The Golden World Mystery. Edinburgh’s Fairy Tales for Children and Adults, 1 vol, Alec and the Golden Man (excerpts: chapters 1 – 3 with illustrations)

Isaac Jacobovsky

The Golden World Mystery

Edinburgh’s Fairy Tales for Children and Adults


volume 1

Alec and the Golden Man

illustrations Anna Janas

e-book

Edinburgh 2012

Chapter 1

The Golden Man at Randolph Place

 

In Randolph Place, a small street close to Princess Street in Edinburgh, there was a shop quite different from any other in the city. Anyone brave enough to venture inside would witness strange things going on. Some would say miraculous, most certainly magical. A few people noticed that from time to time, what to them looked like a ‘Golden Man’ visited the shop. No one knew when he would pass by or stop to look at the shop’s window.

 

Alec’s Mum was in two minds. Whether to take a quick, sharp turn into a street that would enable them to avoid the daily traffic jam they were stuck in or to wait patiently in the seemingly endless line and use the time for talking to Alec about the many mysteries he wanted to know about.

 

‘Who is this ‘Golden Man’?’ – Alec asked his mother absent-mindedly, engrossed in his hand-held computer game.

 

‘Had you listened to me carefully, like any good boy, your trousers wouldn’t be covered in paint’ – his Mum remarked, her voice somewhat bemused, not paying attention to his enquiry but thinking of the painting lesson Alec had attended that day.

 

‘Hmm … I wonder why the Golden Man keeps coming to the shop’ – Alec’s Mum was wondering, why indeed would he want to go there. The prices in there were definitely far too high! There were hardly any shelves with products. Instead, there was an abundance of mysterious looking paper bags with stickers indicating what was hidden inside them. But why? There was nothing inside them, they were empty! What is more, every bag had a colourful note attached to it. These were the instruction leaflets telling you what to do to fill the bags. First, however, you had to pay. Pay a lot. Far too much. In fact so much that even the rich would have baulked at the price.

 

‘But why are there no sweets in those bags?’ – Alec muttered, not paying attention to mum’s last remark, totally engrossed in the game he was playing.

 

‘You haven’t been listening to me again!’ – she noticed a great crowd in front of the shop.  – ‘Oh, what a lot of people! If we continue this way we will not have enough time to visit your grandmother and how will you feel then?’ – she frowned, displeased.

 

Alec’s Mum had heard that the bag with the label ‘Warm Wind from the Red Sea’ attracted the most attention. It was considered by most as a very rare product. Everyone reading the instruction leaflet experienced different feelings. What images were conjured up by thinking of a warm wind coming from the Red Sea? Was it different from the wind coming from the Black Sea? Or that from the White Sea? Or the Yellow Sea? What if it was just an ordinary wind like the one here in Edinburgh yesterday which blew people’s hats off and turned umbrellas inside out?

 

‘Mum, what is the colour of the water in the Green Sea? Is it blue or green?’ – Alec spoke up, suddenly becoming more interested in the story.

 

‘What Green Sea are you blethering about? You know what…? I like that name: The Green Sea… How beautiful that sea must be with blue water, green sky and yellow sun. Not to mention white chocolate ice cream’ – his mother sighed, daydreaming.

 

‘I want white chocolate ice cream for my sweet today!’

 

‘There is no white chocolate ice cream’ – she replied, amused by his new fancy.

 

‘Why not?’ – Alec insisted.

 

Alec would not let it go. He heard ‘white chocolate ice cream’ quite clearly. He seemed to have the ability to concentrate on more than one thing at a time yet he elected to hear only what he wanted to hear.

 

‘Actually, I don’t know. If we can buy white chocolate we should be able to buy white chocolate ice cream as well’ – said Mum.

 

She looked around and realised that they were stuck in a traffic jam.

 

‘Maybe we can find it in that magic shop’ –  she mused to herself quietly.

