Quite some time ago, beneath the mountains of Northwestern Mexico, a small village flourished. Everyday in The Village of Work-So-Hard the people worked hard to make the land rich and prosperous. Each morning the year round, the rooster’s crow beckoned them to till the soil, plant the seeds, help the seeds to grow, and harvest the precious crops that grew. When the crops were harvested, the villagers would gather in the marketplace under the bright blue sky to sell to local and distant travelers the finest produce the region had to offer.
Sadly, the land did not belong to the villagers. It belonged to a greedy emperor named Perezoso. For many years, Emperor Pereszoso demanded the villagers pay him most of what they earned in the marketplace. When they did, he allowed them to stay. He knew all too well how much they loved and wished never to leave the beautiful village. He, however, loved only the sound of the silver and the gold their hard work put into his pockets. When a villager could not earn enough to satisfy Perezoso’s greed, he sent them away to live far, far beyond the mountains.
Like any village, Work-So-Hard had tall people, short people, round people, and rather narrow people. It also had many young people but only one very old person. Her name was Abuelita Olga. Abuelita was not only very old, she was also very odd. She worked slowly and many worried the day would come when Emperor Perezoso would force her to leave their beautiful village. Each day the villagers took turns visiting her. They helped the old woman with her small garden and fed her little chicken named Senorita Chick-A-Dee.
Abuelita Olga loved her little chick. She would often boast, “My Senorita can swim like a swan,” or, “My Senorita can fly like an eagle.” Her favorite thing to say was, “My Senorita can sing like a nightingale.” The villagers shook their heads with worry as they listened to her odd words. Even poor Chick-A-Dee shook her sad little head, for she did not believe that she could swim, fly, or sing to help her dear Abuelita.
Alas, the feared day arrived. The frightened villagers followed the emperor as he strolled down the beautiful lane that led to the old woman’s home. There they found her feeding bits of corn to Senorita Chick-A-Dee.
Emperor Perezoso exclaimed, “You, anicena, are too old to work! You are no longer useful to my village!”
“I will not go,” she said oddly. “I am of value and so is my sweet Senorita.”
“The pollo?” The emperor scoffed in disbelief. “That scrawny chick? She is not worth the bits of corn you feed her!”
Throwing down her entire handful of corn, Abuelita said, “No, su Majestad, she is worth more, mucho mas. My Senorita can turn stones into diamonds.”
The emperor gasped. The villagers gasped. And Senorita Chick-A-Dee nearly choked on her bit of corn.
“Las piedras into diamantes!” Emperor Perezoso sang.
“Pure sparkling diamonds bright like the jeweled stars in the beautiful night sky!”Abuelita sang louder.
“Tonight,” the emperor began with great excitement, “I will have my servants gather las piedras and place them in the old village barn by the pond. You bring this scrawny chick and we’ll see if she is worth what you say. If she turns the stones into diamonds before tomorrow’s sunrise, you may remain in my village and my eyes will feast upon my treasure; if she fails, you must leave and my mouth will feast upon sopa de pollo.”
The villagers gasped, “Chicken soup!”
“Si!” The emperor warned.
Abuelita looked at the emperor and then down at her chick. She thought for a moment then turned to the villagers, “Adios, I must pack our bags.”
“What!?!” exclaimed the greedy emperor.
“We are leaving,” she said picking up Senorita Chick-A-Dee.
“But – but – what about the diamantes?” demanded the emperor.
Abuelita lifted the little chick closely to her face and said, “I do not think it fair that you should work so hard and be left with nothing to show for it.”
Abuelita turned towards her home, “Come little one, we are leaving.”
“Espera!” wailed the greedy emperor. “What do you want?”
“I will ask her what she wants,” said Abuelita, putting the chick next to her ear.
“Pollos cannot speak!”
“Shhh,” she insisted and turned away from the emperor giving Senorita her full attention. “Ahhh!” she said turning back to the emperor. A tender smile graced her face.
“What!?!” The emperor begged in frustration.
“She wants the land.”
“Fine!” The emperor said pointing to the ground. “You may keep your bit of land.”
Abuelita shook her head. “Farewell dear friends.”
“Su Majestad,” Abuelita’s words were slow and quiet. “She wants all the land of Work-So-Hard.”
The emperor threw his hands upward towards the blue sky, then down again with a great sigh. He looked the little chick over with scrutinizing eye.
“For my land,” he paused in deep thought then spoke, “your scrawny chick must turn every single stone in the village into a diamond. Everyone in the village must gather the stones.”
Emperor Perezoso thought this would anger the villagers. To his great surprise, the villagers quickly began the hard work of gathering the stones and taking them to the barn. He did not understand that in their hearts they believed in Abuelita, though their heads told them this was all very odd.
While the villagers continued the hard task of carrying the stones, Abuelita Olga prepared Senorita Chick-A-Dee for the long stay in the old village barn. She gave the little chick a small bag of corn and placed a beautiful red bow in her lovely soft feathers.
