Sunday, December 28, 2014

Into the Land of the Elves: My New Decision

The Diary of Miss Aidyn Hall: author, mentor, researcher
July 30
6:22 PM
My New Decision

            On the desk in front of me sit three small stacks of pictures: tree elves, Jadeites, and humans. The pictures of tree elves and Jadeites are photocopied from books that I took home with me; you don’t need a card to check out books at the Grand Greenwood Library, but you do need to have them signed out at the front desk. The librarian refused to sign the books out to me. She just sat there gawking as if I was an unusual animal (and to her, I suppose I was) and clasped the books protectively as if I might have been thinking about stealing or burning them. Apple Blossom had to sign them out for me.
            Tree elves and Jadeites have the same skin tones from milk-white to rosy pink, small builds with petite frames, pointed ears (though the tree elves’ ears are slightly larger and more pointed), and clean, unblemished faces. The Jadeites’ hair ranges in shades from golden blonde to greenish blue, and the tree elves sport the more conventional colors of blonde, brown, and auburn red. I had learned that prolonged access and exposure to the jade essences caused the change in hair color, as well as a slightly greenish tinge on the skin of Jadeites that did not exist in the tree elves. The tree elves’ eyes are nearly universally blue, and the Jadeites’ eyes are nearly universally green. The eyes of a Jadeite are large and round like perfectly cut gems, while the eyes of a tree elf are smaller and more teardrop or almond shaped.
            In comparison to humans, both Jadeites and tree elves have two arms, two legs, five fingers and toes, heads of hair, and distinctly human facial features. Jadeites and tree elves are short, with willowy builds—if you can compare the build of a human to a tree trunk, then you can compare the build of a Jadeite or a tree elf to a flower stalk. The rounded five fingers of a Jadeite compare more to a human’s than the gangly, pencil-shaped digits of a tree elf. The arms and legs of a tree elf are slightly longer than those of a Jadeite, their feet are pointy and oddly diamond-shaped, and their hair is stringy and unkempt in comparison to the more well-kept hairstyles of Jadeites. The Jadeites and tree elves bear the same heart-shaped faces, though the tree elves’ chins are pointed slightly.
            The Jadeites are certainly closer in appearance to humans. It doesn’t surprise me, considering the tree elves were older and less evolved and still likely flaunted the characteristics of their dryad ancestors. But Jadeites have our hair, fingers, toes, noses, eyes, mouths, teeth, and language capabilities. Somehow, I don’t feel that is a coincidence…

7:15 PM

            The books explained why Jadeites fear a creature so similar to themselves. It isn’t our appearance that frightens them, but our tendency to be horrid to anything that isn’t one of us. I certainly know better than to go rampaging through a forest full of elves, beating and destroying everything in sight. None of the people I know would ever behave so despicably (or at least, I hope not!).  But the Jadeites in general possess a sort of childlike naivety that leaves them vulnerable to the other, much less desirable sort of people. I always knew that such a sort of people existed, hopefully far, far away from my little speck of the world. But I never dreamed that there could have been enough of them to taint the Jadeites’ perception of the entire human race for decades. And yes, it has been decades—centuries, even. It wasn’t only recent texts and children’s picture books that depicted us in such ways. There were plenty of old books written over a hundred years ago in that library, featuring the “tan-skin beasts” in all their infamy. There has to be a reason, hasn’t there? What could have possibly provoked these hostilities? As much as the Jadeites swear by it, I refuse to believe that there was no provocation at all—it would go against everything I was taught about human nature. Could the Jadeites have tainted the relationship with humans, or was it the other way around? Did it begin with the Jadeites, or with the tree elves before them, or even longer ago? Could there have been a war, a misunderstanding turned into a conflict, a communication gone horribly wrong? What kind of royal family did the Jadeites have when it began? Did it have anything at all to do with the striking similarities?
            There is just so much that I don’t know, and I feel as though that maze full of books couldn’t possibly have all of the answers.

10:17 PM

            This is the first time I have visited the magnolia archway at night. The Grand Elder Guardian is absent from his web, which glistens in the starlight along with the magnolia leaves. The white blossoms that had adorned the trees the day I met Apple Blossom are long gone. It’s rather dull, but a peaceful place for thinking when there are too many things on the mind.
            My tag says that I am the fifth human to come by the Greenwood, and Apple Blossom had told me on that first day that only one of the other four had returned, and they had been deterred by the Grand Elder Guardian. What if they, like me, had not been deterred? What if they had gotten through, or ran into Apple Blossom? Would they have treated her with kindness and become her friend, or would they have…no, I refuse to think about that.
            An awful thought has been lingering in my mind all day, and I know I won’t get any sleep until I get it out. What if publishing this diary the way I want to ends up attracting the kind of people to the Greenwood that the Jadeites—and I—dread? What if publicizing the story of the Greenwood to a wide audience ends up contributing to its destruction? Of course I would try to pass it off as fiction, but that wouldn’t stop people—especially children—from getting curious. How many children waited for their Hogwarts letters or spent Christmas Eve waiting for the Polar Express to show up at their doors? How many people traveled to the nothing-special city of Forks, Washington simply because Twilight told them that Bella and Edward live there? How many tourists swarm forests, lakes, parks, and villages around the world, hoping to catch a glimpse of some mythical creature that dwells there according to a story? Even the people who know that stories are only stories, and don’t really believe (or at least tell themselves that they don’t) tend to take part in order to experience some of the magic. The fact of the matter is that I can pass it off as fiction all I want, but it won’t stop anybody who’s really keen on traipsing through the forest hunting for Jadeites. 
         My diary contains a truly wonderful book, one that I’ve already read over and over and enjoyed every word of. It just fascinates me how much of a real, viable story this diary turned out to be long before that was my intention. But still, I am beginning to think that it is best if I never publish it. As the only human entrusted with the Jadeites’ friendship and their information, it’s my duty to protect them from any “tan-skin beasts.” Their protection is so much more important than anything I could get from publishing their story, so this is how it is going to be.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Into the Land of the Elves: The Picture Books

(I have no clue why the font has shrunk. It's the normal font size I always use, I have it set to normal, I've tried bolding it, resizing it...nothing works. Sorry about that...) 

