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The Statue in the Square

The statue in the square had been standing there for as long as anyone could remember. The old people in the town told a story about the statue. Once, long, long ago, it was a real boy, they said. But he played a trick on a wicked witch, and she turned him to stone. Once every hundred years, the legend went, he comes to life for just 'one day. Then he turns to stone again. But no one in the town -- not even the very oldest ones -- could remember ever having seen the statue come to life.

Sheldon had heard about the legend when he was very little. Every morning when he woke up, he would look out his window at the statue in the square. He always hoped that he would see the boy of stone come to life. But the statue never moved.

One night a thunderstorm raged over the town. A rumble of thunder woke Sheldon at midnight. He looked out the window. Just then a bolt of lightning crackled down from the sky. It struck the statue. The flashing light blinded Sheldon for a moment. When he looked again, he blinked in surprise. The statue was gone. Then he looked more closely. A boy was sitting there, rubbing his eyes.

Sheldon dashed down the stairs and grabbed an umbrella from the stand in the hall. Still in his pajamas, he raced out to the square. A distant flash of lightning lit up the square. The boy was standing up now and looking around curiously. There had been many changes in the square in the past 100 years.

Sheldon ran over to the boy. "Is it really you?" he shouted. "Are you the boy of the statue?"

"Yes, it is I. But only for a day. Then I will be stone again."

The rain stopped. The sky cleared. A full moon beamed down on the square. The two boys walked through the sleeping town. The boy of the statue eagerly peered into the windows of the shops.

At dawn the two sat talking in the grass at the edge of town. "I wish you could stay!" Sheldon said.

The boy sighed. "Unless someone can break the witch's spell, I will turn to stone again on the stroke of midnight. I have had hundreds of years to think about it. But I cannot think of the answers to the riddle."

"What riddle?" Sheldon asked, eagerly bending forward.

"The witch said," the boy began, " 'You shall be doomed to be a boy of stone until men shall fly through the air like birds, a voice shall carry round the world, and water shall flow up yonder hill.' "

For a moment neither boy spoke. Then in the distance a faint sound grew louder and louder. "I've got it!" Sheldon exclaimed."Men can fly through the air!" He pointed to a jet flying overhead. Then he told the boy all about airplanes.

After a while Sheldon said, "Come on over to my house. I can solve the second part of the riddle for you too. It's easy."

Sheldon led the boy to his telephone. He lifted the receiver and dialed the operator. "I'd like overseas information, please," he said, and named a country halfway around the world. In a moment, the boy of the statue heard through the receiver a voice carried around the world. The two boys spent the day together. The boy saw television, automobiles, and many other modern things for the first time.

Sheldon had an idea to solve the third part of the riddle: how to get water to flow up the hill at the edge of town. The two of them visited the town engineer. When Sheldon tried to explain why he wanted the engineer to help him rig a pump to carry water up the hill, the man just laughed. "You're wasting my time with your jokes. And you'd better do something about getting that statue back. You're going to get into trouble."

All that day the two boys tried to think of a way. But even Sheldon's parents did not believe who the boy really was. After bedtime, Sheldon slipped out of the house to spend the last hours with the boy. They sat in the square and watched the minutes slip by on the glowing dial of Sheldon's wristwatch. Still they could not think of an answer. Then the town hall clock struck midnight.

"Goodbye, Sheldon, goodbye," were the boy's last words. Sheldon touched the stone legs of his friend. His eyes filled with tears. He curled up at the foot of the statue and fell asleep.

A few hours later, Sheldon awoke. The moon was shining down onto the square. A dark shadow reached almost to his feet. Sheldon looked up. There in the distance was the answer.

He raced from house to house, borrowing hoses. He gathered more than a dozen and dragged them to the edge of town. He coupled them together and connected one end to the spigot at the base of the town water tower. He stretched the other end up to the top of the nearby hill. He ran down the hill and turned on the spigot. Then he raced over to the square. Just as he reached the statue, water gushed out of the end of the hose at the top of the hill.

At that moment, the boy of the statue was a statue no more.


©1973, 2013 The Silversteins