 

‘What was I talking about? Oh, yes, if it weren’t for the high prices, people would buy the ‘Stars from the Sky’. A bag with a single star had a Certificate confirming that the star really existed and a number indicating where to find the star in the sky. A map of the sky was essential. Without directions you would get lost very easily. Even stranger were the bags with two stars inside them. The stickers explained that these were so called ‘dual-stars’. Two stars were tied together with an invisible string and they whirled, like a spinning top around each other. These bags were the most interesting.‘Yes, perhaps there is white chocolate ice cream in that magic shop! I want ice cream!’ – Alec persisted.

 

If there was anything in the whole wide world that he liked best, it was ice cream. Any flavour, any colour. The tricky thing was how to convince his mother to buy him one.

 

Oh, she should not have mentioned ice cream. Now Alec will be nagging at her for the rest of the day. On the other hand, she would love to have something sweet herself, a delicious coffee… She recalled that from morning till noon the shop was filled with the tantalizing aroma of coffee – coffee mind you, not tea. Passers-by who stopped by the shop, if only for just a minute and caught a whiff of it, provided they did not have flu, they would  find it very hard to tear themselves away. The fragrance was irresistible, stronger than any glue. Coffee super glue! More often than not, the shop seemed too small to have enough space to hold all the customers. It was a really tight squeeze if one wanted to have a cup of coffee, to savour its wonderful taste and aroma.

 

‘Alec!  Will you please stop playing with that game?’- Mum did not want Alec to miss the story about the mysterious Golden Man. – ‘Yes, it had to be that wonderful coffee aroma that enticed the Golden Man to come to the shop so often. What else would it be?’

 

While people waited their turn in the cramped room the shop assistant entertained them by regaling them with fairy tales. But how come there were no children in the shop? Usually, at this time children would be playing in their nursery, others working hard at school. Maybe the shop was just too crowded? Alec’s Mum wasn’t sure why adults were so interested in listening to fairy tales. In fact, so engrossed were they that for a time at least the world outside ceased to exist. Time passed by so quickly. When the clock struck noon, there was a sudden rush of people dispersing in all directions. The streets were jam-packed with cars. The shop was almost empty now, except for the odd customers popping in, only to find that they couldn’t afford to buy a star from the sky.

 

‘Mum, how about going to this shop now? I want to meet this man!’- Alec said, animated.

 

‘We will be driving quite close to the place so I will show you where it is. But your grandmother is waiting, so we can’t go in there now’ – Mum smiled gently, as if she had planned not to go there today anyway.

 

‘But I want to see the man made of gold!’ – Alec moaned.

 

‘Since when have you believed in fairy tales, Alec? Besides, that man is not made of gold. His name is Golden Man. Just as yours is Alec Black’ – mother explained, rather unconvincingly.

 

‘What’s his name then?’ – Alec had just finished playing the game, contemplating whether to start another one.

 

‘To be honest, I don’t know. I have to ask the shop assistant in the magical shop’ – Mum gently brushed Alec’s nose with her finger. –  ‘In a minute we’ll be passing Randolph Place. That’s where the shop is. On the right. Down that small street. Alec, if you don’t want to miss it, stop playing that game!’

 

‘I’m not playing. I just don’t know which is the right side. Tell me Mum! Is it this way?’ – Alec spread both his arms hopefully.

 

‘There, on the right and this one is your right hand’ – his Mum could not stop herself laughing.

 

Alec always had a problem recognising which side is his left and which is his right. And he liked it very much when his mother laughed so freely.

 

Yes, Alec’s Mum was right. On the right, over there! Randolph Place was right there. It was a short street and quite wide for a street in the centre of the big city. A giant man was standing outside the magic shop. His head almost reached the roof of the surrounding buildings. He was a giant indeed! He was wearing a jacket and what looked like a skirt, which showed his hairless, stick-like legs. He must have been the Golden Man because his face was very shiny and yellow. One after the other, little people were coming out of one of his pockets! They climbed down a ladder and glanced around with curiosity. There were so many of them on the pavement and overflowing to the street so that not a single car could pass by. There was another, equally large ladder on the other side where little people were climbing up into the other pocket of the Golden Man. Eventually, the traffic eased a little again.

