Sunday, April 10, 2022

The Peaceable Kingdom: The Story of Shirley the Lamb

“I don’t matter to anyone,” 8-year-old Shirley the Lamb sobbed, running through the fields one day. “Who cares if I don’t have my tail because a nasty lion bit it off when I was younger! Why does everyone always have to make fun of me?”

“You don’t have your woolly waggler,” her brother mocked her, darting after her. 

“Leave me alone, and go pick on someone else,” Shirley cried.

“I think she’s beautiful!” Roger the Lion cub roared, bounding down from the hillside. “She has the cutest tail I’ve ever seen.”

“Roger, you would never bite off the tail of any creature, especially not an innocent little lamb,” Shirley sighed, rubbing her head on Roger’s soft fur. “You’re like a big pillow!”

When Roger walked beside her, he made a point not to wag his own tail since Shirley did not have one to wag. Sometimes, he even picked her up with his mouth and carried Shirley on his back. 

“I never told you this, Shirley, but I’m afraid of the dark,” Roger whimpered as the sun began to set in the meadow.

“The moon and stars can make the nighttime less scary,” Shirley suggested. 

“I know, but it’s still really dark outside at night,” Roger worried. “I always end up growling at everyone in the dark.”

“Can you look for constellations in the stars at night?” Shirley asked. “Then, you won’t feel as alone and scared.”

As the sun set, Roger noticed a group of stars in the sky that looked like a lion.

“Those stars look like me!” Roger told Shirley. “His stars are so bright!”

“Why don’t we name him Leo the Lion?” Shirley decided. “He will be your friend to keep you company when it gets dark.”

Roger kissed Shirley, and the two of them fell asleep together in the meadow. 

As Roger and Shirley got older, it became clear that their families did not want the two of them to remain friends. 

“Did you know that your daughter spends a lot of time with that lion named Roger?” Zachary the Cobra told Shirley’s parents one day in the meadow. 

The snake hissed as it slithered through the grass. “I just heard Roger’s parents tell him that if he sees Shirley again that he’d better not come back unless he eats her,” the snake lied.

“You are not allowed to be friends with Roger, Shirley,” her father yelled. “Lions and lambs are involved in an age-long feud.”

“Lambs and lions hate each other,” Shirley’s mother explained in a harsh tone. “You are forbidden to see him! Lions do nothing but eat lambs, and you’re lucky you only lost a tail.”

“I love Roger, and he loves me,” Shirley cried, retreating to the nearest shady tree. 

Tears rolled down Shirley’s face until she fell asleep that night, looking up at the stars and thinking of Roger. 

A few nights later, Roger appeared at Shirley’s barn window in the middle of the night.

“I conquered my fears of the dark, and the stars guided me to you!” Roger called. “I promise that we are still going to be friends, even if it’s a secret.”

“I miss you, Roger,” Shirley called. “I want to go run in the fields with you. Meet me in the high grass by the river three days from now.”

“I’ll be there with the dawn,” Roger replied. “I'd better go for now!”

Days later, Shirley and Roger met between the high grass without anyone knowing, except for Chloe the Cow with her cowbell necklace, which everyone could hear ring from a mile away. 

“Zachary is right!” Chloe mooed, sounding her necklace as loud as she could. “Go home before you start an all-out war in the Kingdom!”

“You are the one who can go home!” Shirley demanded. “Go eat a cow pie!”

“The Cobras love to fuel feuds between families,” Roger explained. “I figured it out.” 

“What did you figure out?” Shirley questioned, stroking Roger’s soft mane. 

“The Cobras want everyone in the Kingdom to riot and kill the Little Child who is the future king,” Roger roared. “I’ve been asking a lot of questions and found out that the Little Child’s father, King George, has been working hard to bring the land together in peace. The Cobra family wants to be in charge of the Kingdom and undo King George’s work.”

Snap! Zachary wicked out his sword-like tongue through the high grass at Roger and Shirley. “You will be sorry!” he threatened, as a group of animals joined the snake in the fields.

Joe the Leopard with his spotty fur pounced next to Roger with a bark. Gabrielle the Wolf howled, Bobby the Goat bleated, Leah the Calf bawled, Todd the Yearling neighed, Tansy the Bear growled, and Harold the Ox bellowed, as they joined Zachary in intimidating Shirley and Roger with grumbles: "Back down, or else!"

“I’m going to end this war!” Roger grunted, leaping next to Zachary, right after the vicious snake slipped away with the other animals. 

“How could you start this fight? Now the whole kingdom is against both of us,” Shirley argued with Roger. “My parents were right. I never want to see you again. Lions are dangerous!”

“No, lambs are weak!” Roger whispered, walking away with his tail between his legs.

The next morning, the Kingdom went into a fury when word got out that King George was murdered, and the Little Child had gone missing. Guards searched the entire kingdom for the Little Child and King George’s assassin. 

“I just heard that the palace guards found a bloody knife in a potted plant on the porch of Roger’s family cave,” Shirley’s father told her. “Roger is being held in suspicion for killing King George.” 

“Roger would never kill King George,” Shirley replied. “How did this become Roger’s fault?”

That night, Shirley slipped out of her barn window and ran in the dark to Roger’s family cave. She slipped into his lair and lured Roger into the field, where they could speak in private. 

“We need to search for the Little Child,” Shirley insisted. “I can help you look for him. I’m sorry for accusing you.”

“I forgive you,” Roger purred. “I’ve always loved you.”

Roger and Shirley set off into the starry night, looking for the Little Child. 

After hours of searching, the cobras surrounded them near a ravine in the meadow. The snakes had been hiding under nearby rocks and logs near the Cobra family den. 

One cobra pounced on Shirley, trying to bite her tail, only to realize that she did not have one. “I don’t have a tail,” Shirley screamed at the snake. “So, you can’t try to bite it off to kill me! Too bad for you!” 

“Free the Little Child now!” Roger thundered, biting Zachary so severely that he almost bled to death. 

Suddenly, out of the shadows, the other animals in the kingdom appeared in Roger and Shirley’s defense. Chloe the Cow sounded her cowbell necklace, signaling the animals to charge the Cobra’s den. "Freedom!" Chloe mooed. "Save the Kingdom!"

In apology for their ruthless behavior to Shirley and Roger, Joe the Leopard, Gabrielle the Wolf, Bobby the Goat, Leah the Calf, Todd the Yearling, Tansy the Bear, and Harold the Ox dashed into the Cobra den, squashing the snakes beneath their feet. 

"Long live the Little Child!" the animals sounded. 

“Get on my back,” Roger commanded the Little Child, after Joe removed the snakeskin ropes around the boy. The Little Child had been held captive in the Cobra's den long enough.

"Thank you," the boy cried. Beat up and bruised, the Child climbed onto the lion’s back and rode triumphantly into the fields. 

“I can’t believe that the Cobra family is so evil,” Chloe the Cow moaned in shock. 

“Well, believe it,” Shirley chided Chloe. “You can see it with your own eyes. We need to make sure that Zachary never does anything like this again.”

“Even if members of the Cobra family are still alive, we’re taking you back to the palace to rule in peace,” Roger announced to the Little Child, as they strutted through the meadow. 

“A long peaceful life is what you’re going to live, and so will the rest of us,” Shirley agreed, kissing Roger on the cheek. 

With the Little Child safely crowned, and on the throne, Shirley and Roger became heroes in the Kingdom. Never underestimate the love between a lion and a lamb. 


Copyright 2023 Jennifer Waters

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