The Great Big Secret
There was once a very old grandfather who lived in a hut. The hut was in a town, and the town was on a hill.
Everyone in the town knew that the grandfather had a secret. The secret was so big and so mysterious that the grandfather wouldn’t tell anybody what it was.
The grandfather became older and older. The older he got, the more curious the townspeople were to find out what the secret was.
“What if he dies?” said the Mayor to her husband.
“Then his secret will be lost forever,” said the Mayor’s husband.
The Mayor decided to ask the grandfather what the secret was once and for all.
All of the townspeople followed her to the grandfather’s hut.
“Come in, come in,” said the grandfather to the mayor, from his bed. He didn’t get up from his bed, since he was very old.
All the townspeople crowded around the door and windows to listen.
The mayor knelt by the grandfather’s bedside.
“What is it, my dear mayor? How can I help you?” asked the grandfather.
“Well…we’ve all been wondering about…that is to say, well this is quite difficult…but I’m sure you wouldn’t mind…”
“Spit it out, my dear!” said the grandfather.
“Well we’d like to know what the secret is,” said the Mayor. “Can you tell it to us?”
The grandfather smiled. “Bring me my grandson and my granddaughter,” he said simply.
The old man’s grandson and granddaughter were fetched immediately.
The grandson’s name was Steven. He was 8 years old.
The granddaughter’s name was Robin. She was 6 years old.
Soon they were at the grandfather’s bedside. He looked at them with pride.
“I’ll tell you all the secret,” he said to everyone, “But first there’s something I’d like you to do, Steven”.
“What is it, grandfather?” said Steven.
“I’d like you to give me a back scratch,” said the grandfather. Some of the townspeople giggled.
Steven got behind the grandfather and started to give him a back scratch.
“Ohhh, that’s gooood,” said the grandfather, “that’s very good. Ahhhhh little higher, yesss, that’s it! Right between the shoulders. Very gooood…”
When it was over, Steven said, “Can you tell us the secret, grandfather?”.
“Yes, I can tell you what it is,” said the grandfather, “but first, I think I need a hair massage, Robin.” A few of the townspeople laughed out load.
Robin got onto the bed and began to massage the grandfather’s hair.
“This helps my hair grow,” explained the grandfather, who was almost completely bald. “Ohhh, that’s great…keep it up….perrrfect…wonnnnderful!”
When the hair massage was over, Robin said, “Grandfather, can you tell us the secret?”
“Yes, of course,” said the grandfather, “but first…I think I need the Mayor to tickle my toes.” (By now everyone was laughing.)
The mayor shrugged, then went on her hands and knees and started to tickle the grandfather’s toes.
The grandfather started to chuckle, “Hoo, hoo! That’s so ticklish! Hee, hee, hee!! Stop, no stop! I can’t, I can’t!…Oh, that was good, that was good.”
“Can you tell us the secret now?” asked the mayor, after the toe tickling was over.
“Yes, I can tell you the secret,” said the grandfather, in a quiet voice.
Everyone crowded around.
“The secret…” said the grandfather in whisper.
“Yes?” said the Steven.
“The secret is…” said the grandfather in an even quieter whisper.
“Yes?” said Robin.
“The big secret is…” the whisper was very quiet now.
“What’s the big secret?” said the Mayor.
The grandfather motioned for everyone to come closer. Everyone crowded closer.
They could barely hear his voice.
“This town…” he said.
Everyone strained to hear.
“….is sitting on….”
Everyone moved in even closer.
“….a great big….”
The grandfather paused.
“A great big what?” whispered Steven.
“…a great big……..ahhhhhhh…..”
The grandfather’s eyes closed and his head fell back on his pillow.
The mayor shook him, but he wouldn’t open his eyes.
“Is he..is he…?” asked Robin.
The town doctor came up to the bed and examined the grandfather.
“No, he’s not dead,” she declared. “But he is in a very deep sleep. It’s hard to say when he’ll wake up again.”
“Oh no!” said the mayor, “now we might never know what the secret was. This town is sitting on a great big WHAT?”
No one knew the answer. It was a mystery. What could the town be sitting on?
Slowly, all the townspeople went home. Robin and Steven stayed to take care of their grandfather.
All the next morning they tried to wake him up.
First Steven tried shouting in his ear. But that did no good.
Then Robin popped a balloon in front of his nose. He kept on snoring.
Finally, they put an ice cube on his chin. But he just turned over in his sleep. Soon they gave up, and sat down on the floor.
Robin noticed an beaten down book on the floor. She and Steven browsed through it, looking at the old pictures inside.
“This must be grandfather’s scrap book,” said Steven.
One of the pictures was of the town and the hill that it stood on.
