Category Archives: Stories

Enna, the Dragon Tamer

It would be much easier to tame a wolf pup if I didn’t have my little brother with me. Finn trudged beside me, bundled in caribou-skin coat, tan round face nearly hidden by the fur trimming the hood around his face.

My own hood was down even though the chilled air turned my bare ears to ice. Step one in taming a wild animal was to keep a keen eye on your surrounds, and I didn’t want my hood to block my view.

I pushed my mitten-covered hand into my pocket to make sure the dry meat I was going to feed the pup was still there. I didn’t want my brother to know, but I was feeling a little nervous. I may have read Taming Wild Things from cover to cover at least fifty times and knew the steps for taming all the animals listed by heart, but I had never actually tamed an animal before.

“Don’t you think we should get one of the older ones to help us?” Finn asked. He meant our older brothers and sisters, Bennjim, Sennori, Minnsy, and Ivinn.

“That would ruin everything,” I said.

“It would ruin everything if a wolf bit your hand off and you couldn’t knit anymore.”

“That, actually, wouldn’t ruin anything,” I said, blowing out a sigh that fogged the frigid air in front of me. I wasn’t good at knitting or needle work like Sennori, our eldest sister. She was so talented, that the trader that came in the spring would take the beautifully designed scarves and blankets she knit and sell them to villages miles away. After he brought her thirty-five silvers from her in payment for the things he sold for her, she was known to the village as Sennori, Silver Needle.

And everyone seemed to forget my name. I was just Sennori’s sister.

Then Bennjim, our eldest brother, killed the fierce white bear that roamed the mountains and brought terror to the village with a single roar.

Polar Bear Claws | How Long are Polar Bear Claws? • Polar Bear Facts

He became Bennjim the Bear Slayer. And I became Bennjim’s sister.

The twins, Minnsy and Ivinn were known for their skill of music. Minnsy had a voice more beautiful than any in the village and Ivinn’s played his lute so well that it brought tears to people’s eyes.

They were the Twins of Golden Melodies. I was the twins’ sister.

The only thing I was good at was being braver than Finn, which wasn’t very hard. He was only eight, three years younger than me, and mam said he worried as much as an old man. Which is why I couldn’t believe he wanted to come with me when he caught me sneaking off to tame a wolf pup.

“You smell like cheese,” I told him, catching a whiff as a gust of icy air blew around my uncovered head. Finn believed in that superstitious nonsense about cheese being a lucky food that warded off bad luck and was constantly slipping some into his pocket.

I hoped the smell didn’t make the wrong animal come to us and ruin my chances of finding a wolf pup. Today was the day I became Enna, the Wolf Tamer.

“I think we are being watched,” Finn said, ignoring what I said.

I rolled my eyes. “You always think that.”

“I’m always right.”

“Like that one spring when you thought there was a bear in the blueberry bush and it turned out to be Bennjim hiding in the bushes to scare us?”

“That was when I was a kid,” Finn sulked.

“What about the beginning of this winter when we were at the market with mam and you said someone was watching us. It was just the vender’s toddler under the table.”

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Finn frowned down at his snowshoes, seeming to concentrate harder on each step. “Who cares who it was? I was still right. Someone was watching us. My neck prickles every time, and it is prickling now.”

“So, what is watching us this time?” I teased. “A fluffy rabbit? An old woman with steaming hot tea?”

“You’re not funny.”

Before I could tell him that I was actually quite hilarious, something came flying towards me. I thought that Finn threw a snowball at me from the glimpse of something white, about the size of my hand.

Whatever it was came whizzing back from behind me, nearly hitting my shoulder. It didn’t fall to the ground, as a snowball should, but hovered in the air right above my head.

It blinked.

“Enna?” Finn squeaked. “What is that?”

I was trying to determine that very thing. The creature before me was no bigger than a bird, and had wings like one too, but that was where the resemblance ended. Instead of feathers, it was covered in white, fluffy fur. Unlike a bird, it had four legs, each ending in small claws peeking out from its fur. It had a tail that swished back and forth like an excited puppy’s. Its ears were hardly bigger than blueberries and were shaped a bit like a doe’s. Right above its fuzzy ears sprouted delicate, silver horns, twisting in twin spirals the size of my pinkies.

“It’s a dragon,” I breathed, scarcely able to say the words.

The dragon seemed to understand, doing a kind of hop in the air and making a series of sounds that reminded me of the yipping of playing foxes.

“Dragons are bigger,” Finn said in a confused, yet awed voice.

“Not snow dragons. The largest ones are only as big as a man’s hand,” I said, remembering the words from our village’s only book on dragons. I had read it a dozen times, like every other book in our dusty book shop. I ran through the facts it listed about snow dragons and realized that it had, unfortunately, left out the ones about how to tame a snow dragon. Taming Wild Things didn’t have anything about taming dragons either, so it looked like I was on my own.

I held my hand out.

“Don’t do that!” Finn yelled. “It will bite you.”

His voice startled the dragon, who took off flying towards a cluster of trees.

“You scared him!” I tried to hurry after the dragon, but hurry wasn’t a pace you can go in in snowshoes and I ended up falling, mittened hands sinking deep into the snow.

“You can’t run in snowshoes,” Finn said, unhelpfully.

“This was the most exciting thing that has ever happened to us,” I huffed, struggling to pull my arms from the snow, “and you ruined it.”

“You were going to get bit,” he insisted.

“I was not!” I yanked my arms from the snow. One of my hands came up without a mitten. I rolled over and collapsed on the snow. “We’ll never find it now.”

A yipping sound made me sit up. A little, white puff ball was diving into the hole my arm made in the snow.

“It came back!” I crawled to peer into the hole and nearly got my head smacked as the dragon came whizzing out with my mitten captured in its mouth. “It got my mitten for me,” I said, delighted. I reached to take it, but the little dragon darted away, letting out an excited yip.

“It stole your mitten,” Finn said, sounding horrified.

“It can have it,” I said. “It’s Minnsy’s old mitten and it is too big for me anyway.”

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But I knew mam would be angry if I lost it, so I made another attempt to snatch my mitten from its pin-sized teeth. The dragon darted out of the way again and I nearly fell face first into the snow.

Finn, who was standing behind the fluffy dragon, tried to sneak up on it and capture it between his hands (which was quite brave for someone who is as scared of everything as he is). The dragon made a chortling sound and flew out of Finn’s reach.

I thought it might disappear again, but it came to hover in front of my face, huge silver eyes blinking at me.

“I think she is playing with us,” I said, grinning.

“How do you know it’s a girl?” Finn squinted at the dragon.

“Silver eyes are girls. Blue are boys,” I said. “Haven’t you read any of the dragon book?”

Finn didn’t answer because he was too busy toddling on his snowshoes towards the dragon who bobbed playfully in the air.