The Diary of Miss Aidyn Hall: author, mentor, researcher
July 27
7:00 PM
The Picture Books  
            When I met up with Apple Blossom at the magnolia archway, the disappointment in her eyes told me that things were not going to go the way I’d planned. “Uh-oh,” I said. “What happened?”
            “I was only able to get one person to join our research group,” Apple Blossom said with a disappointed sigh.  
            “Oh! That’s not so bad!” I was relieved that she had gotten any volunteers at all. “Just one person is better than none! So who is our generous volunteer?” Right then, Wildflower sprung out from behind a holly bush, holding on tightly to her treasured diary. How had I not noticed her there before? “It’s me!” she cried, bouncing on her toes. “It’s me, it’s me!” She ran over to me and stood at my feet like a soldier reporting for duty, smiling hopefully. I smiled back. “Somehow I knew that you would join us,” I said. “Welcome to our research team, Miss Wildflower!” I was happy that she would be working with us and I was proud of her for volunteering, but at the same time I was disappointed that she was the only one who had. She was only five years old and her abilities were very limited. The unfortunate truth was that there just wouldn’t be much for her to do, and the only assignments I could think of for her were meager pittances. Still, I was willing to take what I could get—after all, we could have gotten zero volunteers. But things were certainly not going to go as I had planned.
            “Wildflower, dear,” I said, “is it okay if Apple Blossom and I talk privately for just a moment?”
            “What does that mean?” asked Wildflower.
            “It means that I would like to tell her something that’s only for her to hear,” I told her. “Will you let me do that? You can write in your diary for a moment while I do.”
“Okay.” Wildflower returned to the holly bush to sit down beside it and write. I gave her an approving smile and pulled Apple Blossom aside. “What is she able to do?” I asked.
“She can’t really do anything,” Apple Blossom said concernedly. “I could teach her a little bit about note-taking,” I suggested. “She can’t really write yet, but she knows how to formulate ideas.” But Apple Blossom shook her head. “You’ve got to help me change the others’ minds,” she said. “That’s your job for today.”
“Well…I can certainly try,” I told her, “but I can’t promise anything.”
            “They’re frightened,” said Apple Blossom. “That’s the only reason they won’t do it.”
            “They’re frightened of me?” I asked, alarmed.
            “Oh, no, not of you!” said Apple Blossom. “They’re frightened of what they might find out.”
            “I can understand that,” I said, “but I have a feeling that learning the truth would make them feel better about it.”
            Apple Blossom gave me a hard look then, a look that meant, “Aidyn, you’re wrong.” The truth was that they didn’t want to know the truth. The truth might shatter the perceptions they had that had become facts so long before now. If the Jadeites and the humans had any connection, they didn’t want to know about it. Jadeites were Jadeites and humans were humans, and if anything at all indicated that they were anything more than two phenomenally different creatures, they didn’t want to hear it.  Nothing would change their minds. Apple Blossom had given me an impossible task. “Apple Blossom,” I said, “I respectfully request that you give me a different job for today. What if I were to be your research assistant?”
            “What would you do then?” asked Apple Blossom.
            “I’ll find the books you need,” I explained, “and I’ll take notes, write down page numbers and titles, make citations…things like that.”
            “Are you sure we can’t convince the others to help?” she asked with a sigh.
            “I can’t be entirely sure,” I told her, “but I really don’t think so.”
            “So what is Wildflower going to do?” she asked.
            “The small tasks,” I said. “She can put things away and carry books and papers and things.”
            Apple Blossom looked very unsure about it all, but she finally said, “All right,” with a sort of uneasy shrug. I waved Wildflower over, and the three of us set out for the Grand Greenwood Library. The soldiers met with us at the bridge, and that was something Wildflower was afraid of. She whimpered and hid behind my legs, and I could feel her trembling. They had kept out of sight the day Apple Blossom and her friends had gone off in search of the “shekrumseh,” but today they towered over Wildflower—a few of them were human sized—and their armor gleamed in the sun like the exoskeletons of giant green beetles. I found it to be in incredibly poor taste for these soldiers to clank around behind us when we had a young child with us. Of course she was going to be scared! They had kept out of sight before, and they should keep out of sight again. But, of course, they weren’t going anywhere, and I had only myself to blame for that. I held out my hand for Wildflower, and when she took it I could feel her shaking. “It’s all right, Wildflower,” I said, giving her hand a squeeze. She moved closer to me, and every so often she glanced over her shoulder at the soldiers, keeping an eye on them as they tried to do for me.
            The Grand Greenwood Library gave us a welcome release from the soldiers’ all-seeing eyes. They must have picked up on how much they had frightened Wildflower, as they didn’t even bother to peer in at us through the windows (which would have set her off in a bad, bad way). We set down our equipment: my messenger bag, notebooks, bookmarks, and pencil case, Apple Blossom’s leafy green notebooks and matching tree-bark pencils, and Wildflower’s diary and pen. I asked Apple Blossom, “Can you name some of the picture books about humans?” It was as good a place to start as any.
            “I can name one,” Wildflower piped up.
            “Go ahead, Wildflower.”
            “The Beast on Two Legs,” she said, and I had to laugh. It sounded like a cheesy B-movie from the 1940s. “All right,” I said through my giggles, “what about you, Apple Blossom?”
            “Well…” She looked up at the ceiling. “There’s The Menace of the Outskirts, Humans: Creatures of Destruction, The Tan-Skin Beasts…” I wrote all of these down as she listed them off, but I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself as I did. They were the cheesiest-sounding book titles I had ever heard. I mean, “Tan-Skin Beasts?” Honestly? Well, these five titles told me that to the Jadeites, we humans really were nothing but unpredictable, menacing, destructive beasts. And yet, I wasn’t treated like a beast at all. They certainly didn’t trust me, and they didn’t view me as a friend or a welcome guest (with the exception of Apple Blossom and Wildflower, of course). My sticky fingers and insatiable curiosity hadn’t done anything to help that. But the Jadeites were amicable enough to me. Wildflower’s parents obviously approved of their daughter’s association with me enough to keep allowing it. The king and queen allowed me to continue visiting with Apple Blossom, so long as it was done under the watchful eyes of the soldiers. Even with my restrictions, I was given a considerable amount of the Greenwood to explore and experience. It was certainly not the way that most would treat a dangerous beast. I knew that I had Apple Blossom to thank for most of this, and I felt a surge of warmth and gratitude for my friend.
            “That’s all that I need for now,” I told Apple Blossom. “Can you tell me where to find these books?”
            “Well, do you want fiction, or…” Apple Blossom stopped herself from finishing that sentence. “You know, it’s probably best if I just show you. Come on.” She got up from her chair and headed off into the maze of books. “Come on, Wildflower,” I said. “I need you to carry some books for me.” She appeared at my side almost instantly.
            Two of the books were found in the same section, a section full of brightly illustrated picture books with boldly written titles in large print. They were the kind of books that you would find in the children’s section of any library. “This is The Tan-Skin Beasts,” said Apple Blossom, handing a book to me. I looked over the book’s cover. The title was written in an urgent shade of red and hovered directly over a detailed illustration of three people: a man, a woman, and a child. Their facial expressions were blank, and except for the swords and spears they were carrying (even the child held a weapon), they seemed perfectly ordinary. Their skin was the same creamy color as my own, but in comparison to the Jadeites who were all pearl-pink and paper-white, it could be considered tan. Whoever had illustrated this book must have seen humans before. I had expected us to be depicted as some kind of exaggerated horror movie monsters.
            After some more searching, we found The Beast on Two Legs. This cover featured a towering man with biceps big enough to rip a tree in half. In one hand he held a lit match and in the other he carried an axe. In the background was a forest that had been set ablaze. “I don’t know anyone who looks like this,” I said as I handed both books to Wildflower. Now that I had seen two different interpretations of humans (both labeled “beasts”), I was more curious than ever to see exactly what it was that made us so scary.
            We returned to our table, Wildflower dutifully set the books down, and I opened up The Tan-Skin Beasts. “Do you need me to read it for you?” Apple Blossom asked. “Not right now,” I answered. “I just want to look at the pictures.” I could tell that she didn’t want to read me any book that called me a beast.
            Those pictures didn’t tell me anything about a possible connection between Jadeites and humans, but it did tell me everything about “the tan-skin beasts”; there were full-color illustrations of humans partaking in such acts as gleefully cutting down trees, burning up forests, and brutally attacking Jadeites. There was a picture of two grown men kicking around and pulling the hair of two little Jadeite girls. There was a small group of Jadeites looking mournfully out on an area of forest that had been charred and littered with plastic bottles and balled up papers. There was a human woman clubbing a Jadeite woman over the head, a sadistic smile painted on her face. This is what Jadeites expected of humans. These were the monsters that Jadeite children were terrified of—and until I quickly proved otherwise, they feared that I was one of them. I was so trusted in comparison to the rest of my kind because I was a human and yet not one of these monsters. And the slightest hint of evidence that I was not as angelically good as I led on—the thievery of five jade stones—resulted in a league of soldiers keeping sharp eyes out for any signs of escalation.
            But this isn’t what bothered me. What bothered me was that things like this had actually happened. They had to have happened, in order to give the authors of books like these any material. It was nearly universally accepted by the Jadeites that humans were fearsome monsters, and in order for that to become a universal constant that was documented and depicted in books, some humans had to have made their way into Jadeite Greenwoods and acted like fearsome monsters.
            Some Greenwoods had been completely trashed, or even burned, by careless people.
            Some people had encountered some Jadeites and responded by attacking and brandishing weapons at them.
            Some people had found it appropriate to beat a Jadeite child.
            For some reason, it had never occurred to me that there must have been a reason for the Jadeites to fear humans the way that they did. It had never occurred to me that humans had done something to establish their place as the bogeymen of the Jadeites. Or maybe it had occurred to me, and I just didn’t want to believe it. Humans are bullies to anyone who doesn’t fit into their own limited little ideas of the world.  
          Those picture books left me with a hatred for my own kind.  

