Sunday, September 18, 2016
Saturday, September 17, 2016
“Stripes! Play us a jazzy tune!” the crowd called to the stage of Zavier the Zebra, who was known for his piano playing.
He played every Thursday night at the Black and White Stage on the banks of the Orange River in South Africa.
Of course, one piano was not enough for Zavier; he played two honky-tonk pianos at once with one hand over the other. The right hand played the bass clef’s part on the piano to the left, and the left hand played the treble’s part to the right.
He wobbled on the piano bench with his black-and-white-striped legs stretched between the two pianos’ silver pedals.
“Hey! Did you notice that your stripes match the piano keys?” a fan from the crowd called to Zavier as he played.
By the end of the song, Zavier dripped sweat onto the keys. “I need myself a duet player!” he announced to the crowd. “I’m taking references! Find me a lady. My wrists are hurting, and I don’t want to play both parts anymore alone.”
For hours, he sat in auditions all week, listening to girly zebras with impressive fur coats, but very little talent.
“Oh, was that supposed to be a sharp note? I thought it was flat,” a womanly zebra said, squinting at sheet music.
“I’m sorry for running late,” the next zebra said. “I chipped a nail on the way. How am I supposed to play for you?”
“I forgot to practice before the audition,” another zebra with a pink hat said. “I was so nervous that I couldn’t sleep either.”
When she fell asleep and her head hit the keys, Zavier decided that he had enough of the lousy auditions.
“Thank you for coming,” Zavier said, shutting the door on the last zebra who missed her chance by a long shot.
“Where can I find a duet partner?” he said to himself. “It’s almost better if I stop looking, and she will come to me.”
“Maybe you need to stop looking for a zebra!” said a black mare as she walked into the music studio.
“Well, I usually only work with zebras,” said Zavier, admiring his sleek black and white stripes.
“I play classical piano, and I can keep up with your jazz licks any day of the week,” she said. “My name is Onyx.”
“So, you’re a jewel,” Zavier said. “Let’s see what you’ve got! Play me your best number. I only have a few minutes.”
As Onyx sat down at the piano keys, she straightened her radiant mane before starting to play flawlessly.
“Did you write that?” Zavier said. She only smiled at him as he was transfixed on her beautiful eyes.
As the audition number ended, Zavier decided that he better take her as his duet partner before someone else did.
“You’re mine! Please play with me tonight at the Black and White Stage,” Zavier said, reaching out his hand.
When the duo took the stage that evening, the audience cheered and applauded from the crowd.
“Your duet partner is a black mare? Couldn’t you find yourself a zebra?” a gray stallion in the audience chided.
The stallion threw a big fat tomato on the front of the stage. It splatted everywhere, landing on Onyx’s mane. With more dignity than most horses, she wiped it from herself and quietly decided to be the better horse.
“Stop saying such cruel things!” another zebra from the crowd said. “Your coat is gray anyhow! What do you care?”
“What’s with the tomatoes?” a white horse said. “Don’t you have any common sense? Someone get him out of here!”
With that, the crowd escorted the gray stallion out of the Black and White Stage as the concert started. Onyx had the opening number, an original classical piece that she had written by herself, and Zavier backed her up.
Before the evening was over, Zavier and Onyx played the best duets that anyone had ever heard along the Orange River. The crowd rocked and rolled to the jazzy honky-tonk licks and swayed and dipped to the classical passages.
“That will teach ‘em to judge a zebra or a horse by his or her coat!” Zavier said to Onyx before leaving the stage.
“It’s only black and white,” Onyx said, kissing Zavier on the cheek. “It’s no different than this piano!”
Copyright 2016 Jennifer Waters
“It’s midnight, and I’m wide awake,” Mr. Midnight Owl said, sitting on the edge of a tree branch in the moonlight.
“Now, what campers will I speak to tonight?” the Owl whispered to himself. “I have to avoid those silly park rangers.”
Before Mr. Midnight Owl could decide which way to fly, a flashlight glared in his face and blinded him.
“Don’t even think about it!” Park Ranger Scott said. “All kinds of well-meaning visitors come to Yosemite National Park, here in California, and you don’t get to disrupt their sleep with your so-called advice in the middle of the night.”
“Too bad for you that I’m the one with wings, and you can’t catch me!” Mr. Midnight Owl said, screeching.
“If we catch you, we’re locking you away in a cage, and you won’t come out ‘til you behave!” Park Ranger George said.
As Mr. Midnight Owl flew off into the night sky, owl droppings like pellets plopped on the park rangers’ heads.
“How disgusting! Just because we asked for your advice every now and then, you think you can do whatever you want,” Park Ranger Scott said. “You think you’re so much better than everyone else! So, you can tell everyone what to do!”
“You’re out of control!” Park Ranger George said. “Why can’t you just act a little more normal like the other owls?”