I grinned and joined him.

Finn and I did our best to get the mitten back from the cheeky little dragon. Our snow shoes slowed us down, but the dragon always came back for us if she got too far ahead. Soon, we had gone back down the mountain, and I had forgotten all about taming a wolf pup.

“I am going to keep her,” I said, reaching my bare hand into my pocket. Instead of Enna the Wolf Tamer, I would be Enna, the Dragon Tamer. That title was much more impressive.

“How are we going to keep her?” Finn asked, “She is too fast to catch.”

“Watch,” I said. I pulled out the dry meat intended for the wolf pup I was going to tame and waved it in the air. The dragon’s eyes widened and, with a happy squeal, she dove toward it. My glove fell at my feet as the dragon traded it for the meat.

“Thank you,” I said, scooping my mitten up and pulling it over my icy hand.

The dragon landed softly on the snow and used her two front talons to hold the meat to her mouth. Her small teeth worked at the tough meat, but she didn’t seem to be able to break into it.

Frustrated, she dropped it on the snow and tried to shred it with her claws. When that didn’t work, her silver eyes turned up to meet mine and she let out a disgusted yip.

I laughed. “That’s what I think of it too.”

She looked back at the dried hunk of meat in front of her and a stream of light came from her opened mouth.

Not light. Fire.

I hopped back and watched as the dragon made more tiny bursts of flame appear until the dried meat was black and the flame sizzled out by from the snow.

“I guess that made her mad,” Finn said.

I stared helplessly at the burned meat and ball of white fluff that was my only chance at standing out from my brothers and sisters.

“Here,” Finn pulled something out from his caribou coat pocket and knelt down to offer it to the dragon.

I was surprised that he wasn’t afraid of the dragon after its display of fire, even if its flames were only as big as a candle’s. Even I was wary of sticking my hand next to its mouth like that, just in case it decided to char my fingers for giving it an insufficient meal.

“Dragons like meat,” I said, seeing what Finn was offering. Cheese.

She took the cheese in her tiny claws, took a dainty sniff, then nibbled. She made a humming sound in the back of her throat, which I guessed meant she liked it because she stuffed the rest of it in her mouth.

“She likes it.” Finn looked up at me, delight playing all over his round face.

“Let me try,” I said, eager to win the dragon’s favor. Finn let me have a piece of cheese and I offered it to her.

We took turns feeding her until Finn ran out of cheese.

The dragon must have still wanted more because she fluttered to my shoulder and perched there, large silver eyes blinking at me.

The dragon licked her mouth and nuzzled her face against my cheek. It was as soft as the baby chicks we had running around our yard every spring.

“You’ve just made me Enna, the Dragon Tamer,” I told her.

I just made you a dragon tamer,” Finn corrected. He paused, face scrunched in thought. “Actually, I’m a dragon tamer too.”

I pursed my chapped lips for a moment, wondering if letting him share in my accomplishment would mean I was back to just being “so and so’s sister.”

“More like Finn the Cheese Hoarder,” I snort.

“You’re not funny.”

“I’m absolutely hilarious,” I said, and the dragon rubbed itself against my neck and made a purring sound. “See, she thinks so too.”

Finn shook his head in mock annoyance, then began clomping towards the village, snow shoes crunching on the snow. “Come on,” he called, his voice strung with anticipation. “We have to tell everyone that we are dragon tamers now.”

Never in all my daydreams about winning a title for myself did I end up sharing a name with Finn. But I never would have thought that Finn’s pocketed cheese would be useful, especially for taming a dragon.

“Slow down, Finn, the Dragon Tamer,” I called after him.

“I bet I can beat you to the house.” He laughed and made his voice deep and important, “Enna, the Dragon Tamer.”

 

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Miracle Santa (Part 2)

This is a contunation of a little Christmas story I wrote. Read part 1 here.

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Miracle Santa (Part 2)

Within four seconds, everything in the coffee shop was gone.

Shapes and colors appeared around us. And soon I was standing in the middle of a mall.

“How did this happen?” I turned to the man with the scarf beside me. “Did you bring us here?”

“I said I could change your mind.”

I didn’t have time for this weird stuff. I had to get my coffee and get to the hospital.  “But…” I started.

The man held a finger to his lips. “You’ll miss it.” He pointed to a line of children waiting to get on Santa’s lap.

Great. All I needed to see was more spoiled kids.

A little boy climbed unto Santa’s knee as his grandma stood by and watched. I waited for him to start his long list, but instead he pulled a picture from his pocket.”

“Who’s this?” Santa asked in his cheerful voice.

“She’s my sister,” said the boy. “Her name is Sarah and she wanted to come with me to see you so bad.”  He looked at his lap, “But she can’t. She’s really sick and can’t leave the hospital.”

I was touched that a little boy would think to mention his sister, but I didn’t see how this was supposed to change my mind.

Santa gave his condolences and then asked the boy what he wanted for Christmas.  When the boy was done telling Santa, his grandma came and helped him off of Santa’s lap. The boy ran to the elf who was giving prizes to everyone who visited Santa, but the grandma stayed.

“I know it’s too much to ask,” she said to the mall Santa, “but my granddaughter, the girl in the picture, has leukemia and isn’t expected to make it even through the holidays.” Her eyes began to glisten. “I was hoping that you would visit Sarah. She only asked for one thing for Christmas. To see Santa.”

Even through the fake beard and curly white hair, I could see that Santa was swallowing back emotion. He told the woman to leave the information with the elf, and he would visit the little girl.

Suddenly, the bright greens and red of the decorated mall began to fall away just as the coffee shop had and the bright colors was replaced by white walls. I was standing in a hospital room.

The boy and his grandmother were there along with a man and woman who must be her parents. They were gathered around a hospital bed that held a pale young girl. Her light hair was thin, and there were patches of her scalp that were bald.

I looked at the man in the scarf.

“Won’t they be upset to see some strangers in their room?”

“Don’t worry. They can’t see us.”

The door opened and in walked the Santa Clause from the mall.

“Santa!” Sarah’s eyes lit up. She stretched her frail arms out and Santa came close for a hug.

“I knew you’d come!” Her blue eyes stared at him admiringly.

Sarah chattered away to Santa oblivious to the tears in the adult’s eyes.  My own eyes had tears in them. The mall Santa wasn’t getting paid for this. No one was applauding him.  He did it because he wanted to make a little girl happy. He did it because it was Christmas.

Before he left, Santa leaned to the little girl. “Now, Sarah, you have a job to do.” He told her seriously, “You have concentrate on getting well. I expect to see you this time next year.”  Then he asked, “Do you believe in angels?” Sarah nodded. Santa took Sarah’s small, frail hand in his. “It may be easier to get well with some help, so I’m going to ask that angels watch over you.”

Sarah smiled. “They will Santa. I’m sure they will if you ask.”

