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Ann Oyen

© 2000

A Kite Named Gus: A Parable

Once upon a time there was a kite named Gus. Gus was a happy and carefree kite. He wore bright colors for clothes and made neat squiggles in flight. He soared high over roof peaks and low under live wires. Best of all, he had lots of friends.

Almost every day, Gus and his kite friends would meet up in the gentle spring breezes to play at kite sports, like jumping weather fronts and riding wind gusts.


Gus would squeal as an up draft sent him soaring high above the tree tops. “Catch me if you can.”


he’d shriek as a sudden lull sent him plummeting to the earth again. “OUCH!”

During the springtime of his life, Gus flew trouble free and worry resistant. He fluttered here and he fluttered there according to the whim or the wind of the moment. He really didn’t know where he was going or why he was going there, but as long as the spring breezes were light and gentle, not knowing didn’t seem that important.

Gus felt safe because every evening a boy would reel him down from the sky and carry him back to a closet where he would receive lessons on life from the other toys. From Spudster, a football, he learned that life would not be just one breezy spring day after another. There would be a cycle of weather called seasons— spring, summer, fall, winter. According to Spudster, fall would be the best season of all because that was when he would get to soar high into an end zone between two crownless trees called goal posts”. From Super Baron, an action figure, Gus learned about a great whirling wind called a tornado. A tornado sometimes threatened during the next season, summer, when the weather turned hot and humid. According to Super Baron, a tornado could chew up a house like a garbage disposal chewed up garbage. Gus knew that a small paper kite would have no chance of playing with such a wind. At his center, where his feelings were, Gus began to fly scared.

Gus tried to put those scared feelings out of his thoughts. “What would a small, plastic, gravity chained action figure know about the wind anyway?” he asked himself with a defensive shrug. “Besides,” he reminded himself, “I have something better to do with my thoughts. I have a dream to dream, a goal to pursue. In a year or two, I’m going to the Kite Olympics in maze flying.”

Gus did have reason for dreaming this dream. During the early, breezy days of spring, he had discovered that he had an amazing talent for drawing intricate mazes in bare tree branches with his kite string. All of his kite friends had gathered round to watch. “Gus! Gus! Gus!” they would shout as he traced a path up, down, over, under, around and through. For some reason though, the boy hadn’t seemed all that impressed by Gus’ talent. In fact, he had seemed rather annoyed. “Not again,” he would groan whenever Gus produced a challenging new maze design. Nevertheless, at the end of each afternoon, the boy would carefully untangle Gus from the tree branches and faithfully carry him back to his closet, where Super Baron and Spudster would continue to educate Gus on the joys and woes of life.

Gus’ life progressed according to this peaceful, predictable pattern until one late afternoon in early June. Gus had just drawn a particularly amazing maze in a clump of birch trees when the boy’s mother called him home for dinner. The boy left immediately, leaving Gus tangled in the branches. “Oh, the boy will be back to fetch me after dinner,” Gus thought. But the boy did not come back.

Gus watched the golden hues of the sunset turn into the purple haze of dusk and then the dark shadows of night time. The limber, swaying branches of the birch tree became threatening and snarly in the moonlight. Gus was scared. He could no longer squelch his fright. How he wished he were back in the toy closet learning about the joys and woes of life. He would have given anything, even his Olympic dreams, just to once again hear Spudster’s tales of touchdown glory.

Gus looked around for some company, someone with whom he could start a conversation. He noticed the moon. “Hey moon!” he shouted. His greeting boomeranged out into the night and back to him again. The moon only stared back at him, distant and indifferent. The moon did, however, spotlight some fascinating entertainment for Gus. It allowed him to see the silhouettes of some marvelous, flying creatures— bats. The bats darted and danced with an acrobatic agility that defied both wind and gravity. “How,” Gus wondered, “could they suddenly change altitude and direction with such speed and precision.” Gus watched in hypnotic amazement the whole night long until he finally drifted off to sleep just as dawn began to break over the house-tops.

A few hours later, Gus was awoken by a familiar and welcome sound, the laughter of children rolling closer and closer as they rode their bikes down the street. Gus’ spirits soared. He thought he could make out the voice of the boy in that chorus of children’s voices. “Yes!” he was certain. He would know the timber and pitch of that voice anywhere. Boy was coming to get him. “Boy, Boy, here I am!” Gus called as the fleet of bikes rounded the corner. But the Boy didn’t even glance up. He rode right pass the tree, all the while calling out to his friends, laughing with them, making plans for a summer morning swim. “Boy! Boy! Come back,” Gus shouted in desperation, clinging to
a thin thread of hope as the boys, their bikes and their laughter faded into the distance. But the boy did not come back. Gus had been abandoned.

