by Ashleigh B., age 14
Nestled in the sheltered green hills of a pleasant valley, the mill turned busily and creaked as it shivered to a stop. Matthias, who was a kindly man, small of stature and of courage, took a final look around the scanty yet pristine mill before stepping outside, sniffing the fresh air longingly and heading towards the cottage. Inside the cottage, dirty dishes littered the grimy table, the fire in the hearth was dead, and the water in the bucket by the door was old and stale. Matilda looked up sharply as Matthias hesitantly stepped inside. “And what took you so long?” Matilda demanded pettishly. “I’ll be wanting that warm fur cloak I asked for, and the donkey will not get to the village to be sold by himself.” Murmuring his apology, Matthias quickly moved back outside, calling to his son to bring along the donkey.
Theodorus Bonhoeffer Markus Nellsonburg, as his mother had named him, and Matthias trudged down the dusty road towards the town, leading the donkey beside them. As they crested a hill, they met a group of women, who were laughing and talking noisily, gathered around a shaded well. “Why walk, Mr. Miller,” cried out one of them, winking, “when you could ride?” Obligingly, Matthias boosted Theo onto the donkey. Other villagers took their cue from the woman and called out all sorts of suggestions, causing much starting and stopping, mounting and remounting as the miller tried to follow everyone’s suggestions. Amid much laughter, shouting, yelling, and other commotion, one wisecrack finally admonished them for subjecting the donkey to such trials and suggested they carry the beast. Matthias sighed, but he and Theo wearily picked up the beast and trudged toward the village, carrying the donkey toward a rickety bridge and certain disaster.
As Matthias and Theo began to cross the bridge, the donkey, startled by a sudden whistle, made a desperate struggle to free himself and teetered precariously at the edge of the bridge. With a resounding splash and a final bray, the donkey disappeared forever, leaving Matthias and Theo stunned with nothing left to sell. The shocked townspeople, suddenly quiet and subdued, drifted back to their homes, ashamed of themselves. Matthias wandered back to his house dejectedly, wondering how he would ever explain this to Matilda. She would probably insist that he sell their indispensable horse, and even if it would practically guarantee certain disaster, how could he refuse? Beside him, Theo, who was still musing over the recent occurrences, sighed and commented, “I guess you just cannot please everyone.” Brightening, Matthias mused, “Matilda would be part of that ‘everyone,’ wouldn’t she?”