“Nikko, the Brave,” Friend, Oct. 1999, 18–19
Nikko looked in the mirror and shook his shaggy head and roared. Then he picked up his long tail and flicked it like a whip.
“Honey, are you dressed yet?” His mother called from the kitchen. “It’s time to go.”
Nikko padded into the kitchen, carrying his tail in his hand.
“Please don’t eat me, brave king of the jungle,” Mother begged with a smile.
The lion bared his teeth and roared.
“Let’s get going, or you’ll be late for the school costume party,” Mother said. The lion crept to the car and then pounced inside.
* * * * * *
“Have fun at school, my brave lion,” Mother said as he bounded out of the car.
“Why, Nikko, don’t you look like a brave jungle beast!” His teacher smiled at him as he entered the classroom. “Go sit in the circle with the other children, and I’ll be there in a minute to tell you a story.”
The lion crept toward the other children. Nikko the little boy had always wanted to be Lissa’s friend, but he had been afraid to talk to her. But Nikko the brave lion was not afraid. He looked for Lissa and crouched down beside her. She was dressed like a princess in a sparkling gown. “You look pretty,” the lion whispered.
Princess Lissa smiled and tapped the lion’s shaggy head with her magic wand. “And I name you Nikko, the Wise Ruler of the Jungle.”
The lion pawed the air and roared softly.
* * * * * *
The next morning, Nikko stood in front of his mirror and roared. He shook his shaggy head and flicked his long tail.
“Honey, are you dressed yet?” Mother called.
Nikko padded into the kitchen with his tail in his hand.
Mother was rinsing the dishes at the sink. When she turned around, she exclaimed, “Oh! Oh my!”
The lion looked up and roared.
“You shouldn’t wear your costume today,” Mother said. “Yesterday was costume day. It’s all over now.”
“But I’m brave when I’m a lion,” Nikko told her.
“You’re my brave boy, even without your lion costume. Remember how you helped take care of your Grandpa when he came home from the hospital?”
“But my teacher thinks I’m a brave jungle beast when I’m wearing my lion costume.”
Mother slipped the furry mane off Nikko’s head. “Remember how you felt when you asked if you could help Uncle Jack build his deck? You don’t need a lion’s costume to feel brave.”
* * * * * *
Nikko went to school in his regular clothes. He could not flick his tail or shake his shaggy head or roar.
At recess, Nikko saw Lissa standing at the door to the playground. He still thought she looked pretty, even without her sparkling gown and magic wand. “You’d better go get your jacket and put it on,” Nikko warned her. “It’s going to rain.”
Lissa looked out at the dark sky. “Do you know what, Nikko? You’re wise even when you’re not dressed up like a lion.”
Brave, wise Nikko shook his head, roared softly, and padded out to the playground with his new friend.