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Fairy Sound House

Every evening after ten-o-clock, I heard the sound. It was actually a collection of many sounds playing all at once: metallic clangs like pots and pans rattling in the wind, dissonant jangling like cowbells tied to a post, the gentle tingle of swaying windchimes, and more besides. It all started up at the same time, at exactly ten-o-clock PM, and it diminished to silence at the crack of dawn. At first, it annoyed me. It kept me awake at night and I hated it. I thought it had been the next-door neighbors having a little too much late-night fun, and I was all set to go over there and give them a piece of my mind. But when I left to go confront them, I heard that the sound was coming from the woods behind my house.  
            Those woods were nothing to me but some mildly-interesting background scenery absolutely teeming with bugs. I couldn’t stand anything with more than four legs. The sound of a buzzing bee would have me running for an exit. Butterflies and moths were not quite so pretty to me, and even the sight of a tiny fly would send me into a minor panic. The fact that those woods were filled to the brim with every sort of creepy-crawlie imaginable was enough to make me avoid them at all costs, and no amount of racket could change my mind about that. So the sound played on, every night of the summer, and over time it became more of a comfort than a nuisance. Instead of keeping me awake, it soothed me to sleep, and its presence in a dream indicated that the dream would be a pleasant one.
            I had thought that the sound would end with the summer, like the sound of the crickets and katydids and the smell of burgers from my neighbor’s barbecue grill.  But as the crisp chill of the fall evenings settled in, the sound continued on. By now it had me itching with a curiosity as annoying as the collection of mosquito bites I had added to over the summer, but the ladybugs, dragonflies, and small flies that were still around were enough to keep it suppressed. Every so often, though, I would bring it up to my neighbors when we got a chance to talk—“Have you heard that weird noise that comes out of the woods at night? It sounds like bells ringing, or things clattering, or…something.” The responses were varied: Mr. Joe Roberts told me that there were way too many sounds resonating from the inside of his three-kid house to think about any that came from outside. Joyce Applebee said that she and her husband had heard it, but they didn’t give it too much thought—it was probably a noisy pine hick, or else some teenagers having too much fun. Ralph Wilson said that the racket was becoming insufferable, and if it didn’t stop very soon he would find a way to make it stop. I guess I was the only one who found it to be pleasant.
            Fall turned to winter, the sound played on through the evenings, and the welcome disappearance of the bugs opened up an opportunity. The time had finally come for me to squash my curiosity and discover the source of the sound! Remembering what Ralph Wilson had said, I thought about asking whoever it was to quiet down a bit (but certainly not stop), but I mainly wanted to thank them for the lovely racket that kept me company through so many wonderful nights. So one afternoon after work, I made my way down to the woods. For the most part, the woods were wild. Vines—some covered in thorns—twisted and tangled around the trunks of trees and the branches of shrubs. The brown carpet of fallen leaves was dotted haphazardly with shiny green bushes. Every so often a root, shrub, or wayward branch would trip me up. It was a place with no sense of order or reason, and there was no sound except for the occasional bird call or the rustling of a squirrel searching for remaining acorns. Bugs were no longer an issue, but I worried about snakes. I hoped that the cold had driven them away along with the bugs.  
            After walking in the wilds, I came upon a much more orderly dirt road leading off into the deep woods. My sense of adventure outweighed my unease and I began the trek. The flapping and chirping of the occasional bird, the quiet whispering of the light winter breezes, and my feet crunching through the dead leaves and fallen pine needles made for a beautiful melody against the eerie silence. The haphazard arrangement of trees and shrubs began to morph into neat rows of Christmas cedars and box-shaped bushes. I thought that I must have been entering somebody’s property. My heart fluttered as I wondered if it would be a nice somebody, who would take “Sorry, I got a little lost” for an answer.
            On and on went this clean-cut path, with no further hints of civilization or ownership. I froze up at the sight of a small, winged thing zipping away from one of the boxy bushes. “It’s too cold for bugs, it’s too cold for bugs,” I repeated as I forced myself to continue on in spite of my shaking legs. It was just fine until I caught sight of another one, and another, and another still, and I was forced to admit that it was not my imagination.
            I screamed and swatted aimlessly at the air in front of me, bringing my hand down on a tiny, beating wing. I screamed again, closed my eyes, and took off running without knowing or caring where I was headed. The silence of the woods was broken by tiny, mousy screeches in the air. Oh god, I thought, these bugs can scream! Screeching bugs was where I drew the line. I fell to my knees and curled up with my face buried in my hands. I trembled and I whimpered, and when I felt a wing brush my face I screamed again. But then I was aware that something was softly patting my cheek. I opened my eyes and beheld a bright, fresh, childish little face with rose-petal lips curled up in a decidedly-friendly smile. This girlish face was held in place by a doll-shaped arrangement of bright white light, and the only other discernible features were the iridescent, rapidly-beating wings on its back.
            I, like most people, had heard my fair share of fairy stories. I knew about Tinkerbell and Thumbelina and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and I also knew that fairy stories were just that—stories. They are nice to hear, and often very enchanting to read, but you never expect to actually experience one. If you do happen to experience one, no matter how vivid an experience it is, you just can’t bring yourself to believe that it’s really happening. You think you’re dreaming, or your imagination is running wild, or you hit your head just a little too hard after tripping over a root. When I was confronted with this little light creature, smiling prettily at me and patting me on my cheek, I thought of all three of these possibilities. I certainly didn’t think that she was real!
            The little fairy perched on my shoulder like an obedient bird, and said in a high, chirping voice, “All right?” I hesitated for a moment—it was just so strange to be in a dream and know I was in a dream—and then I simply nodded. Others came into view, looking at me the way a parent might look at a child who has fallen over and scraped their knee. There were the angelic faces of men, women, and children, all attached to these winged bodies made of light. “I’m all right,” I told them. “I was just scared.”
            “Scared?” The little fairy tilted her head at me the way that a curious animal might. She didn’t seem to understand the word, or else she didn’t understand what there was to be scared of. Then she smiled again and patted my head. “No scared!” she chirped in a tone that hinted at assurance. “Not scary! Nice!” I didn’t know what to say, so I smiled and nodded.
            “Your name?” she asked me.
            “Molly,” I told her, “and yours?”
            She looked at me quizzically while the others happily chattered and chanted, “Moll-ee, Moll-ee!” like they really enjoyed the sound of it. I’d never thought of my name as anything special, so hearing them make such a big deal out of it would have given me a serious case of the warm-fuzzies if I hadn’t thought it was a dream. The little fairy confusedly responded to my question with, “My what?”
            “Your name,” I elaborated. “What is your name?
            “Oh! Aiki!” she cried cheerfully, clapping her hands. “Aiki, Aiki!” She was so downright adorable that I wished she was big enough for me to pinch her cheeks. “It’s nice to meet you, Aiki,” I told her. She fluttered off of my shoulder then and gestured enthusiastically to me. “Come, come!” she cried, and the others followed suit; they fluttered off ahead of us, crying, “Come, come, come!” They all sounded so urgent about it that I rose to my feet and obeyed, following them farther into the deep woods and away from any hint of civilized society. At any moment, I’ll snap out of it and they’ll all disappear, I thought, so I’d better enjoy my time in a fairy story while I can!
