Once upon a time, a man who was, in his younger years, known simply as Jim, was trudging his way around the outskirts of the town of Greenvale. His large arms cradled an enormous boulder as he gradually made his way around the town, following the obvious dirt track his boots had carved into the ground after having made this trip around the town several hundreds of times before. Jim was the subject of many rumours and twisted tales due to the fact no one could say for certain when his journey around the town began or why he chose to undertake such a journey in the first place. Some said he had boasted so much about being the strongest man in Greenvale and had to continue walking as a way to prove it both to himself and to the townspeople. Others said that he was cursed and, should he drop the boulder, he would lose his strength, and this was a risk he was not willing to take. Now in his older years, the townspeople affectionately referred to the mysterious man as Boulder Jim and it would take the determination of a young girl by the name of Penelope Knight to find out the truth and to set Boulder Jim free.
After first seeing Boulder Jim for the first time when she was five years old, Penelope had grown increasingly curious about his story. Now that she was eight years old, her fascination led her to ask her parents if she could go and speak with him. Her parents responded by saying that no one was to speak to Boulder Jim. This was purely out of fear that any of the rumours about what might happen if he drops the boulder turned out to be true. “There are those who are convinced he keeps the town alive,” her father had told her. “That’s not something you want to be messing around with, now, is it?” Penelope couldn’t agree more, if those rumours turned out to be true, then this was not something she ought to not mess around with. Curiosity, however, has a way of burrowing its tentacles deep in the mind of those who entertain it, and Penelope received no special exemptions to this rule. So, she decided that, on of the night of The Greenvale Harvest Festival, she would sneak away and speak with Boulder Jim in attempt to satisfy her thirst for answers.
On the night of the festival, Penelope pretended to be interested in how large Mrs Dawson’s pumpkins had grown this year, just long enough for her to be able to sneak away without being missed. Using the light provided by the full moon, she navigated her way behind the shops and on to the train tracks bordering the main entrance to the town. From there, it was a matter of walking another fifty or so paces along the dirt road before spotting Boulder Jim’s walking track. She turned, took a breath, and began walking briskly along the track in the opposite direction Boulder Jim was known to travel. Penelope could still hear the festivities in the distance when she spotted Boulder Jim marching towards her, cradling the boulder as if it were a part of him. She immediately stopped walking and waited for him to be cross her path. To Penelope’s surprise, Boulder Jim spoke first.
“Tell me… your… troubles…” Boulder Jim said to Penelope in between breaths as he continued walking along the well-worn path.
“Is that what you do?” Penelope asked chasing after him. “You listen to people’s problems?”
Penelope thought she saw Boulder Jim smile. “From pebble… to rock… to boulder…” he replied. It took a moment for Penelope to realise this meant the boulder hadn’t always been this size. “Now… tell me… your troubles…” Boulder Jim insisted.
Penelope ran in front of Boulder Jim, turned and walked backwards so that she could face him. She noticed that the dirt on his face seemed to soften under the moonlight. “Well, I don’t like the way they treat you. Or the way they talk about you.” Penelope’s eyes widened as she watched the boulder grow slightly larger. Boulder Jim adjusted his grip and continued walking, slower than before. “I’m troubled by the fact they care more about whose chickens produce better eggs than they do about the people like you who are obviously suffering.” The boulder grew again and this time, Boulder Jim dropped to one knee. He lifted his head and stared at Penelope.
“I’m troubled by this whole town to tell you the truth, and I can’t understand why you or anybody else would want to stay here!” Boulder Jim could no longer carry the enormous rock, but he was filled with too much pride to just let it fall to the ground. Using the last of his strength, he stood up and lifted the boulder above his head. He yelled loudly as he threw it as far as he could towards the town.
The boulder hit the ground, shattering into hundreds of smaller pieces with many of them falling in front of the crowds gathering to see the fireworks. Penelope noticed that the townspeople were bending down and picking up the pieces of the boulder that had fallen close to them. They dusted them off and compared them amongst themselves before putting the pebbles in their pockets. As the first of the fireworks went off, Penelope looked down at Boulder Jim who resting on one knee.
“Your… problems… are now… shared…”
Penelope smiled as she reached out and helped Boulder Jim to his feet.
My name is Gregg Savage and, every night when the house is quiet, I write and publish a free children’s story at dailytales.com.au for you to share and enjoy.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.