Raccoons, Leaves, and Cacao Beans

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While we raked leaves, we pretended the big oaken tree in our yard shedding them was a cacao tree. The acorns it was also shedding? Well, those were cacao beans. The leaves being gathered up by our thin little rakes were magic leaves. When you wrapped the cacao beans in them, it filled the beans with magical powers, that would be given to anyone who ate them. We had to hurry and eat the cacao beans before a raccoon ate them.
Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Yeah, I’m getting a little old for these games. These were all Jenny’s idea. Especially the part about the raccoon. I love raccoons. I love all animals. But ever since Jenny got bitten by a rabid raccoon and had to go to the hospital, raccoons have had to be the villains in her games. Sometimes I’ve reminded her that raccoons can be nice, but Mom and Dad always tell me to let my sister use her imagination to get over her trauma. They say they let me do the same thing I was her age, but I don’t remember any trauma, nor do I remember having fantasies as elaborate or nonsensical as hers. If I did, I’m sure they were at least more coherent than hers often are.
I must say, though, the things she’s coming up right now are pretty cool. I wonder what kinds of magical powers these cacao beans will give us when we eat them? What kinds of powers would they give a raccoon? Would a raccoon be able to transform himself into a human if he ate these magic cacao beans? What would he do then? Would he still bite people if he had rabies? Maybe not. Maybe if the raccoon who bit Jenny turned into a human, she could talk to him and ask him not to bite her again. Maybe she could even take him to the hospital to get rabies shots, just like she got when she was there.
“Hey, Jenny,” I said. “We should find the raccoon that bit you.”
“Why?” asked Jenny, her eyes shining with fear.
“Don’t worry, he won’t bite you again,” I continued. “I won’t let him.”
“Then why?” Jenny asked again.
“So we can give him some of these magic cacao beans,” I answered, picking up a handful of acorns. Jenny looked at me again, even more fearfully this time.
“There will be plenty left for us,” I added. “And by giving the cacao beans to the raccoon, we can make sure he won’t bite you again. Jenny shook her head.
“No!” she whined. “A raccoon with magical powers could hurt me even more badly!”
“Maybe,” I said. “Or maybe, a raccoon with magical powers could turn himself into a human.” I went on to tell her my idea of taking him to the hospital to get rabies shots and then having him promise not to bite her again. Jenny’s eyes brightened, but then she looked worried again.
“Come on,” I said. “What are you afraid will happen if we gave him magic cacao beans?” Jenny thought for a minute.
“He might cast a horrible spell to give more people rabies,” she said. “Then we’d all start biting each other and getting sick!”
“Why would he do that?” I asked.
“Don’t raccoons want the people they bite to get sick?”
“No,” I said. “That raccoon was just scared. He didn’t know he had rabies, and he didn’t mean to give it to you.”
“Promise?” asked Jenny.
“Promise,” I said.
“Okay!” said Jenny. “Let’s save some of these magical chocolate beans for the raccoon. But we have to wrap them in leaves first!”
“Okay,” I said. “But they’re called cacao beans,” I reminded her for what seemed like the twentieth time.
“Right,” said Jenny. We wrapped each acorn we had collected in a magical leaf before putting all the raked leaves in the compost. Then we pretended to eat our magical cacao beans. It gave Jenny the power to fly, but I wasn’t sure what magical power it would give me. I had to think about that.
“Stay open-minded,” said our mother. “That’s one of the things imagination is best for. Maybe something will come to you.”
“Yes,” said our father. “Maybe even in a dream.”
I didn’t have any dreams that night, but the next morning, Jenny came down in her pajamas full of smiles.
“Guess what?” she asked, grinning from ear to ear. “Last night, I told the raccoon not to bite me again. Then I took him to the hospital to get rabies shots, so he would never make anyone else sick!”
“That’s wonderful, Jenny!” said Mom. “Did you have any dreams last night, Jeffrey?” I shook my head, feeling too grown up to get into this. Mom and dad looked at each other.
“Just remember, Jeff, you’re never to old to be creative,” said Dad.
“That’s right,” said Mom. “Open-mindedness comes from imagination, and so does creativity. Both are good for grown-ups as well as children.”
I thought about what my parents and little sister had said. Then I remembered how much fun Jenny and I had with the cacao beans and magical leaves. I’m old enough to know it was just a game. But I still keep waiting to dream about the magical power I get from those cacao beans.

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