There once was a young girl who grew up in a stable loft. This was through no fault of her own. Her parents had slipped away as she slept one night. They had been neglectful parents on the best of days, barely ever speaking to her—or to each other—and doing little to keep her alive. They had all gone to sleep in the loft as the three of them wandered from farm to farm, keeping out of sight and feeding off the labors of others. She did not miss them when she realized she was alone. She stayed hidden during the day, sleeping under the hay piles to hide. She slipped out at night to rummage in the farmer’s fields and the waste pile the farmer kept at the edge of his property. Her rummaging kept her fed with scraps from the farmer’s table but also with grain, vegetables, fruit the farmer grew and sold at market. She clothed herself in an odd assortment of garments the farmer, his wife, and two children discarded. For a week, she would wear his old underwear as a dress (he was a big man) and then switch to a nightgown his wife had worn sheer over the past decade. She wore shoes that were too big for her, trousers that were too short, and hats that were sometimes too big and sometimes too small but she kept warm enough through the winter and shed layers when the summer came.
She managed to eat well enough and grew into an adolescent girl, although one with tangled hair interspersed with hay and without the courtly charms expected of one her age. She was not exceptionally beautiful or terribly plain but she was almost always painted with the colors of her loft and the fields she plied for food so it was difficult to tell where her nest or the fields ended and the girl began.
Her only conversations were with the creatures who lived in the barn beneath her nest in the hay. She spent her nights listening to the cows and horses snort and whinny. She would visit with the bunnies and moles who prowled the fields at night under the varying gaze of the moon. She learned bits of their languages too and found that they knew much about the best vegetables and fruits to choose and when they were best eaten. She spent her days fending off the mice and squirrels who would rummage around her looking for morsels she left unfinished or that she found unappealing. But she also learned their languages of squeaks and chirps.
She liked all the vegetables the farmer grew (well, except for the Brussel sprouts) but she was fondest of the melons he tended. He grew honeydew and cantaloupe and casaba and watermelons, all tucked within their tendrils and leaves, each with their distinct flavor, firm outer skin, tender flesh, and plentiful seeds. She would cut them open with a broken knife she had found in the waste pile and pry the flesh from the rind with impatient gouges, seeds and all. As she chewed through the flesh, she would find the seeds with her tongue and spit them out where she found them, along the rows where the delicious fruits grew. She was sure this would puzzle the farmer—all the new seeds falling among the maturing vines and spawning new fruit—and she snorted and whinnied a bit in delight at his imagined confusion. She did not care, though. She was face-deep in a melon or two and enjoying herself too much to bother.
One night, she was engaged in a conversation with a large green melon with white stripes and dark brown seeds and a weasel wriggled up the row from its forest home.
“Hello,” said the weasel, or so she imagined he said as she had yet to learn the proper tongue of these creatures.
“Hello,” she said back in her best squirrel. Weasels do not speak squirrel but they understand it as well as their mother tongue.
“I am your fairy spirit and have a tip for you,” said the weasel. As he said this, the girl saw a luminescence to his fur she had not noticed before. She had no reason not to accept this announcement so she did.
“What does that mean?” she asked.
“It means I am here to guide you through your young life and make sure you continue to mature.”
“I’ve done well enough, thank you,” said the girl in a kind and courteous way the weasel understood.
“Yes, you have. You have done remarkably well keeping yourself fed and clothed and hidden from sight. There is nothing I would say or do to change any bit of what you have done and you are a fine young person. I do have a tiny tip for you that may help you out a bit.”
“Well, thank you, weasel. As you are so kind, I cannot help but consider your words, whatever they may be.”
“Okay. And thank you. You are as accepting as I hoped you would be. I have noticed you love the melons more than other fruit or vegetables in the field. They hold a key to your future. I have also seen you spit out all the seeds amongst the fruit you leave for the farmer’s family. That is considerate to him and helps keep you hidden in his loft.”
“Thank you,” said the girl, a little proud of herself and amazed that he was continuing to be so nice.
“I want you to remember what I am about to tell you. Some night as you are out among the melons, some night as you are cutting through their skin, enjoying their flesh, and turning the seeds about in your mouth, you will find a seed that is rounder than the others, sweet on your tongue, and smoother than any other seed you have found. When you find that seed, swallow it instead of spitting it out.”
