Have you ever needed help with something?
If so, did you reach out and ask someone to lend a hand?
In today’s story, we’ll meet a character who isn’t very keen on asking for help. But he gets it... in more ways than he ever imagined!
Our story is called “Every Other Friday.” Versions of this tale originally come from Mexico. Our adaptation kicks off our 2020 summer series with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and features musical accompaniment by BSO double bassist Benjamin Levy.
Voices in this episode include Alexia Trainor, Chris Tucci, Eric Shimelonis, Delores King Williams, Melora Hardin and Gildart Jackson. Grown-ups might know Emmy Award nominee Melora Hardin from The Office, Transparent and Freeform’s hit show, The Bold Type, where she appears alongside real-life husband Gildart Jackson, who starred in Charmed and Whodunnit and has voiced countless audio books.
This episode was adapted for Circle Round by Rebecca Sheir. It was edited by Circle Round’s executive producer, Katherine Brewer. Original music and sound design is by Eric Shimelonis. Our artist is Sabina Hahn.
ADULTS! PRINT THIS so everyone can color while listening. We’re also keeping an album so share your picture on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and tag it with #CircleRound. We'd love to see it! To access all the coloring pages for past episodes click HERE. Our resident artist is Sabina Hahn and you can learn more about her HERE.
Things To Think About After Listening
What are some ways you can show kindness?
Maybe you can write a thank-you note or draw a picture for a local healthcare worker or delivery person. You can assist with a household chore. Or you can tell a family member or friend how much you love them.
Dream up as many acts of kindness as you can, then make your own Kindness Jar!
First, have a grown-up help you write each of your acts of kindness on a slip of paper. Then put all the slips of paper into a jar. Reach into your Kindness Jar at least once a week, do whatever act of kindness you pull out, and before long you’ll bring a whole lot of smiles to a whole lot of faces!
Musical Spotlight: Double Bass
The double bass has many names — e.g. contrabass, string bass, bass, bass viol, bass fiddle and bull fiddle — but its sound is absolutely distinctive. In this video, Boston Symphony Orchestra Youth and Family Concerts Conductor Thomas Wilkins speaks with this week’s soloist, BSO bassist Ben Levy, about the lowest-pitched member of the violin family, an instrument that’s been called the hardest in the world to play!
NARRATOR: Not long ago... in a bustling town with a river flowing right down the middle... there lived a baker named Marco.
Once upon a time Marco ran his very own bakery. But while Marco’s bake shop got many rave reviews, he never sold enough sweets and treats to make ends meet. So he had to close his doors, and had struggled to make a living ever since.
Marco lived with his aging mother, his ailing father, and his seven boisterous children in a cramped little house at the edge of town. As the weather grew colder and his families’ bellies grew emptier, Marco knew he had to do something.
MARCO: Ugh! I can’t let my mother, father and children starve! I guess I’ll just go out into the streets… and beg.
NARRATOR: Marco put on his worn-out shoes and shabby coat and walked through the town, his threadbare cap upturned in his hand.
MARCO: Pardon me, miss? Could you spare a coin or two? (beat) Sir? Any chance you have some extra change…?
NARRATOR: Some of the townspeople dropped a coin into Marco’s cap; most didn’t. Desperate and sad, he kept wandering.
Eventually, he found himself standing at the marble steps of a beautiful mansion. The grand building was owned by a rich and powerful Countess, and as Marco stared up at the stately pillars and archways, the lofty towers and stained-glass windows, he suddenly heard...
COUNTESS: Excuse me!
NARRATOR: ...a voice!
COUNTESS: Sir? Sir! Can I help you?
NARRATOR: Marco looked to see whose voice it was, and who should he spy rushing out the front door and hopping down the marble steps but the Countess herself! The aristocratic woman wore a frilly, satin dress, lavish jewelry, and fancy leather boots with the highest heels Marco had ever seen.
COUNTESS: I hope I didn’t startle you, sir! It’s just that I saw you come trudging up the road just now, and you looked so very sad. (beat) Wait a minute!
NARRATOR: The Countess tilted her head.
COUNTESS: ...Do I know you?
NARRATOR: Marco felt his cheeks burn.
BAKER: No, ma’am; you don’t know me. I’m just another nobody. Sorry to disturb you.
NARRATOR: He was about to turn on the heel of his worn-out shoe and shuffle away. But then...