The white room swirled away and I was back at the mall in front of Santa.

“What happened to the little girl?” I asked the old man in the scarf.

“Does that matter? What matters is that someone took the time to reach out to another person who was hurting.  That man had his own kids to buy presents for, his own family to spend time with, but he chose to take the time to do something nice for someone else.”

I looked at the man in the Santa costume and thought that maybe Christmas did bring out the good after all. As I was watching, a girl with short blond hair walked up to him.

“Hi, Santa remember me?” she asked. “You visited me in the hospital last year.”

My mouth opened. It was Sarah. She looked so different. Her hair was healthy and her cheeks pink.

Santa’s reaction was much like my own. He looked at her for a moment, then he pulled her into a hug and his eyes filled with tears.

“Christmas is what you make it,” said the man in the scarf watching Sarah and Santa.  “You can choose to only see the ads, the companies trying to sell their products, and spoiled children. Or you can see the good that Christmas brings. And what’s more important is that you decide what kind of Christmas you experience. You can join the commercialism, or even ignore Christmas completely. Or you can do something that will change another’s life.”

With those words, the malls rearranged itself and I was back in the coffee shop.  I shook my head, feeling disoriented.

The seat across from me was empty.  I scanned the room for the man in the scarf, but he wasn’t there.

My name was called and I hurried to get my coffee. I would have to be fast if I was going to make it to the toy store and still be on time for my shift. I couldn’t be Santa, but I maybe a few small gifts would make staying in the hospital for Christmas a little more bearable for the kids in the children’s wing.

I stepped outside, excited to carry out my plan, and whispered to the cold air, “Looks like you win the bet.”

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*This story is all I’m posting for the month of December. Our regular posting schedule will continue in January. Hope you all have a wonderful holiday! 🙂

This is based off of a true story you can read here:

http://academictips.org/blogs/christmas-miracle-real-story/

 

Miracle Santa

In the spirit of the season, I thought I would share a little Chirstmas story I wrote. I hope you enjoy it! Merry Christmas! 🙂

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Less than an hour ago, I thought Christmas was commercialized nonsense.  It was just an excuse for parents to go into debt and kids to act like brats. Christmas wasn’t about peace and joy, but Xboxes and iPhones.  Everyone was focused on out-getting or out-giving everyone else.

I distanced myself from the holiday was much as possible. The only reason I was inside the coffee shop on a Christmas Eve was because my driver side window didn’t roll down. I was forced into the little shop crowded with last minute shoppers getting a caffeine buzz to finish their frenzied search for merchandise.

I wouldn’t have stopped at all but I’d volunteered to work the night shift at the hospital and I needed the caffeine. The debts nursing school left me with needed to be paid, even if that meant working Christmas eve.

Miraculously, there was there was an empty table and I slid into the seat before anyone else could. As I waited for the barista to call my name, I watched the chaotic scene in front of me.

A young mother tried to keep her screaming baby quiet while her five-year-old made his three-year-old sister cry by telling her that Santa was bringing him a ton of presents, but she was only getting coal.

Two little boys argued over who was getting the most presents this year. A man talked loudly on his phone: something about looking everywhere, but none of the stores had it.  Whoever was on the other end (probably his wife) didn’t believe him. I could hear her shrill voice coming out of the speaker.

Didn’t people have enough stress in their lives without Christmas? It wouldn’t bother me if the Holiday was canceled, well, I would miss the extra pay that came from working on Christmas Eve.

A middle-aged man with a scarf wrapped around his neck pulled out the chair across from mine. “Mind if I sit down? There aren’t any more seats left.”

I kind of did mind, but he wasn’t arguing on his cell phone or carrying an armload of kids, so I nodded my head.

“You look like you could use some Christmas cheer,” he said.

I frowned. Just because I let him sit here didn’t mean I wanted an evaluation.

“I could use a little less Christmas cheer,” I told him.

“You don’t like Christmas?”

“I don’t like what it does to people.”

He raised an eyebrow.  “What does it do?”

“It brings out their worst. Suddenly the only thing on everyone’s mind is getting, getting, getting. Parents have to get more toys for their kids, because if they get less than last year, they’ll throw a fit. Kids want more toys even though half the toys they already own are unused. Everyone is rushing around trying to get everything on their list before stores run out. Heaven forbid you step outside your door on Black Friday.”

The old man nodded, making the white stubble on his chin brush his scarf. “Christmas may bring out some people’s bad side, but it can also bring out their good side.”

“I don’t think trampling people because big screen TVs are on sale is the nice side of people.”

He chuckled. “That wasn’t exactly what I was thinking about.” He leaned in. “I bet I know something that will change your mind about Christmas.”

“I’m pretty sure nothing will change my mind,” I said.

“I’ll right, it’s a bet.” He held out his hand for me to shake.

“You’re on.” He could talk all night and still not be able to pull the wool over my eyes. Christmas was a sham to get people to spend more money. There certainly wasn’t anything good about it.

As I clasped his hand, the small coffee shop began to swirl away. First the crying baby and mother scolding her son for making his sister cry. Then the boy and tearful small girl. The table between me and the old man vanished.

“What’s going on?” I asked, voice high with panic.

“You may want to stand up,” he said, getting out of his seat.

“Why?”

Just then his chair disappeared, and I jumped out of my seat to avoid falling on the floor when mine did the same.

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Part two is coming next week!

*This story is all I’m posting for the month of December. Our regular posting schedule will continue in January.

P.S. I Think You’re Cute

Six Years Old

Max saved the best Valentine’s for last. He’d already given out the rest of the little bags of candy to his classmates, but the one still in his hand was better than those. It had a mini Hershey chocolate among the gummy bears.

He walked to Jacey, who was bent over digging in her purple backpack and tapped her shoulder. Her dark pigtails swished as she turned. The red ribbons she had tied in each one reminded Max of cherry Twizzlers.

“Here,” Max said, holding out the bag of candy.

She took it and swooped back into her backpack. “I have yours.” She came up holding a square card with a picture of Snoopy surrounded by hearts attached to a tiny bag of heart-shaped candies. The gross kind that taste like chalk.

“Thanks,” Max said. Not because he was really glad to get the candies, but because it was the thing to say when someone gave you something.

Jacey frowned. “It doesn’t have a card with it,” she said peering into the clear plastic bag. The bag, much to Max’s embarrassment, had red and pink hearts all over it. He’d wanted plain bags, but his mother insisted on the one the ones with hearts to make up for his un-valentine’s-day-like candy of gummy bears.

“But it has chocolate,” Max said. Which was more than she could say for her gift.

“Yeah, but it’s more fun when there’s a card too,” she said, swishing one of her pigtails over her shoulder. “Then I can keep them on my dresser and look at them.”