‘Mum can you tell me how many people there are in the giant’s pockets?’ – Alec was trying to feel his pockets as if he wanted to make sure that not a single man could fit inside.

 

‘Alec, we are almost at grandmother’s. We just need to turn right at the traffic lights, take a left, go down the street and cross the river’ – Alec’s Mum was getting very concerned about the traffic, all the cars jamming the city centre.

 

‘Mum, can you see? There is the Golden Man! Mum, look, look!’ – Alec pointed at the giant man.

 

‘Alec, I’m driving the car and it’s not fun. I have already had six accidents and I think that’s more than enough’ – his mother explained, concentrating on her driving, the traffic jam, the traffic lights, grandmother and goodness knows what else.

 

She must have spotted an opening to escape the traffic jam. She accelerated hard, passing Randolph Place, and then taking the third street on the left.

 

‘I just wanted to show you the Golden Man and the pocket people. You know Mum, as this Golden Man is yellow I think he should be called Yellow Man. And what do you call those people coming in and out of his pocket?’

 

‘Well, gold is yellow but sometimes it can be white, too’ – Mum replied, pondering over names. Then she began to wonder about something else. Alex knew that in these moments he shouldn’t interrupt her. As they approached grandmother’s house, she added. – ‘Those little people have names just like everybody else, like you and me’.

 

‘Am I a pocket person too, like the Golden Man’s people?’ – Alec was still thinking about the magic shop in Randolph place. No doubt the place was as crowded as always before noon.

 

No doubt the place was as crowded as always before noon. Thinking of the shop assistant squeezing between people, filling coffee cups with hot coffee that could be smelled even near grandma’s house. Golden Man would be looking carefully around the neighbourhood. He would be admiring the steep old roofs of the local tenements with their forest of chimneys and their old-fashioned window shutters smiling at the seagulls.

 

Chapter 2

A chase at the Water of Leith waterfalls

One of grandmother’s living room windows directly overlooked the river. The steady rippling murmur of the nearby waterfall filled every nook and cranny of her house. The tranquil sighing of the nearby waterfall was also delighting the fish, curious, swimming silently in the stream. The hustle and bustle of Princes Street seemed but a distant memory. Grandmother was behaving in an odd way. She spoke to Alex’s Mum very curtly and promptly whisked him off for a walk, not even taking her dog, Tango or a snack. And it was just about dinnertime.

 

‘Grandma, what about dinner? Where are we going?’ – asked Alec.

 

‘Shhh!’ – his grandmother, looking furtive, put her finger to her lips.

 

‘And why aren’t we taking Tango with us? You know what she’ll do! She will do her business in the house and it will stink, like it did yesterday, and… No, I don’t want to be cleaning it up again… And Grandma! I’m hungry.’

 

As soon as he uttered the word ‘hungry’, he imagined his belly getting ready for Grandma’s delicious dinner and pudding!

 

‘Shhh!’ – grandmother continued to walk quickly along the bank of the river towards the waterfall, blithely ignoring Alec’s enquiries – however appropriate these were – about the dog and wanting something to eat.

 

They had passed a big, black German shepherd dog that was pulling on a long leash held by a thin, stooping blind man. The poor man could hardly keep up with the dog. It was intent on sniffing wildly in all directions, goodness knows what. The man almost had to run, unable to cope with the pace of the dog. He barely managed to keep up with tapping the path with his white stick.

Suddenly grandmother slowed down and said something to the dog. ‘Ghrrr’. Surprised, the dog stopped, hanged its head and tucked its tail between its legs. It sat down waiting for his hapless owner to catch up with him. Then, it started walking again, subdued this time, doing its duty as a good guide dog should, nudging the man away from the edge whenever he strayed too near the river.