COUNTESS: Wait! I do know you! (beat) You’re Marco the baker!
NARRATOR: Marco’s body stiffened. No one knew him as “Marco the Baker” anymore! After all, he’d been forced to shut down his business so very long ago...
COUNTESS: Yes! You’re Marco the baker! Wow! You know, Marco, your bread pudding was to die for! And your sweet corn cake? Unbelievable! (beat) Whatever happened to your bakery?
NARRATOR: Marco looked at the ground and gave a shrug.
MARCO: Let’s just say I had to close up shop.
NARRATOR: The Countess frowned.
COUNTESS: I’m sorry to hear it! Do you think you’ll ever open a new one?
NARRATOR: Marco stared at the Countess. The truth was, he wanted to open a new bakery more than anything in the world. But he could never afford it!
MARCO: No, ma’am. I don’t think I’ll open a new bakery any time soon.
COUNTESS: That’s a shame. I would walk a thousand miles for one of your pecan-shortbread cookies — although not in these shoes, of course! (laugh)
NARRATOR: The Countess pointed to her fancy-high-heeled boots. Marco tried to smile.
MARCO: I thank you for your kind words, madam... But I really should be going.
NARRATOR: The Countess grabbed Marco’s hand. He noticed that a dazzling ring encircled each one of her perfectly manicured fingers.
COUNTESS: Look, Marco. It seems you’ve fallen on hard times. And I want to help you! (beat) Please. Come inside.
NARRATOR: Marco followed the elegant woman up the marble steps, through the front door and into a cavernous room with vaulted ceilings and a crystal chandelier. The Countess motioned for Marco to sit down on a plush velvet chair.
COUNTESS: Tell me... Who else lives with you in your home? (beat) (carefully) You do have a home, don’t you?
NARRATOR: Marco nodded.
MARCO: Luckily, I do! Though not a very big one. I share it with my frail old parents and my seven rambunctious kids.
COUNTESS: Wow! That’s quite a full house! But good to know... (beat) Wait right here.
NARRATOR: The Countess sashayed out of the room. Minutes later, she came breezing back in, trailed by a butler. The butler was holding a large sack.
COUNTESS: Inside this sack, Marco, you’ll find gifts for you, your mother, your father and your “seven rambunctious kids”! I’ve packed some clothing, some groceries, some money... But before I give you these gifts, I need you to promise me one thing.
NARRATOR: Marco’s heart raced.
MARCO: Of course, Countess! I’ll do anything!
COUNTESS: Very well. I need you to promise me that you’ll come back to my house every two weeks. On Fridays. Do that, and I will give you exactly what you and your family need.
MARCO: You have my word, Countess! I’ll come back to your house every other Friday! (beat) Is there anything I can do to repay you?
NARRATOR: The Countess grinned.
COUNTESS: Perhaps you can bake me a batch of those pecan-shortbread cookies some day. (beat) Now, take this sack back to your parents and kids. And good luck, Marco the baker!
NARRATOR: For the first time in a long time, Marco had a spring in his step as he traveled back to his cramped little house at the edge of town. When he showed his family the clothing, groceries and money the Countess gave him, his children squealed, and his parents clapped their weathered old hands with delight.
Two weeks later, on a Friday afternoon, Marco made good on his promise to the Countess and returned to her mansion. But when he went bounding up the steps and rapped the big iron knocker on the door, the butler told him the Countess was not at home.
MARCO: Oh… I thought for sure she’d be here! (beat) Well, did she happen to leave a message for me? For Marco…? The baker…?
NARRATOR: The butler thought for a moment.
BUTLER: Actually… she did. She told me I should give you… this.
NARRATOR: The butler reached out a gloved hand and presented Marco with a small paper bag.
When Marco opened the bag and peered inside, his eyes grew wide and his jaw dropped.
Because what he saw was nothing like he expected.
Nothing at all!
NARRATOR: What do you think Marco found inside the Countess’s paper bag?
We’ll find out what it was, after a quick break.
NARRATOR: Welcome back to Circle Round. I’m Rebecca Sheir. Today our story is called “Every Other Friday.”
NARRATOR: Before the break, Marco was down at the heels and begging on the street when he encountered an elegant Countess. The Countess had loved the sweets and treats Marco made at his bakery, before he went out of business. She invited Marco inside her mansion, then sent him home with a big sack of clothing, food and money.
