The Little Girl Who Took The Word No Into Her Arms

A story, no matter how good or bad it may be, is in the end no more than a joining of words. That's something we know. But where do the story-tellers take out their words that they put together and make stories with (good or bad)? That's what we don't know. Everybody has his own secret. I'm the only one who doesn't. I'm telling you so that you know: I take the words I need for telling stories out of the ink-pot. I dunk the pen in the ink-pot and I get out any word I need. I have a roomy ink-pot. It houses all the words I need. And so everything went well until one day. Until one day a word refused to come out of the ink-pot. I needed it and it didn't care. I dunked the pen once, twice, three times and ten times, but the word would not hang on to it. So I pulled the ink-pot closer and started to beg: "Please come out of there, what is taking you so long?" Nothing. No answer. When I saw that it wouldn't come out, I shouted: "Are you coming or not?" Nothing. No answer. I got angry and started to threaten it: "Don't mess with me or else…" Still nothing. Still no answer. Raging, I looked into the ink-pot in order to spot the damn word that was turning my life into a living hell and pierce it with my pen without asking it whether it likes it or not. But I couldn't see it. I looked at the word MOUNTAIN, reckoning that it might have hidden in some gully, wasted a lot of time searching in the depths of the word OCEAN and asking the words HARBOR, LIGHTHOUSE and SUBMARINE whether they had seen it. I even asked the word LIFEBOAT in despair. I let the word MILITIA know and, with tears in my eyes, I called the words EMERGENCYHOSPITAL. The damned word that was making my life a living hell was nowhere to be found. I didn't know what to do. Without it I couldn't finish the story. Suddenly, after I had knocked on the glass several times, the word POLITENESS came out. It greeted me and asked: "Am I disturbing you?" Then the word DILIGENCE came out. It put my papers straight, blew the cigarette ashes away from the table, put the blotting paper on an ink spot, and took the glass with water and put it on the plate. Right after it, the word FRIENDSHIP came out and said to me: "I can see that you are sad. I cannot leave you like this…" And all the three words, POLITENESS, DILIGENCE AND FRIENDSHIP went on at the same time: "Come on; tell us, who are you looking for?" "I am looking for mister NO. Without him I find it impossible to finish the story that I have started. I have searched everywhere inside the ink-pot. Mister NO has vanished completely. Where can I search for him? Where? Where?" "We guessed," the three words said at the same time, "we guessed that you were looking for him. He's not in the ink-pot. He is elsewhere…" "So… do you know where he is?" I asked and at the same time I got up to take my coat and go in search of the runaway. "Wait, wait…" the word FRIENDSHIP tempered me. "Sit down," the word POLITENESS invited me. "Only fools rush," the word DILIGENCE taught me. And all at once: "It's more complicated than you think. He won't come back too easily. He is feeling far too well where he is right now… he put on weight, he is sitting with his legs crossed and giving orders. He's very proud… a little girl has taken him into her arms!" "What?" I thought I didn't hear well. "A little girl took NO into her arms?" I repeated in order to clear my thoughts. "Yes, a little girl took him into her arms. She took him into her arms and won't let him go." "If, for instance," the word DILIGENCE said, "her mother said to her: 'Lay the table!' or 'Fetch some water!' or 'Sweep!', the little girl who took NO into her arms would act as if she didn't hear. Of course she hears, but how could she lay the table, fetch water or sweep when her arms are busy holding NO?" "Or if, for instance," said the word POLITENESS, "when her grandmother came back from the market carrying two heavy baskets, the little girl who took NO into her arms did not rush to open the door for her. She acted act as if she hadn't seen her. Of course she saw her, but how could she open the door for grandma when her arms were busy holding NO?" "Or if, for instance," said the word FRIENDSHIP, "a classmate asked her to help her with a math problem, the little girl who took NO into her arms wouldn't care. Actually, I don't believe that she doesn't care, but her arms are busy holding NO. How can she grab the pen and help her classmates?" "That's why," the three words said all at once, "we thought that NO doesn't want to come back. He must be feeling much too well in the arms of the girl. He is feeling nice and warm, doesn't have to do a thing and is being spoiled and pampered. He is so bloated that you could hardly recognize him. You could almost mistake him for the word BALLOON, all bloated as he is." "Oh please…" the word BALLOON came out of the ink-pot. "I refuse to be mistaken for this gentleman…" And floating for a few seconds around in the room, he said again: "I refuse! I totally refuse!" Then it went back into the ink-pot. "But still, what is there to do? What can we do in order to bring mister NO home? I am telling you again: without him, my story remains unfinished. I got stuck in a place where I need him. There is a boy in the story who must shout at a brawler: 'NO, I won't run! I'm not scared of you!' And without NO there is another story, in which the boy is a coward. But that's a lie. I have to do something in order to bring this unprepossessing mister NO back into the ink-pot. Where does the little girl who took NO into her arms live?" "We'll show you the way," the three words volunteered. DILIGENCE unscrewed the cap of the ink-pot and wiped the pen lest it should rust, POLITENESS held my coat and helped me get dressed, FRIENDSHIP grabbed my hand, and the four of us went to search the little girl who took NO into her arms. We found her sleeping. But NO was awake in her arms. He saw me and said first: "No way I'm coming back!" he said instead of "Hello!" "Nowhere did I have such a good time as in the arms of this little girl. Don't ask me! Don't shout at me! Don't get angry! I'm not coming back!" Right then they could hear the little girl's mom saying: "Wake up, it's late! Lay the table, it's almost lunch!" "Right away!" answered the word DILIGENCE instead of the girl. And in a blink of an eye it laid the table cloth, opened the cupboard and took out the plates. It even found some time to fold a napkin next to each plate… Then they could hear grandmother's footsteps on the stairs. The word POLITENESS didn't even wait to hear her knock on the door. It rushed and opened it. But there wasn't just grandmother in the doorstep. There was also the classmate of the little girl who took NO into her arms. The math problem of the classmate was solved so quickly that she didn't even have time to realize that the word FRIENDSHIP had helped her. Everything happened in the blink of an eye. When the little girl woke up and got out of the bed, her mother gave her a cabbage stalk. "Take it! You laid the table very nice!" Then grandmother came and gave her an apple: "Take it! You are a very obliging little girl." And her classmate offered her something as well. "I have two nuts. One for me and one for you!" The little girl spread her arms to receive the gifts but… in that instant… well, that instant, she dropped NO from her arms. That was all I was waiting for. I grabbed him by the ear and, followed by the words who had led me to the little girl, I went home in a hurry. On the way back I noticed something that actually didn't surprise me. The word DILIGENCE was nibbling on a cabbage stalk. The word POLITENESS was biting an apple. The word FRIENDSHIP was cracking the nut. Had I been surprised, I would have asked them and they would have answered me: "Today we deserve the gifts. When the little girl shall deserve them, don't you worry, we won't touch them." But, as I said, I wasn't surprised at all. Actually, I didn't even care. When I came home, I threw NO into the ink-pot and asked the word GUARD to keep an eye on him. So that no little girl or boy can take him into their arms. Let him stay in the ink-pot and come every time I call him. Just as I am calling him now, in order to finish the story. from Prince Charming as a Little Boy, Tineretului, 1963

by Octav Pancu-Iaşi (1929-1975)