As sunrises began to blend into sunsets, and as Saturdays started to look just like Mondays, Gus resigned himself to life in the birch tree. The birch tree really wasn’t a bad place to live. Its fragile, flakey skin disguised strong supple branches that could bend and bow with the wind. Gus felt comforted by the motherly, rocking motion of the tree’s branches. Some days, when the wind gusted strongly, Gus almost thought he was going to break free of the tangled maze that held him. But the more the wind bellowed at his kite face, the more the kite string tugged back at him. Gus remained firmly attached to mother tree.

One day Gus noticed a foreboding change in the air around him. It felt thick and heavy. The wind could barely stir it. Even the playful, graceful branches of the birch tree were not up to swaying. They hung still and silent, drooping towards the ground as if suspended in a gelatin atmosphere. The sun hovered above it all, like a chef slow steaming an all day stew. An oppressive, fatiguing heat settled in on Gus’ world.

Up in the sky subtle changes were taking place. Over the horizon, patches of dark clouds were joining together to form a seamless gray blanket. All afternoon the cloud blanket thickened and darkened as it edged its way across the sky. “Certainly a hot, heavy day like today needs no blanket,” Gus reasoned to himself. “Someone must have called a great gray cloud convention.” Sure enough. Gus’ speculation proved correct. At about the time that kids and cars usually head home for the evening meal, an angry wind blew in for the opening convocation. As if the conductor of a great cacophony, the angry wind started the clouds all churning and chanting at once.

Then the sky began to scold the earth, first from a distance in low rumbling tones, then just overhead with cracking shrieks and a two pronged whip that lashed down from the sky. A drenching rain ran the bright colors on Gus’ face, and a straight line wind slammed him into a sharp spear of a broken branch. A piercing, puncturing pain invaded
Gus’ lower left quandrant. Gus had been wounded.


The next morning, on the way to repair storm damaged structures, a carpenter walked by Gus’ birch tree. He noticed a splotch of color caught in one of its downed brances. “Hmmm,” he mused. “What have we here?” Moving in closer to investigate, he realized that he was looking at a kite, a badly bruised and battered kite, but a kite nonetheless.

“Hello,” the carpenter greeted in gentle tones. “What is your name?”

“Um— Gus,” came the hesitant response. After so many days without human contact, Gus was a bit suspicious of the carpenter’s intentions.

“Won’t you come with me?” the carpenter continued. “I have great plans for you.”

“You do?” Gus replied in disbelief. “Can’t you see that the storm smeared my colors and punctured my left side?”

“Yes, I can see that,” the carpenter responded calmly. “But I see in your marbled colors a rainbow of promise and in your battered frame the lines of possibility. Please come with me.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Gus stalled. “I kind of like it here in this birch tree.”

“Gus,” the carpenter counseled, “I’m afraid that branch to which you’re attached is no longer a part of the birch tree. Soon the city will be coming to pick it up, haul it off, and make it into wood chips.”

“Wood chips!” Gus exclaimed in horror.

“Yes, wood chips,” the carpenter repeated. “That’s usually what happens after a storm. But, if you come with me, I can patch your puncture, give you a job, and set you flying again.”

With some reservation, but much hopefulness, Gus agreed to go with the carpenter. The carpenter carefully untangled him from the downed tree branch and gently carried him back to his workbench. There he shaped Gus according to a special blueprint and fastened him securely to a cross shaped frame.

“This cross,” the carpenter explained to Gus, “is my signature mark on all my work, and this string, that I’m tying right at the center, is my purpose and will for your life.”

“What are those ribbons you’re tying at my base?” asked Gus.

“Those ribbons,” continued the carpenter, “are your tail. They will give you balance. I chose them especially for you from my ‘Fruits of the Spirit” supply— patience, humility and self-control. There, I’m done.”

The carpenter stepped back to look at his work. He liked what he saw. “This is good,” he announced. “This is very good. Gus, you’re ready to fly again. I have one favor to ask of you, however. The world seems to have forgotten who I am and where I am. I need some publicity. Please, tell everyone you meet what I have done for you.”

“I will!” promised Gus.

The carpenter carried Gus out to a nearby hilltop and began to blow on him with the wind of his spirit. Gus started to fly again for the first time all summer. He flew high and far and long over the whole countryside. He told every boy and bat and tree that he met what the carpenter had done for him. One night he even told the moon. This time, the moon smiled back at him.

Of course, Gus being a talented kite, still had some flying ideas of his own. Sometimes he traveled too far and lost his way. Sometimes he forgot his tail and lost his balance. Sometimes he risked mazes and tangled his line. But always the carpenter came to find him, to claim him, to bandage him, and to set him flying again.

Ann Oyen was a 2000 Selective fellow. She teaches seventh grade American History at Capitol Hill Magnet School, where she is also the Fresh Force Site Coordinator. She plays the flute and is a news junkie. Currently she is reading the Harry Potter books in order to be able to hold discussions about them with her students.