The Countess made Marco promise that he’d return to her mansion every other Friday. In exchange, she would give him ‘exactly what he and his family needed.’
So, two weeks later, Marco came back. The Countess wasn’t home, but she had instructed the butler to give Marco a small brown paper bag.
And when Marco looked inside the bag, he was astounded to see... one loaf of bread!
He shook his head at the butler.
MARCO: I’m sorry, sir, but are you sure this is all the Countess wanted you to give me...? One loaf of bread...?
BUTLER: Indeed, sir. One loaf of bread!
NARRATOR: Marco was confused. Granted, the loaf of bread was beautiful — all fresh and crusty and perfectly round. But the Countess knew that Marco had a very full house. Did she actually think one loaf of bread would be enough to feed him, his parents and his seven children? And did she actually think it would last the family two whole weeks?
Marco thanked the butler with a sigh, then started back toward his house. On the way, he came to the river that ran through the middle of town. Beside the river was a grain mill.
Suddenly, Marco had an idea.
He tipped his threadbare cap at the miller, who was hard at work grinding corn to make flour.
MARCO: Hello, ma’am! I wonder... could I please have some of your corn?
NARRATOR: The miller grinned.
MILLER: Of course! It’s one silver coin for one bag of corn.
MARCO: I see…
NARRATOR: Marco scratched his chin.
MARCO: Unfortunately, I don’t have any cash on me right now. But is there any chance you could trade me one bag of corn… for this?
NARRATOR: Marco reached inside the paper bag and lifted out the loaf of bread the Countess had given him. The miller’s eyes widened when she saw how fresh, crusty, and perfectly round the loaf was.
MILLER: I’d be happy to trade you a bag of corn for such beautiful bread! Here you go!
NARRATOR: Once the trade was complete, Marco continued on his way.
MARCO: (to himself) This bag of corn will go a whole lot farther than that silly loaf of bread would have! I can cook with this corn, I can bake with it… I can’t say it’ll last me and my family a whole two weeks, but it’s worth a try!
NARRATOR: When Marco got home, he told his family everything that happened. His parents were puzzled.
MOTHER: But son, if the Countess wanted you to have one loaf of bread, you should have kept the one loaf of bread!
FATHER: Your mother’s right, Marco! The Countess was so generous back when you met her, sending you home with all those wonderful gifts… Why trade her latest gift away?
NARRATOR: Marco threw up his hands.
MARCO: Because that one loaf of bread wasn’t enough to feed this family! The fancy-shmancy Countess obviously has no idea how the other half lives. And we can’t live by bread alone!
NARRATOR: Two Fridays later, Marco returned to the mansion. Once more, the Countess was not at home.
BUTLER: ...But she did tell me to give you… this.
NARRATOR: Marco took the brown paper bag from the butler and looked inside.
MARCO: (ad-lib exasperated sound) Again?!? Seriously?!? One loaf of bread...?!
BUTLER: (echoing his words from two weeks ago) Indeed, sir. One loaf of bread.
NARRATOR: Marco thanked the butler and made a beeline for the mill. The miller seemed especially excited to see him.
MILLER: (delighted, excited) Let me guess… you’d like to trade one loaf of bread for one bag of corn?
MARCO: Yes, indeed!
MILLER: Terrific — that bread is amazing! (making the trade) Here you go!
NARRATOR: This went on for months. Every other Friday Marco would swing by the mansion, the Countess would not be home, and the butler would hand over a brown paper bag containing…
BUTLER: (clearly getting tired of all this) ...One loaf of bread.
NARRATOR: Then Marco would trade the bread for corn from the miller… who, he noticed… seemed more and more thrilled to see him each time he showed up.
MILLER: (over-the-moon thrilled) You have no idea how much I love this bread! (making the trade) Here you go!
NARRATOR: Finally, the Friday arrived when Marco rapped the big iron knocker on the mansion’s front door, and who should answer…
NARRATOR: ...but the Countess!
COUNTESS: My goodness! It’s been forever since I saw you last! (beat) (shift in tone) What are you doing here?
NARRATOR: Marco was perplexed by the Countess’s question, but tried not to show it.
MARCO: Well, just like I promised you back when we met… I’ve been coming to your house every other Friday! You’re never around, so the butler always gives me a brown paper bag containing one loaf of bread.
NARRATOR: The Countess crinkled her forehead.
COUNTESS: Right. About that... May I ask, what have you been doing with all the bread I’ve given you?
