Three Short Stories

Donal Buchanan

© Copyright 2015 by Donal Buchanan


Photo of an ivy covered tree.


(A Morality Play)

A long time ago in a country to the north there grew in a great forest two mighty pines side by side. These two trees were tall and proud. They were taller by far than any of the other forest trees. They would often talk to each other after this fashion:

“My, but you are beautiful! Don't you think I am too? I think my pine needles are especially sharp today!” one would say.

“Indeed they are!” the other would reply. “And your bark is not worse than your blight, ha, ha! What a lovely color it is! Don't you think I, too, have a fine grain to my wood?”

And so it went, day in and day out, till the forest creatures were sick of it.

One day one of the pines looked down and saw, growing between its mighty roots, a small fern. In great anger it cried: “Fern, how dare you! You are crowding the mightiest being in the forest! Grow somewhere else!”

The fern said “That I shall not do. In my own way I'm a match for you.”

The great pine spread its branches above the little fern and said “Then I will keep the sun from you and you will wither and die!”

“As you will,” replied the fern, but I don't need as much sun as you think.”

That night there came upon the forest a terrible storm. The wind howled. Thunder crashed and lightning flashed. The fern, being low, had no need to fear the lightning; and being supple, it bent with the wind. The pine in whose roots the fern dwelt, however, had no such luck. As it stood straight and tall, the lightning struck time and again; finally the wind blew upon it so strongly that the mighty tree cracked and fell.

The next morning, after the storm, only the fern marked where the pine had stood. The fern turned to the second of the proud pines and said, “Was I not his match?”

The remaining tree replied, “ Yes, against wind and lightning. I, however lived through the storm and now, at last, am king of the forest. There is none, now, as beautiful and strong as I am.” It did not mourn the loss of its friend for even an instant, but thought only of itself.

At that moment the pine tree felt a tickle near its roots. It looked down and saw, crawling up its trunk, a strand of ivy. In anger it cried: “Ivy, get away from me! You are crowding the mightiest being in the forest! Grow someplace else!”

The ivy said “I shall not. I like it where I am. In my own way, I'm your match.”

The pine shook itself as hard as it could, but the ivy still clung tightly. Finally the pine said “I shall keep the sun from you. See how you like that!” With these words, the pine crowded its branches close together so no light could reach the base of its trunk. “As you will,” said the ivy, “but you will lose in the end.” “We shall see!” said the pine tree—and the ivy echoed, Yes. We shall see.”

Days passed and grew into months, then into years. The ivy grew with them, circling up and around the trunk of the pine from bottom to top. In time the mighty tree was so choked with ivy that not one bit of sunlight did it feel. Eventually, all that remained was a tall stump, completely covered with ivy.
“Pride goeth before destruction” quoted the ivy.

“And a haughty spirit before a fall!” finished the fern.



Tap-tap-tap . . . Carter Johnson struck his knees against the bony flanks of his six-legged toath and brandished his three-foot rapier. His mount swept him over the red sand of Soombar, that ancient planet, towards his sworn enemy, the Keddaj of Droj, and the love of his life, the beautiful Dorias Thej. As he rode, he considered the impossible obstacles he had yet to surmount. Surely, no man could conquer such odds! If only his head would clear so that he could think. The damned tap-tap-tap just would not stop . . . [Delete!]

Tap-tap-tap . . . Dick South hugged the dark wall and wished he had his rod, but the automatic was somewhere at the bottom of the lake where it had dropped when Belenni's boys had nabbed him. He had escaped them, but he was still trapped on Belenni's country estate in the middle of a thousand acres patrolled by hundreds of hostile hoods. He couldn't seem to think clearly. He knew he needed every ounce of cunning he could muster if he was to save Cora and get them both out of Belenni's trap, but the tap-tap-tap just wouldn't go away . . . [Delete!]

Tap-Tap-Tap . . . Rick Radford shook his head dazedly as he picked himself up from the floor of the time-skimmer. Where were his friends? Where was his girl? He raised his eyes to the instrument console and gasped in horror. The skimmer was racing through time! The years whizzed by as he watched. Everyone he cared for was already centuries in the past—and in terrible danger from the encroaching hordes of Razzak, the King of Atlantis. If he could just figure out when . . . but his thoughts were all a jumble, the tap-tap-tap . . . [Delete!]

Tap-Tap-Tap . . . Red Riley crouched behind his fallen cayuse and watched the approaching savages. If only his faithful squaw, Little Weaver were here, she would have been able to stall the redskins somehow—but she was in the hands of the infamous Black Boyd and the way things looked, Riley reckoned as how he wasn't going to be able to do a darn thing about it. He hauled out his trusty hawg-leg and tried to steady his shaky aim as he stared at doom across the shaking sights. But the tap-tap-tap-tap in his head . . . [Delete!] . . .

