Shamus Sullivan was curious little fellow with little to his name further than a loving wife, two handsome sons, and a small home set rather pleasantly atop a hill. He had a square nose, chestnut eyes, and quite a sizable bush of raspberry red hair growing out the top of his noggin. He was a tinker of sorts who made a living off of fixing other people's whatchamajigs, funny dingy-ringy-thigs, tik tocks, dancing clocks, and other such things people need repaired every now and again. His wife was named Elizabeth and such a beauty was she, Aphrodite was put to shame.
Well one night came to pass which set a twist and a turn in his head, so much so that he couldn't go to bed. You see, it was after his boys had tucked in for the evening, the business of the day was laid to rest for the morrow, and Shamus had stepped outside for a breath of fresh air. He was just about to go back inside when he looked up to the sky and saw the most peculiar gems lazing about the heavens.
"Hey Honey," Shamus said, calling for his wife.
She came over to him and said, "Yes dear, what do you need?"
Shamus pointed up to the sky and asked, "What are those strange, bright lights floating up there so very high?"
"Well they're the stars of course. Why do you ask such a question?" Elizabeth replied.
Shamus just shook his head and asked again, "What are they?"
Elizabeth tilted her head to the side, as anyone does when they encounter something a bit befuddling, and answered him, "Well I just told you what they are. They're stars, my dear."
Shamus looked over at her, square in the eye and said, "Ah but that's not the question. I mean, what are they? Are they fireflies? Are they angels that have lost their way? Are they lanterns that seafaring men hung up way long ago to travel by? What are they made of? Why are they drifting about the heavens like they are? Where did they come from? What do they look like up close? Can you capture one in a jam jar? Can they be pinched between two fingers or are they so large as to neither fit in palm nor cupboard or drawer?"
His wife stood and pondered for a moment of two and then told him that she had no idea and not to worry about such fantastic notions until morning. "Come to bed," she cried. "Come to bed and rest your silly head." But Shamus couldn't rest. He couldn't close his eyes, much less stop to blink, and he stayed up all night wondering what those stars were made of.
When the next day came about, he knew that he couldn't wait any longer. He had to find out what those stars where made of. So he packed himself a lunch, kissed his wife goodbye, told her not to worry and that he'd be back quicker than you could whistle, told his sons to heed their mother, and set off to his travels. He walked across mountains and fields, passed fountains and went over rivers so wide that the sky was too short to cover. He stopped at every town the whole world round to ask of the stars. He asked kings, queens, scholars, and popes. He asked the princes, paupers, philosophers, and dopes. But not even the little boy in Timbuktu who played kazoo, knew. After all the while, he sat on a stump to rest a moment or three when what should happen but a wizard of sorts came strolling down the street.
"Hello there," Shamus greeted the man with a nod and a polite smile. "Care to sit with me a while?" The wizard was a funny looking chap with a purple cap set atop his long blue hair, and emerald green robes draped about him.
"Why certainly so," the mage replied as he walked over and found himself a seat on the stump.
"Mr. Wizard Sir, would it be rude to trouble you with a question?" Shamus Sullivan asked.
The wizard chuckled the kind of chuckle only wizards have and said, "Well you just asked me a question but it would be no trouble for another."
Well, Shamus laughed a laugh only poor tinkers have and said, "What are the stars made of? I have traveled the whole world round to find this out and I've been having no luck since I left my doorstep. Please tell me you know. I miss my family so, but I just simply can't go home till I know."
This sent the wizard into a daze for a moment or four as he wondered and mundered and pondered and puddled over the question he'd been handed. "I can't say that I know, but I can say that I know how you could find out," he said after a long while. "Follow me to the edge of the sea."
The wizard turned, Shamus followed, and off they went across mountains, fields, passed fountains, and over rivers so wide that in span that the sky was too short to cover it. In fact, they traveled so far that they wore holes in the bottoms of their feet so they had to buy new ones. When they reached the edge of the sea, a little boat was sitting there waiting for them. The wizard said to board it so they did, quick as a flick, and headed out to where the sun lays down to rest in the evening and where it wakes up in the morning.
"Arise!" shouted the wizard as the reached the center of the sea. And a rope snaked up from the bottom of the boat to the tiptop of the clouds. "Climb," the wizard said. "Climb and find your answers in the stars you seek."
Shamus nodded and put one hand in from of the other. Up and up and up the rope he went. Climb, climb, climb! With one hand over the other, he lost sight of the wizard, the little boat, and most of the world itself. He got past all of the cotton candy clouds without a hitch, and into the velvet darkness of space with no troubles. However, everyone knows that when there's no troubles come, there's some to found. And as Shamus got higher he began to hear an odd sort of sound. "The sky is singing to itself!" Shamus cried, a joy rising in his heart.