            The path finally ended, and there stood an old, dilapidated Victorian-style house, painted a faded brown that had once been yellow. Ivy vines and stalks of Virginia creepers grew up the walls and along the shutters of the windows, and an overgrown patch of weeds now stood where a garden might have been. Illuminating this house were at least a hundred—but likely more—of the little light fairies. They chattered like birds as they flew in and out of the windows, climbed the sprawling ivy vines, weaved inbetween the weeds in the old garden, and floated happily above the slate-colored rooftop. These were the sort of perpetually happy creatures only encountered in dreams, books, and children’s television.
The exterior decoration of the house was a colorful smorgasbord of objects with no discernible order, reason, or purpose. Pots and pans of all sizes lined the olive-green porch steps. Bells of all shapes hung from bushes and small trees. The garden of weeds was laden with brightly-colored glass globes positioned on short stalks. Jingle-bell shells tied on strings hung from the window shutters. Windchimes hanging from the awning greeted me with their cheery tingle.
            That’s when I realized: noisemakers! The house was filled to the brim with noisemakers of every shape, size, sound, and type, and it was the combination of all of these noisemakers playing in unison that resulted in the mysterious nightly sound that I had come out here to discover. I had discovered it, and at the same time I had come to the understanding that this wasn’t a dream or my imagination. This was all real, and these were real fairies! In that moment, I experienced the unease that anybody would feel when something happens to change their perception of the world. It wasn’t a bad change—in fact, it was a wonderful one! How uplifting it was to know that there really were hidden, out-of-the-way places of the world where fairies really existed! But at the same time, it was a change that would force me to think of the world in a different way from now on. I sat down in my place and allowed myself some time to properly take it all in.
            Little Aiki fluttered over to me then and asked, “All right, Moll-ee?” I nodded and smiled a genuine smile. “I’m all right.”
            “Home!” Aiki chirped, and spread her arms in a wide gesture to the entire house and grounds. “Yes,” I said, “I see. I like your home. Aiki, do you like to make music?”
            “Moo-sic!” Aiki happily clapped her hands. “Yes, moo-sic! Come, come!” She motioned for me to follow her, and I obliged. She led me around to the side of the house, where a little band of fairies was playing a chasing game that looked quite fun. They paused and waved when they saw me, and I waved back.
            Positioned on an old post was a small triangle—small, but certainly not fairy sized. Aiki reached for the stick, held it like a baseball bat in both of her tiny hands, and gave the triangle a whack. Ding! I was able to recognize that sound from the nightly cacophonies. Now I knew the identity of its little player. Ding! Ding! Ding! She giggled like she was being tickled. Other fairies, including the four playing chase, looked on with laughter and chirped merrily like songbirds. They began to hop and sway in time to the melodic little sounds that Aiki called “moo-sic.” Aiki suddenly stopped whacking and held the stick out to me. “Moll-ee, ting-ting-ting!” she cried.
            “Oh? You want me to play it?”
            “Yes! Play ting-ting-ting!” The others assisted her in egging me on; “Ting, ting, ting!” I found myself giggling just like them. “All right,” I said. “I’ll play.” I knelt down and tapped the triangle one, two, three, four times—ding, ding, ding, ding—paused, then a fifth and a sixth. I tried to create a melody of my own that would get them to dance and sway the way that Aiki’s staccato whacking had done.  But as it turned out, they would dance to any sound in any order or rhythm (or lack thereof). The sound itself was music to them. Their joyful steps inspired me to tap faster, louder, then slower and softer, fast, loud, slow, soft, alternating and letting them follow along. One of them added jingle bells to the little song. Another one provided the clinking of glasses. Others, clapped, and others sang in bell-like voices that instantly brought Christmas angels to mind. The joy of leading this merry band set me into laughter, and the perpetual happiness of these childlike fairy creatures spread like fire and was just as warm. My song ended when I ran out of ways to continue it, though if I had my way I would have sat there and played the “ting-ting-ting” forever. I stood up and bowed, and the fairies applauded me so raucously that I felt like the leading lady of a Broadway production. Aiki started up a cry of “Moll-ee, Moll-ee!” and I was cheered and kissed and nuzzled and given holly boughs to weave in my hair. The eventual return to my own world was nothing but an afterthought. All I wanted was to stay, to befriend these creatures and see everything that this wonderful house had to offer.
            As the sun began to set, I was led inside and served a dinner of milk, a strange, gamey meat, and wrinkled orange fruits that tasted like candies. Aiki hadn’t left my side since my little concert. She smiled brightly when I accepted her small shares of her candy-fruits. She was agreeable to being patted on the head with the tips of my fingers as she sheltered herself in my coat pocket. She showed me through the rooms of the house, which were old, dusty, and overgrown with ivy, moss, and even mushrooms in some places. We played hide and seek using the many hidey-holes and crannies that were scattered throughout the house. She trusted me with the location of a secret room that none of the others had found yet. Every so often, she took it upon herself to entertain me with an energetic dance full of leaps and twirls. We sat out on the front porch together to blow dandelions and look up at the starry winter sky. It didn’t take long at all for Aiki to become my friend, and I relished in the form of quiet conversation we had that we could both understand.
            At the fairy sound house, the hours blended into one-another, so there was no way to tell when one ended and the next began. But at one of the darkest hours of the night, every fairy suddenly left the house all at once and began to scamper around outside. I followed them and found that they were positioning themselves at the noisemakers—three or four fairies per noisemaker in most cases. At long last, the time had come for the nightly sound to play! I found a place to sit and waited eagerly for the start of the show. I saw that Aiki had taken her place at the triangle—the “ting-ting-ting”—along with two other girls. A bell sounded off, and then another. The jingle-bells joined in, then a windchime was stirred, then the glass globes were tapped, and then every inch of the house blared with sound. It was not simply background noise, it was a performance. It was music in its simplest and most natural form, without all the fluff of conductors and note-reading. It was a large-scale version of the kind of music that a child produces with his first toy xylophone—no real order, no real reason, but so happy and innocent and pleasant to hear. I had already made up my mind that they were never going to stop, Ralph Wilson be damned. They could play at their house of music any way they wanted to, and they kept themselves so hidden and out of the way of human civilization that no one else would bother to come out here and find them.
            This live performance brought to mind all of the summer nights I had spent lying in bed and listening to the same sound intermingle with the crickets and frogs. I thought of the dreams of fairy parties and singing dryads that the sound had inspired in me throughout those nights. I thought of autumn breezes, early winter winds, and bird songs at the crack of dawn. I felt my eyes growing heavy, and the next thing I knew, my head was resting on the soft grass. As I drifted off, I became aware that the sound of the “ting-ting-ting” was one of the loudest of the whole menagerie.
            I awoke at sunrise, and felt delightfully warm and comfortable in spite of the cold. All of the fairies slept peacefully beside their instruments. Careful not to disturb or step on any of them, I padded over to where Aiki lay with the triangle stick still in her hands. As I approached, she stirred and opened one eye and then the other. She smiled rosily when she saw that it was me.
          “Goodbye, Aiki,” I said, and leaned down to kiss her forehead. She snuggled against my hand and looked up at me like an animal that had suddenly been wounded. “Moll-ee…” I could feel her little body quivering like she was ready to cry. “I’ll come back,” I told her, “I promise. I’ll see you all again very soon.” That satisfied her. She kissed my fingertips and curled up to go back to sleep, and I rose to my feet and headed for the path leading home. I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stay here and play with the fairies and listen to their nightly songs forever. But I belonged to my world, where I had duties and responsibilities. I had the incredible feeling, however, that I could belong to the fairy sound house as well.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Into the Land of the Elves: The Mysteries of the Jadeite Language