The weasel looked up at the girl sitting cross-legged in the rows of melons. “Had she understood?” he wondered. “Would she remember to do as I’ve said?” he wondered.
“Okay. I will remember your advice and do as you have suggested” said the girl, puzzled but trusting the weasel as he was as pleasant as any friend she had ever met.
“Good, but that’s not all,” said the weasel. “When you swallow the seed, you must move from your loft and from this farm and go north through the forest until you reach a clearing. The clearing will glow in the moonlight and there will be a single squirrel sitting on a large stone, a stone as big as your loft is high, at the edge of the clearing. When you reach this place, lean back against the stone and go to sleep.”
“Abandon my loft and my friends and my melon patch?” said the girl, a little frightened and sad at hearing these words.
“Yes,” said the weasel. “Trust what I have said as I am your fairy spirit and I can only give advice when it is earned by a promising young person who will benefit from my words.”
“Okay,” said the girl. “I am worried and saddened by your words but I will do as you say. Do you know when this will all happen?”
“The night when the full moon starts to wane,” said the weasel, wriggling his nose and whiskers, as he had just smelled a turnip nearby that had just turned ripe.
“I understand,” said the girl.
“Goodbye, young lady. I will visit you when all of this has come to pass” said the weasel. He turned and wriggled off in the direction of the turnip. All of this talking and advising had made him hungry.
“Goodbye weasel,” said the girl.
The days passed as she slept and the nights were occupied by foraging in the waste pile and choosing among the vegetables and melons so that she would continue to prosper. She paid close attention to the melon seeds and found none that had met the weasel’s description. This was as it should be. The full moon was days away and each melon was delicious, so she spat the seeds as she sat amongst them eating their flesh and enjoying the company of the night breezes and roaming creatures just out of sight.
Finally, the full moon came out one night and she knew that her next evening would be as special as any she had known before. After a night of delicious melons and lovely carrots, she retired for the day, burrowing into the hay, and sleeping a deep sleep without dreams.
The next night came and she found a melon that looked particularly delicious. She sliced it open as usual and started consuming the flesh and turning the seeds about in her mouth. Everything was as usual and she spat the seeds out in streams. None of them met the description the weasel had provided.
Then she found the one seed that was rounder, smoother, and sweeter than any other seeds she had ever felt with her tongue. She gave it one last touch and then, closing her eyes, she swallowed it.
When she did, a path lit up amongst the rows of melons and vegetables. The path led directly to the edge of the field and into the forest that surrounded it, her loft, and her farmer’s home. She started briskly down the way that was illuminated by some unknown magic foreseen by her fairy spirit and into the dark woods. She could see the moon, one night off its full beauty, through the branches far above and it helped light her path, although in truth the path stayed lit as the forest around her darkened.
She walked for a long time and the night came closer and closer to ending when she found a clearing at the end of her path, lit with the moonlight from above but also with a strange white light from the ground beneath her feet. At the edge of the clearing sat a large stone—easily as tall as her loft had been and a little bigger than she had imagined. On the top of the stone sat a single squirrel, a nut between its tiny paws, its teeth chipping away at the husk and tunneling into the delicious flesh within.
“Hello young lady,” said the squirrel, for the girl knew his language quite well.
“Hello squirrel,. How are you this pleasant evening?”
“I am well and doing what we squirrels love most. I see you have come as your friend the weasel had advised. That is a wise thing to do as he is the wisest weasel any of us know.”
“I am happy to hear that, squirrel. As you might imagine, it is quite something to follow the advice of a new friend and come so far into a dark forest after swallowing a melon seed, several things I have never done before.”
“I understand but you have done well. Now, I believe he recommended that you sleep” said the squirrel.
“Indeed he did. I shall do as he asked.”
The girl sat down and rested her back against the large stone. Strangely, while most stones are as cold as the earth from which they draw their breath, this one was quite warm, nearly as warm as she was herself. She wriggled a little as she cozied up to it and promptly fell into a deep sleep, dreamless as the previous night had been.
When she woke, it was daytime. This was odd all by itself as she always woke as night came and it was time for her to forage. But this day was quite different from all other days. The light was suffused with a light green tinge and she was surrounded by what felt and seemed like the flesh of a melon.
“How has this come to be?” wondered the girl. She did not really know what had happened but she thought she knew what to do next.