Max couldn’t see why anyone would want to keep a bunch of cards with pictures of cartoon characters that said “Be mine” on them. “You can put the candy on your dresser,” he tried.

She shook her head, making her pigtails swirl around her shoulders. “Candy isn’t pretty. You eat candy. The cards are cute.”

Max shrugged, not sure how he could argue with a girl about what was pretty or not. Next Valentine’s Day, he would get her a bag of candy and a card.

 

Ten Years Old

There was a large Hershey bar sitting on his desk when he got to class. Max wasn’t surprised. It was Valentine’s day, so that was normal. But the note on the back wasn’t normal. Unfortunately, Max didn’t get to read it first.

“You got a whole chocolate bar?” asked Danny in the desk next to him as he snatched the bar from his hands. “Hey there’s a love note on the back of it.”

“It’s not a love note,” Max said, though he had no idea what it said.

“Yeah it is.” Danny held it away so Max couldn’t reach it. “It says, ‘Happy Valentine’s Day. P.S. I think you are cute.’” He read it loudly so the kids nearby could hear.

“Who would think you’re cute, Danny?” asked one of the boys behind Max.

“Eww, it’s not mine,” Danny said. “It’s his.” Danny gave the chocolate back to Max. He flipped it over, hoping that Danny was making it up, but there was a square valentine with a picture of Snoopy. Scrawled over the Snoopy were the exact words Danny read.

Max turned red.

“Max has a girlfriend. Max has a girlfriend,” the boys chanted.

“I do not.” Max tossed the chocolate to Danny’s desk. “I don’t even want it.”

“I’ll take it,” said one of the boys.

“No way. It’s on my desk.” Danny cupped his hands around it like a turtle shell.

Max pulled out his notebook, glad that they were all arguing over the chocolate and not teasing him anymore. He glanced up to make sure no one else was looking at him and saw Jacey looking at him from her desk across the room. She quickly looked away, without giving him her usual smile.

Max was sorry about more than the chocolate he didn’t get to taste.

 

Sixteen Years Old

Max helped himself to a third glass of punch from the heart-shaped bowl. He didn’t feel as awkward with something in his hands. Plastic cup filled, he went back to his spot against the wall and watched the rest of his high school swirl past in graceful moves and huge smiles. Among them was his date. Or at least the girl he’d asked and had said yes. He wasn’t sure if she was still his date or not, since after the first dance, she’d gone off to talk to some other guy. She hadn’t been back.

Max spotted his red-haired ex-date laughing as she dance with a tall boy. Was that the fifth or six different boy he’d seen her dance with?

He took another swig of the punch. It was too sweet. He headed toward a trashcan, deciding he would wait in the hall for the party to be over. At least he could count on his phone to keep him company.

Halfway to the trashcan, he bumped into someone and dripped some punch on their arm. Max apologized, thinking that this night couldn’t get any worse.

“It’s alright,” said a laughing voice. Max looked up and right into Jacey’s deep brown eyes.

“Oh, hi,” Max said lamely. They’d use to be close friends when they were little, but he wasn’t sure if she remembered.

“Care to get me a napkin.” She held up her punch-speckled arm.

Max hurried to the punch table and grabbed a handful of napkins. He spun around and almost knocked into her again when he found her standing right behind him. He apologized again, but she only laughed and took the napkins.

“Are you here by yourself?” she asked.

“No,” Max was quick to say. He didn’t want to look lame. “She’s over there.” He pointed to the red-haired girl that looked like there was nothing more fun than being apart from Max. He immediately wished he would said he was here by himself.

“You too?” she raise an eyebrow.

“What do you mean?”

She shrugged. “My date is a bit more enthusiastic about the whole dancing thing than I am. So he found someone equally enthralled with trying to impress the other with their amazing collection of movements.” She did a jerky movement that looked like a demon-possessed robot and Max laughed.

“I’m glad I’m not the only one at this thing that doesn’t like to dance,” Max said. “It’s too bad Valentine’s couldn’t stay like it when we were little. All we had to do was hand out cards and eat candy.”

“I’d take chocolate over loud music and vanishing dates any day.” She grinned. “You always gave out the best Valentines.”

“I did?” Max was surprised she even remembered his Valentine’s gifts. He was strangely pleased that she thought they were the best.

“They always had different kinds of candy in them. Like gummy bears and sour candies.”

Max grinned. “I’ll have to tell my mom that. She thought sour candy was all wrong for Valentine.”

Jacey grabbed his arm suddenly. “You know what we should do?” The curls in her hair bobbed as she did a little bounce. “We should go to the store and find some candy and Valentine’s cards—you know, the kind we gave out as kids.”

“For our dates?” Max asked, imagining the look he would get from the girl he came with if he tried to give her a kid Valentine card and gummies.

“Not them.” Jacey laughed. “For each other. Just for fun.”

Max tossed his punch in the trash. “I could use some candy.”

As Max wound through the crowd with Jacey by his side, he knew just what he’d get her. Sour gummies with a Snoopy card. And across the Snoopy he’d write: Happy Valentine’s Day. P.S. I think you cute.

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The Bottle

I hated the ashes, almost as much as I hated the crimson scars that bubbled over every inch of my flesh. They were the ashes of everything my family once owned and seeing them reminded me there was nothing that could return them to the big farm house they once were. Maybe not even the bottle of sparkling red liquid that I buried in them.

I dug into the pile of ashes in the spot where I thought I’d left it. The back of my hands were wet with  tears I’d brushed away, which only made the black ash stick to them faster.  I couldn’t find the bottle, so I moved a little to the left and started shifting through the ash there.  Only days ago, I’d hid the bottle here, but it was tiny and I was in an excited rush when I dug the hole.

I was deep in the forest that day, letting the creek water run over my bare feet. It didn’t hesitate to touch me, not caring that a nine-year-old girl had wrinkles on her feet and legs.  The water trickling over the rocks and the birds twittering in the branches were the only sounds I needed.  I could go on forever without the sounds of people.  They whispered as I walked by.  They laughed at the way the skin grafts left me looking like a shriveled raisin.  Besides, why should I listen to the sounds others made when they couldn’t listen to mine?  The smoke damaged my throat.  Talking was something I only did in my dreams.

A voice joined the song of the forest. A human voice.  I jumped and spun to find an old woman standing on the bank.  She put something in my hand, closed my fingers around it, and told me to pour it on anything that needed to be made new. I opened my hand and resting on my palm was a tiny bottle of red liquid. I looked up.  She was gone.

When my sister came to get me for dinner, I slipped the bottle from my pocket. She grabbed at it saying it could contain a curse or spell.  I couldn’t tell her that it was a good spell, so I ran for the one place I knew she would never think to find me. The place of my nightmares.  I hadn’t been to the mound of ashes that was once our home since the fire.