The Diary of Miss Aidyn Hall, author and mentor
July 26
8:58 PM

The Mysteries of the Jadeite Language

Wildflower loved her diary as much as I thought she would. She opened and closed the front cover over and over again, beholding the image of the regal peacock and the extravagantly-decorated pages. “Do you know what bird that is?” I asked her. When she shook her head, I said, “It’s called a peacock, and the peacock is going to guard your writing for you. You can write anything you want to the peacock, and he’ll be sure to listen and keep it safe.”
 “Thank you, Aidyn!” Wildflower cried, giving the diary a fond hug. “Thank you…I love you, Aidyn!” I glanced at her mother and saw that she smiled at me in approval. My heart melted.
            My job today was to pick blue and yellow flowers for Apple Blossom to put in several little nosegays. Crystalline’s birthday was approaching, and Apple Blossom had given herself the task of decorating for the party. Blue and yellow, she told me, are Crystalline’s favorite colors, and so every decoration from the flowers to the ribbons to the banner followed suit. “Tell Crystalline that I wish her a happy birthday,” I said.
            Apple Blossom sighed. “I wish you could come to the party.”
            “I wish I could too,” I said, “but you don’t need to have me around to have fun. And you can tell me all about it afterwards.”
            As I picked and made idle conversation with Apple Blossom—about the party, her gift for Crystalline (a blue and yellow jeweled necklace, with beads shaped like little frogs), what Apple Blossom had been up to lately, and other subjects—a private corner of my mind still wondered how the Jadeites were so fluent in the English language. I figured now was as good a time to ask as any.
             Apple Blossom’s eyes widened and she let out a little gasp. “Why, I had been wondering all this time how you knew our language!”
            “It’s called the English language,” I told her.
            “We call it the Common language,” she replied, “but I think that what you call it makes it sound prettier—English.” She said the word a few times, as if savoring the sound.
            “The Common language,” I repeated. “Do all Jadeites speak it, then?”
            “I wouldn’t know,” said Apple Blossom. “I’ve never met any other Jadeites outside of my Greenwood.”
            “A princess must excel at handling interpersonal relationships with the outside world,” I told her seriously. “It’s essential to becoming a good queen.”
            “I suppose my mother and father take care of all that,” said Apple Blossom, and then I spotted a roadblock: there was no way that I would be able get any information out of the king and queen. They were still entirely closed off to me, and my little sticky-fingers act hadn’t done a thing to help that. Still, I wasn’t daunted. “Do you have a library anywhere?” I asked.
            Apple Blossom nodded. “There’s the Grand Greenwood Library, and there’s also the royal family’s private collection. Which one would you prefer?”
            This was perfect! “Would I be allowed into your private library?” I asked, though I was sure I already knew the answer. As I expected, Apple Blossom said, “You are if you’re with me.”
            “Will you let me go home and get my notepad first?” I asked. “I like to write down the things I find when I’m in a library.” She nodded. One of these days I’ll remember to bring it with me whenever I go into the Greenwood. When Apple Blossom finished tying the last cream-colored ribbon on the last nosegay, she stood up and said, “All right, I’m ready to go now. Thank you so much for gathering the flowers for me, Aidyn.”
            “It was no problem. I had a lot of fun collecting them,” I said truthfully. Then, after she dropped the nosegays off with a servant woman, the two of us headed back to the magnolia archway. The soldiers trailed behind us until we reached the bridge. I ran home to fetch my notepad, and returned to find Apple Blossom waiting patiently for me, swaying back and forth on her toes. She skipped along behind me as I made my way back to the bridge. We met up with the soldiers again, and Apple Blossom said, “I am taking Aidyn to see the royal literary archives.”
            “I’m sorry, Princess, but that will not be allowed,” said one of the soldiers.”
            “It will be allowed,” Apple Blossom insisted. “I am allowing it!”
            “We cannot allow an outsider to access the royal literary archives, especially not a human. There is too much sensitive information located within.  You may only bring her to the Grand Greenwood Library. The royal archives are off limits.”
            Apple Blossom must have forgotten that I still had a reputation as a thief. She must also have forgotten that she isn’t a queen yet, because she put her hands on her hips, pushed out her chin, and said with a queenly scowl, “I order you to allow Aidyn into the royal literary archives.”
            “The orders of your mother and father surpass yours, I’m afraid,” said the soldier. “It is not to be permitted, and that’s the end of that!” Apple Blossom opened her mouth to say something else, but I spoke up: “Then perhaps you can tell me where else I can get the information I’m looking for?”
            “Why would you need any information?” the soldier asked rather nastily. I could tell that Apple Blossom didn’t appreciate his tone, but before she could say anything I rushed on: “Well, if a human is going to be frolicking around in your world at all, wouldn’t you prefer that human to be appropriately knowledgeable about it, so that they may show the proper respects? Or would you rather have a completely ignorant outsider just bumbling around the place?”
            “I’d rather ensure that certain information remains safely in our hands,” said the stubborn soldier, “and doesn’t just get passed along to any outsider we decide to invite in. I ask you again, what kind of information would you possibly need?”
            “Well, as you can hear right now, the two of us happen to speak the same language,” I said. “I’d like to read up on why that’s the case—the history and origins of the Jadeite language, and its relation to the languages of outsiders. Now, how dangerous could information like that really be?”
            “You don’t need to get into the royal archives to find information like that,” said the soldier, softening a little. “The Grand Greenwood should be just fine. If it isn’t, then I don’t really know what to tell you.” “That will be fine,” I conceded, “so long as I can find what I’m looking for. Thank you for clearing all of that up, sir.” I nodded to him and took Apple Blossom’s hand. “If it isn’t,” Apple Blossom said to the soldier, “then we’ll have to go into the royal archives. I want to know too!”
            I looked at her. “You do?” She nodded. “Why do you want to know?” I asked.
            “I just do,” she answered, but her eyes darted from place to place. There was something that she wasn’t telling me, and I think the reason for that was that she didn’t want the soldiers to hear. I nodded to show that I understood. “Show me the way to the library, then.”