She opened her mouth and took a bite of the flesh that held her firm in its moist grasp. It was delicious, better than any melon had ever been before. She took another, then another, until she had made a large oval room for herself, a room with an arching ceiling brimming with light from the sun outside, just the right temperature for a room to be.
She walked to one end of the large, oval room and knocked on the interior wall of the melon in which she had found herself and which had fed her.
The wall of the melon fell open to the outside and presented her with a pleasant ramp on which to descend to the clearing she had found lit by the waning moon. She left the melon and looked around. On the large stone sat the squirrel she had spoken to the previous night.
“Hello young lady,” said the squirrel. “How was your sleep?”
“It was quite peaceful, thank you,” said the girl. “Tell me, how is it that I awoke inside this large melon and had to eat my way clear of it and knock on its wall?”
“You have been asleep for some time, dear lady. Many nights and days. All I can say is that as you slept, this melon appeared from your belly and grew large and full around you until I could no longer see you asleep against the stone. The melon grew and grew and is as you see it before you. And just now, you popped out one end. I do not know what else to tell you.”
“Well, that is helpful, squirrel. Weasel said he would be along to see me and I trust that he will.”
“Yes, I would as well. He is a very wise weasel and we all trust him quite completely.”
“That is good to know but of course you have already said as much. Before I slept, that is” said the girl. “Do you have any ideas about what I should do now?”
“If I were you, I would make myself at home. It looks quite nice from outside and I’m sure it is just as nice within.”
“Good idea!” said the girl and went back inside.
She was surprised to find that the floor of the melon had hardened into a firm, flat surface and that a table with two chairs sat in the middle of the room with two plates and two mugs at each of the two seats. The plates sat on lace mats and had a complement of implements arranged quite properly around them. A plump, light green melon sat in the middle of the table with a spoon nested firmly in its flesh. She walked over, sat down, and scooped out a plateful of this nice young melon. It was delicious and she devoured every bite as if she had never had a melon in her life, not even the one she had burrowed out of a bit earlier that day.
Soon, the weasel came to visit. He sat down in the other chair and gave her a smile.
“I see you have done as I advised, young lady,” said the weasel in his kind, wise voice.
“Yes. I did just as you suggested, although I had no idea what would come of it all. This is a wonderful room and I like my furniture so much. I’ve never had any, you know.”
“I know,” said the weasel. “But you’ve always been a very good girl and we have all noticed that you treat the fields well and all of your animal friends like your family. We all thought you could do with a house of your own instead of a pile of hay. Look over there” said the weasel, pointing into a corner of the large room. A fluffy cotton mattress sat in a bedstead and two fluffy pillows sat against the headboard. A thick comforter lay across the bed and was tucked neatly in at the foot of the bed.
“Oh! Where did that come from?” said the girl.
“From a life of goodness and nights of untroubled dreams,” said the weasel.
“Thank you, weasel! I have no idea why you have been so kind to me but thank you so much!” said the girl.
“You have done this all on your own, dear girl. I was just the messenger who told you about the seed and the clearing. You did all else that was to be done!” said the weasel, smiling in his tender way.
“What do I do now?” said the girl.
“Every day, you can do as you please, of course. There will always be a fresh melon on your table when you want it. There will always be vegetables available in the clearing outdoors. You will always have visits from your friends, the animals. Your life will be full and happy and you will never again worry about how you’re going to eat, whether you will be found, or what will happen next.”
“Thank you, weasel. Will you stay here with me?” asked the girl.
“I will visit and you will have many visitors but this is all for you alone so that you may live a full life without worry or sorrow,” said the weasel. “It is not so different from your previous life but I believe you will enjoy it more.”
“I am sure I will. I will never be able to thank you enough, weasel. I have an extra hat. Would you like this one?” asked the girl.
“Why, yes. That would be very nice. I’ve always liked that hat,” said the weasel as he took it from her outstretched hands and placed it on his pointy little head. “It fits perfectly, too!” said the weasel. “Goodbye for now. I’m sure I will visit so we can have our chats.”
“Goodbye, weasel!” said the girl. “I will look forward to our next visit!”
And with that, the weasel jumped out of the chair onto all fours and scurried away in search of a turnip, for they were as delicious as melons were to the girl.