Sunday, May 11, 2008

All my life, the girl thought, all my life, I have wanted to taste an orange.

Oranges, in this world that the girl lived in, were not easy to come by, and to taste one was a dream seldom to come true. A fortunate few experienced it once, and a very fortunate few, twice; some had even been to the legendary Orange Grove and made their living there.

But, this girl thought, I will not be greedy. I only want to taste an orange once, and then I will be happy.

She wrote to the elves at Orange Tree. "I would like to make a trip to the Tree and taste an orange," said she, "and, as it will be expensive and I must give up my present place on Flatbread Land in order to come, I will need you to tell me when the oranges are in season so that my trip will not be wasted."

She sent her letter by the swiftest of the swifts (and the swifts are birds that live up to their name), and soon a reply came:

"We thank you for your interest in oranges. We have exciting news for you: beginning with this upcoming season, we will no longer be growing plain, unexciting oranges on Orange Tree.

"We will instead be growing new, enhanced Vanilla Oranges, which are sweeter, more fragrant and tastier than the old oranges. It will be like tasting the orange you've dreamt of all your life, only better. As you know, our visitors were allowed to taste Oranges in exchange for one year's labour. Vanilla Oranges, being ever so much more of an experience, will require two years. We hope this is acceptable to you. If it is, please put your pine-cone seal on the dotted line below and return this letter by the waiting swift. We guarantee that you will be able to start work on your very own Vanilla Orange blossom as soon as you arrive."


And so, the girl began to make plans. Her little room in the dear house on Flatbread Lane was closed up, and her little car was sold, for if one wants to follow a dream, one must be prepared to make sacrifices. Good-byes were said, and tears were shed, but if one wants to follow a dream... well, you know the rest of that saying. And oh, she had dreamt of tasting an orange, so now that she had a chance of tasting not only an orange, but an entirely new! improved! orange, go she must, whatever it cost her.

And the girl bravely stepped into the pea-pod boat to Orange Tree.

Before very long, she had arrived, and been assigned her very own blossom to tend, to love and to keep alive for two years, that at the end of the two years, she might taste the long-awaited Orange. And not any orange would it be, but a Vanilla Orange.

It was not easy. There were days, and nights and afternoons too, when the girl wondered if the long hours of toil were worth it. There were times when she resorted to drinking the bitter juice of the Coo-Cow tree, named for its curious black-and-white trunk and the sound its leaves made when squeezed for their juice, just so that she could stay awake until the next turning of the blossom was to take place.

And yet, through it all, the girl told herself, you must work hard. You must stick to it. To taste an Orange! And not just any orange, but a Vanilla Orange! Are not two years of toil worth it?

Until the day came when she saw the Chief Elf, and she casually said hello, and he said hello in return;

and the Chief Elf asked, "How do?";

and she replied, "Fine, thanks, and you?";

and the Chief Elf said, "Fine, thanks, but are you really? You look so worn out.";

and she said, "Well, actually, Chief Elf, I am very tired, for I work day and night to tend my blossom, but it's all worth it, isn't it? I mean, with the new Vanilla Orange, I will..."

but she didn't get to finish, for the Chief Elf's eyebrows had shot right up to the top of his head, higher even, for elves don't have very large heads, and the Chief Elf had been surprised indeed at what the girl was saying.

"The Vanilla Orange!" he said. "Why, what's this about the Vanilla Orange?"

"What do you mean?" asked the girl. "Isn't that the new orange that is meant to surpass the ordinary old orange in every way, and then some?"

The Chief Elf's eyebrows returned, somewhat, to their normal post, and he said, "Why, yes, but we had decided not to grow it after all, because we were told that the Forest Office was letting us continue growing the old oranges."

The girl stood staring at the Chief Elf, speechless, for nobody had told her of this.

"What... what about the... Vanilla..." she sputtered.

"Oh, that was just an idea we thought of, when the Forest Office was thinking of not letting us grow the old oranges anymore. But now our Ordinary Orange Permit has been renewed, so we won't be growing Vanilla Oranges. In fact, I think that blossom you've been given-" and here, the Chief Elf took out a large ledger, in which were written the names of the pixie boys and girls tending the blossoms, "why, you are tending a Vanilla Orange blossom. Well, well. But I'm not sure it will bloom and grow into a Vanilla Orange, you know, for this isn't supposed to be a Vanilla Orange tree now, just an Orange one. In fact, I'm quite sure what you've got is an apple blossom, for Orange Tree produces apples, too."

The girl, well, she was dismayed beyond words. For she had shut up her little room in the dear little house on Flatbread Land, and said good-bye to all she had held dear, and bought a one-way ticket for the pea-pod boat to Orange Tree because, after all, who knows how much your life might change once you've tasted the orange, and you might never go back to the old one.

And now, to be told that her dream might be dust?

The girl was angry. She had had a dream. She had invested much into the dream. And nobody, not even the Chief Elf with his nearly detachable eyebrows, was going to take it from her.

***

I thank you, gentle reader, for having followed my little fable this far.

And that, in case you were wondering, is what I am going through now. I am very, very angry with my university. They are not going to get away with this. And yet, because it isn't resolved yet and they still have a chance of redeeming themselves, I am not making public my dissatisfaction just yet.

But watch this space.

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