            “It’s this way,” she said, letting go of my hand. “Follow me!” She darted ahead like a fox; she wanted to get away from the soldiers. I did my best to keep up with her, calling “Hey! Slow down!” to keep the soldiers from growing suspicious. I knew she wouldn’t really slow down. We ran and ran until we made it out of the soldiers’ sight. Apple Blossom took both of my hands, stood up on tiptoe, and whispered to me. “I can’t tell you everything until we get to the library,” she said. “It will be easier for us to talk privately then. But…” She looked around to make sure that the soldiers had not yet caught up. “I’ve always wondered if…if perhaps the Jadeites and humans have some sort of connection.” “What kind of connection?” I asked, but she wouldn’t tell me more. The sound of heavy footsteps indicated that the soldiers were catching up to us. She took my hand again, and we walked the rest of the way to the library. She was silent, and I decided to follow suit. The soldiers’ emerald-green helmets hid whatever reaction they may have had to Apple Blossom’s impulsive little run.
            I expected the Grand Greenwood Library to be a towering, sprawling compound carved out of the same jade stone as the palace. What it really was, though, was a tall but very plain box carved out of thick tree bark. Moss grew on the roof and at the little cubbyholes that were meant to be windows. Fat grey mushrooms grew on both sides of the bark door. It seemed anything but grand, but still I was filled with anticipation. My plentiful experience with libraries told me that the tiniest, dinkiest, plainest libraries so often held the most wonderful collections of books you could find. Apple Blossom led me inside and the soldiers took their places by the entrance. It was a relief to me that they wouldn’t be following us inside, even if they would be peering into the windows to keep tabs on me.
            I was right! The Grand Greenwood Library was one amazing wall-to-wall maze of books of every size, color, and thickness; books bound in snakeskin dyed red and green and blue, books with covers made from polished tree bark, books tied together with jade-colored ribbons, tiny books written on the delicate petals of flowers. It was paradise, and my only disappointment was that they were all written in a language that I couldn’t read. “You’re going to have to be my translator,” I told Apple Blossom.
            “I will,” she said, “but I want us to talk first.” She took my hand and led me over to a table. We sat down, and she leaned in to whisper to me. “I’ve always wondered if the Jadeites and humans were connected somehow,” she said, “but all I knew about humans was what I learned from the stories: that they were tall, thick-bodied creatures with two big legs and two long arms and hair on the tops of their heads like we have. I’ve seen several drawings and illustrations that went along with those stories, and they showed that humans have five long fingers (she wiggled her fingers then), wear clothes made out of colored fabrics, they have two coin-sized eyes, long, dark hair, and two pink, rosebud-shaped lips—those drawings looked so much like larger, dark-haired Jadeites!
            “And then I met you, Aidyn. I had been longing to meet a human, because I wanted to see what they were really like, and if we were as similar as the pictures made us out to be. The taggers told my father that they had found and tagged a human near the gates, and I was so excited to think that I had finally gotten my wish! At the same time, I was scared, because I knew the stories and I didn’t know you would turn out to be so kind and friendly. In fact, I never could have anticipated that! But then I finally got to meet you, and you were just as similar to my people as I had thought! Not only that, but you knew our language! I knew then that I had to be right; the humans are Jadeites really are connected!” She folded her arms on the table. “The fact that you feel the same way means we have similar minds, too, and that’s another sign that we’re connected. So, now we’re going to be a team. Together, the two of us are going to find out just what that connection is!”
            So there was the real reason Apple Blossom was so attached to me. The two of us are alike, much more alike than any of her people would be willing to admit, and Apple Blossom had looked beyond the preconceived notions of the Jadeites to be able to see that. I had seen it too, and it had made me wonder, but it wasn’t until now that the wonder had increased to the point that I just had to know. I have to know!
            “When do we start?” I asked.
            “We start right now!”
            Apple Blossom led me through the maze of books and read off the titles of any that sounded important: “The Tree Elf Alphabet” (there were at least ten of these, but we only took three), “Tree Elves, Their Origins, and Their Ways,” “The Era of the Early Jadeites,” “A Tree Elf Dictionary,” and more. We returned to the table with ever-growing piles of books, and I realized that there was just no way that two of us to do this on our own. “What we need,” I said, as I stared down the mini mountain of books, “is a good research team.”
            “What do you mean?” asked Apple Blossom.
            “It would take eons to read all of these books by ourselves,” I said, “and that’s without all the note-taking, fact-checking, collecting, investigating, sorting, filing, reviewing, revising, and further reading. Research isn’t just reading books, Apple Blossom. Researching a topic takes a lot of work, time, and patience, especially if it’s a topic that’s never really been covered before, or is covered very rarely.”
            “Oh.” Apple Blossom rested her cheek against the palm of her hand. “We’ve really got our work cut out for us, then.”
            “Yes we do,” I said. “That’s why we need to organize a group, so we can split the work up and give everybody a share of tasks to do.” I tapped my pen against my chin. “Do you think that your friends would want to help us out?”
            “Of course they would!” Apple Blossom chirped, jumping out of her seat (though still remembering to use her quiet library voice). “They would love to! In fact, we can go ask them right now!”
            “We can ask them tomorrow,” I said. “For now, let’s put all these books back where we found them.”
            “I’d like to take a few of them,” said Apple Blossom. “I want to start doing some reading on my own.”
            “Suit yourself.” I gathered up an armful.
            “Do I have to take notes?” she asked.
            “You don’t have to,” I told her, “but it would help you remember what you learned and what you thought was most important.”
            She nodded and selected four books from the mini mountain, which was then promptly dismantled and returned to the shelves. Unfortunately, we couldn’t remember the exact shelf locations for every book. I hope it wasn’t too much trouble for the librarians to rearrange them all.
           We stayed at the library for the rest of the day, while Apple Blossom picked out some choice Jadeite myths, fables, and fairy tales to read to me (the story of the wish-granting “shekrumseh,” which means “little wish giver” in the tree elf language, was one of them). I noticed that she had chosen to leave out any stories about humans… 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Into the Land of the Elves: I Mentor a Promising Young Writer