It was my fault. I was playing with my ball in the house, even though I wasn’t allowed.  The ball floated slowly as it went toward the lantern but once it hit, everything thing exploded into supper speed. The flames that melted the sturdy log walls along with my skin danced in my dreams night after night.  I couldn’t look at my red splotchy burns without smoke flooding my nostrils and smothering my breath.

That would change with a few drops from the bottle. I would lead my parents to its ashy hiding place, then I would fix what I’d done while they watched, beaming smiles at me like the hadn’t done since the fire.

I went back to our one room shack, thinking that I’d never have to see it again, and wrote everything that had happened on my slate. Once I dusted the chalk of my fingers, I gave it to my parents. I waited for the light to come back to their dull eyes. I watched for their smiles, but their mouths sagged downward.

Da asked if I gave the woman money for the phony spell. Ma told me that it was time I stop living in my imagination.  Making up stories wouldn’t heal my scars.

Ma was right. I would always be wrapped in scar tissue. I would always be trapped inside with no one but myself to listen to me. It was impossible that a bit of red liquid could fix what I’d done.

I planned to leave the bottle there, but the flames in my dreams were replaced by cool drops of red liquid that eased my burning skin and made me smile.

After a group of children gathered around me chanting “scar face,” I ran to the remains of our home. I dropped down beside the chimney standing alone in the rubble and wiped the tears away so I could look for the bottle.

My fingers brushed something hard. I found it. The liquid was the color of a rose in full bloom. Something that color couldn’t be an evil spell, but even if it was, what could it do to ashes? I popped the cork from the mouth and tipped it.  One shimmering drop hit the ashes.  Nothing happened.

I frowned and let a little more of the liquid out of the bottle. Nothing.  I put the bottle over my arm.  The drops that fell didn’t feel any different than water from the creek I played in. I put drops all over me until the bottle was empty, but it didn’t do anything.  I lifted my hand to fling the bottle against the blackened chimney.

The chimney wasn’t black. It’s bricks were as clean as the day they were laid.  The air began to vibrate.  Walls with shiny windows appeared along the perimeter of the house.  I jumped back as a wall rose in front of me. More walls came forming a room.  Ma’s rocking chair appeared and beside it, a basket filled with yarn. A stack of books rested on the mantle place beside the clock.  Everything was just as it was before the fire.

I couldn’t move for a solid minute. I looked at the emptied bottle.  My skin!  The skin on my arm was smooth.  I ran my hand over it, surprised that it felt as smooth as it looked.  I moved my fingers to my face.  The wrinkly scars were gone.  There wasn’t a mark on my body.

No one would call me names now. No one would whisper my story as I passed by.  I clasped the bottle and my vocal cords vibrated.

“It’s a new life.”

Pirate’s Lace

Out of all the people bustling among the ships docked along Morchender’s waterfront, only one held Ramiel’s attention.

Captain Jambika stood at the bow of her ship, hair billowing out in a wild mass of black curls. Lace dripped from her cuffs and tumbled from her throat like foam cresting a wave.

So, the rumors were true. Jambika did like to sport her lace as well as transport it. Ramiel thought it must have been a tale, like those that always surrounded pirates. The last pirate she’d been under, Dead Eye, was said to have no eyes in his scull and use some mystical power to aim his pistol and strike his sword. In truth, he did have an empty eye socket—not even a fake eye in it or a patch over it—but it was his other eye that did the aiming, not some mystical power.

Ramiel stood at the bottom of the ship’s ramp and yelled up to one of the crew. “Permission to come aboard.”

He squinted at her. “If ye want to look at the lace, ye can wait ’til we bring it ashore.”

“Do I look like I’m interested in lace?” Ramiel didn’t try to keep the offence out of her voice. Jambika may parade around in the ship’s cargo, but Ramiel had more dignity than to go around looking as pompous and useless as a queen. She liked her clothing simple and useful. A cloak to keep rain off as well as cover her sword. Shirt long enough to cover the pistol at her side. And boots tall enough to conceal a dagger.

“What are ye interested in then?” asked the crew member.

“A job.”

He eyed Ramiel, probably trying to decide if she knew that she was asking to be part of a pirate crew, not a merchant ship.

“Let her aboard,” said a woman’s voice behind him. It was Jambika. Her voice wasn’t as soft as Rameil expected someone with that much lace to have, but it wasn’t as rough as Dead Eye’s. It wasn’t as rough as hers.

Ramiel strode up the ramp and onto the ship. She stopped before Jambika and stood straight and proud.

“I’m looking for honest work on the open sea. The longer we’re away from the shore, the better.” The words were code. They let Jambika know that Ramiel knew she was more than a merchant, and Ramiel most certainly did not care that the work wouldn’t be honest.

Jambika eyed her like she were a bit of expired fish. “You’re a bit shabby for honest work.”

Ramiel’s jaw tightened. “Honest work doesn’t require fancy dress.” She gave a pointed look at Jambika’s lace.

“Jealous?” One side of Jambika’s mouth curved upward.

Ramiel tightened her lips to keep from spitting. Jealous? Of this overdressed sod? She probably couldn’t use the sword hanging at her side.

“If you haven’t noticed,” Jambika said. “This ship requires a little more class than the normal,” she raised her brow, “honest workers.”

Ramiel felt she might explode. Was this frilly thing refusing to give her a chance because of her clothes? What kind of pirate cared how you were dressed?

“I don’t need a bunch of lace dripping off of me to look intimidating. I let my skills do the talking.” Ramiel put her hand over the sword beneath her cloak.

Jambika cocked her head. “Are you saying that I need to strike an imposing figure to make up for my lack of skill?”

“It’s not what I’m saying. It’s what all that lace is saying.”

“Perhaps I should let my sword do some ‘saying’ as well as my lace.” Jambika pulled a long, slender sword from the sheath at her side and Ramiel wasted no time in pulling out her own, less dazzling weapon.

“You first,” Ramiel said. Only a cowered would take advantage of one less skilled.

Jambika nodded her head at Ramiel. “Please, your move first.”

Ramiel only stood with her sword ready.

“I would not want the fight to be over too quickly,” Jambika said.

Heat spread through Ramiel. If Jambika wanted to be made a fool, so be it. Ramiel sprang forward, not bothering to be gentle with her first blow as she might have for someone less pompous.

Jambika didn’t stumble back in surprise as she imagined, but blocked her easily and stood waiting for Ramiel’s next strike.

Ramiel’s sword came at her again, and again Jambika blocked her. Ramiel swung over and over, but each time Jambika blocked her.

“Having trouble finding me under all my imposing lace?” Jambika asked, mouth quirked.

Ramiel’s only answer was a series of jabs and strikes that Jambika brushed aside smoothly.

Finally, Jambika made a jab back at Ramiel.

Ramiel had no problem blocking the blow and wondered if Jambika was only talented at defense. That would explain why she wanted her to make the first move. Perhaps her only skill was to keep attackers from wounding her while her crew did all the killing.