 

‘Grandma, what did you say to that dog? Can I speak to dogs like that too? Grandma, please teach me to ghrrrrrr…owl like you did!’ – Alec kept badgering his grandmother as any curious little boy would.

 

‘Shhhh!’ – grandmother shushed again, paying no heed to his entreaties.

 

She continued striding briskly towards the waterfall, pulling her grandson as if she too were an ill-mannered German shepherd dog and he the helpless blind man. All this time Alec was getting hungrier and hungrier. And… angrier at his grandmother. And at his mother, too. And Tango. And everyone else!

 

Earlier he was lucky enough to have seen The Golden Man and yet his mother did not even know what his name was! And now here is his grandmother behaving strangely too. Instead of giving him dinner, she was hurtling along this path, dragging him behind her, oblivious to the risk that they might both fall into the river at any moment. And he could barely swim… not very well at any rate. He did not mention this to any one, why should he?

 

‘Grandma, if I fell into the water, would I be able to swim well?’

 

The idea of taking a cold bath in the river held no appeal. He would rather dinner and a delicious dessert!

 

They were quite close to the waterfall when something must have happened which caused an abrupt change in grandmother’s behavior.

 

‘I saw The Golden Man today and you didn’t…’ – said Alec, determined to find a reason to finally slow down his grandmother.

 

‘Shhh! I keep telling you to hush up! Shhh! We can’t talk out loud!!!’

 

Something seemed to have made grandmother very frightened. She was glancing around and around nervously, as if expecting to be attacked by a gang of armed monsters. And these were not the harmless virtual monsters in Alec’s games. These ones would be real.

 

Granny scarred the little boy Alec. Obviously, this was not a joke, it was something serious. It was his Granny. She always knew what she was talking about.

 

Alec, uneasy, searched her face for clues. Grandmother’s eyes were darting in all directions. The clumps of trees and thick bushes on the other side of the river were attracting her keenest attention. Suddenly, she crouched down and pulling Alec close to her, nodded meaningfully in a direction, making little circles in the air with the tip of her nose, as if she were drawing the waves of a stormy sea.

 

‘There they are, over there’ – she whispered in his ear. – ‘I can smell their rancid odor. They must be sweating profusely, they smell terrible’ – she whispered still more, paying little attention to Alec who was close to tears as he pressed himself tighter and tighter against her.

 

‘Grandma, I’m scared’ – he managed to blurt out the words.

 

‘Shhh! I can smell them, but oddly enough I still cannot see them. They will be there not too far away. Let’s be patient and wait a bit longer, shall we? Patience is a virtue’ – grandmother was totally engrossed in watching for something on the other side of the river.

 

‘They are sure to be over there, on the other side. Oh, there they are!’ – Alec pointed timidly with his tiny, trembling hand.

 

He was shaking all over. He was terrified. He was not ashamed of this. He was trembling so much that he could hardly breathe, his teeth chattering.

 

‘There, under that hill! There they are! Kind of gigantors! Giants’ – he corrected himself quickly.

 

‘Shhh! If they are giants we have to be extremely careful’ – whispered grandmother.

 

‘Granny, they are large like The Golden Man… and there are lots and lots of them. And they’re wearing something looking like rags. They don’t have jackets. Or skirts. They have holes in their bellies or somewhere above. Who are these punctured giants, Grandma?’ – Alec enquired earnestly.

 

‘Shhh!’ – she appeared to be shrinking noticeably as she was staring at the thicket and listening to Alec’s comments.

 

They both remained very still. Grandmother stared straight ahead for a long time. Then she seemed to spot what Alec had seen not so long ago. She held him tight. Alec could feel her shaking all over too. She then covered his mouth with her hand and pressed gently. Their breathing was uneven. In their quietness, the only noise reaching them was the continuous rippling sound of the waterfall.

