his kitties, not even one.
The farmer hurried outside. “What have you done?” he shouted at the little girl. But she just held up a finger to her lips.
“Shh,” she said. “I’m waiting to see what grows.”
The baker murdered a customer who refused to pay. He bludgeoned him to death with a stale loaf of bread.
The body was still cooling on the floor, where anyone could find it. The baker rushed home with the murder weapon and said, “Children, come quick! We must eat this bread!”
His two sons joined him in the kitchen. It wasn’t unusual for their father to bring home food from work, but usually he was very tired and not so animated.
“Eat!” he urged them. “Eat!”
After a few bites, the younger son complained. “It’s too stale. It’s hard to chew.”
“So dip it,” his father instructed him.
“In what?” asked the older son. “What about wine?”
So the baker filled two mugs with red wine, and the boys happily dipped their crusts. But the loaf was large, and the bottle was close to empty, and soon they were out.
“I’m full,” said the first son. “I can’t eat another bite.”
“But you must!” his father insisted.
“It’s still too hard. My jaw hurts.”
So the baker set about making soup. At first, he only intended to boil water, but he knew his boys would complain, so he also sautéed onion and garlic and chopped carrot and celery. He included lentils and a bay leaf. In a short time, the kitchen was redolent with aromas.
When the soup was done, they ate. They finished the loaf of bread. And after the police had seized their father (murder weapon or no, there was a dead body on the floor of his bakery), and he’d been convicted and hung, the two boys would remember the last meal he prepared for them, as a sort of goodbye.
New families came to the orphanage on Fridays.
A mother, a father, and a little girl were the only visitors. They looked bashful, like they didn’t know where to begin. The first orphan approached them.
“Hello!” he said, smiling his biggest smile. “I’m so glad to see you! I’ve been dreaming of a new family — you look just like them, the family of my dreams. Do you have any pets at home? In my dreams there are a cat and a dog, but it’s all right if you don’t have any — I don’t mind.”
The mother, father, and little girl had bewildered expressions. The first orphan thought maybe he’d been overly enthusiastic, but it was too late — they were already moving on.
“Hello,” said the second orphan. This one was much calmer than the first, having observed the previous interaction. “My whole life I’ve wished I had a brother — or a sister. Someone I could play with, someone to share secrets with — or someone to protect. I’ve even wondered if I had a missing twin, the wish was so great. Can boys and girls be twins?”
The little girl looked at her parents. She reached for her mother’s hand while her father steered her away.
The third orphan remained sitting. She didn’t look up until the mother, father, and little girl approached her. Then she smiled. She smiled before she even saw them. “I just knew,” she whispered. “I knew you’d find me.” She looked up at the mother. She ignored the man and the little girl, but not to be rude — like she didn’t notice they were there.
“Don’t you recognize me?” she said. “It’s a different body — I’m much younger — but look into my eyes. Don’t you know me?”
The woman gasped. “Mama?” she said.
Fridays were when the orphans ate fish. The first and second orphans received an extra helping that night, since the third orphan had left for good. That was a good thing.