The Moon Ball - Read or listen to the story
(Text, voice and illustrations are my own)
The market was full of people, but no one even looked at him. He couldn’t even juggle more than four balls, and yet it was what he did best. They kept falling to the ground. Sometimes someone pointed and laughed, and walked away.
Three town guards came walking out between the stands.
-Hello, young man, said the officer in charge. -You can’t juggle here.
-No buts! I’ll let you off the hook this time, but if I see you juggle those balls here in town again, I’ll take them.
Jerome left, and he hadn’t earned a penny. He found some passed fruit and left over bread in the garbage and walked down the river out of town. The full moon made the landscape shine, but he walked with his head low. All he ever wanted was to travel and juggle, and he couldn’t even do it right.
He always had a hard time falling asleep during full moon, and lie awake for a long time. He heard a sound. Something fell to the ground nearby. He looked up. There was a strange white light coming from the bushes. He got up, walked over. There was something there, a glowing ball. He picked it up. It looked like an exactly the moon. He looked up at the sky, just to make sure. The moon was still there.
It was astonishing, like holding the moon in his hand. He threw it in the air. It moved in a strange way, like it was defying gravity. Jerome felt like a child, never had he seen anything like this.
He got his bean sacks out of his bag, started juggling them with the new ball. They were all acting different, as if the moon ball was controling their movements. They made strange loops and jumps in the air. He went to sleep with his new ball under his blanket.
The next day he went into town again. There were more people today, he was hoping today could be better.
He positioned himself in a corner of the market. He started out with three balls, two of his old ones and the new. He was doing tricks he'd never even thought of. His hands felt lighter than ever, they moved faster. It was like he didn’t have to do anything at all, everything moved by itself. He threw up another ball. And then the fifth.
He was juggling five balls like he’d never juggled before, even with three. He was throwing them behind his back, between his hands, round in circles.
-Look! A man said.
-Wow! Said another.
People were clapping and cheering, laughing and shouting, throwing him coins. A lot of coins.
The soldiers from the day before appeared.
-I told you you can’t juggle here. The officer turned to his men. -Get his stuff and take him to the office!
-Let him juggle! One of the women in the crowd said. -We want to see!
-Let him continue! He’s great!
-King’s orders are… The officer started.
-Buuu! Fuck the king!
-Yeah! The king sucks! Fuck him!
-Hey! You can’t insult the…
An apple came flying from somewhere in the crowd, hit the officer in the face.
A tomato followed. Then a rock. Soon it was raining fruits, rocks and other objects. A couple of men picked up sticks from the ground. The soldiers ran away from the angry mob.
Jerome got out of there. As he left town he could hear the rebellion extend behind the town walls. Further down the road a farmer came by on his ox wagon. Jerome gave him one of his many coins to take him down south.
He was quite sure his luck had changed.
Part 2 - The King's Desire
He had been moving around a lot lately, and no one chased him away any more. Even the soldiers stopped to look at him juggle.
The word about him went through town like fire in dry grass. People came running when he arrived, the girls were screaming when they saw him. He was a star.
Soon his fame reached the King’s castle.
-Bring him to me! I want to see what all the fuss is about.
Jerome was just catching his balls to take a break when he saw the soldiers coming closer. He didn’t like the look on their faces, and they came straight at him. He tried to hide the balls behind his back.
-The King wants to see you, the soldiers said. -Come with us.
-The King? Why?
-That's none of your business. The King’s desire is your law.
He was taken through the castle gate. The tall gate room was stunning. Such beauty. Such wealth. They walked though a long hall, up a majestic staircase. In the huge throne room the king was waiting.
-So this is the artist everyone is talking about! The King was sitting on his throne, built to intimidate. -Tell me your name!
-J-Jerome, Your Majesty.
-So, what are you waiting for? Juggle!
Jerome looked around. A soldier made a gesture, he’d better do as the King said. He got his balls out and started juggling.
The Moon Ball did its magic. All the balls went flying in the air as if they were connected to him. He was in control. Soon his hands stopped shaking.
The King laughed. Applauded.
Jerome let himself go, dancing, experimenting.
-Enough! the King said after a while. Jerome stopped. The King applauded, slowly.
-Marvellous! He said. -A great performance! Let me see those balls.
Jerome hesitated, glanced at the door. A soldier came over, took them from him.
-Extraordinary. The king threw the ball in the air. It floated slowly back to his hand. Not like when Jerome threw it, but still different from anything else.
-I’ve had a good time today, young man. You can have these back. I’m keeping this one.
-But… It’s mine!
-Not any more! One of the soldiers gave him back his bean sacks. -Be grateful he didn’t take them all.
-Please, Your Majesty!
The King left, playing with his new toy. The soldiers threw Jerome out of the castle.
The King kept his new treasure by his bed, looked at it at night before he went to sleep. Of all his belongings this was the most special thing of them all, and most of the kingdom belonged to him.
Tonight there was a big full moon, and the ball seemed to shine brighter than ever. The King lie in his bed, looking at the comforting light from his favourite trinket. His eyelids got heavy. Soon he was snoring loudly.
The shining light from the moon entered the chamber, a silver light stroking over the beautiful furniture. It moved over the floor as the moon was rising, and reached the moon ball. It started moving, back and forth on the little table. It lifted, levitated in the air. It floated over the King’s bed, towards the window, towards the moon.
The King opened his eyes. The moon ball was almost by the window now. He jumped out of bed, ran to catch it. It was already gone.
He stood and watched as it floated over the rooftops. There was nothing he could do.
Once again Jerome had found a place to sleep outside of town, once again he was out of money. He missed the life the moonball had given him, but most of all he missed the moon ball itself. He felt like he had lost a friend. He sat on the hill watching the view. He could see the fields, the town and the impressive castle on top of the hill.
Something moved over the houses, slowly through the air. Jerome couldn’t really see what it was, but it was floating towards where he was sitting. He stood up. A bright smile spread over his face.
Tears ran down his cheeks as the moon ball landed softly in his hand. It was back to where it belonged, back to where it had chosen to be.
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