 

‘Shhh! It’s okay now Alec, it’s okay’ – she comforted him softly, swaying gently to and fro like reeds moving with the rhythm of the breeze that ruffles the surface of a pond. – ‘We must keep very quiet, remember. Very quiet, okay? We agreed?’

 

Alec nodded his head knowingly, his eyes opening wider and his frowning made lines across the delicate skin of his forehead. Grandmother removed her hand from Alec’s mouth. He was relieved to be able to breathe freely again.

 

Absorbed in preparing themselves for a bath in the river, they giants paid no attention to the branches of the trees or the small reeds they brushed against. The plants would creak under the weight of their giant feet.

 

Grandmother decided it was time to tell Alec some more of what she knew. The giants were preparing for a chase. They were after The Golden Man. They wanted to chop him into pieces. Not because they wanted him dead. They were only interested in the gold that The Golden Man was rumored to be made of. The giants carefully sharpened their large bladed axes and cleaned the rust from the long spears they used for impaling their victims on.

 

‘Yes, they wanted a shiny, glittering piece of The Golden Man. They had been chasing him since before you were born. If you ever come across them, stop immediately and stay motionless. Otherwise, they can spot you and that’s the end of you, vanished into thin air. Abducted, gone forever!’

 

‘Why do they stink so bad?’ – the offensive smell wafted through the air, its waves assaulting Alec’s nostrils with an acrid, disgusting stench, worse than any smell he had ever experienced in a nursery toilet. – ‘Soon they will wash themselves in the river. We had better be careful.’

 

Grandmother slowly stood up, taking a few steps backwards in the direction of a bench along the path, Alec right behind her. They sat down, huddling tightly together, looking towards the thick greenery. They saw a group of giants moving about there.

 

Granny explained that those that were abducted would either be lost forever or sold for gold. There were some lucky people who managed to escape and make their way back home. But they could no longer live like other people or resume their life as it used to be. They behaved bizarrely. They did all sort of peculiar things other people simply could not understand.

 

‘So why don’t we catch them? Grandma, we have to call the Army, the Anti-terrorist squad, and Mrs. Policewoman in our street. They will catch all the giants and The Golden Man won’t have to run away any more’ – Alec whispered.

 

He wanted to help The Golden Man, even though he was not sure whether he liked the way his legs looked more like straight pipes. Nor did he like his skirt, which was neither kilt and much less trousers. The most fascinating things about him were the ladders and the mysterious pockets in his jacket with so many people coming and going, climbing in and out.

 

‘Grandma, we need to help The Golden Man’ – Alec suggested boldly.

 

Instead of praising Alec’s courage, grandma explained why the giants stank so badly. The reason is, well, they very seldom washed themselves. The same applies to all those who neglect to take showers or brush their teeth regularly. Or to those who wear their underwear and socks for many days. The giants do their occasional washing in the river not that far away from Edinburgh Castle. They believe that the quality of water in The Water of Leith is so good that it is not necessary for them to wash regularly. That’s why they stink so badly.

 

The monsters were not aware that if they wanted to be clean, they needed not only clean water but also to bathe in this clean water every day. They decided to have a bath that day because the river was rising after a lot of rain and the more water, the easier the bathing for them.

 

One of the giants made his way to the waterfall, put his left foot in the river and started washing the dirt off it with his large hand, splashing the sky blue water on his leg, which was black with grime. The Giant was so close that Alec could clearly see his stomach through the hole in his belly. His head reached the lowest branches of the riverbank trees. His movements and his face showed signs of tiredness. He even looked quite gentle but looks can be deceiving.

