Middle School - Language Arts
This is a story about an old, very old woman who lived alone in her little hut with no other company than a beautiful pear tree that grew at her door. She spent all her time taking care of her pear tree. But the neighborhood children drove the old woman crazy by stealing her fruit. They would climb her tree, shake its delicate limbs, and run away with armloads of golden pears, yelling insults at "Aunty Misery," as they called her.
One day a pilgrim stopped at the old woman's hut and asked her permission to spend the night under her roof. Aunty Misery saw that he had an honest face and bade the traveler come in. She fed him and made a bed for him in front of her hearth. In the morning, while he was getting ready to leave, the stranger told her that he would show his gratitude for her hospitality by granting her one wish.
"There is only one thing that I desire," said Aunty Misery.
"Ask and it shall be yours," replied the stranger, who was a sorcerer in disguise.
"I wish that anyone who climbs up my pear tree should not be able to come back down until I permit it."
"Your wish is granted," said the stranger, touching the pear tree as he left Aunty Misery's house.
And so it happened that when the children came back to taunt the old woman and to steal her fruit, she stood at her window watching them. Several of them shimmied up the trunk of the pear tree and immediately got stuck to it as if with glue. She let them cry and beg for a long time before she gave the tree permission to let them go, on the condition that they would never steal her fruit or bother her.
Time passed, and both Aunty Misery and her tree grew bent and gnarled with age. One day another traveler stopped at her door. This one looked suffocated and exhausted, so the old woman asked him what he wanted in her village. He answered her in a voice that was dry and hoarse, as if he had swallowed a desert. "I am Death, and I have come to take you with me."
Thinking fast, Aunty Misery said, "All right, but before I go, I would like to pluck some pears from my beloved pear tree, to remember how much pleasure it brought to me in this life. But, I am a very old woman and cannot climb to the tallest branches where the best fruit is; will you be so kind as to do it for me?"
With a heavy sigh like wind through a catacomb, Death climbed the pear tree. Immediately he became stuck to it as if with glue. And no matter how much he cursed and threatened, Aunty Misery would not give the tree permission to release Death.
Many years passed, and there were no deaths in the world. The people who make their living from death began to protest loudly. The doctors claimed no one bothered to come in for examinations or treatments anymore because they did not fear dying; the pharmacists' business suffered, too, because medicines are, like magic potions, bought to prevent or postpone the inevitable; the priests and undertakers were unhappy with the situation also, for obvious reasons. There were also many old folks tired of life who wanted to pass on to the next world to rest from the miseries of this one.
Aunty Misery realized all this, and not wishing to be unfair, she made a deal with her prisoner, Death: if he promised not ever to come for her again, she would give him his freedom. He agreed. And that is why so long as the world is the world, Aunty Misery will always live.