Tap-Tap-Tap . . . Odd Rollo stood on the mountain peak of his island retreat and watched the approaching fleets of normal man. His companions, like him as far above normal man as man felt himself to be above the apes, stood quietly behind him. They knew their powers were great, but against the whole normal world even such awesome strength could not prevail. Odd Rollo wondered how he could have gotten into such a predicament. His marvelous mind concentrated and noticed at once the constance sound that had been on the edge of all their minds. He comprehended at once the nature of the inimical monster who had molded their destiny. Immediately, he and his companions combined their minds in a death-dealing mental discharge at the source of the Tap-Tap-Tap . . .

City detective Joe Muncey stared down at the dead man. The corpse was seated at a small table, his hands resting on the keys of his Mac computer, his head against the monitor. Crumpled pages of typescript littered the floor around him. Joe picked up a couple, straightened them out, and read them. He turned to the landlady who was standing nervously behind him. “Looks like a heart attack. Say, did you know this guy was a writer?”

“Naw,” she said, “He was a plumber. He just thought he was a writer. I've seen his stuff. He never had a single original thought in his life, poor soul!”

“Yeah,” said the detective, “Listen to this: Tap-Tap-Tap . . .”



I'm not sure what year it was—it was probably about 1935 or 1936. Nor am I sure of the names of the animals we had—except Prince, the Great Dane. So I will call the cat Calico—because she was a Calico cat—and the little brown dog, Browny.

I was sitting comfortably at the dining room table in our house in a village on the outskirts of Nagoya, Japan, working on my homework. My mother was in the kitchen teaching Shosan, our amah/maid, how to cook.

We had always had animals around the house. Cats and dogs and even chickens, —the latter for meat and eggs. Prince got lots of leashed to my bicycle. He pulled hard, trotting along while I enjoyed taking my feet off the pedals. Occasionally we'd have a small disagreement when I decided to steer one way and him the other. He was great fun, very large and very friendly.

On this day we also had a second dog, a small brown terrier owned by Aunt Betty. She wasn't really my aunt yet—that happened about a year or so later when she married my father's younger brother, Donald. At that time any adult not Mother or Dad was known to me as uncle or aunt. Aunt Betty lived not far from us and often parked her pup with us when going out of town. The two dogs and the cat—at this time we only had one—got along pretty well.

It was a cold day out so the stove in the dining room was going strong. Shosan had lit the logs shortly after arising from her futon in a room off the kitchen. I enjoyed the warmth and was making good progress with homework. All my schooling was homework. My mother and dad were the teachers—with lots of help from a set of The Book of Knowledge). My older sister went to a boarding school in Kobe.

So there I was, busy, when the cat, Calico, came in, carefully looked the place over, and decided (correctly) that the best place to lie down and sleep warmly was behind the stove. She settled in and I quietly noticed her presence.
A little bit later, Aunt Betty's dog, Browny, came in, sat down, and looked the situation over. He then went over and proceeded to sit upon the cat. Calico, of course, promptly got up and left the room while Browny settled in where she had been. No words were exchanged, all this happened in silence.

I noted all this as well as what happened next.

Calico apparently found Prince and complained to him.

Shortly thereafter, Prince showed up in the doorway, sat there for a bit looking at Browny, then he went over and proceeded to sit on him. Being about 6 times larger than Browny, there was no contest. Browny got up and left.

The three were really the best of friends. Despite occasions like the above, they enjoyed playing together whether indoors or out.

Sometime later, Browny was killed by a passing auto. By this time he and Calico had become even closer friends and played happily together.

After Browny passed away, Calico missed him greatly and kept looking for him. One day I was out in the front yard on the side over by our garage and near our only next door neighbor since we were a corner house. I noticedPP several dogs come onto our property. Their leader was much larger than Calico, and he was brown. The dogs came up the front steps towards our front door where Calico was sunning herself. She got up and watched them approach, especially the large brown leader. She marched down the front steps straight at him and sniffed him nose to nose—which startled him no end because cats weren't supposed to act that way.

Calico immediately discovered that this was NOT her Browny. She then took a heavy swing with claws out at the nose of the brown leader. He, and his small hoard of followers, howling, turned and ran. She never showed any fear of dogs from then on, no matter how big—and especially if they were brown.

Calico returned to her sunny spot in front of our door.

From all of the above I became convinced that animals could talk to one another.

That was my conclusion as a child—and it makes a good story.

As a man I have to acknowledge that, while it is still possible that Calico went and asked for help from Prince in some way, another explanation is possible.

All the animals were perfectly aware that the vicinity of the stove was warm and they all used it.

Both dogs had the same problem to solve. They could have growled, and attacked, but they did not. They sat down and studied the problem and came to exactly the same solution, solving it in such a way that no hurt was caused to any of them and their friendship could survive.

What I learned by watching my dear friends was even greater than my earlier conclusion. Cats and dogs can see a problem, think things over and arrive at ways to solve it without disturbing a friendship. They can also love one another and mourn a friend.

I am convinced they are very good folks to know and hang around with.

Contact Donal

 (Unless you type the author's name
in the
subject line of the message
we won't know where to send it.

Donal's story list and biography

Book Case

Home Page

The Preservation Foundation, Inc., A Nonprofit Book Publisher