The giant continued washing his other leg, his shoulders, chest and the hole and his face. All the while an enormous battle-axe swayed on his back, the shiny blade throwing off rays of cold, shimmering menace in all directions. He thrust the blade into the water. He chipped off a piece from an overhanging rock and methodically sharpened the edge of his terrifying weapon on it. For a few minutes he appeared to be gazing at his own reflection in the surface of the water, then plunged his long, gray, tangled hair into it. He shook his head repeatedly and ripples of water carried away all the dirt rinsed out. As he stood up and shook the wetness out of his hair, he froze as if he sensed something. He pretended to be searching for something at the bottom of the river but what he really was planning was an attack on the two imprudent souls sitting on the bench engrossed in watching him taking his bath.

‘Alec, I think he’s spotted us! We have to run.’

 

Alec jumped ready to flee. Grandma had to restrain him.

 

‘Shush! Not yet! Wait a minute! Not yet! Wait! NOW!’

 

With that she hauled him up as though he were as light as a feather. In fact he was quite a big boy, nothing of a fictional cartoon character weighing nothing about him! But, this was not the time to ponder how such strange things are possible. They were running for their lives! Any minute now they would break the world speed record.

 

‘Faaaa..ster! Faaaa..ster!’ – Alec cried out as he and his grandmother were running for all they were worth.

 

They managed to escape, barely. A few moments longer and the giant would have caught them. Luckily that did not happen thanks to Alec’s grandmother keeping her cool and being fit from cycling every day.

 

What a relief to have reached home in one piece! Mum and Tango appeared not to have even noticed their agitated, breathless state. They looked, passed them disinterested, not a single customary welcoming wag of Tango’s tail, not a word of polite enquiry from mother as to their whereabouts or curiosity about their being late for dinner.

 

There was a conspiratorial ‘Shush!’ from grandmother but really there was no need. Alec knew that what his grandmother had shown him and the experience they shared together was to be kept to themselves forever. It was to be their own private secret.

 

‘Mum! Mum, and what are we having for dessert?’ – asked Alec, cuddling his mother tight, very tight, tighter than ever before.

 

They have not uttered a single word about them, but they could not avoid thinking that one by one the giants were taking their bath nearby. In fact it was right next to grandmother’s house. The giants’ camp stretched upriver to a little clearing where the Water of Leith bent into a tight bow. Just over that clearing was a hill where steep, winding stairs led up to the Gallery of Modern Art. That was the place where a week ago Alec had seen the sundial and had eaten delicious ice cream from a large brown cone.

 

Unfamiliar sounds would sporadically interrupt the steady tinkle of the waterfall, sounds that would be heard in grandmother’s house. Often muffled and a bit unpleasant, the noises were very distinctive. Alec knew much more about them than anybody else in the whole wide world. The sounds were coming from the giants who were sharpening their murderous weapons, getting ready to hunt down The Golden Man.

 

Chapter 3

The giants attack

Not only was there no ice cream for sweets that day. Tango didn’t manage to get out of the house in time and the whole corridor had to be cleaned after her. Alec did not like this kind of cleaning at all.

 

‘Grandma, do you enjoy cleaning up dog poo?’ – Alec was almost sure that his grandmother did not like doing such things distasteful chores either.

 

‘We may not like cleaning, but we like it when everything is nice and tidy around us. That’s why we do cleaning, like it or not’ – Alec’s Mum replied on behalf of his grandmother. – ‘And now, throw that plastic bag into the bin. Over there. And be careful on your way’ – Mum opened the door to the garden and pointed to a row of waste bins just behind the fence.

 

‘But I can’t reach the bin lid. I’m still small’ – Alec protested, although he did not like admitting that he was just a little boy.

 

The truth is that Alec has, for a long time now, considered himself to be an almost grown-up person. Last week he drove a real, big racing car all by himself in the Scottish Museum. In the simulation racing he raced round Edinburgh Castle. The whole distance took him only two minutes, sitting on his grandmother’s lap. But grandmother told him that the road, which they had just taken, did not exist in Edinburgh. So, what street did he see on the big plasma screen? Was it like the one from his computer game? He knew how to play computer games. What is more, he won every game he played. Recently he even overtook the leading Formula One driver and it was Alec’s car that passed the finishing line in the fastest time.

