Friday, January 1, 2010

The Delivery Boy

Jared was just a normal kid who lived with his parents in a small town on the outskirts of a big city. When he turned 18, his parents decided he needed to find a job, so they pushed him out the door and he set off towards the city in his little red car one day to do some job searching. He went from business to business, looking for job openings, but he was turned down at all of them, either because they had no openings, or he wasn't qualified for the job, or he didn't have enough experience. Toward the end of the day, Jared was frustrated and tired, and he started to head back toward his car to go home. But as he was walking past an alley, an old man called out to him "Jared! Come here, I've got some work for you."

Jared was curious how the old man knew his name, so he cautiously approached the man, who was leaning out of a small shop that Jared would never have noticed from the street. The man held out a large book. "Take this book to the address I will give you. A man will answer the door there. Give him the book, accept whatever money he gives you and return here with it. I will give you your pay for being my delivery-boy, as well as more work for you, if you want it."

This sounded like easy money to Jared, so he took the man's offer and set off in his car to the address, which was not far off. Arriving at the door, a man twice or three times Jared's size stooped through the doorway, took the book, and with a gruff thanks, handed Jared a small knife inlaid with rubies. Jared thought the knife must be worth a lot, probably enough for him to live off for a year, but he knew right from wrong, and set off to find the old man again.

When he arrived back at the little shop, he handed the knife to the old man, who said "I can give you a ruby from this knife, but if you wish for a better reward, you can take this bottle of potion to this address. Jared felt he deserved to be paid, but he was curious about the better reward the man was promising, so once again he agreed to perform the task and set off to find the address. When he got there, a man with goat legs answered the door. Seeing the potion he reached out and grabbed it right from Jared, then shut the door. A minute later, the door was opened again, and the faun handed Jared what looked like a heart, made from gold, inlaid with so many perfect and dazzling diamonds that Jared was sure it was worth more than a hundred thousand dollars, maybe up to a million dollars.

The faun, seeing the look of greed and envy on his face, leaned in close and whispered, "Boy, you would do well to take this, run as far away from that magician you work for and sell the heart. Don't accept anything less than ten million for it." Then the faun went back inside and slammed the door. Jared got into his car and thought about the faun's words. The more he looked at the heart, the more he thought about the life of ease he could have by selling it. Finally, he wrapped the heart in a dirty cloth to hide it, then sped home as fast as he could.

On arriving home, he walked into his room locked the door, drew the curtains, unwrapped the heart and stared at it. He was mesmerized by its beauty, and he placed it under his pillow and fell asleep. But he had no rest, and his sleep was haunted by dark dreams. In the morning he woke up in a sweat, filled with paranoia that the old man was going to find him.

"This is no good," he said, "Even if I do sell this, and have millions of dollars, I will never be happy, since I will always be afraid that I will be found out."

So he ran out to his car, drove back into the city, and gave the heart back to the old man.

"I'm sorry it took me so long." he said, then thought of a quick lie to cover his tracks. "The faun would not at first pay me, so I waited all night in front of his door until he came out in the morning." But the man stared at him, and to Jared it seemed that he grew taller and looked down menacingly on Jared, so he confessed. "I was going to take the heart for myself, but I would have always lived in fear. Besides, I have never committed a crime, and I would rather not start now."

"It is well that you brought it back to me," said the old man, who seemed to shrink back to his normal size. "And now," he continued, "I can give you a diamond from this heart, but if you would prefer a better reward, then you would do one last thing for me. But it is a long distance away."

Jared felt guilty for his lapse in morals so he said, "I don't want you to think that I am the sort of person who steals from people, so let me work for you again. What is it you want me to deliver?"

The old man handed Jared a small gas can. "It is far away, so take this for your car. When you run out of gas, fill your tank with it. This gas can will never go empty, and though it looks small and feels empty, the inside is bigger than it looks, and it is completely full of gas. Also, I am sending with you my daughter Kate, for she knows the way." He turned and called, and the ugliest girl Jared had ever seen walked toward him. The right side of her face was an inch or two lower than the left. Her whole body sagged in such a way that it almost looked like she was melting. But Jared knew how to be polite and merely smiled to her, and they walked out to the car.