NARRATOR: Marco didn’t want to offend the Countess by admitting he’d been trading away the bread for something far more useful.
MARCO: (on the spot, nervously making it up as he goes along) What have I been doing with all the bread, you ask…? Well, I’ve been taking it from the butler — and thanking him for it, of course — then, you know, going on my merry way...!
COUNTESS: I see. In that case…
NARRATOR: The Countess pointed at Marco’s worn-out shoes and shabby coat.
COUNTESS: ...why are you still so poor and miserable?
NARRATOR: Marco could hardly believe his ears. He was “still so poor and miserable” because all the Countess had been giving him all this time was one measly loaf of bread!
But he wasn’t about to tell her that.
MARCO: I guess I’m still “poor and miserable” because such is my lot in life! I lost my bakery, and in the process I guess I lost my way, too.
NARRATOR: Marco hoped the Countess would be satisfied with his answer.
He could tell from the gleam in her eye… that she wasn’t.
COUNTESS: Well, Marco. If you truly went home with the bread I’ve been giving you… and you ate the bread I’ve been giving you… I’m certain you wouldn’t be so poor and miserable anymore. (beat) And I suspect you’d find your way, too.
NARRATOR: By now, Marco was so befuddled he couldn’t even answer. He just lifted his shoulder in a half shrug and tried to smile.
COUNTESS: Alright. Listen to me, Marco. Today I will give you another loaf of bread. But you must promise me that you’ll eat it. Because if you don’t, I will never help you and your family again. (beat) Do you promise?
NARRATOR: Marco was beyond bewildered, but what else could he say, except…?
MARCO: Yes! I promise.
NARRATOR: Then he hung his head and walked away from the mansion, with yet another brown paper bag containing yet another loaf of bread tucked beneath his arm.
MARCO: What in the world is the Countess thinking? I can’t go home and feed this bread to my family! In no time at all it’ll be gone, and then what do we do? Dance to the rhythm of our own grumbling bellies? (beat) No offense to my ‘generous patron,’ but I’m taking this bread to the miller and trading it for corn. It’s the most practical thing to do.
NARRATOR: But when Marco reached the river, he discovered that the mill... was closed! He called out to the miller, who was outside packing up boxes.
MARCO: Hey there! Excuse me! Are you really closing up shop?
NARRATOR: When the miller spotted Marco, her cheeks blushed.
MILLER: (not wanting to give away her secret) Actually… yes! Would you believe I’ve managed to bring in so much money these past few months that I don’t need to stay open anymore?? I can retire! (beat) Thanks again for all the bread, by the way.
NARRATOR: As Marco continued home, his shoulders slumped.
MARCO: Oh, man. Somehow the miller has made enough money to close her business… yet I can’t make enough money to open a business! (beat) Ah well. I guess I’ll just do as the Countess said. I’ll take this bread home and eat it.
NARRATOR: When Marco trudged through the door of his cramped little house, his mother and father gazed at him with concern.
MOTHER: (concerned) Why the furrowed brow, son? Did your trip to the mansion go okay?
FATHER: Did you trade your loaf of bread for a bag of corn from the miller?
NARRATOR: Marco shook his head.
MARCO: Actually, no. The miller’s gotten lucky and made enough money to close down her mill! So all I’ve brought home is the Countess’s loaf of bread — which we’d better eat, because if we don’t...? The Countess said she’ll never help us again!
NARRATOR: Marco plopped down in a chair, then called his children to the table and began slicing into the fresh, crusty, perfectly round loaf of bread.
But the moment he did...
NARRATOR: … his knife hit something!
MARCO: What’s going on here? There must be something stuck inside this loaf!
NARRATOR: Marco reached inside the bread and rooted around. Eventually, his hand found something hard and round. And when he pulled it out, do you know what it was?
A gold coin!
Marco held the coin up for his family to see. As the gold piece glittered and gleamed in the light, all of a sudden... Marco saw the light! Inside every fresh, crusty, perfectly round loaf of bread the Countess had given him... she had hidden a gold coin!
And when Marco traded those loaves to the miller…? The miller wound up with all those gold coins!
So instead of Marco collecting enough money to open a new business… the miller collected enough money to close hers.
You may recall that when Marco first met the Countess, the well-heeled — and kind-hearted — woman promised she would ‘give him and his family exactly what they needed.’
And now, Marco finally understood that all this time...?