Oh and what a sound it was! It was a strange sort of music. It was the strangest, most beautiful music ever heard by anyone, anywhere. It drifted into your consciousness like rose petals to the hearts of lovers, like rain to the feet of the majestic mountains, and like a whisper to the base of men. It was an esoteric melody that grabbed hold of your soul and refused to let go. It began with a ringing, progressed into a tingling, and ended with a dingling. Then it started all over again. It was quite a tintinnabulation of things.
Shamus loved music, just like a good man should. Shamus loved music so much so that he began to whistle along with it as he climbed. He whistled and whistled till his cheeks grew red, his tunic buttons burst into flame, and the tune ran away with his tongue. And then he whistled some more!
Well, if you can surely remember, our dear Shamus was on the open sea whistling along with his melody. Now, the sea is a jealous lass who does not take well to such a whistle that is better than her own. So, in any event, the sea decided to do something about this silly whistler man. She started to brew up quite a storm in her pot. And oh dear, it was quite nasty. The winds twisted and turned and spun about him, lightning shot past him faster than you can say "fried Shamus", and such a thunder was heard it would scare the living daylights out of giants.
Shamus held onto the rope as tight as he could. His hands like a vice and his will like an iron rod, but to no avail. One finger let go of the rope, then two, three, and four fingers followed. The fifth, sixth, and seventh fingers let go with not much more ado. Eight and nine, ten fingers let go of the rope. And then down went Shamus. Down, down, down to the ground he fell. The air was rushing, rushing, rushing past him as the Earth came closer and closer and closer. Then plop went Shamus into the sea.
When the wizard saw him, he gave the deepest of apologies for his luck and said that he would find another way for him to touch the stars. The wizard told him to follow him to the brim of existence if he were to find his answers. And so, he did. The wizard turned and Shamus followed.
In shorter time than it takes to brew a pot of coffee but longer than it takes to count every grain of sand on the Earth, they reached the brim of existence. There was a deep canyon there surrounded on three sides by the densest jungle you could imagine. An old rope bridge steadily rising from one end of it towards the heavens, through the cotton candy clouds and past the singing sky. This bridge was older than the Earth herself (and much less stable too), but the wizard told Shamus to walk across it so he did.
Up and up and up he rose past the sweetness of the clouds and the merriment of the sky to the velvet blanket of outer space. And ah! What a sight to behold! A beautiful dance of things graced his presence, with colors courting colors. It was a painter's palette, nay a masterpiece it were, with violets and emeralds to lure, turquoise and ruby to stir the soul. It was a tango, a samba, a ballet of marigold ribbons twisting into more shapes than anyone could possibly comprehend.
But much to Shamus Sullivan's misfortune, the bridge was very, very old. The more he walked the more it bent. And the more bent it became, the tauter grew the ropes. And the more taut the ropes, the more they frayed. And the more they frayed, the quicker they broke.
Down, down, down fell Shamus. He saw the sky's beauty, heard His song, tasted the clouds, and kissed the ground with his rump. When the wizard saw him, he gave the deepest of deep apologies for his luck and said that he would find another way for him to touch the stars. Now Shamus was missing his dear family quite terribly by now, but he decided to shoot for the stars one last time and waited a moment or five for the wizard to tall him what to do.
Well with no more ado than tying your shoe, the wizard came up with an idea. He pulled a teacup from his hat (with a painting of a fat, furry cat along its side) and sat it quite comfortably on the ground. In a moment or six it grew seven times its size and became large enough for you or me to bathe in.
"Get in," said the wizard. "Hop in and the cup will rise to the skies and take you to your prize stars. Shamus did as he was told and within seconds he was slowly drifting into the air. Up and up and up he rose. Above the clouds, the songs, the flowering colors, to the velvet blanket of space.
After a while, Shamus grew warm. And the warmer he became, the sleepier he got. And the sleepier he got, the more he wished for a comfy cot to nap in. And mush to his dismay, as he lay in the bottom of the giant teacup, he fell asleep. When he slept, the teacup began to lean. Tip, tip, tip, till Shamus Sullivan's hair began to dip into the pool of space. Tip, tip, tip, till Shamus Sullivan fell from the cup quite abrupt. His sleep came to a swift end.
Down, down, down fell Shamus. He saw the sky's beauty, heard His song, tasted the clouds, and kissed the ground with his rump. When the wizard saw him, he gave him his deep, deepest apologies for his luck and said that he could come up with another path to the stars if he gave him some time. But Shamus said, "Thanks but no thanks Mr. Wizard Sir. I've had my fill of stars and want to go home to my loving wife and my two sons." And he went on his merry way. He had been away from home far too long and missed his family very much. He hadn't yet learned what the stars were made of, but he didn't mind it much. So off he traveled and within no time he was at his pleasant home atop the hill. And when Shamus Sullivan walked inside his home, his family greeted him with the warmest of smiles. His wife looked at him with love in her eyes, and when she did, Shamus learned something right quick then.
He learned that he needn't have left home to find out what the stars were made of.