Jared and Kate got into the car and headed off. Though it was hard for Jared to look at Kate, he found that talking with her was enjoyable enough, and soon they were chatting away like old friends. "It's a shame she's so ugly," Jared thought, "Or I might even think about marrying her. I've never known someone I can talk to this easily."

They drove for a whole day, and when Kate declared with fear that they were getting close, Jared noticed that the countryside was filled with burnt trees and ashes. They drove to a hill, then walked to a cave halfway up the hill. Kate looked at Jared gravely. "This you must do alone," she said. "Go into the cave, and there is a dragon sleeping. Here is a cloak. Throw it over yourself, and the dragon will not see you. And here is a knife. Prick his underbelly with it so he bleeds, and take this vial, and catch the blood in it." When he hesitated, Kate spoke again, "Jared, no one is forcing you to do this. No one will think less of you if you turn back now."

But he plucked up his courage and walked into the cave. Deeper and deeper went the cave, until finally he entered a large cavern lit by the luminous body of a large yellow dragon. Jared threw the cloak over himself and walked up to the dragon. He took the knife in his hand, and pricked the dragon. Immediately, glowing red blood streamed out of the dragon, and the dragon jerked awake. Jared quickly caught some of the blood in the vial, then ran as fast as he could out of the cave. At first the dragon was confused and looked around, trying to spot the intruder. Then he smelled Jared, and followed the scent's trail toward the entrance to the cave. Jared reached the end of the cave first, and he and Kate rushed to the car and jumped in just as the dragon emerged from the cave. Jared floored the gas pedal and they raced away from the hill, but the dragon spread his wings and easily caught up to them.

When it was right over the car, Jared yelled, "Quick, Kate, throw the gas can at him!" Just as the dragon began clawing at the car, Kate took the gas can and threw it at the dragon's face, and as Jared hoped, the dragon instinctively spewed its fire at this missile, which of course exploded in a great ball of fire that consumed even the dragon. Jared never slowed down, and at first he was ecstatic that they had beat the dragon, but when he looked over at Kate, he saw that the dragon had slashed at her neck, and she was bleeding badly.

"Don't slow down," she said, "My father can heal me, and no one else." So Jared drove as fast as he could, and arrived back at the old man's shop. He carried Kate in and laid her down on a table. She was having trouble breathing, and her skin was pale and cold. Jared called out for the old man, who came to the table, looked at his daughter, then suddenly took the ruby encrusted knife and cut open her chest at her heart. Before Jared could react, he pulled out a black stone oozing with black puss from her chest. Then he took the diamond and gold heart and placed it in the hole. He asked Jared for the dragon's blood, and numbly Jared handed it to him. The man poured three drops over her chest and one drop on the wound she received from the dragon. Immediately both wounds closed up, and color returned to her skin. Then her face began to change, and all traces of her ugliness vanished, and it seemed to Jared that he looked on the face of the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. She sat up, smiled and took Jared's hand.

"I am most grateful to you, Jared, for without the knife to cut out the poison, my stolen heart, and dragon blood to revive me, I would have soon withered away and died. I owe you my life. What can I do for you? I am in your debt." And she bowed her head toward him

Jared was speechless for a moment, but when his wits returned, he lifted her head up and said, "Your debt is canceled, Kate. What I desire from you I cannot take by force, for I want your love. Will you marry me? I have fallen completely in love with you."

"Yes, Jared. I love you, for I know your heart is trustworthy, brave, and kind."

So the old man gave Kate's hand in marriage to Jared, and he also took him on as his apprentice magician, for that is what he was. And Jared lived a long life with his wife, whom he loved with all his heart.


  1. Love the story! Very clever. Reminded me of Valiant by Holly Black, but then totally switched near the end and I was completely surprised by the turn of events. Can't wait for more...

  2. I liked this one too. Reminds me of fairy tales I read when I was a kid:)

  3. I liked this one