Father's Day Fantasy 2011 A miscellaneous holiday page dedicated to all magical daddies everywhere!!!
Heartwarming Photo Gallery...for the hell of it, Pops!
And now for Father's Day short story time... "King Papa and The Horse" By Christine Stoddard
For several confusing seconds, cranes circled in the sky over a pride of restless lions. It was a steamy day beneath the orange sky and even hotter closer to the red, beating sun. Not a single blade of grass stirred in the savanna. When they finally oriented themselves, the cranes broke their continuous ring and headed for the coolness of the clouds. But the lions could find no such retreat.
"I'm hungry," whined Running Hide the lion cub. Running Hide had spent the past half hour or so burying himself deeper and deeper into his father King Papa's ribs. They were lying in a muddy gash in the earth.
King Papa, the boldest and loudest of the lions this side of Kilimanjaro, grunted in reply. His huge head rested on his dirty paws and his tail swatted at every other fly in its midst. When he flicked one, the fly would bounce away for a bit but eventually gravitate toward King Papa's tail again.
Running Hide nudged King Papa harder than before. His wet nose dampened King Papa's fur, making a tiny wet patch on his great mass.
"Ick. Don't give me your sweat and slime," King Papa sneered, "Go cuddle with your mother."
Mortified, the cub withdrew his face and whimpered. He scurried off to the lionesses huddled at the other end of the drinking hole. King Papa smiled, smacked his lips, and surrendered himself to sleep.
But King Papa had not slept for long before Claw-Claw the lioness bit into his mane. Claw-Claw stalked through the weeds, paused for a few moments, and then pounced with a kitten's enthusiasm. King Papa yelped as Claw-Claw tugged on his locks.
"Only if you quit being such a lousy father!" Claw-Claw snarled. With her large, almond-shaped eyes and glossy fur, she was the most beautiful of the lionesses and somehow maintained this beauty even when enraged.
Claw-Claw dropped open her jaw and let go. She spat out a tuft of hair and fluttered her tongue.
"Wait," King Papa mumbled, "What did I do?"
"It's what you didn't do."
"You were supposed to look after the youngest cub, Running Hide, and take him hunting."
"Running Hide? That's his name?" King Papa shifted lazily. "I kept calling him Snaggletooth."
Claw-Claw rolled her eyes and sniffed King Papa. "Ugh. You stink, too. You couldn't even bathe for a special day with your son."
"Well, Snaggle--I mean, Running Hide--and I were bonding by taking a nap together."
"A nap? Were you just going to sleep all day while my sisters and I tracked down another meal for you?" Claw-Claw bit onto King Papa's mane again. She shook from side to side until King Papa screeched.
"I'm sorry! I'm sorry! Just let goooooooooo!"
Claw-Claw grinned and let go. Then she swatted at King Papa. "Make me a promise," she hissed.
King Papa stared at Claw-Claw for a solid second but even his meanest glare could not deter her. Defeated, King Papa meowed submissively, "Okay. What must I promise?"
"Just listen." Claw-Claw paused. "Running Hide saw a white man last week."
"Really?" King Papa raised his eyebrow. His arch collapsed into place when a fly tickled it. King Papa wiggled his whole face as the fly danced from place to place. Claw-Claw seemed not to notice.
"Yes, but that's not even the incredible part." Claw-Claw crouched down and looked King Papa directly in the eye. The fly stood still. "He saw a horse."
"Why, that's the first time in--"
"A century. I know."
"But what's that go to do with--"
Claw-Claw stood up straight, her long, lean figure becoming a dramatic silhouette against the reeds. "You're going to get it for him."
"Oh, but Claw-Claw," King Papa groaned, "It's sooo hot."
"And yet my sisters and I took down three gazelles today."
"You interrupted my nap!"
"There's no reason for you to nap if you haven't worked."
King Papa moped.
"It's time," Claw-Claw continued, "For you to prove your love as a father. Who else will teach Running Hide?"
King Papa did not reply.
"Precisely. No one."