The Diary of Miss Aidyn Hall, traitor and thief
July 25
12:40 PM
I Mentor a Promising Young Writer  

            The fact that I have been forgiven does not make me any less of a traitor and thief. Though both Chicory and Apple Blossom have moved on, I have not. Neither have the king and queen, if the soldiers who still meet me at the bridge are any indication. I felt that I was let off too easily by Chicory, but at the same time, is it really being let off easy if you are given no chance to redeem yourself? Maybe it is to someone who has no interest in redeeming themselves, but I wanted to redeem myself. I wanted to pay off my debt to Jadeite society, but no one else in the Greenwood would trust me enough to let me work for them. That left only Apple Blossom, and it was appropriate, seeing as she had been the one hurt the most. Chicory hadn’t fretted over the jade stones, but the breach of trust had hit Apple Blossom hard.
            This morning, when I met up with Apple Blossom at the magnolia archway, I said, “Apple Blossom, I want you to give me a job.”
            “What kind of job?” she asked inquisitively.
            “Any job,” I told her. “Cleaning, errand-running, serving work…I’m going to pay for my wrongdoing with honest work—it’s what we humans usually do when we’ve done something wrong. Just think of some work for me to do, and I’ll do it.”
            “Wouldn’t that make you my slave?” she asked doubtfully.
            I asked, “Do slaves volunteer to be slaves?”
            “They do,” said Apple Blossom, “unless they are sentenced to it as punishment for some crime.”
            “Well, that’s exactly what I’m doing!” I told her. “I’m sentencing myself to become your slave as punishment for my theft and betrayal.”
            “It wasn’t that horrible of a betrayal.” She sure bounces back quickly!
            “That isn’t the point,” I told her. “Come on, Apple Blossom, please work with me here. I’m trying to redeem myself, both in your eyes and the eyes of your people, and if anything is going to help that along it’s being taken into the service of the beloved princess.”
            “All right,” Apple Blossom reluctantly agreed. “But I’m not going to treat you as a slave. You can do things like picking flowers to put in my hair or pinning my brooch to my collar—nothing servantlike, like cleaning and waiting. How is that?”
            “Sounds good,” I said. I held my hand out for us to shake on it, but she looked at me confusedly. “Shaking hands is what humans do when they seal a deal,” I explained.
            “Jadeites bow low to one-another,” she told me, so we did that instead. “I have one request, though, if I am allowed,” I said.
            “You’re allowed,” said Apple Blossom. “What do you need?”
            “Will you let me run home and get my notepad and diary?” I asked. If I’m going to be working for the princess of the Jadeites, I’m going to be documenting it at every chance I get. She allowed me to do so, and somehow I knew that she would. I’ve got my diary, notepad, and tag and I’m all set and ready to go to work.