Looking fondly at her chick, she said, “Don’t fear my little amiga. You, like each stone on the ground, each star in the sky, are special. You are as special as the swan, the eagle, and the nightingale. You must remember the magic that makes our seeds grow. Use that magic, my sweet Senorita. It will not fail you. Crees, Chick-A-Dee. Believe.”
The time had come. With a quiet anticipation, Abuelita Olga took Chick-A-Dee down to the barn where they were greeted by a crowd of very tired villagers. Emperor Perezoso wasted no time and quickly pulled open the door of the old barn. Chick-A-Dee slowly entered and was overcome by stones filling the barn side to side, top to bottom. Abuelita and the villagers watch the poor little chick struggle to climb the huge pile. When she finally reached the top, the emperor commanded, “Back to your homes, villagers, and leave her to her work!”
Abuelita blew a kiss to Senorita Chick-A-Dee and, with tired hopefulness, she and the villagers left the small chick alone with the emperor. The emperor, holding the door tightly, said to Chick-A-Dee, “I shall see you at dawn with diamonds or see you at supper as soup!” With a strong slam of the door, he locked her inside and she began to cry and cry and cry.
“Chick-A-Dee!” came a sudden voice from above her. She looked up to see the familiar face of her old friend, Senor Rooster, perched from a hole in the roof of the barn.
“You’re so sad and scared. How can I help you?”
“Oh, Senor Rooster, you cannot help me. Abuelita has told the emperor that I can turn stones into diamonds.”
“Oh, ey – ey – ey – ey – ey!”
“Si,” Chick-A-Dee began to cry again. “What am I to do? I do not know the magic that makes the seeds grow.”
“But everyone in the village knows.”
“They do? Do you?” Senorita asked hopefully.
“What is it?” she begged to know.
“Hard work,” he said as he hopped down to her. “Very hard work, Senorita.”
“How do we begin?” She asked picking up a stone.
“I must fly to the heavens and gather the stars and bring them back here.”
“And should I,” Senorita asked timidly, “take the stones through the hole in the barn and drop them into the pond to make room for the stars?”
“Si!” cried the rooster.
“Espera! I cannot swim. Can you fly?”
“We must believe. Be my swan and I will be your eagle. Together, we will make magic and to pass the time we will sing quietly like the nightingales. Crees, Chick-A-Dee. Believe.”
Chick-A-Dee, picking up another stone courageously said, “Si, I believe.”
All through the night, Senorita Chick-a-Dee and Senor Rooster shared in the hard work of throwing stones and gathering stars. At first, it was very difficult. But the more they sang the easier it became until, at last, the pond was filled, the sky was dark, and the barn sparkled like diamonds. Tired and hungry, the two friends shared the small bag of corn Abuelita had given Chick-A-Dee.
“There is only a little time left before sunrise. I must prepare to call the sun.”
“Wait!” Chick-A-Dee said, removing the red bow from her feathers. “I can never thank you for helping me, but please take this. It is all I have, but it is yours.”
Senor Rooster tied it around his neck and with a gracious bow he made his way back to the roof.
The villagers, too anxious to sleep, quickly dressed and gathered in the lane to see Senorita Chick-A-Dee. They were stunned by the brilliant blaze that shone from beneath the door and through the many holes of the old barn.
“She has done it!” the villagers rejoiced as they ran to the barn. “She has turned piedras into diamantes!”
Emperor Perezoso, enraptured by the sparkling light radiating from within, ran and grasped the handle on the old barn door.
“Mine! All mine!” Within the very moment he threw open the door, a loud cry pierced the morning air: “Cock-a-doodle Doooooooooooooooo!”
Suddenly, as the sun’s rays peered above the horizon, the barn began to ferociously shake. Frantic to flee, the stars began shooting one after another, after another, back up into the sky. Everyone watched in awe. Everyone except Emperor Perezoso.
“Espera! No! Those are my diamonds. Stop! Stop, I say!”
Blinded by their brilliance and blinded by his greed, Emperor Perezoso grabbed the corner of one sparkling star with all his might and it shot him straight into the heavens.
As the villagers pointed toward the sky in amazement, Abuelita picked up Senorita Chick-A-Dee and kissed her soft, sweet, feathery head. The little chick yawned then looked up towards the roof of the old barn where she saw her dear friend Senor Rooster yawning, too.
“You must be so tired,” Abuelita Olga said. “Sleep for now, my little chick. We will celebrate later.” Laying her head on the old woman’s shoulder, Chick-A-Dee nodded and closed her eyes.
Just as Abuelita had promised, there was great celebration that night honoring Senorita Chick-a-Dee who, with the help of her friend Senor Rooster, saved The Village of Work-So-Hard by magically turning stones into diamonds.
Even now, on that special day of rest when the sky darkens and the stars awaken, the villagers, some short, some tall, some round, some rather narrow and some very old, gather in the marketplace to search the heavens for Emperor Perezoso sparkling far, far beyond the mountains.
Illustration by Linda F. -- My long lost friend whom I hope to find soon. All Rights Reserved © 2005