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Day One
Day Two
Pentamerone Day Three
Day Four
Day Five

                THE COCKROACH, THE MOUSE AND THE CRICKET
                                                        Day 3, Tale 5
                                        retold in rhyme by Laura J. Bobrow 


What good is being rich if you’ve a blockhead for a son?
Miccone’s son, Nardiello, was the worst of anyone.
He’d go to town to drink with the most treacherous of friends.
He paid the most for prostitutes and got the bitter ends.

In gambling dens he always lost. You dunce! Miccone swore.
You’ve wasted half my fortune. I won’t stand it any more.
 You must give up these habits, spendthrift!  Then, in deep despair,
he gave his son a hundred crowns. You take these to the fair.

Buy six steer calves. They’ll grow into fine oxen. When they’re old,
they’ll work our fields which we will sow in wheat. And when that’s sold
we’ll have enough to buy ourselves a neighboring field or two 
and with those lands a title. That way you’ll be titled, too. 

Don’t worry, Father. You may safely leave the job to me.
Nardiello ventured forth, but in a wood he chanced to see
a fairy with a cockroach which was strumming a guitar.
That is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen by far!

For just one hundred crowns it’s yours. And here’s its box as well, 
the fairy said. Nardiello paid. He ran right to home to tell
his father what a jewel he’d bought. Much better than some steers.
A gem? What sort? his father said, and then was moved to tears.

No diamond was within the box. Alas. What’s come to pass?
You’ve brought me home a cockroach? You are nothing but an ass!
Before Nardiello could explain, Miccone shouted Here!
Here’s another hundred crowns, and this time buy a steer!

Nardiello left. Again he met the fairy, who, by chance
was playing with a little mouse whose talent was to dance.
The hundred crowns was proffered and the mouse was his now, too.
My father will be proud. He’ll be delighted to see you.

His father raved and ranted, would not try to understand.
In fact he would have killed his son. A neighbor stayed his hand.
Last chance, he said. My son, this is your last chance to make good.
But with another hundred crowns Nardiello sought the wood.

The fairy had a cricket and its chirping was so sweet
whoever heard it fell asleep. The cricket came complete
with tiny cage carved out of squash. Nardiello bought it, too.
His father beat him with a stump. Get out of here. We’re through.

Nardiello and his three companions set out on the road.
They reached a place where lived a king who bore a heavy load.
My daughter, Milla, is so ill. There’s no hope, it appears.
She has not laughed nor even smiled for almost seven years.

Well, King, we are the ones to make her laugh, Nardiello said.  
If so, then you may marry her. If not, you’ll lose your head.
Nardiello’s three companions sang and danced with grace and zeal,
and Milla laughed.The king was less than happy with his deal.

He did not fancy giving Milla to a lazy bum.
You’ve won her hand, my lad, but there’s a trial yet to come.
You have three days to consummate the match and if by then
you have not done so I will throw you in the lion’s den. 

The king each night put opium within Nardiello’s cup.
Three nights he snored and nothing Milla did could wake him up.
Down in the lion’s pit he went. And now his end was near.
He said to his three friends, Alas. My life must end right here.

There’s nothing I can leave you, but at least I’ll set you free.
Once out they sang and danced and played with such vivacity
the lions sat like statues. Then the mouse said, You should know
that we three are enchanted. Follow us. It’s time to go.

You’ve nurtured us and loved us and in turn we’re in your thrall.
The mouse soon gnawed a man-sized hole right through the outer wall
and led them up a staircase to a hut. And now we ask
What is your heart’s desire? We’ll undertake the hardest task.

I fear, Nardiello said, the king has found another groom
for Milla. Do you think you could gain entry to their room
and keep their marriage unfulfilled?  Away they promptly sped
and found the wedding banquet done, the bride and groom in bed.

The groom, who’d eaten heartily, was snoring, fast asleep.
The cockroach crept into his ass and offered straight and deep
a substance so astringent that it caused his bowels distress
and out onto the sheets poured an atrocious, fetid mess.

The bride, aghast, then woke him up.The groom was bathed in shame.
The doctors said that his excessive eating was to blame.
To prevent a foul recurrence on the second bridal night,
his servants prepared rags and cloths with which they bound him tight.

The cockroach seeking entry there was foiled, but not for long.
The mouse gnawed him a hole. He entered and his dose was strong.
Out flowed the liquid topaz and out flowed the awful fumes.
The bride, her fingers to her nose, fled to her maidens’ rooms.

The groom was now distraught. He knew his marriage was at stake.
He vowed that on the third night he would surely stay awake.
The hole which caused him such disgrace was stopped up with a plug.
The cockroach could not enter to administer his drug.

He consulted his companions.  I can help, the cricket said.
He sang so sweetly that the groom soon dropped his weary head
and fell asleep. Now, said the mouse, I, too, will help us out. 
He ran into the pantry and began to sniff about.

He found a pot of mustard into which he dipped his tail.
Then he tickled the groom’s nostrils, and there followed such a gale
of sneezes that the plug shot forth along with all the rest.
Help, Father! screamed the bride. This man has shot me in the chest!

The king rushed in and seeing, yes, and smelling what went on.
He seized the groom and said to him, You’re banished, sir. Begone!
It’s all my fault because I so mistreated that poor lad, 
Nardiello, sighed the king. Oh, how I wish I never had. 

Your wish may yet come true, the cockroach said, for he’s alive.
The lions would not harm him but allowed him to survive
because of his good qualities. Shall I bring him to you?
Oh, yes. He’ll be my son-in-law, the king replied. Please do.

Nardiello, now a handsome youth due to a magic spell
laid on him by his friends, came forth, and Milla liked him well.
They sent for old Miccone and they all lived in one house.
Nardiello and the cockroach and the cricket and the mouse.

Copyright © 2019 Laura J. Bobrow. All rights reserved.