1:22 PM

            I have been given my first assignment, and it’s quite a far cry from pinning brooches and picking flowers: I must look after Wildflower while Apple Blossom and Holly Berry search for the “shekrumseh” in the deep woods (a “shekrumseh” is apparently the Jadeite and tree elf equivalent of a genie, though from the description they gave me it sounds more like the deku sprout from Legend of Zelda). Wildflower is too little to go into the deep woods, even though she so desperately wanted to do just that. “I want to see the shekrumseh!” she wailed, wrapping her little arms around Apple Blossom’s waist. “Ple-e-ease let me see the shekrumseh!”
            “Wildflower, we don’t even know if there really is a shekrumseh,” Holly Berry reminded her.
            “There is!” she hollered. “I want to see him!”
            Gently, Apple Blossom laid her hand on Wildflower’s head. “Wildflower, I promise you that if we find the shekrumseh, we’ll catch him and bring him back here so that you can have a wish too. But right now, you have to stay here with Aidyn and be good.”
            “Why can’t I go with you?” Wildflower demanded.
            “Because,” said Apple Blossom, “there are lots of snakes in the deep woods. Holly Berry and I are too big for a snake to eat, but you’re so little that he could swallow you up in one gulp!” Wildflower fell silent, and her eyes grew wide. “So that’s why you’re going to stay here with Aidyn,” Apple Blossom continued, “and she will protect you from those big, mean snakes!” With that, she took both of Wildflower’s hands and led her over to me. For a moment, I worried that she would react with distrust or even fear. I hadn’t thought much about how what had happened had affected her, or if she even knew about it at all. So when she wrapped her little arms around me, looked up at me with her bright blue eyes, and smiled, I was overjoyed! One day, she will unfortunately learn that even friends can be wrong and that trust is lost as soon as it is gained. But right now, at five years old, she is free from such realities and I wish to keep it that way. I made up my mind that when I was around her I would make believe that I had done nothing at all, because in her eyes I had not.
            Wildflower is not a demanding charge at all. She’s quiet, well-behaved, and perfectly content to sit and twirl a flower in her hands or play with a beetle she found on a leaf. When I wanted some time to write, I told her to sit right beside me and gave her a page out of my notepad and a pen for her to draw with. She didn’t have any problem with that. I just glanced over at her to discover that she’s imitating me, right down to my tight-lipped expression of concentration! Her little notepad page is filled to the brim with scribbles.

            I asked Wildflower what she was writing and she told me, “I’m writing the same thing you’re writing.”
            “Oh, are you?” I said, chuckling a little at the mental image. She nodded. “You know,” I said, “a writer is supposed to come up with her own material.”
            “What does that mean?”
            “It means that you can’t just copy what someone else writes,” I told her. “You have to write about what you want to write about, not what someone else wants to write about.”
            “What if I want to write about what someone else wants to write about?” she asked inquisitively.
            “Then you have to find a way to make it your own,” I said.
            She’s too young to understand. She went back to her work with a sort of shrug, and I left her to it.

            Wildflower climbed onto my lap and reached for my diary. “Hey!” I cried. “What’s up?”
            “I want to see your writing,” she said.
            “You won’t be able to read the language,” I told her. “Besides, it’s rude to read someone’s writing without asking them!”
            Her eyes widened. “Is it?”
            “It sure is,” I said.
            “Oh.” Her face fell, and her whole body slumped as if recoiling into a turtle shell. “I’m sorry.”
            “It’s okay,” I said, patting her on the shoulder. “I guess I should tell you what I’m writing anyway, since it’s about you.”
            “Is it about me?” she cried, bouncing on my knee. “What does it say? What does it say?” I gently sat her down and said, “It says that you are a very good, quiet, and well-behaved girl, and it isn’t difficult at all for me to look after you.” She beamed. “I also wrote a little bit about the beetle you played with.”
            “Did you say it was a black beetle?” she asked.
            “I didn’t write much about it. I also…”
            “I could write a lot about the black beetle,” she interrupted.
            “Oh, could you?” I tore off a blank diary page and handed it to her. “Why don’t you do that now?”
            Now she’s filled over half of the page with her “writing” about the black beetle.
After Wildflower managed to fill the whole page, she tugged at my sleeve and asked me to listen to what she had “written.” “I’ll do something even better,” I told her. “I’ll write it all down in my diary, so it will be there forever.”
Wildflower gasped. “You told me that a writer can’t copy what someone else writes!” she said accusingly.
“I’m not exactly copying it,” I said, “because I’m not saying that I came up with it. I’ll give you a byline—that means that I’ll write your name above the writing, so that anyone who might get to read it will know that it’s your writing and your ideas.”
That satisfied her. Here is what she “wrote”:

My Friend the Black Beetle
by Wildflower

Today I met a big, black beetle. He was on a big, green leaf. I like him. He’s pretty and he shines in the sun. I picked him up and he walked on my hand. He didn’t run away, so I think he liked walking on my hand. I touched his shell. I thought it would feel like metal, but it didn’t feel like metal. It was soft.
A beetle is a good friend. He’s friendly and funny and loyal and he likes me. I asked him his name and he didn’t tell me, so I guess he doesn’t have a name. I will name him Shiny, or Shell, or Leaf, or Friend, or Blackie. I like Blackie, so that’s his name.

I need to get this girl her own diary.

3:45 PM

            The girls never did find the “shekrumseh,” which considerably disappointed Wildflower, but she quickly lightened up when I told her I had a surprise for her.
            “What’s the surprise?” she asked, as I had expected.
            “If I told you,” I said, “it wouldn’t be a surprise!”
            “When do I get it?”
            “You’ll get it tomorrow.”
            The shekrumseh was suddenly forgotten.