Your Highness, the Lord Oberon, King of the Underworld, Betrothed to the royal beauty, the forever lovely Queen Titania,

From your humble servant Puck, sprite of the unseen world, a loyal servant for many a long year,

Permit me, your royal Highness to give an account of my discharging of your royal Highness' mission and to beg your royal Highness to fly to my rescue at once, for I am currently incarcerated in one of the cages the earthlings reserve for their worst type of beings, those who having been tried and found guilty are thereby condemned to a lengthy period of penal servitude.

I was, as your Highness well knows, on a mission to bring more love to these puerile, quarrelsome humans, when I chanced upon a place frequented in equal measure by both males and females. Upon entering the hall known as a speed-dating centre, I saw to my horror that the humans were rushing from one person to the other, without taking the slightest interest in the conversation in which they were engaged. All they could do, was to eye up the person on the next table, a practise soon stopped the moment they had the opportunity to talk to the latter. This vicious circle continued so long, that I felt it my duty, in order to discharge your highness' commission to begin using some of my special powers to bring about lasting change. But the moment I flitted from glass to glass dropping in each glass a few drops of that precious liquid your Highness provided for my task, I was seized upon by some extremely rough and burly men who promptly hauled me before one of these human judges, an actor in a ridiculous looking wig and wearing clothes the likes of which have never been seen by me before.

Date rape was the charge levelled against me, as your Highness' potion was considered to be some kind of secret weapon, used to befuddle human maidens into thinking they were in love. I am currently in a tiny cage, with no light and very little air, and I beg your Highness to come to my aid. One more day here, and I'm sure I shall go mad - that or become a human myself, a fate worse than any madness.

Waiting eagerly for your speedy intervention, your humble servant,


No Family

Hi everyone,

I know it's not usual for the party giver to write a letter of thanks to those who come to the party but I can't help myself. Saturday was such a wonderful day, I spent most of Sunday vacillating between ecstasy and tears. And so I just want to say one great big - I suppose as I'm using a computer I should say mega-big - thank you to all made Saturday night such a wonderful time.

Most of you probably know that I've never really had a family. I grew up in a number of homes, and whereas the carers gave their best to look after us, there was never any real bond between us. This may have been the reason why I never really bonded much once I left the confines of these homes and entered the big, wide world. Sure, there were friends here and there and we often had good times together. I'm sure some of these could have become true friends, if only I had known how to bond. There were also one or two girlfriends down the line. But the moment things got too personal I backed out. So as I drifted through university, I was always surrounded by lots of people, yet deep inside my loneliness cried out. One or two heard the cries; they tried to help. But I kept them at arm's length. That's how I hit upon my career choice. Lots of travelling, never settling down. How appealing that was!

And then I came here. I remember when my boss first said he was opening a school here, I'd never heard of the place. But I wasn't really worried. It would be just one more station on life's sometime ending journey. So why should here be any different? Why indeed?

I'm going to be perfectly honest. I don't know why. A psychologist would tell you that at 45 I realised this was my one last chance. A religious person may speak of God's goodness. I'm not all that religious but I still call it a miracle. Having spent a lifetime looking for some sense of belonging in this world, I'm amazed at what I've found in these five years I've been with you. I can't explain how it came about. Maybe, there is no answer. Maybe, it's just a gift.

So I guess, it's not just to thank you for last night that I'm writing but for all you've given me over the past five years. You're the family I never had.

Oh, and one final thing. Last week my boss talked to me about a new opening. He needed someone available and with experience to head up a new project in Burma. Now that the country's beginning to open up again, there's a big need for new shcools and he thinks I'm just the right guy to head this up. I'm afraid he's still suffering from the shock of my point-blank refusal.

Your brother and friend,


Write a story about a tree? Yes, I guess that could be interesting. If you get a good author, one that can really think himself into a tree, it might even be good. After all trees are interesting subjects. So by all means, go ahead and write your stories, and maybe I'll even read some of them. But have you ever thought about the stories a tree could tell? After all, here we are in the middle of the woods - mysterious, silent places often frequented by people with secrets. And they don't see us trees. At least, not in the sense of actually taking us in, of realising we are there, aware, listening, watching. That's why we trees make such great storytellers. Like an author we can penetrate unseen into the heart of a situation leaving no traces whatsoever until our story is told.

