St. James & Friends
A (True) Fairy Tale for Simon
by Judith Mason
Judith wrote this story for her grandson when he was a child, to help him deal with the death of his grandfather and then, about a year later, his dog.
Once upon a time, a handsome young prince named Simon lived in a large castle with thick, strong walls. His Mommy and Daddy, Nathaniel, Jenny, his five grandparents, his aunts and uncles and his dog and cats lived there, too.
"Simon" means "the one who understands" and the prince - young though he was - understood many things. He knew exactly which flowers would come up where in the castle garden every spring. He could swim underwater all the way across its pond in summer without once having to come up for air. And always he found a faster path than Nathaniel down the hill on his sled through the winter snow.
There was one thing, though, that he didn't understand. Some people said that the castle was all there was. It was the only thing that was real - there was nothing beyond its walls. Simon, though, wasn't sure. One springtime the wind brought a whiff of some flower he was positive had never grown in the castle's garden that tickled his nose. And once a bird flew down over a castle wall and landed on a branch near the pond. Then just as quickly as it had come, it flew up and over the opposite wall. Where had it come from? Where was it going? Why didn't it want to stay? When Simon would lie on his back on the hill looking up at the night sky, he began to notice that certain groups of stars would be replaced by others, only to come back themselves some time later. Where did they go when they were away?
Then one day he couldn't find his GrandDude. He looked all over the castle but he wasn't there. His Mommy was crying when she told him that GrandDude had left the castle. Simon didn't understand. If there was nothing outside the castle and GrandDude had left the castle … then where WAS GrandDude? Sometimes he thought he felt him close by but he wasn't sure.
About a year later his dog Graffi disappeared. Once again Simon was told she had "left the castle." He cried and cried. In fact, he cried so hard that he cried himself to sleep. He woke in the middle of the night feeling her wet nose nuzzling him on his arm. But when he got up to put on the light, he was alone in his room.
Simon lived in the castle for a long time - many, many years. In one of those years his cat Django left the castle. Then one of his three grandmothers. Then the other cat and, eventually, his other grandparents. Much later his aunts and uncles and, finally, his Mommy and Daddy left as well.
Simon missed them very much. He thought about them often. But he was beginning to get glimpses of where they might be. The thick walls of the castle had grown thinner from the many hard rains and high winds that all those years had brought. They began to crumble here and there. The mortar holding the stones together dried out and began to fall free whole chunks at a time. Simon would press his eyes up against the chinks in the wall where the stones had crumbled or the mortar had fallen out. He thought he could just make out more water than he could ever have imagined. Once he was sure he caught a glimpse of Graffi running across some grass. And he could have sworn he saw his Mommy standing near the castle walls talking to GrandDude.
Finally, one day a very high wind blew all the castle walls down. Simon was flabbergasted. There was so much light! And outside where the castle walls had stood there was a whole ocean instead of just a pond, a line of tall, snowy mountains in place of his little sledding hill, and - best of all - everybody and everything he had ever loved.