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The Optimist
By Colleen Messina

1     Once upon a time, there was a man named Luke who was an optimist. Nothing ever bothered him, and he always felt grateful. He had the uncanny ability to evaluate everything with a positive frame of mind. He usually wore a smile that stretched across his lean, tanned face like a thin rubber band. His gray eyes twinkled with secrets, and his coveralls were well worn but neatly patched.
2     Luke lived in a small village on the French countryside and tended his sun-drenched vineyards every day. He weeded, cultivated, and sampled grapes up and down the rows. He loved to watch the crisp, curly vines dance in the wind, and he loved to breathe in the tart smell of the tiny, green grapes. When the grapes were ripe, he popped them into his mouth and enjoyed the delicious squish of sweet pulp as he worked in the black soil.
3     After a long day in the field, he often pulled one of his own bottles of wine off his shelf and poured the fragrant, purple liquid into a goblet. He swirled his wine round and round until it spread like a thin sheet of liquid amethyst around the sparkling glass. He loved to watch the purple colors change in the evening light. Then he would eat his simple supper of bread and cheese. One night during supper, a stampede of angry clouds galloped across the defenseless sun. Soon hailstones dropped from the sky, plunking on the ground with a crashing rhythm. Luke watched solemnly as his vineyards were ruined.
4     "Ridiculous! The almanac never mentioned a hailstorm!" said the neighbors to each other.
5     Luke, however, never complained. He set right to work on the next project instead of sinking into apathy. He cheerfully turned his vineyard into a pasture by taking out all the ruined vines and stumps. His work was easy because the soil was as soft as butter after the violent rain of hailstones. Two weeks later, a rich man offered Luke a lot of money for the field. The rich man was pleased because the field was free of stumps and vines. Luke smiled, accepted the generous offer, and told his jealous neighbors that everything worked out for the best!
6     However, misfortune struck again. Luke's beautiful bay horse ran away, and the neighbors gossiped again over their fences. Luke's horse was his pride and joy, and he treated it well.
7     "Luke will have to capitulate to reality! Now he has something to complain about! He can't cajole us anymore with his ridiculous optimism," they said grumpily.
8     The next morning, Luke's lovely horse was back, and a wild mare was with him. The mare was glossy black with white "socks" on her feet. Luke now had two fine steeds while the neighbors had only piebald plow horses.
9     "See, it all worked out," Luke said. The neighbors grumbled as they whipped their own stubby horses.

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