AddThis Social Bookmark Button

by Jack and Sheryl Letzgus McGinnis

Bedtime again.  Time for the nightly ritual of reading his daughter to sleep. This had always been the best time of the day for them, both enjoying each other’s company especially since Brianna had passed away leaving Dan to raise Bethany on his own. She was a good girl and for that he silently thanked Brianna every night for being the loving, kind mother that she was and instilling good values in their little girl.

He had already read all the classics to her, some two or three times, and thankfully she would fall asleep before the end of the stories because truth be told he was getting a bit bored reading them over and over.

“Tell you what darlin’, tonight I’m going to read you a special story,” Dan said, “one you’ve never heard before but I think it will be the best story ever. Try not to fall asleep sweetheart.”

“I’ll try daddy, but I am getting a little old for these stories” Bethany said.  After all she was 12 now and had her mind on other things, namely boys, boys, and more boys.  But she realized the bedtime stories were more important to her dad. Even in her young mind she knew that he was having a hard time adjusting to her growing up, so she settled her head back on the pillow, pulled the covers up to her chin and waited to fall asleep.

“Okay, hon, here goes…I made this up just for you.”

So Dan began…Once upon a time, a long time ago in a far off land, there lived a king and a queen who had a son; the prince.

There came a time in the prince’s life when on his way into manhood, the king took his son aside and said to him: “To become a man you must be tested. This test will cause you to travel a long road with many hurdles to overcome and many pitfalls to avoid.”

“But father,” said the little prince, “Can’t I just become a man without having to make this journey?”

“Yes,” said the king, “many have done so and lived to regret it. Those who don’t make this trip and reach its grand destination are destined forever to live by their wits and compete with those who have had the experience. People of the world respect those who have successfully completed the journey and hold it against those who have not. Why, when opportunities knock upon your door the first question always asked is, ‘Did you complete the journey?’”

And so it was with a tear in the queen’s eye and a proud look upon the face of the king that the prince began the journey that would test him and make him a man worthy of respect.

At first the prince was frightened and missed his mother and father. Soon, however, he made friends with others on the same road he traveled. As the days passed he discovered that at the end of each day he had seen places he had never imagined. He saw wondrous inventions that he didn’t know existed. He met people who had traveled the road and now acted as guides for those such as him. He learned many new things from these guides.  He also discovered that if he paid attention to the trip, these days passed smoothly and when a hurdle or obstacle was in his path he could easily jump over it or find a way around it.

For a long time the prince traveled on his journey. Then one day he came to a place he didn’t like. There was too much to see and not enough time to see it. He found out that his guides would now only show him the best way but he had to travel unassisted. When he tried various shortcuts he discovered them to be dead ends. There were even days that he declared that he was too tired to travel, and the others would not wait for him. When he came back to find the road he almost got lost. Catching up with the others was hard to do and he realized if he was ever going to reach the end he would have to keep pace with his fellow travelers.

One day they came to a place where the end looked near but realized there was a bridge that had to be crossed and on the other side was the last bit of road to travel. It wasn’t so far away that he couldn’t see the other side. The travelers there were nearing the end of their journeys and he could see the joy and hear the happiness in all of them.

Standing in front of the bridge stood a giant who said to them, “Before you cross the bridge you must play a game. I will give you something to do and if you are successful you will receive a reward. Each reward will have a value. If you earn enough rewards in the time you have to spend here I will allow you to cross the bridge. If you fail, the wealth that is offered to all of you will be lost and you will have to play the game over.”

The prince asked the giant, “Will this game be fun or will it be boring?”

The giant laughed and said, “If you find it boring and do little but complain do you think you will earn the rewards I offer you?”

“Let me tell you little prince, when your journey is over and you find yourself on the sea of life, there will be many days without fun; we call it work. Work brings us many rewards. Find it boring and fail to do it and you will not only get no reward but you may find yourself over your head in the sea of life and drown.”

And so the game began. The prince found parts of it amusing and when the days that were boring came along he took the giant’s advice and instead of complaining worked harder.

Finally the day came when the giant smiled at the prince and the others and said, “You may cross now for you have played the game well and in so doing learned many things you may find useful on the other side.”

The prince and all the others thanked the giant and then they crossed the bridge to the strange land on the far side where all of the happy people were. As they came to the end of the bridge they saw a sign that read, “Welcome to High School.”

Quietly turning the page so as not to awaken Bethany, he was surprised when he gazed at her and saw her in bed, sitting up now, eyes wide open with a beautiful smile on her freckled face.

“Daddy, that’s the best story ever. I promise I’ll do better in school tomorrow. You don’t have to worry about me. Now I really want to go to high school…and there’ll be lots of boys there too!” she squealed, scooting down in the bed, and turning over, closing her eyes.

“I love you Bethany.”

“I love you too daddy.  But next time…make the story about a princess.  Princess Bethany!”

Jack is a retired science teacher who knows the best way to get a child's attention is to start with "Once Upon A Time," a classic that never goes out of style. He's had several of his stories printed in school magazines.

Sheryl is the author of three books on addiction and numerous articles online.
They live in Palm Bay, Florida and are owned by 1 big black lab, and 4 spoiled rotten cats who begrudgingly allow them access to the computer table from time to time.  Contact Jack & Sheryl.