“I wonder…” Robin murmured.
Suddenly, she got up. “I have an idea,” she said to Steven. “Come with me.”
Robin went to the kitchen and took a large pepper grinder from the spice rack.
Then she led Steven out of the town gates and down to the bottom of the hill. Then they kept on walking until they were a good distance from the town.
Then they turned around.
“Look at our town,” said Robin. “Do you see anything special?”
Steven looked. There it was, the town, on a great big green hill.
“It’s just our town,” he said.
“Look at all those boulders on the hill.” said Robin.
Indeed the hill was covered with boulders.
“And look at those two bumps at the bottom.” said Robin.
Sure enough, there were two bumps at the bottom of the hill.
“And look at that cave in between the bumps,” said Robin.
It was true, there was a cave there.
“Now what does that look like to you?” she asked.
“I don’t know.” said Steven. “It’s just a bunch of boulders, bumps, and a cave.”
“Is it?” asked Robin. “Come with me.”
Robin led Steven back to the hill and up to the mouth of the cave. Then she took the pepper grinder out of her pocket.
“What’s that?” asked Steven.
“It’s pepper,” said Robin, “Help me shake it into the cave.”
Steven shook the grinder as Robin turned its lever. Together they shook the pepper into the mouth of the cave.
“Why’d we do that?” asked Steven.
Robin didn’t say anything. She was waiting for something to happen.
Suddenly, they heard a rumbling noise. It was coming from inside the cave.
“Run!” shouted Robin, grabbing Steven’s hand.
The two children ran as fast as they could away from the cave.
They could hear a peculiar noise coming up from behind them. It went, “Hahhhhh, Hahhhhhh, Haaahhhhhhhh –”
Robin put her hands over her ears —
The two children were completely blown over and covered in green goo.
They got up and looked back at the cave.
There was the secret.
Their town was sitting on a great big turtle.
“How do you do?” asked the turtle.
“We’re a little wet,” said Robin.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” said the turtle, “I must have sneezed.”
“Gezundheit,” said Steven.
“Thanks,” said the turtle. “I think I’ll go back to sleep now.”
“Wait!” said Robin, “What are you doing here?”
“This is where I live,” said the turtle.
“But don’t you know you have a town on your back?” asked Steven.
The turtle turned his head to look up at the town. “Yes, I know. And a nice town too. Well, time for a little snooze…”
“Hold on a minute,” said Robin, “how did you get here in the first place, and why don’t you…well, move around once in a while?”
“Oh that’s a long story,” said the turtle. “I used to be a much smaller turtle, you see. Then one day, I ate a strange looking mushroom. The mushroom must have been magic, since it made me fall fast asleep. When I woke up, I found a had grown ten times the size I was, and also that I couldn’t move. After a while, grass started to grow on my back, and soon enough I had turned into a large hill. It was only natural that people should want to build their town on me – I make quite a nice hill, don’t you think?”
“Don’t you get lonely here?” asked Robin.
“Sometimes,” said the turtle. There used to be a boy from the town who came to visit me. We used to play checkers together. Then one day, he stopped coming. I guess he grew up.”
“We’ll visit you,” said Robin and Steven.
The turtle smiled. “It’s a deal.” The turtle yawned, “You know – you two kind of remind me of that boy…”
Before they knew it, the turtle had closed his eyes and pulled his head back into the cave. He was asleep.
Back in the town, the mayor was running around in a tizzy.
“An earthquake, an earthquake!” she shouted, “Is everyone alright?”
Indeed it had been an earthquake. Pots and pans were broken in every house, and the mayor’s tree had fallen down on her station wagon. Thankfully, no one was hurt.
Robin and Steven ran back to their grandfather’s hut.
When they opened the door, there was a surprise waiting for them.
There was their grandfather, in the kitchen, making pancakes.
“Pancakes, anyone?” he asked.
“Grandfather, you’re awake!” cried Robin, running up to hug him.
“I guess the earthquake must have woken me up,” he said with a smile.
“Oh, it wasn’t an earthquake,” began Steven, “you see the town is sitting on a great big-”
“Oh, no need to mention that to anyone,” interrupted the grandfather.
“But why?” asked Robin.
The grandfather gave them a close look. “That’s what I asked, when I was your age,” he said to them. “But then I realized that no one would want to live in this town if they knew the truth. Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t go visiting you-know-who.” The grandfather winked, “If I remember correctly, he was a fine checkers player…”
Robin and Steven smiled.
“So it’s our secret, then?” asked the grandfather.
“It’s a deal,” said Steven.
“It’s a deal,” said Robin.
Then they all sat down for some pancakes.
After a bath, of course.