 

‘You aren’t that small. Stand on that little crate over there and you’ll be able to reach the lid’ – mother did not give up on the idea of Alec taking an active part in cleaning up after Tango.

 

‘But why don’t dogs tidy up after themselves when they do such a thing?’ – he again tried to find a way out of the situation, knowing full well that his quest was an exercise in futility.

 

Of course, throwing litter into the bin was not a problem for Alec. He left the house and walked along the footpath. When he reached the bins he climbed onto an old crate and… and he froze, terrified. From the bottom of the bin a pair of huge eyes belonging to some ghastly creature stared at him. He slammed the lid down and run back screaming, still clenching in his hand the bag with its soft contents.

 

‘And what now?’ – asked his mother, slightly alarmed by Alec’s screaming.

 

‘Why have you brought the bag back in? It’s going to stink. If you don’t want to do this… it’s OK, give it to me, please’.

 

Before Alec could manage to take a breath to tell his mother what had happened, she approached the bin, opened the lid and… stinky bag of dog poo gone.

 

That whole evening grandmother was sitting in her favorite chair. She was flicking through all the newspapers. Her old dog Tango lay at her feet. She was more than fifteen years old. Grandmother had already bathed Tango, fed her and gave it her medicines. Alec liked it very much when grandmother was putting food deep into the dog’s mouth with her bare hands. Alec knew that food had to be finely ground because Tango did not have enough strong teeth to chew it properly.

 

‘Grandma, I don’t like eating my bread crusts either, just like Tango’ – Alec started clambering up grandmother’s lap, not caring about the dog, the newspapers or even grandmother.

 

‘Yes? Now, quickly tell me what scared you so much at the bin?’ –  her question, her accurate perception surprised Alec. He wanted to tell his Grandma a lot earlier about the eyes in the bin but somehow there was no chance to do so.

 

‘They were such huge, ghastly eyes!’ – Alec clung to his grandmother’s neck. His body felt fragile, trembling with fear.

 

‘It’s nothing Alec, nothing at all. There’s nothing to be afraid of. You must have been seeing things’ – she tried to reassure him. – ‘You must have been scared, that’s for sure. It’s OK, it’s alright now. Each one of us has got some fears, it’s completely normal. Don’t you know that?’

 

‘But they were there. They were really there! Really. I saw them!’ – he protested valiantly.

 

‘I believe you. Let’s go there together. You will see for yourself that everything is perfectly fine, OK? Surely, you’d want to convince yourself?’ – she coaxed.

 

Alec felt muddled. Yes, he wanted to go but then, even more so, he did not. Even though he was an almost, almost grown-up person, he had tears trickling down his cheeks.

‘Hush, hush! Grandmother won’t let anybody hurt you’ – she cuddled him.

 

Alec liked it when his grandmother talked to him like that. When she was so close to him he could be a small boy again.

 

‘Alec, it’s time for bed. You and your mother will stay here tonight. There are those, you know what, hanging around the neighborhood. It is also very late now.’

 

‘And do I have to wash myself? Because I’m tired and I don’t want to do it’ – he tried to turn the day’s commotions to his advantage and hope to go to bed without washing.

 

He did not know whether other boys liked washing before going to bed. If they did, that would mean they had to be weird somehow, because he did not like washing himself at all. Alec always remembered to brush his teeth to keep them clean. He liked holding the toothbrush with the toothpaste on it in his hand. Once, in the nursery bathroom he painted quite a nice picture with toothpaste. On the tiled wall. Before it was cleaned off, a nursery teacher managed to take a picture with her mobile phone and sent it to Alec’s mother. At home Alec had to promise that he would not paint on the walls again. The next day his mother showed the picture to some very important painter lady and Alec was invited to take part in the joint painting of a large picture. A real one. With real oil paints that belonged to the painter lady.

 

‘Grandma, did I spoil the picture much?’ – Alec asked, looking directly into her eyes.