King Papa cleared his throat, issuing a deep rumble that startled some sparrows into the still air. He responded in his most regal tone, "You have yet to explain what I must do, Claw-Claw."
"It's simple. Hunt the horse, King Papa."
"Why not a zebra?"
"Show Running Hide that you have the strength to overcome man."
"Then why not kill a man?"
"Because he asked for a horse."
Meanwhile, a mere five miles away, a trim Scot drove a stake into the gray soil. He threw off his dark jacket, revealing his tattered wife-beater and tan arms. Beads of sweat slithered down his neck and clung to the hairs of his chest. The man contemplated the stake before him, darted his eyes to the giant canvas folded up beside him, and then studied the stake again. The heat delayed all thoughts, he reasoned. Then, hearing his name called, the man looked up over the stake and over the canvas and into the stretch of savanna before him.
"Craig!" came a voice from one of a dozen poorly painted caravans.
"Stella's gone. You best go look fer her. We've got a circus to put on, or have you forgotten?"
Craig's eyes bulged as his face blanched. "Tha canna be," he whispered. Craig scooped up his jacket and dashed for his caravan. Upon reaching the rickety blue thing, Craig snatched his brown leather bag and hopped upon the nearest horse.
Just then Claw-Claw watched from afar as Running Hide huddled up against King Papa. Running Hide beamed. King Papa mustered a smile.
"Remember," Claw-Claw said to herself, "He thinks you can conquer humanity, King Papa."
King Papa brought his colossal skull down to Running Hide's level. Running Hide rubbed his cheek against King Papa's.
"King Papa," Running Hide purred, "I'm so hungry I could eat a--"
"Horse," King Papa interrupted.
"Yes! And I saw one. She's white and magnificent with pink streamers in her hair. She probably has the most delicious meat, you--"
"No doubt, Running Hide. Come with me and we'll hunt her down."
Running Hide darted up and danced. "My first hunt," he shouted, "And I'm bringing down a horse!"
King Papa struggled to lift himself off the ground. When he did, he smelled the air and then ambled through the grass.
"Where are we going?" Running Hide asked.
"To find the horse."
"But she was this way," Running Hide barked.
King Papa scoffed. "I smell her. She's in this direction."
Running Hide cocked his head and gazed his father's way. The grass grew much thicker there.
"You must smell zebra."
"I smell horse."
Running Hide hopped onto a rock to try to bring himself face to face with King Papa. He still stood three feet shorter. "How do you know what a horse smells like if no lion's seen one for a one-hundred years?"
"How do you know what one looks like?"
Running Hide pushed his shoulders back and stood up even straighter. "Claw-Claw told me they're just like zebras without their stripes, and that's exactly what I saw."
King Papa snorted and said, "I reign over this jungle, not you." He beckoned Running Hide and the two charged through the grass. They leapt over vines; tip-toed over slumbering animals; crawled under logs; stepped over pebbles; trekked over boulders; splashed through waters; and slid through sludge. King Papa and Running Hide saw no sign of a horse, not even a hoof print.
At last, father and son rested by a singing stream. King Papa drank while Running Hide scowled at his reflection.
"I told you we should've gone the other way," Running Hide muttered.
"What did you say?"
"Nothing. I was just talking to myself."
"Admit it, Running Hide. You didn't see a horse."
Running Hide stomped through the stream and to his father. "That's not true! I wouldn't lie. We'll find the horse because she's out here somewhere."
King Papa laughed and said, "Somewhere? The savanna is a mighty somewhere, Running Hide. We could spend weeks combing these grasses and never find the horse."
"But I know we will," Running Hide shouted, "I saw white men. Claw-Claw said that where there are white men, there are almost always horses. There might even be more than one."
King Papa sank into a muddy ditch to cool off. "And if there is one, why should we kill it?"
"Your mother and her sisters already killed three gazelles today."
"But this will be...succulent." Running Hide's whole being lit up as he slowly articulated that last word.
King Papa marveled at his son. And, for the first time, when Running Hide went to nuzzle his haunches, King Papa did not shoo him away.