Ramiel switched tactics and stayed in a defensive position, waiting for Jambika to strike against her.

It was a mistake. Instead of finding a weak spot that would allow Ramiel to take advantage, she found herself so busy defending against the onslaught of blows raining down on her that she couldn’t make single offensive move.

She was being beaten by a lace-bedecked ninny!

Just as Ramiel thought it couldn’t get any worse, something hard press against the back of her calf. Her balance teetered and she fell backward over the object, smacking her head on the deck.

The world dimmed for a moment except the sparks of light that flitted over her vision.

A hand appeared among the little lights, a ring of lace surrounding it. Ramiel was not so dazed that she would stoop to taking Jambika’s hand. She ignored it and pushed herself up.

Jambika laughed and it annoyed Ramiel that she didn’t take offence at her offer of help being ignored. But then, it would be hard to take offence at someone you’d so soundly humiliated. Ramiel hardened her jaw and slid her sword into its sheath. She was about to leave the ship and the annoying grins of the watching crew, when Jambika said, “Not bad. I suppose I could use another honest worker aboard.”

Ramiel stood for a second. Was Jambika offering her a place on her ship?

“If you can stand to work under someone who strikes an imposing figure to compensate for their lack of skill,” Jambika continued.

The crew snickered.

Ramiel might have turned her down, just to save some of her injured pride, but if she had to spend another week on land in this smelly city, she’d join a merchant crew just to breathe in the sea again.

“I think I can put up with it,” Ramiel said.

“Good.” Jambika flicked her hand toward the crate at Ramiel’s feet, making the lace at her wrist swish. “Your first task is to take the cargo to shore.”

Ramiel scowled at the crate. It was the thing that had tripped her and left her sprawling like a ninny for the crew to see. There was a single word etched into the wooden lid, letting its content be known. Lace.

The Pact

7 years old

She looks like me. That was the first thing Tyler thought when he saw girl who was moving into the house next door. He wondered if she moved here straight from China or if her family had been in the U.S. for generations like his.

She was sitting on the porch steps, chin in her hands. She didn’t look very happy. For some reason, he wanted her to look up at him.

Tyler grabbed the scooter leaning against his house down his driveway then stopped at the street. He wasn’t allowed cross the line where the light cement of the driveway ended and the black pavement of the road began. But she was watching him now, and he didn’t want her to think he was a baby, so he crossed the line and let the wheels roll over the road.

He stopped when he reached the next driveway. Her driveway.

“Can I ride in your driveway?” he asked. She nodded and he scooted his way right up to her porch. He stopped in front of her.

“Did you just get here from China?” Then he remembered how every new kid at school would always ask him that and how it annoyed him, so he added, “Or has your family been here for generations? Mine has been here for four. I’ve never even been to China.”

She blinked at him. She probably wasn’t used to having people actually realize that just because she was Chinese didn’t mean she came from China.

He was sure she was impressed until she said, “I’m not Chinese.”

Now it was Tyler’s turn to blink. But she looked…Oh. “Japanese?”

She shook her head. “I’m from the Philippines.” She said words strangely. She had an accent.

To keep from feeling silly, he changed the subject. “I’m seven. How old are you?”

She brightened. “I’m seven too. That means I’ll be in your class at school right?”

“Yeah. I can show you the ropes.” He’d heard that phrase in a movie. It sounded cool.

“You will show me around?” She seemed confused. She probably didn’t know what “show you the ropes meant.”

“I’ll show you around and tell you everything you need to know,” Tyler explained, feeling important.

“Oh, good. I’ve never been to an American school before.”

Tyler remembered his fist day of school and how nervous he’d been. “We’ll make a pact,” he said, because he’d seen a boy and a girl make a pact in a movie once and always wanted to do it. “I’ll be your partner for everything that happens at school.”

“Ok,” the girl said.

“Shake on it?” Tyler asked, holding his hand out. That’s what the boy and girl did in the movie. The girl put her hand in his. He grinned, and she grinned back.

Tyler rode home on his scooter feeling very satisfied with himself.

Then he relized he didn’t know the girl’s name.

 

12 years old

“Marie!” Tyler called as he rushed down the hall, dodging the other kids to catch up with her. She turned around and smiled. She wore her hair differently and she wore different clothes, but that smile hadn’t changed since she was seven. Tyler was glad. It would be like changing the flavor of chocolate chip cookies. They didn’t need to be changed.

“I’m going to be in the talent show,” he said. “Want to be my partner?”

Marie’s face fell. “Amber just asked me.”

“Well, I’m sure she’ll understand. We’re always partners.” Ever since the day of their pact, they’d been partners for everything. The science projects in the third grade that got baking soda and vinegar all over Marie’s new shoes because Tyler wanted their volcano to have the biggest explosion. The fifth grade book report that was almost a disaster because Marie wanted to read Charlotte’s Web and Tyler wanted to read Bridge to Terabithia. Luckily, The  Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe saved the day. It had animals and magic.

“I already told her I’d do it with her,” Marie said. She no longer had the accent she had when she was seven.

“But we’re always partners,” Tyler said lamely.

“We can be partners with other people sometimes.” Marie looked apologetic.

Tyler paused, hoping she’d change her mind, but she didn’t say anything. He shrugged. “I guess I’ll find someone else.”

She smiled at him. That smile that didn’t change. Somehow it hurt to look at it.

 

17 years old

It hurt to watch Marie talking with the guy by her side. Laughing, smiling that killer smile of hers. He’d probably asked her out to the junior prom already. It shouldn’t bother Tyler. He was already taking someone.

Still, somehow he’d imagined taking Marie, even though they’d slowly drifted apart over the years. His family moved to a different neighborhood when he was in eighth grade, then came junior high and different class schedules. They still talked, but Tyler wasn’t sure it was enough to ask her to be his date.

He’d daydreamed about asking her. He’d even thought about reminding her of the pact they made when they were kids, but he wasn’t even sure if she remembered. He would end up looking stupid. So this morning, a day before the junior prom, he asked a girl in his math class that didn’t have anyone to go with. It was safe. His friends said she’d had a crush on him all year long. It wasn’t Marie, but at least he wouldn’t make a fool of himself by asking and getting turned down.

Tyler turned away from Marie and the annoying guy by her side and opened his locker. He pulled a notebook out and a folded piece of notebook paper fluttered to the floor.

Thinking it was some stray notes, he started to put it back in the notebook. Then he saw his name written on the front.

He’d seen that handwriting nearly everyday in Elementary and Middle School. He’d watched it change from block letters to the rounded ones that spelled out his name.

Marie’s handwriting.

He slowly unfolded it, feeling like he was unwrapping a Christmas present he’d waited all year to open.

 

Hey Tyler! 

