Long ago, at the far end of the town, there lived a very bitter man. Some said he was born bitter. Others said he became bitter slowly, year by year, because his parents were not nice people.
Regardless of the reason, the bitter man was not very pleasant to be around. The people of the town left him alone and they tried not to tread on the road that ran by his dilapidated house.
Being left alone was the only thing that made this bitter man happy.
How bitter was this man?
Well, he was so bitter that he did not even want to share his broken down old house with his own shadow. So, most days and nights, he kept his windows shut tight with the dusty old curtains closed so that the light of the sun or moon would not shine in and cast his shadow within the house.
But the bitter man could not hide in his house all day. Even he had to eat. Thus, each morning, he would creep out of his dark and musty house to pick mangoes that hung from the big trees that shaded his house.
One such morning, as he reached for a mango, he heard his front door shut with a loud crack. In a panic, the man ran to the house.
"Who is in there?" the man bellowed as he pounded the heavy wooden door with his fist.
"Your shadow," came the response.
The bitter man's eyes widened in disbelief and fear. Was this a trick? he thought. He had to discover the truth.
"Prove it!" yelled the bitter man.
And what happened next was most remarkable.
The voice on the other side of the door proceeded to recite many secret things that only the bitter man could know – such as when the man ate each day, which side he slept on, how many naps he took, and other little details that made this usually unflappable man blush a dark brown-red.
The bitter man simply could not believe his ears. But the voice had indeed proved that it was the bitter man's shadow.
"May I come in?" asked the bitter man in the meekest voice he could manage.
There was a long silence. Finally, the small voice answered: "Only if you agree to share your life with me."
The bitter man thought for a moment. How could this be a bad thing? he thought.
After all, my shadow has been with me since I was but a baby. Maybe it is time to share this old house.
"Yes," said the bitter man. "You may share my home with me."
The door creaked opened. The bitter man looked down and saw his long shadow stretch across the floor of his old house.
After the man entered, he opened all the curtains to let in as much sunshine as possible. At that moment, the man's bitterness melted away.
When the people of the town learned of this amazing transformation, they did not mind walking past the once dark house.
Indeed, if they happened to see the man sitting on his porch, they would say hello. The man would wave and offer a loud and happy greeting. And, if the people looked carefully, they would have seen the man's shadow waving a hearty hello, too.
Daniel A. Olivas is a writer and attorney who lives in the San Fernando Valley with his wife and son. He is the author of "Benjamin and the Word." To learn more about the author, visit http://www.danielolivas.com.
Special thanks to Andrew Huerta for his illustration. To see more of his work, visit http://keeepitmoving.blogspot.com.
Please note: The July 11 Kids Across/Parents Down crossword was a repeat of the March 7 crossword. To view the correct puzzle, please visit Activity Center at latimes.com/kids.