by Valerie L. Egar
Kiara lived in a large village at the edge of a jungle. Most people thought she was pretty, but when they complimented her dark eyes and long black hair, Kiara shook her head and laughed. She preferred them to notice she could add large sums in her head and wrote clever stories that amused her friends.
One evening, Kiara walked along the river deep in thought. A small fish lay in the mud on the riverbank. “Lovely girl, help me,” the fish called. Kiara gently lifted it to place it back into the river. It was sapphire blue, speckled with gold and glowed in the fading sun.
“Sweet girl, make a wish and in the morning’s light whatever you wish, will be.”
Most people wish for handsome marriage partners, huge houses, diamonds big as pigeon’s eggs or treasure boxes filled with gold, but Kiara was not like other people. From the time she was a little girl, she had a secret desire.
In long walks through the village and into the jungle, she’d observed how easily monkeys hung by their tails from trees. How much fun that would be! She saw how beautiful and sleek the fur was on a tiger’s tale, and how animals expressed feelings with their tails. “I would like a tail,” Kiara said. “A long, beautiful, furry tail.”
“Are you sure?” said the fish.
“Yes,” said Kiara. “With stripes, please.”
“So be it,” said the fish and Kiara put it in the river.
The next day, Kiara woke to a long brown and beige striped tail curled around her body. She practiced holding it high and whipping it back and forth. With a little practice, she managed to grasp a cup and lift it to her lips. Having a tail was marvelous!
She walked downstairs to breakfast, waving her tail back and forth slowly. Her father glanced up from his newspaper. “I hope you don’t think I’m going to start buying bracelets for your tail,” he said, “because I won’t.”
Her mother gasped. “You’re going to trip over that tail and fall on your face.” Then she added, “The next time you meet a magical creatures that grants wishes, think about your father and me. A bigger house would have been very nice.”
Kiara sighed. She walked to school, and a few boys giggled when they saw her tail. Kiara hooked it over a tree branch and swung herself high into the treetops. “Dare you to catch me,” she yelled from the highest branch and pelted them with a few hard seed pods. They quickly left her alone, secretly admiring her ability.
The school principal was not as kind. “I do not know whether you are a girl or a tiger,” he said. “Or, maybe a monkey. School is no place for whatever you are.”
It made no difference to him that Kiara could write math problems on the board in front of the class with her tail while facing the class to explain. He didn’t care that she helped the teacher by tickling students drifting off to sleep. He was not impressed that she amused the youngest children by allowing them to chase her tail when they played outside. The principal feared people who were different and Kiara looked different. Worst of all, she wasn’t embarrassed or ashamed of her difference, but was proud of it.
“No tails in school,” he said. “That’s the rule.” He told her to leave.
That evening, Kiara felt sad and walked along the river. She saw the beautiful sapphire fish on the riverbank. “Help me,” the fish said.
Kiara picked the fish up.
“I'll grant one wish,” the fish said. “Perhaps you don’t want your tail?”
Kiara’s eyes widened. “I love my tail!” She thought of what her mother had said— ask for a bigger house. No, that wouldn’t do. That was her mother’s desire, not Kiara’s.
“I want a school where everyone who wants to learn is welcome,” Kiara said.
“So be it,” said the fish. In the morning, the mean principal was gone and Kiara and others he’d sent away were welcomed back by a smiling woman in a beautiful sapphire dress.
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Copyright 2017 by Valerie L. Egar, May not be copied, reproduced or distributed without permission from the author.
Published September 24, 2017, Journal Tribune Sunday, (Biddeford, ME).