I know it’s a bit late, but I was sort of hoping you’d get around to it first. Then I thought, “Why does it have to be the guy that does the asking?” I tried to think of a fancy way to do this, but then decided to keep it simple. You always did like to keep things simple (unless it’s a paper mache volcano). 

You can probably guess what I’m about to ask you, so I’ll just go ahead and say it. 

Will you go to the prom with me?

You can’t say no because you made a promise that you’d be my partner for anything school related. 😉 

Anxiously waiting your response,

Marie

 

Tyler grinned. She remembered the pact they’d made. He could have used it to ask her.

Then his smile dropped. Could have. He’d already asked someone else. It was too late.

Maybe he could get out of it. Maybe he could explain it to the girl he’d asked.

Explain what? That they’d made a pact when they where in second grade to always be partners in everything. That they hadn’t been partners for anything since they were twelve, but now all of a sudden it was important for him to go with Marie even though it meant rudely dumping the girl he’d asked?

He couldn’t do that, even if this was what he wanted. He would have to tell her that he was going with someone else.

Tyler’s stomach knotted at the thought. Never in all his daydreams did he have to turn Marie down.

He sighed and folded the note. Why hadn’t he just ask her? Why couldn’t she have asked him just a few hours earlier?

Maybe she’d waited so late because she was hoping someone else would ask her. Maybe she was only asking him because she didn’t want to go alone. What was that last line? You can’t say no because you made a promise that you’d be my partner for anything school related. What if she was only asking him because she knew he’d say yes? He was nothing but a back-up plan.

Well, he wouldn’t be a back-up plan. Hadn’t she been the one to say that they should have other partners?

Tyler shoved the note back in the locker and pretend he never saw it.

 

18 years old

Tyler hurried through the empty school halls. He’d left his jacket in one of the classrooms and hadn’t realized it until he’d stepped into the frided air. He was getting a ride home with one of his friends because his car hadn’t started that morning. First his car wouldn’t start, then the girl he asked to prom already had a date, then he forgot his jacket. What else could go wrong?

Tyler opened the classroom door. He froze.

Marie was sitting in one of the desks.

They hadn’t talked since last year when she’d slipped that note in his locker. Tyler felt so guilty about the whole thing, that he avoided her. It wasn’t hard to do. Tyler suspected she was avoiding him too. He wished he’d at least written a note back, explaining why he couldn’t take her. But the more time that went by, the more awkward it seemed to approach her.

As if the distance between them weren’t uncomfortable enough, Tyler could tell she’d been crying.

She quickly wiped her face and gave a weak smile. It made Tyler’s heart twist. It wasn’t her smile. It was like chocolate chip cookies without the chocolate chips.

“I forgot my jacket,” Tyler said, feeling the need to explain why he was invading her privacy.

“That one?” She pointed to the jacket hanging over the back of the desk right in front of her. Of course it would be right next to her. It couldn’t be right by the door so he could grab it and leave.

He made his way over there, keeping his eyes focused on the jacket as if it would dissapear if he lost sight of it for even a second. He felt he should say something, but didn’t know what. It was her business. Whatever he said would probably make it worse anyway.

Marie stood and scooped her backpack up from the floor, getting ready to leave. By then he was already in her row and just a couple of steps away from his jacket. She picked it up and held it out to him.

His fingers brushed the tips of hers as he took it. His stomach fluttered.

He realized that he was standing there, blocking her way, but instead of moving he said, “Are you alright?”

Marie shrugged. “I’m fine. Just a rough day.”

She wasn’t fine. She looked like she did after the goldfish he’d won at a fair for her died and her mom flushed it down the toilet. “It wasn’t such a great day for me either,” Tyler said.

“Can’t be that bad,” she said. “Unless you got dumped too.”

Dumped? She’d been with that guy since Christmas. All that time together and he broke up with her a week before prom? The jerk. She deserved better than that. “My car would start this morning.”

She laughed. The sound made Tyler grin.

“I think I’d rather take a stubborn car than a brake up right now,” she said. The smile faded and she sighed. “I guess I just don’t have luck with these things.”

“Yes you do. I mean you should. I mean he’s the unlucky one. Who wouldn’t want to go to prom with you?”

“Quite a few people actually,” she said, sharply. Then she looked down as if she hadn’t meant to say that.

Tyler couldn’t help but think she was talking about him. It’s not as if that note could have gotten lost in a little locker. He would have seen it eventually. She probably wondered why he never brought it up, even after the prom was over, to explain. It didn’t help that he’d avoided her. Of course she was mad at him.

“I should go,” Marie said, hinting that he should move. But he didn’t. He couldn’t let this opportunity go. What were the chances  that he would run into her right after that jerk broke up with her, and before someone else asked her? Tyler silently thanked the girl who’d turned him down earlier.

“I have to tell you something,” he blurted. “I saw the note you left in my locker–”

“I know you did,” she said. “I was walking by you as you reached your locker. I looked back as you opened it up.”

Tyler swallowed. He remembered her walking by, but he didn’t know she’d seen him.  “I’m sorry.  I’d already asked someone else and didn’t know how to tell you.”

She shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. Junior Prom is over.” She smiled. Another smile that wasn’t hers.

“It does matter. I should have told you. I shouldn’t have let all this time go by without explaining.”

She shrugged again. “People get crushes on people who don’t like them back all the time. It’s just one of those things. We don’t have to make things awkward.”

He grinned on the inside. She had a crush on him. Then the feeling faded. She had a crush on him last year before he’d ruined his chance with her. What did she think of him now?

She took a step forward, as if to make Tyler get out of her way.

He didn’t move. She was standing so close. “Yes,” he said.

“What?” She looked up at him, startled.

“I’m answering your note.” Tyler’s heart beat. She’d probably slap him. “I’ll take you to prom. If you’ll go with me.”

She raised her eyebrows. “Are you trying to be funny?”

“We made a pact. We’d always be partners for anything that happened at school. So, it may have taken me awhile, but I’m making good on that pact.”

“You don’t have to ask me to prom because of a promise we made when we were kids.”

“That’s not why I’m asking you.”

“You don’t have to ask me out because you didn’t answer my silly note.”

“That’s not why–”

“I hope you aren’t asking me because you feel sorry for me because my stupid boyfriend dumped me right before prom.”

Tyler smiled. It had been a while since he’d talked with her. It was nice to hear her voice again. Even if she was a bit mad.

“What?” Marie asked.

“I’m asking you because I like you.”

Marie smiled. She smiled her smile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tyler smiled at god and said i will repent from not respecting maries dision and god said marie has a crash on the other pirson and tyler was jelous to be continud

Golden Apple

The festive sparkles that dotted the low stooping branches had to be the most succulent fruit in the forest, but the elders forbid anyone from eating even a bite. I thought it was because the apples would make a person sick, but they looked harmless as their skin winked in the sunlight.  I told myself that I should leave. There was no reason to stand there gaping at fruit I couldn’t eat, but they were so beautiful and looking at them wasn’t forbidden.