Before getting back in their beat-up truck, the park rangers scraped the owl droppings from their hair and shoulders.
Then, they washed their hands in Tenaya Lake. “I wish we had some soap,” Park Ranger George said, groaning.
In the meantime, the Owl set off on his nightly flybys, where he looked for camp guests in need of help. Even if the campers didn’t know that they needed help, he was sure he could identify those people looking for advice.
As he neared Yosemite Valley, a family slept outside in sleeping bags next to their large pop-up tent and grill.
By the starlight, and certainly in the sunlight, they had an excellent view of the gorgeous Yosemite Falls.
“Tonight, I will bestow my wisdom on this family, who certainly wants to learn about patience,” the Owl said.
In the distance, he could see the park rangers nearing in their truck. He batted his eyes at the glaring headlights.
“Patience is a virtue,” Mr. Midnight Owl said, starting his lesson with a quote from poet William Langland.
“What? Who said that? We have to get up early to go white water rafting,” the young boy mumbled in his sleep.
“Maybe that was the S’mores talking! I ate too many,” the mother of the family said, rolling over in her sleeping bag.
“Patience is the companion of wisdom,” the Owl continued, spreading his wings. “Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet. Have patience with all things, but first of all with yourself. Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”
“There must be campers nearby that didn’t fall asleep yet,” the father of the family said, grabbing his flashlight.
“Dad, it’s an owl,” the little girl said. “Wow! I’ve never met an owl that can talk,” she said, taking a picture with a flash.
As the flash from the camera blinded the owl, the Yosemite Park rangers pulled their truck up to the campsite.
“Adopt the pace of nature, her secret is patience,” Mr. Midnight Owl said, almost finishing his mini lecture. “Be humble and gentle in every way. Be patient with each other and lovingly accept each other. Let patience have her perfect work.”
While the owl blinked, the family stood in silence, not sure if they should be excited, scared, or running for their lives.
“Look, Dad, it’s the park rangers with big flashlights!” the little girl said, taking more pictures of the moment.
“So glad to see you,” the father of the family said to the park rangers. “We woke up to the voice of this owl. He’s been talking about patience for the last few minutes, and we’re not sure why. What should we do?”
“We’re so sorry!” Park Ranger George said, shining his light into the eyes of Mr. Midnight Owl.
Park Ranger Scott threw a lasso around the owl without him realizing that the rope was even in the dark air.
“How dare you lasso me, Mr. Midnight Owl, as though you are superior to my intellect,” the Owl said, screeching.
“We got you this time! And we’re not letting you ago again!” Park Ranger George said, grabbing the owl by the feet.
“I was clearly saving these campers’ lives by instructing them on the daily value of patience,” Midnight said.
“Thank you so much,” the mother of the campers said. “I’m so tired from our hike to Yosemite Falls yesterday.”
“I’m not tired, Mom,” the young boy said. “I want to see what happens to the owl. Are they going to let him go?”
“Absolutely not, young man,” Park Ranger Scott said. “If we let him go, campers won’t ever get a good night’s sleep!”
“He likes to find campers sleeping around the park and wake them up and give them advice,” Park Ranger George said.
“He’s been doing this for years,” Park Ranger Scott said, holding him upside down by the feet. “We catch him, take him in, and then he finds a way to escape after a few days. The problem is that he’s usually right about his advice.”
“You love him, and then you hate him, and then you love him,” Park Ranger George said, covering his mouth.
“Right now, we hate him,” Park Ranger Scott said, “but at least we got him! We got him good!”
The camping family sat in silence staring at the park rangers and Mr. Midnight Owl, unsure how to respond.
“This has been the best vacation ever, Dad,” the young girl said to him, as the family curled up in their sleeping bags.
With that, the park rangers wrapped the lasso around the owl, put the owl in an iron cage in the back of their truck, locked the door, and threw away the key.
“I’m patient enough to get out of any situation,” Mr. Midnight Owl said.
“You’re the one who’s going to have to be patient,” Park Ranger Scott said, laughing as the truck pulled away.
“Yeah, you’ll have a lot of time to think about how patience is a virtue in that iron cage,” Park Ranger George said.
“As if I’d ever allow myself to stay locked in this cell,” Mr. Midnight Owl said, using his beak to chew through the lasso and unlock the door. He pushed the door open with his wings and flew out into the night sky as the truck drove away.
“Oh, he escaped again,” Park Ranger George said. “Last time, he found our key! How did he get out this time?”
“He makes our job a nightmare every night,” Park Ranger Scott said. “If he doesn’t stop this torment, I’m quitting!”
“Patience is a virtue,” Park Ranger George said to his partner. “We’ll eventually capture him for good, just not tonight.”
Copyright 2016 Jennifer Waters