Sometimes, a story unfolds itself before our eyes, and we don't realise it's happening until it's almost over. Like the time I was awakened from my siesta by the sound of the church bells slowly meandering across to us from the little church by the river. There wasn't much going on in our part of the clearing, so I spread my branches a little and tried to get a glimpse of what was going on elsewhere. But again to no avail. All I saw was a young man sitting on an upturned trunk, writing poetry.

Now, you'd be surprised at the number of young men who come walking into the woods to write poetry. I guess it has something to do with the university in the nearby town. Universities seem to regularly produce a spate of young people writing poetry. I guess it has to do with their being together with the girls all the time and having nothing else to talk about but experiments, and anthropological mishaps and the like. But I do wish someone at the university would teach these young people how to write. Some of the stuff I've seen is enough to take all the colour out my leaves. But I digress. I must get back to my poetry writing, young man. Actually, there was nothing to get back too. That's all there was. A young man writing poetry. No romantic violin music coming from the stops in his ears; no pretty young lady suddenly surging from the undergrowth to throw her arms about him and declare her eternal love. No such luck. I say luck because the young ladies often lean their back against my trunk to receive their reward, and I really like that. But today, nothing. Not until the poem was finished. For then, instead of and folding his masterpiece into an envelope and sealing it with a kiss, as I'd seen hundreds of others do, the artist got up, pricked his paper onto the end of one of my twigs and walked off.

Once he was out of sight I lifted up my arm and settled down to read what the young man had written. He had seemed so intense I felt this must be something worthwhile. But hardly had I began reading when I heard the sound of footsteps as crackling through the brush. To be honest, I didn't like the look of the three ruffians who were coming towards me, so I kept as still as I could, hoping they wouldn't see the paper I was carrying and realise I was more than just an ordinary tree. They were obviously looking for something but failing to find it, they sat down on the tree trunk and opened several bottles of beer. At one point in time they turned on the radio and I heard the story of a bank robbery in town. The thieves had yet to beidentified but there'd been three of them and they had got away with over half a million.

My visitors laughed heartily at this and the ensuing conversation left me in no doubt, that I had here before me the three villains. If only I could find some way of alerting the authorities. But rooted to the spot as I was, I could do nothing. Besides, the three were so villainous I was in no doubt that they would take an axe to me, the moment they suspected I knew their secret.

"Where the hell is Karl? He must have hidden the money by now."

"Maybe, the little bastard's double-crossed us!"

"No way, we've still not paid off those debts his mother contracted. Until we do that, he's in the palm of his hand. Besides, he'll be wanting to claim his reward from Vicky. He's had to take so many cold showers over the past three days, he'll be needing her badly."

Vicky sniggered a reply. "Sure he will. But don't you go getting no ideas, Mitch, cause I'm telling you now, he ain't going get a thing from me. I ain't ruining my reputation by going with a wimp like that."

"Well, whatever. But he'd better come soon, cause if he doesn't, then we'll just have to pay him a little visit." The glint of his knife almost blinded me as he drew it along the dry stone, preparing it for action.

But they were soon in a better mood as more bottles were opened and their troubles were forgotten. But their mood darkened as the shadows began to lengthen across the clearing. They'd obviously been expecting some kind of message telling them where the money was to be found. And as neither message nor its bearer had turned up, they were now determined to mete out justice in their own way, as they forged a path through the undergrowth towards the town, fearing they might be observed if they took the usual route.

I breathed one long sigh of relief the moment they disappeared over the crest leading towards the river. At last, I was safe again. So relieved was I that I actually let the paper I was holding drop to the floor. To be honest, I'd forgotten all about my poetry writing student. But as I bent down to pick the paper up, my eyes caught the first words and I turned as pale as ash. This wasn't a poem. This was the message those villains had been looking for. And now, the three of them were on their way to deal with my student, and it was all my fault. What had I done?

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