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Friday, September 10, 2010

Balzac And The Blair Bitch: A Children's Story For Adults

By Rattus Scribus© 10 Sept 2010
Fabulous drawings by Anita Rivera©
Also found on our other blog: Witsend
I don't know who came up with the saying, "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me." I'm sure she or he meant well; and it does sound clever, almost poetic. But I don't think it delivers very well on its promise. A broken bone can heal. But cruel, humiliating, dehumanizing words can inflict terrible pain and significantly shape one's self-image negatively. Words do indeed hurt.

Recently I saw a situation in which a child was called something horrible. You could see clearly the internal hurt and damage occurring. That event was the inspiration for the following story.


Balzac and the Blair Bitch:
a Children's Story for Adults

By Rattus Scribus© 10 Sept 2010
Fabulous drawings by Anita Rivera©

Meet Balzac. He is a wire-haired Fox Terrier that lives next door. Isn't he cute? He is also loyal and brave, I mean really. If you read a book or web page on the Fox Terrier, it will say something like this:
The Fox Terrier may not always be friendly with strangers, but it is very loving and protective of its owners. If the Fox Terrier senses any danger to its human family, it will charge to the rescue with utter contempt for its own safety. When it comes to protecting loved ones, the Fox Terrier knows no fear.

Balzac gives of himself 100 percent all the time, rain or shine. He gives 100 percent when he eats, plays, and sleeps. He gives 100 percent to his friends, to love and happiness. But he also gives 100 percent when he is angry or getting even with his enemies.

When Balzac is a good dog, he's good 100 percent. But when he's a bad dog, he's bad 100 percent. Good dog Balzac will make you laugh. Bad dog Balzac will make you scream.

One day Balzac sees new neighbors moving into the house next door, and he is 100 percent curious to see if they have a dog. They do. Her name is Blair, and by a strange coincidence she is also a Fox Terrier.

Balzac falls in love (100 percent of course). He thinks to himself: "I must win the heart of the fair bitch Blair."

(Now in English, bitch is simply the word for a female dog, like sow is the word for a female bear, drone for a male bee, and jackass for a male donkey. So Balzac wants to win the love of the fair female dog Blair.)

In love 100 percent, Balzac sets out to win Blair, you guessed it, 100 percent.

Every day Balzac dreams of Blair: chasing a ball together, or playing tug-of-war with a toy, or rolling in the grass (all these games done, well, you know).

Whenever Blair is near the fence, Balzac will run and get a dog treat from his bowl and poke it through the fence to give to her.

He even makes up poetry and songs about her.
Oh, fair bitch Blair
of wire hair
and gorgeous button eyes.

I do declare
a love most fair.
Be mine or else I dies.
As you can see, Balzac is not much of a poet. But what he lacks in words (which of course to humans sound like barks, woofs, growls, yelps and howls), he more than makes up for in complete sincerity.

There is only one problem. Blair seems to have no interest in Balzac whatsoever. None. Nada. Nul. Zip. Zilch. Zero. 0 percent is not something that Balzac's brain can even compute.

It isn't that Blair does not like Balzac. It's just that she is different from him. He's an all or nothing dog. She's more give and take. He likes loud activity. She likes quiet. He is very forward. She is more reserved. He wants a girlfriend. She just wants to be a girl.

But Balzac does not understand their differences and he gets completely discouraged. He becomes irritable and takes out his frustration on everybody, especially strangers.

The poor mail carrier becomes Balzac's mortal enemy. Everyday when she delivers the mail, Balzac growls and barks at her and makes threatening gestures. One time Balzac even tries to bite her. Luckily for the mail carrier, he just rips her pants.

"You need to discipline Balzac," says the mail carrier to the owner, "or I'm not going to deliver your mail anymore. He has to learn to treat others with respect."

The one who gets the worst of it is Blair. Balzac begins growling and rushing at her like he is going to bite her. Because of the fence he can't touch her. But she is still frightened.

Since Balzac can't bite Blair, he begins calling her names. Sometimes people will take a name and twist it in order to make cruel fun and hurt you. That's what Balzac does to Blair.

"Bark Woof, Bark Woof, Bark Woof," which in human means: "Blair Bitch, Blair Bitch, Blair Bitch." When he was totally in love, Balzac called her "fair bitch Blair." Now that he is all mad, he calls her "Blair Bitch," and there is a big difference.

Blair is deeply hurt. She doesn't know what she did to be called such a terrible name.

"Bark Woof, Bark Woof, Bark Woof," Balzac keeps shouting relentlessly from his side of the fence. "Bark Woof, Bark Woof, Bark Woof."

"STOP IT! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!" It is Balzac's master speaking. "I don't know what's gotten into you, but you will stop it this instant. Leave Blair alone or be nice to her. Be friendly and then you will both be happy."

The kind human disciplines Balzac and makes him stop being mean and calling Blair that awful version of her name.

In time Balzac learns that being respectful is not something you do when you feel right, but because it is right; and if you work at being nice, you might actually become nice. Who knows, maybe one day he will be 100 percent respectful and nice.

And everything ends happily ever after.

And everything ends happily ever after.


bunny said...

simple and to the point...cute story.
Just goes to show that sometimes being a kid (not a goat) is a bitch..lol

have a good one,

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

WOW. Your revisions and editing really resulted in a fine, clear and poignant message my dearest....excellent message. Talk later...Moi

Edie Marie's Attic said...

Good morning Ruben!

What a timeless story! Every word well said!! Sweet Anita's illustrations made Balzac & Blair come to life. The talents you both possess are endless. I hope that someday I will be able to read a book to my grandbabies that the two of you have collaborated on. What a thrill that would be!

Have a grand weekend sweet friends,
mille bisous, Sherry

Anonymous said...

