By John Thomas Tuft

This one is for my grandson:

“Enjoy your treats and libations and let it lift you up to your creation which lies silent at this moment” Stargazer Alpaca of Shakespearia, west of Portland and north of Nowhere, Twitter 2020

Thomas is an alpaca, though not an ordinary alpaca. He is a stargazer. Thomas is a stargazing alpaca, son of Mortimer and Lois Tarkio. They are kind, loving, gentle parents in the fine tradition of alpacas since the days of the Great Tarkionian Alpaca, Jerome Aloysius the First. Many of the wise old alpacas in the days of yore had told the Great Tarkionian that stargazers are a rarity, hidden princes and princesses who could learn stories from the stars that might help the alpaca in times of great need. “All truthful stories come from the stars!” proclaimed Jerome Aloysius the First, and for a time the Alpaca Nation all believed and trusted the stories of the stargazers.

But over time of course, the Alpaca Nation began to forget the stories as they moved throughout the mountains, claiming more and more of the sweet grasses as their own. Who needs stories when might makes right and needs are easily met? Gradually the stories were lost to memory and the stargazers became astrologers and believers in a land of artificial grasses and waters of eternal youth. They began to force mountain goats to do all the heavy work and hired groundhogs to keep them in line. Alpaca Nation used the goats to haul the stones to make their big, beautiful Alpaca pens and barns in the most highly valued locations in the mountains.  

After Thomas was born, his mother Lois used to hum the dawa to him each evening, otherwise known as The Cradlesong. So it was, that as he grew up Thomas would find himself wandering on the steppes and slopes, humming the dawa to himself while gazing upward at the stars, while feeling oddly out of place. “Why am I so different?” he would ask the stars, honestly waiting for an answer. He didn’t tell Lois or Mortimer about these musings because he was afraid they would not understand and might think he would dishonor the great Tarkio name. One night, Thomas was wandering further than he had ever ventured before, following the glittering tears of the stars, imagining stories for each one, humming as he went. He stopped and cried out, “Why am I so different?”  He looked up expectantly as always, waiting, hoping.

“Because you are different,” said a voice from down near his feet. Thomas looked down. At his feet was a burly Jack Russell terrier, even a bit rolly poly, dressed like a bounty hunter, scars across his nose and above one eye from run ins with unruly groundhogs. “You are a stargazer.” Thomas looked down, suspicious. “Who are you?” “I’m Petey Pete. And you are a stargazer. You think of stories no one has ever imagined before.” Pete strutted around Thomas, ran under him to the other side and gave himself a good shaking. “I’m Petey Pete, right down to all four of my feet. What was that you were humming?” Thomas blushed a bit shyly, as only an alpaca can.

“My mother used to sing it to me when I was little,” he explained. “Do you know where that song comes from?” asked Petey Pete, the bounty hunter. Thomas shook his head. “It comes from where all songs come from, west of Portland and north of Nowhere,” explained Pete. “It’s an adventure of a journey, but you are old enough now to start the journey. Would you like to go?” Thomas looked worried. “But what about my parents? Won’t they be afraid?” Pete stood on his hind legs. “Do you think I should grow a mustache? It would make me look fierce. And just think of the stories you will have to tell! Don’t worry about your parents. We will be back before yesterday.”

Thomas looked up at the stars, thinking, and said, “It would make quite a story, Petey Pete right down to all four of your feet.” He felt more confident with each passing moment. “Good,” said Pete. “We can tell stories to each other while we make our journey. But I must warn you, if we are going west of Portland and north of Nowhere, we must go all the way. If we get distracted or turn aside, all stories may disappear forever. And when we return before yesterday, you must tell all of Alpaca Nation your stories. That is why you are a stargazer alpaca. Agreed?”

Thomas marveled at all the possibilities and promises that adventures can hold. “This is why I am different,” he exclaimed. “I’m a hidden prince. Let’s go all the way.” And so, they set out under the stars for the land west of Portland and north of Nowhere, Thomas humming the dawa, happy to at long last know why he was different. Before they had gone ten steps, Pete the bounty hunter said, “Now about that mustache. Okay, never mind. Let me tell you the story about the Child of the Earth…”

Words are magic and writers are wizards.