 

‘Why would you think that you had spoiled the picture? Your mother told me everything. The other painters applauded you. If you had spoiled anything you would have been booed instead. So, you see, your painting was fine’ – it was good to be reassured by grandmother.

 

‘Grandma, I wanted to paint something but I didn’t exactly know what. So I did the best I could… but it was not the way I wanted it. I should have changed the colors of those wire horses. Because they are all green. They stand on the grass, which is also green. I want to change it, Grandma’ – Alec spoke this with all earnestness.

 

‘I’m sure you painted everything as best as you could. Tomorrow morning is the official unveiling of the picture. It’s too late to make changes Alec’ – grandmother explained. – ‘Has your mother told you that the picture is the biggest one in the world? And it has been painted by ninety-nine people?’

 

‘How many people is that?’ – asked Alec as, for him everything came down to two portions of ice cream. – ‘Is it more than two?’

 

‘It’s more, much more’ – grandmother laughed reassuringly.

 

Alec was not at all happy about this. Many, many more than two people participated in painting this large painting and he felt that he had spoiled everything. That worried him a lot. Alec went to bed without saying another word but he could not sleep. Painting the picture… seeing the Golden Man… running away from the giant… cleaning up after Tango… the eyes in the bin… it was all too much for one day.

 

A conversation between his grandmother and his mother was seeping through from next door. He could not quite hear everything. A lot of it was blurred noise. He knew that eavesdropping on other people’s conversation was inexcusable. His curiosity however was much stronger than his scruples. It was all because grandmother was telling mother something about Golden Man’s wanderings. Alec wanted to help Golden Man very much. He rose quietly from his bed, went to the door and pressing his ear against the keyhole, he proceeded to listen to the grown-ups’ conversation.

 

‘Alec saw something in the bin today. Could you tell me what it was?’ – mother lowered her voice, but not enough so that Alec could clearly make out her question.

 

‘It puzzled me as well. To be honest, I have no idea what it could have been. It was definitely not one of those hideous giants. Alec wouldn’t have stood a chance’ – grandmother’s argument was clear and to the point, as always.

 

‘And you’re saying this all so calmly!’ – Alec’s mother clearly forgot about the time of night and was almost shouting. – ‘What does it mean that Alec wouldn’t have stood a chance? What do you mean?’

 

‘My dear, please don’t upset yourself. I don’t know much more than you. The important thing is to warn the Golden Man. The most important however is our own safety now’ – grandmother replied calmly.

 

Alec, in his pajamas sat down on the floor. Having listened to the conversation, his tiredness from the day’s events now became even more overwhelming. Leaning against the doorframe he was slowly drifting off to sleep.

 

‘I’m packing Alec’s staff and we’re going away as far as we can!’ – mother burst out again.

 

You can do what you like but you know very well that Edinburgh is the safest place to be in. There is no safer place in the world for you, Alec and me!’

 

At this point, a window opened with a rumble. A large hand came in and deftly grabbed Alec’s bedding and dragged it outside. Had he been sleeping in his bed, as is the custom, and not on the floor by the door, Alec would have been snatched away by the giants.

 

 

 Original Title

‘Tajemnica Złotego Świata. Edynburskie bajki dla dzieci i dorosłych’, tom 1, ‘Alec i Złoty Pan’

The Golden World Mystery. Edinburgh’s Fairy Tales for Children and Adults’,  volume 1, ‘Alec and the Golden Man’

Published by Isaac Jacobovsky

Copyright © by Isaac Jacobovsky, 2012

Illustrations copyright © by Anna Janas, 2012

Copyright © for the English Translation by Isaac Jacobovsky, 2012

All rights reserved. No parts of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, or adapted to the needs of the media – without the prior written permission of the Authors of novel and illustrations

 

{ 1 comment to read ... please submit second! }

  1. Great story so far and nicely written. I would like to know how it all ends! Good luck with all your endeavours Isaac.

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