“I see you are admiring my fruit.” I jumped at the voice, thinking one of the elders caught me so close to the apples. I whirled around to see a man leaning lazily against a tree behind me.  His dark hair was slicked back and smoothly fell to the nape of his neck. I’d never seen eyes like his before; they were as golden as the apples.

“Did you say ‘your tree?’” I asked. How could he own a tree?

“I did,” said the stranger stepping away from the tree.  He strode toward me in slow, carless steps and chuckled when he saw my puzzled expression. “Did you think a tree with such fine apples just made itself?”

I shrugged. “No one makes the other trees.”

“Ah, but those are the ordinary kind of trees: the kind that produces only blue or orange or yellow fruit.”  His stood beside me and swung an arm over my shoulder. “But a tree that produces golden fruit—only I know the secret to making those.” He tapped his temple.

“What does gold taste like?” I asked him.

“Why don’t you find out?” He spread the arm that wasn’t around my shoulder out in front of him, palm up, gesturing to the tree.

“I didn’t mean I wanted to,” I quickly stammered, slipping out from under his arm.  “I couldn’t…”

The golden eyed man chuckled, “Don’t worry about me. I don’t mind if you take an apple from my tree.”

“Maybe you don’t but…” I started to explain, but the man continued as if he didn’t hear me.

“I planted it here so that its fruit may be generously shared with all those who live in the forest.” The man flung his hand out to the rows of trees as if a crowd were there.

“That’s very thoughtful of you, but I wasn’t asking to eat the fruit myself,” I explained. “I just wanted to know what it tastes like, that’s all.”

The man’s eyebrow arched over his golden eye. “Why not tasted it for yourself then, if you’re so curious?”

“They might be free for the taking, but I’m not free to take them,” I said, trying to keep the disappointment out of my voice.

The man frowned. “What do you mean?”

“The elders—they told me not to.” I shrugged, feeling a little foolish that I didn’t have a better reason. I seemed wrong to refuse his generosity.

The man’s shoulders drooped and he shook his head. “Again?” he muttered to himself.

“What’s happened again?”  I asked.

“The work, the rumors, the waste.”

He let out a frustrated sigh and sat down under the tree with the golden fruit.  “I only want to spread my gift for others to enjoy, but ignorant fools always find a way to ruin it.”

“This has happened before?” I asked.

“In every forest I go to.”

“You’ve been to more than one forest?” I said, shocked.  The elders said the other forests were dangerous.

“Of course,” he said as if my question were silly.  “One with a gift such as I have shouldn’t stay in one place, hording all the golden apples to myself. I travel so that all may taste of my wonder.” He frowned.  “But no one can taste if no one believes it is safe.

“It’s happened again and again.  My golden apples go un-tasted because someone spreads the rumor that they are poisonous or some foolish thing like that.”

“How do they know if they’re poisonous?” I asked, “Doesn’t anyone ever try them?”

The man leaned his head back and laughed. “Clever boy.  That is precisely what I’ve always wondered.”  His strange golden eyes looked at me expectantly.  “Why doesn’t anyone try them?”

“I guess they’re afraid,” I said.

“But what is there to be afraid of? This?” He reached up and pulled a shimmering apple from a low branch beside him. He tossed it in his hands, watching it go from one hand to the another.

“Are they afraid of a shiny piece of fruit?” he asked, his eyes still focused on the moving apple. “Or, I wonder if they are afraid of what it might do to them.” The apple stopped.  “Because it will you know. Do something to them.” His glimmering eyes left the apple and found mine. I swallowed. Was he saying they were poisonous?

His eyes left mine and the apple began to move between his hands again. I waited for him to explain, but he silently watched the glittering fruit as it bounced from one hand to the other.

“What would it do?” I blurted.

“This,” he held the shining apple between his thumb and finger, “holds a special power that no other fruit in this forest can give. Why is it, that every tree I grow in every forest is forbidden?”

His golden eyes held mine, and I waited for the answer. “Because they don’t want to share the power! They want to keep it for themselves.”

Was it true? The elders never did say what would happen if someone ate the golden fruit.  Maybe it was because they didn’t want anyone to know what it did.

The man leaned his back against the tree and stretched his legs out in front of him, crossing them at his ankles. “One bite out of one of my golden apples can show you things that no one else can see.” He tossed the fruit in the air and caught it.

“Like what?”  I knelt down beside him.

“The world, boy.” He spread his hand before him and slid it through the air. “The world…” He stared ahead for a moment as if looking at something I couldn’t see. Then in a sudden movement that made me jump, he turned his head to me and held the apple out. “The world could be yours. Only a single bite and you will see beyond this forest and into lands you’ve never visited.”

The apple sat glimmering in the palm of his hand, offering the chance to see beyond this forest. I reached out and picked it up. It was warm and smooth. I could see my reflection on its golden skin.

“Eat it, boy. Take a bite and see the world.” His golden eyes gleamed.

My teeth sank into gold.

It was sweet. And tart. It tasted like an ordinary apple, only its flavors were a little stronger. It was a little disappointing. I thought a golden apple would taste more exotic.  I wondered if I would see the world now. I looked out at the forest, but it looked the same.

“Where are the other forests?”  He didn’t answer me. Instead, he laughed. It started as a low chuckle, then grew louder.

It was a trick. The apples didn’t do anything. I looked down at the apple in my hand, ready to toss it. I stopped.

Inside the apple wasn’t gold, but black. I moved to throw it again, but my hand seemed stuck.  I couldn’t move it. The man was still laughing, as the blackness inside the apple began to change. Colors swirled into the dark of the apple until an image immerged.

Slowly, image after image began to appear of other people from other forests. They weren’t filled with smiling people and bright green grass and leaves peppered with a rainbow of fruit like my forest.

Branches stood bare against a bleak, pale sky that was neither dark nor light.  The bark was moldy and black in patches.  The few bits of fruit that hung on the sickly looking branches were shriveled and dry.

What was worse than the barren forests, were the people in them. As much as I wanted to turn away, I couldn’t.  The apple had me under its spell. I saw people being beat, women screaming, men killing. There were people starving, children crying, and men maiming each other. I saw death and blood.

Finally the images stopped. The apple fell from my hand and rolled away in a mix of gold and black. I buried my eyes in the palms of my hands. I wanted to rub away the images, but they stayed in my head.

I had a feeling that they would never be forgotten.

The man was right. For a moment, the world was mine. And the elders were right. The apples were poisonous.

 

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Twitter_bird_iconThis little blue bird will take you to my Twitter page where it will continuously feed you random lines about writing, blogging, and the world inside my head.

 

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