Letter From A Wooden Child

Dear Mr Key : I was minding my own business, sitting on my bench in the attic room of the Mercy Home For Abandoned Infants Made Of Wood, when my attention was drawn to your article entitled Wooden Child And Fiery Serpent And Trees. I should at once make it clear that I am a wooden child and that I often run errands along the very same lanes of your bailiwick such as the one shown in the picture, and that on numerous occasions when running such errands I have been menaced by serpents belching forth flame from their mouths or from their fundaments and sometimes, terrifyingly, from both.

Before I go on, you may be interested to know the nature of my errands. From time to time, the beadle at the Mercy Home, or one of his lieutenants, will require a crate of crab apples or bandages or plums or dust or conference pears or talcum powder or grease or vinegar cakes or marzipan or holy water tablets or pins or assorted crustacea or similar produce to be collected from the village shop. Being the possessor of a withered leg, the beadle himself is not able to undertake the journey along the winding lanes, and his lieutenants are kept so busy grouting and lathing and scraping and plugging and patching up holes in the fabric of the Mercy Home that the task falls to one or another of the abandoned wooden infants such as myself. We merrily do the beadle’s bidding, for Old Ma Dystopia, who runs the village shop, will usually treat us with a wooden biscuit or a wooden toffee apple before getting us to sign the impost for the crate we have come to collect. She is a kindly soul who is reputed to be over two hundred years old and to have taken part in many folk tales, living as she does in her ramshackle shop deep in the dense and gloomy woods. She is certainly a keen observer of the disposition of trees.

What prompted me to write to you was your observation that the wooden tinies you rescue from perilous fiery serpents are skittish, and that you are rarely rewarded or thanked for your endeavours. Now, it is true enough that I do not recall a single occasion when, menaced by a serpent on this or that errand, my imperilment has been averted by you, or indeed anyone like you, emerging from the shrubbery armed with a portable fire extinguisher. Granted that my memory is not the most acute, given that my head and all its innards, including the brain, are, like the rest of me, made of wood. Yet I feel quite sure I would remember so stirring an incident. As it is, I have always had to effect my own deliverance from the threat of fiery serpents upon the lanes, using a combination of quick wits and wily stratagems. I am not lucky enough to carry my own fire extinguisher, partly because I am, on my return journey at least, laden with a crate of produce and thus hard put to carry anything extra, and also because the beadle is reluctant to let his tiny wooden charges get their hands on his one fire extinguisher, which he keeps bolted to the wall of his office. It is not the case that we are too skittish to be entrusted with it, by the way, rather that the beadle is a possessive and neurotic man prey to his own secret demons, for which I fervently hope he will one day seek professional counselling, or acupuncture, or even just straightforward puncturing, with a sharpened skewer.

My main point is that, if ever there came a time when you did spray your so-called exciting fire-suppressant foam into the mouth or the fundament of a fiery serpent waylaying me upon the lane, I would certainly be profuse in my thanks and would, upon my return to the Mercy Home For Abandoned Infants Made Of Wood, hold urgent discussions with the beadle to arrange for you to be properly rewarded, perhaps with a lemon meringue pie or a box of paperclips. I am confident that all my wooden fellows would do the same. So I can only assume, when you assert that it is rare for you to be thanked or rewarded for your efforts, that the wooden children you have assisted in the past must hail from some other home for wooden children, perhaps one that nestles even deeper in these deep and gloomy woods, a home where the wooden children are, God forbid, skittish wooden ingrates.

I hope you will see fit to publish this letter and thus to set the record straight.

Passionately yours, A Nameless Wooden Child xxxx

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