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Chapter III: To Catch A Falling Star

Jun 13, 2005

WHOOSH!!! With a great flapping of wings and a spluttering of beak, the white swan broke through the surface of the water. Mallika shook a few drops off black hair and brown skin before returning the gaze of the big bird, who looked at this moment dangerously close to tears. It is the same every time he said his voice choking a little, always so close and then- Nothing. Big Fat Nothing. One falling star- that?s all I wanted- is that too much to ask I ask you now? Mallika looked at the white bird who was now floating along beside the white lotus and wondered briefly why something so beautiful would want to waste tears on the stars. ?Do you like flying?? she asked looking directly into his eyes. The swan swallowed once in some surprise, ?Well- y-yes, I suppose I do,? he said after giving the question due thought. And indeed it seemed when he reflected upon it that there really wasn?t anything that could quite compare to that feeling of the ground falling away from one?s feet as the heavens grew closer and the carpet of the world spread itself out beneath the wideness of white wingspan. ?What do you want with a falling star,? was the next question, asked with the same directness of the first, and the swan found himself rather taken aback by the simplicity of the question and the extreme difficulty he encountered in trying to find a suitable answer. He finally settled on one which seemed rather pale to him, but it was the truth (and though the truth is often pale and sometimes rather monotonous, it has its virtues)

?I don?t know,? said the swan truthfully.


?I suppose,? said Mallika after a thought-full silence, ?sometimes we all chase madly after things we want without knowing why.?
?Yes, yes,? said the swan eagerly, gratefully, ?That?s it exactly-?
?But don?t you suppose,? continued the little girl, ?that we might be happier if we understood what we really wanted and went chasing madly after that instead??
The swan said nothing, for he was trying to think what it was he really wanted, and he wasn?t at all sure he knew. ?If you really want to catch a falling star,? said Mallika seriously, ?then you should try again.? The swan looked up at her, and thought she was quite the most unusual child he had ever met, and he wanted more than anything in that instant to give her something she really wanted. ?What do you want princess?? he asked impulsively. ?Something to eat,?? said Mallika promptly, ?I am very hungry.?


?I?ll be right back,? said the swan, rising the same instant out of the water his white wings pushing up through the darkness of the night until he had quite disappeared from sight, and Mallika was left alone on the stream in the white lotus but only for a brief while for the swan soon reappeared carrying in his beak a branchfull of red ripe berries for the hungry child. She took them eagerly and with such a bright look of gratefulness that the swan forgot all about falling stars and wondered what else he might do for this winsome creature. When she was finished, Mallika reached into the silent waters to wash her fingers and lips that were stained very red with the sweet juice of the berries, but before she touched the unbroken surface of the water she noticed something rather spectacular.

?Look,? she said to the swan, who was still gliding beside her, ?Look into the water now.?
So the swan looked down and to his amazement, there in the still waters danced one hundred and seventeen stars (he counted them straight away, that?s how he knew).

Mallika fell asleep between the stars in the sky and the stars in the water. And the white swan after dropping a soft supply of red and black berries into the floating white lotus, flew off to figure out what it was he truly wanted from the world.

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"Service doesn't start when you have something to give; it blossoms naturally when you have nothing left to take."

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