Like King Papa and Running Hide, Craig spent hours tromping through the savanna. When his horse began to wilt. Craig tied him up and walked on foot. He called for Stella again and again. As his throat started to close up, Craig whistled nervously. He had heard that strange sounds displeased lions.
Running Hide was leading King Papa to the clearing where he had spotted the horse when Craig returned to his weathered stallion and rode back to camp.
"This way!" Running Hide yelled, "We're so close!"
King Papa watched Running Hide's tiny head bob up and down from the grass.
"If you're too loud, you'll scare her away, Running Hide."
Running Hide did not appear to hear his father and continued raising his voice. "This is it, this is the clearing, King Papa."
Running Hide forged through the grass in anticipation, but, given his extra height, King Papa could see before his son that the horse was not there.
"No," King Papa sighed, "Not here. We're going to have to find the white men."
Running Hide gulped, "What if they have fire-sticks?"
"We'll take down the horse before they even notice us."
Running Hide nodded and asked, "Do you smell man?"
"Not far from here," King Papa replied.
Running Hide beamed again. "Then to the horse we go!"
When Craig returned to the circus, no one but the stable-hand acknowledged him. The young man tipped his plaid cap and placed his blackened hand on Craig's shoulder.
"Where were you?" he asked.
"Looking for Stella."
The stablehand's expression broken into puzzlement. "Stella's right here," the young man said. He pointed to a bright white horse munching on a bale of hay at the opposite end of the camp.
Craig murmured, "But she wasn't."
"She must've come back when she realized this place is just too wild for her."
Craig chuckled and said, "You're right. She knows better. What a fool I am then."
As Craig ducked into his caravan, King Papa and Running Hide had just reached the fringes of the white men's camp. Running Hide sneezed when a reed brushed against his nose.
"Be as quiet as possible when hunting. That's the first rule," King Papa whispered. Then he nodded his head toward camp. "Humans do not hear as well as us, but they are clever and suspicious creatures. They know that grass does not sneeze."
Running Hide sprung up to get a better view of the circus unfolding below. When he first bolted up, Running Hide caught sight of a white blur. He bolted up again and made better sense of the white blur. Running Hide climbed onto King Papa and gaped.
"It's the horse," Running Hide blurted, admiring the beast's elegant lines. When he found himself slipping, Running Hide dug his little claws into King Papa's fur.
"I know," King Papa said calmly.
"Why aren't you running after her? You have to hunt her. You promised Claw-Claw."
King Papa did not answer right away. He watched Stella open and close her black shining eyes; swish her Rapunzel-like tail; nibble on tough savanna grass as if her teeth were fashioned from diamonds. Certainly she was bigger than a zebra--and statelier, too. When Stella trotted, the earth dared not stir, for fear of staining her gleaming hooves. While everything else in this microcosm dripped, Stella showed no sign of perspiring. It was if the heat were afraid that touching her would break her beauty.
At some point, Running Hide could no longer bear King Papa's silence, so he piped up: "King Papa--"
King Papa did not say anything right away, but when he did, he said, "No, Running Hide. We kill when we are hungry and we eat what we must."
"But she looks so delicious."
"Let's go back to the watering hole."
King Papa suddenly turned toward home, whereas Running Hide cast one more lingering glance at his lost supper. He could not understand Stella's grace as King Papa did, but nonetheless guarded her image in his mind for the rest of the walk home.
That night, Craig was tucked into bed studying the stars from a hole in the roof of his caravan. He traced Leo, his favorite constellation, with the tip of his right index finger over and over until he hardly knew what he was doing. Craig had so buried himself in his thoughts that he almost didn't hear Stella's whinny. She must have cried three or four times before Craig processed her fright. He shimmied out of his covers, sprinted out his caravan, and raced to Stella's cart.
Stella was gone, but her attacker had left adequate evidence. His paw prints stung the soil and the door to his cage squeaked as it swung to and fro. The pleasure-hungry tiger had finally gratified himself.