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Autore: Alessandra Muschella
Titolo: Matilde and the agave plant
Genere Fiaba
Lettori 92
Matilde and the agave plant

Back in 1482, there was a little island in the Bahamas, named Guanahanė, which was not very populated and, therefore, really quiet. Nobody in the world knew about its existence and this is the reason why no one ever came to bother the calmness of its days, which passed by without remarkable events. In that habitual quietness, agave plants used to stretch their long, fleshy and thorny leaves towards the sun and proudly show off their big, red, turgid flowers. Meanwhile, the pure, warm sand looked like a shiny, velvety cape, slightly moistened at its edges by the ocean's graceful waves which, for its part, glowed in its deep azure blue. If an explorer had ever arrived on the island on any given hour of the day, he would have thought that was a deserted place, such was the way Guanahanė looked like during daytime. However, at sunset, it was a whole other story, or should we say music? Yes, because it was all about music: a sound of violins would rise from the waters, drowning out the rustling caused by the island's inhabitants, who, slowly and swiftly, popped out from the central part of the tall and proud agave plants. And there the magic would start: flowers turning into chandeliers, supporting silvery candles perfect to enlighten the small center which, at that point, was anything but deserted. Everyone would resume their activities from the night before, mainly committing to food supply and to arts and crafts necessary to complete the city they were building under the sand, where they lived during the day.
Considering the beauty of upper Guanahanė, the choice of living in under Guanahanė could seem quite odd, since it was a pleasant place, but still underground. What valid reason could ever push an entire community, though not numerous, to give up the sunlight and its warmth, the ocean's breeze, the pleasure of laying down on the soft sand and the joy of such marvel? We do not know the answer yet, but we must always bear in mind that there are reasons behind every choice, even though they may sometimes look incomprehensible. And this is one of those times.
It was faithfulness. Yes, it was faithfulness towards their Lady that led those people from the island to build a livable town below the sand, to live with Her during the day and, then, return to the surface at night, suitable moment for Her to re-emerge too and breathe that fresh air, listen to the sound of violins and watch the blue, rippled water. The Lady, a splendid creature with snow-white skin, suffered from a rare illness which made Her vulnerable to the sun rays, forcing her to live in the dark. But, more than anything, she suffered from extreme sadness. However, things had not always been like that.
When she was a little girl, Matilde – this was her name – was lively and in good health. She had big green eyes and long brown hair, her lips resembled Cupid's arch and were always moving: to smile, or to talk, or to crunch lettuce leaves which she had picked herself. In fact, Matilde had a strange passion for lettuce, since she loved its freshness and slightly bitter flavor. It was not unusual to find her with some lettuce leaf in her hands, and this would bring a smile to the island's people's faces, given they were all kind and amiable. She lived with her mother in upper Guanahanė, but she would often go to the beach, running happily on the sand and playing hide-and-seek with her cat: Ercolino the Fireball, a red tomcat with shiny fur and sharp eyes. Her father had left when she was still a baby and she had never heard from him again, nor did someone from Guanahanė remember that man anymore. Ercolino the Fireball was not just a playmate for Matilde: there was a special bond between the two of them, unintelligible for the other community members and especially for Matilde's mother, lady Adverse. The relationship between Matilde and her mother was not always a peaceful one. We could actually say that things between them were quite tense. They would always argue about anything and their conversations often resulted in huge fights, and this state of things made Matilde very sad. Fortunately, there was Ercolino who managed to calm little Matilde down, with his love nips and his loud purring, making her laugh out loud and her Cupid's arched lips fluctuate rhythmically.
One day, one of those bad ones which get engraved in your memory forever, a wild wind started blowing on Guanahanė. Windy days were not unusual there, but it had never been like that day. Violent gusts lifted the sand up from the beach, swelled the water, and shot everything away. Only the agave plants, probably due to their robust roots, remained firmly anchored to the sand. Matilde was playing with Ercolino when the uncommon phenomenon had started, and then she run – resisting the strong brunt of the wind – to securely grasp herself to an agave plant, whose thorns had been blown away by the wind. She stayed there until it was pitch black, scared and cold, as well as weakened from the effort made to hold on tight to the plant. When the wind's fury finally ended, she started wandering around, repeatedly calling “Ercolinoooo! Ercolinoooo” in a low voice. No-one came forward. She turned up the volume of her voice, until she was almost shouting “Ercolinoooooooooooooooooooo!”. But Ercolino was nowhere to be found. Dejected, Matilde felt warm tears running on her face, along with an immeasurable sense of guilt for failing to prevent something bad from happening to her friend. At this point, she was so discouraged and consumed with grief that she passed out, falling on the ground.

Alessandra Muschella