Very lovely story! It is really an art to learn to be nice and respect others. I wish more people could learn this art...
I'm here from Anita's lovely blog ... You two are truly gifted and so talented! I am your newest follower!

deb famularo said...

wow. You and your wife are the perfect pair!!!!! You both have a beautiful gift of the pen! And Anita's illustrations, magnifique! You compliment each other so well and not only on paper!

Everyone needs to read this! Brilliant message, people need to take a page from this -literally.

LiLi M. said...

Love the story and the drawings!

Fete et Fleur said...

Bravo! Love this moral tale. He is a vindictive fellow, this bad Balzac. I hope the good Balzac wins out forever.


Angelsdoor * Penny said...

Dear Ruben
Like I said.. Always a moral to your stories. Very well said and a great read! Anita's illustrations always amaze me.. You too are really in tune with each other. Wishing you both a relaxing and creative weekend.

M.A.the2nd said...

Ruben ... such a thought-provoking post and so true! I remember as a child that saying and it really is ridiculous because cruel, vindicative and vicious words which make someone feel demeaned and worthless is far more vitriolic than anything. A kind word and a smile is so important and if there were more of it in the world I think we would be in a better place! How many times I wonder have cruel words caused so much destruction and chaos. If we teach respect and kindness and the value of the individual to our children it goes a long way to changing others lives. Great post!

George the Lad said...

Hello Rattus Scrbus, very nice to meet you, I'm George a WT from the UK, a love all dogs but WT's and WFT's I do have a soft spot for.
Your story was very interesting, me just being a pup and all, mom says I have to learn these things, so I thank you. But I do hope that Balzac has learnt his lesson, and hopefully he is not as bad as he was painted!!
The drawing are lovely, Anita is a very talented lady and you a talented writer.
Have a good week.
See Yea George xxx

Elizabeth Stanforth-Sharpe said...

We hear such cruel things being said to children and I sometimes fear so much for how this must impact on them. Thanks for such a lovely story and beautiful illustrations.

Patricia Cabrera said...

I specially love the story because it was said told in my "language", in other words...simple!"grin"
I truly loved it Ruben, and you are so right about how people don't understand that once a feather pillow is opened from a top of a building , one will never be able to gather all the feathers and place back inside the pillow. It is "easy" to forget when WE are the mean one, but the person that is hurt is marked forever , even when they forgive... specially a child.
Thank you for your lovely story...and Nita illustrations only made things better. Love you too!Smiles~

Karina Gentinetta said...

I just hopped here from Frances' blog. How wonderful to meet you! Wonderful post and so true. A kind word, a gentle gesture, a pleasing compliment will make someone's day and it is as pleasing to hear as it is to say it.

Thank you for the reminder,


Angelsdoor * Penny said...

Dear Ruben
How very kind and thoughtful of you to visit again. Thank you so much.
Have a good week.

Jacqueline said...

I'd like you to meet me on the 8th grade bench Rattus Scibus.

There sits this big brut of a guy called Joey with his band of Jail Birds (that's what I called them for years because I wanted them all to go to jail)...I was in 6th grade with curls that turned to snarls because of Joey.

He was one mean dude. He'd make snide remarks as I walked by...He'd say here come friz head, here comes pig nose. The boys would whistle loud, follow me out on recess, laugh at me when I put shorts on for soccer and the list goes on and on...

This pulled on hard punch on the girl with the curls self esteem. It about ruined her for years, never believing in herself, thinking she was just an ugly duck or worse, a pig.

Years later when I owned a consignment store Joey walked in with his wife the cheerleader. They bought tons of stuff but he did not recognize the Cinderella I'd become. When he came to the counter I confronted my Balzac and told him I didn't want his money, just his sincere apology. The aging cheerleader didn't know the story and looked like she was ashamed of her Balzac. I just wanted to be a little girl and he wanted to be the pig and he was.

He did remember me and I was able to tell him what he had done to my feelings and I got a sincere apology from Balzac. He came back and back to buy from me and I had the God given grace never to tell him he looked like a pig.

I wrote this for me Ruben and I did not edit it at all. Thank you for listening, the good bad and ugly in me.

Perhaps now you can see why Gretta has a bit of a tough spine now and then but she also knows the liberation of her own soul, to forgive.

Bonnie said...

Bark bark, woof woof. In human it means Hi Ruben how are you? Sorry I haven't visited in a while, no excuses! I love your simple and oh so true tale. Hope school is starting out well and will end a smashing success at the end of the school term 2011.


PS - love all of Anita's sketches but I really like Blessed are the Cheesemakers!

Martina said...

Ruben, this story is so nice - and also true and helpful. Along with Anitas drawings, it would make the cutest book, i can see that one day, this will happen :)

Dumbwit Tellher said...

what a wonderful story and a lesson for all of us even on two legs. You put it so perfectly that respect isn't something you do only when it feels right. I had never thought about it like that. A good story is one that makes us think, & this did & in a very fun way.

Your illustrations are wonderful too; very delightful!

Welcome to the wonderful world of blogging.
All my best to you ~ Deb

Nezzy said...

Sticks and stones may break your bones but word can break your spirit for a lifetime.

I loved the message that your story brought to us all. Just be kind to one another. Oh, what a wonderful world it could be.

God bless and enjoy your weekend! :o)

Debbie said...

RUBEN! YOU HAVE TO PUBLISH THIS STORY!!!! IT'S the sweetest thing I've ever read ... it touched my heart so much. i loved it!!!!


P.S. I going to have danny read it.

Wanda said...

Dear Ruben, loved this story it is so true.Is anyone left alone to their own thoughts any more even for a short time. I luv you bro and also wanted to wish you a very happy b day . luv andy.