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.